25 January 2006

Final word from Security Commission

From the time I wrote my letter to the Security Commission on 10 January 1997, to the time I received their reply dated 13 October 1999, is a period of 33 months. It seems incredible that I had to wait 2 years 9 months for the reply printed below, particularly when I realised the reply avoided addressing any of the questions I had asked.

I was drawing the Security Commission’s attention to serious doubts I had about how their investigation had been conducted, and that I was not happy with the evidence they had used to arrive at their conclusions. After all, I was just asking the sort of questions that I would have hoped the Security Commission would also be curious about:

(i) Why was there confusion about the classification of the restricted document - surely this might indicate some systematic failure if documents could be wrongly classified?

(ii) Why did they not investigate what the document was being used for at Hirst Research Centre, and how it came to be in my desk? Provenance is usually an important indicator of whether practices are secure and appropriate to the level of sensitivity involved.

(iii) Why did it take so long, until the second day of my appeal hearing, to suggest that the “restricted” document was wrongly classified - was there an administrative cover-up to avoid transparency in what had gone wrong?

(iv) Why did the Security Commission not interview expert witnesses who could tell them exactly what damage or risks were involved with the “restricted” document? Dr Meirion Francis Lewis did not even work on the ALARM project, so why would the Security Commission rely on his evidence to arrive at their conclusion?

From: Edna Chivers
Cabinet Secretariat
Cabinet Office
4 Central Buildings
Matthew Parker Street
London SW1P 9NL

13 October 1999

To: Michael Smith
HMP Full Sutton, York

Dear Mr Smith,

This letter follows-up my initial response to you of 13 August.

Like Mr Barron, I have to draw your attention to the fact that I can only comment from the point of view of the Security Commission inquiry, the terms of reference for which were set out in his letter to you of 30 October 1996 and were to do with the lessons to be learned for future protective security arrangements in Government: it is not part of the Security Commission’s function to reassess the evidence given at your trial. It would be inappropriate, therefore, for me to comment on any other aspect of your case.

In response to the questions you raise about the Commission’s inquiry, I can reassure you that the Commission is confident that it has covered appropriately all the issues relevant to its remit and that its report accurately reflects all the events surrounding your case.

So far as your questions relating to the relationship between the damage assessments received by the Commission and your appeal against conviction and sentence are concerned, I have to say that I think the issue was adequately dealt with in the report itself and in Mr Barron’s letter to you of 20 December 1996 in which he clearly explained the sequence of events: prior to the appeal hearing in May 1995, the Solicitor General saw a copy of the damage assessment which had been prepared by the Ministry of Defence for the Security Commission inquiry. He found this to be at variance with the evidence previously given at the original trial by the witnesses for the Crown. Once this error was realised, the MoD then prepared a revised damage assessment as explained in Annex A of the report. This was provided to the Defence Counsel and to the Security Commission. The record indicates that these events were dealt with fully at your appeal hearing.

The Commission is unable to help you any further but please accept my apologies once again for the delay in letting you have this response.

The Chairman of the Security Committee has seen and approved this reply.

Yours sincerely,
Edna Chivers

Secretary of the Security Commission

Security Commission letter 13 October 1999 page 1

Security Commission letter 13 October 1999 page 2

Edna Chivers tries to conveniently gloss over the way the change in the MoD’s damage assessment report was dealt with. How long had the prosecution lawyers known about this U-turn in the MoD’s opinion, before disclosing that information to my defence team?

My lawyers, particularly Mr Michael Mansfield QC, were quite astounded by the ambush tactics employed. On 2 consecutive days of my appeal: on 15 May 1995 we were first presented with the “old” damage assessment report (dated 7 March 1994), then on 16 May 1995 we were handed the quite different amendment, apparently written that morning! The timing and drastic change in the MoD’s position was clearly designed to unsettle my defence. One would have to be an idiot or a na├»ve simpleton not to see what was going on here: the MoD and prosecution were operating a cold calculating scheme to confuse and damage my defence by underhanded tactics. I defy anybody to see it differently.

There are lots of unanswered questions in this saga, and for the safety of the nation it is important we can trust the Security Commission to not only ask the right questions, but also to leave no stone unturned in its quest for the truth. How could members of the Security Commission believe they had completed an effective investigation if they left so many potential weaknesses uninvestigated?

Rather than imply that the Security Commission’s investigation of my case had been thorough, and everything dealt with in their report or in correspondence - which is clearly what Tony Blair believes from his answer to Andrew Mackinlay MP - I would suggest there is a lot more still to be disclosed about the issues surrounding that “restricted” document.

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