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    Did They Know? Competence of UK Intel Questioned Over Priti Patel Israel Drama

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    Following the resignation of UK minister Priti Patel over undisclosed secret meetings with key Israeli politicians and officials, several questions about the competence of British intelligence have surfaced. UK security analysts spoke to Sputnik, giving contrast answers.

    Ms. Patel resigned on November 8, possibly before being sacked by UK Prime Minister Theresa May over a serious breach of the ministerial code, having held a string of undisclosed meetings with key Israeli government figures during a family holiday in August, without informing the appropriate authorities, including the UK Foreign Office.

    A leading intelligence expert has questioned whether UK PM was intentionally not informed and kept in the dark about Ms. Patel's undisclosed series of meetings, including with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, by the British intelligence services.

    Details and photographs of Ms. Patel and her hosts were posted on social media, sparking questions over how aware the UK intelligence was of these meetings, according to Charles Shoebridge, a security analyst and former UK counterterrorism intelligence office.

    "Given that no attempt to hide Patel's activities appears to have been made even on relatively prominent Israeli social media accounts, and given the political sensitivities of both the region and the individuals concerned, it would be surprising if her activities hadn't been well known to British intelligence services, especially MI6 — and likely known well in advance," Mr. Shoebridge told Sputnik.

    A general view shows the MI6 building in London, Thursday, March 5, 2015.
    © AP Photo / Matt Dunham
    A general view shows the MI6 building in London, Thursday, March 5, 2015.

    The analyst added that if the MI6 knew about it, then the logical implication would be that Theresa May and the Foreign & Commonwealth office must have been informed as well. Unless of course a deliberate decision was made to not inform them of what one of their ministers was doing, Mr. Shoebridge added.

    "It appears then that either some may not be being completely honest about what they knew, or alternatively that intelligence services were either incompetent enough not to know, or did know and didn't keep their supposed political masters properly informed," Mr. Shoebridge told Sputnik.

    No Remit to Monitor MPs' Activities

    Dr. Julian Richards, co-director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, insisted however that the role of the British intelligence was not an embarrassment.

    "The UK is not an authoritarian state, and the intelligence services have no remit to routinely monitor the communications and activities of elected officials and ministers," Dr. Richards told Sputnik.

    Priti Patel, then Britain's Secretary of State for International Development arrives in Downing Street, in London, October 31, 2017
    © REUTERS / Peter Nicholls
    Priti Patel, then Britain's Secretary of State for International Development arrives in Downing Street, in London, October 31, 2017

    He added that British intelligence have neither the remit nor the resource to routinely monitor social media for discussions about the activities of ministers.

    "This should really be dealt with by the department in question, as it was in the end. Patel did not follow departmental protocol and has been caught out subsequently as a result."

    Blame Game

    The ink barely dry on Ms. Patel's resignation letter, and the "blame game" kicked off over who actually leaked details surrounding her controversial series of meetings with key Israeli politicians and senior officials to the PM.

    Among the suspects was UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and senior figures within his department as Ms. Patel repeatedly clashed with cabinet ministers over how Britain's US$17.04 (£13) billion aid budget should be spent.

    Crucially there was also no love lost between the two cabinet ministers over their respective stances over Brexit and how the negotiations with the European Union should be handled. Both sides suggesting the other were behind plots to muddy the waters over the issue.

    Friends of Ms. Patel insist prominent figures within the Foreign Office twice leaked details of her secret meetings to the British press deliberately. Yet when the Israeli furor first broke on Friday, November 3, Mr. Johnson tweeted his support for her:

    There have been claims this was merely a smokescreen or even, the softening up of the target to ensure an even greater fall from grace as another leak on Tuesday, November 7, revealed Ms. Patel had met two more senior Israeli figures and discussed funneling foreign aid cash for Syrian refugees through the Israeli Defense Force.

    Related:

    UK Cabinet Member Forced to Resign Over Secret Meetings With Israeli Officials
    Senior UK Minister Priti Patel Rebuked After a Dozen Secret Meetings in Israel
    Senior UK Gov't Minister Accused of Ignoring Strict Code to Hold Israel Meetings
    Tags:
    meetings, informal meeting, intelligence agencies, lobbying, holiday, intelligence, drama, scandal, resignation, UK Government, UK Parliament, UK Foreign Office, Priti Patel, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Israel, Britain, United Kingdom
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