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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"Whether this is a question over national security is yet to be seen"
 real 56k

Shadow Home Secretary Anne Widdecombe
"It should be thoroughly investigated"
 real 28k

Dr Anthony Glees, Brunel University
"Whoever it was hobnobbed with the great and the good"
 real 28k

Saturday, 16 September, 2000, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Files 'reveal Stasi spy'
Margaret Thatcher
The spy "came into contact with Margaret Thatcher"
Newly-decoded files from the former East German Stasi secret service have revealed that a spy penetrated to the heart of the British establishment, it has been reported.

The Times newspaper said on Saturday that the spy, codenamed Eckart, allegedly worked at the Royal Institute of International Affairs during the 1980s and passed on sensitive information to the Communist leadership in East Berlin.

During a period of at least six years, the mole came into contact with the then UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and many other senior politicians, according to the report.

The Home Office was unable to confirm whether it was aware of the case, but said that information from the files of former Communist secret agencies could not be taken to constitute absolute proof of treachery.

Stolen documents

The Institute, known as Chatham House after its address in St James's Square, London, is an important source of foreign policy advice for the government.

The Times reports that, according to the decoded files, the agent allegedly passed on details of British and Nato military plans to East Germany, and handed over a number of documents apparently stolen from the Institute.

In November 1987, agent Eckart, whose real name is not revealed in the files, contacted his handler at the former East German Embassy in London's Belgrave Square to say he feared he was under surveillance by MI5, the report says.

It adds that Eckart's existence was revealed when German Government officials unscrambled the code to surviving Stasi files from the Cold War era.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe
Widdecombe: Seeking a thorough investigation

The UK shadow home secretary, Ann Widdecombe, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the allegation should be "thoroughly investigated" and action taken if proved true.

"Treachery always matters," she said.

"This government has shown a complete lack of will when it comes to dealing with people who have betrayed their country.

"We had exactly the same thing following what is called the Mitrokhin archive when we (the UK) received a huge amount of information and subsequently a national newspaper exposed somebody as a consistent spy over some period of time and the government have done nothing about it."

'Unsubstantiated'

A Home Office spokeswoman said the government was unwilling to discuss specific intelligence investigations.

"The government is satisfied with arrangements for bringing the results of such investigations to the attention of the prosecuting authorities," she said.

"As Jack Straw and [Home Office Minister] Mike O'Brien have indicated in Parliament, there is a clear distinction between unsubstantiated information found in the files of former Communist regimes and evidence that could be brought before a court.

"In this country, there is a long tradition that people are innocent until convicted in a court of law."

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See also:

20 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Widdecombe to press Straw over spies
20 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Universities 'riddled with spies' - professor
22 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Spying Who's Who
18 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Home Office defends spy secrecy
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