« Oil as an Unlimited Resource? | Main | North Korea Has the Bomb: CIA »

Captain's Quarters has moved! Be sure to bookmark or blogroll the new site!

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Britain tried to spy on ally: report

I find it odd indeed that very little notice has been taken of this story from London's Sunday Times (reported by AFP):

Britain's internal security service MI5 sought in 2001 to plant eavesdropping devices inside the walls of a London embassy belonging to one of its main allies, London's Sunday Times newspaper reported. ... "For four months from September 2001, MI5 infiltrated the embassy, stole codes used by embassy staff for sending secret messages, and planned to plant listening devices and remove documents," the Sunday Times said.

The question is which one of Britain's "main allies" MI-5 penetrated. The composition of the Coalition limits the possible targets. The Sunday Times is enjoined from releasing that information, but offered tantalizing clues. This is from Cronaca, who had access to the original article:

The Official Secrets Act prevents The Sunday Times from identifying the country concerned, but its leader has visited Tony Blair in Downing Street and Britain has declared it a staunch ally.

Googling on "staunch ally" and Downing, hits come up on the US, Australia, Israel, but not Pakistan, who claims to be the victim of the espionage, according to the Muslim News, among other reports:

Pakistan has today lodged a strong protest with the British Government over MI5 reportedly trying to bug its embassy in London. It demanded an assurance that the activity was not authorised by the Blair Government. ... "Pakistan is insisting on categorical assurance from the highest level of the British Government that it did not authorise any activity in Pakistan High Commission in London which is inconsistent with the Vienna Convention," said a senior Pakistani official. "The matter has also been raised with 10 Downing Street."

Pakistan's "President" Musharraf has visited Blair at 10 Downing Street, at least the one time in June 2003, and restoration work was being done on the embassy during the time in question. It all seems to fit except the "staunch ally" description, not a label one would rush to put on Pervez Musharraf, whose staunchness certainly has been debatable since 9/11. Spying on Pakistan makes sense, since there are significant questions about the loyalty and reliability of its security services; in fact, it makes so much sense that it begs the question of why that mission would create a crisis of conscience for an MI-5 agent. Something about this doesn't add up, and neither does the lack of coverage over here, while Tony Blair's every political bump in the road makes Page One below the fold.

UPDATE: I thought about this overnight and it still bothers me. For one thing, the Pakistani statement seems too pat, and too muted to me. If Britain really had targeted Pakistan, the exposure could be expected to undermine Musharraf at home; why then publicly proclaim yourself as a victim? To divorce Pakistan from Britain? That could be accomplished by merely giving in to the Islamist forces at home without an espionage scandal. It would hardly be questioned -- in fact, it's been a probability all along.

So, assuming it wasn't really Pakistan, who would it be? I mulled this over for a while, and I figured that Pakistan's statement would be intended to deflect attention from the real target. A "staunch ally" that the Pakistanis would cooperate with Britain to target, and one whose leader had recently visited Downing Street. Not the US: too dangerous for Pakistan. Not Australia: too dangerous for Blair, and no point anyway. But one country has been mentioned recently as a danger to world peace, as a candidate for sacrifice for Middle East peace, as explicitly reported by DEBKAfile and more elliptically by Thomas Friedman.

Has the Israeli Embassy had recent renovations?

Now that you have read this post, read the most recent entries at the new Captain's Quarters at http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/!

09:07 PM in War on Terror | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Britain tried to spy on ally: report:


Good God man... they're talking about Bechtel. Don't be so paranoid.

Posted by: Steve Glover at Nov 10, 2003 10:20:16 PM

Bechtel? Not sure I understand what you mean here; Bechtel was the contractor? Can you expand on that?

And hey, what's a little paranoia amongst friends anyway?

Your blog is looking really good these days, BTW.

Posted by: Captain Ed at Nov 10, 2003 10:28:05 PM