McNulty’s attack on the former head of MI5 is unprecedented and outrageous.
According to the Tony McNulty, Minister of State at the Home Office, who has held the counter-terrorism portfolio for just over a year, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, has not the experience to offer an opinion on the need to lock up terrorist suspects for up to 82 days without charge while they are under investigation.
Eliza was ennobled by McNulty’s government and now sits in the House of Lords after a long and very distinguished career in MI5, an organization she headed for five years. No other director-general of the Security Service has ever been sent to the Lords, so the honour is a remarkable one.
However, according to McNulty, she is not qualified to criticize his administration’s controversial plans to acquire draconian powers of arrest and detention. Actually, before McNulty was elected to the Commons in 1997 he had no experience himself, apart from working as a lecturer in some obscure north London technical college, at a time when Eliza was combating Irish terrorists.
McNulty’s attack is unprecedented, the first time any minister has ever spoken publicly about a retired MI5 director-general, and the incident has caused much anger in Thames House.
She spent thirty-two years in MI5, with five as deputy director-general followed by five as director-general. She also worked in Washington DC as MI5’s Security Liaison Officer and was responsible for tracking down Michael Bettany, an MI5 colleague who leaked secrets to the KGB. In contrast, McNulty is best known as the immigration minister whose department employed illegal immigrants as cleaners! An apology is long overdue.