British state uses rare ‘breach of confidence’ clause to stop spy’s media exposure

High CourtTHE BRITISH GOVERNMENT IS citing a rarely used “breach of confidence” clause in an effort to stop the country’s public broadcaster from revealing the identity of a British intelligence officer working abroad. According to reports, this is the first time the “breach of confidence” clause has been cited by British government lawyers since the so-called Spycatcher affair of 1987. The term refers to the memoir authored by Peter Wright, senior intelligence officer for the Security Service (MI5), which the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tried to stop from being published.

As intelNews reported on January 24, British newspaper The Telegraph revealed that Britain’s attorney general was seeking an injunction against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The purpose of the injunction was to stop the BBC from airing a story that would  “allegedly identify […] a spy working overseas”. No information has emerged about the details of the case. On Wednesday, however, a High Court of Justice judge in London heard from lawyers representing the two sides in the dispute. According to The Telegraph, a lawyer representing the government argued before Justice (Martin) Chamberlain that the BBC’s attempt to air the news story involved “matters of national security and breach of confidence”.

Lawyers for the BBC, however, asked the judge to oppose the injunction sought by the attorney general, and asked for future hearings on the case to take place in public, rather than behind closed doors. They also censured the efforts by the government’s lawyers, describing them as “a departure from the open justice principle”. Justice Chamberlain concluded the hearing by saying that he was personally committed to the case being heard in public to the maximum extent possible. He also warned the government’s lawyers that he would not order to the case to be moved behind closed doors unless “secrecy is compellingly justified” by the constraints of national security. An interim hearing has been scheduled for March 1 and 2 in London.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 January 2022 | Permalink

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