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Secrets that should stay hidden

    Two weeks ago, the JC's front page was devoted to the retirement of a leading communal civil servant, Carol Laser, who as Director of Security at the Communal Security Trust "for over 25 years, co-ordinated the Jewish community's security needs , working alongside colleagues from anti-terror units, the United States Secret Service, and Israel's security experts."

    Somewhere in London, at the headquarters of an unnamed Jewish charity, a group of senior communal figures, led by Chief Rabbi Mirvis and former Chief Rabbi Sacks, supported by a number of chief constables, gathered to pay tribute to Ms Laser, whose work has hitherto gone largely (though not completely) unreported and unrecognised.

    I say "not completely" because a Google search does in fact reveal several mentions of the lady. She was, for instance, named by my own Hendon MP Matthew Offord in a Westminster Hall debate in January 2011. A year later, her name featured in an online discussion about CST strategy. But in neither case was she identified as the CST's security supremo.

    Readers of this column will know that I've had my differences with the CST in the past. The CST is a private trust, taking orders not from any representative body but from its own trustees, whose identities are for the most part shielded from public view. I've been assured that, nonetheless, the CST does vital work, about which it is prudent not to ask too many questions. Be that as it may, I believe it is in the communal interest to raise some issues related to Ms Laser's farewell party, and the publicity to which it was treated - presumably with the prior knowledge and full co-operation of the CST's leadership.

    Over my academic lifetime, I've had a dozen or so former students who've entered one branch or other of the British security services. These "spooks" would never voluntarily reveal their identities - even (indeed especially) after retirement. Why? Because in the course of their work they naturally make enemies, who would love to know what they look like and who are certainly no respecters of retirement.

    With her cover blown, what does the future now hold?

    If, on retirement, they have farewell parties, these are discreet affairs, and the press is certainly not invited to take part in and record the partying. But Carol Laser, presumably with the full agreement of the CST, chose a quite different exit trajectory. Not only was her true identity revealed - Director of Security. But several photographs of her appeared in the JC - both in the print edition and online - along with photos of her husband, not to mention their pet dog Maxie. This means that the many enemies of the CST, both at home and abroad, are now able to identify them by sight. This, in my view, raises a number of delicate security-related questions, which we are entitled to ask the CST to answer. On grounds (I've been told) of security, even the names of CST trustees are kept secret. But not, it would appear, the name and identity of a retiring Director of Security. Why?

    That Ms Laser gave many years of loyal service to the CST I don't for one moment doubt. But we should note that, two years ago, she was not appointed to its top job. In July 2013, following the retirement of the CST's then chief executive, Richard Benson, the post went to David Delew, then the CST's Northern Regional Director. I understand that as Ms Laser was the CST's Director of Security, Mr Delew was technically her subordinate. If that was the case, we are also, I believe, reasonably entitled to query why she was not appointed to the top job (which incidentally is the highest paid position in any Jewish charity in the UK, attracting an annual salary of between £170,000 and £190,000)? Did this turn of events - being line-managed by a former subordinate - have anything to do with Ms Laser's decision to quit the organisation she had so devotedly served?

    Ms Laser's cover has now been blown. That being the case, I also have to ask what the future holds for her. In normal circumstances I imagine that a former Director of Security at the CST could look forward to a string of consultancies within the wider, fast-growing security industry. But who is going to give that kind of work to someone whose previous employment, so discreetly shielded from public view for a quarter of a century, is now a matter of common knowledge?

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