12 May 1999
We would appreciate information on the US site which allegedly named the British agents as reported below. Send to: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. No evidence of this site has been made public by British or US authorities. Richard Tomlinson has written us today that his GeoCities Web site (closed today by GeoCities) did not provide any information that was not already public. See mirrored pages of Tomlinson's Web site and link to a copy of the site.
London Evening Standard Online, May 12, 1999
Dozens of Britons' lives at risk after MI6 spies are named
on the Net
by Richard Holliday And Mark Benham
The lives of dozens of British intelligence agents were today put at risk when they were publicly identified on a US-based Internet website.
The agents are all officers working for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Britain's overseas intelligence gathering arm, formerly MI6.
The service - and Whitehall's senior intelligence advisers - began an immediate top priority investigation into the disastrous leak after they became aware of the site's existence at mid-morning today.
They were taking "all legal means" to either have the crucial information removed immediately or to shut down the website.
Rear Admiral David Pulvertaft, the Defence Advisory Notice Secretary at Whitehall - who gives advice to newspapers, television and radio on matters of national security - issued a plea to editors not to publish the address of the website or its contents as "such action could put lives at risk".
Admiral Pulvertaft told the Standard: "The published contents could be gravely damaging. Officials here hope they will have this website removed as speedily as possible."
He added: "How the information was obtained is also very worrying."
The Admiral said that security service officers could not be identified "unless they have been widely disclosed or discussed. You could take Stella Rimington as an example. She was well known as the former head of MI5 (internal intelligence), but her people were not".
Asked how many officers had been identified on the website, he added: "I would rather not say, but it is a large number."
Last week the Government obtained a court injunction to shut down a website set up by MI6 renegade Richard Tomlinson in which he threatened to out British agents and reveal the location of MI6 offices around the world.
Today's development highlights a growing worry for governments and official bodies over material posted on the Internet. Because no one country "owns" the Internet - there is no way to censor or control the information posted on it. As a result it has been enthusiastically adopted by terrorist organisations, pornographers and political activists from across the spectrum as an ideal propaganda medium.
In addition, there is no guarantee as to the accuracy of any information posted on the Internet. While official sources are usually reliable, there is nothing to stop anyone with Internet access posting completely spurious or defamatory information.
In recent years M16 has been rocked by a number of security scares. Norman McSween, the 48-year-old chief of MI6's Moscow station, was embarrassingly exposed on Russian television in August 1996 when he attempted to make contact with one of his agents, Platon Obukhov, who had confessed to spying for the British.
More recently there has been the homosexual scandal involving Christopher Hurran, its head of station in Prague, and claims that the SIS attempted to assassinate Colonel Gadaffy, the Libyan president, and Slobodan Milosevic.
In February a former MI6 intelligence officer identified spies and described MI6 front companies and covert operations when he revealed how a Russian spy ring had infiltrated the City of London.
In 1994 - when Sir David Spedding took over as head of the service from Sir Colin McColl - the shrinking workforce at M16 was put at 2,303, with a budget of £150 million.
Sir David's successor - named in February this year - is 54-year-old Richard Dearlove, who joined the service straight from Cambridge. He takes up his post in September.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 12 May 1999