Thatcher’s Spy by Willie Carlin

Thatcher’s Spy by Willie Carlin

Thatcher’s Spy by Willie Carlin

Review by Philip Ingram MBE

I bought this book with a degree of scepticism.  There are an increasing number of accounts of “The Troubles” and an increasing number of people claiming links to the intelligence war in “The Troubles.” Why? Well their claims are virtually impossible to verify and with the continuing bigoted, historically focused political sectarianism that has paralysed progression in Northern Ireland combined with the over inflated influence the DUP had with the minority Conservative Government and the continuing clamour for and claims about what really happened in public enquiries, anniversary TV programmes and more, it is a marketing dream for publishers.

Using that as a baseline, combined with my own inside knowledge, I found this book difficult to put down. I grew up with much of what went on so do have a knowledge from that perspective. I have also talked to a huge number of people who have served in Northern Ireland in an Intelligence role but not about this book specifically.

The book is well written, an easy read, accurately describes many incidents from a perspective that can only be from someone who was there and has a logic thread to many of the things he described that made me realise that there was a lot more to this book than my scepticism wanted to admit. I really enjoyed it and found it thought provoking and informative.

He starts as a good Catholic boy from Derry joining an Irish Regiment in the British Army, something that the average casual observer of Northern Irish politics would initially scoff at , but the reality was the Irish regiments recruited from North and South of the border, Catholic and Protestant alike, it made for the regimental St Patricks Day parties to become interesting events, where sectarianism was defined by song but trumped by loyalty to the Regiment.

Carlin was ‘placed’ by MI5 and then had a career of being handled by them and then an organisation in the British Army with an infamy in Northern Irish history, the Force Research Unit or FRU. His description of their modus operandi broadly fits with the reality of how they worked and his description of some of their basic errors in drills fits perfectly with the arrogance many who served in that type of unit had. They often believed themselves to be ‘an elite’ amongst intelligencers and invincible.

Early in the text he introduces one of his dilemmas when he describes seeing Martin McGuinness coming out of an MI5 safe house and whilst he goes on later to say he didn’t believe McGuinness was working for MI5, he more than subtly explains a London derived plan to protect McGuinness, his move to politics and move away from the ‘armed struggle’ and to enable his election.  On more than one occasion he introduces senior British officials who favoured a move to a united Ireland.

His text will likely worry unionists and perpetuates the question ‘What was McGuinness’s relationship with British Intelligence?’ as there clearly was one. This is never answered.

He also explains how he came to find out about, or uncover, a number of other agents in Sinn Fein and the IRA who were working for British Intelligence. His knowledge was in Derry and that wasn’t the number one priority for British Intelligence at any time.

Extrapolating his Derry exposures province wide would suggest the IRA and Sinn Fein were leaking like a sieve, and a good percentage of those with access to information were on the payroll of the state either working for the police, the army or MI5. That was at a time when Intelligence operations were immature; from the late 1990’s on, operations became significantly more mature and probably remain that way even today.

Carlin confirms McGuinness and Adams as IRA commanders and their links to ‘the Armalite and the Ballot Box’ campaign and talks about how Sinn Fein planned and executed election fraud by ‘personating’ votes.  What he suggests is that the political path for McGuinness was watched over by MI5 who took opportunities to craft his progression away from the armed struggle when they could and when they couldn’t, they took action to reduce any obstacles that could have been in his way.

The role the British State played in the move of the republican movement from one of an armed struggle to a political movement is unlikely to be fully revealed in our lifetimes if ever.  Is it now time that Gerry Adams come clean publicly about his role in the IRA?

Through the book Carlin talks of the “fuck-up squad” who were IRA volunteers not quite under control, the battle between the IRA and INLA, the tensions caused by republican funding being switched from the armed struggle to the political wing. He details how much it cost Sinn Fein to maintain its political presence across Northern Ireland, but his focus remains firmly in his home territory of Derry city with a couple of forays to Tyrone and Fermanagh.

He doesn’t bang an ideological drum and is matter of fact about his lack of respect for the RUC and, after he was extracted and resettled, how he nearly deliberately shot another informer!  His personal tragedies come through having lost a child to cot death whilst he was still in the British Army and then later in life his daughter in a car accident and son to sepsis but tragedies aside there is a flicker of pride throughout the book in what he did.

He has a pride in the relationship he had with McGuinness, his fly-fishing analogy and that he got him to say the IRA had no weapons in Derry on Bloody Sunday. He has a pride in how he managed to personate votes in elections, he has a pride in his interactions with MI5 and the FRU and he has a pride in the achievements that were put down to his intelligence and he has pride that Margaret Thatcher sent her ministerial jet to whisk him away from Northern Ireland and that she at a later date came to shake his hand.

In all this is a thought-provoking book from a man in his 70’s who was there. Do I believe it? I do, will there be mistakes? Of course there will, as no one has complete recall over such a period of time and through such dramatic events but in all I highly recommend this account of a very troubled period.

 

 

Russian Cyber actors use plausibly deniable outlets to disguise hacks.

Russian Cyber actors use plausibly deniable outlets to disguise hacks.

Russian Cyber actors use plausibly deniable outlets to disguise hacks

By Philip Ingram MBE

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and US National Security Agency (NSA) have said that the Turla group, a suspected Russia-based hacking group, have been disguising their activities by adopting and using techniques used by suspected Iran-based hacking groups.  Effectively masking who was really responsible for hacks. Why would a Russian based group do this?

On 27th April 2007 a massive deliberate denial of service attack was launched against Estonia, causing government webservices, banks and much more to fail.  The attack lasted 3 weeks. Whilst suspicion was laid at the feet of the Russians, they denied involvement as they have done with attacks in Georgia and Ukraine. The sophistication of many of these attacks suggest the only possible perpetrator is a major actor with the resources that many believe are only available to states.

With Cyber space not being regulated in the same way as Land, Maritime, Air or space when it comes to international actions relating to war with an equivalent of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols or an Outer Space Treaty, cyberwar and state sponsored cyber attacks are unregulated in international law. To avoid political embarrassment and the possibility of political repercussions the use of a plausibly deniable outlet is key, as without substantive proof there can never be substantive repercussions.

Sun Tzu the infamous Chinese 6th century general and philosopher said in his book the Art of War, “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”  The Russians have a doctrine called маскировка (maskirovka) which is all about ‘masking’ or deception and is central to all they do; they follow the philosophy laid down by Sun Tzu allowing them to interfere overseas but be able to deny it. We saw this with the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last year.

We keep hearing of cyber-attacks from Iran, a closed country with little access to western academia and training, yet they can mount some of the most sophisticated cyber incidents.  We hear the same of North Korea, who should have zero access to technology, academia, and extremely controlled access to the internet. However one has to ask why in 2017, TransTelekom, a major Russian telecommunications company that owns one of the world’s largest networks of fibre optic cables and is a full subsidiary of Russian national railway operator, Russian Railways who are owned by the Russian Federation put a fast internet connection into North Korea.

Around the same time, the North Koreans went from having a small nuclear capability with short-range missiles that failed more often than not, to have a hydrogen bomb capability with ICBMs that worked more often than not.  No one has explained how that technological advance happened so quickly in a country under strict international sanctions.  We have to remember, North Korea got blamed for the Sony Hack and the WannaCry attack of 2017, could it have been a proxy using a plausibly deniable outlet?  The why is because they can and want to maintain the ability to influence global activities without repercussions. Why do I suggest this? That is simple, they have history and a doctrine, tried and tested over many years, they also have a paranoia about anti Russian global sentiment reinforcing that inherent need to ‘do something’. Cyber space provided that perfect environment. A smudge of what could be a Russian fingerprint sits over many incidents. Not enough for real proof, but something that always seems to be there.

What is not unusual is that this technique of pretending to be someone else, using a plausibly deniable proxy identity is not that new however, we are likely to be coming more aware of it, have better analytical tools so that the intelligence agencies can be bolder at calling it out.  What is of concern is using a plausibly deniable proxy identity could also be used to instigate state sponsored terrorism, especially when online recruiting and radicalisation is so prevalent.

This joint statement today is a clear message to all potential threat actors across the globe from the UKs GCHQ and the US NSA saying, “we are watching you.”

 

 

 

 

When is all source intelligence not all source intelligence?

When is all source intelligence not all source intelligence?

When is all source intelligence not all source intelligence?

by Philip Ingram MBE

The intelligence game is a fickle one and on a BBC Radio Ulster debate on 8th October 2019 the real lack of understanding as to how fickle that game could be was brought home by Andrée Murphy, from the Falls Road based Relatives for Justice Organisation. She adeptly quoted all of the intelligence meetings and organisations that existed in Northern Ireland in the latter days of ‘The Troubles’ and made the understandable assumption that that meant the intelligence processes were joined up.

“If only they were,” is a cry I have heard on so many occasions and I refer to a continued lack of joined up process in my blog https://greyharemedia.com/dsei-makes-me-feel-cheated/ which talks of a time in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and ably praised one capability that existed in Northern Ireland.

When Andrée talked of joint meetings and an All Source Intelligence cell what she assumed was they put everything on the table that all of the different organisation that were involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland and the higher up the meetings were chaired the more control there would be over the process.

I have had many ‘All Source’ Intelligence cells working for me over many years and the one thing that is consistent between all of them is that ‘all source’ does not mean all intelligence or knowledge of all sources providing intelligence and information.  In reality, there isn’t one place in the country that is a single repository for every piece of intelligence that is coming from every source.

An ‘All Source’ intelligence cell is for many pieces of intelligence releasable at the classification of the lowest user of that cell.  So, if it is collating releasable to NATO material, only information and intelligence releasable to NATO will be processed in that cell. In Northern Ireland there was information not able to be released by the Security Service to the Army, by the Army to the Police, by the Police to the Army and every combination.

Critical to this is understanding the intelligence cycle.  Direct, Collect, Process, Disseminate – a simple cycle that hides huge complexities.

Direct informs what you want to know, what intelligence you need, what your priorities are, that will be different in a situation where you have the Army supporting the local police and the National Capability having operation oversight as was the case in Northern Ireland

Only the organisation doing the directing will set their objectives, one or two of them they may share with others but very very rarely all of them.  Organisations often didn’t like to let other organisations know what they didn’t know and often didn’t share requirements.

Collect is tasking to capabilities capable of collecting the information needed to process it into intelligence.  You can task assets you own and have control over and request support from assets others have, if you know about them, have authority to use them and get information from them and it fits with the priority of whoever is the ultimate owner of the assets. Clearly if an asset is undeclared you have no tasking capability over it at all; “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

You never have enough of your own assets to collect everything you need, and you never get all of the information or intelligence gleaned from someone else’s assets. When it comes to ownership of assets, especially sensitive assets their full capabilities are often hidden and usually classified in a way to keep them compartmentalised.  This means only those that need to know are fully briefed.

Intelligence from HUMINT assets rarely reveals the source.  In the early days and for at least half of the period called ‘The Troubles’, the RUC did not have personnel cleared to Top Secret level so that intelligence could not be shared with them.  Even when clearances existed, not everything was shared.

You may have joint tasking groups, or tasking and coordination groups but that doesn’t mean that every asset is declared to those groups nor does it mean that every asset declared is made available.  Politics between collection and intelligence capabilities is huge, usually because information and access are power, and organisations do not want to reveal their true capability and ultimately for them it is sadly an influence and budget game. I have been forced to play “my source is better than your source” games in operational theatres before, luckily outside the briefings my colleagues and I would sit down together and deconflict. (My sources were always the best).

The higher the level of any coordination group, the more the politics of each organisation represented comes into play, so rather than total exposure of operational intelligence matters, there is a dance off between different agencies seeking influence.

Even though I had clearances to a level higher in some areas than the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland and many of his intelligence staff, because I was originally from Northern Ireland, there were areas I was not allowed into when I visited  and capabilities I could and would never be briefed on. The reality was I never needed a full; operational briefing. There is no such thing as total visibility and that was accepted as a norm within this type of work.

The role of processing Intelligence is the remit of the All Source Cell.  A slight misnomer in its title as it doesn’t process intelligence from every source that is out there, but it processes intelligence from every source it is authorised to receive information and intelligence from. That is a very subtle but important difference. It provides a baseline, with usually sufficient detail for the routine operations in hand and as a foundation for more complex operations where other, undeclared, compartmentalised information and intelligence can be used to develop the picture or amend the assessment or give that vital extra piece that enables a specialist operation.

Intelligence from sensitive sources is always kept compartmentalised unless it can be sufficiently anonymised so as not to give the source away.  Even then its distribution is very carefully controlled. Often, even with written agreements to share everything, very sensitive intelligence is not shared with anyone outside an agreed names list.

The final bit of the cycle is dissemination.  Intelligence is produced at various levels of classification and the general rule is disseminate what you can to the lowest possible level, however the reality was that that which came out at the lowest classifications gave little insight, the higher the level of classification the greater the insight, however, fewer people saw it and in almost every case it was never complete insight.

The RUC / PSNI will have had a few individuals cleared to the highest levels who will have had total visibility of all that the police were doing and some insight to higher level Army and MI5 activities, but not total insight.  The same would be true for the Army and for the Security Service and not even political masters would have had complete oversight. In essence there were 3 stovepipes with limited cross over at certain levels, but most intelligence and intelligence operations remained within stovepipes and there were frequent stove pipes within stovepipes. Many intelligence operations never saw the light of exposure outside their particular pipe!

It is very easy for those who have never worked in the murky world of intelligence to think it is a panacea, an all seeing, well-oiled and coordinated beast with direction from the top.  The murkiness is an accurate description and highlights the real lack of visibility there is up, down across and around intelligence operations.

The start of the road to better cooperation between intelligence providers only appeared in the post 9/11 era when the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre was set up in London in June 2003.  Prior to that and in Northern Ireland in particular a joined-up intelligence machinery, across the police, army and security service was a very tongue in cheek description of what really existed.

When looking for centrally coordinated conspiracies, consistency in the mechanisms that existed are needed.  Unfortunately, those consistencies didn’t really exist, because they couldn’t really exist as the level of cooperation between different agencies was very mixed and usually quite shaky.  Where there were gaps in intelligence and there are always many and were many in Northern Ireland, individuals made judgement calls to fill those gaps if needed. Almost certainly over the protracted period ‘The Troubles’ existed, some of those judgement calls were wrong at the time and possibly more were wrong with 2020 hindsight.

In dealing with terror and people hiding amongst the community, using innocents and communities as human camouflage as they operate outside the law, criticising judgement calls for those operating within the law, on partial information and intelligence is easy. Some, who should have operated within the law went too far as happens in every conflict and they should be brought to account for their actions.  However, that number will be extremely small.  Every terrorist operated outside the law, so it is hypocritical of anyone to criticise the machinery of state alone. Everyone who operated outside the law should be brought to justice for the sake of every victim and their families.

***Addendum*** I should have added this in the main body of the blog but it comes as an afterthought.  Two things, the first is that the terror organisations had their own intelligence machinery, less structured, less oversight and ‘collection’ was based on uncorroborated sources often intimidated into providing information or information provided through rumour.  How often did we hear of apologies for innocent lives being taken?  That process is never questioned publicly! The second point is that the intelligence war, to the horror of the G/J3 community (they know who they are) I will say Intelligence operations, forced the terror organisations to culminate, they lost their ability to manoeuvre in the ‘military battlespace’ but weren’t ‘technically’ defeated militarily.  However, in the end, almost every decision made, even at the highest levels, was known by the security forces, operations were being interdicted, individuals arrested, dissenters to the move to a political process who had a desire to maintain ‘the struggle’ were disproportionally arrested, (has anyone speculated as to why?).  This wasn’t because of some new ‘magic’ intelligence capability or more joined up process the state had, it was because people within the communities where terrorists operated passed information on to the authorities.  Why is this not exposed publicly? It isn’t, because these people still live in those communities, they are members, pillars, of the local society, they have normal lives and whilst they may not agree with politics, they agree less with terror and bloodshed.  Their contribution will never be exposed until we, and the next generation are long gone, and that is right and appropriate for their and their families safety. Unfortunately violent bigotry remains.  However, their contribution to the peace process will never be formally acknowledged. Ultimately, the intelligence machinery of the state could only work if people within target communities helped, and the people overall wanted peace.

The heart of Government attacked

The heart of Government attacked

The heart of Government Attacked – a few quick thoughts

by Philip Ingram MBE

3rd October 2019, whilst the Prime Minister is being quizzed on his latest Brexit proposals a few hundred meters away, a bright and chilly day in central London and a red Dennis Fire Engine comes to a gentle halt outside HM Treasury on Horse Guards Road in Westminster. There are armed police throughout the wider area, security staff on the door.

Next we see protesters unfurl a hose from the fire engine and climb on top of it pointing it at the entrance to the Treasury Building with the security staff no doubt wondering what was going on. A banner is unfurled on the side of the fire engine, stating “Stop Funding Climate Change” and then the vehicles pump is started an a red coloured liquid is sprayed towards the front entrance of the Treasury Building, some staining the sand stone  façade before the hose popped from its nozzle and snaked around the back of the appliance, out of control, pumping 1800 litres of water with red dye all over the road, pavement and passers-by.

As this was happening, people continued to loiter not far from the entrance of the treasury building, there was no sign of a coordinated reaction, no sign of ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ from anyone. The police were not on the scene, there was no evidence of any reaction, bar bemusement, never mind a well-rehearsed security protocol anywhere. The press reaction is equally one of bemusement at a snaking hose rather than this being a successful attack.

This has to be one of the most worrying, highly visible attacks on our critical national infrastructure, the heart of government, the focus for economic stability in a tumultuous period, that has largely gone without any reaction or comment of substance. Is it right to say, “oh its ok its only those daft Extinction Rebellion types?”  “It was only harmless red dyed water?”  The harmless nature of the liquid was only known after the fact.

The total Metropolitan Police response was in two messages on Twitter as seen in the picture below:

 

The ‘Privately Owned’ fire engine could have been carrying so much more.  It looks like its livery acted as a perfect disguise to get a vehicle capable of carrying a massive load into the heart of Government. 1800 litres of water would could have been replaced with 1800kg of explosives.  The 1800 litres could have been some other harmful liquid, it could have been contaminated water, contaminated with dangerous or deadly chemicals.

This incident throws up so many questions.  Did the door staff at the entrance to the Treasury building initiate a protocol commensurate with a possible hostile attack? Why were the doors open and a security guards head pops out before it being gently shut? Why was the building not immediately locked down until the threat could be ascertained? Where was the police response 50+m from the back of Downing Street and a few hundred metres from the Palace of Westminster? How did a vehicle with hostile intent get so close to a critical government building unchallenged? What are the lessons being pulled out of this and how will procedures change? And so many more.

If anything, we have to thank the @XRebellionUK team for highlighting a very real security loophole which I have no doubt will have been noticed by those with desires for a much more deadly intent.  The whole reaction seems to have missed the potential for what could have been and smacks of complacency.  Complacency never leads to a good outcome. Let’s hope those with more malicious intent don’t infiltrate the planned @XRebellionUK climate protests as it would seem an easy route given the reaction to this incident.

 

DSEi makes me feel cheated

DSEi makes me feel cheated

DSEi makes me feel cheated

By Philip Ingram MBE

An audio/Podcast version of this Blog can be accessed here:

It is September 11th and I am at DSEi in London, however, another 11thSeptember and I’m in another conflict zone, this time on a reconnaissance a few weeks before deploying for over half a year. Sitting on the back of a Chinook helicopter flying into see the Italian Brigade in Multi-National Division South East (MDN SE) area of responsibility in SE Iraq. It is 2005.

There is a very distinctive feeling when the forward movement of the Chinook transitions into a hover for landing, the engine note, pitch of the rotor blades all signal a coming to the objective, the smell of burnt aviation fuel, the heat from the desert sands the quick check, rifle, helmet, day sack all secure, ready for another interesting and vital day of learning the operational area.

Then, from nowhere, a shiver, right down my spine, the hairs on the back of my neck stood out, I had one thought, phone back to Basra, the location for the Headquarters of MND (SE), phone quickly, something has happened. What a weird yet powerful feeling, I remember thinking, but I had to do it. Excusing myself to the general and chief of staff I followed the crew to the operations room to get to a phone.

Answered on its second ring, strange Andy, the officer I was replacing, was never in his office as his, my, daily routine was too busy. “Andy, this is a bit strange, but I have just had the urge to phone you, what has happened?” His reply was brief, “I can’t tell you Phil!” It was then I knew, my second day in Iraq, that it was serious.

“I’m with the new GOC and have just left him to make this phone call, I can’t tell him I’m not allowed to know, what the fuck has happened Andy!”  My tone made it very clear that he was going to have to answer, “Its Matt, he’s dead, there has been an IED, multiple casualties, the incident is still ongoing but Matt is dead,” my heart sank, my old company second in command, my Human Intelligence Officer, who I was looking forward to working with again, my mate, who was due to meet me early that evening had just been killed in a roadside bomb in Basra.

Fourteen years later to the day, and I am at the huge defence and security exhibition, DSEi, in London. Armoured vehicles, weapon systems, helicopters, warships, missiles and so many situational awareness capabilities are on display and I feel cheated.

Matt was traveling out of Basra in one of the British Army’s Snatch Landrover’s, lightly armoured, only good to protect against limited small arms fire, no good against sophisticated improvised explosive devices, designed to penetrate armour through the use of an explosively formed projectile, he was traveling because his helicopter had broken down twice and he had operational meetings to prepare for and he wanted to “get his shit together” for briefing me, his diligence was one of his strengths.

At subsequent inquests, the Snatch Landrover came in for huge criticism and blame for so many of the losses and injuries suffered in Iraq and subsequently in the early days of Afghanistan. I have no doubt they were partially to blame as their protection was inadequate for the threat.

However, if you are only relying on the armour of a vehicle for protection, then you have failed. Protection starts with the intelligence process, identifying threats from groups, on routes, to convoys. Identifying what weapons may be used and against what targets so modes of transport like “air movement only” or “Tracked vehicle escort required,” putting routes out of bounds until checked by search teams, all part of what should and must be a layered protection framework.

My first week of my full deployment in Iraq saw the operation to arrest the team that had carried out the attack on Matt’s convoy planned and executed, we got them, we disrupted an active cell, targeting British soldiers in Iraq but instead of being pleased with a successful operation, I was disturbed, very, very disturbed.

The targeting pack that was put together for the arrest operation, contained all of the relevant intelligence with associated reports, those reports were numerous, but the disturbing fact came from many that were pre 11 Sep.

With the focus provided by the incident, it was easy to see in the weeks leading up to the attack, a pattern of activity with a certain group, they had got IEDs, that pattern was around one or two locations, we had information where they were, that pattern showed their intent to attack a convoy on the route out of Basra, we had information about what they intended to do, that pattern showed the likely routes they were targeting, the road Matt used was the most likely, that pattern gave indications in the days just before 11thSeptember they were ready to carry out the attack.

We could see all of this because we had a fixed point, the attack, to work back from and piece together what happened. The information had been with the thousands and thousands of reports that were unintentionally buried in the volume of information that was coming into the intelligence cell.

It was buried as there were no tools to help the human analyst look for the very subtle patterns, that in dealing with an insurgency are vital indicators, those patterns only stood out with hindsight.

The trouble is hindsight is history and we were J2, the intelligence organisation, charged with predicting what was going to happen, to see into the future, to provide, amongst other things, that vital layer of protection outside the armour of vulnerable, lightly armoured vehicles.

The analysts were working to breaking point and beyond trying to deal with it. For every successful attack they had predicted and stopped 5, 10, 15 other attacks, the analysis were doing an amazing job under impossible circumstances.

I had a top “Tour De France” team trying to compete with a child’s bicycles and on the most part they remained competitive, a measure of the team’s human ability, but from time to time something fell off and when that happened people died and were maimed.

I didn’t have coherent databases, I didn’t have linked pattern analysis tools, I didn’t have the basic tools that enabled an intelligence operation, reliant on spotting subtleties, reliant on quickly identifying patterns, reliant on the ability to process multiple sources of information and enable the analysts to handle the volume of information, I didn’t have the tools that had existed in Northern Ireland from the early 1980, that had helped the security forces predict terrorist activity with real accuracy and disrupt them successfully, in 2005 I didn’t have those tools on operations where lives were being lost.

As I left Iraq in 2006 after a harrowing tour, with too many incidents my intelligence team had failed to predict, failed through no fault of their effort, diligence or training, failed because we were in an international race with a child’s bike level of equipment – I wrote to the Permanent Joint Headquarters in my post operational report that, “The lack of an integrated intelligence database and associated analysis tools has resulted in the deaths and injury of British and Allied service personnel and Iraqi Civilians.”  I confirmed by phone the report had been received and read and the only comment back was “Phil, you are right.”

So, as I look at all of the analysis tools available at DSEI and talk their history through with the companies displaying them, knowing we had similar capabilities in Northern Ireland in the 1980’s I feel cheated. I feel cheated for Matt, for Cpl C and the 2 Fusiliers seriously injured in the attack, for the medic who attended them, Fusilier S who I wrote up for the George Medal for is efforts that day, it was a serious incident, he got the award but is now suffering after leaving the Army, for every one of the 13 others killed and 40+ physically injured on my tour I feel cheated, they were cheated.RIP Matt.

DSEi – looking an INFO OPS gift horse in the mouth

DSEi – looking an INFO OPS gift horse in the mouth

DSEi – looking an INFO OPS gift horse in the mouth

by Philip Ingram MBE

The bi-annual defence exhibition in London DSEi kicks off in a few days’ time and preparations have been under way at Excel in London for quite some time as the event is huge. It is recognised as one of the world’s leading defence showcases and this is its 20thyear.

For ‘UK PLC’, DSEi is an opportunity to showcase UK defence exports which according to the government’s own website, “On a rolling 10-year basis, UK remains the second largest global defence exporter. In 2017, the UK won defence orders worth £9 billion, up on the previous year’s (£5.9 billion) and further illustrative of the ‘volatile’ nature of the global export market.

The UK share of the global defence export market was estimated at 12% in 2017. The UK’s largest defence export markets were the Middle East, North America and Europe. In 2017, the value of UK security export sales was £4.8 billion, an increase from 2016 (£4.3 billion) moving the UK upwards from fifth to fourth largest exporter.”

In the DSEi official event preview, Air Chief Marshall Mike Wigston CBE, the Chief of the Air Staff says, “For the Royal Air Force, DSEi is a superb opportunity to develop our relationships with allies and industry partners. In the face of an increasingly unpredictable global security environment, our international relationships are as important today as they have ever been.” He talks of collaboration, challenges, improving relationships, but doesn’t mention military effect

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith KCB, CBE, ADC Gen, the Chief of the General Staff does talk about effects when he says, “Armies must be able to think and adapt faster than the adversary to gain a position of relative advantage.” He emphasises the importance of the information environment when he says, “This physical activity is complemented by our burgeoning Information Manoeuvre capabilities,” and talks of “non-lethal engagement.”

Admiral Tony Radkin CB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff discusses the arrival of the Navy’s two new aircraft carriers and impending re-capitalisation of the Frigate force as he hopes the Type 31e announcement will be made at the show. He adds, “We will be looking to exploit the adaptability of our future fleet, to deliver increased global presence and lethality through the rapid adoption of new and novel technologies.”

General Patrick Sanders CBE DSO ADC Gen, Commander Joint Forces Command, reiterates the sentiments of the other officers; complex environment, international relationships and says, “The recent review into JFC gave us a strengthened mandate to be the defence lead for the cyber domain and the information environment.” (As an aside, why do so many put cyber and information in the same sentence? – a subject for another article.)

As these grand words come out in print there is a reality developing.  RT.com, the Russian state sponsored television outlet has put together a documentary which they say will give a balanced view of the anti-war campaign and the pro event benefits. They have been preparing this for weeks. How balanced it will be has yet to be seen.

In recent months we have seen the Russians laud their newhypersonic cruise missile, Avangard, which they said is able to get through all Western defences. We have been told about the Zirkon missile, a hypersonic ship killer with a 250-mile range.  The T-14 Armata tank featured upgraded armour, computerised systems, a new 125mm smoothbore gun designed to take on the latest in western armour, and a range of over 500 kilometres. With a multipurpose chassis, unmanned turret and crew of two, a wow in any tank world.

All of these capabilities have been pushed out as part of a sustained Russian Information Operation campaign. Closer to home the anti-war brigade has been demonstrating outside Excel trying to disrupt equipment being delivered and according to the Morning Star, by Thursday 5thSeptember at least 53 had been arrested.  In interviews they suggest people will be buying weapons at the event like you would buy computer games at a gaming expo.

Why are they not being told that these Russian claims are merely part of a wider game of Maskirovka.Then telling the anti-war campaigners that this isn’t how expos work and the reality of what defence does, the good it does, of how, as they use the internet, the GPS on their phones and more, they are being hypocritical as these are all originally defence projects that now benefit society as a whole?

Meanwhile around the globe, as well as helping defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, prop up the Afghan Government, stop terror devastating communities in Africa, pre-position disaster relief capability and then help save lives and begin to rebuild communities devastated by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. As well as intercept and escort Russian aircraft and ships probing the boundaries of NATO, ensuring freedom of navigation in the disputed South China seas, escort shipping though the Straits of Hormuz to counter Iran’s increased aggression, and continue to support UN, EU and other coalition operations. All of these activities give huge potential for fact based, focused information operations to take the sting out of the protesters, set the record straight with Russian aggression and technological claims and send a message to the world about Britain’s global military capability.

Many don’t realise that our services are not just there to fight wars. Every day they are helping communities at home, providing assistance with other Government departments overseas. Saving lives, rebuilding disaster hit communities, doing good! Many don’t realise it, as they are not being told about it.

UK Defence is showing the world that cross government cooperation in the UK is making a difference despite the Brexit chaos whilst many EU and G7 allies who are much more politically stable do very little. It clearly demonstrates government working justifying what ministers describe as the UK’s tier one status.  Why is this not being lauded from the highest vantage points?

All of these points are what should be part of a well planned and centrally executed preparation of the information space, operations within the information space to achieve an effect, and that effect should be righting the wrongs above and then exploiting the success to show the UK, despite political speedbumps, can and does still meet its P5 responsibilities and is, now, today, saving lives.

At the DSEi pre event Press Briefing, talking to Jonathan Beale the BBC Defence Correspondent, he said “I might not even go to the show.” Many were left underwhelmed. Defence’s use of this event to take a “lead in the information environment” and properly utilise “our burgeoning Information Manoeuvre capabilities” has simply not materialised. Politicians need to understand the importance of the information environment today, enable operational freedom in the information environment and allow Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals to properly understand it and exploit it for the defence of our global position. Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals need to stop being scared of the information environment and properly manoeuvre within it for clearly defined effects and run operations in it like any other military operation.  DSEi as a platform for this is lost for another 2 years.