Magazine threatens To
Publish MI6 Names
By Philip Johnston and Robert Uhlig
EFFORTS to prevent Richard Tomlinson, the renegade MI6 officer, from revealing the identities of British secret agents were further undermined last night when an American magazine threatened to publish the 120 names that have already been posted on the Internet.
Copies of Executive Intelligence Review have been printed but lawyers are still considering whether to distribute it. Peter Sigerson, managing editor, said his magazine published the list in an online article on its website on Monday. The list was removed on Wednesday, when the magazine went to press.
Several sites on the Internet are now carrying the list of alleged MI6 officers which includes a Cambridge University professor said to be a "leading recruiter of MI6 agents".
Tomlinson maintained yesterday that he has not released his list and that anything published on the Internet came from another source. But intelligence sources said even if he had not placed the list on the Internet himself, he had provided the information. Names of agents also appear on Tomlinson's Paris-based website, which has been shut down. By yesterday, however, the information had been moved to a site in New York belonging to John Young, an architect with an interest in Internet liberty issues.
Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary, acknowledged that not all the names on the website were linked to the service but added: "Nevertheless, the release of any such list, however inaccurate, is a deeply irresponsible and dangerous act." Mr Cook said Tomlinson, 36, nursed a "deep seated and irrational grievance" against his previous employers, who fired him in 1995. "What he is doing now is irresponsible, damaging and potentially dangerous to people who have worked in the service. It is also illegal."
The speed with which Tomlinson's website has moved locations has demonstrated the inability of national legislation to regulate an international medium such as the Internet. Government law officers - who already have an injunction against Tomlinson in Switzerland, where he lives - were considering further unspecified action last night to stop the disclosures. An attempt could also be made to extradite him if police decide to bring charges under the Official Secrets Act. "We think there have been offences committed under the Official Secrets Act and a breach of the earlier injunction," a Government legal source said last night.
MI6 was meanwhile trying to limit the damage. The most obvious risk is the unmasking of undercover agents, though most on the list will in fact be working in the open under their own names. Naming agents working abroad does not necessarily endanger them since many foreign governments are informally aware of the identity of MI6 officers based at British embassies around the world.
Some field agents may have to be moved from sensitive positions as a result of the security breach. As one official said: "While their names may be in the public domain, the fact that they are SIS agents is not."
Tomlinson, who worked undercover in Bosnia, < &pg=/et/97/11/4/nspi04.html tried to publish a book in Australia after his sacking and was charged under the Official Secrets Act for divulging unauthorised material. < &pg=/et/97/12/19/nspy19.html He was jailed for a year and released on probation after six months.