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Advisory Group on Security and Intelligence Records

Summary of a meeting held on Thursday 29 June 2006

Present

Item 1. Minutes of the last meeting

The Group approved the summary of its previous discussion for publication on the Cabinet Office website.

Item 2 . Link from Advisory Group webpage to TNA webpage about released records

TNA described the online exhibition currently in preparation that could be seen at URL http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/securityhistory/ [External website]. This included sections on the history of the agencies, SIS, GCHQ, Security Service, JIC, DIS and Special Branch. Each section would have a link to the catalogue entries for relevant security and intelligence related records that had been recently released. This would include the lists of records released during 2005 that had recently been provided by departments and agencies. The SIS representative said that the SIS section might usefully refer to the SOE records that had already been released. Details of any other source material to be included should be sent to David.

Item 3. Feedback from requests sent to the Advisory Group

The Secretary reported that four requests for records had been sent to the Group's email contact address since it had been set up. The requests were in relation to –

Item 4. Effects on the Group of taking forward the Lord Chancellor's offer of a rolling conversation between Whitehall and the academic community

The Group discussed the Lord Chancellor's offer of a rolling conversation with academics and how it would affect the work of departments and agencies. The offer could be interpreted differently from different view points. Tessa undertook to pass on the views of the Group to the Cabinet Office Intelligence and Security Secretariat who were drafting guidance on the handling of requests from academics for security and intelligence related information.

Item 5. Future releases of security and intelligence related records

Tessa asked about the forthcoming release of records. The following details were provided in reply.

Security Service: there would be a routine release of Security Service files on 1 September. These deal with the issues from 1956 and some ‘eccentrics’.

MOD: Good progress was now being made on dealing with the backlog of work caused by the closure of the asbestos contaminated storeroom. A range of material was now being scanned with priority being given to top secret and DIS records, records relating to FOI requests already been dealt with and records relating to requests that were overdue a response.

Home Office: The review of a large number of files relating to wartime Defence Regulation 18b detainees had now been completed and were being processed for release at The National Archives.

FCO: Two new publications in the Documents on British Policy Overseas would coming out in 2006: ‘Year of Europe: Britain, America and the Energy Crisis’ which features documents on Operation Hullabaloo, and ‘Southern Flank, 1970-76’ covering Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. The last records relating to the Suez crisis would be opened at The National Archives, including those from the 1980s concerning the process of release.

SIS: a few more SOE personal files would be transferred as soon as possible to The National Archives.

GCHQ: A history of Hut 6 – the wartime section at Bletchley Park tasked with the solution of German Army and Air Force Enigma Ciphers was to be published.

Cabinet Office: A number of re-reviewed files were to be opened at The National Archives, some following responses to FOI requests. These included Prime Minister Office files relating to Cyprus, Suez and the movement of Russian submarines, Arms sales, the Soviet Union, Gary Powers and the U2 incident, Lord Bethell, and Cabinet Office files relating to the Cabinet Security Committees and the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Item 6. Meeting with postgraduates of Queen Mary College

Tessa said the Group had already agreed to meet in the autumn with students from Queen Mary's and would want to consider how it could broaden its relationship with the academic community. Professor Andrew said that Cambridge University and the University of Wales at Aberystwyth were the main centres outside of London for researching intelligence history but there were also a number of other Groups. He chaired the Study Group on Intelligence and he thought it would be useful if Tessa were able to talk to the Group at one of its next meetings about the Official History programme. In discussion it was noted that Queen Mary and Corpus Christi students meet together in London and Cambridge twice each year and it was hoped the Group could join one of these combined meetings. This would provide an opportunity for the students to talk about the topics they are working on, and to advise them about what they would benefit from seeing and what else might be available to them. A meeting of the Group could be arranged to follow the event with the students.

Item 7. Any Other Business

MOD said the Polish Government had asked for further information about the fate of General Sikorsky in 1943. The Polish Government had previously been informed that the British Government had already released all documents in its archives relating to the circumstances of General Sikorski's death, including the report of the 1943 Royal Air Force Commission of Inquiry and the 1969 report of the investigation into the accident. MOD planned to publish the Defence Secretary's reply to the Polish Defence Minister that makes clear there was no further information on the matter and that everything had been published.

TNA informed the Group that a police investigation was underway into how faked documents had come to be inserted into files at The National Archives. The results of forensic investigations had conclusively shown that the forgeries were from the modern era. The documents had been cited in a book by Martin Allen that claimed Heinrich Himmler had been murdered by MI6 agents in 1945. It was likely that the police investigations would lead to a prosecution.

The Security Service representative reported that there had been good progress on the UK's security and intelligence portal ‘intelligence.gov.uk[External website].

Item 8. Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Group would be held at the Home Office on a date to be agreed later.

Cabinet Office
July 2006