Saturday, 1 November 2014

UK Child Abuse Inquiry: MI5 and the Catch 22 about vetting Panel members

MI5 is accused of playing a part in covering up paedophile activity in relation to the Kincora Boys' Home and elsewhere.

Any credible Child Abise Inquiry must establish whether or not those allegations of MI5 misconduct (and/or criminal activity) are true or not.

How can the Inquiry Panel and the Public get access to all the relevant information that survives?

One possible solution is that the Inquiry Panel members be vetted to allow them authorisation to read classified documents.

This now seems to be on the cards.

See, for example, 
Child abuse inquiry: Theresa May under pressure to give investigation greater powers

It seems to me that there is a Catch 22 with this proposed solution.

There are two broad categories of vetting that I'm aware of. I'll call them normal vetting and developed vetting.

In the normal course of events normal vetting takes a few weeks. From memory, many years ago it took about a month for my normal vetting to be completed.

Developed vetting is a much longer and more intrusive process.

My knowledge of it dates backs to my interest in the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly. See, for example, The Death of David Kelly - David Kelly's security clearance

Developed vetting can take months. It involves interviews with people who know the person being vetted. The purpose, of course, is to establish whether the person being vetted is likely to hold in confidence any information they are given access to.

What is the Catch 22 that I see?

The purpose of this aspect of the Child Abuse Inquiry is to inquire into whether the security apparatus of the British State has acted in an improper or criminal manner.

Yet, it is the security apparatus of the British State which controls who is or is not given vetting clearance.

Can that security apparatus be trusted not to block vetting clearance of one or more of the Inquiry Panel?

It has a clear motive not to allow particularly energetic members of the Panel to inquire into MI5's (allegedly) very grubby past.

It is irrational to trust the security apparatus of the State to act honestly with respect to vetting when it is the conduct of that security apparatus that is in question.

It seems to me that a different solution is required. Vetting leaves open the very real possibility of ongoing cover-up by MI5 and associated organisations.

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