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In March 1985, Cathy Massiter, an MI5 officer who left the service after 12 years, made disclosures to Channel 4's 20/20 Vision programme ‘MI5's Official Secrets’ that the telephone lines of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) had been tapped. The MI5 had classified these organizations as ‘subversive’, which in her opinion was being overzealous: “We were violating our own rules. It seemed to be getting out of control."
Cathy Massiter testified that she was required to compile a report based on her MI5 files for DS19, a special unit inside the Ministry of Defence set up during the tenure of Michael Haseltine. The MI5’s coverage was so pervasive that at least four future ministers were ‘on file’. For example this included Patricia Hewitt, then general secretary of the NCCL (1974 to 1983) and Harriet Harman (NCCL legal officer from 1978 to 1982). On the basis of Harman's marriage to Jack Dromey (who MI5 suspected of having pro-Communist views) and the fact that Hewitt was a friend of William Birtles (who was a friend, in turn, of D.N. Pritt, described by MI5 as a "staunch friend" of the Communist Party), both women were branded on the MI5 files as "Communist sympathisers."
Among other pressure groups targeted in the early 1980s was the Anti-Apartheid movement because the MI5 deemed it to be a front for a ‘revolutionary communist group’. The Channel 4 programme also revealed that MI5’s phone tapings included Mr Sid Harroway, shop steward convenor during the Ford strike at Dagenham in 1978 and a communist. Sir Robert Armstrong, the Cabinet Secretary, defended this action in 1986 by stating that “the Communist Party is still regarded in the United Kingdom as one of the organizations subversive of parliamentary democracy”.
Harman and Hewitt successfully took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in 1990 that the files on them were in breach of Article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention. This article guarantees protection of private life.
(Sources: http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199798/cmhansrd/vo981102/debtext/81102-24.htm; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/true_spies/2336987.stm)
During the 1984-5 miners' strike, an elaborate plot was conceived by the authorities
with the connivance of the media to villify the National Union of Mineworkers
(NUM) and its elected officials, Michael McGahey and, in particular Arthur Scargill
– Margaret Thatcher’s bete noire. The allegations against Scargill
blackened his reputation from which he has yet to recover.
A misinformation campaign then alleged that Scargill and another NUM official Peter Heathfield had diverted funds from Libya to aid the strike effort to settle their personal home mortgages. Ten years after the event, Seamus Milne concluded that “every single one of the orginal claims proved to be untrue, unfounded, wildly misrepresented or so partial as to be virtually unrecognizable from any factual information…Nor, as the evidence now makes clear, could what in fact were simply ‘paper refinancings’ have ever been made with Libyan cash – because the fabled ‘Gaddafi money’ never even arrived in Britain until long after the transactions were carried out. The central allegation was a paper-thin lie, the by-product of a deliberate set-up…At every stage and in every aspect of the affair, the fingerprints of the intelligence services could be found like an unmistakable calling card. From the openly advertised intelligence contacts used in the original Sunday Times scoop on Roger Windsor’s 1984 Libyan trip, to the CIA’s tame Russian miners who helpfully called in the Fraud Squad….to the GCHQ leaks on secret-service manipulation of the Mirror-Cook Report stories, to Miles Copeland’s warnings to Scargill and Heathfield about an intelligence set-up, to Tam Dalyell’s Whitehall tip-offs about Windsor and Stella Remington…the intelligence connection ran like a poisoned thread”.
Abbasi himself denied dealing with the Security services, but went on the record stating that “I don’t think it is an unpleasant thing to be a member of an organization of a country of which I am a citizen. MI5 is there to look after the security of the country of which I am a citizen and there is no harm in working with it”. Abbasi’s hapless contact in the NUM, Roger Windsor also issued an open letter to the MI5 senior officer during the NUM crisis, Stella Remington [later MI5 Director General] that included the following bizarre passage, “Perhaps you would not welcome a public enquiry into all the events surrounding the NUM activities during and since the strike, as it might reveal that you were not as effective as you might have liked to have been, or as others would credit you” and concluded with reference to the ‘gross violations of civil liberties’ during the miners’ strike.
The NUM headquarters in Sheffield and the offices and homes of branch officials
were bugged. Transcripts from these taps were sent to the National Reporting
Centre at New Scotland Yard, which was responsible for deploying police officers
in the coalfields, and to MI5's F2 Branch. MI5 sent intelligence reports to
the Civil Contingencies Unit in the Cabinet Office. Undercover police and MI5
operatives masqueraded as miners during the strike, singling out miners for
arrest or acting as agents provocateurs to provoke violent incidents. In June
1984, two plain-clothes policemen were caught red-handed in disguise at the
Creswell Strike Centre in Derbyshire. Throughout the year-long dispute, the
security services leased the building opposite the NUM's headquarters at St.
James's House in Sheffield. Every single NUM branch and lodge secretary had
their phones monitored, as well as sympathetic support group activists and trade
unionists across the country.
[The Enemy Within – MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair, by Seumas Milne, Verso, 1994; http://www.wakeupmag.co.uk/articles/sstate5.htm]
In October 2002, the BBC 2 series True Spies described how Fords, which had
a giant car manufacturing plant at Halewood on Merseyside, only agreed to invest
there because of a suspected secret deal with MI5 and Special Branch. According
to Former Special Branch officer Tony Robinson the entire workforce was routinely
The officer told the programme that every week Ford would secretly submit a list of the latest job applicants to the local Special Branch: "We were expected to check these lists against our known subversives, and if any were seen on the list then strike a line through it……We're talking about thousands and thousands of families dependent on continued employment...you have a small group of subversives who can bring that factory to a stop, then I think the ends justify the means."
Imam Shafiqur Rehman from Oldham, Lancashire was brought before a special immigration tribunal – the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) - in August 1999 to consider a demand for his deportation by the Home Secretary on national security grounds. The hearing was attended by two MI5 officers. The Times (17 August 1999) reported: “Witness J was head of the MI5 group that monitored terrorism on the Indian subcontinent. Witness A was in charge of investigations into Islamic extremists from the area operating in the United Kingdom”. The charge against the imam was that he had raised cash and organised young British Muslim recruits for the Markaz Dawa al-Irshad (MDI). Witness A stated that a substantial percentage of cash raised by Mr Rehman’s group went to fund a jihad in Kashmir. Mr Rehman and his supporters had done nothing in this case but he was “regularly involved in jihad training. We are concerned at the potential threat to national security”.
However an underlying concern during Imam Shafiq’s hearing was his allegation that he had been approached to serve as an informer by the MI5 in 1997 and had refused. A third MI5 officer at the hearing, Witness I according to The Times report, admitted that in 1997 the Security Service had thought of recruiting him. Imam Shafiq said that the deportation order was to punish him for his refusal.
The SIAC hearing headed by Justice Potts overturned the expulsion order and said the Home Secretary had failed to show that Rehman posed a threat to national security. The government subsequently took the case to the Court of Appeal, which overturned the earlier ruling. The Court of Appeal law lords also changed the definition of national security:
The three judges, headed by Lord Woolf, the Master of the Rolls, ordered the SIAC to reconsider and suggested the commission had applied the wrong legal test as to what constitutes a threat to national security - that to qualify for expulsion the alleged risk posed by Rehman had to be directed against Britain. While Mr Straw conceded that Rehman was "unlikely to carry out acts of violence" in this country, he argued that his activities "directly support terrorism in the Indian sub-continent" and were likely to continue. Lord Woolf agreed that the "promotion of terrorism against any state is capable of being a threat to our own national security". He said the Government was entitled to treat any undermining of its policy to protect the country as being contrary to security interests.
Imam Shafiq had been denied legal aid in his case, and was represented pro bono by Sibghat Kadri QC.