Role of the JIC
153. The role and importance of the JIC were summed
up by Jack Straw:
The reason why we have a Joint Intelligence Committee
which is separate from the intelligence agencies is precisely
so that those who are obtaining the intelligence are not then
directly making the assessment upon it. That is one of the very
important strengths of our system compared with most other systems
around the world.
154. Andrew Wilkie described the JIC as "a strength
of the British system
where ultimately a compromise has
to be reached to go to government."
But the work of the JIC is necessarily secret, and as a body it
is unused to being in the public eye. Dame Pauline Neville Jones
suggested that exercises of the kind which led to the Iraq dossiers
should be infrequent: "I do think it is much preferable that
services of that kind are actually below the line of publicity,
I think it safeguards their integrity. Therefore these situations
should be exceptions."
With hugeif unintentionalirony, Andrew Gilligan
said that "One of the complaints made by some of our intelligence
sources, not just mine but across the press, was that intelligence
services are secret and they do not like necessarily having their
work exposed to the public gaze."
155. In his excellent history of the Joint Intelligence
Committee, one of its former Chairmen, Sir Percy Cradock, wrote
Ideally, intelligence and policy should be close
but distinct. Too distinct and assessments become an in-growing,
self-regarding activity, producing little or no work of interest
to the decision-makers.
Too close a link and policy begins
to play back on estimates, producing the answers the policy-makers
would like, as happened with Soviet intelligence. The analysts
become courtiers, whereas their proper function is to report their
findings, almost always unpalatable, without fear or favour. The
best arrangement is intelligence and policy in separate but adjoining
rooms, with communicating doors and thin partition walls, as in
156. We agree entirely with these sentiments. Intelligence
has a vital role to play in determining policy; but policy can
never be permitted to define the intelligence. Looking in from
the outside as we do, we believe that the JIC plays a vital role
in safeguarding the independence and impartiality of intelligence.
We would be gravely concerned if the JIC were to be used by Ministers
or their advisers for political purposes, for example by the application
of pressure to change the content or emphasis of an assessment.
We have no evidence that this line has been crossed.
157. We conclude
that the continuing independence and impartiality of the Joint
Intelligence Committee is of utmost importance. We recommend that
Ministers bear in mind at all times the importance of ensuring
that the JIC is free of all political pressure.