Mehdi's Morning Memo: We Have To Read Emails

The five things you need to know on Tuesday 22 October 2013...


Major terror plots against the UK have been foiled because of email interceptions by GCHQ and other security agencies, according to former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. On Monday evening he said without the powers the intelligence agencies would not have been able to foil all of the terror plots against Britain since the 7/7 bombings, apart from the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby earlier this year.

"In each and every case, these terrorist incidents, some of which ended up in the courts, some of which were destructed before that stage, would not have been identified at least in material part but for the ability to intercept the relevant emails or other communications of the individuals concerned," Rifkind argued. The Tory chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee added that safeguards are in place to stop that surveillance is carried out appropriately. "There are in place legal safeguards in Britain, in the United States, not in China, not in Russia, not in most countries that have authoritarian dictatorships," he said.


Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said £500million could be raised if the NHS charged foreign nationals to use GPs and other services. The Daily Telegraph reports that a report commissioned by the Government has suggested that the NHS is spending up to £2billion every year treating foreign nationals.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Hunt rejected claims that the calculations in the report are inaccurate.

“What they're saying is that there is real pressure on the frontline, they've spoken to 150 professionals at 30 different trusts, they talk about waiting lists being longer, about pressure on A&E departments, and they also talk about £500m that we could potentially recover. And if we did that would pay for 4000 doctors, 8500 nurses. So I think it's worth doing.”


Barack Obama and Harry Reid needed to clear the air. The relationship between the president and the Senate majority leader had been deteriorating since 2011, with Reid losing respect for Obama's ability to negotiate with Republicans and Obama unsure if Reid had as much control over his Senate Democratic caucus as he liked to say.

So at the White House's invitation, the two met in the Oval Office on July 9, with no staff, to talk one on one. It was a cathartic moment, one in which long-buried tensions were fully aired. Aides to the two men tell a similar story: Their boss had been losing confidence in his counterpart and wanted the meeting as a way to buck up the other.

The Huffington Post put together the story of a critical meeting and the subsequent standoff negotiations through interviews with Reid, White House advisers and congressional leadership aides.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...: David Cameron's Resignation Live-Blogged By Wales Online (By Mistake)


Germany has warned it is not able to run the European Union by itself and that other member states should not to "overestimate" Berlin's resources.

Rudolf Adam, the German chargé d'affaires in London, told a House of Lords committee on Monday that Britain and other big states had to shoulder their fair share of the responsibility. The Huffington Post UK reports Adam told peers that Germany had "taken on a lot of responsibility" but approached the EU "not in terms of leadership or hegemony".

"We are a large country at the heart of EU, we think that gives us a particular responsibility for making sure the the EU is a success, but as I said we cannot run the show on our own, we need people who help us and go along with us and we still hope we still have some of those."


Foreign ministers from Western powers and the Arab world will gather today to make preparations for a proposed Syrian peace conference.

William Hague and counterparts from 10 other countries will meet in London to discuss how to support the Syrian opposition ahead of the conference due to take place in Geneva. The main Western-backed opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, is scheduled to meet next month to decide whether to take part in the Geneva summit.

But one of the most prominent factions within the coalition, the Syrian National Council, has said it has no faith in negotiations with Bashar Assad's regime and won't be part of the Geneva process. Assad has also cast doubt on the conference, brokered by the US and Russia, telling Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV that "the factors that would help in holding it are not in place if we want it to succeed".


@MirrorJames Jo Swinson grilled by Commons select committee this morning - standing room only?


Rachel Sylvester in The Times: Voters don’t want two tribes going to war.

Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times: Cameron must fear narrow election win.

Iain Martin in the Daily Telegraph: It’s hard not to be cynical about politicians as the election nears

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol