Covert Human Intelligence Sources

Meeting: 
MQT on 2007-07-18
Session date: 
July 18, 2007
Reference: 
2007/1702
Question By: 
Jenny Jones
Organisation: 
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Following your answer 907/2007, do you agree with the Metropolitan Police's claim that releasing information on spending on Covert Human Intelligence Sources is a security risk? What secrets can it possibly give away?

Answer

Answer for Covert Human Intelligence Sources

Answer for Covert Human Intelligence Sources

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The MPS advise that releasing information on spending on CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Sources otherwise referred to as informants) poses significant security risks. Section 38 of the FOIA specifically provides that information is exempt from disclosure under the Act where its disclosure would be likely to endanger the safety of an individual.

The 'Harm Test' is satisfied in that the disclosure of information relating to the amounts paid to CHIS and the location of these payments may enable a member of the public to identify an individual, particularly where there has been substantial media attention during subsequent court hearings. Breaking down payments on a geographical basis (in this case police force areas or basic command units) would be likely to expose smaller units that infrequently use CHIS to disproportionate scrutiny and risk.

The principle observed in managing CHIS is still to avoid creating unnecessary risks to individuals. It is recognized that public accountability brings with it a need to reveal aggregate expenditure on CHIS, but this does not extend to greater levels of granularity of data that could bring risks of harm to individuals. Thus far the Office of the Surveillance commissioner have supported this view, strictly following a policy of the disclosure of overall figures only. They have not provided any breakdown of payments made to CHIS or global figures about CHIS costs.

Law enforcement and the Security Services have a statutory responsibility, under s29 RIPA for the 'security and welfare' of sources and a 'duty of care' to individuals who provide information in confidence. At a time when we are under significant threat from crime and terrorism within the UK and are attempting to build trust and confidence in communities to provide information, I have no reason to disagree with the view of the MPS.