Days: it’s a blog thing

Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…

Tuesday, November 05, 2002 ↓


Mr. Justice Moses handed down sentence today in the case of David Shayler, the former MI5 employee (I will not refer to him as a “spy” in the way that some elements of the media have, since that conjures up images of field agents, rather than someone like Shayler who was clearly a desk jockey) who passed secret documents to the Mail on Sunday newspaper five years ago.

I have a pretty straightforward and (perhaps unusually, for me) illiberal view of such matters. I’ve spent a large part of my professional career in the defence industry. Consequently I’ve been subject to vetting, and I’ve signed pertinent parts of the Official Secrets Act. I knew what it meant, I knew I was going to have to do it before I went into that line of work, and it was part of my contract with my various employers.

David Shayler is not stupid. He also knew these things when he joined one of the security services. He knew, as the prosecution in the case put it, that he had a “life-long duty of confidentiality” that did not end with his employment at MI5. I can therefore find no sympathy for him when the Crown follows a necessary course of action and a jury reaches the only possible verdict. Given his cavalier handling of secret materials and disregard for the difficulty or danger in which his actions might have placed real MI5 or MI6 agents, he was damned lucky to get away with so short a sentence.

He can pontificate all he likes about how he was trying to expose wrongdoing or incompetence in the security services. His way was not the way to do it. If he believed there were serious causes for concern, he could have approached his own MP, or the Home Secretary, or (as indeed he did) the parliamentary committee on security and intelligence. A national newspaper does not figure in that list. (And call me an old cynic, but if he truly was motivated only by a desire to expose what was wrong, then why did he accept the £40,000 payment from the Mail on Sunday?)

Just as those who can’t stand heat should stay out of kitchens, those unable to keep confidentiality should stay out of jobs requiring their observance of the Official Secrets Act.

Posted at 10:58 PM

Monday, November 04, 2002 ↓


Racing at Wetherby: Saturday, November 2. Motor Show at Birmingham: Sunday, November 3.

A good time was had by all, as they say. But no, the proceeds from the first did not allow us to buy anything at the second. You can’t even buy a Corgi car these days for £3.50…

Posted at 12:00 PM

Previous entries

Older material is stashed away under Replays.