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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Listening in to security secrets
BBC TV Centre
Security messages heard on roof of BBC TV Centre

It's hard to believe, especially post 11 September, that a radio enthusiast with a 200 handheld scanner can be a potentially lethal threat to national security.

But there is little doubt that the information Paul Wey, who lives with his parents in Hertfordshire, gleans from his hobby could be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.

The Today programme heard of Mr Wey and his radio hobby through a "well placed source" and asked him to come into our studios and show us exactly how to go about listening to people who don't want to be listened to.

It could be used by terrorists to perpetrate serious atrocities

Security source

With great surprise, he arrived the next day with a smile on his face and a scanner in his hand.

He followed us up on the car park roof at the BBC's HQ and - within seconds - a crackling signal burst out of the receiver: a Special Branch man began to tell colleagues the best way out of Kensington Palace, advising that the royal car steer clear of a burst water main holding up traffic.

Wey told us the codename used was for the Duke of Kent.

On the way to the roof, he had listened across moves to protect a visiting head of state, saying it was the President of Indonesia.

'Severe danger'

Earlier that week, Wey boasted, he had listened to the security services protecting another visiting head of state.

Paul  Wey
Paul Wey runs an internet newsgroup
It turned out to be Ariel Sharon - the Prime Minister of Israel and probably the biggest terrorist target in the world after George W Bush.

To be fair to Mr Wey, he may be a threat to national security, but he is also exposing a potentially lethal flaw in the protection of potential terrorist targets.

He puts the information on an internet newsgroup and has no real way of knowing exactly who is receiving it.

We secretly recorded him claiming to be able to access the frequencies used by the Prime Minister's protection team, bodyguards of foreign heads of state visiting London, and police and military communications.

He told us: "It amazes me that our close protection boys still mainly use this stuff. In every other country in the world, even the smallest countries, their channels are secure."

Mr Wey admits to putting national security at risk "to a limited degree", but said terrorists or criminals "would be aware of this sort of thing whether I published them or not".

'Wrong hands'

An intelligence officer told us Mr Wey's newsgroup was "basically an ex-directory publication of radio frequencies used by government security services, military and police and other emergency services throughout the UK".

Ariel Sharon
Security details on Ariel Sharon's movements were picked up
"The frequencies and information published on the site, particularly the files published, contain highly restricted information which in the wrong hands could be used to the detriment of the Crown and the government.

"It could be used by terrorists to perpetrate fairly serious atrocities. He is a menace, a severe danger to the public and to national security.

"Our personal view is the site should be closed down.

"We would like to see scanners and their possession made illegal. They can only be used for illegal activities.

"It is similar to saying it's OK to possess a gun as long as you don't put bullets in it."

See also:

06 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
18 Jun 02 | UK Politics
23 Jun 02 | England
28 Jun 99 | Americas
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