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Commons debate: Mayday, MI5, subversion, and the internet

mdgulp | 02.04.2001 10:44

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During the House of Commons annual debate on Intelligence Agencies (29th March 2001), Dr. Julian Lewis (MP New Forest, East) raised the issue of MI5's role in matters of 'subversion' - covering the reduced role of the F branch, electronic surveillance and protests including June 18th 1999, last years Mayday 2000, and this years Mayday 2001 events - and calling for increased surveillance and co-operation between security services and police.

Recent press 'coverage' from The Daily Telegraph (see for further details) was cited and directly related to the use of the internet - the two websites and were framed as

"Those sites include information that the ORGANISERS of the FORTHCOMING RIOTS have chose to make available on the internet." (emphasis added).

Further to this it was then said that details of the real events are being circulated in "encrypted emails" - Dr. Julian Lewis declined to mention the encryption method used, but from the comment that "encryption is easily available via a commercial firm -...- which has recently recruited a senior US encryption expert" one can assume this is Hushmail (

To read the full transcript see Hansard records at:

Later Jack Straw responded to the specic discussion as relates to demonstrations etc

Mr. Straw:

The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) suggested that the Security Service should concentrate more on subversion. He implied that the problems that we experienced with two successive riots in the City could be blamed on a decline in the size of F5.

As is well known, there was a time when much of the effort of the Security Service was spent on investigating potential subversion in this country. That was the case throughout the cold war, and for as long as there were suspicions that many people might be fellow travellers and potential traitors. It goes back to the concerns of the Attlee Government after the war about the lack of vetting. Information gradually emerged about the extent to which various secret organs of the state had been infiltrated by the Communist party. As the cold war wound down, that was bound to change.

I say to the hon. Gentleman that if he thinks about what those organisations were doing, he will realise that they were mainly concerned with bodies such as the Communist party and those who might spy for the Soviet bloc. They had some involvement in industrial trade unions, but, for a similar reason, they were little concerned with general mayhem on the streets. One could think of plenty of examples of potentially violent and, in some cases, very violent demonstrations in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, including the poll tax riots, that occurred when there was a high level of activity by F5. Palpably, that activity did not prevent those demonstrations, because, even with the best intelligence in the world, one cannot prevent them. Furthermore, that is not what the organisation was there for.

The hon. Gentleman also slightly glossed over the situation as to those riots. There were serious lessons to be learned from the 1999 riots, and most were learned by the time of last year's May day riot. Yes, that riot occurred and damage was done, but it was controlled to a high degree by the Metropolitan police. I pay tribute to it for its direction.

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Display the following 2 comments

  1. Subvert tyranny! — Joe Bloggs
  2. Monopoly Site Down? — ck