- 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
- 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. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000450006420235&rtmo=Q9Qk990R&atmo=99999999
&pg=/et/97/12/19/nspy19.html He was jailed for a year and released
on probation after six months.