Here is an interview I did today for RRTV about the evolving war in Libya:
Here is an interview I did today for RRTV about the evolving war in Libya:
As I’ve mentioned before, the former heads of UK intelligence agencies have a charming habit of speaking out in support of the rule of law, civil liberties, proportionality and plain common sense — but usually only after they have retired.
Perhaps at their leaving parties their consciences are extracted from the security safe, dusted off and given back — along with the gold watch?
Even then, post-retirement, they might try to thrice-deny potentially world-changing information, as Sir Richard Dearlove did when questioned by the fearless and fearsomely bright Silkie Carlo about the leaked Downing Street Memo at his recent speech at the Cambridge Union. (The links are in two parts, as the film had to be mirrored on Youtube — Dearlove claimed copyright on the orginal Love Police film and had it taken down.)
And “out of context”, my left foot — he could potentially have saved millions of lives in the Middle East if he’d gone public with his considered professional opinion about the intelligence facts being fitted around a preconceived war policy in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if these esteemed servants of the state, replete with respect, status and honours, could actually take a stand while they are still in a position to influence world events?
My former boss, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, has been unusually vociferous since her retirement in 2007 and elevation to the peerage. She used her maiden speech to the House of Lords to object to the proposed plans to increase police detention of terrorist suspects without charge from 28 to 42 days; she recently suggested that the “war on terror” is unwinnable and that we should, if possible, negotiate with “Al Qaeda” (well, it worked with the Provisional IRA); and that the “war on drugs” had been lost and the UK should treat recreational drug use as a health rather than a criminal issue. She steals all my best lines.…
But credit where credit is due. Despite the fact that she used the full power of the British state to pursue terrorist suspects up until 2007 and investigate drug barons in the 1990s, she did apparently try to make a stand while en poste in the run-up to the Iraq War. Last year she gave evidence to the Chilcot Enquiry, stating that she had officially briefed the government that an invasion of Iraq would increase the terrorist threat to the UK.
So it’s obvious that once a UK Prime Minister has come over all Churchillian he tends to ignore the counsel of his chief spooks, as we’ve seen with both the Downing Street Memo the Chilcot Enquiry.
With that in mind, I’ve read with interest the recent press reports that the UK authorities apparently knew about Colonel Gaddafi retaining stockpiles of mustard gas and sarin (despite the fact that the world was assured in 2004 that it was his renunciation of WMDs that allowed him back into the international diplomatic fold) .
So the key question is surely: is this another erroneous “45 minutes from attack” moment, with Gaddafi’s alleged stockpiles of WMD a perfect scaremongering pretext to push for a full-on régime change in Libya; or is this genuine, and we were all lied to about Gaddafi’s destruction of his WMD stockpiles for economic advantage and fat, juicy oil contracts?
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article quoting the concern of “government insiders” about Gaddafi’s potential future terrorism threat against the West, up to and including WMDs, should he cling on to power. Well, yes, it would hardly be surprising if he were now to be as mad as a wasp with his ex-new best buddies. Despite the sordid rapprochement in the last decade, he has been for much of his life an inveterate enemy of the West and sponsor of worldwide terrorism.
Rather than waiting for his “K” and his retirement, would it not be wonderful if the current head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, could extract his conscience from that dusty security safe and make a useful and informed statement to shed some light on the mess that the Libyan war is rapidly becoming? He could potentially change the course of world history and save untold lives.
Now I’m not a huge follower of US political theatrics. Give it a few years and the US of A will probably exit from the world stage pursued by a bear (or panda). So why waste your time on a dying beast? All you can do is try to avoid the death throes as best you can.
But this did piqué my interest, purely from the Hollywood-blockbuster schlock value. The new Chair of the US Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman for New York Peter King, has opened a hearing called “The Extent of Radicalization (with a “z”) in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”
Here is the Download Full_text and here’s the video of King’s opening statement:
Now isn’t it wonderful that esteemed politician Peter King has woken up to the dangers of “the enemy within” — or not? Over the last last few months he has flagrantly displayed his profound ignorance vis a vis the concept of terrorism. Last December he called for the designation of Wikileaks, the high-tech conduit extraordinaire for public-spirited whistleblowers around the world, as a “terrorist organistion”.
And this from a politician who is reported to be a life-long supporter of the political wing of the Provisional IRA — another religious minority group that fought for its self-proclaimed ideals — and was for decades the “enemy within” the UK.
In fact, until 9/11 the US Irish community was by far the biggest funder of PIRA terrorism for decades — so don’t believe everything that is written about Colonel Gaddafi of Libya.
I suppose it still holds true that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and Rep Peter King is clearly adhering to that point of view.….
Looking at the above video, I can’t get out of my head that it’s a bit like putting the fictional organised crime boss, Tony Soprano, in charge of a government committee investigating organised crime.
But it gets worse. King even mentions the dread phrase “despite what passes for conventional wisdom in certain circles, there is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings”. Wasn’t that also what a certain Senator Joe McCarthy said in the 1950s about the Communist witchhunts?
Such moronic statements would potentially be amusing — if it were not for the fact that Peter Chair is the King of the Homeland Security Committee of the world’s dying and desperate super-power, the USA.
Oops, silly me, I muddled the words.….
But sadly he is, and no doubt the whole world will feel the repercussions of this. The morphing of the fictional Tony Soprano and paranoid Joe Kennedy has spawned a hellish brat — let’s call him Emmanuel Goldstein, for ease of reference.
Here is an interview I did for RTTV on 3 March 2011 about the possibility of Western intervention in the unfolding Libyan crisis:
Interestingly, a radio recording of the Dutch “rescue” mission I mentioned has appeared on the internet. It appears that the pilots were less than honest about their flight plans and intentions, saying that they were heading to their ship south of Malta rather than back towards Tripoli.… where they are eventually caught.
Also, do have a read of this excellent article by Seamus Milne of The Guardian about ramifications of possible Western intervention.
That said, it looks like this viewpoint is being ignored. The Daily Mail reported today that MI6 officers and SAS soldiers are massing in the East of Libya to assist the rebels. Well, at least they’re doing it openly now, unlike the illegal and failed Gaddafi Plot of 1996.
So I’m a bit puzzled here. UK Prime Minister Dave Cameron is quoted in today’s Daily Telegraph as saying that:
“It is not acceptable to have a situation where Colonel Gaddafi can be murdering his own people using aeroplanes and helicopter gunships and the like and we have to plan now to make sure if that happens we can do something to stop it.”
But do his American best buddies share that, umm, humane view? First of all they have the CIA assassination list which includes the names of US citizens (ie its own people); then those same “best buddies” may well resort to assassinating Wikileaks’s Julian Assange, probably the most high profile dissident in international and diplomatic circles at the moment; plus they are already waging remote drone warfare on many hapless Middle Eastern countries — Yeman, Afghanistan, Pakistan.….
Oh, and now the UK government seems poised to launch covert spy drones into the skies of Britain. Even the UK’s most right-wing mainstream newspapers, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, expressed concern about this today. Apparently these drones have yet to be weaponised.….
It’s a slippery slope down to an Orwellian nightmare.
My interview for RTTV about the current Libyan crisis:
Olivia Crellin interrogates Annie Machon on her life after MI5
by Olivia Crellin
Thursday 3rd February 2011
Annie Machon, former MI5 agent, is the image of glamour and guts. Her blonde hair, of the bombshell variety, frames a face that, far from being that of the reserved and stealthy spook, exudes energy, enthusiasm, and openness.
Unlike her former partner, the whistleblower David Shayler, Machon seems to have emerged relatively unscathed from the years immediately following the couple’s attempts to reveal serious MI5 blunders in 1996.
Now working as a self-professed “author, media pundit, journalist, campaigner and prominent public speaker”, she has made a “new way of life” out of selling herself, her past, and her story. And she’s doing a good job.
Machon, who studied Classics at Cambridge, is the most recent in a long line of famous spies to have emerged from the University – most notably the Cambridge Spies who defected to the Russians during the Cold War.
Best known for her whistle-blowing on issues such as MI5’s alleged involvement in the attempted assassination on Gaddafi, Machon is an oft-consulted expert on current affairs topics such as Wikileaks, the infiltration of activist groups, and the 9/11 Truth Movement, critiquing what she sees as contemporary society’s descent into a “police state”.
Commenting on the “very British mess” that is the current UK Intelligence Services, Machon’s answers to my questions blend personal anecdote with hard-hitting assertions. She sounds convincing. Despite no longer having any insider information, she still has plenty to say.
Recruited during the “marginally golden ethical era” of the 1990s, Machon’s experience of MI5 was nevertheless riddled with antiquation, confusion, insularity and suffocation.
Drawing attention to MI5 and MI6’s “culture of just-follow-orders”, an ethos that former head of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington also acknowledged, Machon believes that the UK Intelligence Services have, for a long time, been their own worst enemy.
Entrenched in unnecessary laws, a “hangover” from the organisation’s counter-espionage origins, Machon states that until the spooks “open up a little bit to constructive criticism from the other side, so that [MI5] can get a bit of fresh air, they’re going to spiral down into… torture and things.”
While Machon asserts that there was no use of torture in her time with the agency – it was considered “counter-productive” and “unethical” – she did hear some horror stories from the older boys’ experience in Northern Ireland including one case concerning an agent, codenamed Steak Knife, who was permitted to torture and even kill his fellow intelligence officers in order to keep his cover in the “Nutting Squad” of the IRA – “A sick James Bond gotten out of hand.”
Machon refers to these stories as “a sort of petri dish of the abuses that we are seeing now with the Muslim community”. Just as the trend to target one group of society returns, the use of torture, as experienced in Ireland, comes full circle. “It makes me shiver,” Machon tells me, “that people who were perhaps my friends, idealistic twenty-somethings when I was an officer, who I might’ve had drinks with, had dinner with, whatever, might be those people now.”
While there seems to be a “democratic will” to get rid of “some of the more Draconian laws from under the last government”, Machon believes that instances such as Mark Kennedy’s undercover infiltration of an activist group demands society to take a closer look at the ways in which we protect national security. “Once you start eroding someone’s civil liberties on one front, it’ll cascade. That’s how Germany found itself in a Fascist state in the 1930s,” the former-spy asserts. “They didn’t wake up one morning and Hitler was in power. It’s a very slippery slope.” This is why Machon, above all other issues, is calling for an “adult debate” about the workings of Secret Intelligence in a “mature democracy”.
One organization that Machon sees as contributing to this debate is Wikileaks. Machon praised this form of new media, calling it “fantastic” as a “high-tech conduit to enable whistleblowers” in contrast to the “self-censorship and fear” of the mainstream press, which blocks the flow of such information to the public.
Machon advised students at the Cambridge Union to find alternative sources of information for their news, citing countries’ deceptive use of false-flag terrorism. “I’m not saying that every major terrorist atrocity might be a dirty trick, but you have to keep that possibility in the back of your mind,” she warned.
“It’s all about a sort of breach of trust,” Machon concludes, which is “corrosive for a democracy.” Whether it’s an issue like 9/11, or the bailing out of the banks or the war in Iraq, Machon asserts that the erosion of civil liberties is finally forcing society to “become democratically engaged again, which cannot be bad.”
In many ways Annie Machon is serving her country as stealthily and determinedly as if she had never left MI5. Taking the “same sort of fundamental drive to try and make a difference, to try and change things for the better,” into this new arena of her work, she hands me a red-and-black business card with her shades-toting self on it and the phrase “Using Our Intelligence” emblazoned on the front.
“There’s always the debate,” she tells me cryptically, “is it better to be inside the tent pissing out or outside the tent pissing in?”
Moving swiftly past the prurient, thigh-rubbing glee that most of the old media seems to be exhibiting over the alleged details of Julian Assange’s love life, let’s re-focus on the heart of the Wikileaks disclosures, and most importantly the aims underpinning them: transparency, justice, and an informed citizenry living within fully-functioning democracies. Such quaint notions.
In the media maelstrom of the Cablegate disclosures, and the resulting infantile and thuggish threats of the American political class, is easy to lose sight of the fact that many of the leaked documents refer to scandals, corruption and cover-ups in a range of countries, not just the good old US of A.
One document that recently caught my attention related to the notorious murder twenty-one years ago of civil rights activist, Pat Finucane, in Northern Ireland. Finucane was a well-known lawyer who was shot and killed in front of his wife and three small children. There has long been speculation that he was targeted by Protestant terrorist groups, in collusion with the NI secret police, the army’s notorious and now-disbanded Forces Research Unit (FRU), and/or MI5.
Well, over a decade ago former top plod, Lord (John) Stevens, began an inquiry that did indeed establish such state collusion, despite having his inquiry offices burnt out in the process by person/s allegedly unknown half-way through the investigation. Stevens fought on, producing a damning report in 2003 confirming the notion of state collusion with Irish Loyalist terrorist activities, but never did clarify exactly what had happened to poor Pat Finucane.
However, Finucane’s traumatised family has never stopped demanding justice. The recent disclosure shines a light on some of the back-room deals around this scandal, and for that I’m sure many people thank Wikileaks.
The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland — such a quintessentially British understatement, in any other country it would have been called a civil war — were deceptive, murky and vicious on both sides. “Collusion” is an elastic word that stretches beyond the strict notion of the state. It is well-known that the US organistion, NORAID, supported by many Americans claiming Irish ancestry, was a major fundraising channel for, um, Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Provisional IRA, from the 1970s onwards.
Such networks provided even more support than Colonel Gaddafi of Libya with his arms shipments, and the cash well only dried up post‑9/11. As you can see in this recent article in the The Telegraph, even the incoming Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, New York Congressman Peter King (who ironically called for the designation of Wkileaks as a “foreign terrorist organisation”) appears to have been a life long supporter of Sinn Féin.
With this in the back of our minds, it appears that Dublin and Washington kept pushing for a full inquiry into Finucane’s murder — and in 2005 it looked like MI5 would finally co-operate.
However, the devil was in the detail. Coincidentally, 2005 was the year that the UK government rushed through a new law, the Inquiries Act, which scandalously allowed any department under investigation (in this case MI5) to dictate the terms and scope of the inquiry.
Collusion by any state in the unlawful arrest, torture, and extrajudicial murder of people — whether its own citizens or others — is state terrorism. Let’s not mince our words here. Amnesty International provides a clear definition of this concept.
As the The Guardian article about Finucane so succintly puts it:
“When a state sanctions the killing of citizens, in particular citizens who are lawyers, it puts the rule of law and democracy in jeopardy. And when a state enlists auxiliary assassins, it cedes its monopoly over state secrets: it may feel omnipotent, but it is also vulnerable to disclosure.”
Indeed. Northern Ireland was like a Petri dish of human rights abuses: torture, Diplock courts (aka military tribunals), kidnappings, curfews, shoot-to-kill, informers, and state collusion in assassinations.
The infection has now spread. These are precisely the tactics currently used by the US, the UK and their “auxiliary assassins” across great swathes of the Middle East. Perhaps this explains why our nation states have been outflanked and have ceded their monopoly over secrets.
Will justice ever be done? In the past I would have said, sadly, that would be highly unlikely. However, courageous organisations like Wikileaks and its ilk are improving the odds.
For the first time in 100 years “C”, the head of the UK foreign intelligence service SIS (commonly known as MI6) has gone public.
Former career diplomat Sir John Sawers (he of Speedo fame) yesterday made a speech to the UK Society of Editors in what appeared to be a professionally diplomatic rear-guard action in response to a number of hot media topics at the moment.
Choosing both his audience wisely and his words carefully, he hit on three key areas:
Torture: Legal cases are currently going through UK courts on behalf of British victims of torture, in which MI5 and MI6 intelligence officers are alleged to have been complicit. The Metropolitan Police are currently investigating a number of cases. Over the last week, a British military training manual on “enhanced” interrogation techniques has also been made public. However, Sawers unblushingly states that MI6 abides by UK and international law and would never get involved, even tangentially, in torture cases. In fact, he goes on to assert that the UK intelligence agencies are training the rest of the world in human rights in this regard.
Whistleblowing: In the week following the latest Wikileaks coup — the Iraq War Diaries, comprising nearly 400,000 documents detailing the everyday horror of life in occupied Iraq, including war crimes such as murder, rape and torture committed by both US and UK forces — Sawers states that secrecy is not a dirty word: the intelligence agencies need to have the confidence that whistleblowers will not emerge to in order to guard agent and staff identities, as well as maintaining the confidence of their international intelligence partners that their (dirty?) secrets will remain, um, secret. One presumes he is advocating against the exposure of war crimes and justice for the victims.
This, one also presumes, is the justification for US politicians who propose cyber-attacks against Wikileaks and the declaration by some US political insiders that Julian Assange, spokesman of the organisation, should be treated as an unlawfully designated “unlawful combatant”, subject to the full rigour of extra-judicial US power, up to and including assassination.
Spurious media claims of unverified “damage” are the hoary old chestnuts always dragged out in whistleblower cases. After Wikileaks released its Afghan War Blog in July, government and intelligence commentators made apocalyptic predictions that the leak had put military and agent lives at risk. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has since gone on the record to admit that this was simply not true.
During the Shayler whistleblowing case a decade ago, the government repeatedly tried to assert that agent lives had been put at risk, and yet the formal judgement at the end of his trial stated that this was absolutely not the case. And again, with the recent Wikileaks Iraq War Blog, government sources are using the same old mantra. When will they realise that they can only cry wolf so many times and get away with it? And when will the journalists regurgitating this spin wake up to the fact they are being played?
Accountability: Sawers goes on to describe the mechanisms of accountability, such as they are. He accurately states, as I have previously described ad nauseam, that under the 1994 Intelligence Services Act, he is notionally responsible to his political “master”, the Foreign Secretary, who has to clear in advance any legally dubious foreign operations (up to and including murder – the fabled “licence to kill” is not fiction, as you can see here).
The 1994 ISA also established the Prime Minister’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in Parliament, which many commentators seem to believe offers meaningful oversight of the spies. However, as I have detailed before, this is a mere fig leaf to real accountability: the ISC can only investigate issues of policy, finance and administration of the spy agencies. Disclosures relating to crime, operational incompetence or involvement in torture fall outside its remit.
But what happens if intelligence officers decide to operate beyond this framework? How would ministers or the ISC ever know? Other spy masters have successfully lied to their political masters in the past, after all.
Sir John has the gall to say that, if an operation is not cleared by the Foreign Secretary, it does not proceed. But what about the Gadaffi Plot way back in 1996, when MI6 was sponsoring a group of Islamic extremist terrorists in Libya to try to assassinate Colonel Gadaffi without, it has been asserted, the prior written approval of the then-Foreign secretary, Tory politician Malcom Rifkind? This was reported extensively, including in this article by Mark Thomas in the New Statesman. What happens if rogue MI6 officers blithely side-step this notional accountability — because they can, because they know they will get away with it — because they have in the past?
In the interests of justice, UK and international law, and accountability, perhaps a new Conservative/Coalition government should now reassess its approach to intelligence whistleblowers generally, and re-examine this specific disclosure about Libya, which has been backed up by international intelligence sources, both US and French, in order to achieve some sort of closure for the innocent victims in Libya of this MI6-funded terrorist attack? And it is finally time to hold the perpetrators to account — PT16, Richard Bartlett, and PT16B, David Watson, who were the senior officers in MI6 responsible for the murder plot.
As civilised countries, we need to rethink our approach to the issue of whistleblowing. Lies, spin, prosecutions and thuggish threats of assassination are beneath us as societies that notionally adhere to the principles of democracy. If we can only realistically hope that the actions of our governments, military forces, and intelligence agencies are transparent and accountable via whistleblowers, then we need to ensure that these people are legally protected and that their voices are heard clearly.
So Colonel Gaddafi of Libya has been dishing out the diplomatic gifts generously to the former US administration. Listed in the public declaration are even such items as a diamond ring presented to former Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice, and other gifts to the value of $212,000.
This seems a slightly uneven distribution of largesse from the Middle East to the West. Before 9/11 and the ensuing war on terror, Gaddafi was still seen by the west as the head of a “rogue state”. Bombs, rather than gifts, were more likely to rain down on him.
However, since 2001 he has come back into the fold and is as keen as the coalition of the “willing” to counter the threat from Islamic extremist terrorists. So now he’s the new bestest friend of the US and UK governments in this unending fight.
But that was kind of inevitable, wasn’t it? As a secular Middle Eastern dictator, Gaddafi has traditionally had more to fear from Islamists than has the West. Particularly when these same Islamist groups have received ongoing support from those very governments that are now cosying up to Gaddafi.
Just to remind you, the reason I helped David Shayler in his whistleblowing on the crimes of MI5 and MI6 was because of just such a plot- the attempted assassination of Gaddafi in 1996 that was funded by the UK external intelligence gathering agency, MI6. In 1995 Shayler, then the head of the Libyan section in MI5, was officially briefed by his counterpart in MI6, David Watson (otherwise known as PT16/B), about an unfolding plot to kill Gaddafi. A Libyan military intelligence officer, subsequently code-named Tunworth, walked in to the British embassy in Tunis and asked to speak to the resident spook.
Tunworth said he was the head of a “ragtag group of Islamic extremists” (who subsequently turned out to have links to Al Qaeda — at a time when MI5 had begun to investigate the group), who wanted to effect a coup against Colonel Gaddafi. They needed funding to do this, and that was where MI6 came in. As a quid pro quo, Tunworth promised to hand over the two Lockerbie supsects for trial in Europe , which had for years been one of MI6’s priority targets — not to mention all those juicy oil contracts for BP et al.
Over the course of about 5 months, MI6 paid Tunworth’s group over $100,000, thereby becoming conspirators in a murder plot. Crucially, MI6 did not get the prior written permission of their political master, the Foreign Secretary, making this action illegal under the terms of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act.
Manifestly, this coup attempt did not work — Gaddafi is now a strong ally of our western governments. In fact, an explosion occurred beneath the wrong car in a cavalcade containing Gaddafi as he returned from the Libyan People’s Congress in Sirte. But innocent people died in the explosion and the ensuing security shoot-out.
So, MI6 funded an illegal, highly reckless plot in a volatile part of world that resulted in the deaths of innocent people. How more heinous a crime could there be? But to this day, despite a leaked MI6 document that proved they knew the existence of the proposed plot, and despite other intelligence sources backing up Shayler’s disclosures, the UK government has still refused to hold an enquiry. Quite the opposite — they threw the whistleblower in prison twice and tried to prosecute the investigating journalists.
Some people may call me naïve for thinking that the intelligence agencies should not get involved in operations like this. Putting aside the retort that the spies often conflate the idea of the national interest with their own, short-sighted careerism, I would like to remind such cynics that we are supposed to be living in modern democracies, where even the secret state is supposed to operate within the rule of law and democratic oversight. Illegal assassination plots, the use of torture, and false flag, state-sponsored terrorism should remain firmly within the retro, pulp-fiction world of James Bond.
David Shayler’s former partner reveals: How the bullying State crushed him
By ANNIE MACHON
Ten years ago this month former MI5 officer David Shayler made shocking revelations in this newspaper about how Britain’s spies were unable to deal with the growing threat of global terrorism.
He disclosed how MI5’s peculiar obsession with bureaucracy and secrecy prevented crucial information being used to stop bombings. And he told how insufficient agents and inept decision-making meant that terrorist groups were not properly monitored.
The Government response to David’s disclosures was to place a gagging order on The Mail on Sunday and launch a six-year campaign to discredit and persecute Shayler. Alastair Campbell threatened to ‘send in the heavies’ and the whistleblower was forced into exile abroad, jailed twice and sued for damages; his friends and family were harassed and some arrested.
He faced a bleak, uncertain future and for many years he was under intense stress and pressure, often isolated and always under surveillance. I had a ringside seat for the ‘Get Shayler’ operation because I was an MI5 officer at the same time (1991−96) and also his girlfriend and co-campaigner until last year when I ended my relationship with a broken man.
I witnessed first-hand the extraordinary psychological, physical and emotional burden of being a whistleblower when the full power of the secret State is launched against you. A decade on the results of that pernicious campaign became clear when I heard that David had proclaimed himself as “The Messiah” and “God” and could predict the weather. I was saddened but not shocked. The story of David Shayler is not just one of a whistleblower but also an indictment of the lack of democracy and accountability in Britain.
I first met David when we were both working in F2, the counter-subversion section of MI5, where we were repeatedly reassured that MI5 had to work within the law. We were young and keen to help protect our country. I noticed David immediately, as he was very bright, and always asked the difficult questions. Over a period of a year we became friends, and then we fell in love.
In the run-up to the 1992 General Election we were involved in assessing any parliamentary candidate and potential MP. This meant that they all had their names cross-referenced with MI5’s database. If any candidates had a file, this was reviewed. We saw files on most of the top politicians of the past decade, from Tony Blair down, something that gave us concerns.
We then both moved to G Branch, the international counter-terrorist division, with David heading the Libyan section. It was here that he witnessed a catalogue of errors and crimes: the illegal phone-tapping of a prominent Guardian journalist, the failure of MI5 to prevent the bombing of the Israeli embassy in London in July 1994, which resulted in the wrongful conviction of two innocent Palestinians, and the attempted assassination of Colonel Gaddafi of Libya.
David raised this with his bosses at the time but they showed no interest. So we resigned from MI5 after deciding to go public to force an inquiry into the Gaddafi plot.
After The Mail on Sunday revelations we decamped to France while David tried to get the Government to take his evidence and investigate MI5’s crimes, something, to this day, it has refused to do. Rather than addressing the problem, the Intelligence Services tried to shoot the messenger. They planted stories claiming David was a fantasist, overlooked for promotion, and was too junior to know what he was talking about. These are classic tactics used against whistleblowers and were wheeled out again when Dr David Kelly took his life.
We eventually returned home in 2000, by which time David felt isolated and angry. He began to distrust friends and thought that many of them might be reporting on him. He was convinced he was constantly followed and began to take photographs of people in the street. When the trial started, and with David effectively gagged, the jury had no choice but to convict.
He received a six-month sentence but the judgment exonerated him of placing agents’ lives at risk, conceding that he had spoken out in what he thought to be the public interest. David had blown the whistle with the best of motives. He had exposed heinous State crimes up to and including murder, yet he was the one in prison with his reputation in tatters. His release from jail saw a changed man. David was full of anger, frustration and bitterness and became depressed and withdrawn. He was drawn to the spiritual teachings of kabbalah, and became obsessed with the subject instead of focusing on what we should do to survive. Last summer, I went away for a weekend. When I returned, David had shaved off all his hair and his eyebrows as part of his spiritual evolution. He knew that I had always loved his long, thick hair, so it felt like a personal slap in the face. He was in trouble. He was quick to anger if anyone questioned him. He became obsessive about little details, espoused wacky theories and shunned his family and old friends. His paranoia also escalated. His experience of being hounded and vilified for a decade had left a deep persecution complex. Eventually the strain was too much and I ended the relationship.
It was difficult as we had shared so much over the 14 years we had been together, but it felt that we were no longer a team – David was focusing only on esoteric issues. Looking back, I am still proud of what we did. I believe that if you witness the crimes that we did, you have to take action. But the price for taking that stand against a bully State can be high. It is tragic to see an honourable and brave man crushed in this way. The British Establishment is ruthless in protecting its own interests rather than those of our country. Today David Shayler is living testimony to that.
The UK Intelligence Community: Ineffective, Unethical and Unaccountable
The USA and the UK are enmeshed in an apparently unending war of attrition – sorry peacekeeping — in Iraq. Why? Well, we may remember that the UK was assured by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, in sincere terms, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction which could be deployed again British interests within 45 minutes. Indeed the press was awash with “45 minutes from Armageddon” headlines on 18th March 2003, the day of the crucial war debate in the British parliament. The implication was that Britain was directly at threat from the evil Iraqis.
The US varied the diet. George Bush, in his State of the Union address before the war, assured his nation that Iraq had been attempting to buy material to make nuclear weapons from Niger. The American media and public fell for this claim, hook, line and sinker.
What do these two erroneous claims have in common? Well, both were “sexed up” for public consumption.
We all know now that there never were any WMDs to be found in Iraq. After 10 years of punitive sanctions, the country simply didn’t have the capability, even if it had the will, to develop them. The Niger claim is even more tenuous. This was based on an intelligence report emanating from the British Secret Intelligence Service (commonly know as SIS or MI6), which was based on forgeries.
We have had headline after screaming headline stating that yet another terrorist cell has been rounded up in Britain. The Ricin plot? The beheading of a British Muslim serviceman? The liquid bombs on airplanes? Yet, if one reads the newspapers carefully, one finds that charges are dropped quietly after a few months.
So, why is this happening? I can hazard a few guesses. In the 1990s I worked for 6 years as an intelligence officer for MI5, investigating political “subversives”, Irish terrorists, and Middle Eastern terrorism. In late 1996 I, with my then partner and colleague David Shayler, left the service in disgust at the incompetent and corrupt culture to blow the whistle on the UK intelligence establishment. This was not a case of sour grapes – we were both competent officers who regularly received performance related bonuses.
However, we had grown increasingly concerned about breaches of the law; ineptitude (which led to bombs going off that could and should have been prevented); files on politicians; the jailing of innocent people; illegal phone taps; and the illegal sponsoring of terrorism abroad, funded by UK tax-payers.
The key reason that we left and went public is probably one of the most heinous crimes – SIS funded an Islamic extremist group in Libya to try to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi in 1996. The attack failed, but killed innocent people. The attack was also illegal under British law. The 1994 intelligence Services Act, which put SIS on a legal footing for the first time in its 80 year history, stated that its officers were immune from prosecution in the UK for illegal acts committed abroad, if they had the prior written permission of its political master – ie the Foreign Secretary. In this case they did not.
So, the assassination attempt was not only immoral, unethical and highly reckless in a volatile area of the world, but also illegal under British law.
In August 1997 we went public in a national British newspaper about our concerns. We hoped that the newly-elected Labour government would take our evidence and begin an investigation of the intelligence agencies. After all, many Labour MPs had been on the receiving end of spook investigations in their radical youth. Many had also opposed the draconian UK law, the Official Secrets Act (OSA 1989), which deprived an intelligence whistleblower of a public interest defence.
However, it was not to be. I have no proof, but I can speculate that the Labour government did the spies’ bidding for fear of what might be on their MI5 files. They issued an injunction against David and the national press. They failed to extradite him from France in 1998 but, when he returned voluntarily to face trail in the UK in 2000, they lynched him in the media. They also ensured that, through a series of pre-trial legal hearings, he was not allowed to say anything in his own defence and was not able to freely question his accusers. Indeed the judge ordered the jury to convict.
The whole sorry saga of the Shayler affair shows in detail how the British establishment will always shoot the messenger to protect its own interests. If the British government had taken Shayler’s evidence, investigated his disclosures, and reformed the services so that they were subject to effective oversight and had to obey the law, they may well be working more efficiently to protect us from threats to our national’s security. After all, the focus of their work is now counter-terrorism, and they use the same resources and techniques as the police. Why should they not be subject to the same checks and balances?
Instead, MI5 and SIS continue to operate outside meaningful democratic control. Their cultures are self-perpetuating oligarchies, where mistakes are glossed over and repeated, and where questions and independent thought are discouraged. We deserve better.
I was invited on to “The Richard and Judy Show” in 2005 to talk about my book, and it is featured on the show’s website.
William Podmore was kind enough to review my work:
In this remarkable book, Annie Machon makes serious allegations against the British state’s intelligence services, MI5 and MI6. Ms Machon and her partner David Shayler are former high-ranking MI5 officers, both now retired from the service. The book’s allegations derive from their experiences and deserve at least to be the subject of inquiry.
She asserts that MI5 has illegally investigated thousands of British citizens for their political views; that there was collusion between the Army Forces Research Unit and loyalist terrorists; that MI5 failed to stop four major terrorist attacks in Britain, even though it had reliable evidence; and that MI5 and MI6 let a known Libyan terrorist into Britain and let him set up a terrorist network here.
She alleges that MI6’s counter-Iranian section used the Sunday Telegraph (and the journalists Con Coughlin, John Simpson and Dominic Lawson) to try to blame Iran for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, the destruction of flight PA103. MI6 was trying to deflect attention from the fact that it was actually a Libyan retaliation for the US bombing of Tripoli (backed by Thatcher) in 1986.
The book’s most significant allegation is that MI6 illegally paid tens of thousands of pounds to Al-Qa’ida in 1995–96 to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi and seize power in Libya. In the attempted coup, several innocent civilians and security police were killed. If this is true, MI6, a British state agency, sponsored our terrorist enemies in a conspiracy to murder, which resulted in the killing of innocent civilians.
But Blair refuses to hear any evidence against the intelligence services, and prosecutes and harasses critics and whistleblowers. The Intelligence and Security Committee, set up under the 1994 Intelligence Services Act to oversee the services, is no use, because it is appointed by and reports only to the Prime Minister.
The intelligence services should work under the rule of law and respect democratic rights. Terrorist suspects should be arrested and brought to trial under criminal law, not detained, or executed, without trial, as has happened in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
The intelligence services are supposed to protect us, but it would appear that they have instead connived in terrorism, putting us at greater risk of terrorist attack.
The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF) also highlighted it.
The book can be ordered through Amazon.
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’ ”.
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”.