Common Ground - May 09
Spies, lies & whistleblowers
by Annie Machon
Annie Machon on tour
Friday, May 22, 7pm
Vancouver Public Library, Alice Mackay Rm.,
350 West Georgia St.
Tickets: $15 available through
Sunday, May 24, 7pm
Alix Goolden Performance Hall
907 Pandora St.
Tickets: $10 available through www.hightideconcerts.net and at the following bookstores – Victoria: Chapters, Ivy’s, Sorenson’s, Cadboro Bay Books. Sidney: Tanner’s
MY NAME is Annie Machon and for six years in the 1990s, I was an Intelligence Officer (IO) in MI5*, the UK Security Service. In 1997, along with my ex-partner and fellow spy, David Shayler, I blew the whistle on the crimes and incompetence of the British intelligence agencies. In doing this, we had to give up our careers, go on the run across Europe, live in hiding for a year and then spend two years in exile in Paris.
We, and many of our friends, family, supporters and other journalists, were intimidated, arrested and put on trial for trying to expose the crimes committed by the spies. David was imprisoned twice: once in France in 1998 when the British government failed to extradite him and again in 2002 after he voluntarily returned to the UK. He was put on trial and convicted of a breach of the draconian Official Secrets Act – all this for blowing the whistle on the crimes of the spies.
I am now a speaker, political activist and writer and despite the British government’s best efforts to suppress my book, Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers, in which I wrote about our experiences, it was published in 2005.
During my tour of Canada, I shall be speaking about the role of intelligence agencies in the current era of the unending “War on Terror,” how they monitor us and the implications for our democracies. The “War on Terror” is, of course, predicated on the tragic events of 9/11.
In the name of protecting national security, spy agencies are being given sweeping new powers and resources. Their intelligence has been politicized to build a case for the disastrous war in Iraq. They are failing to stop terrorist attacks and they continue to collude in illegal acts of internment and torture, euphemistically called “extraordinary rendition.” Most Western democracies have already given the spies so many new powers that we are effectively living in police states. Throughout my tour, I will be asking the question, “As an informed community, what can we do about this?”
I shall also be telling the story of my time as a spy and the whistle-blowing years. I will also talk about what it was like to be recruited and work for MI5 and the crimes of MI5 and MI6, which include:
- MI5 files held on government ministers
- Illegal MI5 phone taps
- IRA bombs that could and should have been prevented
- Lying to the government
- The 1994 bombing of the Israeli embassy in London by Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, and the subsequent wrongful imprisonment of two innocent people
- The illegal MI6 assassination attempt against Colonel Gaddafi of Libya
The illegal MI6 plot to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi in1996 was the primary reason Shayler and I blew the whistle. MI6 had funded a Libyan military intelligence officer, codenamed Tunworth, to organize the attack using a group of Islamic extremists with links to Al-Qaeda. The attack occurred as Gaddafi was returning from Sirte in a car cavalcade and an explosion occurred beneath the wrong car. While Gaddafi obviously survived, innocent people were killed in the ensuing security shoot-out.
As well as being an unethical and highly reckless act in such a volatile part of the world, the operation was also illegal under UK law. MI6 is supposed to be governed by the 1994 Intelligence Services Act. Under this law, MI6 officers can have immunity for illegal acts carried out abroad (the real “James Bond” licence to kill), but only if they have prior written permission from their political master – the Foreign Secretary. In this case, they had no such permission.
We repeatedly tried to give evidence about the Gadaffi plot to the government; to this day, it has refused to accept it, even though an MI6 document was leaked in 2000 proving the plot, and sources in French and US intelligence were aware of it. When Shayler exposed this crime in 1998, he was thrown in prison in Paris because the British government tried (and failed) to extradite him. There was huge pressure for an enquiry, but the government managed to spin its way out of one.
I will also be talking about how to go “on the run,” what it’s like to cross the secret state and how to survive and the lack of accountability and oversight. The spies literally get away with murder.
The current situation
Despite glaring intelligence failures, both in the run-up to the Iraq war and in a number of recent terrorist attacks on the UK, our government still continues to grant more resources and powers to the spies. During my talk, I will also address the implications of these new laws for our democracy and the failure of the mainstream media to effectively hold the spies to account.
What can we do? We have a probably limited window of opportunity to halt this slide towards totalitarianism. It’s time for us to reclaim our democracies.
*The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5), is the United Kingdom’s counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of the intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS).