Tories say they will set up a permanent “War Cabinet”

Published 18 January 2010

The Conservative Party is favored to win the next general elections in Britain, which will be held before the summer; on Friday the party’s leader, David Cameron, set out the party’s national security plan, emphasizing cybersecurity

On Friday the U.K. Conservative Party — the bookies’ favorite to win the next general elections, which must be held before the summer — set out its plans on national-security matters.

David Cameron, the party’s leader, in a speech delivered at Chatham House, promised “one of the most radical departures in security policy we’ve seen in decades” and assured the United kingdom that “this isn’t some rebranding exercise, a nod towards new thinking, an attempt to paper over the cracks while time slips away.” More details are provided in a paper which can be found here.

Lewis Page offers a few highlights:

First up, the Tories make a nod to national cyber security, speaking of “the reliance of developed societies and economies on networks and computer systems for the effective functioning of all aspects of daily life”. They say that “the threat of cyber attack is widely disregarded” and that “the West, which has become so dependent on technology, will also find that its current technological superiority will decline.” The Tories will sort this out:

A Conservative government will set up a Cyber Threat and Assessment Centre (CTAC), by building on the existing Cyber Security Operations Centre to provide a common operating picture, threat assessment and situational awareness to users. It will act as the single reporting point for all cyber-related incidents. This will lay the foundation for the development of a National Operations Centre able to respond to cyber events.

The Conservatives also commit to making everyone in law enforcement “cyber literate,” and say that “the gap in national digital forensics capability will be addressed”.

The Tories also address the concerns of those who feel that the British security community is already too keen on new surveillance and forensic technology and databases in which to keep the resulting files. Cameron promised that the Conservatives will:

…review relevant national databases and systems to develop a clear statement of purpose for each in line with the principles of proportionality and necessity, and to develop adequate governance regimes including strengthening and adequately resourcing the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The paper repeats earlier pledges to scrap Labor’s national ID card scheme and to shift the main police DNA database onto the same rules as in Scotland (signatures can only be held for those awaiting trial on prison-worthy offenses, and retained only on conviction or for those charged with violent or sex crimes).

Page notes, though, that the Tories do not offer even a hint of a promise on existing plans by the intelligence community for mass trawling of almost all electronic communications, the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP). They merely say that the IMP will “be reviewed.”