FOREIGN AFFAIRS – TERRORISM RISKS – 10 December 2002
Dr Julian Lewis: What assessment he [the Foreign Secretary] has made of co-ordinated al-Qaeda activity against British interests abroad?
[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Mike O'Brien): We constantly monitor the threat to British interests posed by all terrorist groups worldwide. All the intelligence that we receive is sifted and carefully assessed by the Intelligence Agencies. All the resulting threat assessments are then passed to policy-makers.]
[SUPPLEMENTARY:] Given that the Australian Government managed, nearly a fortnight before the event, to pass on a specific warning to their holidaymakers about the threat of a terrorist attack in Mombasa, why did the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with access to the same intelligence, fail to pass on a similarly specific warning to our holidaymakers in the area?
[Mr O'Brien: There was no specific intelligence of an attack being planned in Bali – [Hon. Members: "Mombasa."] I am sorry; Mombasa. As far as we are concerned, there was no specific intelligence. If there had been, we would certainly have made that information available.
As the Prime Minister recently said, hardly a day goes by without a terrorist warning of some kind. Indeed, each month the security services get between 300 and 400 pieces of information about terrorist activities. Of those 300 to 400 pieces of information, usually none results in a predicted incident. Some of the information is partial, imprecise, unreliable or deliberate disinformation; rarely is it precise. It is a matter for the Intelligence Services to give professional advice on their assessment of the quality of that information. The Intelligence Services are not infallible, but they make the best professional judgment that they can. We support the way in which they analyse that information. Other countries may take a different view about the way in which they give warnings and analyse information. We believe that our Intelligence Services are doing the best that they reasonably can to ensure that they assess the information in a professional way.]