18 January 2006

Spying and the league table of spies

There are few major spy cases in the UK - a handful in each decade - and it is natural we remember those that made some mark on history, such as Kim Philby or George Blake. However, not all spy cases involve secrets which, if revealed, might bring down the government or jeopardise the country's national security. The only certain thing we may use in comparing the various espionage cases is the analysis made by the courts during the spy's trial - what did the judge, the jury, the witnesses, and the lawyers make of the evidence in a particular case? In judging the ranking for acts of spying it appears Blake received the highest score of 42 years, but there are not many who have received 20 (or more) years as I did, and when they did they were usually employed in the secret services such as Michael Bettany (MI5, 23 year sentence) and Geoffrey Prime (GCHQ, 38 year sentence).

I did some research into the cases of Rafael Juan Bravo and Ian Parr. Within days of the arrest of those two individuals, the military projects were quickly identified and published in the media. Stories were reported in such places as the BBC and the Guardian newspaper.

Security guard, Rafael Juan Bravo, was arrested on spy charges in 2001, for stealing top secret documents on defence systems from British Aerospace at Stanmore north-west London. The four documents in the Bravo case relate to:
  • The design specification for Prophet Asic, classified "Nato secret" and understood to be a new electronic warfare surveillance system;
  • "DLH ship configuration" and accompanying data, classified "UK secret", relating to radar and other systems designed to defend British warships;
  • Secrets, marked "UK eyes only", relating to defensive equipment installed in the army's new Apache attack helicopter;
  • The latest draft, classified "UK secret", of "Zeus MDD", the codename given to a defence system designed for Harrier jump jets.

Bravo was found guilty of seven offences under the Official Secrets Act and four under the Theft Act and he received an 11 year prison sentence.

BAe test co-ordinator, Ian Parr, was arrested on spying charges in 2002, for stealing documents from the company’s site at Basildon, Essex.

Most of the drawings and CDs he stole were classified either "UK restricted" or "Nato restricted". Several of the charges relate to the "Halo Project", understood to be a battlefield device being developed by BAE Systems Avionics to help pinpoint enemy guns. Halo stands for Hostile Artillery Locator. It consists of a network of microphones which record and analyse the sound of incoming artillery shells, then compute a target location for returning fire. Other charges related to the Storm Shadow project to develop stealth cruise missiles, currently being used by British forces in the Iraq war, which could have compromised the troops safety. Other material related to a new navigation system for the F16 bomber and a thermal imaging and radio jamming system.

Parr was found guilty of two charges under the Official Secrets Act, seven under the Theft Act, and he received a 10 year prison sentence.

It is interesting that both these cases were the result of undercover sting operations involving MI5, and in which officers posed as Russians to lure the suspects into entrapment situations.

Check the links below to read details of those cases - there is plenty more on the Net. See how project names are freely mentioned and linked to the cases of Bravo and Parr, and ask yourself why the MoD should choose to withhold information that my case was linked to the ALARM missile?

Guardian (4 Sep 2001), (18 Dec 2001), (25 Mar 2002), (25 Mar 2002), (26 Mar 2002), (30 Nov 2002), (5 Apr 2003)

BBC (25 Mar 2002), (15 May 2002), (15 Aug 2002), (29 Nov 2002), (4 Apr 2003), (4 Apr 2003)

How is it possible for the MoD to agree to the release of details about the recent projects Bravo and Parr are alleged to have compromised, but the MoD feels unable to admit that one 24 year old document in my case was linked to ALARM?

I hope the CCRC can uncover a reason for this difference in standards of disclosure, as double standards need to be exposed, particularly when they involved scientific experts and lawyers. It is also interesting to consider why I deserved a sentence of 20 years, when Bravo and Parr received 11 and 10 years respectively.

I rest my case …