Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
The spy who was snubbed
The row over the publication of top secret information on the Internet is the latest episode in a cat and mouse game between Richard Tomlinson and the UK security services.
Ever since he was sacked as an MI6 agent in 1995, Mr Tomlinson is said to have harboured a grudge against elements of the British establishment.
His disillusion seems to have been fuelled by the decision of the then Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, to deny the New Zealand-born spy an industrial tribunal, on the grounds it might jeopardise national security.
James Bond-type figure
Since then Mr Tomlinson has made a series of high-profile claims in the press about MI6 operations and fought against gagging orders to publish a book about MI5.
His current "pariah" image is a world away from that when he first signed up with the security services, of a text-book James Bond figure.
With a Cambridge first in aeronautical engineering under his arm, and weekends spent training with a territorial division of the SAS, he must have looked an ideal candidate.
Working under the codename T, he was posted to Bosnia, Moscow and the Middle East.
But in 1995, at the end of his training with the Secret Intelligence Service, he was sacked. He was viewed as "unsuitable" - too much of a loose cannon to be trusted.
Speculation is that he ruffled feathers by raising concerns about Serbian donations to the Conservative Party, while attempts to infiltrate the a Middle East chemical weapons procurement network had gone wrong.
Mr Tomlinson's only right of recourse - to take his employers to industrial tribunal - was refused on the grounds of "national security".
He sank into a depression that was compounded by the death from cancer of his girlfriend. He is said to have told MI6 that he had become suicidal.
He went to live in Spain and, in an attempt to get back at his former employer, wrote articles for the British press.
This, alongside his threats to expose MI6 in detail on the Internet, saw Mr Tomlinson arrested on his return to the UK. In 1997 he became the first MI6 agent to be tried under the Official Secrets Act since George Blake in 1961.
He pleaded guilty and served six months in a British prison, an experience that intensified his depression.
He is reported as having reflected: "Always the deep anger would well up in me - fuelled by resentment at the circumstances that led to my imprisonment."
He was also struck by the "hypocrisy" of being tried in court when he had been refused a legal right of redress against his dismissal.
Once out of jail, Mr Tomlinson was back in the headlines, behind allegations designed to embarrass the British authorities. His claims included:
But Mr Tomlinson, who now spends much of his time in Switzerland, has denied he is motivated by revenge. He said in a radio interview: "My dismissal is a long time in the past ... it has nothing to do with that."
For its part, the UK Government is keen to portray him as a deluded self publicist.
A Foreign Office spokesman said he was a "fantasist" without "moral scruples" living in a "fantasy world".