Spies clash with MPs and Lords over publishing details of UK’s intelligence ops in Kenya

By David Hencke | 8 July 2014

MI5 and MI6 tell MPs to censor key report on Lee Rigby’s killersMPs have come under intense pressure by MI5 and MI6 to censor a critical report of intelligence failings over the killing of soldier Lee Rigby.

Senior officers from the Security Service, MI5, and the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, confronted MPs and peers on Parliament’s intelligence and security committee over the report at a tense meeting last month, Exaro can reveal.

Intelligence officials fear that they were unable to convince committee members of their arguments for censoring the report. They say that the report contains far more sensitive information than has appeared in previous publications by the committee.

Past reports by the committee are notorious for large tracts of redactions, which many MPs think undermine its credibility.

As Exaro revealed in April, MI5 was forced to hand over to the committee highly sensitive files on the soldier’s killers under new powers that came into force only last year.

But the final decision on whether to censor is for the prime minister, David Cameron. The spies’ intervention came before the committee submitted the report to Cameron.

The clash is the first test of the new law, which was aimed at boosting the committee’s independence of the intelligence agencies.

The soldier, a drummer in the Royal Fusiliers, was hacked to death in May last year in Woolwich, south-east London as he returned to his barracks. His killers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, are understood to have been known to MI5 for several years.

Adebolajo’s relatives say that MI5 had even approached him in 2011 to become an agent after he was deported from Kenya. He is said to have rejected the approach.

The committee’s report was critical of the intelligence agencies for failing to heed warnings about the killers, and was to include supporting evidence that was supplied to it by MI5.

However, some of the material is understood to have been passed to MI5 by MI6, so both agencies are concerned about the publication of the evidence.

One source said: “MI5 appears to have missed vital information, and only identified it after the killing in May last year.”

Adebolajo led a group of eight young men who were trying to travel to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab, an offshoot of al-Qaeda.

The row between the intelligence officials and parliamentarians is understood to centre on UK’s intelligence operations in Kenya. The officials say that the report contains too much detail of these operations.

Kenya says that it warned the UK that Adebolajo was a dangerous extremist.

Adebolajo claimed that he was tortured while he was detained in Kenya.

Adebolajo and Adebowale were jailed for life in February after being convicted of murder.

Meanwhile, the intelligence services are planning to “spin” what is expected to be a critical report, with the aim of advancing a push to persuade Press and public that the agencies need greater powers over personal communications data to combat the threat of terrorism.

The planting of such stories by the intelligence agencies has raised eyebrows in Whitehall and has alarmed civil-liberties groups, with fears of the forcing of emergency legislation through Parliament.

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