Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Oversight", British style

How does the British government keep a leash on its spies? It doesn't:

Britain's intelligence services had a system of oversight no better than that seen in the TV comedy Yes Minister, an MP said on Tuesday during a meeting of a Commons committee.

Julian Huppert, a Liberal Democrat, said the sitcom depicting ineffectual government was an appropriate comparison after it emerged that the intelligence services commissioner appearing before MPs worked only part-time, and operated with a staff of two.

The MP said that Sir Mark Waller, the commissioner, was subject to a system in which investigations were no more rigorous than decent chaps asking other decent chaps if they had behaved properly.

And if you read further, you'll see that that's exactly what Britain's "watchdog" did in response to the Snowden revelations: politely asked those he was supposed to keeping an eye on whether they had broken the law, and accepted their denials at face value. And this is an oversight regime the public is supposed to have trust in? It's simply a bad joke. But isn't it so very British?