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.

170 thoughts on “Officers and Agents

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  • MJ

    “I am obliged to say that Jeremy Hunt has done very well in the Matthew Hedges case”

    He only achieved a pardon, the conviction remains.

    • Paul Greenwood

      He only achieved a pardon, the conviction remains.

      He won’t achieve either for Assange

      • Sharp Ears

        Too true Paul.

        As for his adventure with the Iranians, complete failure, but he did get a dolly from the little girl.

        ‘Hunt shows off doll in plea for release of jailed Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
        November 26 2018, 12:01am,
        Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe made the doll for Jeremy Hunt’s daughter
        Jeremy Hunt held a doll made by the jailed Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as he said that her return to the UK would be the best Christmas present for her and the country.

        Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran in 2016 before being sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying, a charge she vehemently denies.

        The foreign secretary, who visited Iran last week, held the doll on the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC as he criticised the Iranian government’s handling of the case. “I asked to meet Nazanin: I wasn’t allowed to,” he said. “But I did get to meet her daughter. In fact she gave me a present from Nazanin, which is this doll that Nazanin made for my own…’
        Continue reading

        Send in HMS Queen Elizabeth Jeremy.

        • Paul Greenwood

          Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is however holder of an Iranian passport. I believe she may have travelled into Iran on that passport (but am not certain). However Dual Nationals are warned their British Passport is no protection against their Citizenship of Origin if they are passport holders of that state.

  • philw

    “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.”

    More likely he just caved in faster to whatever the UAE wanted as a quid pro quo, probably involving MbS and Khashoggi.

    • MaryPau!

      I agree there must have been some concessions made by British government, in return for Matthew Hedges release, that we have not been told about.

  • laguerre

    The reason Hunt succeeded in the UAE for Hedges, but Johnson didn’t in Iran with Naghari-Ratcliffe, is that there is an ongoing more or less close relationship and common interests with former colony UAE, which do not exist in the case of Iran, which is very sensitive about continuing “colonial” behaviour by Britain.

  • Tom

    Count me as someone who appreciated your previous clarification of the agent/officer confusion, Craig – and remembered it!
    Thank you for the interesting perspective on the Matthew Hedges situation. What I do find quite interesting is that the possibility he was some kind of a spy is being openly discussed on the BBC. Is this editorial balance a condition of his release?

  • Xavi

    It still leaves the farce that the Abu Dhabi royals are allowed to buy the Premier League and launder their regime’s image through one of the UK’s premium cultural exports. That they are permitted to drive a coach and horses through football’s so-called financial fair play rules also suggests corruption at the highest levels of ‘the beautiful game’.

    • Deb O'Nair

      “suggests corruption at the highest levels of ‘the beautiful game’.”

      Gosh! Really? Corruption in soccer, whatever next?

  • nevermind

    you can’t remove the diplomat out of a diplomat.
    Hunt is a hypocrite and self server. I refuse to judge him by what he is doing to save the UK’s arms dealing interest in the ME by saving a single UK citizen, innocent or not.

  • Sharp Ears

    Hunt seems to be better suited to his current job rather than his previous one where he was i/c of dismantling OUR NHS.

  • Anon

    One of the interesting things about MI6 officers is that they aren’t all career civil servants. Some of them move out into commercial life, but, I assume, they never stop being MI6 officers. In my part of the world one such has ended up as the head of one of the main western banks dealing with the wealth of many new Chinese billionaires. That must be a hugely valuable position for MI6 to have him in.

    • craig Post author

      They do often leave on secondment. But many of them do actually just leave, because in fact MI6 officers are not very highly paid. They do tend to be from 1% families who can easily move into merchant banks, oil companies etc in very senior positions.

      • Anon

        But do they ever really leave? Surely MI6 will keep tapping him for compromat on his customers? I don’t think it’s just business that caused this guy to move the company’s HQ from Switzerland to Hong Kong. Fluent in Putonghua, etc. If MI6 don’t still have him on their books then they are failing in their duty!

      • Paul Greenwood

        Ah you mean Sir Mark Allen of MI6 who as John Browne’s “Adviser” at Blair Petroleum negotiated Ghadaffi’s unwise decision to give up WMDs in return for British “protection” and removal of sanctions – 2007 wasn’t it ? Change of regime and Cameron and Sarkozy “do a Perfidious Albion” on Ghadaffi in 2011 and throw all the toys out of the pram

      • John2o2o

        And in the UK, the 1% are perhaps largely composed of the families of the ruling class of the old British Empire.

        Their delusions of grandeur and attitude that the UK has military business on the world stage (eg, in Ukraine and Russia) must surely have something to do with this.

        It is shocking that ordinary Britons put up with it and allow these madmen and women to continue to lord it over us. They are endangering all of our lives IMO.

        • Paul Greenwood

          Personally I think Membership of the EU has made this situation much much worse !

          Since London has seen its authority and autonomy diminish through competences draining to Brussels, it has been a spasmodic even autistic reaction to display global impact outside of the EU constraints by stalking the world with the US in search of prey. That Iraq involved Blair cocking a snook at the EU and Chirac and Schroeder and marching off in lockstep with Clinton. – John Major did none of this and kept out of Kosovo because of Douglas Hurd.

          It has been Schoolboy “In Your Face” Bombast that took UK into Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine…… show the mangy old lion has teeth (if the US supplies dentures) and can act independently of the EU

          • PhilM

            Your point was somewhat spoiled by an unnecessary and redundant use of the word ‘autistic’…and yes, I am a member of the autistic police. Three strikes and it’s an overnighter for you…

    • DavidH

      If an MI6 officer moves into a commercial career but continues to assist MI6 from his new position, then by Craig’s definitions he/she does stop being an MI6 officer and becomes an MI6 agent.

      • Adrian Parsons

        I wasn’t implying that he was (or that he was bent as in ‘gay’, now that I re-read the comment) – just two unconnected ‘thoughts’!

  • Paul Greenwood

    have a “cover job” doing something else in the Embassy. Back home in the UK their “cover job” is working in the FCO.

    One only has to look at the CV of Karen Pierce or Mark Sedwill to recognise the pattern

    • Republicofscotland

      I remember Craig saying in one post that there’s at least 50,000 agents working for the MI’s in Britain.

      I’d imagine most have ordinary jobs assigned to them just watching and listening to possible targets.

      • Yr Hen Gof

        Back in the day, every police station and every newspaper office had in their employ an agent of Her Majesty’s intelligence services. You never could tell when a member of the establishment might be caught inflagrante or otherwise in a situation likely to embarrass their political friends or fellow club members.
        Always useful to nip such stories in the bud, as I’m sure the late Cyril Smith and James Savile would agree; there are others, equally as grateful I’m sure.
        As a country, there is no office or function of state that has not been substantially corrupted.

  • bj

    Officers, agents, and idiots:

    “The UK utterly condemns Russia’s use of force against Ukrainian vessels entering the Sea of Azov. Once again, we see Russian CONTEMPT for international norms and Ukrainian sovereignty. Russia must release detained Ukrainian sailors and guarantee free passage through Kerch Straits”

    • Paul Greenwood

      Poor old UK/US…thinking they could stage a provocation help Porkyshenko in his upcoming elections. This game has been going on for some time and Uk is always ready to provoke conflict….anywhere….everywhere……except when the Luxembourgers tell the British negotiators where to kneel

    • Tatyana

      3 Ukrainian vessels are detained 20 km from russian land. It is 50 km South-West from Kerch Strait, the usual seaway for vessels. These ukrainian ships were maneuvring for several hours, ignoring russians.
      Detained ukrainian military are Andrey Drach, Sergey Tsibizov and Vladimir Lesovoy. There’s a video, they say it was intended provocation

      By the way, I’m happy to say hello everyone, nice to see you all here in good mood!

      • Tatyana

        Yes, the UN Security Counsil won’t disscuss it, russian appeal is bloked by magority of votes.
        It is not up to elections. It is someone needs war with Russia.

        • Tatyana

          I thought it could possibly be in the area around the Crimea, because Ukraine argue it is Russian.
          Nothing of the kind.

          1:30 time mark, he says “mayday, mayday… my coordinates 44.51.0 36.23.4 you may arrest them”

          My husband says, they cannot elect a new president now, due to martial law. Will it last up to March then?

          • Paul Greenwood

            Do they “elect” in Ukraine or simply unpack the voting boxes complete with votes ?

            It is a disaster state which has never been run as a viable entity considering it should be Europe’s breadbasket of NON-GM crops – which of course the EU CAP would dread to see happen.

  • Spencer Eagle

    ‘Agents’, ‘Officers’ and one you forgot to mention,Craig, BBC Foreign Correspondents.

  • Bastard, Alan

    It’s mibbee high time you had a wee chat wae Robert Mueller. I see your Russian mates are makin a move on the Ukraine.

  • Mike Williamson

    I have held several British diplomatic passports for around fifteen of the last twenty-two years. I have had three substantive overseas postings during this time, a few short stints in “exotic” locations as a floater, and the remainder of my time has been spent in London and Manchester.
    Craig Murray, mine blog-host and former high-flyer, had a remarkably similar range of experience to my own, time-shifted backwards by about fourteen years. I do not aspire to the role of Ambassador, however, and loathe the UK “desk jobs” upon which such promotion is concomitant; I can imagine little more professionally unappealing than a couple of years as head of Maritime Section, or an excruciatingly tedious sabbatical to the Cabinet Office. Equally, I expect my path would have been less suited to Mr Murray’s temperament.
    I am sure you are finding this intentionally vague resume of my recent career rather less than fascinating, and I apologise. Without it, my comments about CM’s latest piece would be perhaps a little (more) hollow. Given the subject, I obviously do not reveal my true identity; unlike Mr Murray, I am not retired and do not wish prematurely to become so. If anyone has any doubts about my authenticity, I shall try to answer any serious queries.
    Mr Murray’s triennial plaint about the distinction between agents and officers of MI6, although correct, seems doomed to perpetual failure because of its pure irrelevance. Perhaps the need for artistic licence did not occur to him; “secret officer” has one syllable too many. Although James Bond is well-established in “public consciousness”, whatever that might be, I think the majority would accept that as a fictional character, he does not mirror reality in any way closely. As a novice in diplomatic service in the late 90’s, I was surprised, and slightly offended, when an old-timer took me on one side at a drinks reception with the “wise” words: “this is not your James Bond, you know”.
    I do agree with Mr Murray’s assessment that Matthew Hedges is unlikely to be any kind of spy, whether officer or agent. Saying he “is not an MI6 officer” is not very helpful- he might be, and there are gaps in his career timeline which would permit of the formal “box” training for this to be true. He is actually less likely to be an agent; his entirely innocuous academic study is obviously subject to open scrutiny- pretty much the opposite of secret. Supporting this appraisal, it should be stressed that UK and UAE are very close militarily, and our defence attache in Abu Dhabi and RN liaison officer in Dubai enjoyed an unusually cosy relationship (to my certain knowledge a few years ago, and I cannot see much has changed there). Although I have not read it, I doubt anything in his doctoral research would be of interest beyond an informal debriefing over a half of lager in Pimlico.
    I fail to see the purpose in congratulating Jeremy Hunt for his “unusually robust” approach, other than as a vehicle for a further jibe at Mr Murray’s nemesis in Blackburn, Jack Straw. Not only were the cases of Sandy Mitchell (et al) and Matthew Hedges wholly dissimilar on the facts, the “politics” of that time and now were even more divergent. To conflate the two simply because they involve “nasty middle east countries locking up innocent Brits” is gratuitously disingenuous of Mr Murray, as he very well knows. The fortunate pardoning of Matthew Hedges was completely as expected by me (though I admit, I did not expect the life sentence to be handed down). Sad to say, but the Foreign Secretary’s “robust” contribution to this outcome is more or less negligible.
    Last and not least in my comment, I am wondering why Mr Murray asserts that “MI6 officers, when operating abroad, do so 99% of the time disguised as British diplomats”. Due to the inherent secrecy of the organisation, I admit we are getting onto thin ice here. However, even if he divided his 99 percent by ten, he would still be extremely wide of the mark. Most British intelligence officers do not operate under diplomatic cover within Embassies, consulates, British Council offices, or DFID missions. Pretty obviously the reason for this is that as a diplomatic passport holder you are automatically subject to a (largely irrational) suspicion you might be a “spy”, to varying degrees in different countries- so it’s not a very clever thing to do if you are trying to run your agents and gather your HUMINT in secret (which obviously you are).
    Although there are indeed a few officers under diplomatic “cover” (an oxymoron if ever there were), this is usually limited to occasions when a lack of diplomatic immunity would be simply too personally risky (as Craig mentions, though with an inauthentic emphasis). An example of this unusual arrangement from the early 2000’s was Anthony Monckton, whom I knew well at the time. He was expelled from Zagreb in 2004 in an exceptional, though not quite unique, case of unmasking by the local press. The work he was involved in, getting Milosovic to trial, was indeed exceptionally dangerous given the support Slobbo still enjoyed, and the “wild west” mentality prevalent in the Balkans, then as now (to a lesser extent).
    As Mr Murray probably well knows, the majority of our intelligence officers have rather less obvious, better “cover jobs”, frequently in academia, often in companies with a large global presence and British bona fides, and sometimes they are just small businessmen. There are of course many other variations, though journalism tends to suffer from the same problems as CM’s 99%. There are more MI6 officers with “cover jobs” in Shell than Mr Murray’s largely fictitious James Bond First Secretaries (Political) in the FCO!
    I wonder as I write this why I bothered. People will believe what they want. I suppose this post by Mr Murray just hit a bit of a nerve with me personally, and as a right-on blogger claiming such authenticity in this area of interest, I felt he should not get away with spouting too much egregious claptrap completely unchallenged.
    I cannot imagine that, if this comment is allowed to stay up, it will garner anything other than condemnation among CM’s many acolytes and disciples here, but then I couldn’t care less about that, as you might imagine.

      • Mark Williamson

        No I’m not Charles Crawford, but nice try: a damned fine guess! Belgrade was an absolute hoot, though.
        I knew him quite well however, and from the same time. The tension between CC as Ambassador and AM as Counsellor (Political) was actually another problem when you have friends “embedded” as diplomats; AM was “higher up” in a hard-to-define pecking order, not that Charles gave a monkey’s, really.
        You won’t be able to guess my identity, but I won’t be able to stop you trying, either.

        • Paul Greenwood

          Nice coherent commentary and welcome. You forgot the Observer in its heyday as being cover for Kim Philby in Lebanon……so we will not know if Farzad Bazoft executed in 1990 was similarly employed by Pixie Trelford. The Observer was in its heyday such a specialist on Middle East and Africa that it must have been a source of deep cover – together with Lonrho – for so many MI6 types.

    • laguerre

      You rather confirm my thought, as an academic who has supervised many doctoral theses, that Hedges was engaged in research which was risky for his personal safety, as I mentioned in an earlier comment (on the previous thread). Investigating UAE security policies (arms sales, I believe, though he’s published on the GCC and the Muslim Brotherhood) was only too likely to provoke suspicion in the UAE, knowing them. His supervisor should have advised against.

      The subject of his research in itself shows that he was not an agent of the UK security authorities. If he had been, he would have been studying something like camel-herding habits in the UAE today. He was simply naive. Though I entirely agree that release after sentencing was to be expected.

    • philw

      Mike Williamson:-

      To know the proportion of MI6 officers who work under diplomatic immunity you would have to be a senior MI6 officer yourself. Even the ambassador would not be told of all the officers.

      I assume you are an officer at some level, but I also assume your figure is disinformation. I also doubt that Craig’s figure is correct.

      • Mark Williamson

        A quick reply to philw.

        Your first sentence is strictly correct, and indeed to know the exact “proportion” you would be very senior indeed! However, MI6 officers who are working under “diplomatic cover” along the lines suggested in CM’s post will all be known to their Ambassadors as such; the various missions I have known are incredibly close-knit communities, not to say incestuous gossip mills. There would be little point in trying to maintain secrecy from any competent Ambassador. That’s not to say all the visa clerks, management section, British Council staff and the rest would be aware who the “friends” might be, though some might hazard a guess!
        In fact, the word “proportion” is here interesting. I cannot imagine (but do not actually know) that many if any of the huge staff with diplomatic status in the US Embassy and its many satellite consulates (etc) are in fact MI6; the consequences of an unmasking would be dire, and there is no need for diplomatic “cover” there anyhow. In Belgrade, when the Embassy reopened in 2001 (and in my experience), we have the exact opposite situation, and the proportion was rather higher.
        You overlook that spouses of Embassy, consular, British Council and DFID staff usually enjoy diplomatic status; I daresay some of those may be officers, and even a few unknown to their respective Ambassadors. Seriously, however, very few.
        You perhaps are also unaware that there is a strong “all in it together” ethos among diplomatic staff in these various government agencies, especially in challenging postings, which is where much of this “skullduggery” goes on. Basically, it’s a bit non U to talk about spying, MI6- and in any case, there is usually much more interesting material available. Spying really isn’t “your James Bond”.
        I’m not going to admit or deny being “an officer”, there is no point. The Barber Paradox comes to mind, I’m unsure why. If I were, your assumption about “disinformation” would indeed be correct. Then again, it is exceedingly unlikely I would be posting on here if I were. To simultaneously address a comment by Dungroanin (has he really?) that’ll be MI5, not six.
        As said, people will believe what they wish, and I am gratified you don’t trust CM. A slightly bolder application of logic by you, in contemplation of the budget of SIS, and the number of overseas postings (coupled with the proportionality comments above) should assure you that my bald claim of less than a tenth of Craig Murray’s frankly silly 99% assertion in his post is somewhat nearer the mark. In truth, these mystical officers really do usually operate under far better “cover”, and with luck are not known to anyone. Often including their spouses.

    • Dungroanin

      Good story, sir.
      ” There are of course many other variations, though journalism tends to suffer from the same problems as CM’s 99%. There are more MI6 officers with “cover jobs” in Shell than Mr Murray’s largely fictitious James Bond First Secretaries (Political) in the FCO!”

      How many ‘journalists’ are deployed in the british media? More than the oil companies?

      • Dungroanin

        Your answer to my question, as part of the reply to PhilW above:
        “To simultaneously address a comment by Dungroanin (has he really?) that’ll be MI5, not six.”

        Really? 6 absolutely don’t operate in the country? Pull the other one sir!

        Anyway you didn’t answer my substantive query, so i’ll ask again.

        How many MSM staff are also assets of the combined agencies, any reasonable guess?

        And yes I’ve definitely stopped buying the Obsessive/Groan after 30 years of daily purchase. But while they freely disemminate propaganda from ALL agencies I feel it my duty to guffaw freely at their hutzpah.

        Why don’t you set up an independent blog, I would happily contribute occasionally for your personal insight on I’m sure many subjects.

        I mean even the Bellendpussies make a living out of it.

    • fwl

      Fascinating post from MW from whom hope perhaps to read more in due course.

      I have no idea about the Hedges case and am simply glad he is to be released.

      Generally speaking and without reference to Hedges I just can’t begin to understand how an ally could think that a life sentence could be justified for espionage . Surely to some extent all allies conduct some level of spying and generally just get peeved at one another for so doing and have private words.

    • giyane

      Mike Williamson

      The James Bond who crawled out of a oil pipeline along with a rat one of them smelling like a French tart, Bond, always occupied that big business world you mentioned. That was part of the appeal. He also occupied that other slot Craig mentioned of the 1% who could switch their mathematical brilliance to merchant banking or even teaching Maths to 16 year olds. You are both right and James Bond was written by a spy.

      You have opened yourself to exposure coming here. This is a bad place for proponents of UK foreign policy to enter. But could you possibly explain a little while you’re here, and while you mention you have active experience with the Foreign Office, why UK Foreign policy is to actively support terrorists in Libya and Syria. No need to go into detail, just rough charcoal shading indicating the general thinking about why it might be a good idea for the UK to drive 50% of the Syrian population into refugee camps, 30% abroad. Cui bono? Roughly, vaguely, waffley, why is that a good idea please?

      Obviously Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan can be justified in terms of long-term 100 year colonial objectives, strategic importance etc, but it would be so helpful if you could give some hint, you never know the blog might be redundant if one could understand the reality of it, as to why thousands of Muslims have been renditioned, tortured and given psychotic drugs to change their personalities to incline to violence, and why Syria, on the doorstep of Europe and next to Israel has been chosen as a location to flood with Islamist terror?

      Bonusball. Please could you explain how it is that Turkey and Kurdistan have successfully been spared from all this potted violence conserve, by serving NATO interests, supplying ISIS, supplying cheap oil to Europe, while across the border Assad , the former USUKIS torture-renditioner, has been forced to call in Russia and China for assistance. Russia and China have thus been able to demonstrate their military superiority over NATO. Cui bono? I’m assuming you won’t agree with me if I suggest not our bono, just the bono of Israisehell.

      On your way out please close the door. And don’t try anything funny with the equipment in the basement unless you want your testicles sawn in half by a laser.

      • Paul Greenwood

        James Bond was written by a spy.

        You might think so. Many of us know Ian Fleming as the son of a banking family who sojourned in Naval Intelligence during WW2 but was hardly in the field like Yeo-Thomas or Nick Bodington or Peter Churchill or Maurice Southgate……..

        James Bond was very different from the movies anyway – much more socially elite with Bentley not Aston Martin – and probably drew on the antics of Sidney Reilly and Bruce Lockhart

    • craig Post author


      A diplomatic British passport is very like an ordinary British passport. It lasts for ten years and when it expires you get a new one. My last one only expired in 2014. There is not “a variety of diplomatic passports” and in a period of 15 years you could only have held two (unless you lost one). That one mistake casts doubt on the rest of your narrative.

      • Mike Williamson

        A strange and foolish reply there, Craig.
        A diplomatic passport does indeed look very like an ordinary one; as we both know the only visible distinction is the capitalized “DIPLOMATIC” on the front. When my first one was issued in ’96 for a short posting to Sofia (which ended up being three six week visits), I remember being a bit disappointed the thing looked so anodyne, rather childishly. I retained my ordinary passport, and was instructed to use that one when traveling on leave out of the UK. I don’t think I ever followed that instruction. I also remember that the passport had a validity of two years.
        My next posting was substantive, and for that the DP had a validity of four years. This was not quite adequate for the posting’s duration, and I had another issued six months before I left. I could continue racking my brains about subsequent DP issues, but there is no need. Strange and foolish, Craig, because I have a drawerful of old DPs somewhere around (probably around six), so I’m going to have to think of some way to demonstrate this to your and your readership’s satisfaction.
        Like you, I am not a visa section expert, and claim no inside knowledge of the intricacies of Diplomatic Passport supply. I’m going to ask around though and find out, you have raised my curiosity. It certainly seems odd to me that you have retained the ability to go through customs as a diplomat years after you left the DS; I would have assumed that you would have handed the DP back upon leaving the service, whatever the passport’s validity. By the sounds of it, I would have been wrong.
        Simultaneously to answer John2o2o’s reasonable comment, I’ll put both of these to bed by digging out an old DP (with a duration of less than 10 years!) though I’m not having my identity out there, for self-evident reasons already mentioned.
        I’ll think of something, and you’re going to look pretty silly asserting that DP’s are (invariably) issued for ten years- there is “not a variety of diplomatic passports”. I have quite a variety. Strange one, Craig.

        • Scott

          Hi Mike,

          Dates, durations and locations are like breadcrumbs to your identity. Take care, if you wish to remain anonymous.

          Kind regards,

      • Mark Williamson

        Having recovered my composure after reading your outrageous and slightly defamatory reply, I’ve had a little thought, ahead of satisfying you and more importantly your readership of my authenticity, by providing (limited) sight of at least one my diplomatic passports.
        Am I / are we to take it that your first overseas posting was in 1994, hence the date of issue of your first DP? This would match with your latest one expiring in 2014. Were you issued with your first DP on passing the civil service exam in 1984, meaning you’ve had three? [That last question was perhaps too facetious, although perhaps some will believe you get a DP automatically on joining the FCO, which we both know is not so.] Did you lose a passport yourself?
        Logically, according to your 10-year validity assertion, your last DP should expire a multiple of ten years after the very first one was issued. So was that ’84 or ’94? Both appear wrong from the timeline of your FCO career.
        I’m sure a little nifty footwork will ensue, but I fear you may already have blown one off!
        Shall I give you a call, this is getting rather dodgy here en plein air?

    • John2o2o

      “I am wondering why Mr Murray asserts that “MI6 officers, when operating abroad, do so 99% of the time disguised as British diplomats” … even if he divided his 99 percent by ten, he would still be extremely wide of the mark.”

      – The problem with your comment is that you make claims about your occupation, which might give you insider knowledge, but then go on to claim that you comment under an alias.

      How then, can anyone be sure that your comment is genuine and that you are who you claim to be? How do I know that you are not making this up? Please tell me why I should take on trust the comment that you made, criticising Mr Murray’s assertion regarding MI6 officers?

      • Mike Williamson

        A very reasonable comment, John2o2o, and addressed in my reply to Craig above (and subsequently, when I find an old DP for – limited -perusal).
        Another thought to you, and in further reply. Why take on trust Mr Murray’s 99% assertion? What you do know about him, his political stance and beef with The Establishment in general, and the FCO in particular would logically seem to militate against any impartial authenticity on his part.
        Do you really believe that there are actually no SIS officers operating overseas who are not under diplomatic cover (ahem, sorry, only 1%)?
        Seriously, this is one of Mr Murray’s most preposterously specious posts to date (quite a feat), and I wonder why he made it.

        • kula

          yer a bit of a pontificater, mike. a wannabe Q-anon. and quite arrogant in taking up so much space! if you have a beef with craig, get a room.

    • Dungroanin

      Whoosh – just lke that he/she has disappeared back into the ether.
      Leaving a after image of a flash, ringing of a bang in the ears and stench of sulfur..!

      Anyway I asked a question which ‘Mark’ didn’t answer, so have had to look for myself, so far this is good enough for me:

      ‘British journalists – and British journals – are being manipulated by the secret intelligence agencies, and I think we ought to try and put a stop to it.
      The manipulation takes three forms. The first is the attempt to recruit journalists to spy on other people, or for spies to go themselves under journalistic “cover”. This occurs today and it has gone on for years. It is dangerous, not only for the journalist concerned, but for other journalists who get tarred with the espionage brush. Farzad Bazoft was a colleague of mine on the London Observer when he was executed by Saddam Hussein for espionage. It did not, in a sense, matter whether he was really a spy or not. Either way, he ended up dead.’ Etc.

      David Leigh, yes that one, of all people! Back in 2000.
      Remember it was him who leaked the wikileaks password by PUBLISHING it in his book! What a plonker – i’m surprised he wasn’t rendered and gitmo’d when he did. Why not?

      Anyway, given ‘Marks’ timing it obviously appeals to my childish conspiratorial nature, to wonder if it is connected with the Assange/Manaffort fiction the day after?

      More on Leigh, The Guardian gate keeping and ‘Left’ thought policing, written about in 2011 by Jonathan Cook here

      “Mark! Mark … don’t go Mark! Comeback… we miss you Mark”

  • Clark

    The difference isn’t Hunt versus Straw; it’s Iran versus Saudi Arabia. Both Straw and Hunt would have made the same decisions had each been in the other’s situation, because those are the British policies which have persisted for decades at least.

    • laguerre

      I doubt that Hunt had to offer anything. White Westerners are rarely detained too long by autocracies, not only by those who wish to maintain their relationship with the West.

  • RuilleBuille

    I’m old enough to remember the ‘innocent businessman’ Greville Wynne unjustly accused of spying in Russia and imprisoned.

    When he was freed in a spy swap for Gordon Lonsdale he immediately wrote a book about his time as an MI6 officer!

  • MaryPau!

    The general view in my extended family is that Matthew Hedges was mad to be doing his research in Dubai itself.

  • MaryPau!

    Sorry Matthew *Hedges in the *UAE of course, just back from long car journey and slightly fuzzy brain. Will go and have a nap.

    • Stonky

      Get real. Sooner or later Mother Teresa was going to get some payback for the Steele dossier. I just wonder that Trump has waited this long.

  • Seth

    Labour seem to behave in a disgraceful way that is different from the habitual disgrace of the Tory’s. The latter are comfortable with inequality and rule by dividing and amplifying class differences. Labour appear guilty of seeking the upper moral hand and end up slaying principles and freedoms by fence sitting, tolerating intolerance and paling the hue of resolution by simulating the reserve of wisdom.
    Both are English faults of vindictiveness and inertia, but not British

    • giyane


      ” Both are English faults of vindictiveness and inertia, but not British ”

      I get this all the time from my Muslim neighbours. Undying respect for the British Raj which decimated a continent, and undying despising of the English as a people. Might I be permitted to point out that British here refers to the colonial 1% elite who continue to lie, foment war and blame others exactly as they did in our colonial history all round the world. While the English here are the 99% who schemed nothing, fomented nothing, knew nothing, same as the English immigrants from India who live here. To accuse the 99%, the English of being vindictiveness and inertia is a bit weird. I receive constant vindictiveness from the Asian population as an English revert to Islam living in Birmingham, even from the imams. While the Asian population is even more inert against the crimes of the 1% being committed today than the English who have lived here longer.

      Projection? Look it up. It is a psychological term for accusing the ‘other’ of what one doesn’t like about oneself.
      Alternatively you could continue hating the English for ever, they are after all a useful kicking target, like the dog, and continue being in awe of the might of the nuclear superpower who continues to commit colonial violence round the world, not least in Africa, the Middle East, Northern Europe against Russia and now a new front opening against China in Myanmar.

      I don’t like your racism against the English but I put up with it. But I do intensely dislike your support of our criminal 1%, the British government, especially when you offer nothing of solidarity against these criminals, even though this blog is dedicated to this cause.

      • Paul Greenwood

        Undying respect for the British Raj which decimated a continent, and undying despising of the English as a people.

        Perfectly logical !
        They respect the self-assurance of Empire and despise the weakness of Decadence

        Watch “Guns at Batasi” to see how Richard Attenborough plays the role the world expects as he is sold down the river by the politician played by Flora Robson

        • giyane

          Paul Greenwood

          Logic, yes , right-side of the brain.
          I like simple poetic answers to complicated problems and I often repeat the question I found on mental health: Could a person who flourished under Hitler be considered mentally healthy?

          “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”

          And could anybody remain poor in sprit for long in a world that contains this poem?
          The Windhover

          To Christ our Lord
          I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom
          of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in
          his riding
          Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
          High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
          In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
          As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl
          and gliding
          Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
          Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

          Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
          Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
          Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

          No wonder of it: shèer plòd makes plough down sillion
          Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
          Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermilion.

          Allah is my Lord, but the author was confined to the only religion available in England at the time.

  • John Goss

    I wonder what happened to the agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia? I wonder if their MI6 handler Pablo Miller, aka Paul, aka Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo, described here as an agent first and then an officer, knows.

    I think they are dead. And I think parliament should enquire into their deaths. Yulia Skripal expressed a wish to return to Russia. But we all know that is never going to happen.

    • giyane


      An excellent year 1954. They threw away the mould after that. People don’t do things any more. Even a surgeon was complaining on Radio 4 recently that kids today training for doing operating surgery know nothing about the strength of materials or how to use their hands.

      Unfortunately in the Middle East there still exists an oligarchical system that refuses anybody’s right to use the mind. Thinking is simply barred. What about someone who is both studying and thinking at the same time. The obvious sentence for that crime, of trying to work out what would benefit a country other than being controlled by an oligarchy, is lifetime imprisonment. Has UAE become more clement by kicking out one offender? I don’t like bullies who use innocent people as an example to scare others. The British government is insane to have any dealings with Middle Eastern oligarchies. We used to make things; we don’t anymore.

      • Molloy


        Great stuff.
        In fact, the racist and unlawful British regime – how can we put it? – is inseparable from ‘oligarchs’. Sociopathic gangsters of greed buoyed up by a pathetic neo-feudal class system.

        Go well.


  • giyane


    Just want to say @ this moment that Mrs May’s stamina and perseverance in spite of the Old Etonian toff brigade of her Nasty Party in working out a compromise with the EU over Brexit has won the respect of this country. If she called an election tomorrow she’d probably win it. Give her her due respect. She has weathered out the blustering farting malice of the Alt-Right in her party and the Zomb-Left in New Labour.
    Dare I say it? To do that is cool.

    • Xavi

      The media is naturally determined to run with this idea of huge public respect for Theresa May’s stamina and perseverance. They’ill stick with it, because they know it’s a stretch too far to claim huge public support for her policies. Unfortunately, at the next election people will be asking do I have the stamina and perseverance for another half decade of Tory rule?

      • Molloy


        Does anyone, emphasise anyone, have the stamina and perseverance to continue absorbing the dehumanising effect of inhabiting a nasty grasping fa$$cist State run by self-regarding cockroaches?

        Why it’s easier for some to turn a blind eye to being led by monsters and oligarchs.
        Scotland, hopefully, will soon be well rid of nastiness and free from WMD sickness.



    • Sharp Ears

      Northern Ireland is on May’s itinerary too.

      She reminds me of Blair. There were suggestions that he was on some medication to keep him running.

    • nevermind

      Yes jhe has landed but he was not allowed to speak to waiting reporters/agents/Mi’s?
      What a wonderful faux pas.

      Has student Hedges nothing to say about what happened in UAE prisons? Was he tortured?interogated?

      Anyway, nothing to see or hear here eh, all is well and colonialism still works well.

  • Sharp Ears

    Daniela Tejada – Linked In.

    ‘Passionate publicist with a particular interest in cross-cultural communications and audience engagement with foreign cultural practices, travel and the arts. In two years of professional experience I have participated and co-led ambitious award-winning projects with high profile clients across luxury travel, hospitality, lifestyle, arts & culture, and entertainment.

    I have strong networking and managerial skills, adaptable to B2C and B2B communications.

    Multilingual professional with working capability in English and Spanish, strong communication skills in French and Portuguese and comprehensive understanding of Italian.’

    Ex Kings College and Exeter University.

    • Molloy


      Tajeda. Sounds like she’s a fully paid up wannabe echo chamber for the 1%. Such an unusual amount of attention from M$SM psyops. Diverting public attention from something nasty perhaps?

      Wake up, Daniela.


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