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The aim of this dossier is to serve as a reference point for information on covert actions by Government agencies that are inconsistent with stated government policy or which infringe civil liberties hence subverting the normal course of decision-making in a participative democracy.

The dossier identifies some of the complicities between these agencies and the media, PR and academic communities, including the outright recruitment of journalists by the security services and the planting or slanting of news to support Government policy.

It is extremely dangerous to use that vague and woolly word ‘terrorist’ and then on that basis hand over to government the power to decide how it should relate to its people…the language of terrorism is very appealing to government because once it says ‘we know what is about to happen and if we don’t do A, B and C then something terrible will happen – trust us’, really they are on easy street. There is no way of calling [government] to account and that certainly departs from the Human Rights idea of the rule of law….we were told last year how vital these [anti-terrorism] laws were because we were faced by the terrorist threat. The implication was that if these number of people were taken off the streets or that number of powers given to the security services we would somehow or other be protected from the terrorists. But they seem to be as worrying as ever. So there is a voracious appetite on the part of what one might call the secret state – to aggrandizing more and more power and laws – but the more they have, the more they seem to need and the paranoia and our anxiety continues.

Conor Geart, Professor of human rights law at the London School of Economics BBC Radio 4 ‘Start the Week’, 9 December 2002


While much of the information presented in this ‘Theme of the Month’ is of a historic nature, it alerts civil society to the possibilities of surreptitious control, black propaganda, infiltration and the cavalier approach to civil liberties:

The information has been collated from published sources, including the memoirs of officers of the security services press reports and records released by the Public Record Office. A small number of upright MI5 officers have questioned the activities they are asked to undertake and suffered the consequences – since the revision of Official Secrets Act in 1989 there is no ‘public interest defence’ for whistle-blowers. This is something which the Labour Party campaigned for when in opposition, but abandoned on gaining power in 1997.

A British Muslim community of under 1.8 million (in a total population of 58 million) is today in the spotlight. We see a disproportionate and opportunistic deployment of resources, from attempts to recruit informers to the planting of useful idiots – Muslim organizations have nothing to hide, but it is their duty to preserve their own institutional integrity, to be aware that journalists’ credentials are often not what they seem, and to form alliances with civil libertarians in questioning the modus operandi of the vast, lightly accountable security bureaucracies.

I met people in the security services who talked the most ridiculous nonsense and whose whole philosophy was ridiculous nonsense. If one of them were on a tube and saw someone reading the Daily Mirror they would say: Get after him that is dangerous. We must find out where he bought it’.

Former Prime Minister Edward Heath, Hansard, Commons, 15 Jan 1988


The IRA aside, I was concerned about how I was instructed to carry out operations against tiny organizations and harmless individuals who posed no conceivable threat to national security. I was also shocked to discover the extent to which mail was intercepted, telephones tapped and houses broken into – all in the name of “security”.

Ex-MI5 agent David Shayler, who was sentenced to six months in jail in November 2002 following his conviction for breaking the Official Secrets Act. This brought an end to a five year saga, that included time in a French prison. The Government attempted to have him extradited from France for being a ‘terrorist’.

In the aftermath of September 11, numerous persons, mostly Muslim, have been detained and held without charge or trial in Britain. Too often, it is later uncovered that this was based on evidence that would not stand up before a court of law. These practices must come under the public spotlight and citizens alerted to miscarriages of justice. Citizens seek a secure state – not a security state.

The Cold War Period