Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)
WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2001
GARDEN, KCB, AND
180. Professor Rogers, you put forward the distinctive
view, in answer to the Chairman, that quite a lot of these terrorism
problems are being activated by the international inequities that
you outline. I entirely understand that. At the same time you
said that if the international community had a will to solve these
various inequities about which we are talking it would take 20,
30, 40 for all I know 100 years. I simply do not know but it will
take a long time. The terrorism problem that we have is one of
now and, therefore, the question that I would like you to answer
is: would the mere fact that the international community has decided,
if it did, to take action to solve such inequities, would that
in any way modify the actions of the terrorist bodies to which
you addressed yourself? I think I know Sir Tim's view, but I am
not sure that I know the view of Professor Rogers.
(Professor Rogers) Perhaps I can draw the distinction
again, or look at both of them, between the longer-term problems
of insurgencies and the problems that we face now. The kind of
insurgency problems of which we see examples now, I think will
develop much more on current trends. If over the next three to
five years we are able to start making serious inroads in the
problems of the world poverty divide and environmental constraints,
you will start to see a diminishing of the risk of those insurgencies
over a five to 10 year period. But we are talking longer term.
My argument is that if we do not do that, we shall face much greater
problems over the next 10 to 20 years. Turning to the specific
problem here, of the Al-Qaeda network and its origins, we have
to look at the roots. The roots are complex and they concern partly
a range of people taking refuge in a particular form of one of
the world's major religions, but doing so in very defined political
and economic contexts. Those contexts are principally what is
perceived to beI use that term very carefullyUS
control of Gulf oil reserves with major US occupation of the Persian
Gulf including elements of Saudi Arabia. That is a matter of perception.
We may disagree entirely. However, there is a problem across much
of South West Asia that the perception is there, that a powerful
state, 6,000 miles away, controls that part of the world. Just
as you have strong opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
at the beginning of the 1980s, so over the past 10 or 11 years
there has been the developing opposition to this US military presence.
It is seen as a form of control and the Arab/Israeli conflict
makes it rather worse, but it is not as serious as this fundamental
view. That relates very strongly to what I mentioned earlier.
There has been a range of attacks over 10 years, all directed
at US interests, either in the United States or in the region
or elsewhere in the case of the embassies. It is a long-term process
that has been developing over at least a decade.
181. Whether I agree with your analysis or not,
your view is that these groups about which you speak, would not
necessarily respond very quickly to international action?
(Professor Rogers) These particular groups responsible
for this atrocity, no. They come from a different area. Their
significance is to demonstrate what extreme groups can do and
to demonstrate the vulnerability of industrialised societies.
182. Is the United States becoming more unilateralist?
(Sir Tim Garden) Now you have used the word, Chairman!
Again, it is too early to say, but the effect of 11 September
in that sense has been benign on the willingness of the US to
engage with other nations with which it has not been willing to
engage before and indeed with the United Nations. The US has seen
that the United Nations has a useful role to play in all this.
The relationship that has developed between Russia and the United
States has been entirely benign and will serve us well into the
future. The intelligence sharing that appears to be taking place
between nations, including the United States, that was inconceivable
before 11 September, may build trust. As many of us in the academic
community have, we can all put down a list of the things that
the United States
183. That is another word I do not likeacademic!
(Sir Tim Garden) We can all put down a list of things
that the United States should do in order to make it a better
player in the world and to make the world a better place. Arms
control is one that has particularly worried Europe. We can say,
"I told you so", but the biological weapons protocol
is quite a good thing and might have helped. Over a period of
time it seems to me that we have the prospect of the US realising
that it has friends in the rest of the world if it shares with
them properly. I am optimistic, but it is too early to tell.
184. I am sure that we shall not solve the problems
of world economic inequality now or in the next five or 10 years.
As Mr Cran said, what we face is an immediate threat that we have
to deal with. Professor Rogers, I thought you were becoming dangerously
close to providing justification for the attacks on the World
(Professor Rogers) No, no.
185. We must be very clear that nothing justifies
the attacks on the World Trade Center. The American action must
not be seen to be comparable to the attack on the World Trade
Center. Perhaps I can turn to what Sir Tim said about intelligence,
which is an important issue. Professor Rogers, you said that relatively
few people in the intelligence circles identified with the symptoms
of the trend already under way and the US has come in for considerable
attack for what is perceived to be a failure of US intelligence.
How well do you think we, in the United Kingdom, are placed to
deal with this sort of terrorist threat. Do you feel that our
intelligence services have neglected traditional human intelligence
gathering in favour of more technological intelligence gathering?
(Professor Rogers) I shall be cautious in responding.
First, in no way do I justify the 11 September attacks. We must
draw a clear distinction between trying to analyse the circumstances
under which those attacks took place and in any sense trying to
justify them. As far as I am concerned, they were massacres and
they were atrocities. In relation to your question, I have to
be careful, because it stretches a little beyond my own area of
specialism and I have no access to classified information. So
that is really looking at it from a more general view. I think
that there has been an overall tendencystronger in the
United States than in Britainto concentrate on signal and
communication intelligence and to concentrate less on human intelligence.
Broadly speaking, in Britain the change has been less extreme.
As a result I think that the British intelligence communities
are more able to address developing problems by looking at a wider
range of sources of information. At the same time, I think necessarily
the intelligence communities tend to look relatively short term
and they tend to have areas of particular interest. It may be
that the very heavy concentration on the difficult problems in
Northern Ireland have perhaps tended to draw attention away from
other significant parts of the world. It is also the case that
for historic reasons, Britain has greater intelligence capability
in relation to the Middle East and South West Asia, which broadly
puts it at a slight advantage compared with its United States'
counterparts, however much more thoroughly they may be financed
(Sir Tim Garden) As with all these thingsI
have no particular inside knowledgeit is a matter of where
the resources go. At the end of the Cold War it was clear that
there was a reallocation of resources towards what was perceived
as the security challenges of the future. The intelligence services
followed where the money went. If you take the nationalities of
those who committed the atrocities in America, do we focus our
intelligence on the countries from which they came, Egypt, Saudi
Arabia and the operations in Afghanistan? I do not know, but I
suspect that if you were bidding for an intelligence budget in
the mid-1990s you would not have had an enormous amount of success
in focusing on those areas.
186. Notwithstanding the warning given by this
Committee under the chairmanship of our current Chairman
(Sir Tim Garden) I have read the Committee's report,
but did the Committee say that there should be human intelligence
placed in Egypt to protect our future? As with all things, there
are difficult priorities. One problem is that until you received
the intelligence you do not know where the threat is in order
to justify carrying out the intelligence. Inevitably, it seems
that the intelligence organisations focused on where they knew
they would get the resources, which was the immediate threat to
the United Kingdom, in Northern Ireland. I do not doubt that there
will be a reallocation of resources in the light of all this.
Training the experts in this area is not a quick process. Yes,
we have some advantages in terms of having a presence in Gulf
states for a long time, so we probably have people who speak the
language and know the culture, but gearing up an intelligence
operation that is radically different from what has been done
before requires not just money but also time.
187. We had a large section in our report on
the crisis, including the Middle Eastern countries that were Islamic,
which was more than the MoD did.
(Sir Tim Garden) Of course, we are not talking about
the MoD's budget now. We are talking about the wider intelligence
188. We did not have access to the intelligence
services. They pointedly refused to come. Our SDR analysis of
international security work was rather more robust than that of
the Ministry of Defence. If the MoD had taken a robust attitude
to security, a budget that was declining by 2.3 per cent would
hardly be commensurate with a robust threat assessment. One may
imagine that one of the reasons that they were less than robust
was because they knew that the budget was not going to rise. Our
view was much less constrained by financial realities and said
it as it more or less was.
189. Your conclusion is that if there is a new
chapter in the SDR, it has to be paid for? What you have just
said is not simply a matter of more money, but of structural change
in the nature of the intelligence gathering as well.
(Sir Tim Garden) I would go far wider than that. Assuming
we get to the stage of how we organise ourselves for what is a
new threat to the United Kingdom, new in the sense that we now
perceive it, the primary role of Government is the protection
of its citizens and we must decide whether we do it piecemeal,
as we seem to do between different departments. There is a whole
range of things of which intelligence is only one and they are
necessary if we are to take this threat seriously and deal with
it in terms of protection and prevention and coping with the consequences
when we fail. All of those matters cross different departments.
Many of them are local government issues rather than national
government issues. Whether the arrangements that we have had are
the best way of doing that seems to me to be slightly doubtful.
Certainly, putting it all on the back of the MoD, will not produce
a focused approach because of the problem of resources. The MoD
still has to do all the things it was doing before and it did
not have enough money to do those or enough people. The SDR never
got itself manned to the level that was predicted. We have a serious
problem that we must address in a serious manner.
190. That brings me on neatly to our question
of the Government's response to the Organisation of Civil Contingency
Secretariat, which has a very sexy sounding name. We have been
told that that organisation is every bit as good as the office
of the Director of Homeland Security that President Bush has set
up. Do you understand from your background in the Ministry of
Defence, whether that is a sensible way of operating, or do you
think that because of the nature of what happened on 11 September
and what you have both identified as continuing and growing threats
we should think more seriously about restructuring the co-ordination
of our responses in the United Kingdom?
(Sir Tim Garden) We need to consider carefully whether
the traditional Whitehall ways of doing things are appropriate
for what is an urgent and serious threat. In the endhere
I show my background as a defence programmerall these matters
come down to resources and money. Into what are you going to put
your money so as to get the best return in terms of added security
for the nation? When it crosses departments, in a way it becomes
a turf battle. However serious it is, that may not be the best
way of putting these things together. When it is not only Whitehall
activity but is a local government activity, who are the deliverers
of a quite a lot of the aspects of homeland security, to use the
American expression, you then have even more difficulty. The committee
structure may make you feel warm and cosy at the Whitehall level
but when you get down to local government level they have problems
with money and budget just as much as everybody else and if they
are asked to provide a sufficient number of nuclear biological
chemical suits in order to look after a disaster that could be
terrorist generated in their area and their budget is short in
the things they have to do everyday, the fire service or the Health
Service, whatever it may be, then they may not attach as much
importance to this particular threat. It is an almost fingers
crossed it will not happen in my area approach. What I worry about
with a Committee structure which is interdepartmental is how you
get the accountability for the delivery of greater security, because
everyone says, that is a Home Office problem, the MoD will do
this. Questions like, and one of this Committee's previous favourite
ones, the Reserves. It seems strange that the Home Office is generating
part time civilian policemen at a time when we have 40,000 trained
armed people who could do some of this sort of role. A Committee
tends to issue edicts out to departments, I do not get a feel
for how it is being pulled together, but the new arrangements,
as I understand it, stem from the fuel crisis and the flooding,
for one, and there has been a paper circulated for discussion
this year, which had a reporting dated of 31 October, on the way
we deal with emergencies. All of this happened before 11 September
but some of the commentaries will be in the light of 11 September.
This suggests to me that we have a new form of emergency planning
system that is in transition at the moment because they are thinking
of the new arrangements. We need one really quite urgently, in
my view, we do not have time to wait for another six months.
191. Given all of your experience in Whitehall
do you think if they created a special office director of the
United Kingdom for homeland security, presided over by a single
cabinet minister, whose responsibility would be to account to
us in Parliament and also to pull together all of the different
assets and different government departments, is a way forward?
(Sir Tim Garden) It is a way that needs to be looked
at quite seriously, I think, and the key is that it would be a
serious senior post. One could make it the deputy Prime Minister,
if you like.
192. I hoped you were not going to say that!
(Sir Tim Garden) I am not talking personalities, I
am talking positions. It is a serious, potential threat to have
the possibility of tens of thousands of people being killed in
a single incident in the United Kingdom, this is something that
we have really not focussed on before and that seems to be something
that the government needs to take very seriously. Making the arrangements,
if you like, delegated to an official who runs the committee,
even if you just think about the public presentation bit, however
good the system is, this does not give the same sense of urgency.
The public need to be involved, they need to have a hot line for
Mr Howarth: At the moment the services, the
Armed Forces have a responsibility for protecting the air, land
and sea, if you were to take some of those awayonce it
comes on to the shore it is a Home Office responsibilityis
the MoD asking to wear that or that somebody else has that responsibility?
193. It is more the Cabinet Office than the
(Sir Tim Garden) The system at the moment is no different.
If the committee decides that it wants the MoD to do something
in this counter terrorist role then it presumably tells the MoD
to send in some reservists with air defence missiles to sit round
nuclear power stations, or whatever it might be. Those are quite
dramatic decisions. Certainly when you talk to the Ministry of
Defence I do not get the impression that their top priority activity
at the moment is homeland defence. They have quite a lot of problems
in doing all of the other jobs.
194. Do you think we could cope with a terrorist
attack involving somebody coming in with a suit case?
(Sir Tim Garden) What do you mean "cope"?
195. Could we identify the source?
(Sir Tim Garden) A whole series of things roll out,
one is the intelligence to discover it is happening, the next
one is the police activity to find the person, the next one is
preventive measures, such as you can take against the thing. Then
if it all goes wrong there is the emergency planning and systems
and equipment. We are talking about capital equipment here. If
it is biological warfare or if it is chemical or nuclear or nuclear
material release you need enough protected equipment to cope with
the disaster in the right place. These are things the military
have quite a lot of but others do not, so you need to have it
available, not out on exercise in Germany or elsewhere, you need
it somewhere where it can be deployed, with the ability to deploy
it rapidly to where it is needed. You need to practice people,
this is, perhaps, the most important bit of it, you need training
systems, evaluation, you need to know which counties are doing
it properly and those that are not need to be told that they have
to get their training up. These are priority activities. You have
to do all of this without alarming the public as well, which is
quite difficult. In a sense, if you have somebody who is reassuring,
that is from the government, that these measure are being taken
in order to reduce the risks. There is prevention as well as consequence
management, which is really what I am talking about, then you
can get the balance right, it would be a political judgment. The
resource question still remains in all of this.
196. Can I have one other question, it goes
back to what we were talking about before, human intelligence.
One of the things that occurred to me following your remarks about
how Britain is quite well placed with contacts in the Middle East
and the Far East is should we be making more use of our own ethnic
minorities and recruit them to our intelligence service? That
seems to me to be a way forward, albeit it is going to take a
long time to train up people and, if you like, infiltrate them
into terrorist organisations. Would you see that as a way forward?
(Sir Tim Garden) I would not want to get involved
in the technique. I did find it extraordinary that we were turning
away Afghan refugees and at the same time claiming we did not
have Afghan intelligence. We have people begging to come into
the country, so you have something really good to offer them.
197. You can come in if you join up to the intelligent
(Sir Tim Garden) Your application will go to the top
of pile if you are helpful to us. We do have a human resource,
because of the terrible things going on in these terrible countries,
I do not know, but I hope we are utilising it.
(Professor Rogers) Can I just add one brief point,
in terms of responding to major incidents it is worth recalling
that Britain of western countries probably has more experience
than virtually any other country because of the experience in
relation to the Provisional IRA city centre bombs of the 1990s,
and that is an experience that certainly relates to any kind of
emergency planning entertained at present.
198. Still on ethnic minorities, my experience
of the Asian community is that the vast majority just want to
get on with their own lives. There is a significant minority of
men who are highly motivated by the issues that surround Kashmir
and Palestine. I wonder, how much of a domestic threat is there
and how do we keep our finger on the pulse domestically? How do
we improve intelligence gathering within the ethnic minority communities?
(Professor Rogers) The threat domestically is minimal
in terms of established ethnic minority communities. There is
certainly a great deal of unease amongst a number of communities
over recent events.
199. Do they reflect the anti-American view
you talked about earlier?
(Professor Rogers) To some extent. I think we have
to be careful because it is more a worry and an unease rather
than distinct anti-American attitudes. Yes, you will get some
younger people who are very disenchanted, but for the most part
in my experience there is just a real concern of what is happening
and an unease of what it is going to bring rather than a bitter