Intelligence: Kiwi Former Spy Draws Wrath of MI6… Again
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop co-editor
New Zealander and former British MI6 operative, Richard Tomlinson, was taken in for questioning by French DST agents on June 29 on suspicions that he was behind further leaks of MI6
MI6 and Tomlinson have been struggling within a legal-labyrinth since Tomlinson was sacked by the spy agency in 1995. He
was arrested in 1997 under the British Official Secrets Act, and served time in prison accused of placing lists of MI6
officers on websites. In 2001 he published the book The Big Breach that arguably exposed MI6 to contemporary operations and included claims that MI6 had planned to assassinate former
Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic in 1992.
Last week, Tomlinson was again accused by French police and DST agents of placing new MI6 agent lists on websites in
2005 and early 2006.
On June 29 2006, French police and the DST took Richard Tomlinson in for questioning from his French Riviera home. They
confiscated his computer equipment, his phones, fax, files, letters, email correspondence, bank account statements.
Later, on release, Tomlinson wrote on his blogsite: "I am having to write this blog from work now, as MI6 have again
confiscated all my computer gear with trumped-up and invented charges."
Initially, Tomlinson wrote that he believed the MI6 lists to be correct, later correcting the statement citing French
DST claims to that effect as justification for his initial belief. However, today, Tomlinson is unsure of the lists'
On his blogsite, Tomlinson writes: " I am very confused. Whilst I was being questioned by the French Police, they explicitly told me that the lists on
cryptome that I am accused of publishing were GENUINE. ie they had been told by the British authorities that every name
on that list was a genuine MI6 officer. If this was not the case, then they would never have complied with the
international warrant to confiscate my equipment. Despite my requests while under custodial questioning, Andy Pink
refused to show me the lists, so that I could make a judgement for myself… But having now had a chance to get on the
internet in an Internet cafe, track down the lists and examine them myself, I am not sure at all that they are genuine.
Indeed, I only recognise a small number of names on the list," Richard Tomlinson writes.
Cryptome - The website that is hosting the lists now claims FBI agents were sent to investigate.
On February 9 2006 the website Cryptome reported that FBI agents had sought information on how it acquired lists of MI6
agents. Cryptome wrote: "FBI Special Agents Matthew J. Bertron and John Iannuzzi of the Criminal Division of the FBI New York office visited
The meeting appeared to be a 'fishing' expedition designed to glean as much about Cryptome's internal processes.
Cryptome writes: "The agents said the British Government had asked FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to seek information on the
source of lists of MI6 officers published by Cryptome:
"We pointed out the files themselves provide information on the list origins -- list 1 from the Web; lists 2 and 3 from
anonymous sources; and list 4 compiled by Cryptome from the other three. An agent asked if we would provide emails of
the anonymous sources of 2 and 3. We said no, they were destroyed immediately. He asked if we would tell if we knew the
sources. We said no. We asked about the procedure for HMG (Her Majesty 's Government) to request help in the US. For
information like that sought with this visit, a request is made to FBI HQ, then passed to the FBI NY office. Such
actions are taken as a courtesy to foreign governments unless crime is involved. If a crime is involved then US
Attorneys handle the requests.
"The agents said that the FBI had no basis for an investigation of Cryptome, that nothing about the site is illegal in
the US. Both agents showed credentials. They acknowledged credentials can be spoofed. They asked for a birth date and SS
number, to "verify the interview took place." The agents were courteous, were dressed casually, and thanked us for our
time. Took less than half an hour. The meeting took place in our building public lobby, passersby welcome to hear and
peer. We said we'd publish a report of visit and name them. Both said they rather we didn't name them. We asked to take
their photographs for publication. They said no."
Richard Tomlinson has continued to correspond with British intelligence through his blogsite. In his latest entry he
states: "The only list I remember seeing over the past year or so was a list that featured primarily officers based in
Middle East and African stations. I remember quite distinctly that some of the city names (eg in Morocco) were
mis-spelt, leading me to suspect that the list was produced by a non-native speaker of English. I answered all the
police questions with this list in mind. Having now seen the lists that I am accused of posting on Cryptome, I don't
think we were talking about the same lists."
The list of claimed MI6 agents remains on the Cryptome site. Some British newspapers report that Tomlinson was taken
into French custody due to an ongoing investigation into the death of Princess Diana in Paris on August 31 1997.
Richard Tomlinson was born in Ngaruawahia in 1964, south of Auckland City, New Zealand served in MI6 from 1991 until
April 1995 in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Bosnia. He was sacked in 1995 when his personnel manager
Clayden claimed he "was not a team player, lacked judgment and was not committed to the service" (ST960331) which was
contested by other officers including his boss. In 1996 he tried to take MI6 to an industrial tribunal; this was
initially refused by the Government, but months later the ban was lifted (TM960724) by foreign secretary Rifkind.
After leaving MI6 Tomlinson tried to publish memoirs, and approached a publisher in Sydney, Australia with a synopsis.
In February 1997 MI6 attempted to neutralise his intentions by offering him financial help, but this agreement failed,
and Tomlinson was arrested and tried under the Official Secrets Act. On 18 December 1997 he was jailed for a year for
breaking the OSA. Released in May 1998, he became aware of being followed. In August 1998 he went to New Zealand, where
he has citizenship, pursued by two Scotland Yard officers. New Zealand Police and SIS agents moved in on his hotel room,
seized his equipment and belongings, took him into custody, and released him. Tomlinson then attempted to go to
Australia but was denied a visa. He was briefly arrested in Paris but released.
He has since lived in Rome, Geneva, and currently in France on the French Riviera.
Tomlinson writes: "I was a bit of a swot at school but at least it got me into Cambridge University to study aeronautical engineering in
the days when it was still free. I learnt to fly with Cambridge University Air Squadron, and it is still one of my
favourite activities. "I should have pursued an aviation career, but unfortunately one of the MI6 recruiters at
Cambridge "spotted" me in my final year and invited me to "do something useful for my country". I declined and went off
for a few years for further study doing a Masters at M.I.T, travelling in central and south America, sailing around on a
square-rigger, scuba-diving and generally doing lots of fun things that I don't regret at all.
"Back in the UK, I started working in a yuppie suit job which was well-paid but drably safe and grey. Needing a bit of
colour and excitement, I joined the boy-scouts for grown-ups - also known as the Territorial Army Special Air Service. I
got badges for running up and down hills with a bergen, jumping out of aeroplanes, camping in the woods, and lighting
fires (big ones, with Semtex).
"I ended up getting asked to join MI6 again, and this time accepted. I had a great few years (read about it my
autobiography "The Big Breach"). But then humiliatingly and for reasons that are still murky to this day, I was
pompously booted out without explanation."