British Agencies Fear One-Way Flow of Information

Views on BG | August 8, 2008, Friday // 00:00

From The Daily Telegraph
By Duncan Gardham

Britain's intelligence and security services are preparing to oppose European Union plans to force them to share the information they gather.

The proposals would force MI5 and MI6 to hand over intelligence to be managed by a European intelligence assessment centre.

The EU Joint Situation Centre, known as SitCen, is based in Brussels from where it assesses terrorism, arms proliferation and crisis regions as well as providing crisis management for EU operations.

But the idea of handing over intelligence to Brussels with the prospect of little in return and the risk of compromising sources has sent shivers through the security services.

"Information is the business we are in and we have very well-developed practices for sharing it around the world," a senior security source said yesterday. "This may sound good on paper but if we share information we want to know it is shared for a purpose and that everyone is contributing.

"It has to be used with a sense of responsibility and we want to know where we are sending it and who is protecting it. If our sources are compromised it makes gathering intelligence so much harder and we have a duty to protect information that is passed to us."

Paul Cornish, an expert in international security at the Chatham House think-tank, said: "The difficulty with the EU is that it is a complex organisation and there are risks in sharing information with countries like Bulgaria or Hungary that it will end up in other hands."

Efforts to share intelligence within the EU have always fallen at the first hurdle. It has only been in recent years that Nato members have begun to establish a level of trust. Even then, the loss of information about Nato bombing targets during the Kosovo campaign of the 1990s, blamed on middle-ranking French officers, emphasised the dangers.

Some European nations envy the level of information exchange and mutual respect that Britain enjoys with the United States. After the Glasgow bombings last year, Ronald K Noble, the secretary general of Interpol, criticised the lack of information sharing.

A Scotland Yard counter-terrorism source said: "We share information across the world but we have particularly strong ties with the US."

It is unlikely that the security services would want to jeopardise that close working relationship.

"Many EU countries have immature and underdeveloped intelligence networks," said Mr Cornish. "It is inconceivable that we would share information with organisations that may be flaky.

"The US and the UK have a special relationship that involved a close sharing of information and no one else has anything like that, partly because it is only the US and to a lesser extent the UK that have intelligence gathering operations with a global reach.

"We are not going to get anything out of giving this information to other countries and we are not going to share the crown jewels if we do not get anything back."

There are already procedures among police forces across Europe to alert them to a potential terrorist threat but the sharing of intelligence agency information is much more sensitive.

While the French and German intelligence services are very strong they do not operate on a level compared to MI5, MI6, the FBI or the CIA and some members of the EU have been hoping that they can use SitCen to collect information they would not otherwise receive.

We need your support so can keep delivering news and information about Bulgaria! Thank you!

Views on BG » Be a reporter: Write and send your article
Advertisement All Are Welcome! Join Now!
Bulgaria news (Sofia News Agency - is unique with being a real time news provider in English that informs its readers about the latest Bulgarian news. The editorial staff also publishes a daily online newspaper "Sofia Morning News." (Sofia News Agency - and Sofia Morning News publish the latest economic, political and cultural news that take place in Bulgaria. Foreign media analysis on Bulgaria and World News in Brief are also part of the web site and the online newspaper. News Bulgaria