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Title: Twilight of Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee?
Authors: Davies, PHJ
Keywords: GCHQ;MI5;Joint Intelligence Committee
Issue Date: 2011
Citation: International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 2011, 24 (3), pp. 427 - 446 (19)
Abstract: In the last few years, a number of significant, and often troubling, changes to the top-level management structure of the United Kingdom’s (UK) national intelligence machinery have taken place. The conventional understanding of the British system is that, since the dark days of the Blitz, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) has provided a continuously operating, tried and true apparatus for coordinating and managing Britain’s national intelligence effort.1 The JIC is composed of the heads of the three national security and intelligence agencies, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, and representatives of a number of policy departments, with strong leading figures in the form of the JIC Chairman and an Intelligence Coordinator (whose formal title has varied somewhat over time). According to this orthodoxy, the JIC, in conjunction with the machinery under it known collectively as the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO), coordinates the national intelligence and security agencies—Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and the Security Service (MI5) — sets their requirements, issues national intelligence appreciations or ‘‘assessments’’ that inform the decisionmaking of government ministers and senior civil servants, and helps formulate the annual national intelligence budget. But for some time, this has not, in fact, been an accurate description of how British intelligence is actually run. Since the summer of 2009, in particular, the JIO’s functions have been steadily divided and redistributed within the Cabinet Office, and the JIC has itself been increasingly marginalized and ineffectual. For seven decades, the JIC has been seen as an enviably successful example to the rest of the intelligence world, with even American observers often looking to its collegiality and atmosphere of trust and mutual support as desirable, albeit not necessarily easy to emulate. That the UK has effectively abandoned such a tried and true formula is, therefore, somewhat surprising, still more so that such significant changes should have been undertaken with so little real debate and deliberation both within government and without.
Appears in Collections:Politics and International Relations

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