Richard Tomlinson, a former MI6 officer who has already spent a year in jail for writing his autobiography, is being harassed by the security services over the writing of a novel. He has responded by publishing the draft of the novel on the web. He says,
I have already been prosecuted for breaking the OSA in 1998, when I was convicted of writing a synopsis of my autobiography, “The Big Breach”. At my trial, the prosecution witness (John Scarlett, then Head of Operational Security, now CSS) solemnly claimed, in a hushed court with an emptied public gallery, that my synopsis would “gravely damage national security” and “would put agents lives at risk”. I was not allowed to call witnesses to challenge these sweeping assertions, and there was no debate as to the veracty of his allegations. As a result, I received a one year sentence in a maximum security jail.
I am not going to let this sort of “secret trial” happen again. Therefore I intend to publish all their “evidence” against me so that a worldwide jury can judge me.
The Register reports with more background:
Tomlinson had his house and boat in France raided earlier this year after MI6 claimed he was responsible for releasing a list of alleged active MI6 agents on the internet. Even though Tomlinson now links to the list from his blog, he swears he wasn’t behind the list. Since the raid, he has fought with the UK government, including MI6 and Special Branch, for the return of his possessions, publishing copies of emails and letters sent to him over the matter online.
Recently, the UK authorities confirmed that they were retaining ownership of his possessions because he had “made a number of references to writing a novel or book to be based in whole or in part on information falling within the terms of the Order”. That order was the terms of Tomlinson’s release and he was effectively accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act a second time. Tomlinson’s response has been to publish the first chapter of his book on his blog, presumably with the threat of releasing further chapters until his possessions are returned.
The online battle has been going on since March this year, when Tomlinson discovered blogging and set about trying to force MI6 to respond to his endless requests for his sacking to be reviewed by a tribunal.
He soon gained the ire of MI6 chief John Scarlett by accusing him of having blood on his hands thanks to his part in the production of the now-discredited Iraq war dossiers. Tomlinson also threatened to expose what he knew, including the names of MI6 agents, online. His house was raided and in August his Typepad blog was shut down at the request of Special Branch. Tomlinson opened up a Blogger account immediately afterwards with the title ” Tomlinson v MI6 (it’s back!)”.
You can read the draft of his novel at his blog, and follow events as they happen from there.
This isn’t the first time he’s done this. The Register reported on the same tactic being employed over his autobiography in 2001, which then led to the accusations that Tomlinson was behind the list of MI6 agents being posted to the web (which he denies). From that stems the current fight over his novel.