Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights (Seventeenth Report): Bringing Human Rights Back In - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Letter from the Rt Hon David Hanson MP, Minister of State, Home Office to the Chair of the Committee

  During my oral evidence session on Tuesday 1 December I undertook to write to the Committee on a number of points.

  You asked me to provide details of which versions of the guidance to the security and intelligence agencies on the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas have been provided to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). The ISC does not discuss evidence provided to it except through its published reports. However, I can confirm that following the Prime Minister's statement in March this year, all current versions of relevant guidance were provided to the Committee in May. These were then consolidated into a single version which was provided to the ISC on 18 November 2009. The consolidated guidance is based on the same principles set out in previous documents. It differs in that it applies to both Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Agency personnel, and that it aims to achieve two key objectives: to provide clear guidance to staff on issues relating to the interviewing and detention of individuals overseas, and to provide public reassurance as to the practices of Agency and MOD personnel engaged in this work.

  The ISC reports on The Handling of Detainees by UK Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq (Cm 6469, published 2005) and Rendition (Cm7171, published July 2007) clearly show that the ISC has previously been provided with earlier guidance material.

  The Committee also raised the issue of the Director General of the Security Service (MI5) giving evidence to the Committee. As I agreed to do, I have raised the Committee's request with Jonathan Evans and he is currently considering it.

  As I mentioned at the evidence session, the current threat to the UK from international terrorism is judged by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) to be substantial, meaning that an attack is a strong possibility. Substantial indicates a continuing high level of threat and that an attack might well occur without further warning. Decisions on the threat level are taken by JTAC independently of Ministers and are based on the very latest intelligence, considering factors such as current capability, intent and timescale. For obvious operational reasons, I cannot go into the details or discuss the specific intelligence that JTAC uses to come to its overall judgement.

  The threat level is kept under constant review and can change—up or down—at any time in the future. As substantial continues to represent a high level of threat and that an attack could take place at any time, there has been no significant change to policing arrangements and security procedures.

  I will write to the Committee on the other commitments I gave in due course.

10 December 2009

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