The Ottawa Shootings — my RT interview

Yes­ter­day I was asked to do an inter­view on RT in the imme­di­ate after­math of the Ott­awa shoot­ings. As I said, there needs to be a full forensic invest­ig­a­tion, and I would hope that the gov­ern­ment does not use this ter­rible crime as a pre­text for yet fur­ther erosion of con­sti­tu­tion­al rights and civil liber­ties. Calm heads and the rule of law need to pre­vail.

ottowa

New German spy scandal — RT interview

As a second Ger­man intel­li­gence officer was arres­ted for spy­ing for the Amer­ic­ans, here’s my recent RT inter­view on the sub­ject, plus much more:

RT_Interview_09_07_14

France Inter radio interview at CCC

A short radio inter­view about the import­ance of pri­vacy that I did at the recent CCC with France Inter radio:

France Inter Radio inter­view at the CCC from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Rendition and torture — interview on RT

Here’s my recent inter­view on RT’s excel­lent and incis­ive new UK polit­ics pro­gramme, “Going Under­ground”.  In it I dis­cuss rendi­tion, tor­ture, spy over­sight and much more:

Going Under­ground Ep 22 1 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Interview on London Real TV

Here’s my recent inter­view on Lon­don Real TV, dis­cuss­ing all things whis­tleblow­ing, tech, intel­li­gence, and the war on drugs.  Thanks Bri­an and Colin for a fun hour!

London Real TV Interview — coming soon

Here is a taster of my recent inter­view on Lon­don Real TV. It was diverse, lively and fun, and should be broad­cast in full tomor­row:

Annie Machon — Whis­tleblower — Lon­don Real TV from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

RT interview about whistleblower Edward Snowden

The whis­tleblower behind last week’s PRISM leaks dra­mat­ic­ally went pub­lic last night.  Edward Snowden gave an inter­view to Glenn Gre­en­wald of The Guard­i­an explain­ing calmly and cogently why he chose to expose the NSA’s endem­ic data-min­ing. An immensely brave man.

Here is an inter­view I did about the case last night for RT:

And here is the tran­script.

Film Review of “Secrecy” on Cinepolitics, January 2009

Over the last few years I have been a reg­u­lar guest on polit­ic­al dis­cus­sion pro­grammes on the rap­idly grow­ing Press TV.  Occa­sion­ally I am invited onto the film review show, “Cinepol­it­ics”, by the host (and film maker) Rus­sell Michaels

The film under review is a doc­u­ment­ary called “Secrecy”, look­ing at the stifling effect cen­sor­ship and the creep­ing concept of nation­al secur­ity have had on demo­cracy in the USA under the former pres­id­en­tial régime.  When this was filmed in Janu­ary, there was hope that the new pres­id­ency might roll this back.  How­ever, “Secrecy” is just as per­tin­ent now that the issue of tor­ture and Guantanamo Bay is being addressed more openly by the media.

Resonance FM Interview

This is an inter­view I recor­ded for Res­on­ance FM with We Are Change UK, a rap­idly-grow­ing  act­iv­ist group in the USA and Europe, in which I get the chance to dis­cuss the spies, their crimes, cov­er-ups, the media, the war on ter­ror and the erosion of our freedoms, amongst many oth­er issues:

Down­load We_Are_Change_Interview.mp3 (25.4M)

New Statesman Article, August 2008

The new spies

Steph­en Arm­strong

When
the Cold War ended, it didn’t spell cur­tains for the secret agent.
Private espi­on­age is a boom­ing industry and envir­on­ment­al protest
groups are its prime tar­get

                  


 

As you hunker down for the last few days of the Camp for Cli­mate
Action, dis­cuss­ing how to force your way into King­s­north power sta­tion
in an attempt to pre­vent the con­struc­tion of a new coal facil­ity, cast
your eyes around your fel­low pro­test­ers. Do they look entirely bona
fide to you? And don’t look for the old-school spe­cial branch officers
— Kent Police are a tiny force. It’s the cor­por­ate spies hired by
private com­pan­ies you need to watch out for.

Accord­ing to the private espi­on­age industry itself, roughly one in four of your com­rades is on a multinational’s payroll.

Rus­sell Corn, man­aging dir­ect­or of Dili­gence, one of a grow­ing
num­ber of “cor­por­ate intel­li­gence agen­cies”, with offices high in the
Canary Wharf glass tower, says private spies make up 25 per cent of
every act­iv­ist camp. “If you stuck an inter­cept up near one of those
camps, you wouldn’t believe the amount of out­go­ing calls after every
meet­ing say­ing, ‘Tomor­row we’re going to cut the fence’,” he smiles.
“Eas­ily one in four of the people there are tak­ing the cor­por­ate
shil­ling.”

In April this year, for instance, the anti-avi­ation cam­paign net­work
Plane Stu­pid, one of the main organ­isers of the eco-camp built to
protest against the expan­sion of Heath­row Air­port, announced that one
of its act­iv­ists, Ken Tobi­as, was actu­ally called Toby Kend­all, was
work­ing for a cor­por­ate espi­on­age firm called C2i, and had been leak­ing
inform­a­tion about the group to pay­ing cli­ents and the media. He had
been hired by an as yet unknown private com­pany to provide inform­a­tion
and dis­rupt the group’s cam­paign­ing.

When Tobi­as first turned up at Plane Stupid’s meet­ings in July 2007,
he seemed a com­mit­ted former Oxford stu­dent ded­ic­ated to redu­cing
air­craft emis­sions. The group gradu­ally became sus­pi­cious because he
showed up early at meet­ings, con­stantly pushed for increas­ingly drama
tic dir­ect action and — the ulti­mate giveaway — dressed a little too
well for an eco­w­ar­ri­or. When they showed his pic­ture around Oxford they
found an old col­lege pal who iden­ti­fied him as Toby Kend­all. A quick
Google search revealed his Bebo page with a link to a cor­por­ate
net­work­ing site, where his job as an “ana­lyst” at C2i Inter­na­tion­al,
work­ing in “secur­ity and invest­ig­a­tions”, was pas­ted in full pub­lic
view.

Just a month earli­er, a woman called Cara Schaf­fer had con­tac­ted the
Student/Farmworker Alli­ance, an ideal­ist­ic bunch of Amer­ic­an col­lege
stu­dents who lobby fast-food com­pan­ies to help migrant work­ers in
Flor­ida who har­vest toma­toes. Like the cockle-pick­ers of More­cambe Bay,
many of these work­ers are smuggled into the US by gangs which then take
their pass­ports and force them to work without pay to clear often
fic­ti­tious debts to regain their papers.

Digging up dirt

Again, Schaffer’s excess­ive eager­ness aroused sus­pi­cion, and again,
the inter­net revealed her true iden­tity. She owned Dip­lo­mat­ic Tac­tic­al
Ser­vices, a private espi­on­age firm which had pre viously hired as a
sub­con­tract­or one Guillermo Zara bozo, today facing murder charges in
Miami for his role in allegedly execut­ing four crew mem­bers of a
chartered fish­ing boat, an alleg­a­tion he denies. Schaf­fer turned out to
be work­ing for Bur­ger King — the home, per­haps appro­pri­ately, of the
Whop­per.

The cute thing about these two bozos is that they got caught pretty
early on, but that was because they were young and had no back­ground in
espi­on­age.

The real mar­ket is in prop­er, old-school spies who are sud­denly
enter­ing the private sec­tor. For pro­fes­sion­al spooks, the 1990s were no
fun at all. The Cold War was over, defence spend­ing was down and a
detailed know­ledge of cold-drop tech­niques in cent­ral Ber­lin was
use­less to gov­ern­ments look­ing for Arab­ic speak­ers who knew the Qur­an.

From New York and Lon­don to Moscow and Beijing, any decent-sized
cor­por­a­tion can now hire former agents from the CIA, FBI, MI5, MI6 and
the KGB. The ex-spooks are selling their old skills and con­tacts to
mul­tina­tion­als, hedge funds and olig­archs, dig­ging up dirt on
com­pet­it­ors, uncov­er­ing the secrets of board­room rivals and expos­ing
invest­ment tar­gets. They are also keep­ing tabs on journ­al­ists,
pro­test­ers and even poten­tial employ­ees.

MI5 and MI6 in par­tic­u­lar have always guided ex-employ­ees into
secur­ity com­pan­ies,” explains Annie Machon, the former MI5 agent who
helped Dav­id Shayler blow the whistle on the secur­ity ser­vices back in
1997. “It’s always use­ful to them to have friends they can tap for info
or recruit for a job that requires plaus­ible deni­ab­il­ity. The big
change in recent years has been the huge growth in these com­pan­ies.
Where before it was a hand­ful of private detect­ive agen­cies, now there
are hun­dreds of mul­tina­tion­al secur­ity organ­isa­tions, which oper­ate
with less reg­u­la­tion than the spooks them­selves,” she says.

Corn’s com­pany Dili­gence, for instance, was set up in 2000 by Nick
Day, a former MI5 spy, and an ex-CIA agent, Mike Baker. Before long,
the duo had built up a roster of high-pay­ing cli­ents includ­ing Enron,
oil and phar­ma­ceut­ic­al com­pan­ies, as well as law firms and hedge funds.
In 2001, a small invest­ment by the Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing com­pany Bar­bour
Grif­fith & Rogers pro­pelled their growth. How­ever, BGR and Baker
sold their stakes in 2005, shortly before a scan­dal shook Dili­gence.
KPMG, the glob­al pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices firm, accused Dili­gence staff of
imper­son­at­ing Brit­ish spies to gain inform­a­tion on a cor­por­ate takeover
for a Rus­si­an tele­coms cli­ent called Alfa Group. Dili­gence settled the
law­suit without admit­ting liab­il­ity.

Since then, it has recruited the former Con­ser­vat­ive Party lead­er
Michael Howard as chair­man of its European oper­a­tions. And it is that
sort of respect­ab­il­ity and lob­by­ing power that big play­ers are after.
In 2007, the par­ent com­pany of the US private mil­it­ary firm Black­wa­ter,
which hit the head­lines for gun­ning down Iraqi civil­ians in Bagh­dad
last Septem­ber, entered this mar­ket through Total Intel­li­gence
Solu­tions (TIS), a new CIA-type private oper­a­tion, to provide
intel­li­gence ser­vices to com­mer­cial cli­ents.

Discreet investigations

Blackwater’s vice-chair­man, J Cofer Black, who runs TIS, spent three
dec­ades in the CIA and the state depart­ment, becom­ing dir­ect­or of the
Coun­terter­ror­ist Centre and co-ordin­at­or for counter ter­ror­ism, a job
with ambas­sad­ori­al rank. He describes the new com­pany as bring­ing “the
intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing meth­od­o­logy and ana­lyt­ic­al skills tra­di­tion­ally
honed by CIA oper­at­ives dir­ectly to the board­room. With a ser­vice like
this, CEOs and their secur­ity per­son­nel will be able to respond to
threats quickly and con­fid­ently — wheth­er it’s determ­in­ing which city
is safest to open a new plant in or work­ing to keep employ­ees out of
harm’s way after a ter­ror­ist attack.”

Black also says TIS will oper­ate a “24/7 intel­li­gence fusion and
warn­ing centre” that will mon­it­or civil unrest, ter­ror­ism, eco­nom­ic
sta­bil­ity, envir­on­ment­al and health con­cerns, and inform­a­tion
tech­no­logy secur­ity around the world.

The estab­lished firms already oper­at­ing in this area include Kroll,
Aegis, Garda, Con­trol Risks, GPW and Hakluyt & Co. More firms are
open­ing every day and there is little reg­u­la­tion of the sec­tor.

Hakluyt & Co was foun­ded in 1995 by former Brit­ish MI6 officers,
with a repu­ta­tion for dis­creet and effect­ive invest­ig­a­tions. The
com­pany but­ler, a former gurkha, greets vis­it­ors to its Lon­don HQ, a
town house off Park Lane. In winter, meet­ings can be con­duc­ted beside
the fire. Com­puters are rarely in sight. Hakluyt’s advis­ory board has
become an exit cham­ber for cap­tains of industry and former gov­ern­ment
offi­cials. Mem­bers have included Sir Rod Edding­ton, a former BA CEO,
and Sir Chris­toph­er Gent, former chief exec­ut­ive of Voda­fone.

It is hard to work well for an oil com­pany without know­ing who all
the key decision-makers in a gov­ern­ment are and hav­ing the right
con­tacts to reach them,” explains Stéphane Gérardin, who runs the
French private secur­ity com­pany Géos. “We have an intel­li­gence sec­tion
where we employ some invest­ig­at­ive journ­al­ists, people from the fin­ance
sec­tor, from equity banks and some from secur­ity back­grounds.

It is an import­ant part of image pro­tec­tion for our cli­ents as
well. We have our own track­ing and mon­it­or­ing centre, with ana­lysts
doing risk map­ping and pre­par­ing our cli­ents for every poten­tial
prob­lem. It could be about alert­ing them to loc­al sens­it­iv­it­ies. Or, in
this glob­al­ised inter­net age, it can be a group of stu­dents in
Cam­bridge who have launched a protest web­site, who may be send­ing out a
peti­tion.

So we need to be able to under­stand and pre­pare our own pro­pa­ganda
to counter such attacks. This is work we do to pro­tect our cli­ents.”

Trusted friend

Like the state secur­ity ser­vices, which ended up run­ning Class War
in the 1990s after a hugely suc­cess­ful pen­et­ra­tion, these spies work to
become reli­able mem­bers of any protest move­ment. In April 2007, the
Cam­paign Against Arms Trade called in the police after court doc­u­ments
showed that the weapons man­u­fac­turer BAE Sys­tems had paid a private
agency to spy on the peace group.

BAE admit­ted that it had paid £2,500 a month to LigneDeux
Asso­ci­ates, whose agent Paul Mer­cer — accep­ted as a trus­ted mem­ber of
the cam­paign — passed inform­a­tion, includ­ing a leg­ally priv­ileged
doc­u­ment, to BAE’s dir­ect­or of secur­ity, Mike McGinty.

Unlike the secur­ity ser­vices, how­ever, these ser­vices don’t both­er
with pen­et­rat­ing the far left or anti-fas­cist groups. Their cli­ents are
only inter­ested in the protest move­ments that threaten cor­por­a­tions.
And as that is the nature of much protest in these times, it is a wide
field, but with a par­tic­u­lar impact on envir­on­ment­al groups.

At any of this summer’s green protests the cor­por­ate spies will be
there, out-of-work MI5 agents tap­ping green act­iv­ists’ mobile phones to
sell the inform­a­tion on to inter­ested com­pan­ies.

Rus­sell Corn knows of incid­ents where a spook at a meet­ing has
sug­ges­ted a high-street bank as a tar­get, then left the meet­ing to
phone the officers of said bank, telling them that he has pen­et­rated an
act­iv­ist camp plan­ning an attack and offer­ing to sell the details. Corn
has no time for such beha­viour, how­ever.

The thing about a really good private spy,” he tells me, “is that you’ll nev­er know he’s around and he’ll nev­er get caught.

The fact you can’t see them … it means noth­ing at all.”

Emel Magazine, November 2007

Inter­view in Emel Magazine, Novem­ber 2007

Table Talk

Espi­on­age, intrigue and life-on-the-run are all part and par­cel of Annie Machon’s his­tory. Sad­ia Chow­dhury speaks to the former MI5 agent about the con­sequences of expos­ing what goes on behind the scenes at one of the world’s most renowned secret
ser­vices.

It was the Sat­urday night of the August bank-hol­i­day  week­end in 1997 when Annie Machon and her boy­friend packed their bags and took the first two seats they could find out of Bri­tain.  They had spent the last ten months of
their lives try­ing to settle into their new jobs know­ing that a day would come when they would blow the whistle on  their former employ­er
and turn their lives upside down.

Machon had turned her back on a six-year career as a spy to stand by the man she loved.  Her boy­friend was Dav­id Shayler, a high-fly­ing MI5 officer who exposed, what he said, was the Intel­li­gence Service’s plot to assas­sin­ate the Liby­an lead­er, Muam­mar Gad­dafi.

The two are no longer togeth­er but as we meet for cof­fee in a Lon­don hotel, Machon shows no regret at the way things took shape.  Dressed entirely in black, it’s her sun­shine blonde hair that lights up an oth­er­wise dull back­ground to the city’s scaf­fold-clad land­scape.

Her life as an MI5 officer was no James Bond film, but you can still see that Machon is the per­fect spy.  With an unsus­pect­ing face and a hand­shake that feels like you have known her all your life, the 39 year old cam­paign­er res­cinds the myth of the glam­or­ous, mar­tini-sip­ping spy world.  “No, it’s much, much more mundane”, she laments before telling me that much of the job can con­sti­tute mind numb­ing behind-the-desk work.

But unknown to Machon at the time, a career that star­ted off as a simple applic­a­tion to work for the For­eign Office, soon developed into a plot fit for a block­buster Hol­ly­wood movie.

My first reac­tion was ‘It’s MI5!’  I was really quite frightened”, she says, recall­ing a let­ter from the Min­istry of Defence which offered her altern­at­ive jobs with the Intel­li­gence Ser­vices.  “My fath­er was with me when I opened the lat­ter and he just said ‘let’s see what hap­pens’. ”

What ‘happened’ was ten months of intens­ive applic­a­tion pro­cesses for the Cam­bridge Clas­sics stu­dent to under­go at the estab­lish­ment. Recov­er­ing from a post-Cold War repu­ta­tion marred with embar­rass­ing rev­el­a­tions and intel­li­gence fail­ures, Machon says her recruit­ers insisted they were aim­ing to work with­in the leg­al frame­work for the
first time.

It was 1990, only one year after the Secur­ity Ser­vice Act placed the Ser­vice on a stat­utory
basis: a fact that helped Machon believe what she was being told. “They were say­ing ‘we obey the law, we work with­in the law; we don’t do all the polit­ic­al stuff like we used to’.  But unfor­tu­nately my first post­ing was in the polit­ic­al sec­tion so I learnt quite quickly that they had lied to me.”

Machon con­fesses a scep­tic­al atti­tude soon developed after she was instruc­ted to uncov­er “old com­mun­ists” sum­mar­ising files on any­body who stood for par­lia­ment in the 1992 elec­tions.  Shar­ing her strong con­cerns was one Dav­id Shayler, a former Sunday Times journ­al­ist who had worked with her in F2, the counter-sub­ver­sion sec­tion of MI5.

With­in a year, the two fell in love — a bond that was to see them stand togeth­er against what she describes as a cata­logue of errors and crimes com­mit­ted by MI5.  “There was a lot of con­cern about how MI5 wasn’t obey­ing the law and how it was get­ting its pri­or­it­ies wrong,” Machon says, hasten­ing to add that oth­er officers had approached man­age­ment with their con­cerns only to be told to shut up.  “Most organ­isa­tions are pyr­am­id shaped and MI5 has this bulge in the middle, full of man­agers who aren’t going any­where because they’re not very good at their jobs.  But they don’t get sacked and they were the ones block­ing a lot of the new ideas that were com­ing in.”

One con­sequence of this incom­pet­ence, Machon explains, left MI5 with blood on its hands. Machon and Shayler were moved to T Branch, where they worked on coun­ter­ing Irish ter­ror­ist threats.  Shayler was to claim later that MI5 could have pre­ven­ted the 1993 IRA bomb­ing of Bish­opsgate in the City of Lon­don, which left one dead and 44 injured.

You’re in the fir­ing line,” Machon tells me plainly, paus­ing a moment as the wait­ress brings cof­fee to our table.  She goes on to describe the events that lead her to leave MI5 before slowly push­ing down on the fil­ter.  It was still the early 1990s and Machon’s part­ner Shayler was now head of the Liby­an desk, respons­ible for ‘Middle East­ern ter­ror­ism’.

He was allegedly briefed by his MI6 coun­ter­part about a plot to assas­sin­ate the Liby­an lead­er.  It is thought the plan involved fund­ing and equip­ping a Liby­an oppos­i­tion group which Machon describes as an “Islam­ic extrem­ist net­work” to carry out the deed.  In March 1996, a bomb exploded in the coastal city of Sirte, miss­ing Gaddafi’s motor­cade but killing sev­er­al civil­ians.  Shayler claimed that MI6 had been involved in the failed assas­sin­a­tion attack without the author­isa­tion of the then for­eign sec­ret­ary — as
required under Eng­lish and inter­na­tion­al law.  The Intel­li­gence Ser­vices denied any involve­ment in this, or sev­er­al oth­er cases that Shayler accuses the Ser­vice of being com­pli­cit in.  One of those incid­ents took place in July 1994, when a car bomb exploded out­side the Israeli embassy in Lon­don injur­ing 20 people: an attack Shayler says had pri­or know­ledge of and could have pre­ven­ted.

Half-way through her cof­fee, Machon goes back to the events of 1996 when she and Shayler decided to leave.  “It was incre­ment­al because you got pos­ted every two years to a new sec­tion and you think ‘okay, that sec­tion was wrong but the new sec­tion has dif­fer­ent man­agers and is going to be bet­ter’.  But we moved three times and every time we saw the same mis­takes hap­pen.  Then the Gad­dafi plot pushed our decision to leave.”  Nor was it just Shayler and Machon who quit the Intel­li­gence Ser­vice that year.  Four­teen oth­er officers who had all been recruited around the same time left MI5 in the same year — up from an aver­age of two or three depar­tures a year.

It took about a year to get the whole thing work­ing.  After about ten months, we got this
phone call — Dav­id was called by The Mail on Sunday to meet the edit­or and we were giv­en three days notice that our lives were going to be turned upside down.”  Machon recalls how the Mail’s edit­or offered Shayler cash to leave the coun­try and avoid arrest.
“At that stage after a year of build-up, we just packed up and left.

The couple flew out to Hol­land, then on to France, spend­ing the next month on the run mov­ing from hotel to hotel almost every night.  Machon then decided to return to the UK, and doesn’t hes­it­ate as she relates the story — one she’s prob­ably told a thou­sand times but one that still brings a look of amuse­ment to her face.  “I flew back with my law­yer John
Wadham, head of Liberty, the human rights organ­isa­tion.  He had already told the police that I was com­ing back — on which flight, at what time, and that I was going to hand myself in.  So it was a bit of a shock to be met at immig­ra­tion by six Spe­cial Branch officers who pulled me off to a counter-ter­ror­ism suite in Char­ing Cross police sta­tion!”

Machon was released after a day of ques­tion­ing and a week later joined Shayler back in
France.  “We had ten months holed up in this freez­ing cold, really remote farm house.  And dur­ing that time we tried to nego­ti­ate with the gov­ern­ment say­ing ‘look, we have all this oth­er evid­ence to give you so you can build an enquiry’, but they just strung it out, kept us quiet, and did noth­ing.”

It was a par­tic­u­larly stress­ful time for both Shayler and Machon; as whis­tleblowers they had depended on sup­port from the press, but with Diana’s death just a week after their story broke, Machon says they lost the sup­port that had been build­ing amongst the media.  “We didn’t know what to do.  We had no chance of get­ting anoth­er job because once you blow the whistle, oth­er big organ­isa­tions don’t trust you.”  But does she regret what she did?  “No.  You can’t regret any­thing in life.  I am still proud of what Dav­id and I did.  Someone has got to take a stand some­times.”

The ques­tion is of course, wheth­er she will have trouble tak­ing that stand now: espe­cially as after a dec­ade since The Mail on Sunday art­icle was released and after hav­ing spent years on the run togeth­er, Machon and Shayler split up last year.  Dav­id Shayler now lives in Devon and fre­quents the media over a dif­fer­ent rev­el­a­tion:  his recent con­vic­tion that he is the Mes­si­ah.  In a recent tele­vi­sion appear­ance he said “As the Holy Spir­it is God incarn­ate as essence, I am God incarn­ated as spir­it and man.”  Machon takes a moment to con­tem­plate and in reac­tion to my ques­tion simply says, “The stress just got to him.”  Her answers now become short­er and short­er.  “We sep­ar­ated last year”, before adding, “I’m sure even­tu­ally we’ll regain our friend­ship.”

But doesn’t Machon think her former partner’s claims will ruin their cred­ib­il­ity?  “I think yes, it has des­troyed his cred­ib­il­ity and I think that’s tra­gic.  It’s a gift for the intel­li­gence agency — they can turn around and say ‘oh, well, he always was mad — he’s a fan­tas­ist’,
which is unfor­tu­nate because what we were talk­ing about was so import­ant in terms of where our demo­cracy is and who really runs this coun­try.”

A final sip of cof­fee con­cludes our meet­ing as Machon pre­pares to leave the grey city­scape back­drop for yet anoth­er appoint­ment.  Though scorn of recent rev­el­a­tions seeks to under­mine what the two ex-spies were fight­ing for, when it comes to strug­gling to unveil the truth, Annie Machon for one can­not be as eas­ily dis­missed.

November 2006 — Independent Interview

Forget Bond: MI5 wants cat-loving twentysomethings

Britain’s spy­mas­ters are look­ing for a new kind of recruit to tackle a dif­fer­ent threat. The Independent’s Soph­ie Good­child and Lauren Veevers ask an ex-agent about the job.

They seek her here; they seek her there; that damned elu­sive cos­met­ic-buy­ing, weepy-watch­ing, cat-own­ing, Itali­an food-lov­ing, female couch potato with a mind like a spring trap. That is the new quarry of Britain’s spy­mas­ters.

An advert­ise­ment spe­cify­ing these char­ac­ter­ist­ics has been placed in magazines by that hitherto shad­owy employ­er, the secur­ity ser­vice. It shows the back view of an Afro-haired, twenty-some­thing woman in a T-shirt.

Those seek­ing work in the domest­ic secret intel­li­gence ser­vice, MI5, are referred to: mi5​ca​reers​.gov​.uk/​s​u​r​v​e​i​l​l​a​nce, where the invis­ible ink bri­gade says: “We par­tic­u­larly wel­come applic­a­tions from women and eth­nic minor­it­ies.”

Salar­ies for a mobile sur­veil­lance officer start at £24,121 for what MI5 describes as: “A
remark­able job, under­taken by remark­able people. But you would nev­er know to look at them. Because they need to blend into the back­ground, officers are of aver­age height, build and gen­er­al appear­ance.” The selec­tion pro­cess can take up to eight months and con­sists of intense inter­views and rig­or­ous aptitude tests.

For the post of intel­li­gence officer, hope­fuls receive a lengthy applic­a­tion form which
asks for examples of how you have worked co-oper­at­ively, used ini­ti­at­ive and judge­ment, and shown “drive and resi­li­ence”. Applic­ants who pass inter­view stages will, of course, be required to sign the Offi­cial Secrets Act.

One woman who did ful­fil the role for real is Annie Machon. Ms Machon, 38, joined MI5’s polit­ic­al and counter-ter­ror­ism depart­ment in 1991 on gen­er­al duties. Annie was so
dis­gus­ted by the secur­ity service’s fail­ings that she and her agent part­ner, Dav­id Shayler, went on the record, break­ing the Offi­cial Secrets Act. They spent two years on the run and Dav­id was jailed six months in 2002 for break­ing the Offi­cial Secrets Act.

Her advice for new recruits? “Don’t do it! When I star­ted, there were quite a few women that worked there but many of them were admin based. The main prob­lem the secur­ity ser­vices have is retain­ing agents. When Dav­id and I left, lots more did too — just not so pub­licly.”

The BBC’s pop­u­lar Spooks and the Amer­ic­an equi­val­ent, 24, have raised the pro­file
of MI5 as a female career option. But Ms Machon says, “Pro­grammes like Spooks are not really accur­ate and so glam­or­ise the job a bit, but I also think they high­light the dan­ger­ous side to the job which may put some women off. I nev­er saw the skills involved in gender terms. An officer requires a broad range of skills; intel­lect, organ­isa­tion­al skills, ana­lyt­ic­al skills and the skill to identi­fy a threat in the first place.

I don’t think that women make par­tic­u­larly bet­ter spies than men — but I sup­pose the gen­er­al per­cep­tion of an agent is male, so when inter­view­ing people they may open up more to a woman than a man.”

Ms Machon author of Spies, Lies and Whis­tleblowers: MI5 and the Dav­id Shayler Affair, said: “MI5’s wish list as far as recruits go is huge — but that doesn’t mean that the people who get through have all those things. When I was there the level of staff who were incom­pet­ent was a real worry. They have clearly broadened their recruit­ment policy but I expect that the long pro­cess with still be just as strin­gent. When I was a recruit­er we had 20,000 people apply­ing to be James Bond, but only about five got through.”

Jane Feath­er­stone, exec­ut­ive pro­du­cer of Spooks, said: “At first the intel­li­gence ser­vices were res­ist­ant, and they let that be known through former mem­bers who acted as tech­nic­al advisers on Spooks. Then they thought it might help to recruit new spies. They even used the first series to help with their advert­ising cam­paign. But they were deluged with people who thought the job involved walk­ing around in Armani sav­ing the plan­et.”

Mir­anda Rais­on, who plays MI5 agent Jo Port­man in Spooks, said the pro­duc­tion team tried to make the por­tray­al of female oper­at­ives as authen­t­ic as pos­sible. She said the ori­gin­al cast had met mem­bers of the intel­li­gence ser­vice to dis­cuss how to play
their roles.

They got a lot of lit­er­at­ure togeth­er from that, and since then, cast mem­bers have been giv­en a pack full of stor­ies on genu­ine oper­a­tions to learn from. There are lots of things you wouldn’t expect in there: for example, how to oper­ate under­cov­er, or as a hon­eytrap — but it’s much more bru­tal than you’d ima­gine.”

MI5 is keen to receive applic­a­tions from eth­nic minor­it­ies to help infilt­rate Muslim ter­ror­ist groups. Its dir­ect­or gen­er­al, Dame Eliza Man­ning­ham-Buller, recently warned that MI5 is invest­ig­at­ing 30 known ter­ror plots in the UK.

Sunday Tribune Interview, 2005

Irish Sunday Tribune, July 2005

What really went on in the secret ser­vice?

Suz­anne Breen

THEYRE prob­ably out there now, walk­ing about, look­ing for tar­gets, ” says former spy,  Annie Machon, as she sur­veys the bust­ling bars, res­taur­ants and shops in Gatwick Air­port.  MI5 used Heath­row and Gatwick in train­ing courses.  Officers would be sent to the air­ports and instruc­ted to come back with one person’s name, address, date of birth, occu­pa­tion and pass­port or driv­ing licence num­ber … the basic inform­a­tion for MI5 to open a per­son­al file.

They’d have to go up to a com­plete stranger and start chat­ting to them. One male officer nearly got arres­ted.  It was much easi­er for women officers … nobody’s sus­pi­cious of a woman ask­ing ques­tions.”

Tall, blonde and strik­ingly eleg­ant, Machon (37) could have stepped out of a TV spy drama. She arrives in a simple black dress, with pearl ear­rings, and per­fect oyster nails.  She is charm­ingly polite but, no mat­ter how many ques­tions you ask, she retains the slightly detached, inscrut­able air that prob­ably made her good at her job.

A Cam­bridge Clas­sics gradu­ate, her book, <em>Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers</em>, has just been pub­lished. She worked in ‘F’ branch … MI5’s counter-sub­ver­sion sec­tion … and ‘T’ branch, where she had a rov­ing brief on Irish ter­ror­ism.  MI5 took 15 months to vet the book. Sec­tions have been blacked out. If Machon dis­closes fur­ther inform­a­tion without approv­al, she could face pro­sec­u­tion under the Offi­cial Secrets Act.

She left MI5 deeply dis­il­lu­sioned. In 1997, she went on the run from the UK with her boy­friend, former fel­low spy Dav­id Shayler (39). He was sub­sequently jailed for dis­clos­ing secrets, includ­ing that MI6 had allegedly fun­ded a plot to assas­sin­ate Col­on­el Gad­dafi.

Machon had “respons­ib­il­ity and free­dom” in MI5 when com­bat­ing Irish ter­ror­ism. “It was won­der­ful when you got res­ults, when you stopped a bomb. That was why I’d joined.  There was a huge under­stand­ing of the IRA and the North­ern Ire­land con­flict.  We weren’t just a bunch of big­ots say­ing “string up the ter­ror­ists”. Some man­agers might have had that atti­tude but it wasn’t shared by most officers.  They acknow­ledged the IRA as the most pro­fes­sion­al ter­ror­ist organ­isa­tion they’d dealt with. Loy­al­ists, and repub­lic­an splinter groups like the INLA, were a lot less soph­ist­ic­ated.”

Machon didn’t wit­ness state col­lu­sion but is “watch­ing with interest” as cases unfold. She voices some eth­ic­al con­cerns: MI5 ran a Garda officer as an undeclared agent, which was illeg­al in the Repub­lic.  If it wanted to tap a phone in the Repub­lic, no war­rant was needed and there was no over­sight pro­ced­ure. An MI5 officer simply asked GCHQ, which inter­cepts com­mu­nic­a­tion, to set it up.

MI5’s approach to the law led to bizarre situ­ations:

Officers cov­ertly entered a house in North­ern Ire­land to install bug­ging equip­ment.  They trashed it up and stole things to make it look like a burg­lary. But MI5 law­yers said it wasn’t leg­ally accept­able to steal so the officers had to go and put the goods back which made it look even more sus­pi­cious.”

Machon atten­ded secur­ity meet­ings in North­ern Ire­land. Her life was nev­er in danger, she says. The only col­leagues she knew who were killed were on the Chinook heli­copter which crashed off the Mull of Kintyre in 1994.

Machon had joined the intel­li­gence ser­vices three years earli­er. She worked from an office in Bolton Street, May­fair, one of MI5’s three build­ings in Lon­don.  “It was very dilap­id­ated.  There were ancient phones, with wires cross­ing the floor stuck down with tape.  It had battered wooden desks and thread­bare car­pets. There were awful lime-green walls. The dress code in MI5 was very Marks and Spen­cer. MI6 (which com­bats ter­ror­ism abroad) was much smarter, more Saville Row.”

MI5’s pres­ence in the build­ing was meant to be a secret but every­body knew, says Machon: “The guide on the open-top Lon­don tour bus which passed by would tell pas­sen­gers, ‘and on your right is MI5’.  We were advised to get out of tax­is at the top of the street, not the front door, but all the drivers knew any­way. Later, we moved to mod­ern headquar­ters in Thames House.”

Being a spy isn’t what people think, Machon says.  “It wasn’t exactly James Bond, with glam­or­ous, cock­tail-drink­ing espi­on­age.  There were excit­ing bits, like meet­ing agents in safe houses, but there were plenty of bor­ing days.  Mostly, I’d be pro­cessing ‘lin­en’ — the product from tele­phone taps … or read­ing inter­cep­ted mail or agents’ reports. You get to know your tar­gets well from eaves­drop­ping on their lives.  You learn all sorts of things, like if they’re sleep­ing with someone behind their partner’s back. It’s sur­real know­ing so much about people you don’t know; and then it rap­idly becomes very nor­mal.”

Machon claims the intel­li­gence ser­vices were often sham­bol­ic, and blun­ders meant three IRA bombs in 1993 … includ­ing Bish­opsgate, which cost £350m …could have been pre­ven­ted.  “MI5 has this super-slick image but some­times it was just a very Brit­ish muddle.  Tapes from tele­phone taps would be binned without being tran­scribed because there wasn’t the per­son­nel to listen to them.  On occa­sions, MI5 did respond quickly, but then it could take weeks to get a war­rant for a phone tap because man­agers pondered so long over the applic­a­tion word­ing … wheth­er to use ‘but’ or ‘how­ever’, ‘may’ or ‘might’.

Mobile sur­veil­lance (who fol­low tar­gets) were bloody good. There were some amaz­ingly cap­able officers who were often wasted.  Des­pite everything prom­ised about MI5 mod­ern­ising, it remained very hier­arch­ic­al, with the old guard, which had cut its teeth in the Cold War, dom­in­at­ing.  They were used to a stat­ic tar­get. They’re not up to the job of deal­ing with mobile extrem­ist Islam­ic ter­ror­ism. We’ve been play­ing catch-up with al Qaeda for years.”

Machon says MI5 pays sur­pris­ingly badly: “I star­ted on £15,000 … entrants now get about £20,000. A detect­ive con­stable in the Met was on twice my salary.  Of course, it’s about more than money but you must reward to keep good people.  If you pay pea­nuts, you end up with mon­keys.”

Machon grew up in Guern­sey, in the Chan­nel Islands, the daugh­ter of a news­pa­per edit­or. “I was apolit­ic­al. My only know­ledge of spy­ing was watch­ing John Le Carre’s drama Tinker, Tail­or, Sol­dier, Spy.”  After tak­ing For­eign Office exams, she received a let­ter on MoD note­pa­per.  “There may be oth­er jobs you would find more inter­est­ing, ” it said. Intrigued, she rang. It was MI5.

Dur­ing the recruit­ment pro­cess, every aspect of her life from the age of 12 was invest­ig­ated. “I’d to nom­in­ate four friends from dif­fer­ent phases of my life. After they were ques­tioned, they had to nom­in­ate anoth­er four people.  I con­fessed to smoking dope twice. I was quizzed about my sexu­al his­tory by a sweet old lady who looked like my grand­moth­er but resembled Miss Marple in her inter­rog­a­tion.  She asked if I was gay.  The rules have since changed, but then MI5 regarded homo­sexu­al­ity as a defect. If you lied and were found out, you’d be sacked on the spot.  In the­ory, they regarded promis­cu­ity as a weak­ness, but there were plenty of extra-mar­it­al affairs. One couple were twice caught shag­ging in the office.  The male officer, who was very bad at his job, was put on ‘garden­ing leave’ … sent home on full pay. The woman, an Arab­ic-speak­ing trans­lat­or who was great at her job, was sacked.”

A cul­ture of “rampant drunk­en­ness” exis­ted, says Machon: “There was an oper­a­tion against a Czech dip­lo­mat who was also a spy.  The officer run­ning it got pissed, went round with his mates to the diplomat’s house, and shouted oper­a­tion­al details through the let­ter-box at him.”

Recruits were encour­aged to tell fam­ily and close friends they were MI5, and any­one else that they worked for the MoD.

MI5 had one mil­lion per­son­al files (PFs), Machon says. “I came across files on celebrit­ies, prom­in­ent politi­cians, law­yers, and journ­al­ists. It was ridicu­lous. There were files on Jack Straw, Mo Mow­lam, Peter Hain, Patri­cia Hewitt, Ted Heath, Tony and Cher­ie Blair, Gareth Peirce, and Mohamed Al Fayed.  There was a file on ‘sub­vers­ives’ in the music industry, includ­ing the Sex Pis­tols and UB40.

At recruit­ment, I was told MI5 no longer obsessed about ‘reds under the bed’, yet there was a file on a school­boy who had writ­ten to the Com­mun­ist Party ask­ing for inform­a­tion for a school pro­ject.  A man divor­cing his wife had writ­ten to MI5 say­ing she was a com­mun­ist, so a file was opened on her. MI5 nev­er des­troys a file.”

The rank­ing in import­ance of tar­gets could be sur­pris­ing. PF3 was (and is) Leon Trot­sky; PF2, Vladi­mir Ilych Len­in; PF1 was Eamon De Valera.

MI5 cur­rently has around 3,000 employ­ees. About a quarter are officers; the rest are tech­nic­al, admin­is­trat­ive and oth­er sup­port staff, accord­ing to Machon.

In recent years, MI5 appoin­ted two female dir­ect­or gen­er­als … Stella Rim­ming­ton, and the cur­rent dir­ect­or gen­er­al, Dame Eliza Man­ning­ham-But­ler. “I always found Stella very cold and I wasn’t impressed with her cap­ab­il­it­ies. There was an ele­ment of token­ism in her appoint­ment.  Eliza is like Ann Widdecombe’s bossy sis­ter, ” says Machon, mis­chiev­ously rais­ing an eye­brow. “She scares a lot of men. She is seen as hand-bag­ging her way to the top.”

Machon says the only way of respond­ing to the grow­ing ter­ror­ist threat is for the present intel­li­gence infra­struc­ture to be replaced by a single counter-ter­ror­ist agency.  The intense rivalry between MI5, MI6, Spe­cial Branch and mil­it­ary intel­li­gence means they’re often more hos­tile to each oth­er than to their tar­gets. ID cards and fur­ther dra­coni­an secur­ity legis­la­tion will offer no pro­tec­tion, she says.

Machon was act­ive in the anti-war cam­paign. She believes there is an “80% chance” that Dr Dav­id Kelly, the gov­ern­ment sci­ent­ist who ques­tioned the claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruc­tion with­in 45 minutes, didn’t com­mit sui­cide but was murdered on MI5’s instruc­tions.

Oth­er sus­pi­cious minds won­der if Machon and Shayler ever left MI5. Could it be an elab­or­ate plot to make them more effect­ive agents? By pos­ing as whis­tleblowers, they gain the entry to rad­ic­al, leftwing circles.

Machon dis­misses this the­ory: “It would be very deep cov­er indeed to go to those lengths. Gareth Peirce is our soli­cit­or. She trusts us and she’s no fool.” Machon says while they have no regrets, they’ve paid a huge emo­tion­al and fin­an­cial price for chal­len­ging the secret state. They sur­vive on money from the odd news­pa­per art­icle and TV inter­view. Home is a small ter­raced house in East­bourne, east Sus­sex, where they grow toma­toes and have two cats.

Are they still friends with serving MI5 officers? “No com­ment!” says Machon with a smile. These days, she goes places she nev­er did.

When she addresses leftwing meet­ings, someone often approaches at the end.  “You must know my file?” they say.

Spies, Lies & Whis­tleblowers’ by Annie Machon is pub­lished by The Book Guild, £17.95

Guardian Interview 2002 — The spy who loved me

Stu­art Jef­fries of The Guard­i­an inter­viewed me in Novem­ber 2002:

The Spy who Loved Me

Annie Machon quit her job at MI5 and endured three years on the run — all for the sake of her part­ner Dav­id Shayler, who was jailed last week. She tells Stu­art Jef­fries why.

Annie Machon fell in love with a spy code­named G9A/1. It was 1991 and she had been work­ing in MI5’s counter-sub­vers­ives sec­tion for two months. “The first thing I noticed about him is that he’s leon­ine,” she says over lunch. “I think he’s drop-dead gor­geous. We’d be in sec­tion meet­ings which we’d get dragged to occa­sion­ally and told what to think. He stood out because he asked the awk­ward ques­tions. He was very clear-cut and chal­len­ging.”

G9A/1 was Dav­id Shayler, the reneg­ade Brit­ish spy who last week was sen­tenced to six months for break­ing the Offi­cial Secrets Act after leak­ing secret doc­u­ments to the press. He’s the one reg­u­larly branded as a fat, sweaty, boozy, big-mouthed trait­or. The kind of upstart who might take his mar­tini stirred rather than shaken. “Yes, that’s what they say, isn’t it?” says Machon, as she lights anoth­er cigar­ette. She exhales. “He’s noth­ing like that. Every­body loves to por­tray him as this slob from the north-east. But he’s not only a whis­tleblower try­ing to do some­thing hon­our­able. He’s also really intel­li­gent. I love him, and am very proud of him for what he did.”

Some people think you’re the brains behind Shayler. “That’s not true. When I star­ted at MI5, I went in as GD5. GD stands for gen­er­al duties. It’s very gradist. Dave went in as GD4, which meant that they were fast track­ing him. They thought he was really sharp. And they were right. In fact, he’s very sparky and great com­pany. We just clicked, basic­ally.” How did MI5 bosses feel about office romances? “They encour­aged them. They regarded those sorts of rela­tion­ships as polit­ic­ally expedi­ent, and oper­a­tion­ally quite sens­ible. There were quite a few couples at MI5.”

How did Annie Machon, a clas­sics gradu­ate from Gir­ton Col­lege, Cam­bridge, get recruited as a spook in the first place? A nudge in the quad, a glass of sherry with a shifty don? “No, I had sat the exam to be a dip­lo­mat. Then I got a let­ter.” She was impressed by the 10-month recruit­ment pro­cess. “It was very thor­ough with lots of tests and back­ground checks. It seemed like a pro­fes­sion­al organ­isa­tion. We were sup­posed to be part of the new gen­er­a­tion. People from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and dif­fer­ent exper­i­ences were sup­posed to be brought in — people who could think on their feet and think lat­er­ally. We both joined think­ing it soun­ded good for the coun­try, which sounds quite ideal­ist­ic now.”

When did scep­ti­cism set in? “Very quickly.” Machon and Shayler were employed to look for reds under the bed, but they couldn’t find any, even though they stud­ied the file on that dan­ger­ous leftwing sub­vers­ive Peter Man­del­son ever so assidu­ously. “We were basic­ally try­ing to track down old com­mun­ists, Trot­sky­ists and fas­cists, which to us seemed like a waste of time. The Ber­lin Wall had come down sev­er­al years before. We were both hor­ri­fied that dur­ing the 1992 elec­tion we were sum­mar­ising files on any­body who stood for par­lia­ment. We were also hor­ri­fied by the scale of the invest­ig­a­tions. We both argued most voci­fer­ously that we shouldn’t be doing this.”

After two years, both Machon and Shayler were moved to T-branch, where they worked on coun­ter­ing Irish ter­ror­ist threats on the main­land. “We were both doing well. We were good oper­at­ives and they wanted the best in that sec­tion. I don’t want to be egot­ist­ic­al but that was the truth.”

The pair hoped that this rel­at­ively new sec­tion would oper­ate bet­ter. “There were sev­er­al young and tal­en­ted agents who did their best. But because of man­age­ment cock-ups they couldn’t do their jobs prop­erly and peoples’ lives were lost.” What was the prob­lem? “They had all these old man­agers who had been there for donkey’s years. They were caught in the wrong era — instead of deal­ing with stat­ic tar­gets, they had a mobile threat in the IRA and they just couldn’t hack it. It was a night­mare, espe­cially because there were so many agen­cies involved — MI5, Spe­cial Branch, the RUC, GCHQ. They all had their own interests. That was why Bish­opsgate happened.” Shayler later claimed that MI5 could have stopped the 1993 IRA bomb­ing of Bish­opsgate in the City of Lon­don, which left one dead and 44 injured.

Why didn’t you leave then? “It was very easy to get into a stas­is. You have lots of friends there. But when you get to a more estab­lished sec­tion like the Middle East ter­ror­ism sec­tion and you see it’s the same, then you think about quit­ting.”

In 1995, Shayler dis­covered that MI6 had paid an agent who was involved in the plot to assas­sin­ate the Liby­an lead­er, Muam­mar Gadafy. Why was that wrong? “Apart from the immor­al­ity of it, the gen­er­al con­sensus from the intel­li­gence com­munity was that the assas­sin­a­tion of a well-estab­lished head of state by an Islam­ic fun­da­ment­al­ist in a very volat­ile area was not a good idea. It was crazy, but these bozos at MI6 wanted to have a crack at him.”

Then there was the case in which MI5 tapped a journalist’s phone. “For us, that’s what broke the camel’s back. A tap was only to be used in extremis, and this was noth­ing like that.”

Why didn’t you go quietly? “Well, oth­er officers did. In the year we left, 14 officers resigned. The aver­age fig­ure was usu­ally four. It was very scary. Dave is someone who thinks he should fight for what he believes in. And I knew what he was talk­ing about. I knew he had to have the sup­port against the massed forces of dark­ness. When you work there, the only per­son you can report some­thing to is the head of MI5 but if you’re com­plain­ing about alleged crimes on behalf of MI5, they’re not going to allow you to do that, so you’re in a Catch 22 situ­ation.”

In August 1997, Shayler sold his story to the Mail on Sunday. The day before pub­lic­a­tion the couple fled to Utrecht in Hol­land. “We left before the piece came out because they would have knocked down our doors and arres­ted Dave. I felt ter­ri­fied. But we man­aged to stay one step ahead.” Why was he the whis­tle­bower rather than you? “He had more access to what was going on — he was right in the middle of the Gadafy plot — and felt very strongly about it.”

The couple ended up in a French farm­house. “It was in the middle of nowhere. No TV, no car. For 10 months we spent every day togeth­er. He would write his nov­el dur­ing the day.” What were you doing? “I was keep­ing house. We enjoyed each other’s com­pany.” No rows? “Plenty.”

The couple tried to nego­ti­ate to return to Bri­tain without Shayler being pro­sec­uted, but with an under­tak­ing that his alleg­a­tions be offi­cially invest­ig­ated. “We got a com­plete lack of interest.” Then, dur­ing a stay in Par­is, Shayler was arres­ted in a hotel lobby. “We’d just been watch­ing Middles­brough on TV. They lost, of course. Then I didn’t see him for two months.” He spent nearly four months in La Santé, Paris’s top-secur­ity pris­on which also houses Car­los the Jack­al who used to yell “Dav­id Eng­lish!” to the reneg­ade spy from his cell. “I was bereft.” How are you going to deal with his cur­rent impris­on­ment? “I’ll just deal with it. It’s hor­rible, but I’m tough.”

A French judge ruled the extra­di­tion demand was polit­ic­ally motiv­ated and released him. The couple then ren­ted a flat in Par­is and holed up for a year. “As far as the Brit­ish author­it­ies were con­cerned, we could rot. They didn’t want us to come back. We made a little money from journ­al­ism, but this wasn’t the life we wanted.” Why in August 2000 did the spies decide to come home? “We had man­aged to nego­ti­ate a return without risk­ing months of remand. Dave thought he would be able to present his case to peers: yes, he did take £40,000 from the Mail on Sunday but that isn’t why he told the story. He nev­er got the chance. In the tri­al they tied his hands behind his back. He couldn’t say any­thing to the jury. The report­ing restric­tions were extraordin­ary.”

She vis­ited Shayler in jail for the first time on Tues­day. How was he? “He’ll be all right.” Now what? “I wait. And in the mean­time, we get our leg­al case togeth­er. We’re going to Europe, Brit­ish justice is use­less.”

Wouldn’t you like to put all this behind you and get on with your lives. “We will. But not yet. It could take five years to clear his name.” Machon, poised and clad in black, turns a cigar­ette in her fin­gers. “You know, when I star­ted this case I was in my 20s. Now I’m 34. I don’t think I’ll have fin­ished with it until I’m in my 40s. I wish I’d nev­er got involved with MI5. I wouldn’t touch them with a barge­pole if I had my time again.” I leave Machon alone at a café table writ­ing a let­ter to the man no longer code­named G9A/1.