SIS in government

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The Central Intelligence Machinery

The Government's national security policies aim to protect UK and British territories, and British nationals and property, from a range of threats, including terrorism and espionage; to protect and promote Britain's defence and foreign policy interests; to protect and promote the UK's economic well-being and support the prevention and detection of serious crime.

Intelligence from secret sources is used to support these aspects of the Government's policies. Intelligence collection is carried out by SIS (mainly outside the UK), the Security Service or MI5 (mainly in the UK) and GCHQ (signals intelligence - sigint - globally). Machinery at the centre of Government, in the Cabinet Office, is responsible for co-ordinating the tasking of the Agencies in accordance with agreed requirements and priorities, funding and performance monitoring.

The Role of Ministers

In their day-to-day operations the intelligence and security agencies each operate under the immediate control of their respective Heads, who each have a statutory duty to provide annual reports on the work of their Service to the Prime Minister and to their Secretary of State. They also brief their respective Secretaries of State regularly.

The Prime Minister has overall responsibility for intelligence and security matters. He accounts to Parliament for matters affecting the agencies collectively. He is advised by the Prime Minister's National Security Adviser. The Home Secretary is responsible for the Security Service; the Foreign Secretary for SIS and GCHQ; and the Defence Secretary for Defence Intelligence (DI).

The National Security Council

In May 2010 the Government established the National Security Council (NSC) to oversee all aspects of Britain's security. The Council is chaired by the Prime Minister. Permanent members are the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Security Minister.

Other Cabinet Ministers, including the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, attend as required. The Chief of the Defence Staff, Heads of Intelligence Agencies and other Senior Officials also attend as required.

The National Security Adviser

In January 2012 the Prime Minister appointed Sir Kim Darroch (previously UK Permanent Representative to the EU) as his National Security Adviser. Sir Kim is responsible for co-ordinating and delivering the Government's international security agenda.

The Joint Intelligence Committee

This is part of the Cabinet Office and is responsible for providing Ministers and senior officials with co-ordinated interdepartmental intelligence assessments on a range of issues of immediate and long-term importance to national interests, primarily in the fields of security, defence and foreign affairs. The Committee periodically scrutinises the performance of the Agencies in meeting the collection requirements placed upon them.

The JIC draws its membership from senior officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Home Office, Treasury, the Ministry of Defence, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Department for International Development and Cabinet Office. The heads of SIS, the Security Service and GCHQ and the Chief of the Assessments Staff are also members, whilst representatives of other departments of State attend when necessary.

The Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and Head of Intelligence Assessment

The senior official responsible to the Prime Minister for supervising the work of the JIC is the JIC Chairman. Amongst his other tasks, he must ensure that the JIC's warning and monitoring role is carried out effectively. He also heads the Joint Intelligence Organisation, which includes the Assessments Staff. The current JIC Chairman is Jon Day, who was appointed in March 2012.

The Assessments Staff

The JIC is supported by the Cabinet Office Assessments Staff, which consists of a range of analytical staff seconded from various departments, services and disciplines. It drafts assessments on threats to British interests drawing on intelligence from SIS and the other Agencies augmented by British diplomatic reporting and open sources. The Assessments Staff works closely with other government departments when preparing assessments. These assessments are subjected to formal inter-departmental scrutiny.