|Submit an article||more news >>|
6 August 2000: Link to Index of the book (139K).
29 July 2000
Source: MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Stephen Dorril, The Free Press, New York, 2000, pp. 783-800. Thanks to the author and publisher.
Note: Codeword, cipher and communications systems disguised by the author on legal advice are shown as printed (i.e., "B***"). Cryptome invites information for publication here on the true form of these codewords as well as information about the systems. Send to:email@example.com.
Agent D/813317 Richard Tomlinson joined MI6 in 1991. Born in New Zealand, he read aeronautical engineering at Cambridge and was a Kennedy memorial scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fluent in French, German and Spanish, Tomlinson was approached at university where he gained a first. A lecturer had asked him if he wanted to do 'something stimulating' in the foreign service. Despite modern recruiting methods, the trusted old-boy network is still a favoured option at Oxbridge, and a number of other key universities, such as Durham and Exeter, still have a contact group of lecturers on the lookout for 'firsts' as suitable recruits.
Historian Andrew Roberts has written about his own experience of being approached in 1987 to join the 'FCO Co-ordinating Staff', as MI6 is known: the 'chat with a Cambridge contact', tea at the John Nash-designed Carlton House which overlooks St James's Park, 'a discreet lunch a fortnight later and then a delightfully absurd mini-exam, in which one of the questions was "Put the following in order of social precedence: earl, duke, viscount, baron, marquis" '. At Century House, Roberts recognised 'several of the young Miss Moneypennys from the secretarial schools' parties at university'. The questions continued in a farcical vein: 'If I had been a communist, a fascist or a homosexual . . . Where do Britain's best long-term interests lie? Washington, Brussels or Moscow?' During the medical examination, he was told that 'with Oxford it's the drugs thing, with Cambridge it's the boys'. Attitudes have changed, and by 1997 MI6 was prepared to post a 'gay couple' - 'counsellor' and chief of station Christopher Hurran and his long-time Venezuelan lover - to the British embassy in Czechoslovakia. A few years earlier, the Service had recruited a member of CND. Finally, Roberts went through the process of positive vetting (known since 1990 as EPV). It is generally conducted by a semi-retired officer with a false name, who interviews referees and other contacts, and undertakes checks on credit-worthiness.
Suitable candidates are put through the fast-stream Civil Service Selection Board. Roberts, however, decided not to join, and Tomlinson did so only after spending a number of years travelling and working in the City, during which time he had also signed up for the SAS territorial regiment. Over the last decade the Service has recruited a number of personnel from the special forces, though their gung-ho philosophy seems at odds with the image that M16 has projected of the modern spy. Tomlinson eventually joined MI6 for old-fashioned 'patriotic reasons' and sat the standard Foreign Of fice entry examination before being accepted on to the intelligence service training course.
New recruits are introduced to the traditional 'tradecraft' of the world of spying and gain a broad range of knowledge from recruiting and running agents to developing agents of influence and organising and servicing 'dead letter' drops. Because of the smaller numbers, MI6 officers indulge in less specialisation than their American counterparts, though the techniques are essentially little different from those used at the beginning of the century. The infamous Dreyfus affair began when a cleaning woman, Marie Bastian, working in the German embassy but employed by the French secret service, handed over to her French controller the contents of the wastepaper baskets she emptied. MI6 recruiters still look out for 'the life-and-soul-of-the-party types who could persuade the Turkish ambassador's secretary to go through her boss's wastepaper basket'. These days, however, the spy is armed with a hand-held digital scanner which can hold the filched material in its memory and can also be used in emergencies to transmit the stolen secrets by burst transmissions via a satellite.
Such gadgets are developed for the Directorate of Special Support responsible for providing technical assistance to operations - staffed by MoD locksmiths, video and audio technicians and scientists in sections devoted to chemicals and electronics, forensic services, electronic support measures, electronic surveillance and explosive systems. While the gadgets continue to provide the modern spy with a James Bond-like image - for instance, identification transmitters that can be hidden in an agent's shoes to enable the monitoring by satellite of their precise location - the reality is that most of the work is mundane and office-bound. Trainees still receive small-arms training at Fort Monkton, but much of the training is taken up with learning to use the computer system and writing reports in the house style. As part of the Service's obsession with security, a great deal of time is spent on being indoctrinated in cipher and communications work.
Trainee officers are instructed on how to encrypt messages for transmission and how to use the manual B***t cipher which is regarded as particularly secure. Used at stations abroad to transmit details of operations, potential sources and defectors, B*** is sent either via the diplomatic bag or by special SIS courier. Diplomatic bags are not totally secure as the success of the Service's own N-Section testified. It employed up to thirty people in Palmer Street rifling the opened bags which were then expertly resealed. The work petered out in the mid-sixties as other means of communication took over.
t Some code words in this chapter have had to be disguised on legal advice.
Officers learn about 'off-line' systems for the encryption of messages such as N***** - used prior to transmission by cipher machines - and 'on-line' systems for the protection of telegrams during transmission, code-named H*** and T********. They are indoctrinated into the use of certain cryptonyms for forwarding telegrams to particular organisations and offices such as SIS headquarters, which is designated A****. They also learn about code words with which sensitive messages are headlined, indicating to whom they may be shown. UK EYES ALPHA warns that the contents are not to be shown to any foreigners and are intended only for the home intelligence and security services, armed forces and Whitehall recipients. UK EYES B includes the above categories, the Northern Ireland Office, LIST X firms engaged in the manufacture of sensitive equipment, and certain US, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian intelligence personnel liaising with the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in London. Additional code words mark specific exclusions and inclusions. E****** material cannot be shown to the Americans, while L***** deprives local intelligence officials and agencies of its content. Material for named individual officers, sometimes at specified times, is headed D**** or D****, while particularly sensitive material about a fellow officer or operation is known as D******.
The protection of files and their secure handling is a top priority, with officers taught to keep a classified record of their use and location. Photocopiers have the ability to mark and check the origin of non-authorised copies of classified material. Following the development by MoD scientists of a means of reading a computer disk without a computer, all disks are protected in transit. All correspondence by letter is secured by specially developed red security tape which leaves detectable signs if tampered with, though - near-undetectable photographic and laser techniques exist to read the inside of mail and to open envelopes. Each officer has his own safe with dual-combination locking, while the filing cabinets with false tumbler locks, as an added precaution, are protected from penetration by X-rays. Since no lock is secure from picking, they collapse internally if anything more than the slightest force is used. In the event of drilling, a glass plate inside the door shatters, releasing a spring-loaded bolt to prevent opening. Frequent random checks take place on the number settmgs to see if the safe has been opened illegally.
These bureaucratic procedures and attention to minute security rules are not merely technical; failure to carry out security precautions can lead to points deduction in the security breach points system. If an officer racks up 160 points over three years (breach of Top Secret counts as 80 points), this may lead to security clearance being withdrawn and instant dismissal.
New officers will initially be based at the exotic Vauxhall Bridge headquarters, about which many Service personnel are sensitive, almost embarrassed. Access to 'Ceausescu Towers', as some officers have dubbed it, is gained by use of a swipe card and PlN number. The interior comprises a hive of bare, unmarked air-conditioned corridors. The only visible signs of occupancy are the acronyms on the doors, with nothing on the walls except floor plans and exit signs. As with major stations abroad, such as Moscow and Beijing, Vauxhall Cross is classified as a Category A post, with a high potential physical threat from terrorism (HPT) and sophisticated hostile intelligence services (HIS). Operatives from the Technical Security Department (TSD) based at Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes, and from MI6's own technical department ensure that the building is protected from high-tech attack (HTA). There is triple glazing installed on all windows as a safeguard against laser and radio frequency (RF) flooding techniques, and the mainframe computer, cipher and communications areas are housed in secure, modularshielded rooms. A secure command-and-control room runs major operations such as those in Bosnia, where 'war criminals' were tracked and arrested by SAS personnel.
Off the corridors are open-plan offices which give the impression of informality, though security overrides such considerations. A new officer will find that since l996 more women than men have been recruited to the Service, but males remain predominant, particularly in senior positions. As in many modern offices, officers will be seen working at computers, processing information, collating files, planning operations, liaising with foreign intelligence agencies and networks, and, most importantly, supporting the three to five hundred officers in the field, though only half that number will be stationed abroad at any one time. MI6 has been at the forefront of updating its information technology and, in 1995, installed at a cost of £200 million an ambitious desktop network known as the Automatic Telegram Handling System (ATHS /OATS), which provides access to all reports and databases. Staff are officially not allowed to discuss their work with colleagues, not even when they relax in the staff bar with its spectacular views over the River Thames, though, as Richard Tomlinson discovered, gossip is in fact rife.
All officers will spend time in the field attached to embassies, though they will have little choice as to the location. Turning down a post will jeopardise future promotions and can lead to dismissal. Stations abroad are classed from the high-risk Category A, such as Yugoslavia and Algeria, to the lesser B, such as Washington and New York, C, the European countries, and D, often the Commonwealth, where there is little or no threat. New officers might find themselves among the additional personnel sent to Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea, following the Service's boost to its presence in South-East Asia, or involved in operations into China following the transfer of Hong Kong and the winding up of its espionage operations in the former colony. In a large station such as Washington, operating under 'light' diplomatic cover will be a head of station (often a Counsellor), a deputy and two or three officers (First and Second Secretaries). There will also be back-up staff consisting of three or four secretaries, a registry clerk to handle files and documents, and communications and cipher officers. Easily identified by the trained eye in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 'Diplomatic List' - the number of Counsellor and First Secretary posts is limited and there tend to be too many for the positions available - an MI6 officer's presence will be known to the host intelligence and security agency. In some cases, a senior officer will make his presence known to draw attention away from his colleagues.
Before postings and missions abroad, officers receive a briefing from the Information Operations (I/OPs) unit, which provides them with a list of sympathetic journalists who can be trusted to give them help and information. These contacts have become increasingly important in trouble spots such as the Balkans.
I/OPs also has a more covert role in planning psychological operations along the lines of the old Special Political Action (SPA) section and the Information Research Department (IRD). I/OPs may also, according to a former MI6 officer, 'attempt to influence events in another country or organisation in a direction favourable to Britain'. One example is MI6's determined effort to 'plant stories in the American press about Boutros Ghali, whom they regarded as dangerously Francophile, in the run up to the 1992 elections for UN secretary-general'. Foreign operations of this sort do not require ministerial sanction.1
I/OPs also expends considerable energy behind the scenes in 'surfacing' damaging stories designed to discredit critics of the Service. They will use off-the-record briefings of sympathetic journalists; the planting of rumours and disinformation, which through 'double-sourcing' are confirmed by a proactive agent; and the overt recruitment of journalist agents. Journalists paid to provide information or to 'keep their eyes open' are known as an 'asset' or an 'assistant' or just 'on side'. According to Richard Tomlinson, paid agents included in the nineties one and perhaps two national newspaper editors. An editor is unlikely to be directly recruited as the Service would require the permission of the Foreign Secretary and would not like to be put in the position of being refused. Such high-fliers are more likely to have been recruited early in their careers. In this case, the journalist was apparently recruited at least three years before becommg an editor and remained an asset until at least 1998. Tomlinson has said that the editor was paid a retainer of £100,000, with access to the money via an offshore bank in an accessible tax haven. The editor was given a false passport to gain entry to the bank, which he regularly visited.2
In trying to identify the editor 'agent', media interest centred on Dominic Lawson, son of the former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, who became editor of the Spectator in 1990 and had been editor of the Sunday Telegraph since 1995. Lawson denied that he had ever been 'an agent, either paid or unpaid, of Ml6 or of any other government agency'. On the other hand, the youngest brother of Lawson's second wife, Rosa Monckton, had joined MI6 in 1987. In 1996, Anthony Monckton was appointed First Secretary (Political) in the Croatian capital Zagreb.
Quite separately, one of Rosa's closest friends and a godparent to the Lawsons' daughter, the late Princess of Wales had clearly been under some kind of surveillance, as evidenced by the 1,050-page dossier held by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in its archive, detailing private telephone conversations between Diana and American friends intercepted at MI6's request. While all stories linking MI6 to the Princess's death in the car accident in France have been complete nonsense, it has been alleged that working closely with I/Ops in an attempt to deflect enquiries away from the security services had been a chief of staff to 'C', Richard Spearman, temporarily posted to the Paris embassy with his assistant, Nicholas Langman.3
Operational officers can be casually spotted by the '******' roller-ball pens in their top pocket (it was discovered by accident that they have the ability to create invisible ink), the Psion organiser and the specially adapted 'Walkman' they carry to record conversations for up to ten minutes on the middle band of an ordinary commercial music cassette tape. They also use laptop computers for writing reports. If that seems like a recipe for disaster, the secret hard disk contains a protected back-up.
The station is usually sited in a part of the embassy regularly swept by technical staff for bugs and other electronic attack. It is entered using special door codes with an inner strongroom-type door for greater security. Following all the procedures learned during training, officers handling material up to the 'Secret' level work on secure overseas Unix terminals (S****) and use a messaging system known as ARRAMIS. Conversations by secure telephone masked by white noise are undertaken via a special SIS version of the BRAHMS system. A special chip developed by GCHQ apparently makes it impossible even for the US NSA to decipher such conversations. Secure Speech System (H*******) handset units are used by SIS officers within a telephone speech enclosure. The most important room is electronically shielded and lined with up to a foot of lead for secure cipher and communications transmissions. From the comms room, an officer can send and receive secure faxes up to SECRET level via the C****** fax system and S***** encrypted communications with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Cabinet Office, MI5 (codename SNUFFBOX), GCHQ and 22 SAS. An encrypted electronic messaging system working through fibre optics, known as the UK Intelligence Messaging Network, was installed in early 1997 and enables MI6 to flash intelligence scoops to special terminals in the MoD, the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry. Manned twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, and secured behind a heavy thick door, the cipher machines have secure 'integral protection', known as TEMPEST. MI6 officers abroad also work alongside GCHQ personnel, monitoring foreign missions and organisations.
Officers in the field may include not only those of ficially classed as diplomats but also others operating under 'deep' cover. Increasingly MI6 officers abroad act as 'illegals'. It is known that Service officers are sometimes employed during the day in conventional jobs such as accountancy, and provided with false identities. British banks - the Royal Bank of Scotland is particularly helpful, and to a lesser extent the Midland - help supply credit cards to officers working under cover. At the end of each month, officers have to pay off their aliases' credit cards. Banks also help transmit money overseas for covert operations. During the Cold War, banks in the Channel Islands and other offshore locations acted as a conduit for secret funding.4
Recruiting or running agents and gathering intelligence are the prime objectives of these deep-cover operatives, and their real work, some claim, starts at six in the evening when the conventional diplomats begin their round of cocktail parties. Such social events can be very useful for gathering intelligence and spreading disinformation. Baroness Park recalled that one of MI6's more successful ploys was 'to set people very discreetly against one another. They destroy each other. You don't destroy them.' Officers would offer the odd hint that it was 'a pity that so-and-so is so indiscreet. Not much more.' Officers will also deal with paid 'support agents' - those who supply MI6 with facilities including safe houses and bank accounts, as well as intelligence. There are also 'long insiders' - agents of influence with access to MI6 assessments and sanitised intelligence. The Service's deep-cover agents have burst transmitters with the ability to transmit a flash signal to MI6 via a satellite when they are in danger.5
Officers abroad may also be asked to aid more sophisticated operations designed to build up the Service's psychological profiles of political leaders. A special department within MI6 has tried in the past to procure the urine and excrement of foreign leaders. A specially modified condom was used to catch the urine of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu, while the 'product' of Presidents Fidel Castro and Leonid Brezhnev was 'analysed' by medical specialists for signs of their true health.
Tomlinson's duties included recruiting agents to inform on foreign politicians. His most important task was to infiltrate in 1992 a Middle Eastern weapons procurement programme network - the BMP3 - with the object of locating and disabling a chemical weapons facility. Authorised by an unnamed senior Cabinet minister, the sabotage plan - onc account suggests the planting of a bomb - aimed to intercept a shipment of machinery and interfere with its extractor fan equipment, despite warnings of the possible risk to the lives of dozens of civilian workers at the plant. In November 1992 using the name 'Andrew Huntley' and the pretext of assisting at a conference run by the Financial Times, Tomlinson went under cover to Moscow. His very sensitive mission was to obtain Russian military secrets on ballistic missiles and effect the defection of a Russian colonel who specialised in this area. Although, strangely, he was not given the usual 'immersion' language training in Serbo-Croat, Tomlinson soon found himself in the former Yugoslavia, whose break-up had taken the Service by surprise.6
When the country fractured in January 1991 into Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, EU recognition of independent Croatia proved to be a critical and disastrous policy, eventually paving the way for Serb aggression which the Foreign Office interpreted as civil war. MI6 had been running a few federal sources in the old Yugoslavia, but they provided little worthwhile intelligence. The Service lacked appropriate linguists and had to start more or less from scratch. The JIC established a Current Intelligence Group (CIG) on the Balkans, and within eighteen months MI6's Controllerate dealing with the area had recruited a number of sources at a high level from among the ethnic military and political protagonists.
During 1993, as a 'targeting officer' within the Balkans Controllerate, whose job was to identify potential informants, Tomlinson spent a harrowing and dangerous six months travelling as a journalist to Belgrade, Skopje, Zagreb and Ljubljana, in the process recruiting a Serb journalist - journalists of every nationality were a particular MI6 target in the Balkans, as they proved to be more productive than most other sources - and a leader of the Albanian opposition in Macedonia. In 1993, UN blue-helmeted troops started patrolling the borders of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. According to sources, MI6 used air-drops in an operation to set up arms dumps on the border of Macedonia as part of a stay-behind network.7
Another operation included running as an agent a Tory MP, who gave information about foreign donations to the Conservative Party. Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Northern Ireland minister, Harold Elleston was an old Etonian who studied Russian at Exeter University and subsequently became a trade consultant specialising in the former eastern bloc countries, during which time he was recruited by MI6. He worked for them in eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and during the conflict in former Yugoslavia. After visiting former Yugoslavia in 1992, Elleston, who was employed by a lobbying firm with Conservative candidate John Kennedy (aka Gvozdenovic), notified his Ml6 handlers that donations were reaching the Conservative Party from Serbia. Despite Harold Wilson's ruling in the sixties that the intelligence services would not use MPs as agents, the Service received special sanction from Prime Minister John Major to continue Elleston's secret role. Sir Colin McColl warned Major that the party was possibly accepting tainted money via Kennedy, a key figure in arranging payments from the Serb regime.8
MI6 was itself seen as being pro-Serb in its reporting. In 1994, two articles arguing against western policy in the Balkans conflict appeared in theSpectator (the right-wing magazine unknowingly served as 'cover' for three MI6 officers working in Bosnia, Belgrade and Moldova), written under a Sarajevo dateline by a 'Kenneth Roberts', who had apparently worked for more than a year with the United Nations in Bosnia as an 'adviser'. Written by MI6 officer Keith Robert Craig, who was attached to the MoD's Balkan Secretariat, the first on 5 February rehearsed arguments for a UN withdrawal from the area, pointing out that all sides committed atrocities. The second, on 5 March, complained baselessly about 'warped' and inaccurate reports by, in particular, the BBC's Kate Adie of an atrocity against the Bosnian Serbs.Guardian correspondent Ed Vulliamy recalled being invited to a briefing by MI6 which was 'peddling an ill-disguised agenda: the Foreign Office's determination that there be no intervention against Serbia's genocidal pogrom'. Without the slightest evidence, the carnage that took place in Sarajevo's marketplace was described as the work of the Muslim-led government, which was alleged to be 'massacring its own people to win sympathy and ultimately help from outside'. As Vulliamy knew, Sarajevo's defenders were 'dumb with disbelief'. Despite UN Protection Force reports which found that it was Serb mortars which were killing Muslims, the MI6 scheme 'worked - beautifully', as the allegations found their way into the world's press. Vulliamy noted that 'it was quickly relished by the only man who stood to gain from this - the Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic'.9
Perhaps it was only an intelligence/Foreign Office faction which was pro-Serb. From March 1992 until September 1993, Tomlinson worked in the East European Controllerate under the staff designation UKA/7. He has claimed that in the summer of 1992 he discovered an internal document that detailed plans to assassinate President Slobodan Milosevic. During a conversation, an ambitious and serious colleague who was responsible for developing and targeting operations in the Balkans (P4 / OPS), Nick Fishwick, had pulled out a file and handed it to Tomlinson to read. 'It was approximately two pages long, and had a yellow card attached to it which signified that it was an accountable document rather than a draft proposal.' It was entitled 'The need to assassinate President Milosevic of Serbia' and was distributed to senior MI6 officers, including the head of Balkan operations (P4), Maurice Kenwrick-Piercy, the Controller of East European Operations (C/CEE), Richard Fletcher, and later Andrew Fulton, the Security Officer responsible for eastern European operations (SBO1/T), John Ridd, the private secretary to the Chief (H/SECT), Alan Petty ('Alan Judd'), and the Service's SAS liaison officer (MODA/SO), Maj. Glynne Evans. According to Tomlinson, Fishwick justified assassinating Milosevic on the grounds that there was evidence that the 'Butcher of Belgrade' was supplying weapons to Karadzic, who was wanted for war crimes, including genocide. US and French intelligence agencies were alleged to be already contemplating assassinating Karadzic.
There were three possible scenarios put forward by MI6. Firstly, to train a Serbian paramilitary opposition group to carry out the assassination. This, Fishwick argued, had the advantage of deniability but the disadvantage that control of the operation would be low and the chances of success unpredictable. Secondly, to use the small INCREMENT cell of SAS/SBS personnel, which is especially selected and trained to carry out operations exclusively for MI6/MI5, to send in a team that would assassinate the President with a bomb or by a sniper ambush. Fishwick said that this would be the most reliable option, but would be undeniable if the operation went wrong. Thirdly, to kill Milosevic in a road crash which would be staged during one of his visits to the international conferences on former Yugoslavia in Geneva. Fishwick suggested that a stun device could be used to dazzle the driver of Milosevic's car as it passed through one of Geneva's motorway tunnels.10
A year later, Tomlinson acted as a counsellor to the commander of the British forces in Bosnia and worked at manipulating the sources in the entourage of Karadzic. One participant to these operations suggests that these sources 'produced a very detailed intelligence picture which included not just the military plans and capabilities of the different factions but also early warning of political intentions'. There appears to have been little evidence of this intelligence coup in the Foreign Office decisions that followed, and its value is contradicted by another source which, while admitting that several significant agents were recruited, concludes that they did not 'produce substantial intelligence of quality'.11
The intelligence deficit was worsened by the United States' unwillingness to provide its Atlantic partner with all its intelligence on the Serbs. General Sir Michael Rose, a former head of the SAS and commander-in-chief of the UN Protection Force, realised that during 1994 all his communications were being electronically intercepted and his headquarters in Sarajevo was 'bugged' by the Americans because Washington, which wanted to use Nato air strikes to bomb the Serbs to the negotiating table, thought the British were too supportive of the Bosnian Serbs. The Americans also monitored the communications of SAS scouts deep in Bosnian territory and discovered that they were deliberately failing to identify Serb artillery positions. This lack of trust caused friction and led to a backstage confrontation between the secret services, and reminded some observers that the special relationship existed only on the basis that the US saw Britain as a cnance to extend its reach into Europe.12
The plans for Milosevic were not the only assassination plot in which MI6 became entangled. Renegade MI5 officer David Shayler, who was released by a French court in November 1998 on 'political grounds' following his detention in prison as part of extradition proceedings to England, first heard of a plot to kill the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, in November 1995.
Shayler had been posted to MI5's counter-terrorist G9A section with responsibilities for issues relating to Lockerbie and Libya. A higher executive officer, earning £28,000 per year, Shayler headed up the Libyan desk for over two years and was held in high esteem, undertaking presentations to senior civil servants on all matters relating to Libya. For this work he received a performance-related bonus. An MI6 officer, referred to as PT16B, with whom Shayler had developed a close working relationship, informed him during a liaison meeting on Libya that the Service was running an important Arab agent. A former Libyan government official code-named 'Tunworth', the agent was a go-between with Libyan opposition groups, including a little-known band of extremists called Al Jamaa Al Islamiya Al Muqatila (Islamic Fighting Force). Tunworth had apparently approached MI6 in late 1995, outlining plans to overthrow Gaddafi by the Islamic Fighting Force, and later met with an MI6 officer in a Mediterranean country where he asked for funding. Shayler was told that more than £100,000 had been handed over in three or four instalments beginning in December. PT16B and his colleagues wrote a three- to four-page CX report for Whitehall circulation to other agencies, which stated that MI6 was merely in receipt of intelligence from agent Tunworth on the militants' coup plotting and the group's efforts to obtain weapons and Jeeps. It seems that no mention was made of any MI6 involvement in an assassination attempt.13 [Cryptome note, see:http://184.108.40.206/qadahfi-plot.htm ]
Shayler later heard that there had been a bomb attack on Gaddafi's motorcade near a town called Sirte, but the device was detonated under the wrong car. In fact, it seems that the dissidents launched an attack with Kalashnikovs and rocket grenades on the wrong car. In a communique to Arab newspapers on 6 March 1996, the Islamic Fighting Force stated that its men had tried to attack Gaddafi as he attended the Libyan General People's Congress. The attempt went wrong when Gaddafi did not show up in person, and the terrorists were forced to cancel the attack. 'But as our heroes were withdrawing they collided with the security forces and in the ensuing battle there were casualties on both sides.' Three fighters were killed but the leader of the hit team, Abd al-Muhaymeen, a veteran of the Afghan resistance who was possibly trained by MI6 or the CIA, 'escaped unhurt'. Following a crackdown by Gaddafi's secret police, his family home in the town of Ejdabiya was burnt down. The back of the Fighting Force was broken and its leaders retreated to Afghanistan.14
When Shayler subsequently met PT16B, the MI6 othcer mentioned the attack with 'a kind of note of triumph, saying, yes, we'd done it'. Shayler's reaction was 'one of total shock. This was not what I thought I was doing in the intelligence service.' He told BBC's Panorama programme: 'I was absolutely astounded ... Suddenly we were talking about tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money being used to attempt to assassinate a foreign head of state.' He concluded that 'no matter who is funding this, it's still international terrorism. The Brits might say we're the good guys, but it's a very difficult road to go down.'
Government officials dismissed Shay]er's claims as 'completely and utterly nutty'. A Foreign Office spokesperson said that it was 'inconceivable that in a non-wartime situation the Government would authorise the SIS to bump off a foreign leader. In theory, SIS can carry out assassinations but only at the express request of the Foreign Secretary.' The 1994 Intelligence Services Act refers to MI6 being able to perform 'other tasks' and protects of ficers from prosecution for criminal acts outside Britain. Indeed, a clause was especially inserted into the 1998 Criminal Justice Bill - which outlaws organisations in Britain conspiring to commit offences abroad - giving all Crown agents immunity from prosecution under the legislation, including possibly the assassination of foreign leaders. It was clear to Shayler, however, and confirmed by BBC sources, that MI6 had not sought ministerial clearance for backing the attempt on Gaddafi. MI6, Shayler believed, was 'operating out of control and illegally'.15
Whatever the truth is surrounding Shayler's accusations, the public and politicians will not discover the full facts. Unlike in the United States, where similar, but less detailed, revelations led to a major Senate enquiry into alleged assassination plotting in the mid-seventies, there will be no House of Commons investigation. As Tomlinson explains, 'there is a deep-rooted belief that, should a policy or operation go wrong, nobody will be held ultimately responsible. The Service will always be able to hide behind the catch-all veil of secrecy provided by the Official Secrets Act or, if the heat really builds up, a Public Interest Immunity Certificate.16
Given his operational experience, as a Grade 5 officer Tomlinson might have expected steady promotion through the ranks and a long career in the secret service, perhaps ending as head of a Controllerate. Senior officers, who are easily spotted in the honours lists with their OBEs, retire at fifty-five. Their attachment to the Service does not end there, however. A number are found appointments as non-executive directors with companies or subsidiaries that have dealt with MI6, or employed as security or corporate liaison officers. 'It is part of their retirement package,' Tomlinson has revealed. 'They are effectively MI6 liaison officers. iust like MI6 liaison officers in Whitehall departments.'17
Since MI6 helped establish Diversified Corporate Services in Rome, New York and London in the late sixties, there has been an increasing trend for setting up consultancies, with the tacit approval or encouragement of the Service. Among the consultants to Ciex, which has 'cornered a lucrative market' in providing a restricted 'confidential service' in 'strategic advice and intelligence' for 'a small group of very substantial customers', are Hamilton McMillan, who retired from the Service's counter-terrorist section in 1996, and former head of the Middle East department Michael Oatley, who previously worked tor another intelligence-linked consultancy, Kroll Associates. Set up in 1995 by the late Sir Fitzroy Maclean, with a board that includes a former Royal Dutch Shell managing director and a former BP deputy chair, the Hakluyt Foundation provides leading British businesses with information that clients 'will not receive by the usual government, media and commercial routes'. Hakluyt's managing director, Christopher James, was until 1998 in charge of MI6's liaison with commerce, while a fellow-director, Mike Reynolds, was regarded as one of the Service's brightest stars.18
Tomlinson's career in the secret world turned out to be short-lived. He returned home from the Balkans exhausted and traumatised by the atrocities he had witnessed, but, fearing that the Service's personnel managers might regard this as a sign of weakness, he did not tell them of his emotional state.* At one point he had been depressed following the death of his girlfriend. Since he had no one to whom to unburden himself - as is standard practice, his parents were unaware of his secret life - his personal problems mounted. Despite the claims of improved personnel management within the Service, Tomlinson received little or no support. It seems that the Service has not put in place any counselling provision as a result of Tomlinson's (and others') experience, but, instead, has decided that officers be vetted by clinical psychologists in order to 'identify actual or potential personality disorders', particularly those being appointed to sensitive posts. Harold Macmillan once said that anyone who spent more than ten years in the secret service must be either weird or mad.19
* Recalcitrant officers and agents under suspicion are sometimes interrogated at the 'cooler' facilities in Chelsea and in a special soundproofed 'rubber' room situated beneath a hotel in west London.
Tomlinson's personnel manager claimed that he was not a team player, lacked judgement and was not committed to the Service because he was prone to going on 'frolics of his own'. In early 1995, Tomlinson turned up for work and discovered that his swipe card would not gain him entry to MI6 headquarters. Security guards informed him that it had been cancelled. His security clearance had been stopped after he complained to his superiors that a number of MI6's operations and tactics were unethical. Tomlinson was also privy to much sensitive information, as gossip was prevalent inside headquarters. For instance, he was aware that a British businessman had threatened to go public with allegations that intelligence officers had destroyed his company. MI6 was said to have mounted a covert operation, including telephone tapping, against the businessman to ensure that he did not contact the press. Tomlinson was formally dismissed from the Service in August 1995. He did not believe that MI6 was properly accountable to the law. This lack of accountability at the top 'cascades downwards to even the lowest levels' and provides 'a fertile breeding ground for corruption'.20
One MI6 officer paid for his divorce by pocketing the expenses of a fictitious agent whose fake intelligence had been taken from the pages of the Economist. Another senior officer sold false passports to Middle Eastern businessmen and possibly drug traffickers, and diverted taxpayers' money intended for defectors and informants - up to £400,000 - into his offshore bank account. 'Agent J' was allowed to retire on a full pension with no police investigation or prosecution because 'he knew where the bodies were buried'. The scandal was uncovered by the US authorities, who were investigating drugs in the Caribbean and came across an offshore bank account opened with a British passport issued in a false name. Senior MI6 of ficers are allowed to open new bank accounts and transfer cash.21
Tomlinson blamed his dismissal on a personality clash with a personnel manager. Other officers, including his immediate superior, protested that the personnel officer's accusations were unsubstantiated. Tomlinson was allowed to appeal to the intelligence services' tribunal, set up in 1994 and chaired by Lord Justice Brown, but, following the rejection of his appeal, he dismissed it as a 'star chamber'. 'I was denied the basic natural justice. I had no legal representation or access to papers which were said to give reasons for my dismissal. I could not cross-examine key witnesses.'* When he then told the head of the Personnel Department that he would pursue his claim for unfair dismissal at an industrial tribunal, he was informed: 'There's no point in doing that because nobody can tell the Chief what to do.'22
* In February 1999 Foreign Secretary Robin Cook accepted that M16 staff should 'as much as possible, enjoy the same rights as other employees'. A special investigator with access to all intelligence files would be appointed to look into allegations of malpractice. Home Secretary ack Straw, however, said that the Official Secrets Act would not be amended to allow 'whistleblowing' because the security services were now 'accountable'.
MI6 refused to co-operate with the tribunal, which led to Tomlinson's decision to write a book about his experiences. Investigated by Special Branch officers, Tomlinson was subsequently jailed for twelve months on 18 December 1997 under the Official Secrets Act in order 'to deter others from pursuing the course you chose to pursue'. He spent six months in Belmarsh prison, courtesy of Her Majesty, and was released in April 1998.23
Publicity concerning Tomlinson's case led to considerable anxiety in Whitehall and is said to have caused turmoil inside MI6. The Service feared that the publicity would expose poor management and lead to calls for changes and reform. It became the task of the Director of Security and Public Affairs, and effectively C's number two, John Gerson, to 'deal' with Tomlinson. A Far East specialist with close ties with the Americans, Gerson, who is an associate member of the Centre for the Study of Socialist Legal Systems at London University, is the model of the well-versed and evasive civil servant as portrayed in Yes, Minister. His hobby is the classic spy's pastime of birdwatching. Rewarded with a CMG in the 1999 New Year's Honours, Gerson has been ably assisted by the main contact with the press, Iain Mathewson, a former official in the DHSS and Customs and Excise, who joined MI6 in 1980.
The Cold War was easy for the intelligence agencies, to the extent that they had clear, identifiable targets. It also provided a curtain behind which they could hide their failures. Without an all-embracing enemy to counter, the Secret Intelligence Service has developed a bits-and-pieces target list, known as the 'Mother Load' agenda, which lacks coherence. This is sometimes explained as being due to the fact that the world has become more unstable. This is nonsense. There is no danger of a world conflagration such as there was during Berlin in 1961, Cuba in 1962, the Middle East in 1967 and 1973, or at other crisis points when nuclear bombers took to the air. Threats from so-called rogue states such as Iran and Iraq are altogether of a different magnitude. Even then, it is apparent that many of the 'scares' - suitcase nuclear bombs, missiles with nuclear and biological warheads, nuclear terrorists, etc. - are either grossly exaggerated or simply manufactured by the intelligence services.
It is true that there are significant trouble spots in the world and Britain rightly has to take measures to monitor them, but what this so-called instability has exposed is the inability of agencies designed for the Cold War to tackle the problems of today. In the United States, where a much more open, democratic debate has taken place, the CIA's director from 1977 to 1981, Stansfield Turner, has suggested that the solution is to build a new intelligence service from scratch. Others talk of open-source intelligence agencies that would exploit the explosion of information and do away with the mystique that surrounds secret sources.
The most trenchant criticism of the changes that MI6 has undertaken since the end of the Cold War has come from insiders. David Bickford, former lawyer to the security services, argued in November 1997 that the British intelligence community - MI6, MI5, whose Director-General, Stephen Lander, is not regarded as an inspired choice, and GCHQ - 'is not doing its job properly'. He said that the cost was completely unjustified as there was 'triplication of management, triplication of bureaucracy and triplication of turf battles'. SIS appears to be top heavy with management, with resources being shifted away from operations to administration, such as employing lawyers to deal with the new crime agenda, as well as public relations officers, accountants, etc. There would appear, then, to be room for cuts.
Officials claim that MI6 current]y costs about £140 million. This is hardly a credible figure for an organisation employing two thousand staff. Indeed, sources who were privy to the hgures as presented to the Permanent Secretaries' Committee on the Intelligence Services in thc mid-eighties were then quoting £150 million. What few people are aware of is that the budget only covers MI6's operations: everything else is excluded. It does not take a specialist to appreciate that a realistic budget would be considerably higher if all the running costs of maintenance, pensions, travel, overseas stations, computers, equipment, communications, and the full building costs of the new headquarters (the National Audit Office report on the £90 million overspend is to remain secret) are taken into account. The Treasury insists that costs which were previously hidden away in the budgets of other departments, such as the MoD, are now included in the Secret Vote figure for MI6. This cannot be true. Staff costs are met by the Foreign Office, while the MoD pays for Fort Monkton and the Hercules transport plane and Puma helicopter that are kept on permanent stand-by for the Service's use. It is unlikely that ministers are aware of the network of 'front' companies that MI6 set up in the early nineties, nor of the numerous bank accounts, such as the one at the Drummonds branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which the Service operates.
It can now be revealed that the real budget figure - intelligence sources with access to the budget call it MI6's biggest secret - is at least double the official figure. One source with access to the internal accounts puts it as high as five times this figure. Ministers and MPs are being misled. So is the Commons Intelligence Security Committee. The American experience is that it is budgetary control which provides the only means of real leverage and represents a move towards genuine oversight.
Intelligence chiefs have argued successfully that a detailed audit of MI6 expenditure would 'prejudice their operational security'. The result is, Tomlinson argues, 'a management and budgetary structure which would provide a theme park for management consultancies'. It is not surprising to learn that MI6 officers have 'little idea how to manage a budget, and even less incentive to manage it well'. Tomlinson discovered many cases of profligate waste. It was common at the end of the financial year for departments to feverishly spend the remaining budget on planning expensive operations - which, in reality, had little chance of success - in order to prevent cuts to the following year's allocation.24
Bickford had his own agenda, believing that British Intelligence was turning 'a blind eye to the fact that economic crime - organised racketeering in narcotics, kidnap extortion, product contamination and fraud - now poses the greatest threat to the security of the international community'. During 1995 the intelligence agencies had apparently tried to persuade the Major government to allow them to develop closer links with large companies so as to provide them with 'protective business intelligence'. The initiative failed because, Bickford claimed, the different agencies bickered between themselves on how to finance and run the new scheme. Tomlinson agrees that there is 'often bitter fighting between the two agencies over who should have primacy over a particular target or operation'. Although arbitrary ground rules are sometimes brokered between warring departments, communication between MI6 and MI5 remains 'desperately poor'. There is 'remarkably little cross-fertilisation of ideas or operational co-ordination'.25
Besides economic crime, the main threat to Britain, Bickford believed, was 'super-terrorism', involving weapons of mass destruction, and because of the 'common international nature of these threats', the case for having three different agencies 'falls at the first hurdle'. These threats and the many others that the intelligence services have warned us about often do not stand up to close scrutiny - indeed, the modern intelligence service's prime purpose appears to be to generate fears - but Bickford's argument that a merger between the three services would save 'tens of millions of pounds' and provide the necessary 'focused direction, integration and analysis of electronic and human intelligence' deserves to be taken seriously. Tomlinson argues that such a streamlined organisation should be accountable to a parliamentary committee so that 'intelligence targets, priorities and budgets are all controlled through the normal democratic process'.26
A new Treasury-led interdepartmental committee inquiry was instigated in 1998 to put the security and intelligence services under what was said to be an unprecedented 'root-and-branch' scrutiny, the aim being to expose the intelligence agencies to zero-based budgeting, a Treasury discipline that asks the agency concerned to explain from first principles the value of everything it does. As Independent political correspondent Donald Macintyre suggested, 'Ministers will have to be tough; when an effort was made from within the Treasury to do the same thing in the 1980s, it foundered when the security services, almost certainly with Margaret Thatcher's backing, put the shutters up.
Although the official budget for MI6, MI5 and GCHQ is claimed to be £713 million, rising to £776 million in 1999/2000 (not including a Treasury supply estimate for the capital budget of £144 million) and up to £1 billion for all agencies, Sir Gerald Warner, who as former deputy head of MI6 and Intelligence and Security Co-ordinator at the Cabinet Office (1991-6) should be in a position to know, put a figure of £2.5 billion on the entire cost of Britain's intelligence community. The reality is that the intelligence budget has increased in a period when defence spending has gone down from 5 per cent to around 3.5 per cent of GDP. Defence intelligence, the international arms trade and nuclear proliferation absorb about 35 per cent; intelligence on foreign states and their internal politics about 10 per cent; intelligence operations, including supplying diplomats and ministers in negotiations with secrets and economic espionage, about 20 per cent; counter-terrorism another 20 per cent; with counter-intelligence, counter-espionage, drugs and international crime the rest.
An inquiry conducted by the Cabinet Office in 1998, with wide terms of reference, including ensuring that the agencies' objectives are properly 'focused' on providing relevant intelligence to other Whitehall departments, asked them to justify their activities as well as their usefulness. It was acknowledged that the scrutiny team would probably recommend some 'down-sizing' of MI6, which had 'run out of things to do', though no clues were forthcoming from the politicians. The intelligence chiefs have them selves complained that New Labour has had no policy on the intelligence services, and it is true that all efforts to elicit a pre-election policy statement from the future Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary met with failure. MI6 Chief Sir David Spedding, however, had no need to worry.
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, the former left-winger who in opposition regularly criticised the intelligence and security services for their threat to civil liberties, lack of accountability and waste of taxpayers' money, had, one intelligence source told Richard Norton-Taylor, 'further to travel than his predecessors' in coming to terms with his responsibilities for the Secret Intelligence Service. It did not take long. Labour politicians who, in the main, have had little contact wlth the intelligence world, or much interest in its activities, have been and continue to be easily seduced by the magic of secrecy and privileged access to special sources. MI6 senior staffers knew what to do, having for so long, as Tomlinson warned, 'carefully and successfully cultivated an air of mystique and importance to their work'. Knowing that the reality is very different, SIS continues to devote considerable time and resources to lobbying for its position in Whitehall.
Cook made the short trip across the Thames to the Service's palatial Vauxhall Cross headquarters, where Spedding and his successor, Richard Dearlove, avoiding discussion of MI6's real budget, briefed him on their latest 'successes': a 'crucial role' in revealing Saddam Hussein's continuing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programme; uncovering Iranian attempts to procure British technology; and tracking drug smugglers and countering money laundering in the City of London. And then, in April 1998, dressed in the traditional white tie and tails for the Mansion House Easter dinner for diplomats and City businessmen, Cook went out of his way - indeed, further than any previous Labour Foreign Secretary - to praise SIS, noting that they 'cannot speak for themselves' because 'the nature of what they do means that we cannot shout about their achievements if we want them to remain effective. But let me say I have been struck by the range and qualily of the work. It seems that some things in the British state never change.
1. Punch, No. 71, 2.199.
2 & 3. Sunday Business, 20.12.98 & 24.1.99. Family friend and former Conservative defence procurement minister, Jonathan Allen, who was an MI6 agent, providing insights into the Saudi royal family and their defence spending plans.
4. Sunday Business, 11.10.98.
5. Observer, 21.11.93; BBC1 Panorama, 22.12.93.
8. Observer, 22.12.96.
11. Adams [?], p. 101; Mark Urban , UK Eyes Alpha: The Inside Story of British Intelligence, pp. 215-16; Sunday Times, 22.9.96, 21.12.97 & 2.8.98.
12. Guardian, 20.12.94; Times, 10.11.98.
19. Guardian, 19.12.97; Sunday Times, 17.11.96 & 9.1.97; Observer, 25.10.98.
22. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has indicated that in future the tribunal route might be allowed. Daily Telegraph, 3.11.98;Guardian, 15.8.98.
23. Sunday Times, 31.3.97.
24. Independent, 29.8.97.
HTML by Cryptome.