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David Shayler
"This is extremely embarrassing for the government"
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Alan Rusbridger, Editor The Guardian
"An extremely robust judgement"
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Saturday, 22 July, 2000, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Ex-MI5 agent backs Shayler
David Shayler
David Shayler: Planning to return home next month
An ex-MI5 officer has joined David Shayler in speaking out about mismanagement in the UK's security service.

Jestyn Thirkell-White, who resigned from the service in 1996, said MI5 was in desperate need of reform and modernisation.

He said it was "totally wrong" that no investigations had been launched into Mr Shayler's claims - including one that MI6 colluded in an assassination plot to kill Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi.

"I expected an independent inquiry because the allegations were serious enough to warrant proper investigation," Mr Thirkell-White told the Guardian newspaper on Saturday.

MI5 and special branch were acting like the very police state they are supposed to be protecting us from

Jestyn Thirkell-White
He dismissed Home Secretary Jack Straw's comments that Mr Shayler's disclosures had in any way damaged national security and criticised the arrest of Mr Shayler's friends as "unjust and outrageous".

"It was totally disproportionate to the alleged offence," he said.

"MI5 and special branch were acting like the very police state they are supposed to be protecting us from."

Mr Thirkell-White and Mr Shayler served together in the anti-terrorism T Branch of MI5.

'Turf war'

Mr Thirkell-White supports Mr Shayler's allegation that MI5 officers wasted vital hours in the search for IRA bombers bickering over the wording of warrants, because of a "turf war" with the special branch.

"The endless redrafting was nothing to do with protecting people's civil liberties," Mr Thirkell-White said.

John Wadham, director of Liberty, which represents both Mr Shayler and Mr Thirkell-White, said the new revelations confirmed what Mr Shayler had been saying all along.

"It is now time to stop attacking whistleblowers and instead to investigate the allegations they have made about MI5," he said.

It does not change our mind about Mr Shayler one bit

Home Office spokesman
A Home Office spokesman said Mr Thirkell-White never made any allegations during his time with MI5 or in the four years since he left.

"He is subject to the same rules on clearance of information as other former officers," he said.

"It does not change our mind about Mr Shayler one bit."

Papers' victory

On Friday, two national newspapers celebrated a victory at the High Court that meant they did not have to hand over documents and e-mails sent by Mr Shayler.

The editors of The Guardian and Observer successfully challenged an order made by Judge Martin Stephens in March this year.

Lord Justice Judge quashed the order, saying the wide terms of production orders made by an Old Bailey judge "would have a devastating and stifling effect on the proper investigation of the Shayler story".

Mr Shayler, currently in exile in France, faces attempts in the UK to prosecute him under the Official Secrets Act.

He criticised the government for attacking the freedom of the press.

"When you start going down that road, you finish up with things like the Soviet Union or Iraq, or Iran or Libya," he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

Mr Shayler intends to return to the UK at the end of August.

He said that when he comes back he plans to ask the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute Foreign Secretary Robin Cook for criminal libel.

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See also:

15 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Shayler: Cook 'misled' over Gaddafi plot
17 May 00 | UK
Shayler to 'return home'
22 Dec 98 | Newsmakers
August: David Shayler
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