Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence



Examination of witnesses (Questions 400 - 419)

WEDNESDAY 29 MARCH 2000

VICE-ADMIRAL SIR ALAN WEST and MR RICHARD HATFIELD

  400. What you are saying is that it was suppressing their forces, not destroying them?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) Very much so. It was having a real impact on their operations.

  401. Finally, what were the conclusions of the intelligence assessment to consider the outcome of any opposed entry into Serbia or Kosovo?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) In intelligence terms what I do not do is the full scenario work that goes through. In intelligence terms we felt this was a practical endeavour and we gave advice as to how we thought the best way of pulling that campaign together would go. However, there would have been casualties. I cannot remember what the casualty figures were. What we were trying to do was optimise a plan with minimum casualties to us. I think in terms of casualties to the Serbs it would have been quite catastrophic and they would have taken extremely heavy casualties. Thank goodness we did not have to go to that plan.

Chairman

  402. Thank you. We will have to rattle through these sections now. In analysing what the Serbs were doing and reacting to what we were doing, did you gain the impression that they were either pretty smart in analysis or that they had access to very classified NATO information or information from the British or the French or whoever?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) ***

  403. Clansmen?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) *** There might have been an air campaign a year before, they dispersed materiel. ***

  404. What about the story in the media a couple of weeks ago about the potential leaking of information through NATO in the early stages of the war? The Yugoslavs or the Serbs seemed remarkably able to anticipate where the bombs were going.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) As I say, going back to what I said, if you look at a plan, if somebody is about to attack the UK I think I could write down quite quickly where I thought the key places they would be attacking would be. There was an element of that. I think one is always worried the more people you have privy to a secret the more concerned one gets inevitably. NATO is a very large group of nations. I would have thought the most leaky thing possible might have been people chatting in the margins of things with the media trying to be helpful and saying a little bit more than they should probably. I am not aware—or if I was we have got rid of them—of a spy in there who was giving information. ***.

  405. How many Brits do you reckon had access to the Air Tasking Order?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) That has to be narrowed down again.

  406. Not Brits in NATO, Brits operating in the UK?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) *** We are talking about handfuls of people.

Mr Cohen

  407. One quick question: did the Defence Intelligence Service identify any UK military personnel who were collaborating with the Serbs between 1995 and 1999?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) Did the DIS identify them?

  408. Yes?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) Not that I am aware of.

Chairman

  409. Or the MoD police?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) ***

Mr Cann

  410. The US, of course, has very much a larger intelligence capability than we have. Do you think we rely on it too much?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) I think we are extremely lucky that we have got such a good ally which has such an amazing intelligence capability. You are absolutely right, their intelligence capability is amazing. They have spent huge amounts of money on collection, particularly on the technical aspects of collection. Now we get access to that because of our special relationship but also we give them quite a lot of value added, we give them some very good things. There are certain things, for example some aspects of *** therefore, that is a good exchange. They value very much indeed our analysis. ***, where we provide things which they cannot really do. It is not just a one way street. We do give them a lot. Indeed, when I had senators and congressmen visiting, I surprised myself, I actually put together a package of all the things we do that give value added American help. It was actually a very substantial list and gave their congressmen and senators quite a belt as well, I think they were slightly surprised. ***.

  411. Knowledge, of course, is power. Do you get think they have ever abused the fact they have got knowledge and we have not?
  (Mr Hatfield) I do not think that is an intelligence question.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) No, that is for the Policy Director.
  (Mr Hatfield) I do not think that is even a question for me.

  412. Some people say that they were more pro going into Kosovo than we were, I rather got the impression myself, personally, that it was us who were the leaders in the matter. It is a question, is it not, that the intelligence can be used if you suppress intelligence to produce a result in NATO?
  (Mr Hatfield) I think one of the points the Admiral is trying to bring out is though the Americans' intelligence machine is incredible, we do not take the Americans' interpretation necessarily for granted. What we take from them, it has to be said, is information. Quite apart from what we may add to the value, we can make our own assessment of the same data which is not quite the same thing as relying on it to survive.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) As I said, it is our analysis that they value so highly because we come at it from a different way. We will come out very often, on the same data that is collected, with a different assessment.

Mr Gapes

  413. Can I take you on to the NATO side of this. The assessment of the intelligence, whether it was our assessment of our own information or what we have gathered from elsewhere that we gave, was properly handled within the NATO command structure so that decisions which were taken were based upon all relevant material?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) I cannot really answer that. All I would say is that NATO depends on intelligence from all the nations. It does not have its own intelligence capability per se. The UK have a very, very good track record of the intelligence we give to NATO. We are probably, if not the best, one of the best and I would say the best at times in what we give to NATO. Then that is put into the NATO machine, their intelligence machine, and they have to pull together the bits from all the nations and then give advice to their command.
  (Mr Hatfield) I think the answer to your question is, yes, nothing is perfect ever in any system but we had no complaints about the way the NATO system was pulling the information together.

  414. Do you think there would be an advantage if NATO had its own intelligence assessment capability as opposed to having to rely on information fed in nationally?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) It can assess, it just cannot collect.
  (Mr Hatfield) Yes, it does not gather.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) There is an assessment function there, although I have to say quite often they are delighted to get assessments from nations because of the sheer capacity to be able to do it.

  415. Did the way in which this crisis developed and the way in which there were sometimes some difficulties mean that strains have made it more difficult for the future for effective use of material and the way in which the NATO countries co-operate together? Are there any worries you have about the way you think this has gone for future co-operation?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) NATO has gone through a lessons learned package as well, they are looking at lessons learned. ***.
  (Mr Hatfield) I think that is part of the wider lessons NATO has learned, that it was not configured, optimised, to fight that sort of operation. It is the first operation of that type and it has learned a lot of lessons from it which I think, in answer to your question, means it hopes to be better in the future rather than worse.

  Mr Gapes: We will wait and see.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr Cann has two questions.

  Mr Cann: I rather thought you were doing number 11, Chairman.

  Chairman: No, I am scrubbing that.

  Mr Cann: Did we use reservists at all?

Chairman

  416. In the intelligence role.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) The answer is yes, I used quite a lot of them. I want to use even more of them in the future.

  417. If they are there.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) I am sure they will be there. Now that people look at our objectives and relate our pay to it, I have put it as an objective to one of my 2 Stars and I am sure he will come up with the goods at the end of that. I did make a lot of use of them. The Committee will be interested to know that the Flight Lieutenant sitting behind me is actually our expert on ICTY and she has provided all of the focused data to the tribunals looking at war crimes in Kosovo. She has been working with me since early April as a reservist who was called up to do that and is doing that work and, in fact, has assisted me on putting together some of the data for today. As I say, I do use reservists a lot and I want to use even more of them in terms of interrogation, for example. All of my interrogators are reservists because they are very bright people and you can get the ones you want with degrees who are keen to do their bit and I like to utilise them. I use them as much as I possibly can and hope to use more.

  Chairman: We can only afford to ask that question on reservists when my colleague, Brazier, is out of the room otherwise we would never escape.

Mr Cann

  418. How many people have you got who speak Serbo-Croat?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) I do not know the number.

Chairman

  419. Please write to us.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) Yes, I can let you know.


 
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