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

British government seeks injunction against BBC report that could reveal spy’s identity

BBCTHE BRITISH GOVERNMENT IS seeking to stop the nation’s public broadcaster from airing a story that would allegedly reveal the identity of a British intelligence officer working abroad. The news emerged on Friday, when London-based newspaper The Telegraph said the British government had taken the unusual step of seeking an injunction against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in order to prevent it from “allegedly identifying a spy working overseas”.

Since then, the BBC and British government officials have refused to disclose even vague information about the program in question, or the precise nature of the injunction. However, the BBC did confirm on Saturday that the government had “issued proceedings against the BBC with a view to obtaining an injunction”. The purpose of the injunction, said the BBC, was to “prevent publication of a proposed BBC news story”.

When asked to provide information about the broad theme of the story, BBC representatives said they were “unable to comment further at this stage”. They did, however, stress that the broadcaster would not have been insistent on publishing the information, unless it felt it was “overwhelmingly in the public interest to do so” and unless it was “fully in line” with the BBC’s own editorial values and standards.

Meanwhile, the office of the United Kingdom’s attorney-general, Suella Braverman, has also confirmed that “an application” had been made against the BBC. A spokesperson added that it would be “inappropriate to comment further while proceedings are ongoing”. A court hearing is expected to take place on Thursday behind closed doors at the High Court in London. It is likely that a High Court judge could issue a ruling on the same day.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 January 2022 | Permalink

New report sheds light on Russian private military group’s operations in Libya

Khalifa HaftarA new documentary aired on Tuesday by the BBC offers new evidence of extensive involvement in Libya by the Wagner Group, a secretive security firm believed to operate on behalf of Russian military intelligence. After first appearing in Ukraine in 2014, the company has been seen to operate around the world as a private paramilitary entity. Its mission is allegedly to afford the Kremlin “plausible deniability” capabilities for operations in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. As intelNews has explained before, there is evidence that the Kremlin provides payments to Wagner. But concrete information about the secretive firm is hard to come by, and the Russian government strongly denies having links to it.

Now, however, a new television documentary produced by the BBC claims to have uncovered reliable evidence of extensive involvement by Wagner in the Libyan conflict —as well as links between Wagner and the Russian military. Wagner personnel first appeared in Libya in April of 2020, when they were seen operating in support of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, commanded by Field marshal Khalifa Haftar. In the spring of 2020, as the conflict was winding down, Wagner group forces retreated from areas south of the city of Tripoli, which were eventually occupied by Haftar’s rival, the Government of National Accord.

The documentary, co-produced by BBC News Russian and BBC News Arabic, is titled “Haftar’s Russian Mercenaries: Inside the Wagner Group”. It is based on the discovery of a Samsung Galaxy tablet, which was left behind in the Tripoli area by a retreating Wagner fighter. According to the BBC the information recovered from the tablet provides “unprecedented insight” into Wagner’s operations in Libya. It includes maps of the terrain in the Russian language, as well as a list of codenames used by Wagner personnel during their operations in the North African country.

Another series of documents recovered from the tablet list weapons used by the group during its operations in Libya. Acceding to the information released online by the BBC, the weapons lists include state-of-the-art radar and other military equipment, which experts claim are “only be available from the Russian military”. The documentary also lays out allegations of war crimes conducted by Wagner personnel in Libya, which include mining and even booby-trapping civilian areas.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 August 2021 | Permalink

News you may have missed #660

Margaret ThatcherBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Taiwan President accused of spying on political opponents. Taiwan’s opposition challenger for the presidency, Tsai Ing-wen, has accused intelligence services under the control of incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of tracking her campaign events for political advantage. The allegations – unproven and denied by Ma – conjure up memories of Taiwan’s one-party past when Ma’s party, the Nationalists, used their total control of the state apparatus to persecute opponents.
►►Analysis: Has Israeli-Australian spy relationship been restored? Intelligence sharing between Israel and Australia was halted this time last year, when a Mossad hit squad with forged Australian passports assassinated senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in in Dubai. But Australian newspaper The Age reports that “the flow of top secret intelligence between the two countries has now been restored”, in a move apparently initiated by the Australian side.
►►Thatcher threatened to ban BBC program on MI5 and MI6. The Conservative government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher threatened to “veto” a BBC investigative program about British intelligence services MI5 and MI6, because it would reveal details about how they operated and question their public accountability. In a letter marked “top secret and personal”, cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong, recommended that Margaret Thatcher consider invoking the rarely used power, saying that “the government has the power to ban any program”. Thatcher wrote on the note: “I would be prepared to use the veto”.

Uproar as UK government classifies details of weapon expert’s death

Dr. David Kelly

Dr. David Kelly

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Public speculation over the alleged suicide of UK biological weapons expert Dr. David Kelly is bound to increase, after a senior state official secretly ordered that details of his death be kept secret for 70 years. Dr. Kelly, a British Ministry of Defense scientist, who had been employed by the United Nations as a weapons inspector, caused a major stir by becoming one of the sources of a 2003 BBC report disputing the British government’s claim that Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons at 45 minutes’ notice. He was later called to appear before a Parliamentary committee investigating the government’s claims about Iraq’s purported ‘weapons of mass destruction’. But on July 18, 2003, four days after appearing before the committee, Dr. Kelly’s was found dead at a wooded area near his home. Read more of this post

BBC releases archival documents on KGB spy Guy Burgess

Guy Burgess

Guy Burgess

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The BBC’s archive unit has released 24 previously unpublished documents on Guy Burgess, a British-born KGB double spy who defected to Moscow during the early stages of the Cold War. Prior to joining the British Foreign Office, Burgess worked for the BBC as a producer of its Week in Westminster radio program, which covered British Parliamentary activity. The archival documents, some of which date back to 1936, shed light on his activities while at the BBC. They include a reference letter addressed to the BBC from Burgess’ academic mentor, renowned Cambridge University historian Sir George Trevelyan. In the letter, Professor Trevelyan describes Burgess as “a first rate man” and notes that “[h]e has passed through the communist measles that so many of our clever young men go through and is well out of it”. Read more of this post

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