​‘UK should define national security’

Annie Machon
Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for MI5, the UK Secur­ity Ser­vice, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incom­pet­ence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Draw­ing on her var­ied exper­i­ences, she is now a pub­lic speaker, writer, media pun­dit, inter­na­tional tour and event organ­iser, polit­ical cam­paigner, and PR con­sult­ant. She has a rare per­spect­ive both on the inner work­ings of gov­ern­ments, intel­li­gence agen­cies and the media, as well as the wider implic­a­tions for the need for increased open­ness and account­ab­il­ity in both pub­lic and private sectors.
​‘UK should define national security’
The UK intelligence community traditionally only reacts to perceived threats, instead of pro-actively defining actual threats to national security, former MI5 agent Annie Machon told RT, adding that such a situation leaves much room for abuse.

RT:Why this urgent need for Russian-speaking agents in British intelligence?

Annie Machon: Well it is interesting timing, I think, because for the last 5 or 6 years British intelligence has said that one of the biggest threats is Russian espionage in London. But now I think we're looking into situation where obviously post Russia infringe in Syria, stopping an illegal rush to war by the West in Syria, post the Ukraine, post Crimea and also of course post Edward Snowden and giving him asylum last year – I think that is an indication that the West is ramping up its interventionism and its investigation into Russian activity in the West.

RT:You have said this all smacks of the Cold War. Are the latest tensions between Moscow and the West really that bad?

AM: One would hope not. After the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a huge rapprochement between the West and the East, and I remember the former head of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington went across and worked with and spoke with her counterpart in Russia in the early 1990s to share information, to share working methodologies because the end of the war had occurred.

So it's rather worrying that the UK is now ramping-up their perceived risk around what they are doing with the Russian espionage aspect. But it is a shame, because I think Europe should be working together, Europe should not be dividing itself in the way they are doing at the dictate of the US.

RT:The job ad on MI5's website says, “Your work will enable us to take a well-informed view of potential threats to national security, including terrorism and espionage.” Does this mean the UK thinks such threats could come from Russia?

AM: Well that is a very good question, because the job of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the three primary intelligence agencies in the UK is to defend national security and the economic well-being of the state.

Now, national security has never been legally defined under the UK law. So we have a situation where it can be abused, used, reinterpreted whatever the government, or the intelligence agencies or the British establishment want to choose to say is national security.

I would suggest that what the British need to do is take a step back and say: “What is our national security? What is the threat to it? Is it the integrity of our nation such as we faced in WWII with the potential Nazi invasion? And if that is the case, how do we best protect it, how do we best police it?”

And of course in Britain, we have a very British mess, where we have a 100 year cycle of British intelligence agencies evolving and taking on the work, and just been giving jobs for the boys.

So I think for Britain, it would be good if they can step back and say what is the threat, and how do we best protect ourselves and how then we can structure our intelligence response, rather than just say: “This week we are a bit worried about this, we are a bit worried about this threat this year.” It is just a reaction rather than a pro-active and creative response to the threat to our nation.

RT:For this job, MI5 will only consider Brits who have lived in the UK for the past 9 years, and whose parents are also British. Whom are these requirements supposed to rule out?

AM: One of the requirement to work for the British intelligence agencies is that you have to be British by nationality, and also I think you have to have grandparents, at least two that are British as well. So they are trying to ensure that people have a certain tie to the country, I suppose. But in this day and age of multiculturalism and everything, it becomes extremely difficult to adhere to that.

And it is interesting as well looking back over the last century that people who have been deemed to be traitors by the UK, who have gone over to what used to be Soviet side, who were allowed to leave the country and not get prosecuted under the espionage act of the early 20th century, tended to be the establishment. So there seems to be one rule for the generals and one rule for the infantry.

RT:Is it just a coincidence that the need for experts on Russia comes at a time when Europe and the US are blaming Moscow for the current unrest in Ukraine?

AM: Well I think it is a bit rich for the West to say Russia is trying ferment the resistance within eastern Ukraine, when it appears that the West and EU have been trying to ferment resistance in western Ukraine before the original revolution that deposed the president.

I also find it interesting that the US president is trying to lecture Russia and say that “we have to go by the democratic rules” and things like that. That is precisely what has happened in Crimea. That is precisely what has not happened in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, so these sort of double standards are very troubling.

Either we adhere to international law, democracy and the rules around this. And I think this was what was done in Crimea. That is I want to see done in most of the Middle East and North Africa and Central Asia, or we don't. And for America to lecture one way and do just the other thing on the other side is not acceptable.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.