Parker saved from having to stick his nose in.
You can at least see why Theresa May has "declined" the committee's request to call Parker. What's the point of the ISC if the heads of the intelligence agencies can also be called to account by other, normal, parliamentary committees? If the Home Affairs committee had been allowed to question Parker without first informing him of what they intended to ask, as the ISC did in its carefully stage managed session, then it would rather undermine the whole haven't we changed into tremendously open and answerable organisations narrative. This doesn't explain however why security service heads have previously given evidence to the home affairs committee in private session without any such difficulties; what would be so different in doing so in public post the first ISC appearance?
Except, as was clear after Alan Rusbridger's appearance, the most pertinent question to ask of Parker is the one he doesn't have an answer to. Both he and the government know full well there has been no real damage caused by the Edward Snowden revelations, except that is to their reputations and the "oversight" regime. While there was no guarantee Parker would have expanded on his and his fellow spooks' answer to the ISC that they could only go into specifics in closed session, it would have been embarrassing to say the least to have to repeat his response without doing so. The committee could also have asked some of the questions the ISC didn't, and Parker would additionally have had to confront the increasing number of those demanding reforms to the current legislation that regulates surveillance. There was also the possibility the trial of the two men accused of killing Lee Rigby might have concluded by the time of the session, with the potential for embarrassing revelations still to emerge which Parker could have been put on the spot over.
Much the same thinking seems to have been behind David Cameron's refusal to allow Kim Darroch, the national security adviser to give evidence, after Chris Huhne revealed that the national security committee had not been informed of the existence of Tempora. Apparently this would have set a "difficult precedent", or rather, would have been acutely embarrassing and revealing about the levels of secrecy even at the very heart of government. As Keith Vaz said, regardless of who they are, witnesses should not be afraid of questions from MPs, nor should the prime minister or home secretary be dictating over the heads of committees who can and cannot give evidence. The government and security service have got into this mess through their own ridiculously overblown reaction to Snowden's whistleblowing; they should not be allowed to get out of by shifting the goalposts. That can be left to the badgers.
Labels: Andrew Parker, civil liberties, Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, GCHQ, Grauniad, home affairs select committee, Intelligence and Security Committee, politics, Prism, security services, Tempora