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Special Branch, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ

Special Branch was founded in 1883 and during the early 1960s had only 300 officers but mass protests and revolts meant by 1978 it had over 1600 officers as it infiltrated supposedly seditious organisations and this increased to 2,200 by the early 1990s and 4,200 by 2002. The Internal Security Service MI5, also part of the home office, works closely with Special Branch and has also grown considerably. However concerns about 
Roy Jenkins in the 1970s said of MI5 “The political surveillance role, involving a fine and cool judgement between what is subversion and what is political dissent,is inherently unsuited to be performed by those who live in the distorting world of espionage and counter-espionage.” In 1990 The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee chairman Tom King said of MI6 “The cloak of secrecy has been used to cover inadequacies and serious lapses in expenditure control.”
An MI5 officer is purported to have said that Al Quaeda is like a piece of knitting, it is complex, interwoven, at times impenetrable. You think you've got a grip of one bit of it -then suddenly the whole thing unravels. This is exactly the effect we would expect. Forced interrogations, prompted confessions lead to a work of fiction which cannot survive in reality. If the information came form reliable sources in reliable ways then the unravelling would not happen. “I would suggest that the whole system of intelligence gathering is all to often prone to producing inadequate, unreliable and distorted assessments ...” said Sir Peter Heap, Ambassador to Brazil 2003.   
MI6 is now only part of a much wider intelligence community. This includes private companies which have their own interests in cultivating mystery and which have benefited from instability and dangers in the world.

Radio 4

John Le Carre: 'The Russians are here'
By Andy Walker
Today programme

YouTube Video

© Tom de Havas 2011. The information under this section is my own work it may be reproduced without modification but must include this notice.