After many years of relative failure, this spring has seen terrorists mount vile and contemptible attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park. I have been asked, by letter from the Home Secretary of 28 June, to provide “independent assurance” of internal reviews that police and MI5 have initiated in response. My intention (after six years of immersion in the worlds of terrorism and surveillance, which ended only in February) was to resume full-time practice at the Bar. But this was not an invitation that could be refused.
The internal reviews will be limited to the periods prior to each attack. They will examine the available intelligence on the attackers and how it was used. They will also evaluate processes and systems, including for the management of former subjects of interest, and make recommendations for their improvement in the light of the evolving threat.
My role appears to be without precedent, at least in the UK. It does not overlap with the statutory functions of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, which are concerned with the operation of the counter-terrorism laws. Nor will I be conducting the reviews myself. But I will have full access to them, and must seek to satisfy the National Security Council that
“all the relevant questions in relation to what was known and done before the attacks have been addressed, and the appropriate conclusions drawn“.
I will produce by the end of October a classified report for the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. I may also provide a version of my conclusions for public use, written in such a way as not to prejudice the forthcoming inquests or endanger national security.
Thanks for the many communications I have had on this subject. I shan’t hesitate to ask for help when I need it. But these reviews are about the handling of available intelligence by the security forces. It is on that narrow but crucially important issue that I shall be focussing my attention.