Members of the UK’s Parliamentary intelligence watchdog will not be allowed access to all intelligence or defence information relating to the new British practice of targeted killing by drone, the Prime Minister has said.
David Cameron was asked today by Andrew Tyrie MP whether the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) would be allowed to examine the military aspect of the targeted killing programme, and whether he would commit to the Committee’s security-cleared members being able to see all the relevant intelligence.
Mr Cameron refused on both points, stating that the ISC’s job was to examine intelligence, not military affairs, and that he could not give the commitment Mr Tyrie asked for regarding the Committee’s access to intelligence. Mr Tyrie pointed out that what the Committee is allowed to see remains under the control of the Secretary of State, and that its work on targeted killing “could be rendered meaningless” if it were barred from looking at the military operation.
The Prime Minister was taking questions from the House of Commons Liaison Committee, composed of the chairs of the various select committees. He was also asked questions on targeted killing by drone by Harriet Harman MP, chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) which is currently carrying out an inquiry into the issue. She asked whether he would publish the UK Government’s policy on drone strikes – Mr Cameron responded that he had already set out his position to the Commons, but that publishing a written policy might “get us into more difficulties.”
Commenting, Kat Craig, legal director at international human rights organization Reprieve said: “Despite the Prime Minister’s assurances to the contrary, the UK’s targeted killing programme is entirely ambiguous and shrouded in secrecy. Just because it may take a bit of effort to formulate a policy, it does not mean the Government can wholesale refuse to do so. In fact, the Government is under a legal obligation to formulate and publish a clear and unambiguous policy, especially when we’re talking about state killing. Moreover, the Prime Minister’s refusals to share vital information with the ISC raises the disturbing possibility that – much like the controversial US drone programme – UK targeted killing may be beyond accountability and oversight.”