Cries and Whispers / Cris et chuchotements
[British Goverment] Warning notice distributed to British media
editors on Wednesday 12 May, 1999.
ADVISORY, not for publication:
We have been asked by the secretary of the Defence, Press
and Broadcasting Advisory Committee to publish the following:
FOR THE ATTENTION OF ALL EDITORS
DEFENCE, PRESS & BROADCASTING ADVISORY COMMITTEE
I understand that a US-based website has today published on the
internet a list which identifies a large number of SIS (MI6) officers.
Defence Advisory Notice No 6 asks editors and programme makers
to seek advice before publishing such details unless they have been widely
disclosed or discussed as such action could put lives at risk.
Departmental officers are examining how the damage of this disclosure can be minimised.
While this is in progress, I would ask that editors do not interpret the information
in the website as being widely disclosed and do not, therefore, publish the address
or the content of the website without first contacting the D Notice Secretary,
Rear Admiral David Pulvertaft on or through 0171 218 2206
The Independent on Sunday, 16 May 1999
Spooky times at alt.cockup.MI6
By Andrew Brown
The fiasco over the naming of 100 MI6 spies looks more and more like an intelligence
blunder of almost Chinese embassy proportions. By drawing attention to an obscure posting
in a corner of the internet inhabited only by cranks and conspiracy theorists, MI6 and the
D-notice committee contrived to ensure that the list would be for a few days the most
famous document on the world wide web, and one which has now been copied to thousands of
computers around the world. The story of how this happened provides a rare glimpse into
the central importance that computer networks now have in the shadowy world of the
Richard Tomlinson's first list of eight named MI6 agents, among them the head and deputy
of the organisation, has actually been published on the net since September last year. He
named seven members of the organisation in a letter to John Wadham............
..................The original allegations about the Bundesbank agent and the plot to
assassinate Milosevic were apparently written in a cybercafe which provided access to
word-processing software. This, Tomlinson claimed, was because the French security
services had confiscated his own laptop when he first went to Paris to talk to Judge
Stephan in August 1998. So he was forced to compose his letter in a public cafe, where
everything you write remains on the hard disk for following customers to read.
By an extraordinary coincidence the next customer was a Swiss journalist who just happened
to read the letters Tomlinson had composed, and immediately published them on the site
belonging to his specialist news agency. There they have sat since September 1998.
Last week's leak was even more bizarre. The small list of agents, on a Californian site
which was closed down by MI6's lawyers, appears to contain nothing that was not on the
six-month-old Swiss list. Then the big list of agents turned up on the website of Lyndon
....................The list then appeared on alt.talk.royalty, shortly thereafter on
alt.conspiracy.spy, which no one reads - except, it seems, the British security services.
Without the D notice it is entirely possible that NO British newspapers would have noticed
the list of spies.
The British government must this year make a number of strategic decisions about how
much privacy citizens and companies should be allowed in cyberspace against the security
services. A real conspiracy theorist might wonder whether the whole Tomlinson fiasco was
not a gigantic stunt to distract attention from these serious decisions, and to establish
the idea that the internet is so dangerous that of course governments must spy on it as
they will. But it still looks more like a cock-up than anything else.
From Pharaoh Chromium 93
June 2, 1999 Interview w/ Richard Tomlinson
conducted by Pharaoh Chromium 93
PC93: Can you fill us in on any of the latest developments in
regards to the British governments actions and Net censorship
campaign against you? What are they doing right now that you are aware of?
Richard Tomlinson: It seems that the British police are not taking any
action against me, as they realise that I was not responsible for the list. However, MI6
are continuing to do everything they can to cause me legal problems around the world.
Their latest move is to file charges against me in NZ.
PC93: The British governments assertions that you had released
100's of names of SIS MI6 agents on your GeoCities website was
patently false, yet they successfully stopped you from being able to have a webpage
telling your story by making such a claim. This has occurred on two such occasions. What
are your thoughts on this attempt at Net censorship? What do you plan on doing about it?
or what do you think should be done about it?
RT: Yes, this is quite true. They used all the fuss about the list as an
excuse to take down my website. I think that they just
objected to me criticising them in my site. My site contained
nothing illegal. I could challenge the injunction against me in the Swiss courts, but I
have decided not to do this because I can't
afford the legal fees. I guess if some philanthropist stepped in to pay my fees I would do
it, but the unfortunate reality is that the UK government has unlimited legal funds
whereas I do not.
PC93: I am interested in knowing (that is if you are "allowed"
to speak to such questions)--Do you need any assistance? If so what is your message to
those who may be interested in helping?
RT: I have really appreciated all those people who have mirrored my site
worldwide. I think that this is the best way of helping. It shows that the freedom of
speech provided by the Internet is far more powerful than the outdated secrecy laws of a
minor state. I think it will also force countries like China and Malaysia to
rethink their internet censorship laws.
PC93: Being that the ability to communicate freely has been and is now
part of a widely accepted paradigm among those of intelligence in the Net community has
anyone approached you in regards to
providing site space so that you can be able to tell your story and communicate freely?
RT: Yes, many people have offered to host my site. I have been
reluctant to take up their offers just at the moment, but as soon as my legal position has
become calmer I intend to put my site back up.
PC93: There has been death threats, etc. and apparently a
publication or newspaper (Sun Times?) encouraged people to write you electronically --
more than likely resulting in such threats occuring by suggesting that you were a traitor?
What did they say? What are your thoughts?
RT: Some of the mail I received after the Sun published my address was
unpleasant and some really quite frightening. However, I
thought it interesting that despite the Sun's hostile and one sided article, I still
received more messages of support than criticism. I guess that that says a great deal
about MI6's lack of public
support in Britain.
PC93: Is it true that you are in hiding? or is this an unfounded rumor?
Aren't you now essentially in exile because of the British Government? You no longer can
move freely between countries in the world. Can you fill us in on some details? What are
RT: I am not really in hiding - just keeping a low profile. I
certainly find the restrictions on my movement very irksome. I am banned from France, USA
and Australia, and dare not move from
Switzerland for the moment for fear of being arrested elsewhere. MI6 are able to cause me
these problems by using their liaison with friendly foreign intelligence agencies.
Unfortunately there is
nothing I can do about this as MI6 are not legally accountable.
PC93: Do you think that certain elements in the British government were
and are really more afraid because of the information that you had on your website in
regards to the death of Dodi Fayed and
Princess Diana? i.e. the similarlity of what happened with a
proposed plan to assassinate Slobodan Milosevic in 1993?
RT: I am not sure. I suspect that they are more concerned that I am
demistifying intelligence work and so diminishing their
budget-negotiation power in Whitehall.
PC93: You wrote a book which the British Government attacked you for and
ultimately prevented you from publishing? Is this the case?
RT: Yes. Indeed I was jailed for it!
PC93: What was the British Government afraid of in that book?
Wasn't it because of the contents of the book that you were jailed under the pretense of
violating the Britain's Official Secrets Act? What are your thoughts, etc.?
RT: My book contained nothing damaging, as I changed all the
details. It was closer to a novel than a biography. They basically wanted to make sure
that I didn't make any money - hence their
strenuous efforts to block it.
PC93: The British government has so far, in your case, been able to avoid
accountability in judicial matters (industrial tribunal?), etc. by invoking the arguments
of what in the US would be called "National Security" issues, that agents lives
would be endangered by them appearing in court, etc. this in regards to a proceeding you
had against them in the past in which they had dismissed you for no apparent cause. What
is the story behind this? How has it panned out? And ultimately what would you like to see
RT: Yes, this is true. These arguments that "agents lives would be
endangered" are really absurd. If that were really the case, how come they went to
court to prosecute me? Just as in the USA, the government here abuses the secrecy laws by
selectively. It's one rule for them, and another for everybody
else. It is this sort of hypocrisy that really makes me angry!
PC93: Any further issues that have not been covered or commentary?
RT: No, I think that's it!
PC93: Thank you very much.
Shayler says: Official Secrets Act was 'incompatible with the
European Convention on Human Rights'.
'The act is so wide in its scope it allows full control to the
state. It falls well below the democratic standards and traditions of the UK.' The French
Government has signed a new EU Convention which ends the notion of 'political' crimes in
Article published in Sunday-Business 6th June, 1999
HEAD: Cook climbs down on claim that Tomlinson exposed spies
by Mark Watts
THE Foreign office has backtracked on blaming renegade ex-spy Richard
Tomlinson for the website list naming more than 100 MI6 officers.
The climb-down is embarrassing for foreign secretary Robin Cook who
emphatically blamed the former MI6 officer.
Cook had told a Kosovo crisis briefing: "What he is doing is
irresponsible, damaging and potentially dangerous to people who have
worked in the service." But the foreign office has now changed its mind.
Asked whether it still believed Tomlinson was responsible for the list,
a spokesman said: "It's a possibility, but there may be other
possibilities as well. I think it's wrong at this stage to start
indicating that it would be Tomlinson."
On Cook's statement, the spokesman said: "At that particular stage it
looked possible. But now we have had more time to look at the whole
situation and I think it would be wrong to start saying at the moment
'on the balance of probabilities'. I think we have probably stepped back
from that a little bit."
Immediately after Cook's comments, the foreign office said the
"strongest balance of probabilities point the finger" at Tomlinson. But
the spokesman now said: "I don't think we could probably use the same
Tomlinson told Sunday Business: "For the foreign secretary to stand up
at a televised international press conference to denounce me is
absolutely bonkers. It is an extremely clever set-up job."
He questioned why Cook gave the list credence, adding: "I do not think
the list is even true. All the ones I know on there have left MI6, they
are 'blown' or are retired. I think the list is completely inaccurate
anyway." Tomlinson said he had abandoned plans for his own website.
MI6 has called in Special Branch to investigate the website list.
Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed said it was "rather gob-smacking" to be
accused by MI6 of involvement, and a spokesman said police had "no wish
to interview him about anything".
The Foreign Office, meanwhile, is worried that the diplomatic
rapprochement with Tehran will be disrupted by another ex-spy, Jamshid
Hashemi, who was last week revealed by Sunday Business to be threatening
to name 17 British agents in Iran's ruling regime. London and Tehran
agreed on Tuesday to exchange ambassadors, formally ending a decade-long
rift over the fatwa on author Salmon Rushdie.