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Richard Tomlinson (born 13 January 1963) is a New Zealand-born British former MI6 officer who was imprisoned during 1997 for violating the Official Secrets Act 1989 by giving the synopsis of a proposed book detailing his career in the Secret Intelligence Service to an Australian publisher. The book, named The Big Breach, was published in Moscow during 2001. In 2009 MI6 agreed to let him return to Britain, unfroze royalties from his book and dropped the threat of charges. It also apologised for its unfair treatment of him.
Education and military training[edit | edit source]
He was born in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand and grew up in Armathwaite, England, and was educated at Barnard Castle School where he was a contemporary of England Rugby Internationals Rory Underwood and Rob Andrew. He excelled at mathematics and physics, and then won an entrance scholarship to Cambridge University. He was first approached by MI6 during 1984 after graduating from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, with a First Class Honours Degree in Engineering. He also completed flying training with Cambridge University Air Squadron, won a Cambridge Half Blue for Modern Pentathlon, and on graduation he was accepted to join the Royal Navy as a Fleet Air Arm Officer. However he instead joined a management consultancy company named LEK. It is believed that he ended his employment with LEK during 1986.
He worked briefly during the summer of 1986 as an intern at the World Bank and then won a prize from the Rotary Foundation, allowing him to study in the country of his choice for a year. He enrolled in a political science course at the University of Buenos Aires, where he became a fluent Spanish speaker. He continued to pursue his aeronautical interests and qualified as a glider pilot with the Fuerza Aérea Argentina.
Military and MI6 service[edit | edit source]
During 1987 Tomlinson returned to the United Kingdom and served for five years in the Territorial Army's 21 SAS ("Artists' Rifles") and in 23 SAS, qualifying as a military parachutist, and radio operator. He also represented Britain in the 1990 Camel Trophy, competing in Siberia, USSR, and crossed the Sahara desert by motorcycle alone. He finally joined MI6 during 1991. He completed his training with MI6 and claims he was the best recruit on his course, being awarded the rarely given "Box 1" attribute, by his instructing officers including Nicholas Langman. He then served in the "SOV/OPS" department, working during the ending phases of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, before being posted to Sarajevo as the MI6 representative in Bosnia during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. His next posting was to work as an undercover agent against Iran, where he succeeded in penetrating the Iranian Intelligence Service, presumably SAVAMA. MI6 dismissed him—he claimed without warning and for unexplained reasons—during 1995. Tomlinson disputed the reasons for and legality of his dismissal and attempted to take MI6 before an employment tribunal. However, MI6 obtained a Public Interest Immunity Certificate from Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Having no further legal recourse to appeal against his dismissal, Tomlinson left the United Kingdom and pursued his arguments against MI6 publicly, by publishing articles in the international press about his treatment, and began work on a book (which later became The Big Breach). Perhaps as a result of Tomlinson's campaign, during 1998 the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee recommended that MI6 should be subject to UK employment law. Employees of MI6 (and GCHQ and MI5) now have the same employment rights as other British citizens, including written contracts and access to employment tribunals. However, MI6 refused to allow these procedures to be applied retrospectively to Tomlinson's case.
It is of note that MI6 have never succeeded in obtaining another PII certificate since the Tomlinson case, even though they have been subjected to more rigorous court scrutiny (for example the Inquest into the death of the Princess of Wales) than would have been involved with an employment tribunal.
The Big Breach[edit | edit source]
On returning to the United Kingdom during 1997, Tomlinson was arrested on suspicion of breaking the Official Secrets Act 1989. He was accused of giving a four-page synopsis of his proposed book to an Australian publisher—though MI6 have never claimed that he revealed any secret information. Tomlinson was remanded in custody at HMP Belmarsh as a Category A prisoner—- a category normally reserved for dangerous offenders. When it was announced that the trial would be held in a High Court, meaning that Tomlinson would be held on remand for as much as two years, longer than any likely sentence, he pleaded guilty to violating the Official Secrets Act 1989. At the sentencing hearing, John Scarlett, the chief prosecution witness, claimed that Tomlinson "had gravely damaged national security" and "had put agents' lives at risk". Tomlinson was not allowed to call any defence witnesses. Tomlinson received a twelve month custodial sentence. He served six months in HMP Belmarsh before being released early for good behaviour on 1 May 1998. Since 1998, foreign police services, including those of Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France and Monaco have all arrested and detained him at the request of MI6, but he has not been charged subsequently with an offence.
On completion of his three months probationary licence on 31 August 1998, Tomlinson left the United Kingdom to live in exile. He set about completing The Big Breach, which was published during 2001 in Russia. After the Court of Appeal of England and Wales subsequently ruled in his favour it was made available in the UK. However, immediately after publication, the British Government obtained a High Court Order to confiscate proceeds from the book and any newspaper serialisation rights, on the grounds that the government owned the copyright to anything written by Tomlinson. Finally, during September 2008, MI6 ended all legal objection to the publication of The Big Breach, released the proceeds from the publication to Tomlinson, and admitted that their previous legal actions against him were disproportionate. However, they still refused to reinstate Tomlinson to MI6, or compensate Tomlinson for the loss of his career and pension. Tomlinson can now travel freely to the UK. The book can now be downloaded free in electronic form (see "External links").
Other alleged breaches and assertions[edit | edit source]
List of MI6 agents[edit | edit source]
A list of 116 alleged MI6 agents was published on one of Lyndon LaRouche's websites. It has been alleged that Tomlinson was the source of the list, but he has always denied this.
Tomlinson published a list of nine names on his own website on Geocities. The site was subsequently terminated by the host due to a complaint by a third party. He carried a link to a copy of the LaRouche list on his website, with comments on the inaccuracy of individual entries, intending to show that he was not its author.
Diana of Wales[edit | edit source]
Tomlinson was apprehended by French Authorities during July 2006 after a European Arrest Warrant, requested by the United Kingdom, was issued. The warrant claimed Tomlinson was involved with the publication of two lists containing the names of MI6 officers during 2005. The police seized computers, personal papers and other items from his home in Cannes, and from his place of employment, resulting in the loss of this employment. He was subsequently cleared entirely of any involvements with the lists, though was never compensated for the damage to his career caused by the allegations. It was reported in some quarters that this arrest was linked to the inquiries into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. During this period Tomlinson maintained several weblogs publicising his treatment.
During 2008, Tomlinson was a witness for the inquest into the deaths of the Princess of Wales and Dodi al Fayed. He had suggested that Britain's Secret Intelligence Service was monitoring Diana before her death and that her driver on the night she died, Henri Paul, may have been an MI6 informant, and that her death resembled plans he saw during 1992 for the assassination of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, using a bright light to cause a traffic accident.
At the Coroner's Inquest into the death of the Princess, on 13 February 2008, speaking by video-link from France, Tomlinson conceded that, after the interval of 16 or 17 years, he "could not remember specifically" whether the document he had seen during 1992 had in fact proposed the use of a strobe light to cause a traffic accident as a means of assassinating Milosevic, although use of lights for this purpose had been covered in his MI6 training. On being told that no MI6 file on Henri Paul had been found, Tomlinson said that it "would be absurd after 17 years to say I can positively disagree with it, but...I do not think the fact that they did not manage to find a file rules out anything either". He said he believed MI6 had an informant at the Paris Ritz but he could not be certain, and had never claimed, that this person was necessarily Henri Paul.
The Increment[edit | edit source]
Tomlinson has alleged that there is a secret paramilitary unit called "The Increment" which performs covert operations on behalf of HM Government, claiming that operators are selected from the "cream of the crop" of the SAS (whose contribution is called the Revolutionary Warfare Wing or RWW) and SBS, and work on Secret Intelligence Service supervised missions.. The Increment later became the title of a Chris Ryan's 2004 novel as well as a David Ignatius's 2010 novel.
Post MI6[edit | edit source]
During 1999, Tomlinson enlisted with the French Foreign Legion, using a nom de guerre. He served with 3rd Company, 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment until discharged medically during 2003.Template:Failed verification Tomlinson retrained as a commercial pilot during 2005, and now works as a business jet pilot.
References[edit | edit source]
- Former spy Richard Tomlinson quizzed BBC
- "Ex-MI6 man jailed over memoirs", BBC
- "Leaks feared as sacked MI6 spy launches blog", Observer
- "Moscow to publish the memoirs of MI6 renegade" Telegraph
- The Sunday Times (London) 31 May 2009 Edition 1 MI6 woos home renegade ex-spy, p7
- Richard Tomlinson, The Big Breach: From Top Secret to Maximum Security. Foreword by Nick Fielding. Mainstream Publishing 2001 ISBN 1-903813-01-8
- 'MI6 tempts rebel ex-spy back home', The Sunday Times, 31 May 2009
- Hearing transcripts: 13 February 2008 - Morning session
- The Daily Telegraph. 13 February 2008
- The Guardian, 26 January 2001
- Le Point, 12 January 2004
[edit | edit source]
- Tomlinson v MI6, mirror of Tomlinson's old (April-Aug 2006) weblog (access to original blocked by Typepad on 4 August 2006)
- MI6 v Tomlinson (it's back!) (originally called "Tomlinson v MI6 (it's back!)"), Tomlinson's weblog between August 2006 and March 2007 (now defunct).
- MI6 v Tomlinson (it's back!), mirror of Tomlinson's weblog between August 2006 and March 2007.
- MI6 v Tomlinson, Tomlinson's blog April–May 2007, defunct as of July 2007. Its mirror is still up.
- Tomlinson v MI6 (blogs are forever), reserve blog
- 2008 Diana Inquest transcript - morning session
- 2008 Diana Inquest transcript - afternoon session
- Exhibit from 2008 Diana Inquest
- Second exhibit
- The Big Breach download
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- The Increment (2004), Chris Ryan, Century Publishing (UK). ISBN 1-84413-383-4
- Spooks: Behind the Scenes (2006), Orion Books (London). ISBN 0-7528-7610-4