Feeds

IBM in £24m battle with UK spooks

UK.gov's secret IT disaster

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Exclusive British spymasters are involved in a multimillion-pound wrangle with IBM over a secret intelligence network that was scrapped after years in development because of security fears and missed deadlines.

Phase Two of the SCOPE programme - designed to allow wider access and collaboration on intelligence across ten government organisations at home and abroad - was quietly halted last year.

The Cabinet Office said this week it had no progress to report on recovering the millions paid out for nothing.

The Register has confirmed IBM is the "main commercial supplier" whose "failure... to meet key contractual milestones" was blamed in July by minister Tessa Jowell for the missing capability and heavy loss to taxpayers. The total write-down was £24.4m.

IBM declined to offer any comment on its involvement in SCOPE Phase Two or say whether it will return the money.

The Cabinet Office said it was considering its legal options. It declined to comment on IBM specifically.

SCOPE Phase Two aimed to connect thousands - 1,500 in the MoD alone - of extra government staff at home and abroad to the SCOPE network.

Phase One was completed in October 2007, updating the UK Intelligence Messaging Network to speed secret information sharing across government. The organisations involved in SCOPE are MI5, MI6, GCHQ, SOCA, HMRC, the Cabinet Office, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the MoD and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (ex-DTI).

The Cabinet Office told The Register work has now begun on an unnamed replacement system planned to offer the same capabilities.

Phase One, for which IBM was also the main contractor, is in place but suffered years of setbacks and technical problems, including a "serious process failure" at the network's Service Operations Centre, at a secret location outside London.

Tessa Jowell sought to soften the blow of the failure of Phase Two by claiming in Parliament that "the first phase of the programme was delivered on time and within budget in 2007".

Her claim is repeatedly directly contradicted by the the Intelligence and Security Committee's (ISC) annual reports, however. In 2004/05 the cross party group of MPs wrote: "SCOPE will be delivered over three years later than originally envisaged."

In 2005/06 they wrote: "Roll-out of equipment to 12 locations (Phase One) is now planned for autumn 2006... this has slipped from its original date of April 2005."

In 2006/07: "Phase One... achieved full operational capability in October 2007 - over two years later than originally forecast (April 2005)."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said Jowell had referred to a new deadline set when SCOPE was "recalibrated" in 2003. He offered no explanation why in 2005/06 the ISC was told the deadline had slipped to autumn 2006.

In its most recent annual report the ISC, the main oversight body for the intelligence agencies, said it was "appalled" by SCOPE Phase Two and announced a separate inquiry set to report later this year.

The ISC's reports dominate the limited public record on SCOPE, although the Committee's views on it apparently contrast with those of the Cabinet Office mandarin who led the project. According to the February 2008 newsletter of the defence trade and professional body AFCEA, Dr Michael Taylor declared: "SCOPE is an extraordinary success story!"

He went on: "The impact of this tranche of capability [Phase One] has whetted the appetite for the further delivery to come." But it never came. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.