DA Notices Index and other information

Cathy Fox made this Freedom of Information request to Ministry of Defence

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Ministry of Defence,

In light of this story http://m.surreycomet.co.uk/news/11621747... and this http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/..., then people are increasingly sceptical of answers such as this http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/2013/01/comp....

Please could you send me an index of the DA and D notices and letters issued about them to entities- persons/corporations etc issued since 1970, including the dates, person/organisation issued to and what the notice and letter were about.

Under S 16 and a request if applicable, have any D/DA notices and letters been confidential? and if so is it a practise for people who know about them to deny knowledge of them when asked?

Yours faithfully,

Cathy Fox

DDC-Secretariat Parliamentary (MULTIUSER),

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Fox,

 

Please find attached a response to your recent FOI request.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

DDC Secretariat Parliamentary

Andrew Vallance,

Dear Cathy Fox,

 

Your request for information under FOI has been passed to me by the MOD.
Neither the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee (DPBAC), nor the
Defence Advisory (DA) Notice System which it oversees, are subject to the
Freedom of Information Acts for the UK and Scotland. However, the
Committee practices a policy of maximum transparency and openness limited
only by the assurances of confidentiality it gives to those organisations
and individuals with which it deals. It is in that spirit that I am
replying to your enquiry.

 

You asked for an index of the DA and D notices and letters issued about
them to entities- persons/corporations etc issued since 1970, including
the dates, person/organisation issued to and what the notice and letter
were about. Unfortunately, this is not possible. Firstly, because it would
compromise the code of confidentiality between those directly involved
(i.e. the DA Notice Secretary and the journalist or editor being offered
DA Notice); this code underpins the DA Notice System and is the key to
continued media confidence in the System. And secondly, because the sheer
number of occasions on which DA Notice advice is sought by, and offered to
journalists and editors, and the fact that most of this was and is done by
word of mouth, would rule out such a comprehensive record. Moreover,
comprehensive recording of Requests for advice is a relatively recent
practice. I am, however, able to tell you that in the last 5 years, the
number of enquiries for DA Notice advice has been as follows:

 

·        Period ending 6 November
2014                                              106

·        Period ending 8 May
2014                                                          127

·        Period ending 7 November
2013                                              124

·        Period ending 7 May
2013                                                           
75                  

·        Period ending 1 November
2012                                                67

·        Period ending May 2012                
                                            107

·        Period ending November 2011                                    
           125

·        Period ending May 2011                  
                                          232

·        Period ending November 2010                                    
            161

·        Period ending May 2010                  
                                          122

·        Period ending November 2009                                    
            149

o Period ending May 2009                                                
            156  

 

The great majority of these have been requests from the media to the DPBAC
Secretariat for advice, rather than action initiated by the Secretariat on
behalf of the DPBAC.

 

You also asked if any D/DA notices and letters had been [classified as]
confidential and if so was it a practise for people who know about them to
deny knowledge of them when asked. For the last 10 years at least very
little DA Notice advice has been classified, although much of it is
necessarily kept private and confined by the code of confidentiality to
those directly involved (i.e. the DA Notice Secretary and the journalist
or editor being offered DA Notice). Similarly, to reveal the existence of
such conversations and email exchanges would in many cases compromise the
intellectual property of the news outlet involved. Such information would
only be released if in each case the news outlet involved agreed to it.

 

It is clear from the tone and wording of your enquiry that you have little
understanding of the nature of the D/DA Notice System. To help you grasp
this better, I offer you the following background and analysis.

 

The D/DA Notice System has always been a voluntary compact between the
national media and those Government departments responsible for aspects of
national security (today: The Cabinet Office, Home Office, FCO and MOD).
The System is now overseen by the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory
Committee (DPBAC) – the so-called ‘D Notice Committee’. The word
‘advisory’ in the title was added in 1993, but the System was from its
inception in 1912  a purely voluntary arrangement. The sole concern of the
System is to prevent the inadvertent public disclosure of information
which would damage UK national security. That System is bounded strictly
by the terms of the five Standing DA Notices, (available in full to the
World on [1]www.dnotice.org.uk). The System has always stood above issues
such as corruption, scandal, politics, embarrassment and reputation.

 

In 1984, the D Notice Committee was called the Defence Press and
Broadcasting Committee or DPBC. Like today’s DPBAC, the DPBC was an
independent joint media/government body. From the creation of the System
in 1912, the Media-side has been predominant in the Committee. Today the
media provide 15 members to the DPBAC (including the  Vice-Chair) and
represents all elements of the UK Media (national, regional, local and
online newspapers, book publishers, periodical publishers, all the
broadcast channels, the Press Association, The Society of Editors, the
internet). The official side of the Committee provides 5 members
(including the Chair) and represent all of the Ministries directly
involved in providing UK national security. In 1984 the Vice-Chair (who is
always also the media-side Chair) was JM Ramsden  (editor-in-chief of
Flight International). He was a critic of ‘the greater restraints the
British press were under than their foreign counterparts’ (as the official
history of the D Notice System puts it). The then DPBC Secretary ( the
Committee’s sole permanent executive officer and the only person then
authorised by the DPBC to offer D Notice advice) was Rear-Admiral WN Ash.
In 1984 there were 8 standing D Notices (reduced from 12 as a result of
the 1981 review of the System). They were titled:

 

1.         Defence Plans, Operational Capability, State of Readiness and
Training

2.         Defence Equipment

3.         Nuclear weapons and equipment

4.         Radio and Radar Transmission

5.         Cyphers and Communications

6.         British Security and Intelligence Services

7.         War Precautions and Civil Defence

8.         Photography

 

With these points in mind, I have several difficulties with the
allegations that a D Notice was ‘served’ on Don Hale and others to prevent
them reporting on the Elm House guest house and a ‘powerful paedophile
ring’.  Firstly, there was no standing D Notice under which the then D
Notice Secretary could offer advice on this issue (and the then Secretary
alone was authorised to offer such advice on behalf of the DPBC).
Moreover, (then and now) the Secretary was not authorised to create new D
Notices, only to give advice within the guidelines of the existing
standing D Notices. The protection of corrupt and criminal individuals
(however highly placed) who were involved in child abuse would have fallen
and still does fall well outside these guidelines.  Secondly, then as now,
the D/DA Notice System was a voluntary and non-statutory compact between
Government and the media, and it has never been supported by any form of
legal (or other) sanction. Hence, no judicial authority (judges, police
etc) would have been empowered to act on behalf of the DPBC. Indeed, only
the Secretary could give D Notice Advice on behalf of the DPBC, and his
advice was just that; it could be accepted or rejected by editors.
Thirdly, we have searched our remaining files and can find no discussion
of any kind about this issue at the time. Given the then DPBC media-side’s
keenness to preserve media freedom, it is certain that this issue would
have come to their attention (through the DPBC Secretary, Don Hale, Don
Hale’s editor , those others who were ‘served’ with purported D Notices,
the regional newspapers’ professional body, colleagues in the industry
etc) and this would inevitably have triggered a vigorous debate in the
DPBC. But we know that that didn’t happen, which is further confirmation
that there was no valid D Notice involvement in these events. Fourthly,
although Don Hale and others have claimed that they were ‘served with a D
Notice’ they have produced no hard-copy evidence of that. Surely, given
the importance they now attach to it (and which they claimed to attach to
it at the time), they – or their respective newspapers - would have kept
copies of the offending ‘D Notice’? If the policemen ‘serving the D
Notice’ refused to give them a copy, then surely that would have alerted
them and their lawyers to the probability that this was not a legitimate
legal action? That being so, why didn’t they raise the issue to a far
higher level at the time?

 

Our archived records for the period are admittedly incomplete, because
some of the files have since been destroyed. However, the issue of file
destruction is a red herring. The destruction of routine files is a
standard practice throughout government, industry and commerce and is just
good housekeeping: it avoids having warehouses full of worthless paper
stored at public expense. On the other hand, if files do contain very
sensitive information they are always given very high security
classifications. Before such highly classified files could be destroyed,
they would be subject to special review procedures to ensure that files of
historical significance were retained. Those files we have say nothing
about this issue, and those that were destroyed were disposed of because
they contained nothing of historical value. Yet it seems that the D/DA
Notice System is being asked to prove a negative beyond all doubt. Such a
thing is of course a logical absurdity. Hence, the real burden of proof
must now lie with those making the allegations, and I suggest you might
direct your further enquiries to them. I do not rule out the possibility
that pressure from some official source might have been applied to Don
Hale and the others, although I have no information (other than the
statements made by Don Hale and others) that this did in fact  take place.
But I do rule out (on grounds both of total lack of hard evidence  and
overwhelming across-the-board improbability) that this came in the form of
valid D Notice advice. On the other hand, if any of those who claimed to
have been ‘served’ with a purported D Notice could provide us with a copy
of it, then that would give us a lot more to work on. We could find out
from that document who authorised it, on what grounds it was authorised
and – of course – whether indeed it purported to be a D Notice.

 

Unfortunately, because the D Notice System is so poorly understood (not
least by the media themselves) there has been a marked tendency over the
years for both the media and members of the public to attribute to the
D/DA Notice System powers which it has never had and actions with which it
was in no way connected. For example, when something does not attract the
publicity its advocates had hoped for, it has become a convenient
shorthand to claim that the media had been ‘gagged by a D  Notice’. This
never happens, because the final decision on whether and what to publish
or broadcast always rests entirely with the editor concerned. The
objective of the DA Notice System is to prevent the inadvertent disclosure
of information which would damage UK national security, but editors have
the right to decide where the greater public interest lies (and indeed
they are the best people to make that judgment).  Moreover, the
Secretary’s job is to avoid that inadvertent disclosure, not to stop
stories.  In my now 10 years as DA Notice Secretary, and of the thousands
of occasions on which I have offered DA Notice advice, I can count on the
fingers of one hand the number of stories that were actually stopped by DA
Notice advice. And in every case, the decision not to publish or broadcast
was made by the editor directly concerned. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Andrew Vallance

Secretary, Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee

Office: 0207 218 2206

[mobile number]

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.dnotice.org.uk/

Dear Andrew Vallance,

Thank you for reply in the spirit of transparency. It is very useful.
As a follow up may I ask is the Code of Confidentiality written down, and how is it agreed between the parties and is it possible to publish a copy?

Yours sincerely,

Cathy Fox

Andrew Vallance,

Dear Cathy Fox,

The code of confidentiality is simply an understanding between all elements of the UK media and the government that the information they entrust to the DPBAC Secretariat will not be shared with a third party without their specific permission. It safeguards the privacy and security of media sources and editorial decisions. As I said in my previous email, it forms the foundation stone of the DA Notice System. If I compromised the information I was given by individual news outlets to a third party, they would not trust me with their stories in the future and the whole DA Notice System would be undermined with serious consequences for UK national security, i.e. for your life and mine amongst many others.

Sincerely,

Andrew Vallance

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Dear Andrew Vallance,

Thank you for the speedy reply.

I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions, as many people are finding your replies useful and transparent.

I understand the need for confidentiality, what I was trying to understand was the method of agreement. Is it written, is it spoken about or is it just assumed without saying?

Is it possible for you to give the definition of national security that you use?

In this link http://courtnewsuk.co.uk/newsgallery/?ne... Michael Shrimpton " claims to have the authority to issue a Defence Advisory Notice on behalf of the government to stop British media from publishing stories that could compromise national security."
'If I wanted to keep a story out of the press I would get in contact with the D-notice department,' Shrimpton said.

Did Michael Shrimpton have this authority he claimed and has he contacted the D notice Department in this regard?

Would it be possible to have the numbers for each year, split into Nov/May dates as before, for actions initiated on behalf of DPBAC?

I appreciate your time

Yours sincerely,

Cathy Fox

Andrew Vallance,

Dear Cathy Fox,

The only people authorised to give DA Notice advice to the British media on behalf of the DPBAC are myself and my two deputies. No one called Michael Shrimpton has ever contacted the DPBAC Secretariat, and I very much doubt that any editor would have paid any heed to any DA Notice 'advice' he might have attempted to offer them, given that the simplest Google search gives full details of the scope of the System and the personalities of the DPBAC and its Secretariat. As I said to you before, the D/DA Notice System is very poorly understood, and it is often thought of as having powers which it has never had and been responsible for actions which were in no way connected to it. Shrimpton's claims are just another example of this.

The terms of the 5 standing DA Notices set the boundaries for DA Notice advice; all DA Notice advice offered to the media falls within those boundaries, and advice is never given on issues which fall outside them. In the context of the DA Notice System, the 5 standing DA Notices are taken to define 'UK national security'.

I am not prepared to go into any further detail about the individual occasions on which DA Notice advice has been offered to the UK media.

I should also be grateful if you would desist from further correspondence, given that your repeated questioning has become burdensome and vexatious. I believe I have given you all the information that transparency could reasonably require.

Sincerely,

Andrew Vallance

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Dear Andrew Vallance,

Thank you for your response and the replies you gave which were useful.

On the webpage it states DPBAC is committed to practising a policy of maximum disclosure of its activities consistent with the effective conduct of business and the need to ensure that it honours any assurance of confidentiality given to the individuals and organisations with which it deals."

You appear not to have met the claim above by failing to state how the understanding comes about on the "code of confidentiality", which you state is the foundation stone of the DA Notice system is reached, whether in writing, spoken or unspoken.

Further you chose not to answer how many times DPBAC initiated actions in the last 5 years on dubious grounds that somehow you had given me all the information that transparency could reasonably require.

I shall acquiesce to your request to desist from further correspondence, after this email. However I refute that 3 emails on pertinent and legitimate points any could be taken by any reasonable person to be "repeated questioning that has become burdensome and vexatious".

My last question,
Reading the DA notice below, if an agent or officer of a secret service mentioned in a) was a paedophile and abused children, is it not entirely possible that there arises a conflict of interest in that if the paedophilia was exposed, national security could be said to be at risk and newspapers asked not to publish?

Indeed bearing in mind that paedophiles are open to blackmail, is it not likely that agents or officers are chosen because they are paedophiles, and are able to be "turned" to do what their bosses and people who wield real power wish them to do?

If their bosses are in fact paedophiles, as is alleged with Oldfield and Hayman, then the situation gets more complicated, especially when a different secret service realises this.

This is one reason why people believe D / DA notices have been used/misused to cover up paedophilia.

Can you state categorically that no D/DA Notice 05 has been used, and that use has inadvertently or deliberately covered up abuse of children?

DA - Notice 05: United Kingdom Security & Intelligence Services & Special Services

Information falling within the following categories is normally regarded as being highly classified. It is requested that such information, unless it has been the subject of an official announcement or has been widely disclosed or discussed, should not be published without first seeking advice:

(a) specific covert operations, sources and methods of the Security Service, SIS and GCHQ, Defence Intelligence Units, Special Forces and those involved with them, the application of those methods*, including the interception of communications, and their targets; the same applies to those engaged on counter-terrorist operations;

(b) the identities, whereabouts and tasks of people who are or have been employed by these services or engaged on such work, including details of their families and home addresses, and any other information, including photographs, which could assist terrorist or other hostile organisations to identify a target;

(c) addresses and telephone numbers used by these services, except those now made public.
Rationale. Identified staff from the intelligence and security services, others engaged on sensitive counter-terrorist operations, including the Special Forces, and those who are likely targets for attack are at real risk from terrorists. Security and intelligence operations contacts and techniques are easily compromised, and therefore need to be pursued in conditions of secrecy. Publicity about an operation which is in train finishes it. Publicity given even to an operation which has been completed, whether successfully or not, may well deny the opportunity for further exploitation of a capability, which may be unique against other hostile and illegal activity. The disclosure of identities can prejudice past, present and future operations. Even inaccurate speculation about the source of information on a given issue can put intelligence operations (and, in the worst cases, lives at risk and/or lead to the loss of information which is important in the interests of national security. Material which has been the subject of an official announcement is not covered by this notice.

* even when used by the National Crime Agency (NCA). This is intended purely to protect national security and not to inhibit normal reporting on law enforcement.

Yours sincerely,

Cathy Fox

Andrew Vallance,

Dear Cathy Fox,

Your hypothesis below is not only completely speculative and unfounded, but also ignores the internal checks and balances within the intelligence agencies (not the least of which is the direct vetting system). These impose a constant watch for any potential security risks; they would certainly involve anyone (however exalted) involved in paedophilia.

However, the subject of this correspondence has not been the possibility of paedophiles within the intelligence agencies, but whether the D/DA Notice System has sought to suppress media reports about them. As I have repeatedly said to you, but which you seem unable to grasp, I know that in the 10 years since I have been DPBAC Secretary that that has never and could never have happened, but also - for all the reasons set out to you in my previous emails, which you seem determined to ignore - I believe it is inconceivable that any of my predecessors would have done so. Certainly, and having yet again gone through the archived files, there is not the least shred of hard evidence to support this empty conspiracy theory. I say again to you, if you or those who are making these allegations have hard evidence (not hearsay) about this issue, would they please give us copies of it, rather than making unsupported allegations or indulging in open-ended enquiries which lead nowhere? Finally, the only people who 'believe D / DA notices have been used/misused to cover up paedophilia' are those who are either ignorant of the facts or cannot view them objectively.

As I said in my last email, I have replied to your enquiries with full openness and transparency, save those that would breach the DPBAC code of confidentiality and thus put at risk the whole DA Notice System. The contents of your last email has only confirmed my view that your repeated questioning has indeed become vexatious, and hence this will be my last communication to you.

Sincerely,

Andrew Vallance

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