About This Book

The Big Breach - By Richard Tomlinson

"MI6 have spent a substantial amount of British taxpayers' money on preventing me from taking them to an employment tribunal or informing the public of the toll that their lack of accountability has had on my life - a toll that mirrors the harm the unaccountable agency inflicts on other individuals whose civil liberties are violated."

"My perfunctory firing was a classic example of the type of behind-closed-doors MI6 decision that happens regularly in the service due to the ultimate lack of accountability of the Chief. As Dimmock had pompously pointed out, the Chief answers to nobody. He never has to justify a decision, no matter how crass or stupid, to a parliamentary select committee or to the Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister, and so has no incentive to scrutinise recommendations that are passed up to him. His non-existent upwards accountability means he needs only to cultivate the support of power-brokers below him. It is expedient to accept recommendations where they are politically easy, such as the dismissal of a junior officer, so that he has a stronger power base for more difficult internal decisions. Just as in a dictatorship, this shoddy decision-making cascades down the power structure, and explains how the decision to dismiss me had been taken. Poison Dwarf decided he wanted me out, wrote a recommendation to Fowlecrooke, who signed it off and passed it up the chain to Dimmock. He in turn signed it off without bothering to form his own opinion by interviewing me and passed the decision up to the highest levels of the service. Like many ex-military people, Dimmock did not know the difference between `leadership' and `rigidity' and by the time he actually met me for himself, he dared not reverse his decision." (p.144-145)

"Under the terms of the 1975 IOCA (Interception of Communications Act) a warrant should be given only if the target is breaking UK law or if the interception yields intelligence. Under these terms, I felt no compunction about reading the transcripts of an Iranian terrorist or a Russian intelligence officer. But we had many intercepts running which did not fall into either category. Even our intercepts on Kiddie and Constantine were not within its spirit - they would break UK law only if they exported proliferation material from the country, and never once did we issue a CX report as a result of one of their telephone transcriptions. Perhaps what they were doing was slightly amoral but it was not our job to pass judgement on that. Unlike every other country in the western world, warrants for telephone intercepts in Britain are signed not by a judge but by the Home Secretary or Foreign Secretary, explaining why the intelligence services could obtain so many warrants.

MI6 abused the privilege of the IOCA in other ways too. The transcribers in VBR were supposed to ignore personal chit-chat and condense only relevant operational intelligence into the pink FLORIDA reports for distribution to Vauxhall Cross. This obligation enabled MI6 successfully to persuade the Treasury that it was necessary to keep the transcribers isolated in VBR, rather than incorporating them into the new building. Nevertheless, one day a colleague threw a pink FLORIDA report on my desk, chuckling, `Have a good laugh at this!' The target was a transvestite in his spare time and the FLORIDA reported his intimate conversation, line by line, with his boyfriend. Admittedly, it was an amusing document but it added nothing to our understanding of the operation and was a clear breach of the act." (p.136)

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