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The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"Life behind the doors of MI5 has always been a closely guarded secret"
 real 28k

Former Spy David Shayler
"This is an enormous surprise"
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Former civil servant Sir Frank Cooper
"I can't imagine that she would publish despite government advice"
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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Ex-MI5 chief to publish memoirs

Dame Stella Rimington: A personal account of MI5 life
The government has denied that it is seeking to block the former head of MI5, Stella Rimington, from publishing her memoirs.

Dame Stella, the first female head of the secret service and the first to be officially named and photographed, has confirmed she has written a book which she described as a "personal" memoir.

She said that she had submitted a draft copy of the book to the government for vetting, prior to completing a publishing deal.

One former intelligence officer has attacked the book plan as "hypocrisy" while David Shayler, the former MI5 spy living in Paris, is planning to highlight his own case with a public protest throughout Wednesday.

'No threat'

Dame Stella, who headed the service from 1992 to 1996, said her book would not reveal any information of a sensitive nature or posing a threat to national security.

Former spy Richard Tomlinson
Richard Tomlinson: Jailed for publishing secrets
"I have written a draft which I have submitted to the relevant government authorities," she told The Sun newspaper.

The Home Office said discussions about the book's publication were following normal procedures.

A spokeswoman said the government's overriding concern was that nothing should appear which would endanger national security.

"I understand that Dame Stella shares that view and that is why she submitted the text in accordance with the rules and it is being considered.

"There are no plans for a High Court injunction," she stressed.

Former spies angered

The Prime Minister's official spokesman Alastair Campbell siad that it was not the first time a former head of the security service had written their memoirs, saying Sir Percy Sillitoe had published his in 1955.

In a separate move, Mr Shayler intends to tie himself to a cross outside the British embassy in Paris to show how he says he has been "crucified" by the government for revealing an alleged plot to assassinate Libya's Colonel Gaddafi.

"Dame Stella's book is an enormous surprise," he told the BBC. "She did publish a memoir about four or five years ago but that was heavily censored by the Cabinet Office.

"But it would be really interesting to see what she has to say as she was the head of counter-subversion during the miners' strike of 1984-85."

"Stephen Lander [the current head of MI5] has not carried on her openness initiatives in the same way or with the same pace," he said.

"I think that she would feel upset that that has not happened."


But Richard Tomlinson, the former intelligence officer dismissed in 1995 and later jailed for breaking the Official Secrets Act, said that government action against him had led publishers to back away out of fear of "legal reprisals".

"I signed a book contract in Zurich to publish my memoirs of the persecution that I have suffered at the hands of MI6 since leaving their employment," he told the BBC.

"My book does not cover any of my time in MI6. Yet MI6 have just spent yet more public money to serve an injunction on the literary agent.

"[Stella Rimington's book] is hypocrisy beyond belief."

Speaking later in the House of Commons, Labour MP Tam Dalyell asked Prime Minister Tony Blair whether or not the book would have a chapter on Dame Stella's role as an "agent provocateur working for ... Margaret Thatcher against the National Union of Miners."

Mr Blair declined to comment on allegation but added that she was following the correct prodecures for someone in her position who wished to publish a memoir.

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See also:

22 Jun 99 | UK
Behind the MI5 myth
17 May 00 | UK
Shayler to 'return home'
22 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Spying Who's Who
17 May 00 | UK
The culture of secrecy
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