3 November 2003. Thanks to B:

From: http://www.turkishpress.com/turkishpress/news.asp?ID=14669>:



The Sunday Times, one of the dailies in Britain, claimed that British defensive security intelligence agency MI5 placed bugs in London embassy of one of Britain's key allies in the war on terror. Some certain clues in the news story led people to think that the country in question was actually Turkey. These clues are as follows:

1 - According to the news story, the embassy of the country was restored in 2001. Residence of the Turkish Embassy in London was restored in 2001 while restoration works started at the embassy building in February of 2003.

2 - The news story said that leader of the country in question paid a visit to British Prime Minister Tony Blair a short time ago. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Prime Minister Erdogan in November of 2002 as leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

3 - The daily added that the country was the key ally of both Britain and the United States.


The 'Sunday Times' is not of course a 'daily', this was probably a translation error.

1 November 2003

Cryptome welcomes the name of "Notation;" send to: jya@pipeline.com

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-877365,00.html

The Times (UK)

November 02, 2003

MI5 caught bugging ally’s UK embassy

Nicholas Rufford

A FORMER MI5 agent has exposed a bungled attempt by the security service to bug the London embassy of one of Britain’s key allies in the war on terror.

MI5 infiltrated the embassy, stole codes used by embassy staff for sending secret messages and planned to plant listening devices and remove documents.

The spying operation took place under the cover of restoration work that was carried out at the embassy last year.

The agent, who was given the codename Notation, has confessed his role in the operation to the embassy. It is likely that the Foreign Office will now have the embarrassing task of explaining the espionage operation to its ally.

The Official Secrets Act prevents The Sunday Times from identifying the country concerned, but its leader has visited Tony Blair in Downing Street and Britain has declared it a staunch ally.

Notation arranged for MI5 to have unrestricted access to the embassy, where he was in charge of the restoration project which began in 2001.

MI5 took detailed plans and photographs of the building and worked out how to plant bugs in the internal telephone system and inside a closed-circuit television camera in the office of a diplomat. One MI5 officer pretended to be carrying out a search for hazardous materials to gain access to secure areas.

Notation received tens of thousands of pounds in cash in brown envelopes from MI5 in return for his help. He was told not to bank the money to avoid arousing Inland Revenue’s curiosity.

He was given instructions by an MI5 handler called Claire, who told him the spying operation had been authorised at “the highest level” and warrants had been signed by David Blunkett, the home secretary.

Notation eventually quit the job, saying he was concerned that the operation was badly run and feared he could be in danger. He said he could not cope with the stress.

The Sunday Times has established he was once sectioned under the Mental Health Act and spent a year in the Priory clinic, a fact that MI5 had overlooked when vetting him.

Notation has now written to Ann Taylor, chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, drawing her attention to what he says was MI5’s bad tradecraft, which he alleges jeopardised the operation. He has delivered the same letter to the American embassy in London and to the embassy that was the target of the spying.

In the letter, he claims the ineptitude included an MI5 employee going into the foreign embassy using two different identities; an MI5 officer wearing her security service badge in the street; and another taking notes in public in a police notebook.

Even his initial approach to MI5 nearly failed because the service did not return his call to its informants’ hotline.

Notation was prompted to contact the security service when he realised he could get it access to archives of documents inside the embassy, including some marked “confidential”.

When his approach to MI5 failed he called the CIA headquarters in the United States, which put him in touch with Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch.

At one stage, after infiltrating MI5 agents into the building, and being asked to “break” the embassy telephone system so that it could be “repaired”, Notation was asked to arrange for the confidential documents to be taken away under the pretence that they were being pulped.

MI5 also planned to plant listening devices in the offices of the army, navy and air attachés and in rooms they used for secret conferences.

Notation began to suffer from the stress of the deception, which was made worse when his MI5 handler told him that failure was not an option.

The political and diplomatic consequences of the discovery of the spying mission would be “cataclysmic”, he was told. “You are in no immediate physical danger,” his MI5 handler told him.

“It got to the stage where I feared for my safety,” he said. “If I had been caught I was convinced MI5 would have disappeared and denied everything, leaving me to take the blame.”

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-877051,00.html

The Times (UK)

November 02, 2003

Bugs and nervous breakdowns in MI5's bungled embassy job

Nicholas Rufford

ON a freezing winter day last year, four workmen were admitted to a foreign embassy in central London. It belonged to a country described by the Foreign Office as a friendly power and a close ally. In a secure room on the top floor, past a thick metal door, the visitors found what they had come for: a large cipher machine used by diplomats to send home confidential messages without prying by British spies.

However, the workmen were themselves on an espionage mission for the British government. Their task was to give MI5 access to the embassy’s secrets.

It was intended as a crucial blow in the war on terrorism. Nothing could be allowed to go wrong. In the end, however, almost everything did. One of the “workmen”, a key intelligence asset, was on the brink of a nervous breakdown triggered by what he saw as the bungling and carelessness of his MI5 handlers.

The removal men criss-crossed the room carefully examining the machine, a hefty piece of equipment the size of a coffee table. Members of the embassy staff stood politely to one side. As far as they were concerned, the men were specialists who were deciding the easiest way to shift it to the basement.

The head of chancery, who stood holding the key to the door of the secure office, wondered why it took so many men such a long time. They assured him that moving the heavy machine to a secure bunker in the basement was no easy job.

What they did not tell him was that they had already copied down the secret codes for the machine from a yellow Post-it note on the wall. Now they were working out how, accidentally on purpose, to break the machine so they could send in one of their own repair teams to tamper with it.

After two hours the men left the white-stuccoed building and headed to a nearby luxury hotel. In the foyer they were greeted by a young woman in a business suit — the MI5 officer in charge of the operation. “It went brilliantly,” said one of the men. “Let’s go and celebrate.”

This was one of MI5’s most sensitive missions: a spying operation against an ostensibly friendly embassy to garner valuable information for the war against terror. The Sunday Times knows which embassy was involved but it is withholding this information for obvious security reasons.

The plan was to bug the building’s communications systems from roof to basement, from the radio transmitter to the telephone switchboard. MI5 also hoped surreptitiously to obtain the embassy’s archives of visa applications, a potentially valuable database that could be cross-referenced with other intelligence to help to identify possible terrorists.

Spying on diplomatic missions in London is part of MI5’s job. Officially sanctioned as “counter-espionage”, this usually involves keeping the staff of the diplomatic mission under surveillance and, during the cold war, occasionally expelling them for activities not consistent with their diplomatic duties (“PNGed”, from persona non grata, as such expulsions are known in officialese).

Sometimes, but not often, a rare opportunity arises that allows MI5 to get inside an embassy building and plant transmitting devices. In his book Spycatcher, the former MI5 officer Peter Wright claimed that British agents planted a bug inside the cipher room of the Egyptian embassy in London, enabling MI5 to read secret Egyptian messages throughout the Suez crisis, even though the codes were changed on a daily basis.

On this cold day last year, MI5 was attempting to do precisely the same again.

The entree to this embassy lay through a west London building firm that had answered an invitation to tender for restoration work at the building. The embassy enjoyed a prime site in central London, close to fashionable department stores and parks. But it was in an almost ruinous state. Paint peeled from some of the walls. Old visa applications were packed into the basement. The telephone system was out of date and the electrical system was old.

The building contractor was surprised by the lack of security as he surveyed the ageing carpets and overloaded shelves. Several rooms were stacked with documents marked “confidential”, but a security pass was not even required to enter the building. When he became the preferred bidder for the contract he began to examine the contents of the embassy even more closely.

In one room in the basement, visa applications had been untidily stacked. It was just after the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. Could some of the faces staring out of the visa photographs belong to terrorists? At the very least the visa applications would provide a treasure trove of names. And what could all the documents marked “confidential” reveal about the activities of the diplomats and their own intelligence services? The building contractor decided to contact the British security services, although he soon found it was not easily done. He tried MI5’s caller hotline, set up to receive tips from informants, but no one returned his calls Exasperated, he looked up the number of the CIA and called the agency’s headquarters in the United States. A few days later he was contacted by a man called Rick.

He was invited to the American embassy in Grosvenor Square, since September 11 a fortress of concrete blocks and barricades. The contractor was escorted through the security cordons and up a flight of stairs. Presented with a Starbucks coffee, he told his story to Rick.

He handed over copies of plans of the embassy and was told that the information would have to be shared with the British security services.

He was subsequently contacted by an officer of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch. A meeting was arranged at the contractor’s home in southwest London.

The Scotland Yard officer arrived with a woman in her thirties who introduced herself as Claire. She presented him with a white business card that carried only her name and telephone number.

“I work for the government,” she told him. Within days he had an MI5 handler and a code name — Notation.

MI5 wanted a complete audit of the building. It needed to establish the internal layout and find out where sensitive communications equipment was located. Who kept the codes and the keys? Where were safes, locked filing cabinets and other secure storage facilities?

It wanted to know the level of security, how easy it would be to remove materials or take photographs undetected. Were there rooms where the military, naval and air attachés discussed sensitive matters? Could those rooms be bugged?

Claire asked Notation to pinpoint on a floor plan the seating position of every member of staff. When he completed the job she praised him as a “natural” and asked for more. He furnished lists of names, addresses and telephone numbers for embassy staff, internal phone books for the foreign ministry and other government departments back home.

The next stage was trickier. Could Notation get agents into the building? “No problem,” he said. Security at the embassy consisted only of signing an entry log. MI5 was delighted.

On the last day of September Notation met Claire and a second MI5 officer called Graham at a hotel near the embassy. Notation suggested Graham should pose as a contractor carrying out a survey to see whether the building contained any dangerous materials.

Their cover agreed, Notation showed Graham around the building. The MI5 man’s reconnaissance produced numerous photographs of the embassy’s interior. The offices of the naval attaché were on the top floor. Nearby were the army and air attachés’ offices.

Inside the military offices were filing cabinets containing secret purchase orders from the foreign ministry and other branches of the foreign government for components and equipment, with destinations for the goods once they were shipped.

Unbelievably, the drawers to many of the filing cabinets were left open, offering the opportunity for the contents to be rifled and photographed.

MI5 was gung-ho, but Notation was beginning to have doubts about its standards of tradecraft. On several occasions he feared that his cover would be blown.

Once, when he was being debriefed in a restaurant, an MI5 officer had used a standard police notebook — a careless giveaway in a public place, Notation thought. On another occasion an MI5 officer had arrived for a meeting in the street still wearing her MI5 identity badge on the outside of her clothing.

Nevertheless, the first stage of the operation was a success and MI5 was keen to press on. If Notation was willing to provide continuing access for MI5 — and other help — he would be paid a monthly salary in cash. He was told not to pay it into a bank account to avoid alerting the Inland Revenue.

One of his first tasks on his new salary was to identify embassy staff. He was taken to a drab MI5 flat in central London and introduced to a woman who was described as an expert in Islamic extremists.

Notation was shown a series of photographs and identified two men who worked at the embassy. Once again, Claire seemed well pleased.

The MI5 officers and Notation also hatched a plan to remove the visa documentation from the embassy basement. The embassy staff were keeping this huge mass of paperwork because they were not convinced that it could be securely disposed of.

Notation told them he could arrange for it to be destroyed by a reputable company. Furthermore, they could earn money from the paper by sending it to be pulped. The real destination of the documents, however, would be the offices of MI5.

The embassy agreed but insisted on a certificate of destruction and also on sending a member of staff in a car that would follow behind the lorry carrying the documents.

Undeterred, MI5 hatched a plan to take the paper to a pulp mill on the south coast. The journey from London would provide ample opportunity for the lorry to get separated from the diplomat’s car. On the way they would switch lorries and a fake consignment of paper would be delivered for pulping.

The diplomats were even promised payment for the recycled paper pulp from the documents they assumed were being sent for destruction.

A contractor — in reality a front for MI5 — submitted an estimate to the embassy for destroying the documents.

MI5 became more ambitious. It wanted Notation to tell embassy staff that their telephone system had been broken while it was being moved during restoration work. The system could then be “repaired” — by MI5.

The embassy staff apparently did not suspect they were the target of an espionage operation and assumed the teams of workmen entering and leaving the building were involved in restoration work.

Notation was beginning to suffer from the stress of being involved in the undercover operation and it was beginning to show.

He was worried about the possibility of getting caught. Would MI5 protect him or would its agents vanish, leaving Notation to explain the stolen documents and the broken telephone system? He also had a secret that he had kept from his MI5 handlers. Years before he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act because of stress and had spent a year in the Priory clinic.

Outwardly, he was getting on with Claire. She would tell him about her diet, her marriage and problems with her relatives. She even asked him to video-tape Enterprise, a new adaptation of the Star Trek television series, because he had access to the Sky channels.

Privately, however, his misgivings were growing. When he asked for reassurances, Claire told him the operation had been cleared by David Blunkett, the home secretary. She added: “All the necessary warrants were in place. You are in no immediate physical danger.”

Until then, Notation had never even considered himself in physical danger. He panicked. Claire did not help matters when she told him that failure was not an option. The political and diplomatic consequences of discovery would be “cataclysmic”, she warned.

The turning point came when Notation and three MI5 operatives gained access to the embassy cipher machine. While they were walking towards the building, one of the three bulky operatives — who called himself John — told Notation that he had infiltrated it once before on a previous spying mission.

Notation was aghast. He was terrified that one of the embassy staff would recognise John and their cover would be blown. He feared that the espionage operation would soon be uncovered and he would be blamed. He made contact with The Sunday Times and told his story.

“It got to the stage where I feared for my safety. If I had been caught I was convinced MI5 would have disappeared and denied everything, leaving me to take the blame,” he said.

A fortnight later Notation told Claire that he was no longer prepared to work for MI5. A meeting was arranged with a man described as the “boss” at a hotel in Victoria.

The meeting was terse. The “boss”, a thin balding man in his fifties, tossed him an envelope. It contained a thick bundle of cash. “He told me that he could never imagine any circumstance where I would have to contact Claire or MI5 again,” said Notation.

As far as Notation is aware, MI5 activity at the embassy came to a halt. Today the refurbishment of the building is almost complete. Had MI5’s plans succeeded, it would not only be a beautiful building once more but would it also be full of bugs from roof to basement.


“Notation” was not the first agent to fall out with his handlers. Other former British spies who fell foul of the espionage establishment include:

David Shayler, a former MI5 officer who revealed in his book Defending the Realm that MI5 kept files on senior Labour figures, including Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson and Harriet Harman, plus the Sex Pistols. He fled to France to escape prosecution but on return was jailed for six months. The prosecution alleged he potentially risked the lives of secret agents. He claimed to be a whistleblower rather than a traitor.

Richard Tomlinson, former MI6 officer sacked without explanation and later jailed for a year after writing The Big Breach. He caused huge embarrassment to MI6 by publishing in Moscow. After a court case the book was released in the UK. It told many MI6 tradecraft secrets — including how a specially trained mouse called Mickey penetrated an embassy in Lisbon.

Peter Wright, a former assistant director of MI5 who claimed in his controversial book Spycatcher that he and colleagues “bugged and burgled our way across London”. The book was banned in the UK when it appeared in 1986 but after a landmark court case, fought by The Sunday Times, it was eventually cleared for publication.

Michael Bettaney, an MI5 officer jailed for 23 years in 1984 for attempting to sell secrets to Russia. He was freed on parole in 1998.