A former head of GCHQ has urged the government to publish legal
guidance governing intelligence sharing arrangements with the US, amid
concerns that the UK might be complicit in targeted killing by American
In a letter to foreign secretary Philip Hammond seen by the Bureau,
Sir David Omand and several prominent parliamentarians asked the
government to consider “disclosing the Guidance to Intelligence Officers
and Service Personnel applicable to the passing of intelligence
relating to individuals who are at risk of targeted lethal strikes.”
The government has not officially acknowledged that such guidance
exists. When asked for a comment on the letter, an FCO spokesperson
said: “we do not comment on intelligence issues. Our intelligence agencies operate under the law and in accordance with our values.”
Last month a report on the security impact of drones by the
Birmingham Policy Commission, which Omand now chairs, highlighted
concerns that the UK’s close intelligence sharing relationship with the
US might “inadvertently” cause it to collude in counter-terrorism
operations deemed contrary to international law.
The report drew a distinction between the use of drones in
established theatres of conflict such as Iraq and Afghanistan and the
US’s covert campaigns in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
Ben Emmerson QC, who leads an ongoing drones investigation for the
UN, told a parliamentary meeting last year that it was “inevitable” that
the UK had given the US information used in drone strikes.