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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK


War of words over spy claims

An injunction forbidding identification of Mr Tomlinson has been lifted

A former spy accused of endangering the lives of British intelligence agents and diplomats is engaged in an uneasy stand-off with the UK Government.

Joshua Rozenberg: "MI6 spotted the list of names on the Internet before anyone in the media "
Richard Tomlinson allegedly posted the names of 116 MI6 agents on a US-based site after an earlier Swiss-based site was pulled by the service provider.

The site has been removed after the UK Government's Treasury Solicitor wrote to the service provider, drawing its attention to the injunction brought against Tomlinson's Swiss Web pages.

[ image: Tomlinson:
Tomlinson: "My Website doesn't contain any names"
But excerpts from the site - including the names of around 10 MI6 officers - have been copied to several "mirror" sites in the US.

'Names MI6 recruiter'

And the full list of 116 alleged MI6 officers is on another site which the BBC has discovered on the Web.

It also names a Cambridge University professor it claims is a "leading recruiter of MI6 agents".

Former KGB agent Oleg Gordievsky: "Many agents' cover will have been blown"
The authors of the page say the source of the list is "an honest man who has since left MI6 because he felt that the behaviour of that organisation was unacceptable in a civilised society".

The managing editor of a US magazine has told the BBC it published an online article on Monday which named 120 alleged MI6 officers.

Yaman Akdeniz, director of Cyber Rights and Cyber Liberties: "The genie is already out of the bottle"
He said the story was removed from its Website on Wednesday and the magazine's lawyers were now considering the situation.

The print version went to press on Wednesday and the management are discussing whether to let it reach US news-stands.

Tomlinson has accused the UK Government of "exaggerating" the damage done by his actions and says the names he published were already in the public domain.

'Endangering agents' lives'

But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has accused Tomlinson of endangering the lives of people working for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), formerly known as MI6.

Mr Cook condemned his action and said "not all the names" on the list had a connection with the SIS.

[ image: Robin Cook says Tomlinson is nursing a grudge]
Robin Cook says Tomlinson is nursing a grudge
He said: "Nevertheless, the release of any such list, however inaccurate it may be, is a deeply irresponsible and dangerous act."

Mr Cook said Tomlinson nursed a "deep seated and irrational grievance" against his former employers.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "To say we are exaggerating the damage he is doing is rubbish. Not only is he putting the lives of SIS agents at risk but he is risking the lives of wholly innocent people."

Max Hastings of the Evening Standard: "Government is right to protect its information"
A government advisory body for the UK media has urged editors to seek advice before publishing details of the names, and said officials were examining how the damage from the disclosure could be minimised.

Ex-MI6 agent chased

John Wadham: "Richard Tomlinson believes that the British Authorities are harassing him"
But Tomlinson issued a statement on Thursday accusing the UK Government of "exaggerating" the damage he had caused.

He said the information on his Website was already in the public domain and added: "Her Majesty's government is over-reacting for public effect to stigmatise my efforts.

"The names of MI6 officers are the ones I cited in my affidavit on MI6 and Princess Diana."

When Tomlinson testified at the inquiry in Paris into the Princess of Wales's death he claimed her chauffeur, Henri Paul, was an MI6 employee.

The Foreign Office spokesman said Tomlinson was being disingenuous in claiming the names were already in the public domain.

He said: "While the names may be in the public domain, the fact that they are SIS agents is not."

'Jumping to conclusions'

The former agent, who now lives in Geneva, contacted BBC News by e-mail on Thursday and said: "People are jumping to the wrong conclusion. My Website doesn't contain any names".

The BBC's Jon Silverman: "This is being taken very seriously indeed"
Tomlinson was sacked by MI6 in 1995 and jailed in December 1997 for breaking the country's Official Secrets Act.

Tomlinson was released on probation after six months of his one-year sentence and has been pursued around the world since by UK Government injunctions.

Tomlinson was born in New Zealand and served MI6 in Bosnia, Russia and the Middle East. The row is a major embarrassment for MI6, who appointed a new chief, Richard Dearlove, back in February.

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