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True Spies Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Secret State: Timeline
A chronology of key events:


1989 - Fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War means MI5 has to adapt to new security threats: IRA, Arabs, Libyans, and Islamic fundamentalists.

April 1990 - Poll Tax riots in Trafalgar Square.

1990 - NCCL (National Council for Civil Liberties) demands change in security laws after Council of Europe ruled that MI5 surveillance operation breached human rights of two of its leading members.

Council of Europe said the government broke European Human Rights Convention because MI5 monitored Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt. UK Government agrees to pay 50,000 court costs.

1991 - The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carries out a firebomb campaign in Scotland which ended with all eight police forces setting up a task force to catch the terrorists.

The two-month campaign saw the burning of three labs, a butcher's shop, an abattoir, hunt kennels, a meat factory, a tannery and a number of other targets linked to the food industry.

Early 1990s - the Justice Department (a militant off-shoot of ALF) sends parcel bombs to leaders of the meat trade. Keith Mann, an ALF activist, is jailed for 14 years for terrorist offences, including possession of explosives.

Former MI5 head Stella Rimington
Stella Rimington became head of MI5 in 1991

15 December 1991 - Stella Rimington appointed Director General of MI5.

Early 1991 - MI5 is given the lead role in running agents world-wide against the IRA, previously MI6's territory.

November 1991 - Reuben Falber, Assistant General Secretary of CPGB in 1960s and 1970s admits to accepting Soviet money ('Moscow Gold') to finance CPGB's support for industrial disputes such as Seamen, Miners and Car workers' strike.

8 May 1992 - The then UK Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke announces that MI5 now has lead responsibility for gathering intelligence on the IRA in Britain. Metropolitan Police Special Branch, previously responsible for this, is seriously dismayed.

MI5 is the only UK intelligence agency increasing staff numbers, from 1900 to 2300, after the Cold War.

1993 - Counter-terrorism work makes up three quarters of MI5's efforts.

1 October 1992 - MI5's 'T' Branch comes into operation to deal with Irish dissidents.

December 1992 - Battle of Twyford Down - the first direct-action by road protesters challenging the government's 23 billion road-building programme.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) Building
GCHQ works closely with MI5 and MI6

24 November 1993 - Intelligence Services Bill published. Parliamentary Oversight Committee set up consisting of MPs who "examine the expenditure, administration and policy" of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

By late 1994 the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) consists of 9 members appointed and replaced by the Prime Minister rather than the usual Commons procedure. It produces "issue reports" sent to the UK PM for vetting before being tabled in the Commons.

1994 - MI5's F2 section shut down. Despite the collapse of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989, MI5 retained its counter-subversion operations for at least another five years.

November 1994 - Home Office publishes updated guidelines for Special Branch - marking a shift in priorities from counter-insurgency duty to maintaining "the Queen's peace".

It puts greater emphasis on monitoring demonstrations, gathering intelligence "on animal rights extremist activity" and preventing such extremists from attacking people and property. The guidelines say subversion and foreign spies are regarded as a "much reduced threat".

December 1994 to February 1995 - Protests organised by Compassion in World Farming against live meat exports at Brightlingsea, Shoreham at Coventry. Police suspect infiltration by militant animal rights groups.

Animal rights campaigner Jill Phipps is killed (crushed under the wheels of a cattle truck) at Coventry airport while protesting against exporting live calves.

Combat 18 logo
Combat 18 is an extreme right-wing direct action group

April 1995 - The Anti-Terrorist Squad (SO13) is to target Britain's growing band of neo-Nazi groups like Combat 18.

January 1996 - Newbury Bypass protest.

April 1996 - Dr Stephen Lander becomes Director General of MI5.

Under 1996 Security Service Act, MI5's function extended to "act in support of the prevention and detection of serious crime."

February 1997 - Manchester Airport protest by 'Swampy' and other tunnelers.

July 1998 - Straw announced in HOC that in 1972 MI5 had an estimated 535,000 files on individuals and organisations. From mid 1992 to mid 1998 110,000 are earmarked for destruction.

October 1998 - Barry Horne, jailed animal rights activist, begins first of series of hunger strikes in protest against vivisection, which culminate in his death in 2001.

March 1999 - The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) is set up to track green activists and public demonstrations. The NPOIU incorporates the Animal Rights National Index.

Riot police during the Carnival Against Capitalism
The "carnival against capitalism" erupted into violence

June 1999 - Demonstration in the City of London billed as an international "carnival against capitalism" protesting against Third World debt, the arms trade and corporate greed.

It becomes the worst public disturbances in London since the Trafalgar Square Poll Tax riots in 1990. The City of London Corporation claim the rioters cause 2m of damage, 16 people are arrested.

5 November 2001- Barry Horne dies, weakened after his hunger strikes.

2001 - Campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences begins, it is organised by SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty).

October 2002 - Eliza Manningham-Buller becomes Director General MI5.

October 2002 - Official Secrets Act trial of former MI5 officer David Shayler begins.

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