February 24, 2020 / 10:56 AM / a month ago

British spies deny withholding intelligence from interior minister

LONDON (Reuters) - British intelligence took the unusual step on Monday of denying a newspaper report that the main domestic spy agency, MI5, had withheld information from the interior minister because some spies did not trust her.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel leaves Downing Street in London, Britain February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The Sunday Times reported that the Security Service, known as MI5, did not trust Home Secretary Priti Patel and so had reduced the volume of intelligence they showed to her.

The newspaper said spies regularly “roll their eyes” at the minister’s interventions during meetings.

A security source said the report was untrue.

“No information is being withheld,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Any report suggesting otherwise is simply wrong and does not serve the public interest.” 

“Reports suggesting that the Home Secretary and MI5 do not have a strong relationship are simply untrue,” said the source. “The Home Secretary is briefed daily on intelligence matters in exactly the same way as any previous post holder.”

MI5, established in 1909 to counter German espionage ahead of World War One, is tasked with protecting British national security. Its main job is currently countering international terrorism though it is also a counter-intelligence agency.

It employs around 4,000 people and is accountable to the Home Secretary.

“The Home Secretary and MI5 have a strong and close working relationship, and baseless claims to the contrary are both wrong and against the public interest,” a government spokesman said.

“The Home Secretary receives the same daily intelligence briefings as her predecessors, and no information is being withheld.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has full confidence in Patel, his spokesman said.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge. Editing by Andrew MacAskill

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