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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"One of the most sensational legacies of the cold war"
 real 28k

Tom King, Chair Intelligence and Security Committee
"You can not conduct an investigation of this kind unless you have full access to all the papers"
 real 28k

Professor Christopher Andrew
"The whole history of Whitehall contains so many more cock-ups than conspiracy theories"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
MI5 criticised over spy 'failures'
Melita Norwood
Melita Norwood's KGB career lasted 40 years
The UK's domestic secret service agency, MI5, has been strongly criticised by MPs over its investigation into KGB spy Melita Norwood.

The Intelligence and Security Committee attacked MI5's decision not to prosecute Ms Norwood as a "serious failure", saying it had allowed the case to "slip out of sight" for five years.

It emerged that the government's law officers were not told about the decision when it was made by MI5 in 1992.

The revelation that 87-year-old Melita Norwood had spied for the KGB for 40 years was one of the most sensational legacies of the Cold War.

Though her importance to the Soviet Union is disputed, the disclosure proved highly embarrassing both for the government and the security service.

From 1930 until her retirement in 1972, Mrs Norwood supplied information, including developments in Britain's atom bomb technology, to the KGB.

MI5 headquarters
The report may call for changes in the way MI5 operates

Last autumn, the Home Secretary told the Commons that in 1992, MI5 had decided against prosecuting Mrs Norwood - without informing the law officers.

The cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee was asked to investigate and tabled 40 questions for MI5 and the foreign intelligence agency, MI6, to answer.

In its report, published on Tuesday, the committee said that it was a "serious failure by MI5 not to refer the case to the Law Officers.

"This failure to consult the Law Officers resulted in the decision whether or not to prosecute Mrs Norwood effectively been taken by the Security Service (MI5)," the report said.

"The committee is concerned that the Service used public interest reasons to justify taking no further action against Mrs Norwood when this was for the Law Officers to decide.

"We also believe that the failure of the Security Service to interview Mrs Norwood at this time prevented her possible prosecution."

Following the revelations over Mrs Norwood's case, supervision of MI5 has already been strengthened but more changes may be implemented.

Lifelong communist Mrs Norwood said money was not the reason she had worked for the Russians.

She said she thought some of the information she had access to "might be useful in helping Russia keep abreast of Britain, America and Germany".

Mrs Norwood's role was revealed by KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin when he defected to the West in 1992.

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