Rogue Spy Tomlinson Publishes
MI6 Names On The Net
By Philip Johnston and Hugh Davies
A RENEGADE MI6 agent was believed last night to have posted the identities of a large number of serving British intelligence officers on the Internet in one of the worst security breaches for years.
Richard Tomlinson, a former officer with the Secret Intelligence Service who was jailed on secrecy charges two years ago, is thought to have used an American web site to gain his revenge on his former bosses.
As the Government strove to have the web site closed down, appeals were issued to British newspaper and media outlets not to divulge its address or contents. Publishing such details "could put lives at risk", said Rear Adml David Pulvertaft, the secretary of the defence, press and broadcasting advisory committee that advises the media on national security.
The affair has shown the difficulties that governments face in preventing publication of highly sensitive material in the Internet age. Web sites can be set up in a matter of minutes and can then be read anywhere in the world.
The Government has managed to close two other sites operated by Tomlinson - in Switzerland and California - on which he threatened to publish information he had gathered while at MI6. Last month the Treasury solicitor obtained an injunction against him and he closed down his site in Lausanne rather than risk a violation.
A week later he launched a California-based site, on GeoCities, on which he promised to post a map of all the MI6 offices worldwide. Again, it was closed after an appeal from the Government. At the time of his trial, part of which was held in camera, newspapers were asked not to use photographs of Tomlinson for fear of jeopardising undercover intelligence operations.
Intelligence sources said that the new site contained information that could prove "very damaging". One insider said that it was not all accurate or up to date and nor was it explicitly the work of Tomlinson. "But the suspicions are very strong," he said.
David Shayler, the former MI5 officer whom Britain < &pg=/et/98/11/19/wshay19.html tried in vain to extradite from France last year, told Channel 4 News: "I know from seeing the site myself that he has been threatening to do this. I think the Government is running a great deal of risk because it has in some ways persecuted Richard Tomlinson."
The investigative journalist Duncan Campbell said that he had been in e-mail contact with Tomlinson, a 37-year-old New Zealander, for three months. A fortnight ago "he said he was going to do this - he wouldn't say where".
Mr Campbell said: "He was getting very angry and he also believed that MI6 had somehow or other planted viruses in his computer to try to destroy it first. I think he is out to do damage because of the way he feels."
Mr Campbell said Tomlinson believed that MI6 was acting to ensure he was thrown out of every country he tried to settle in. He said: "By making an international pariah of him they perhaps have driven him to the wall." Mr Campbell said that other Internet users in the United States were already offering to display Mr Tomlinson's information on their web sites in an attempt to beat what they saw as censorship.
Tomlinson's solicitor, John Wadham, said that he had no direct knowledge about whether his client was involved. But he said that last weekend Tomlinson had claimed: "I will eventually find a web site that will accept me, even if it has to be China."
Some time ago Tomlinson began setting up web pages in which he threatened to publish the synopsis of a book on his MI6 career. It was that synopsis, which he sent to an Australian publisher, that led to his being jailed for a year in 1997, two years after he was sacked by the Secret Service.
He was charged under Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act, which forbids any unauthorised disclosure by a serving or former officer of the security and intelligence services. Tomlinson was freed on probation after six months and has been pursued around the world since by a series of Government injunctions.
He joined MI6 in 1991 and served in Bosnia, Russia and the Middle East. He has nursed a grievance since being sacked. He tried to take his case to an industrial tribunal, but was prevented from doing so.
Tomlinson has made a number of unsubstantiated claims, including allegations that MI6 tried to assassinate the Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic, seven years ago. He has also used the Internet to taunt his former employers.
One web page carried a picture of a man - presumably himself - wearing a Viking-style hat, with the top of his face blotted out. The photograph was superimposed on a picture of the Secret Intelligence Service's headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, London. As the site switched on, the theme to Monty Python's Flying Circus was played, an allusion to the fact that the spectacular Thames-side building is known as "The Circus".
Issuing his warning that he intended to disclose the location of MI6 offices around the world, Tomlinson wrote on the site that MI6's objective was "to steal the secrets of other countries". He said that MI6 officers working abroad often used the "cover" of British diplomats. He said: "If you want to find out who is breaking the laws of your own country, just click on the map below to find your nearest M16 office!"