UK shelves expanding electronic access to secret intelligence
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
London, July 16, IRNA
The British government was reported Wednesday to have shelved a multimillion pound project designed to improve Britain's security by giving key government officials speedy access to secret intelligence on terrorism and other threats.
The Guardian newspaper said it had learned that ministers have frozen the development of a secure computer network that would have radically transformed the way the security and intelligence agencies handle sensitive information.
The project, codenamed SCOPE. has been described by parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee as marking the "beginning of the end" of distributing paper copies of intelligence reports around government.
A limited version of the project was said to be finally up and running after a two-year delay, enabling the intelligence agencies - MI5, MI6, and GCHQ and a limited number of other officials, call up the latest intelligence rather than waiting up to 12 hours.
But according to the Guardian, it is the project's fully-fledged second phase, SCOPE 2, which has been shelved and would have allowed access from officials in as many as 10 government departments, including the Home Office, as well as 1,500 defence officials.
The technology involved in making the system secure was said to be more complicated than officials first realised when funding for what was a three-year project was approved in 2003 and since when costs have escalated.
Although a Cabinet Office spokesman denied that the project had been cancelled, he was quoted admitting that the government was "We the contractor "to consider ways in which the additional benefits of that phase can be delivered more simply."
SCOPE is the latest in a catalogue of computer projects which the government has struggled with at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money.
Early this month the National Audit Office, which acts as a government watchdog, disclosed that a new computer network for the Ministry of Defence was 18 months late and Pnds 182 million (Dlrs 350 m) overspent.
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