May 2005 — The Times

MI5 kept schoolboy on its files

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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