In the streets of Tehran, for many years Israel’s Mossad, Germany’s MRD, Americas CIA, France’s DGSE and of course the UK’s MI6 with many others will have been playing the potentially deadly game of HUMINT. Human Intelligence, recruiting individuals with access to pass on secrets from the organisations they have access to. If they are caught, they will almost certainly be tortured and killed, it is probable that their families will disappear, and that access will be lost. This is part of the intelligence game.
One of the key targets of the international intelligence community will be the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds force. Their special operations division, the part of the revolutionary guard that infiltrates other states, that carries out guerrilla and terrorist type attacks, that carries out ‘black’ operations, that is currently being blamed by the US and UK for the spate of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
If one of the intelligence agencies has recruited an agent inside the Quds Force then their intelligence, their presence and their access will only be known by a very very small number of people; their identity by even fewer. Their reports will be unlikely to be shared, but assessments utilising intelligence provided may be shared with allies.
Luckily, HUMAN intelligence is the icing on the cake and not needed in all cases to form an intelligence assessment. It is highly unlikely to have formed part of the picture that allowed the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to blame the Iranians for the attacks on Thursday on two tankersin the Gulf of Oman, just a month after four others were targeted off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said that the Iranian regime was “almost certainly” behind it, but how would they know?
The key is knowing exactly what happened and when and that is very easy in this case. It is easy because the exact time and location is known and the ships at 06:12 (02:12 GMT) the Norwegian-owned Front Altair followed at 07:00 the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous sent distress calls following explosions and these were picked up by US naval forces in the region.
The US has already released video from an unmanned drone flying in the region, this is one of the most highly surveilled regions in the world. The drone reportedly showed Iranian Revolutionary Guards boats evacuating crew from one of the distressed ships whilst surreptitiously removing an unexploded limpet mine. Some commentators have questioned its validity especially as the owners of the Kokuka Courageous claim that the crew saw a flying object just before the explosion.
One thing that people should recognise is the drone was not alone! There are layers of intelligence collection systems all watching and listening to target areas of interest, which the Gulf of Oman is. These systems have the ability to monitor the whole electromagnetic spectrum passively through satellites, drones, aircraft, ships and land based capabilities and also actively through land based, sea borne and airborne radar.
So, what would be looked for? We have boat movement, the 2 ships that were attacked and any smaller craft that approached them through their journey. Small craft present a problem for intelligence systems as they can often get lost in the background clutter in images, or radar returns and that clutter can be caused by atmospherics, sea states and geography. This means that unless they are being actively looked for, they can often hide. Boats no matter what size leave a wake, a temperature difference in the sea as they travel, a radar and an acoustic signature, a thermal signature and if they use radar and/or radio, an electromagnetic signature. If crew members are carrying mobile phones, those too leave a unique signature in the electromagnetic spectrum.
For limpet mines to be attached, this is either done in port or on the journey from a surface or sub surface vessel. The location of the explosion and the alleged limpet mine that was removed can rule out a sub-surface approach. But what of the flying object?
The ships were over 50 km off shore, for anyone with experience at sea, that is a long way! Any ‘flying object’ would have to be launched from Land, the Air or the Sea. It would also have to be guided to the target either actively or using passive on board guidance systems. We are talking about a very sophisticated system to get a warhead to a ship. At that range any land launched system would have been spotted immediately through its thermal signature, the US would have called it out immediately. Again, if launched from the air, aircraft type, course, time of flight are all being recorded, not just by civil air traffic control but also military assets across the region. The USS Bainbridge, a US Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, over 500 feet long and weighing in at 9,200 tons, has some of the most sophisticated radar and other sensors and it was operating in the area.
So, a close in missile launch would see the need for a small boat to get within a few km of the tankers, leaving its own signature and once a missile is launched, leaving another trail of ways of identifying it. I would assess it as unlikely that a missile system was used to attack the tankers.
Will we ever know for sure? Well if samples of the explosive residue left around the site of the explosion and the size and shape of the damage to the ship’s hull can be gained – the type of explosive can be determined and the exact weapon system used therefore determined with a very high probability, if it is a manufactured weapon and not a home-made IED, even then the residue will indicate where the explosive substance came from.
So, for all the doubters out there who want to immediately counter the state narrative. Realise, it is certainly based on much more than will ever or should ever be in the public domain. Meanwhile, the attempts to recruit human assets in Tehran and elsewhere will continue.
This blog was written by Philip Ingram MBE a former Colonel in British Military Intelligence who has worked in the Gulf region. Please go to contact us if you want further comment from him.
The Skripal Investigation, the next revelation.
On Saturday The Guardian Newspaper published a story which said: “The Russian men suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury received a phone call after returning to London on the day of the alleged attack, raising the possibility that a backup team played a role in the operation.
One theory being considered by investigators is whether the call, which has not been disclosed before, was a signal to tip them off that the operation had been a success.”
So, what does this mean, how significant is it and is there more we can deduce from this new snippet released by the Metropolitan Police?
It gives an understanding to more detail that could be out there, and yes, it is very significant, so lots more can be deduced! Philip Ingram MBE a former British Military Intelligence Officer explains some of the things that the investigators will have and what this means.
The first thing that this statement confirms is the probable existence of a second team. This is something that the Grey Hare Media team have been saying over and over again in the numerous Skripal related Grey Hare Blogs, the last of which is here: https://greyharemedia.com/skripal-and-salisbury-an-infamous-combination-one-year-on/
What it does suggest is that the second team (and there could even have been a third) were there during the operation carried out by Chepiga and Mishkin and remained there afterwards. They were providing overwatch and checking to see if the operation was a success. Although it is a bit of a speculative jump, there is a possibility they are part of a clandestine Russian unit permanently in the Salisbury area (suggested here: https://greyharemedia.com/salisbury-sleepy-hollow-or-spooks-playground/). However, it is unlikely that anyone involved in deep cover operations would get involved in something so dynamic, unless resources were scarce.
It could also explain the ‘sealed’ bottle of Novichok that Charlie Rowley found some time later. There could have been a second bottle left as a back-up in case the first attempt failed.
The next thing it confirms is that Chepiga and Mishkin has a phone they used on the operation. This is almost certainly a UK pay as you go, unregistered “burner” phone and the fact they received a “phone call”, rather than a call being made over a secure App such as Threema or WhatsApp, would suggest the phone wasn’t a smart phone. This would make sense as smart phones, with their built in GPS capabilities, are much easier to track once identified.
So how would they have identified the phone? Well, all phones operate using a SIM card and each SIM card has a unique International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number which consists of the users account number, network code and telephone number. There is a second number, and this is the International Mobile Equipment Identity, (IMEI) number that relates to the handset and remains the same even if the SIM is changed.
When mobile phones are switched on, they transmit these numbers to local phone cells to “check in” and do the same each time they make a call. The mobile network is divided into a series of cells with a base station at the centre of each cell and they can hand calls across to each other, giving seamless coverage to the user.
If the police have identified a call being made it means they almost certainly know the IMSI and IMEI numbers linked to that call and to all other calls to and from that handset or SIM. The GRU network will have likely been identified.
The police will have been looking at base station activity corresponding with the times Chepiga and Mishkin were on their train journeys, in Salisbury, other travel rotes they will have taken in London and near their accommodation in London to see if they could identify on IMEI or IMSI number that was consistent and ideally both. The huge amounts of data they will have had to crunch through to do this is unimaginable but shows the effort that is being put in to the Skripal Investigation. It is highly probable that the computing power of the government listening agency, GCHQ will have been used for this part of the investigation.
With this information, a more detailed understanding of the movements of the GRU officers and any associates who they have communicated with can be deduced if the phones and SIMs have been connected to the network more than one time only.
With this level of detail going into the investigation, there is a lot more yet to be exposed.
Note: This blog is written by Philip Ingram MBE, a former British Military Intelligence Officer and Colonel, who was based near Salisbury in the past. If you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE
Huawei the truth and the myth.
By Philip Ingram MBE
We are hearing one name, causing news presenters angst when it comes to pronouncing it, in the press at the moment, it is that of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. So why are government ministers interested in Huawei? Why are the 5 Eyes community talking about it so much? What is the truth and what is the hype? Finally is there anything else we should be worried about? Philip Ingram MBE a former Senior British Intelligence officer who has worked with signal intelligence organisations takes a look.
Techadvisor.co.uk said “You can’t ignore Huawei any more. With increasingly premium smartphones on the market,” the Chinese company is challenging Samsung, LG, Sony and Apple who according to analysis by consulting firm Counterpoint Research, it outsells globally.
Given this great accolade then why are the US Government putting certain Chinese companies under increasing scrutiny and even more. In February, FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI was “deeply concerned” about the risks posed by the Chinese phone and telecommunications equipment providers Huawei and ZTE. Both Huawei and ZTE have repeatedly insisted that their consumer devices don’t pose a security threat to the US or anywhere else across the globe. (ZTE like Huawei provide telecom infrastructure devices). The Australian Government has decided, reportedly on national security grounds, to exclude Huawei from involvement in their National Broadband Network.
In a report to the UK parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, the Security Service (MI5) said in 2008 that, theoretically, the Chinese State may be able to exploit any vulnerabilities in Huawei’s equipment in order to gain some access to the BT network, which would provide them with an attractive espionage opportunity. So the issue in the press today is nothing new!
Looking at the UK market, Huawei makes everything from the routers and switches that steer traffic across the internet, to BT’s green street cabinets, to the transmission equipment used in mobile phone masts. If you send an email from your home computer or make a mobile phone call, wherever you are in the UK, the chances are your private communications and data will be carried over Huawei equipment. However, it is not the private communications that concerns are being raised about. It is the linking of our national infrastructure across the 5G network.
5G is a step change in the ability to transmit high speed data and will enable our already connected life style to reach levels probably unimagined as yet.
On the back of that report, BT who control the communications infrastructure across the county, started a programme to strip Huawei equipment out of the current 3G and 4G networks and have not planned to put Huawei devices into the core of developing 5G Networks. However, Huawei hit back and opened the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) (known as “The Cell”) in 2010 just outside Oxford and put it under the oversight of what was then called the CESG and is now NCSC, the public facing part of the UK’s GCHQ.
This is why in recent statements senior personnel from GCHQ have been able to say they had “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security”. One of the major issues over Huawei engineering is around so called ‘back doors’ being engineered into the hardware on the orders of the Chinese Government, so that the Chinese had a secret method of taking control of the hardware when they wanted to.
This fear was enhanced when China introduced its new National Intelligence Law and in particular Article 7 of that law which states, “any organisation or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work according to law.” Then Article 14 says, ‘state intelligence work organs, when legally carrying forth intelligence work, may demand that concerned organs, organisations, or citizens provide needed support, assistance, and cooperation.” This just reinforces that the Chinese state can overrule Huawei’s claimed independence. Huawei continue to insist that the law is being mis-interpreted.
This idea of back doors is nothing new and ‘The Cell’ has found no evidence of back doors being deliberately put in Huawei hardware and they have denied they would ever do so, even if there was pressure from the Chinese Government. One area that possibly leaves hardware vulnerabilities however, is in their basic engineering.
Dr Ian Levy, technical director of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said on BBC Panorama, “The security in Huawei is like nothing else – it’s engineering like it’s back in the year 2000 – it’s very, very shoddy and leads to cyber security issues that we then have to manage long term.” But what does shoddy engineering mean?
As electronics are developed rapidly and for the mass market therefore as cheaply as possible, development is happening continuously. That development is in the hardware – the physical bits connected together and the software. What many don’t realise is those bits are made of bits and individual chips with a role in a device have their own software giving instructions. Developers have ‘development backdoors’ on chips and component so that updates can be quickly coded or integrated and the sides are supposed to be closed down before the production version is manufactured. Frequently this doesn’t happen as it is another process and therefore cost and development is ongoing often even after manufacture has started, so chips are put into production devices with engineering flaws.
The second area is that security is not designed in at chip level. There isn’t enough coding room for this to happen. However, Huawei is not the only international giant with reported security flaws.
Not just Huawei
Last year there were several reports on the blogging site Reddit saying that some Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note 8 phones were sending users’ pictures to their contacts without their permission and linked the issue to the Samsung Messages app.
Then we had Google confirming that it allows some external software developers to read and analyse the inboxes of Gmail users. “External apps can integrate with Gmail, so customers have options around how they use their email,” director of security at Google Cloud Suzanne Frey said in a blog post.
So who is listening to your conversations?
On the 3rd of July 2018 in the UK Parliament, the UK Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson was updating MPs on Syria was rudely interrupted, not by another MP, but by his iPhone’s AI App Siri which boomed out “Hi Gavin, I found something on the web for: ‘In Syria, democratic forces supported by coalition…”
Trying to make light of the interruption Mr Williamson said, “It is very rare that you’re heckled by your own mobile phone.” Very quickly afterwards sources close to the minister denied that having the voice recognition software switched on posed a security risk, saying he did not carry that phone during confidential and sensitive meetings.
However, what wasn’t said is if he has sensitive conversations on that phone or with people when the phone is in his pocket. It is always listening.
In 2015 Samsung again warned its customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set. The warning applied to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature. Samsung said, “when the feature is active, such TV sets ‘listen’ to what is said and may share what they hear with Samsung or third parties.”
Many of these companies use Chines made chipsets in their technologies.
Papers leaked from America’s National Security Agency (NSA) by Edward Snowden through Wikileaks, revealed that it had hacked into Huawei’s headquarters, obtaining technical information and monitored the communications of its top executives. One of the reported aims was to try and uncover vulnerabilities or back doors in the products to use them for US surveillance operations.
The US Hacks Huawei
This could be why the US director of national intelligence and heads of CIA, FBI, NSA gave public warnings, but it is likely they know more about Huawei than they would be willing to say publicly. There is a distinct possibility that they found vulnerabilities not just in the software run on the phones, but the firmware (the code that makes components talk to each other) and even in some cases the hardware, the components themselves.
The Chinese Government’s cyber capability is provided by the Strategic Support Force (SSF) and is the military organisation tasked with gaining a strategic advantage in the information and cyber domain via its Network Systems Department. Given Chinese government control over most of its industry and that has been clear reporting for many years that the Chinese government forces its domestic electronic equipment providers to hand over their source code, this will be used by the SSF to exploit vulnerabilities in devices globally. Linking this to the new law reinforces the suspicions with regard to Huawei.
More back doors.
However, when it comes to ‘backdoors,’ it is not the Chinese who have been found out recently. In 2018 five undocumented back doors were found in CISCO routers and detailed in a book entitled No Place to Hide,” by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who originally broke the Edward Snowden story. Greenwald states that unbeknown to CISCO the NSA intercepts routers and network devices bound for overseas customers and “then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal, and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users.”
There is merit to being wary of any one nation having potential access no matter how small it is to critical communications networks by what ever means. However, what is clear is that every nation is at the espionage game and if Huawei routers are being used then possibly another manufacturers tampered with routers are not being used, blinding that intelligence agency.
They are just doing their job.
It is the remit of national intelligence agencies to gain an advantage and they will do so by what ever means. The whole intelligence game revolves around data. Data is key to everything so it can be analysed, cross referenced, processed, assessed and turned into intelligence. The Russians targeting priorities are to gain political advantage and steal military secrets the Chinese focus is primarily on intellectual property; President Trump has stated the US priority, “America First.”
Huawei deny any Chinese state control or vulnerabilities and set up an organisation staffed by UK security cleared personnel to test the equipment they attach into the critical national infrastructure (CNI) and that organisation is called “The Cell.”
Jerry Wang, CEO of Huawei in the UK, wrote to The Times: “Their accusations are a smokescreen for an attack on our recognised technological innovation. They are not based on security concerns, but a barely concealed protectionist trade agenda.”
We have several elements to the current debate, espionage, a distinct probability but all sides do it. Trade, and security is an easy cry to scare the markets into protectionist trade policies. Manufacturing standards, whether one manufacturer should have a monopoly on critical elements of a network and with 5G the way we structure our future Satan enabled world.
One thing to remember about anything you process electronically on a device that is connected to any network, WIFI, mobile provider, is that that data may not be as safe and personal as you think. It is your choice as to what tech you buy but whatever your choice is, think security, think risk, think compromise.
The New IRA is believed to have been responsible for a number of attacks in Derry in recent years, including an attempt to kill a police officer by planting a bomb under his car outside his home in 2017. It claimed responsibility for firing shots and throwing grenades at police during nights of disturbances in Derry last summer.
In January 2019 a car bomb exploded outside Derry City Court House, luckily injuring no one and causing little damage. Two men in their twenties were detained hours after the explosion and two other men aged 34 and 42 were arrested in the city the next day. We have people in their nappies when the Good Friday agreement was signed at the front of this new terror wave.
In March 2019 five parcel bombs were sent from the Irish Republic to addresses in Great Britain, four were delivered, only one partially initiating when it was opened, and one was returned to a sorting office in the Republic of Ireland where it was discovered and dealt with. The New IRA were blamed.
Now, at the height of the Christian Calendar, the PSNI are blaming the New IRA for the death of Lyra McKee, a journalist covering nights of disturbance on the Creggan Estate in Derry, similar to what had happened last year. Two teenagers were arrested for the shooting, at 18 and 19 they weren’t born when the Good Friday Agreement was signed 21 years ago. Somehow in those intervening years they were groomed into thinking republican terror was the way forward. That is clearly a rot at the centre of elements of the community and that rot killed Lyra McKee.
Formed in 2012 following a merger between groups including the Real IRA and Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), which was predominantly active in the northwest of Northern Ireland, it has been responsible for the murders of two prison officers.
David Black (52) was shot dead as he drove to work in Co Armagh in 2012, while Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van in Belfast in 2016.
The Real IRA, emerged toward the end of 1997 and were blamed forthe 1998 Omagh bomb, which claimed the lives of 29 people and unborn twins, the worst atrocity of the Troubles.
It was also claimed that the Real IRA were responsible for the deaths of two British soldiers in 2009 outside the Massereene Barracks in Antrim and has been linked to other gun attacks, bombings and other criminality across the UK and Ireland.
In 2014 Forbes Israel carried out a study into the wealth of terror organisations across the globe. Most dissident republican groups, such as the Continuity IRA and all of the loyalist terror groups failed to make the Forbes list.
Forbes Israel top 10 of terror:
1 Isis £1.3bn
2 Hamas £638m
3 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) £383m
4 Hezbollah £319m
5 Taliban £255m
6 Al-Qaeda and affiliates £96m
7 Lashkar e-Taiba £64m
8 Al-Shabaab £45m
9 Real IRA £32m
10 Boko Haram £16m
However, significantly the Real IRA came in at number 9 sandwiched between Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram with a £32 million annual turnover. This money comes from extortion, smuggling, drug running, robbery and other organised criminal activities. The link between serious and organised crime and terror couldn’t be clearer.
The New IRA have no cause, they have no political agenda, they are fed by the politics of ‘nay’ espoused by all of the main political parties in Northern Ireland. They are a serious and organised criminal; organisation who, for kicks, use terror tactics to maintain a presence in society. They are no more than little bullies with guns and bombs extorting the future of the children of Northern Ireland. It’s time to stop.
2019 a year of Security Uncertainty
By Philip Ingram MBE
If the security challenges for 2018 weren’t challenging enough what will 2019 bring? Last year we saw the first use of the deadly Novichok nerve agent anywhere in the world, making a household name of a substance only very few had heard of before. Then we have the growth of terror that Andrew Parker the Head of MI5 described as working at unprecedented levels and the CT Police highlighting that the number of active investigations going on at once had grown from 500 to over 700. We also see security challenges caused by Gatwick airport being shut for 36 hours over a peak holiday getaway period because of a drone or drones in its airspace.
So, what does 2019 hold for the Security community in the UK? More of the same or are we likely to see anything new?
The biggest challenge that is occupying many people’s minds is that of BREXIT and the implications that will have on wider security architecture. Peter Franciscus Van-Osselaer, Head of Operations, European Counter Terrorism Centre, EUROPOL told Philip Ingram MBE that, “even in the event of a ‘no deal BREXIT,’ the UK had in place bilateral and other agreements to ensure security working arrangements would remain as close to as they are today with the UK in the EU. No one, not on the UK side or the EU side wanted to lose the working relationship that was in place today.”
Putting BREXIT to one side, the Cyber threat is all pervading through society, continually morphing and finding new ways to threaten networks, businesses and personally identifiable data. The biggest threat we are likely to see in 2019 is through Artificial Intelligence or AI. This will be three-fold, the first, the threat to AI enabled business practices, the second, the criminal use of AI to break into networks and the third is the use of AI to protect networks.
Tied into this growing risk area is the growth of the ‘attack surface’ through the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the always connected and everything connected society we seem to be growing into and this will become worse with the roll out of the 5G data network that is up to 1000 times faster than the current 4G networks.
The traditional ransomware and data theft attacks will continue but we will see a rise in manipulation attacks, manipulating data to create undue influence and potentially reputational damage.
Threats will range from the home based ‘geek’ through to state sponsored like we saw with Wannacry and notPetya and are seeing with increasing wariness for governments to allow tech giants with potential Chinese government influence such as Huawei and ZTE from increasing their access to faster networks such as 5G. The clear message from these attacks are the threat state actors can have on not just enterprise businesses but also SME. However, it is important to balance this ‘wariness’ out as nothing has been proved against the Chinese firms despite intensive testing whereas CISCO had 7 back doors discovered in their equipment’s in 2018, some of which were blamed on the NSA. Security vulnerabilities are as much an economic tool as they are spying tool.
The focus on alleged illicit state activity in the use of manipulated and targeted data in various elections around the globe is being investigated, 2019 will likely be the year of the consequences of those investigations becoming public. However, what this is likely to do, is emphasise the potential of information being used as a weapon designed to cause an effect and in industry that effect could be reputational. Public Relations will probably move a little more towards the centre of risk mitigation activities.
The closure of Gatwick Airport outside London for 36 hours before Christmas brought the drone threat firmly back onto the agenda. The UK Civil Aviation Authority Drone Risk Assessment of January 2018 makes no mention of the use of drones to deliberately disrupt a working airfield and the lack of equipment to deal with the threat shocked a large number of people. One airline working out of Gatwick say the incident cost then £15 Million but the full cost of the incident hasn’t been calculated yet.
A scare at London Heathrow Airport in January was dealt with in less than an hour with only one runway closed, but highlighted the very real threats that drones provide to the safe operation of airports and a after several incidents in the Middle East, the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) estimated the cost of closure at $100,000 per minute, meaning drone detection technologies would very quickly fall into the cost effective bracket!
Thank goodness our news headlines are not filled with stories of continuing successful terror attacks as seemed to happen in 2017. However, the threat hasn’t gone away and in the words of Andrew Parker the head of the UK Security Service MI5, the threat has reached “unprecedented levels.” This is reflected in the growth of active investigations from 500 in 2018 to 700 towards the end of the year and into 2019 with 3000 active suspects and another 20,000 on a terror watch list.
With the squeeze to near elimination of the ground so called ISIS held in Syria and Iraq it would be easy to assume the terror threat was waning. Not the case says Vasco Amador of the cyber Intelligence Company Global Intelligence Insight, who track extremists online. “In recent months was have seen a relaunch of so-called ISIS cyber capability that used to be called the ‘United Cyber Caliphate’ and has been rebranded as the ‘Caliphate Cyber Shield’ with new leadership and new energy. The groups they operate online have thousands of active followers across the globe,” he said.
The final security threat we must watch out for in 2019 falls into the unknown bracket. Who would have thought a deadly military grade nerve agent would have been used on the streets of England by another state. We don’t know what the next novel threat will be. However, putting all security threats to one side – we can confidently predict that more people will be killed and injured by man-made and natural disasters, than will suffer similar consequences from any security incident. 2019 will certainly be an interesting year.
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Passing the buck
In March 2012 Capita signed the landmark deal pledging to overhaul and improve recruitment across the armed forces in a £1.3 billion recruiting partnership project. In 2019 it was recognised that this had failed but was the failure down to Capita alone, or is the way the MoD looks after its veterans a serious factor in a recruits decision not to proceed? Philip Ingram highlights how the MoD is just passing the buck, making someone else responsible for the people it has broken.
The Armed Forces strategy published in November 2018 was designed to fix the incoherent approach to veteran’s support across the country and set the foundations for a bright future. But has it, or is it perpetuating the issues, just more clearly?
The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust is the independent Trust that manages the Armed Forces Covenant Fund of £10 million per annum that is there to support our veterans but where does it go, what does it do and what is the strategy behind it?
The new Armed Forces strategy says, “It is right that we as a nation – government, charities, business and the wider public – support and empower those who have served us in our Armed Forces. We have a long history of doing this in the UK, and it remains our duty to support those who step up to serve this country.”
“Each nation within the UK will assess how they deliver the Strategy in line with local needs and delivery mechanisms.” This means differential treatment depending on local resources and priorities, it is a post code lottery for standards of help and support.”
The Strategy recognises potential issues when it says, “veterans often receive support from many different organisations, across the public, private and charitable sectors. Each time Veterans engage with a new service provider, they may have to repeat their circumstances and historic experiences.”
“This Strategy takes account of the fact that Veterans exist within a wider community of family and friends. It also considers the families of those who have died whilst serving.” Yet Veterans UK and many of the charities will not deal with third parties so where does the ability of the wider community and family come into play, how is this supposed to happen?
The strategy goes on to say, “the Armed Forces Covenant, which was enshrined in law in the Armed Forces Act (2011), has at its core the principles that Service Personnel, Veterans, and their families are not disadvantaged by their Service and that special provision is made for those who have sacrificed the most, including the injured and the bereaved.” So, by failing the Armed Forces Covenant the MoD must be liable for those failures and is leaving itself wide open to class actions for its continued failings.
It adds, “while the Ministry of Defence does provide some services directly to many Veterans, most services accessed by Veterans are delivered by wider public services. The type and remit of provision offered by each public body reflects its wider role within the public sector. The Ministry of Defence has a shared moral obligation and leadership role for Veterans’ issues, delivered by the Minister for Defence People and Veterans on behalf of the Secretary of State for Defence, and in practice the responsibility is delivered across governments. The Ministerial Covenant and Veterans Board agrees priorities and coordinates activities for the UK Government, working with the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and government in Northern Ireland to enable the best outcomes for Veterans wherever they are in the UK.”
In reality this process is so far above the delivery of support and is then added to a long list of priorities and coordinated activities that it get lost in the sea of reality. There is no consistency across the country, between charities or agencies, there is no handover mechanism to ensure a continuity of care once one funding line is finished, there are no coherent mechanisms to manage complex cases. Yet, the MoD had held its high level meetings, so responsibility has been passed.
The Veterans Strategy goes on to say, “public sector services are delivered to Veterans by a combination of local authorities, devolved government and the UK Government, creating a complex picture across the UK.” But no element takes responsibility for coordinating that delivery between the elements of what the MoD calls a ‘complex picture’, what hope is there for a veteran to do so?
In what can only be described as management buzz word babble it says, “the establishment of clearer, consistent principles and aims across the UK will help to ensure that a Veteran’s experience remains consistent with that of the other citizens.” But what is different is no other citizens have been by dint of their employment put in such situations as one of their job roles is to lose their life if necessary, veterans are not just like other citizens in many ways! There seems to be no Role for the MOD?
The Strategy outlines “The role of the charitable sector” when it says, “the UK has a strong and vibrant Armed Forces charitable sector, which supplements the core essential services provided by the public sector, by providing additional and/or bespoke services. Charities provide specialist services for Veterans and the bereaved on a range of issues (including: information helplines, healthcare, and housing) throughout the UK, based on their own organisational eligibility criteria.” Then we have the role of the Private sector but nothing on the role of the MoD? That is a clear derision of responsibility. No-where does it outline where distressed veterans can guarantee to get coherent help across organisations and agencies.
To try and deal with the issues surrounding the £1.3 Billion wasted by the Capita saga, and their woes may not be of all of their making with such a clear example of MoD not caring for service leavers, the military are spending millions on new recruiting campaigns that on the surface are brilliant, but one negative story wasted a large percentage of that recruiting spend.
We have a Veteran’s strategy that passes the buck, we have controversy over legacy prosecutions, we have books, Double Crossed, by Brian Wood MC, The Battle Within by Neil Spencer and Broken By War by Anthony Lock, all recently published and highlighting failings by the MoD.
According to ITV, “71 serving military personnel and veterans who took their own lives in 2018 following mental health struggles. The death toll exceeds the number.” That statistic of more than one per week continues and last weekend the friend of a veteran on crisis reached out to the wider community after hitting silence with veterans charities and failure by the NHS. Hopefully that individual wont become another statistic, but there are plenty more who will.
The result of the strategy is we have wounded service personnel falling in their current field of battle, and believe me having suffered it is a field of battle, being left whilst the MoD, charities, public sector agencies either walk by and don’t notice or debate who should do what and write papers about it whilst spending more on trying to recruit their replacement than they are spending on dealing with veterans. Newtons law is for every force there has to be an equal and opposite force, well for the recruiting and retention force, the Veterans Strategy is the opposite force, except it is stronger and growing!