May 2005 – The Times

MI5 kept schoolboy on its files

The partner of
David Shayler reveals how a letter to the Communist Party brought its
youthful author to the attention of the security services

A BOY who wrote a letter to the British Communist Party for a school
project ended up with his own MI5 file, a former Security Service
officer claimed yesterday.

The
boy had asked for information for his school topic, but his letter was
secretly opened by MI5 in the 1970s when the Communist Party was still
regarded as a hotbed of subversion, according to Annie Machon, who
worked for the domestic intelligence service from 1991 to 1996.

Ms
Machon is the partner of David Shayler, the former MI5 officer jailed
under the Official Secrets Act for disclosing information acquired in
the service.

In a book which has been passed for publication by
her former employers, Ms Machon says that the schoolboy’s letter was
copied, as was all correspondence to the British Communist Party at
that time, “and used to create a PF (personal file), where he was
identified as a ‘?communist sympathiser’ ”.

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On another
occasion, a man who was divorcing his wife wrote to MI5 claiming that
she was involved in Communism, and she was the subject of a personal
file, Ms Machon claims in her book, Spies, Lies & Whistleblowers.

She
saw the two files, among “more than a million” when working at MI5, and
claimed that they had been in the Security Service archives for 20
years. “Why was this information still available to desk officers some
20 years after these individuals had first come to attention, in less
than suspicious circumstances?” she writes.

Mr Shayler also
made allegations about the contents of personal Security Service files
in 1997, after he left the agency. He said that there were files on
Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson, Peter Hain, Mo Mowlam, John Lennon and the
Sex Pistols, among others. Mr Shayler was charged under the Official
Secrets Act for disclosing other secret information acquired when he
was a serving intelligence officer, and was sentenced at the Old Bailey
to six months in prison in 2002.

Ms Machon, 36, who worked in three departments of MI5 —
counter-subversion, Irish terrorism and international terrorism — joins
a relatively short list of former Security Service officers who have
managed to write books without ending up in jail.

The last
former MI5 officer to get clearance was Dame Stella Rimington, who was
Director-General of the service from 1992 to 1996.

Peter Wright, who made allegations of bugging and burglary by the Security Service in Spycatcher, published in 1987, got away with it by moving to Tasmania.

Ms
Machon repeats allegations made by Mr Shayler that MI6 helped to fund
an assassination attempt against Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, in
1996. It was dismissed by Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, as
“pure fantasy”.