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On our top Spooks

The articles below should be read in conjunction with Chapter (15) of My Views on Terrorism ‘An overview of US and UK Security Services’. On an international assessment both the head of MI5 and MI6 are higher rated than their US cousins – but perhaps that does not say much. Privately both are seen as government lackeys – in some quarters it is suggested that Eliza Manningham-Buller secured her position via her dubious influence in the Lockerbie investigation and her ability to turn the other cheek with the IRA – John Scarlett was regarded as a good man who lost his credibility via succumbing to political influence.

 Profile: John Scarlett
John Scarlett - Head of MI6
The new head of MI6 is breaking new ground simply because he has a public profile.  His picture is widely available and his biography, those bits we are allowed to know about, is well documented. He was first exposed to the glare of publicity during the Hutton inquiry into the death of weapons scientist Dr David Kelly.

Pictures of him arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice to give evidence on his role in overseeing the government's dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction were flashed around the world. Yet as head of MI6 Mr Scarlett will, in accordance with long-held convention, not be making public appearances, or giving interviews.

Nevertheless publicity is precisely what his appointment will get as it immediately prompted something of a political row with the Lib Dems saying it was "highly controversial" and the Tories branding it "inappropriate".

That is in part because of Mr Scarlett's defence of the government's Iraq weapons dossier during Lord Hutton's Inquiry. It does not help either that Tony Blair's former spindoctor, Alastair Campbell, apparently refers to Mr Scarlett as "mate". In fact, many believed his chances of becoming the head of MI6 had effectively come to an end when his evidence at Hutton played such a key part in the government's defence of how it portrayed intelligence information when it made the case for war with Iraq.

Then, Mr Scarlett was chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, a body which includes all the chiefs of all the intelligence agencies, and was responsible for the September dossier.
Its main job, under normal circumstances, is to provide the prime minister with a weekly briefing on the security threats facing the UK and to advise the cabinet secretary on the funding needs of the intelligence agencies.

During the course of the Hutton inquiry, Mr Scarlett was criticised for agreeing to make key last minute changes in the dossier because Number 10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell feared it would play into the hands of anti-war groups.  Concerns were also raised that the JIC ignored warnings that the Iraq weapons claims were "over-egged".

Russian speaker
Prior to his exposure to the unfamiliar glare of the media, Mr Scarlett spent 30 years working for the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, and ended up as one of its five directors. A fluent Russian speaker, he joined MI6 in 1970 and during his early career served in Nairobi, Moscow, and Paris. He went on to be in charge of Britain's station in Moscow.

On retiring in September 2001, he was appointed chairman of the Cabinet Office Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), being in the job just a week when al-Qaeda mounted its 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.  Mr Scarlett let it be known that he approved of the September dossier's contents, denying claims that Downing Street had interfered with it and exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq. He sent a note to Sir David Omand, the Cabinet Office security and intelligence co-ordinator, in which he said that Dr Kelly needed "a proper security-style interview" to clarify apparent inconsistencies in his statement about his meeting with Gilligan.

Mr Scarlett is married with three daughters and a son. He was educated at Epsom College and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he obtained a first-class degree in history. He lists his interests in Who's Who as history, medieval churches and family.

Profile: Eliza Manningham-Buller
Eliza Manningham-Buller - Head of MI-5
Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5, was educated at Northampton High School and Benenden School, and read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.  She worked for three years as a teacher before joining the Security Service in 1974.

The main focus of her work has been counter-terrorism, both international and domestic.  She led the section responsible for international counter-terrorism at a time when its work was dominated by the Lockerbie investigation.

She was later posted to Washington as a senior liaison officer to the US intelligence community, a period that coincided with the first Gulf War. 

On her return to the UK in 1992, Eliza led a newly created Irish counter-terrorist section against the IRA, formed in response to the Government's decision to give the Security Service lead responsibility for intelligence work against Irish terrorism on the British mainland.

Promoted to the Security Service's Management Board in 1993, Eliza served as the Director responsible for the Service's surveillance and technical operations.  She was later appointed Director of Irish counter-terrorism.  In 1997 she was appointed Deputy Director General, with day-to-day responsibility for oversight of the Service's operational work and its liaison with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.  She was appointed Director General of MI5 in October 2002.

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