- 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 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 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000450006420235&rtmo=Q9Qk90mR&atmo=99999999
&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
- 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!"