August 2007 Mail on Sunday Article

Dav­id Shayler­’s former part­ner reveals: How the bul­ly­ing State crushed him

Link to daily mail ori­gin­al — link to Daily Mail com­ments

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.

None of his ori­gin­al dis­clos­ures was shown to be wrong. Indeed, in 2005 the bomb­ings in Lon­don proved the whis­tleblower cor­rect: MI5 was not equipped to counter ter­ror on our streets.

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.

Terrorism Act used against Journalist

A wor­ry­ing art­icle in today’s Guard­i­an by the indefatig­able Duncan Camp­bell, in which he reports that police are using the Ter­ror­ism Act (2000) to try to force a journ­al­ist to hand over inform­a­tion from a source.

This issue is the scared cow of journ­al­ism – that they nev­er reveal their sources. To do so would imme­di­ately deter whis­tleblowers from speak­ing in con­fid­ence to the media, and gov­ern­ment crimes and lies would remain secret. The pro­tec­tion of journ­al­ist­ic sources con­trib­utes to safe­guard­ing our demo­cracy, as legis­la­tion such as the Free­dom of Inform­a­tion Act (2000) is effect­ively tooth­less when up against the inner work­ings of the state.

Because of this, journ­al­ists with integ­rity in this coun­try and abroad are will­ing to risk pris­on rather than hand over their notes. As Camp­bell remarks, this happened to Mar­tin Bright in 2000 when he was Home Affairs Edit­or at The Observ­er. The Met­ro­pol­it­an Police Spe­cial Branch went crash­ing into the offices on Far­ring­don Road, demand­ing that he hand over all his notes on the Shayler case. More bizar­rely, they also deman­ded a let­ter Shayler had sent to The Guard­i­an, even though it had already been pub­lished in the news­pa­per. Thank­fully for Mar­tin, the Nation­al Uni­on of Journ­al­ists sup­por­ted him, and the police even­tu­ally backed off.

The fact that the police are using the Ter­ror­ism Act as is a wor­ry­ing new devel­op­ment. But it’s not just pro­duc­tion orders from the police that journ­al­ists and news­pa­pers have to be wor­ried about. The author­it­ies have a range of weapons in their arsen­al if they choose to sup­press inform­a­tion eman­at­ing from inner gov­ern­ment circles or the intel­li­gence world. And yet it is with­in these very circles that the most hein­ous crimes and viol­a­tions are com­mit­ted, and whence the most sig­ni­fic­ant whis­tleblowers tend to emerge. Think Dr Dav­id Kelly, Dav­id Shayler, Kath­er­ine Gun.

So, what else can the author­it­ies use to sup­press val­id cri­ti­cism? Well, firstly and most notori­ously, we have the Offi­cial Secrets Act in the UK. This does not just pre­vent intel­li­gence officers and noti­fied gov­ern­ment offi­cials from ever speak­ing to any­one out­side the agency about any­thing, ever (Sec­tion 1(1)). Slightly less well known is Sec­tion 5, which makes it a crime for any journ­al­ist to receive or eli­cit inform­a­tion from these whis­tleblowers that dam­ages “nation­al secur­ity” (the term to this day remains undefined). Of course, as we saw in the Shayler case, the gov­ern­ment is always extremely reluct­ant to cross the media and enforce this, so it is usu­ally just the unfor­tu­nate whis­tleblower who is hung out to dry.

If the threat of the OSA fails, the gov­ern­ment can always find a tame judge to issue an emer­gency injunc­tion. Again, this happened in the Shayler case, when an injunc­tion was taken out both against him and the UK’s nation­al media. Need­less to say, the injunc­tion against the media was dropped (even this gov­ern­ment quailed at the pro­spect of tak­ing on News Inter­na­tion­al and the Mail group), but remains in place to this day against the hap­less whistleblower.

This injunc­tion is no small thing. The government’s law­yers have used it to fright­en off pub­lish­ers from even look­ing at a nov­el (that’s right – a work of fic­tion) that Shayler wrote in 1998. Let­ters winged their way from gov­ern­ment law­yers to UK pub­lish­ers in Lon­don in 1999. And when Shayler built a web­site, hos­ted by Tab­net in Cali­for­nia, the gov­ern­ment wrote to them point­ing out that there was an injunc­tion in place and ask­ing for the site to be taken down. Tab­net gently poin­ted out that per­haps the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment had for­got­ten about 1776, and con­tin­ued to host the site.

If the OSA and injunc­tions are not enough, we also have the notori­ous D Notice Com­mit­tee (now rebranded as the Defence Press and Broad­cast­ing Advis­ory Com­mit­tee), a body that can block pub­lic­a­tion of a story by issu­ing a notice at the say-so of the gov­ern­ment. Very appro­pri­ate in a so-called demo­cracy. What makes it worse is that the Com­mit­tee is made up of volun­teers from amongst the great and the good from the media world, as well as rep­res­ent­at­ives from gov­ern­ment depart­ments. These guys, seni­or edit­ors and TV exec­ut­ives, enter the charmed inner circle and start to police their own industry. It’s amaz­ing how quickly new appointees go nat­ive and fight the government’s corner.

So there you have it – a whole bat­tery of laws to pro­tect the Brit­ish Estab­lish­ment from the scru­tiny and con­struct­ive cri­ti­cism of the media. When a journ­al­ist of integ­rity stands up to the author­it­ies, we should all sup­port them. They are provid­ing a cru­cial ser­vice of vent­il­a­tion and account­ab­il­ity for our retreat­ing demo­cracy. I wish Shiv Malik, the freel­an­cer at the eye of the cur­rent storm, the very best.


Legal doublethink re whistleblowers — my CPBF article, July 2006

Thanks to Wikileaks the concept of whis­tleblow­ing is once again, rightly, back in the prime-time news slots.

To high­light the Brit­ish leg­al double­think when it comes to whis­tleblow­ing cases, I repro­duce below an art­icle I wrote in 2006 for the excel­lent UK Cam­paign for Press and Broad­cast­ing Free­dom organ­isa­tion (CPBF).

Basic­ally, the rul­ing stated that a whis­tleblower can­not repeat their own dis­clos­ures in pub­lic, even though any­one else in the world can:

Hogarth_judge In 2006 I had­n’t heard of Mr “Justice” Eady (he had yet to reach his max­im­um velo­city), but he seems to have built up of bit of form since then.  He is now most notori­ous for his pun­it­ive rul­ings in many “libel tour­ismcases and celeb sex scan­dals, not to men­tion the odi­ous concept of the super-injunc­tion, start­lingly exem­pli­fied in the Trafigura case about alleg­a­tions of dump­ing tox­ic waste off the Ivory Coast — one of Wikileak­s’s earli­er media suc­cesses.

Obvi­ously Eady, the man in charge of rul­ing on UK free­dom of expres­sion cases, was the per­son to go to if you had some­thing to hide.

Thank­fully he was replaced earli­er this year by Michael Tugend­hat QC, who flu­ently rep­res­en­ted the medi­a’s corner dur­ing the Shayler whis­tleblow­ing years, and some of Eady’s most egre­gious decisions have already been over­turned by his successor.


CPBF_Logo  Anoth­er suc­cess for Brit­ish justice — Annie Machon (31÷7÷06)

It was anoth­er resound­ing suc­cess for Brit­ish justice, accord­ing to Annie Machon. Mr Justice Eady gran­ted a per­man­ent injunc­tion against Dav­id Shayler in the High Court today (Fri­day 28 July). In a breath­tak­ing rul­ing, Eady stated that Dav­id was not entitled to present evid­ence or cross-exam­ine his accusers (again), but instead issued a sum­mary judge­ment based on asser­tions made by MI5.

This means that Dav­id can now only talk about a restric­ted range of dis­clos­ures — spe­cific­ally what appeared in the Mail on Sunday on 24 August 1997. This means that he can­not talk about a whole range of top­ics which are in the pub­lic domain and have already been cleared via the injunc­tion and for the pub­lic­a­tion of my book, Spies, Lies and Whis­tleblowers.

Spe­cific­ally, this means that, while I and the rest of the world can talk about state-sponsored false-flag ter­ror­ism, includ­ing the Gad­dafi plot, Dav­id is banned. Very con­veni­ent when the 911 cam­paign is tak­ing off.

The tem­por­ary injunc­tion was issued in Septem­ber 1997 on the expli­cit under­stand­ing that a full leg­al hear­ing would be needed before it could be made per­man­ent. Dav­id has now been denied this.

Also, the injunc­tion has been abused repeatedly, for example allow­ing the gov­ern­ment to spin lies against him when he wished to reveal the wrong­ful con­vic­tion of two inno­cent Palestini­ans, Samar Alami and Jawad Bot­meh, for the bomb­ing of the Israeli embassy in Lon­don in 1994. Also, when he tried to alert the gov­ern­ment to murder and a major ter­ror­ist attack organ­ised by MI6 officers in the Gad­dafi plot, he did so leg­ally via the injunction.

For his pains, he was the one thrown in pris­on in Par­is in 1998.

The injunc­tion has also repeatedly been used to intim­id­ate journ­al­ists (one of whom was tried and con­victed) and to stop the media invest­ig­at­ing the crimin­al­ity of MI5 and MI6. With this rul­ing, the judge has also abol­ished at one stroke the medi­a’s right to pub­lish whis­tleblowers’ testi­mony if they can argue it caused no dam­age to nation­al security.

If any future whis­tleblower emerges from the intel­li­gence ser­vices, and is injunc­ted, the media has lost this defence, enshrined by par­lia­ment in crim­in­al law (Sec­tion 1.5 of the OSA). And why is an injunc­tion neces­sary any­way? There already exists a crim­in­al sanc­tion under the Offi­cial Secret Act. The judge was kind enough to say that the injunc­tion was for David’s own good and would stop him hav­ing to break the OSA again! We are through the look­ing glass.

Yours in won­der­land, Annie