New British Intelligence Action Against Web Leaks

16.04.2000

Top secret MI5-report appeared on the Web.

Washington DC - British intelligence agencies have threatened legal action against newspapers if they reveal the address or contents of a US web site that has published a top secret leaked intelligence report. The threats are the latest in series of British government actions against internet leaks. The British campaign has already closed more than three websites - including one each on Yahoo and Geocities - and have led to a string of reporters and editors being threatened with fines or imprisonment if they report what they see on the net.

The latest leaked document is the most highly classified recent report ever to be published on the internet. Each of its pages is marked "TOP SECRET DELICATE SOURCE UK EYES A". It is also the first to have come from the files of the British Security Service, usually known as MI5.

The designation "UK EYES A" or "ALPHA" means that the report was never intended to be seen even by American agents. Most British intelligence reports are routinely shared with US agencies.

The top secret files on the Libyan Intelligence Service appeared on Friday at www.cryptome.org/, a New York web site that specialises in reproducing new material on intelligence, privacy and cryptography issues. The popular, frequently visited and constantly updated site is run as a hobby by John Young, a New York architect. According to his web pages, the secret report reached him from an anonymous source.

British government officials do not deny that the report is authentic, and moved on Saturday to suppress reporting of the information. The British authorities claim that to publish anything from the report would break a court order in Britain, and could render the publisher(s) liable to prosecution for contempt of court.

Despite the threats, however, the London Observer newspaper decided to publish a detailed print report on the affair in its Sunday editions. They did so despite having a specific warning from British government solicitors that if they did so, it would allegedly breach an injunction (ban on reporting) issued against a former British intelligence officer.

Despite the threats, as of Saturday evening, British authorities had not approached Mr Young or his ISPs, and the sensitive pages were still on view.

Agent led British intelligence "down the garden path"

The British government has claimed that the leaked file can be traced to David Shayler, a former Security Service officer who now lives in exile in Paris. Mr Shayler's revelations, for which the British government sought unsuccessfully to deport and jail him, have been a thorn in the side of the London spy agencies for four years. The leaked report confirms previous claims by Shayler that British intelligence bungled the attempted recruitment of a Libyan agent, Khalifa Ahmad Bazelya. Shayler has previously claimed that Bazelya was foolishly admitted to Britain and then led British intelligence "down the garden path" while conducting a series of intelligence operations on behalf of the Libyan regime.

The result of this incompetence, he claims, was the murder in London on 26 November 1995 of Ali Abuzeid. Abuzeid was one of a number of Libyans who had taken part in a British secret service financed plot to assasinate Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi the previous year. He had been given British citizenship and allowed to settle in the UK.

The Top Secret report suggests that after his death there was a cover-up involving British police and the Conservative government, which played down Libyan government involvement in the murder.

The report sets out in detail the activities of the career spy who had already come to the notice of British and US intelligence officers before coming to Britain. He had been expelled from Ethiopia in March 1991 for allegedly funding rebel activity, including the supply of weapons used in the assassination of an Ethiopian Minister. Intelligence sources said that weapons were smuggled in the Libyan diplomatic bag and Bazelya was expelled after this was discovered and one of these consignments was seized.

He was also believed to have been a prominent member of the Revolutionary Committee, which was directly responsible for hanging 13 anti-regime student activists at a university in Tripoli.

In January 1992, the FBI reported that Bazelya had links with the Provisional IRA and had visited Dublin on a number of occasions to meet contacts. During his time in the UK, Bazelya was in regular contact with Musa Kusa, the notorious head of the Libyan intelligence service, who was wanted in France for a terrorist attack. MI5 reported that its sources had said that Bazelya was Kusa's "puppet or right-hand man".

During Bazelya's brief time in Britain, there were said to be at least four Libyan intelligence officers in the UK posing as under students. Bazelya was also responsible for a network of spies to whom he paid up to £800 a month each from a 'political budget" . According to an MI6 source, Bazelya knew Gadaffi personally and had entertained him at his home in Libya. It was also claimed that he had prepared lists of Libyan students in Britain who had failed to attend celebrations of the country's national day.

In one of his most spectacular operations, Bazelya was also said to have visited British universities, where he made contact with Libyan students and academics. It was believed he used these visits to gain information for to help Gadaffi's weapons programmes.

The document says that Bazelya was also responsible for a propaganda campaign 'aimed at persuading the British public that the Libyans were not responsible for the bombing of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Much of the information in the report is clearly derived from telephone taps, and is referred to as "telecheck" information. Much else came from secret agents, both in Libya and in Britain. One of the additional targets of the spying on Bazelya was a newspaper editor, Victoria Brittain of the London Guardian, whom MI5 claimed received funds from the Libyan. It was later shown that this money originated elsewhere and was passed on to a London lawyer, to finance a libel case.

According to the New York site manager, John Young, he does not intend to accede to British pressure:

"I will keep the pages up. If I need to, I can add images of the actual report. This is information in the public interest, and the web is the right place for it."

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