Officers and Agents 170

I explain this in detail about every three years, but it is plain from my twitter stream today I have made no significant inroads into public consciousness.

MI6 officers, when operating abroad, do so 99% of the time disguised as British diplomats. They serve three or four year postings like other Embassy staff and will have a “cover job” doing something else in the Embassy. Back home in the UK their “cover job” is working in the FCO.

A proportion of them will be “declared” to their host country, including the Head of Station, and operate in liaison with the host intelligence services. A portion will be “undeclared” and spy on the hosts themselves or on others in territory without the hosts’ knowledge.

Those are MI6 officers, British career spies. The great advantage of the Embassy cover is that they have diplomatic immunity and when they mess up and get caught, they are simply expelled.

“Agents” are not “officers”. In MI6 terminology “agent” is another word for “informant”. The fictional James Bond is not in fact a “secret agent”. He is an officer.

Agents are usually nationals of the host country, but not always. They are “recruited” and “run” by MI6 officers. Motives vary but in the large majority of cases agents provide information for cash. British people who provide information to the Embassy from motives of patriotism will usually do so to a normal diplomat and not to MI6, but British people can be recruited as agents for MI6, in situations where the information being provided is in some sense deeply secret.

Agents of course run far greater risks than the actual MI6 officers and do not have diplomatic immunity.

Matthew Hedges is not an MI6 officer. His research would be of interest to the UK authorities, and it is not impossible MI6 were running him as an agent, but it is much more likely he would simply be cultivated by a normal member of Embassy staff, if at all, or by the FCO in London.

I am obliged to say that Jeremy Hunt has done very well in the Matthew Hedges case. He has been prepared to take individual injustice for a British person much more robustly than we have generally seen from British ministers. I quite accept this is British exceptionalism and that Palmerstonian “Cives Romanus Sum” stuff is safe ground for a Tory minister. I do realise that Hunt is not exactly forthcoming about the human rights of jailed non-British activists and opposition figures in the UAE and elsewhere. But nonetheless Hunt has been unusually robust and done well in this instance.

I compare this to Jack Straw’s utterly disgraceful behaviour in the case of Sandy Mitchell and two companions fitted up by the Saudis over a terrorist bombing 20 years ago. Straw took the opposite view to Hunt and, in the interest of Saudi/British relations, made virtually no protest even though the men suffered dreadful physical tortures in prison.

Incredibly, when after release the victims sought to sue Saudi Arabia for compensation for the torture, through the British legal system, the New Labour government actually intervened in the court case – on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

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170 thoughts on “Officers and Agents

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  • Chic kirk

    Keep up the excellent work you do craig,you provide an insight into the dirty murky world of westminster that hides out of sight of most people .

  • John Goss

    Congratulations to Craig for explaining yet again the semantic difference between “agent” and “officer” as regards MI5.

    In the meantime there is an escalation of tension in Ukraine which is not going to go away soon, since the UK is about to show its muscle by sending HMS Echo to the Black Sea. Coupled with the supply of heavy arms to the fascist coup government of Ukraine by Poland, and the Brexit deal and Ukraine elections happening at the end of March, this is a very dangerous situation. None of the 1% wants to see Jeremy Corbyn in power and it would not surprise me if that did not mean war, the trigger likely to be Ukraine.

    • John2o2o

      Craig is talking about MI6 John, not MI5. (I don’t know a lot about either).

      Echo, is apparently a relatively small vessel, so the deployment is symbolic. In other regards you may be right, though what all of this demented Russophobia is based on is anyone’s guess. I cannot fathom it.

      • JMF

        Imagine for a moment that an extremely weathy, behind the scenes, central banker has told some of our politicians that the ‘5th chamber’ of our irredeemable currency financial system is ‘filling with water’ and cannot be saved because the collapse in interest rates has caused an insurmountable destruction of capital and that we are basically heading into a total economic collapse and that as the collapse gathers pace, the politicians will become the enemy of the people with all that that will entail and therefore the best way forward is to start a major war in order to deflect the blame for the economic collapse on the war. Now you can fathom it.

      • Old person

        HMS Echo is a hydrographic survey ship.
        As the draught of the ship is 5.5m and the average depth of the Azov sea is 7m, this will be interesting.
        HMS Echo has 2 x 20mm cannon, 3 x miniguns, and 4 x machine guns.
        If you add any emergency flare guns, it will be an impressive show of force from post-imperialist Britain.
        What does the UK government hope to achieve with this nonsense apart from putting the crew at unnecessary risk to justify more idiocy?

        • CW

          Provocation? If they are fired upon, they have casus belli. The U.S. managed an entire war against the Vietnamese by NOT being fired upon in the Gulf of Tonkin, and saying they were.

          • Paul Greenwood

            The U.S. evaded an entire war against the Israelis by being fired upon in USS Liberty and saying they were NOT

            The U.S. evaded an entire war against the JapaneseVietnamese by being fired upon in USS Panay 1937 and saying they were NOT

    • Dungroanin

      There is a series of articles on Off-G about the Ukraine bs. And some very informative comments. Here is my contribution.

      ‘The Money is panicked – their grand Middle Easter escapade is mired They have opened a new front eyeball to eyeball with Vlad, using the expendable Ukes. What exactly did Pompeo agree with them a week before the latest provocation – here is a video of the sailors saying they had orders to ignore the Russian Navy.
      All straight forward and just another special relationship. Don’t cry Trezza.
      From a commentator on that article:
      ‘On November 16, the US State Department/CIA met with the Ukrainian State Department representative, and from that meeting they agreed that it should be the objective of both sides to bring about conditions that would justify a United Nations international military force being put on the border of Russia and used to fight against pro-Russian forces to take back Donetsk, to take back Crimea, and all Donbass area that revolted after the CIA puppet government was installed. ‘
      A summary of the meeting Pompeo had with the Ukrainians.

      • giyane

        Eyeball to eyeball?
        I used to play a game with my daughter when she was a child who could give the silliest answer to the question: ” I gazed into the windows of your eyes and saw: …? Blancmange. ”
        Hopefully Vlad will gaze into the windows of Gavin’s eyes and see …? Custard.

    • Tatyana

      It really feels like dangerous situation, John. It steals joy from my life.

      We’ve bought new car this weekend. It is big event for my family. I was so happy, until my husband said this new big engine will save us. We can escape the city fast, when it begins.

      Why not live in peace and let others to? Mean greedy governments. I hate warmongers.

      • Paul Greenwood

        No consolation Tatyana but I reflect on the fact that Summer 1914 was a glorious summer and even the German General Staff went on vacation……. Summer 1939 was dry and warm apparently with 38C and the rivers in Poland were low making tank advances easier……but the winter was the worst for 45 years

        It is interesting to reflect how people saw their day-to-day lives in those years

  • michael norton

    Well guess what
    Russia intends to build its first large wind farm near Yeisk, on the Sea of Azov.
    Might be an added reason for the recent kerfuffles?

    • michael norton

      The first large scale wind farm in Russia is to be close to the Ukraine port of Mariupol,
      Russia would probably like to detach Mariupol from Ukraine.

        • Paul Greenwood

          UK is intent on interfering globally counting on the protection of the United States. In that it is similar to Poland which seeks out an Anglo Empire to boost its prestige whilst antagonising its neighbours. If the Uk over-eggs this pudding it might cease to exist in the nuclear winter up ahead

      • michael norton

        The largest component of Russian Electricity production is Methane, almost half of the total but they hoping to expand wind farms.
        A few years ago Mr. Putin said it was all about Methane.
        Perhaps he will now say it’s all about Methane and renewables?
        The Kerch Bridge is also an energy and water bridge, as the U.S.A. use sanctions to get their way, maybe Russia is learning from Trump.

        • Tatyana

          I can’t understand how a wind farm in Eisk could help to detach Mariupol. Is there something that I don’t know?
          Even, if so, there’s Taganrog, another russian city and seaport, which is much more close to Mariupol. Just 112 km away, less than 2 hours driving. And no need to use seaway.

          • michael norton

            Apparently in Novorossiya as well as Iron and Coal they have Graphite,
            Graphite can be used to make Graphene.
            There was a battle for Mariupol, that swayed back and forth, Ukraine were more desperate to hang on to it,
            than Russia was to gain it.

  • Sharp Ears

    Irony alert.

    There is another one of those elaborate productions on the BBC website, this time on the subject of Fake News. A Christopher Blair and a Maarten Schenk feature.

    From the Godfather of Fake News
    Meet one of the most prolific writers of disinformation

    What’s it all about? From the broadcaster who regularly provides fake news.

    The Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC is James Purnell, ex Brown minister and LFoI member. He had affiliations to Labour 2003-2009.

    James Harding, Ceri Thomas and James Purnell here –

    • Molloy


      Ha ha, love it.
      So stupid and thick as mince. BB$$C apparently oblivious? hubris? (but the usual status money thing, robbing the public) to being the plain as nose on yer face propaganda machine for bigging up those lesser organisms who would be irrelevant were it not for bottomless pockets.
      Spit and catchits. Albeit dangerous spit and catchits.


    • Sharp Ears

      Up pops this Counterpunch article on the BBC spreading fake news.

      ‘November 27, 2018
      The BBC Has Legal Protection to Spread Fake News: the Curious Case of ISIS, Andrew Neil and Jeremy Corbyn
      by T.J. Coles
      The BBC spreads fake news. We all know that. From the uncritical parroting of the British government’s Iraqi weapons of mass destruction claims to the unchallenged lies spouted by war-mongering politicians, that Libya’s dictator (who was armed and trained by Britain, incidentally) was going to commit a “bloody massacre” in Libya’s Benghazi region.

      (A postwar British government report confirmed that the “ethnic cleansing” claim was based on what they cautiously called poor intelligence. The cruel irony is that after the BBC helped whip up support for the invasion, it reported on a real ethnic cleansing of black Libyans committed by the Islamist terrorists organized by the US and Britain to topple Gaddafi.)

      But what if the BBC had legal protection to tell and spread lies? As I document in my book Real Fake News, the answer to a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that, as an arts, literature, and news organization, the BBC has no legal obligation to give its audience any information about its sources.


      Dr. T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and the forthcoming Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

    • Spencer Eagle

      The history page is definitely amusing, it jumps from 1948 to 1956 and completely forgets to mention MI6’s key role in the Iranian coup of 1953.

    • Paul Greenwood

      We work overseas to help make the uk a safer and more prosperous place

      and we bring home to Blighty our operatives for MI5 to lose track off………..Big Bang Method……….seen any White Helmets in Salisbury ?

  • Republicofscotland

    Five international charities have strongly urged the Great Satan (Consecutive US administations) to halt all military support for the Saudi Arabian led coalition attacking Yemen.

    A joint statement by the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam America, CARE US, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council, have all said that 14 million people in Yemen, are on the brink of starvation.

    It looks like starvation is being used as a weapon in Yemen. Surprisingly a survey by the (IRC) found three-quarters of American’s oppose weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

    • Paul Greenwood

      It looks like starvation is being used as a weapon in Yemen.

      It always is in war. The British have a long tradition of using the technique. It is however time to let the Saudis pay for the indulgent manner in which these miscegenated fools running this desert playground have been treated by so-called major nations

      • Molloy


        Errmm. . . . money = major nation = $$Saudi dictatorship (who obvs do and behave as they wish).



      • Paul Greenwood

        “War Crimes” are what the Anglo-Americans decide they are.

        Israel has Full Immunity

        • Andyoldlabour

          @Paul Greenwood,

          That is the most stark and true comment so far, and I am amazed that the majority of people fail to see it that way. Where are all the people who marched in protest at the Iraq war, because the situation in Yemen is even more dire and obvious.

    • Paul Greenwood

      When UK joined EEEC and for many years thereafter it used the “Spin Chiller” method of handling chicken after slaughter. You should read up on its delights !

      UK debased most food in WW2 which is why Cheddar Cheese is such a joke, and why it has been so hard to establish proper Certification of UK Food……..think how Walls (Unilever) debased sausages and how much better they are today.

      Even Argentinian beef is debased nowadays. I still believe pork in UK is superior and Beef and animals are better treated. Then again I used to buy from the farm or butchers who bought at auction. Supermarket meat I would not trust and chicken and poultry is dubious. Then again people in UK buy Pizza Hut with fake sausage and fake cheese and McDonalds with its range de-naturising of prime ingedients

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Speaking of intelligence agents, officers, sources, etc. it is interesting to see that Paul Manafort saw Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy to see if Russian hacks of Doenocrat emails, especially Hillary’s, proved that she was a druggie who loved having sex with underage lesbians, as Cathy O’Brien was claiming in Transformation of America.

    • Maya

      It’s becoming increasingly clear that Assange is involved with some very shadowy and far-right wing schemes which are successfully undermining the democratic process and individual freedoms for the benefit of the state and multinational corporations.

      He has had dealings with Nigel Farage, Arron Banks and the resulting Cambridge Analytica scandal. Alex Jones and Roger Stone. Paul Manafort and Trump’s assault on freedom and international human rights. Possible collusion with Russian interests. The list goes on.

      I would be very interested to know where Craig stands on all this and what further information he has that could be shared.

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        Seems to me that Craig Murray lied when he went to the States about getting those leaked emails,especially Hillary’s, apparently from Democrat Party staffer Seth Rich who was subsequently assassinated, when Wikileaks got the hacked emails from the Russians. It’s called outrageous lying if he ever testified the same under oath.

        Most of us have feet of clay.

      • nevermind

        Makes sense to you Maya, after all he’s been sitting in his small embassy room for 8 years plotting the downfall of democracies everywhere.
        Utter speculative tosh, the sort of stuff the bibice emits from its backside, are you Luke Harding by any chance? Or working for the State Departments lawyers?

        • Trowbridge H. Ford

          Not speculative tosh at all. I helped Craig get into the States, thinking he was on a worthwhile mission, when he wasn’t. And I am who I say I am, not Luke Harding and other scum.

          And who are you, pray tell?

        • Robyn

          Maya. You write, ‘… I still think the charges against [Assange] wouldn’t have stood up in court …’. FYI, Julian Assange was never charged. It’s bits of disinformation like this slipped into broader comments which give people the completely wrong idea about Assange and everything else wrong in this world.

      • Paul Greenwood

        He has had dealings with……..

        Please……..Blair had dealings with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness………Churchill had dealings with Stalin……..Thatcher had dealings with Pinochet……

      • Molloy


        It’s becoming increasingly clear that Assange is involved with some very shadowy and far-right wing schemes. . . “

        Oh? Really? Please do provide details and evidence.


        • Molloy


          Robyn, never mind. Go well.

          This directed at said Maya earlier on (hasn’t it gone quiet?!).

          It’s becoming increasingly clear that Assange is involved with some very shadowy and far-right wing schemes. . . “

          Oh? Really? Please do provide details and evidence.


    • Jay

      Instead they merely confirmed she is a corporate owned neo liberal who told Goldman Sachs she has “both a public and a private position” when crafting laws. So no dramatic revelations.

  • Sharp Ears

    It’s appalling that we are in league with these headchoppers. We are of course killers using other methods.

    ‘British Royal Air Force kicks off ‘combat readiness’ drills with Saudi Arabia (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
    27 Nov, 2018

    London has sent its airpower and servicemen for a joint drill with Saudi Arabia, despite international pressure to wind down military cooperation with Riyadh after the Khashoggi murder and amid its devastating war in Yemen.

    Around 200 Royal Air Force (RAF) servicemen and eight Typhoon jets are now in Saudi Arabia taking part in a ‘pre-planned’ Green Flag exercise to help the Royal Saudi Air Forces (RSAF) maintain its combat readiness.

    “The British Royal Air Force aims to integrate all combat systems, including air combat, air support and electronic warfare, and especially how to use them against the enemy’s land defense systems for maximum operational efficiency,” Major General Haidar bin Rafie Al-Omari of the RSAF said on Monday.’

    Yesterday the occupants of the green benches in the Commons were waxing lyrical for four hours on the centenary of the RAF.
    It was moved and replied to by Mr Shurrup and Go Away,
    Complete hypocrisy as per usual.

  • Stonky

    I wonder if ‘Mike Williamson’ is coming back? He arrives out of nowhere and proceeds to declare himself some kind of ‘still-serving officer’. And so he can’t tell us his real name. He then peppers his lengthy posts with all sorts of details that would mean it would take anybody with any access to any information at all about thirty seconds to work out who he is. Leaving me to suppose that they already know, and he’s posting with their approval.

    And his lengthy posts (which are now alternating between the names ‘Mike’ and ‘Mark’) then go on to take Craig to task on a bunch of trivia which in the wider scheme of things are of precisely zero relevance. What percentage of officers are diplomats? Who cares, Mike? How long does a diplomatic passport last? Who cares Mark?

    Good try anyway. Hope to hear more from you. I really want to know what colour of socks are most favoured by MI6 agents on Eastern European assignment. Or maybe I mean officers.

    • certa certi

      ‘In MI6 terminology “agent” is another word for “informant”. ‘

      oh dear Mr Murray. Your post simplifies to the point of dumbing down.

      Agents are contractors who work undercover without diplomatic immunity, officers are staff. Agents run subsidiary agents, paid but uncontracted, who are foreign nationals. They are ‘sources’ not ‘informants.’ Agents do the dirty work and take the risks no staffer in a diplomatic post ever takes. Staffers are generalists and have no network. Networks take a lifetime to build. Staffers try to shortcut the process with bribes. This is laxy, incompetent HUMINT hence the effort, unsuccessful, to replace it with SIGINT. Agents are permitted to tell one nominated next of kin, who may or may not be a spouse. Agents do indeed die while operational but their deaths are never acknowledged.

      • craig Post author

        I do of course know the word within the service is “source”. I used the less euphemistic “informant”, with its derogatory connotation, quite deliberately because it is more accurate.

  • Sharp Ears

    The legal advice on Brexit given to the government by the mega wealthy Geoffrey Cox MP will not be revealed to us, the plebs.

    • Molloy


      Great stuff.

      “The legal advice on Brexit given to the government by the mega wealthy Geoffrey Cox MP will not be revealed to us, the plebs.”

      Well, the last time this type of ‘advice’ was examined here it was called misfeasance in public office. In fact a crime against the UKshafted people. (Perpetrated most days by UK$ regime. e.g. effective exclusion from access to justice.)

      Anyone here like to join me in drawing up the indictment to nail this obnoxious excuse for a human?
      Ideally requires appn for cost immunity.
      (Sorry, Jo Maugham QC too busy being virtuous with article 50).

      • Molloy


        p.s. Friendly advice to Geoffrey, make the most of your cash (offshore?) whilst you can.

        The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which provides for the confiscation or civil recovery of the proceeds from crime and contains the principal money laundering legislation in the UK.


  • michael norton

    One more battalion of Russia’s S-400 Triumph air defence missile systems will be put into active service in Crimea before the end of 2018

    I don’t expect Russia will back down, just because of extra sanctions, if anything, sanctions can make Russia stronger.

    • Paul Greenwood

      US Navy spent so much money on schools and civic projects before 2014 in Crimea hoping for a naval base near Russia’s main oil export pipelines. Since then they have been trying to get UKR to create a pretext for NATO warships to stay permanently in Black Sea and circumvent Montreux Convention 1936 where the British tried to block Soviet Access to Med and failed. US took no part in the Treaty and no doubt wants to strong arm its way into “revisions” by using a proxy as Black Sea coastal state.

      It has Romania with its corrupt regime and Bulgaria run by Organised Crime and UKR which is run by Organised Crime and Fascists – none of which enjoy popular support as they impoverish the domestic population and put them where China was under The Cultural Revolution

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