The Blacklist — how to go on the run

Recently I did this inter­view for BBC Click to pro­mote the third series of the excel­lent US spy series “The Black­list”:

How to go on the run from Annie Machon on Vimeo.
The series is appar­ently huge in the USA — and I can see why, as it is good — but little known to date in the UK.

Karma Police

As I type this I am listen­ing to one of my all-time favour­ite albums, Radi­o­head’s sem­in­al “OK, Com­puter”, that was released in spring 1997. The first time I heard it I was spell­bound by its edgi­ness, com­plex­ity, exper­i­ment­al­ism and polit­ic­al over­tones. My part­ner at the time, Dav­id Shayler, took longer to get it. Self-admit­tedly tone deaf, he nev­er under­stood what he laugh­ingly called the “music con­spir­acy” where people just “got” a new album and played it to death.

ST_Spies_on_the_RunHis opin­ion changed drastic­ally over the sum­mer of ’97 after we had blown the whistle on a series of crimes com­mit­ted by the UK’s spy agen­cies. As a res­ult of our actions — the first reports appeared in the Brit­ish media on 24 July 1997 — we had fled the coun­try and gone on the run around Europe for a month. At the end of this sur­real back­pack­ing hol­i­day I returned to the UK to face arrest, pack up our ran­sacked home, and try to com­fort our trau­mat­ised fam­il­ies who had known noth­ing of our whis­tleblow­ing plans.

OK, Com­puter” was the soundtrack to that month spent on the run across the Neth­er­lands, Bel­gi­um, France and Spain. Tak­ing ran­dom trains, mov­ing from hotel to hotel, and using false names, our lives were dis­lo­cated and unreal. So in each hotel room we tried to recre­ate a sense of home­li­ness — some candles, a bottle of wine, natch, and some music. In the two small bags, into which I had packed the essen­tials for our unknown future life, I had man­aged to squeeze in my port­able CD play­er (remem­ber those?), tiny speak­ers and a few cher­ished CDs. Such are the pri­or­it­ies of youth.

The joy of Radi­o­head broke upon Dav­id dur­ing that month — par­tic­u­larly the track “Exit Music (for a Film)”, which encap­su­lated our feel­ings as we fled the UK togeth­er. Once we were holed up in a prim­it­ive French farm­house for the year after our month on the run, this was the album that we listened to last thing at night, hold­ing onto each oth­er tightly to ward off the cold and fear. Rev­el­ling in the music, we also drew strength from the dis­sid­ent tone of the lyr­ics.

So it was with some mirth­ful incredu­lity that I yes­ter­day read on The Inter­cept that GCHQ named one of its most ini­quit­ous pro­grammes after one of the clas­sic songs from the album — “Karma Police”.

In case you missed this, the basic premise of GCHQ was to devel­op a sys­tem that could snoop on all our web searches and thereby build up a pro­file of each of our lives online — our interests, our pec­ca­dilloes, our polit­ics, our beliefs. The pro­gramme was developed between 2007 and 2008 and was deemed func­tion­al in 2009. Who knows what inform­a­tion GCHQ has sucked up about you, me, every­one, since then?

As I have said many times over the years since Snowden and who knows how many oth­ers began to expose the out-of-con­trol spy agen­cies, this is dis­pro­por­tion­ate in soi-dis­sent demo­cra­cies. It is cer­tainly not law­ful by any stretch of the ima­gin­a­tion. UK gov­ern­ment­al war­rants — which are sup­posed to reg­u­late and if neces­sary cir­cum­scribe the activ­it­ies of the spy snoop­ers — have repeatedly been egre­giously abused.

They are sup­posed to make a case for tar­geted sur­veil­lance of people sus­pec­ted of being a threat to the UK’s nation­al secur­ity or eco­nom­ic well-being. The war­rants, blindly signed by the Home or For­eign Sec­ret­ary, are not designed to author­ise the indus­tri­al inter­cep­tion of every­one’s com­mu­nic­a­tions. This is a crime, plain and simple, and someone should be held to account.

Talk­ing of crimes, after a month on the run with Dav­id, I returned (as I had always planned to do) to the UK. I knew that I would be arres­ted, purely on the grounds that I had been an MI5 officer and was Dav­id Shayler­’s girl­friend and had sup­por­ted his whis­tleblow­ing activ­it­ies. In fact my law­yer, John Wadham who was the head of the UK’s civil liber­ties uni­on, Liberty, had nego­ti­ated with the police for my return to the UK and hand myself into the police for ques­tion­ing. He flew out to Bar­celona to accom­pany me back to the UK almost exactly eight­een years ago today.

Annie_arrestDes­pite the pre-agree­ments, I was arres­ted at the immig­ra­tion desk at Gatwick air­port by six burly Spe­cial Branch police officers and then driv­en by them up to the counter-ter­ror­ism inter­view room in Char­ing Cross police sta­tion in cent­ral Lon­don, where I was inter­rog­ated for the max­im­um six hours before being released with no charge.

The music play­ing on the radio dur­ing this drive from the air­port to my cell? Radi­o­head’s “Karma Police”.

One can but hope that karma will come into play. But per­haps the end­ing of “Exit Music…”  is cur­rently more per­tin­ent — we hope that you choke, that you choke.….

After all, the spies do seem to be chok­ing on an over­load of hoovered-up intel­li­gence — pretty much every “ISIS-inspired” attack in the west over the last couple of years has reportedly been car­ried out by people who have long been on the radar of the spies.  Too much inform­a­tion can indeed be bad for our secur­ity, our pri­vacy and our safety.

Exile — ExBerliner Article

My most recent art­icle for the ExBer­liner magazine:

What is exile? Oth­er than a term much used and abused by many new expats arriv­ing in Ber­lin, dic­tion­ary defin­i­tions point towards someone who is kept away from their home coun­try for polit­ic­al reas­ons, either by regal decree in the past or now more prob­ably self-imposed. But there are many oth­er ways to feel exiled – from main­stream soci­ety, from your fam­ily, faith, pro­fes­sion, polit­ics, and Ber­lin is now regarded as a haven.

How­ever, let’s focus on the clas­sic defin­i­tion and a noble tra­di­tion. Every coun­try, no mat­ter how appar­ently enlightened, can become a tyr­ant to its own cit­izens if they chal­lenge abuses of power. Voltaire was exiled in Eng­land for three years and soon after Tom Paine, a former excise man facing charges for sedi­tious libel, sought refuge in France. More recent fam­ous exiles include Dav­id Shayler, the MI5 whis­tleblower of the 1990s who fol­lowed in Paine’s foot­steps pretty much for the same fun­da­ment­al reas­ons, yet Alex­an­der Litv­inen­ko, the KBG whis­tleblower of the same era, iron­ic­ally found safe haven in exile in the UK.

So, being an exile effect­ively means that you have angered the power struc­tures of your home coun­try to such an extent that oth­er coun­tries feel com­pelled to give you refuge, partly for leg­al or prin­cipled reas­ons, but also for polit­ic­al expedi­ency. The cur­rent most fam­ous exile in the world is, of course, Edward Snowden, stran­ded by chance in Rus­sia en route to polit­ic­al asylum in Ecuador.

What does the act of flee­ing into exile actu­ally feel like? It is a wild leap into an unknown and pre­cari­ous future, with great risk and few fore­see­able rewards. At the same time, as you leave the shores of the per­se­cut­ing coun­try, evad­ing the author­it­ies, avoid­ing arrest and going on the run, there is an exhil­ar­at­ing, intense feel­ing of free­dom – a sense that the die has very much been cast. Your old way of life is irre­voc­ably at an end and the future is a blank slate on which you can write any­thing.

After Shayler and I fled to France in 1997, for the first year of the three we lived in exile we hid in a remote French farm­house just north of Limoges – the nearest vil­lage was 2 kilo­metres away, and the nearest town a dis­tant thirty. We lived in con­stant dread of that knock on the door and the ensu­ing arrest. And that, indeed, even­tu­ally did catch up with him.

As a res­ult, for Shayler it meant the world grew increas­ingly small, increas­ingly con­fined. Ini­tially, when we went on the run, we were free to roam across Europe – any­where but the UK. Then, after the French courts refused to extra­dite him to Bri­tain in 1998 to face tri­al for a breach of the dra­coni­an UK Offi­cial Secrets Act, France became the only place he could live freely. If he had then traveled to any oth­er European coun­try, the Brit­ish would have again attemp­ted to extra­dite him, prob­ably suc­cess­fully, so he was trapped.

How­ever, there are worse places than France in which to find your­self stran­ded. As well as being one of the most beau­ti­ful and var­ied coun­tries in the world it felt par­tic­u­larly poignant to end up exiled in Par­is for a fur­ther two years.

It was also con­veni­ently close to the UK, so friends, fam­ily, sup­port­ers and journ­al­ists could vis­it us reg­u­larly and bring Shayler sup­plies of such vital Brit­ish staples as bacon and HP source. But he still missed the simple pleas­ures in life, such as being free to watch his beloved foot­ball team, or being able to watch the crappy late night com­edy shows that the Brit­ish end­lessly churn out. Des­pite these small lacks, I shall always remem­ber those years in France fondly, as a place of great­er safety, a lit­er­al haven from per­se­cu­tion.

Of course, all this was in the era before the stand­ard­ised European Arrest war­rant, when nation­al sov­er­eignty and nation­al laws actu­ally coun­ted for some­thing. Find­ing a secure place of exile now would be almost an impossib­il­ity in Europe if you home coun­try really wanted to pro­sec­ute you.

Many West­ern expats now talk of being “exiled in Ber­lin”, and they may indeed be self-exiled in search of a more sym­patico life style, a buzzy group of like-minded peers, work oppor­tun­it­ies or whatever. But until they have felt the full force of an extra­di­tion war­rant, before the fuzz has actu­ally felt their col­lars, this is real­ist­ic­ally exile as a life­style choice, rather than exile as a des­per­ate polit­ic­al neces­sity or, in Edward Snowden’s case, a poten­tially exist­en­tial require­ment.

Swedish SVT TV Interview, November 2014

Here’s an inter­view I did while at the excel­lent Inter­net­dagarna con­fer­ence in Stock­holm last month.  It cov­ers all things whis­tleblower, going on the run, and spy account­ab­il­ity:

Inter­view on Swedish SVT TV, Novem­ber 2014 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Newsletter Excerpt re Edward Snowden

For read­ers who have not yet signed up to my monthly news­let­ter, here is the excerpt about Edward Snowden from my June edi­tion, with a little update at the end:

The Edward Snowden saga is riv­et­ing for me on so many levels.You’ll no doubt be aware of the case, unless you have been liv­ing in a cup­board for the last few weeks.  Snowden is the brave young NSA con­tract­or who has blown the whistle on a range of glob­al sur­veil­lance pro­grammes that the Amer­ic­ans and the Brits have developed over the last few years to fight the war on ter­ror­ism spy on all of us.

The sheer scale of his dis­clos­ures so far is incred­ible and has huge implic­a­tions for what remains of our demo­crat­ic way of life. Just today more inform­a­tion emerged to show that the NSA has been spy­ing on key EU insti­tu­tions — which might go some way to explain­ing why so much recent EU legis­la­tion appears to favour the interests of US cor­por­at­ism over those of European cit­izens.…

Pun­dits have been call­ing him the most sig­ni­fic­ant whis­tleblower since Daniel Ells­berg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers about the Viet­nam war 40 years ago.  But I would go fur­ther.  In my view Edward Snowden is the most sig­ni­fic­ant whis­tleblower in mod­ern his­tory because, while Ells­berg dis­closed vital inform­a­tion, it was largely a mat­ter that affected the Amer­ic­ans and the hap­less Viet­namese.  What Snowden has exposed, just to date, impacts all of us around the world.

Snowden has con­firmed the darkest fears of leg­al experts, geeks and con­cerned glob­al cit­izens about the sheer scale of the sur­veil­lance soci­ety we all now live under.  Not only are our intel­li­gence agen­cies run­ning amok, they do so using the infra­struc­ture of the glob­al inter­net mega­corps.  What he has laid bare is the fact that we are all already liv­ing under full-blown fas­cism.

He played it so well with that early film stat­ing very clearly his motiv­a­tion to go pub­lic — to defend a way of life that he saw was under threat. He appears to have learned from the mis­takes of pre­vi­ous whis­tleblowers.  He chose a journ­al­ist who under­stands the issues and has the fire in the belly and the inter­na­tion­al pro­file to fight his corner.  Glenn Gre­en­wald is a fear­less cam­paign­ing law­yer-turned-journ­al­ist who for years has been defend­ing the work of Wikileaks, with the irony being that he is now the new Assange, being attacked, threatened and smeared for report­ing the dis­clos­ures.

Of course, I and many oth­er former whis­tleblowers have been swamped by the usu­al fren­zied media tsunami, called up for inter­view after inter­view.  For me this began just as I was about to turn in for the night at 11.30pm on 9th June, when RT rang me up ask­ing for an urgent live inter­view just as the iden­tity of Snowden was emer­ging across the world’s media.  After a frantic 15 minutes sort­ing out the makeup and the tech (in that order, nat­ur­ally), I was wide awake again and speak­ing on live TV.  From that came a slew of oth­er requests over the next few days, includ­ing many pro­grammes on the BBC, Sky News, and mul­tiple radio and news­pa­per inter­views.  I could barely find time to leave my phone and com­puter to get to the bath­room.…  Then the wave receded for a few days before Snowden fled to Rus­sia, when the whole cycle began again.

Read­ing about Snowden going on the run also brought back a num­ber of per­son­al memor­ies for me. In 1997 I fled the UK with Dav­id Shayler only 12 hours ahead of his ini­tial dis­clos­ures about MI5 crimin­al­ity break­ing in the UK media. We were pur­sued across Europe, and had a month lit­er­ally on the run, fol­lowed by a year liv­ing in hid­ing in la France Pro­fonde before Dav­id was arres­ted, pending extra­di­tion, at the request of the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment.  He spent almost 4 months in a Par­is pris­on before the French released him — their view being that he was a whis­tleblower, which was deemed to be a polit­ic­al offence for which France spe­cific­ally does not extra­dite.  We lived more openly in Par­is for anoth­er two years, although Dav­id was trapped in France — had he trav­elled to anoth­er coun­try the whole ghastly extra­di­tion pro­cess would have star­ted again.

Well, there are worse places than France to be trapped in exile, but even so it was dif­fi­cult for him.  How much more so for Edward Snowden, whose options are more ser­i­ously con­strained and who faces life in pris­on in the US if he is caught?  Know­ing the pen­al­ties he faces and being aware of the track­ing cap­ab­il­it­ies and the ruth­less dis­reg­ard for the law and human rights of the mod­ern US intel­li­gence infra­struc­ture, his bravery in expos­ing the glob­al US sur­veil­lance state is truly breath-tak­ing.

To fin­ish, here is one of my recent Sky News inter­views about the Edward Snowden case:

Sky TV inter­view on Snowden case from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Addendum: today’s news told us that Bolivi­an Pres­id­ent, Evo Mor­ales’s offi­cial, dip­lo­mat­ic­ally pro­tec­ted, plane have been barred from fly­ing home from Moscow over much of Euro air­space, where he had been par­ti­cip­at­ing in high-level talks.  The reas­on being that Edward Snowden might have been be on board. Mor­ales was groun­ded in Aus­tria and had to sub­mit to a police search of the plane, against all dip­lo­mat­ic pro­tocol.  No Snowden was found, nat­ur­ally.

I see this as a very clev­er move by per­sons unknown — test­ing exactly what the inter­na­tion­al response would be if Edward Snowden tries to fly out of Rus­sia.  And the Europeans, under undoubted pres­sure from the US, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

The US-Euro com­pli­cit pat­sies have been flushed out by this dip­lo­mat­ic scan­dal. Demon­stra­tions are appar­ently already occur­ring against the French embassy in Bolivia.  And this on the same day that the French Pres­id­ent, Fran­cois Hol­lande, used the Snowden dis­clos­ures to delay the rightly-maligned US-EU trade agree­ment.

So, even as the French use the Snowden dis­clos­ures for polit­ic­al advant­age, they appar­ently refuse to assist the source.  Which is unfor­tu­nate — my memory of French law is that whis­tleblow­ing is deemed a polit­ic­al act and the French spe­cific­ally do not extra­dite for alleged polit­ic­al offences.

Per­haps the French con­sti­tu­tion and law have changed since Sarkozy took France into NATO.…

The Real News Network on Whistleblowing, Part 2

Part Two of my recent inter­view on the excel­lent, inde­pend­ent and fear­less Real News Net­work:

The Point of No Return

This inter­view by E Jane Dick­son was pub­lished in The Inde­pend­ent news­pa­per in Janu­ary 1999, and cov­ers the time “on the run”, the failed extra­di­tion attempt, and liv­ing in exile in Par­is.

The pale noon of Par­is fails to pen­et­rate the hotel lobby where Dav­id Shayler is wait­ing. It is not a fash­ion­able estab­lish­ment; rather, one of those rack­ety joints where Anglo­phones gath­er to swap memor­ies of Her­shey bars and HP sauce. But, for the pro­fes­sion­al couple in the back booth, this is both a refuge and an oper­a­tion­al HQ. This is where Annie Machon stayed when she came to vis­it Dav­id Shayler in gaol. This is where they gath­er their friends and resources and try to work out how on earth Shayler is going to get home.

Last Novem­ber, when Dav­id Shayler walked free from La Sante pris­on, he looked like New Labour’s worst night­mare: an unre­con­struc­ted hairy lefty in a Middles­brough FC shirt, shout­ing the odds about free­dom of inform­a­tion in our brave new Bri­tain. The French court had refused to extra­dite  Shayler, a former MI5 agent who blew the whistle on  incom­pet­ence in the Secur­ity Ser­vice, on the grounds that his rev­el­a­tions were a polit­ic­al act. He is, for the moment, a free man, but should he set foot out­side any French bor­der, it is under­stood that the extra­di­tion pro­cess will start all over again. “It could be worse,” says Shayler, on the way to lunch at a nearby res­taur­ant. “lt could have been Bel­gi­um that I was­n’t extra­dited from.”

The grim humour is typ­ic­al. For a man going nowhere, Shayler laughs a lot, but his eyes are deeply shad­owed by 18 months of uncer­tainty. In August 1997, five months after the left the Ser­vice, Shayler decided to speak out against the cul­ture of obsess­ive bur­eau­cracy and bungling he had wit­nessed in MI5.

In an art­icle in the Mail on Sunday he alleged that secret files had been held on prom­in­ent Labour politi­cians, includ­ing Jack Straw, Har­riet Har­man and Peter Man­del­son. For many, this rev­el­a­tion was so unsur­pris­ing as to be hardly worth break­ing the Offi­cial Secrets Act for. In the late Sev­en­ties and early Eighties, the thrill­ing pro­spect of your very own MI5 file was all too often the prime reas­on for join­ing uni­ver­sity Labour clubs. It was enough, how­ever, for the Gov­ern­ment to slap an injunc­tion on the Mail on Sunday to pre­vent any fur­ther rev­el­a­tions and for Shayler to skip the coun­try with pounds 20,000 from the Mail on
Sunday for expenses.

Much more dam­aging were Shayler­’s sub­sequent claims that the Gov­ern­ment had been party to an assas­sin­a­tion attempt on Col­on­el Gadaf­fi, the Liby­an lead­er, some­thing the For­eign Office strenu­ously denies, and that the Gov­ern­ment had had pri­or warn­ing of
ter­ror­ist attacks includ­ing the bomb­ing of the Israeli Embassy in Kens­ing­ton Palace Gar­dens and the IRA bomb­ing of the City of Lon­don. Because of a chain of incom­pet­ence with­in MI5, Shayler alleged, these warn­ings were not acted upon, res­ult­ing in avoid­able injury and loss of life.

I’m not a spy and I’m not a trait­or,” says Shayler. His words are meas­ured and inflec­ted, like a man­tra or con­fes­sion of faith. “I’m not a spy and I’m not a trait­or. I simply raised issues that I believe are of great import­ance to the nation. If I had wanted to be a trait­or,
it would have been very easy for me to do it while I was in MI5. I could have sold inform­a­tion for mil­lions of pounds and nobody would have been any the wiser. I did­n’t do that because I believe in stand­ing up for what I believe in.”

The Gov­ern­ment, how­ever, takes a dim view of Shayler­’s pat­ri­ot­ic prin­ciples and has pur­sued him with the full weight of inter­na­tion­al law. After a year on the run, when they bur­ied them­selves in rur­al France, Shayler and Machon were tracked down to Par­is where he was appear­ing on the Dav­id Frost break­fast pro­gramme. Shayler was watch­ing Middles­brough play on satel­lite tele­vi­sion when he was arres­ted. Two months in pris­on gave him plenty of time to con­sider his pos­i­tion, and he paces his argu­ment like a mara­thon run­ner who knows every inch of the track.

Occa­sion­ally, how­ever, he gath­ers a head of out­rage that sends him pump­ing for the fin­ish­ing line. “At one point,” he says, pink with indig­na­tion, “it looked like I was going to be extra­dited and Gen­er­al Pinochet was­n’t. Jack Straw stood up and said that they were think­ing about send­ing Pinochet back to Chile on com­pas­sion­ate grounds. I read that in a French news­pa­per, in a French pris­on, and I was think­ing ‘this is abso­lutely ridicu­lous’. This is a man who has murdered and tor­tured thou­sands of people. I have writ­ten a
bloody news­pa­per art­icle and he {Straw} is going for me and not for this oth­er guy. IRA pris­on­ers are being released, people who have been in cam­paigns to murder people, and yet I’m being houn­ded for telling the truth.”

Dav­id Shayler hardly fits the per­ceived idea of a secret agent. Born in Middles­brough and edu­cated at state schools and Dun­dee Uni­ver­sity, he was part of MI5’s red­brick recruit­ment drive, a post- Cold-War ini­ti­at­ive to demo­crat­ise the Secur­ity Ser­vice. He applied for the job through the careers pages of The Inde­pend­ent in 1990. “Are you wait­ing for Godot?” ran the enig­mat­ic advert­ise­ment, which stressed the need for people with inter­view­ing and ana­lyt­ic­al skills.

Shayler, who had pre­vi­ously failed to com­plete The Sunday Times gradu­ate train­ing
pro­gramme, thought that he was apply­ing for a job in news­pa­pers. In the course of his second inter­view, he explained how, as edit­or of his uni­ver­sity news­pa­per, he had cour­ted con­tro­versy by pub­lish­ing the banned text of Spycatch­er. This inform­a­tion, which might have giv­en less subtle minds pause for thought, did not deter his future employ­ers.

Shayler rose, not rap­idly, but respect­ably through the ranks.  He met Annie Machon, a Cam­bridge gradu­ate with an impec­cable ser­vice record, in the MI5 lib­rary and, by 1997, the couple were suf­fi­ciently dis­af­fected to leave and find jobs “out­side” as man­age­ment con­sult­ants.

The obvi­ous ques­tion,” says Machon, a neatly glam­or­ous woman in ankle-length fake fur, “is why did­n’t I blow the whistle when I had been there even longer than Dave? I know exactly what he’s talk­ing about and so do a lot of oth­er people there. They all agree with him but most people just say, ‘Well, you can­’t change the sys­tem,’ and quietly leave to go on to oth­er jobs. At the time, I really did­n’t want Dave to go pub­lic. I knew what it would mean for us and I asked him not to do it. But in the end,” she says, thread­ing her fin­gers round Shayler­’s, “some­body has to stand up and be coun­ted.”

Shayler seems faintly bewildered by the drub­bing he has received at the hands of a free press. Much has been made of a quote by Shayler­’s old head­mas­ter, who remem­bers a clev­er boy who liked to “sail close to the wind”. “The papers just fell for this idea that because some­body was slightly rebel­li­ous when he was 17, he must be Pub­lic Enemy Num­ber One,” says Shayler. The same teach­er, pressed for fur­ther details of Shayler­’s
con­tri­bu­tion to school life, recalled a cred­it­able per­form­ance as a mad­man in the school play. “The Sunday Tele­graph ran a piece say­ing ‘Shayler was a mad­man’ and when my mum, who has been a Tele­graph read­er all her life, wrote to com­plain, they ran anoth­er photo with the cap­tion, ‘Mummy’s Boy’.” Shayler spreads his curi­ously cher­ubic hands,
the soft, scrubbed paws of a choir­boy, with nails gnawed to the quick. “You just can­’t win.”

If Shayler is bewildered by his media image, Machon is “bloody furi­ous” about it. “The name-call­ing makes me so indig­nant and it’s so per­son­al. Dave is a big, well-built chap, and this is used against him, as if a heavy build is some­how mor­ally dubi­ous. It’s medi­ev­al,” she mur­murs, gaz­ing over to the fly­ing but­tresses of Notre Dame, “on a par with say­ing a hunched back is a sign of wicked­ness”.

Cer­tainly the artic­u­late and easy-humoured man on dis­play today bears no resemb­lance to this sham­bling bogey of the Right. If he did­n’t know the rules of engage­ment before, he cer­tainly knows them now, so why on earth did he choose to have his image flashed
around the world in that filthy old foot­ball shirt? For the first time this after­noon, Shayler seems rattled. “I did it for the obvi­ous reas­on that I wanted to stick two fin­gers up at ‘them’ and I thought that was the best way of doing it.”  Annie sighs and pleads pret­tily for a spoon­ful of Shayler­’s tiram­isu. A woman less in love might have settled for a kick on the shins.

Whatever else it is, this is one hell of a love story. It has been said that Machon, the  daugh­ter of a Guern­sey news­pa­per edit­or, is Shayler­’s best asset, and while she spits fire at the idea, Shayler is the first to agree.

Without a shad­ow of a doubt,”  he says, “I could­n’t have done it without Annie. We have always had a very close rela­tion­ship and this is the biggest and most con­tro­ver­sial thing that came into it. When I was just start­ing with the whole idea of going pub­lic, Annie did­n’t want to know about it; not because she was frightened for her­self, but in case things went wrong, so that she could­n’t say any­thing that might dam­age me. That did put a bit of a
strain on our rela­tion­ship, but the way it’s worked out has made us much closer. By far the worst thing about being in pris­on was being away from Annie. Not being able to hold her or kiss her; it sounds incred­ibly corny, but it was like a phys­ic­al crav­ing.”

It is the kind of close­ness few couples could with­stand. Since Shayler­’s arrest, the
two go every­where togeth­er, even to the shops for their morn­ing baguette. When they were hid­ing out in la France pro­fonde, 30km from the nearest train sta­tion, they often would­n’t see anoth­er soul for days on end. “Fights were just impossible,” recalls Annie. “I’d stamp my foot and say, ‘Right then, I’m going … I’m going … up the lane.’ ”

Right now the big prob­lem is find­ing reas­ons to get up in the morn­ing. There is a lim­it to the num­ber of romantic walks a couple can take, even in Par­is. Neither has a job and funds are run­ning low; to be pre­cise, they have pounds 5,000, a gift from Shayler­’s par­ents. Both speak com­pet­ent French — Shayler­’s improved dra­mat­ic­ally while he was
in pris­on — and Shayler talks about tak­ing up teach­ing Eng­lish as a for­eign lan­guage. They have found a cheap stu­dio flat, but it is a tem­por­ary meas­ure; soon they will need to apply for a Carte de Sejour, a per­mit to stay in France, and for that they will need proof of
income.

At the moment, they give shape to the week by reg­u­lar vis­its to one of Par­is’s Inter­net cafes, where they cor­res­pond with friends and sup­port­ers in Bri­tain, and WH Smith, where they bone up on day-old news from home. There are almost daily calls to Liberty, the Brit­ish civil liber­ties organ­isa­tion, which has taken up Shayler­’s case. Parisi­ans,
Annie is pleased to report, have been amaz­ingly friendly, not at all the stand-off­ish ste­reo­type, but fol­low­ing fam­ily vis­its at Christ­mas the couple now find them­selves feel­ing rather flat.

Shayler misses Middles­brough FC and prop­er fried break­fasts; Annie misses hav­ing her
own things about her. After their Pimlico flat was raided by Spe­cial Branch, their worldly goods were par­celled out to friends and rel­at­ives around the UK. “You just don’t expect to be still liv­ing like stu­dents when you’re in your thirties,” she says. “There is a basic human need to settle down, which you don’t really under­stand until it’s denied you. And even though Dave is ‘free’ in France, we’re con­stantly look­ing over our shoulders. You nev­er know if you’re being fol­lowed. And even if you’re not, the para­noia is exhaust­ing. I think people under­es­tim­ate what fear does to you on a daily basis. There were huge peri­ods when we were abso­lutely ter­ri­fied. “The one good thing to come out of all this,” jokes Machon, sum­mon­ing fem­in­ine van­ity like a remind­er of nor­mal­ity “is I’ve lost loads of weight.”

The para­noia is under­stand­able. While Bri­tain may not want to do a deal with Shayler,
he remains vul­ner­able to oth­er, pos­sibly less scru­pu­lous, agen­cies, who could use the inform­a­tion he is party to. “Our lives are far more like some­thing from a Le Carre nov­el now than they were when we were work­ing for MI5,” says Shayler, who star­ted a nov­el of his own while he was in pris­on. He knows, how­ever, that any work of fic­tion with the faintest ref­er­ence to his former life will be injunc­ted before you can shake a Mar­tini.

Mean­while, his nego­ti­ations with the Gov­ern­ment appear to have reached stale­mate. The Par­lia­ment­ary Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee has refused to hear his evid­ence and the Home Office has stated that while Shayler “insists on immunity from pro­sec­u­tion as his price for set­tling the civil pro­ceed­ings, an agree­ment will not be pos­sible”. For Shayler­’s part, he has offered to return the money he received from the Mail on Sunday, some pounds 40,000 in total (hardly a sum to retire to Rio on). He also knows that any fur­ther rev­el­a­tions will risk redoubled attempts for his extra­di­tion, but he is run­ning out
of ideas. “I said no new rev­el­a­tions,” he points out, “but that’s not a pos­i­tion I can main­tain for ever.”

For all his bravura, you feel that in his heart, Shayler still can­’t quite believe that the Gov­ern­ment does­n’t care what he has to say; they just don’t want him to say it. And it is surely not unreas­on­able to expect more from a party that ran its Oppos­i­tion on a civil liber­ties tick­et. Most galling of all is the know­ledge that if he had made his dis­clos­ures before the Con­ser­vat­ive gov­ern­ment tightened the Offi­cial Secrets Act in 1989, he could have cited the pub­lic interest defence which exis­ted then and was only repealed after strenu­ous oppos­i­tion from the Left.

It is a mat­ter of record that Tony Blair, Jack Straw and John Mor­ris, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al, all voted against remov­ing the pub­lic interest defence pre­cisely because it would deter polit­ic­al whis­tleblowers,” explains Shayler. “So why have they changed their stance now they are in gov­ern­ment? It seems there is no longer any embar­rass­ment threshold in
these mat­ters.”

Still he has­n’t giv­en up hope — he still has his Middles­brough FC sea­son tick­et. For Machon, without such an incent­ive, the pro­spect is not so bright. “I’m not sure how easy we’d find it to settle in Eng­land now, after everything that has happened,” she says.
“I’ll fight for the right for Dave to go back, but I’m not sure I want us to stay once we get there.” The point is, in any case, aca­dem­ic. “I can only assume,” says Shayler, with obvi­ous hurt, “that the Gov­ern­ment is quite happy to let me rot out here. I sup­pose they think that maybe I’ll just shut up and go away.”

The prob­lem, both lit­er­al and meta­phys­ic­al, is that Shayler simply has nowhere to go. So he might as well take the scen­ic route. He gath­ers Annie into him and their shad­ows merge on the grey bank of the Seine as they stroll, slowly, back the way they came.