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Sunday, 2 August, 1998, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Former MI5 agent arrested
David Shyler
David Shayler said he needed the money that the revelations would bring
A former MI5 officer who left Britain last year after revealing details about the service to a Sunday newspaper, has been arrested while on the run in France.

Injunctions have reportedly been sought against two Sunday newspapers which were seeking to print further allegations about MI5 activities.

The British government is seeking David Shayler's extradition to face charges under the Official Secrets Act, but his lawyer, who is director of civil rights group Liberty, said he would fight any such move.

"David Shayler will fight the extradition because his only fault was to disclose malpractice and abuse within MI5," said John Wadham.

"There was never any intention to damage national security. The French authorities should not therefore extradite him."

According to Mr Wadham, the government was acting hypocritically as it had opposed the Official Secrets Act while it was in opposition.

The Sunday Times newspaper says Mr Shayler was in Paris meeting Richard Tomlinson, an MI6 agent who served a year in jail for handing over secret information to an Australian publisher when seeking a book deal.

Mr Wadham, who also represents Mr Tomlinson, said he did not know if he, too, had been arrested.

Forced to flee

In August 1997 Mr Shayler made a number of disclosures about MI5, Britain's domestic secret service, in a British newspaper and fled to France.

He claimed that the secret service missed a chance in the early 1990s to bring the IRA's bombing campaign to an end.

He told the BBC that the IRA was "on the ropes on the mainland" in 1993 and that if MI5 had "really gone for it" they could have finished them off.

He also said he was responsible for vetting Labour politicians before the 1992 election and that the service kept files on Jack Straw, now the Home Secretary, and Peter Mandelson, now Secretary of State for trade and industry.

Britain's Official Secrets Act makes it illegal to reveal anything about the workings of the intelligence agencies, even if the disclosures were made in the public interest.

He had tried to negotiate an amnesty to allow him to return to the UK without being arrested over the initial article but when that failed he threatened to reveal more, either in the press abroad or on a Website.

The British government obtained an injunction preventing anyone from repeating what he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper, but summaries of the allegations he made there and in subsequent interviews are available on several Internet sites.

Despite this latest crackdown, MI5 has been showing more openness in the last few months.

At the end of June, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, opened MI5's Website and revealed that the organization holds files on nearly half a million people, though only 20,000 files are active and 13,000 of these are on British citizens.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News
Mr Shayler's lawyer, John Wadham: he could face two years in jail
BBC News
David Shayler: in 1993 MI5 could have finished off the IRA
BBC News
David Shayler on Mr Mandelson's membership of the Young Communist League
See also:

03 Aug 98 | Sci/Tech
Net ties hand of censors
29 Jul 98 | UK Politics
MI5 holds nearly half a million files
29 Jul 98 | Sci/Tech
MI5 site - the secret's out!
02 Aug 98 | UK
The spy who loved attention
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