30 September 2007

Prisoner votes, democracy & the electoral register

I have always felt a strong sense of what democracy means to me, and I would never compromise on my right to vote for a government of my choice. This is one of the reasons I had hoped to win my Appeal in 1995, so that I would be free to vote in the next General Election. But unfortunately that was not to be.

As the next election was approaching, I did what I could to secure my chance to vote, and I sent letters to the Kingston-upon-Thames Electoral Registration Officer to be registered in my constituency. All this was to no avail, and as you can see from the replies below, my right to vote in the 1997 General Election was taken away from me.

First letter from Kingston Electoral Registration Officer

Second letter from Kingston Electoral Registration Officer

Not only was I prevented from voting in the 1997 election, but my opportunity to vote in that election was gone forever. This was to have a fundamental effect on my view of British democracy, and I felt so angry that I no longer wanted to take any part in the election process.

It may seem of no importance to the officials who administer the disenfranchisement of prisoners, but to an individual like me it completely changed my view of how I would react to enrolment on the electoral register. If I was not “good” enough to be registered when I was forced to be a prisoner, then I did not want to be involved in that system after my release.

I have never registered as a voter since my release from prison, and I will not do so while I remain in the United Kingdom. The system has destroyed any faith I had in its fairness, and what I believe democracy to be. I will not be a part of such a system.

I was a convicted prisoner, and as far as the electoral system is concerned I shall always be a convicted prisoner. They did not want me to participate in “their” elections, and so I will not participate - they have achieved the result they wanted.

Hey, leave me alone guys
Remember, YOU took away MY vote

David Rose was an agent of MI6

I was quite surprised that David Rose has admitted in the New Statesman that he was working as an agent of MI6. Perhaps he has a hidden agenda for revealing this fact, or possibly he was told to fall on his sword by MI6?

This is very relevant to me, because David Rose played an important part in the dissemination of information about the Mitrokhin Archive, at the time when it broke in the world media. So, all along, Rose was acting as an agent of MI6, and undoubtedly he would have been told to write what MI6 wanted to get into the public domain.

I wrote to David Rose while I was in prison, asking for his help to expose the errors that were written in the Mitrokhin Archive about me. Rose more or less warned me against making noises about the details, as though it would not be in my interests to continue asking questions. Well, I now know why Rose was being so pro-Mitrokhin, as he must have been taking his orders from MI6 during this period.

It is also interesting that, according to Rose, he was approached by MI6 in May 1992. This was the very month I was issued with a redundancy notice from Hirst Research Centre, and shortly after Mitrokhin had offered his services to MI6. No doubt Rose knows a lot more than he is prepared to talk openly about, but at least we now know what was behind a lot of his journalism.

I wrote to David Rose after I saw my name mentioned in one of his articles. I print an extract of it below:

Observer 16 September 2001
Mission Implausible

Open Secret: the Autobiography of the Former Director General of MI5 - Stella Rimington.
Reviewed by David Rose.

‘… There is no mention of the defection to Britain in 1992 of Vasili Mitrokhin, the former KGB chief archivist who arrived with vast files containing details of almost 70 years of Soviet espionage against the West - unquestionably the most important event in counter-espionage in the period when Rimington was DG.

This can’t be the fault of the censor: Mitrokhin has been interviewed on television and co-written a book with Professor Christopher Andrew, and it is well known that his information enabled the prosecution of Michael Smith, the Soviet agent who worked for Thorn EMI.

But Rimington may have her reasons for silence in this area. In 1999, Mitrokhin’s book triggered the exposure of Melita Norwood, the octogenarian former Soviet atom spy. In the fallout from what became a media sensation, MI5 faced some awkward questions. Why had it never bothered to follow up Mitrokhin’s Norwood leads, so making her prosecution impossible? Why had it fallen to a then-BBC journalist (myself) to confront her for the first time - and obtain a full-blown confession within approximately 15 minutes?

When Rimington gave her evidence, in camera, to an inquiry into the affair by the Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee, she said she could not remember what she had been told about Norwood, and could not explain her service’s inaction. In fact, she was briefed extensively, six years before the story surfaced. But the effect of her forgetfulness was that her successor, Stephen Lander, took the heat of some searing criticism for decisions for which he had no responsibility.

Similarly, the book describes the attempted treachery of Michael Bettaney, caught trying to pass secrets to the Russians in 1982. Bettaney, Rimington writes, ‘had been behaving inappropriately for some time ... drinking excessively and behaving in ways which should have sounded warning bells that all was not well. Though some of those who had seen his behaviour alerted the personnel department, it was not thought necessary to move him from his counter-espionage work.’ Rimington does not relate that the most cogent warning came personally to her, at a meeting in London with one of Bettaney’s IRA agents, two years before his arrest, nor that, afterwards, he continued to work on secret operations in which she was closely involved. …’

In response to reading this review, I thought it would be a good idea to write to David Rose, to see if he could help me with my case. This is my letter to him:

From: Michael John Smith
HMP Full Sutton

19 September 2001

Dear Mr Rose,
In your review of Stella Rimington’s book, in the Observer of 16th September, you referred to Vasili Mitrokhin, and stated: ‘… it is well known that [Mitrokhin’s] information enabled the prosecution of Michael Smith, the Soviet agent who worked for Thorn EMI.’

I would be very grateful if you could please point me to any sources that support your assertion, i.e. that Mitrokhin was linked to my prosecution. I have tried for some time to establish whether my prosecution was connected to Mitrokhin’s archive, but without success. Mr Andrew Mackinlay MP has been helping me, by asking questions about access to Mitrokhin’s archive, although he has also failed due to official stone-walling.

This connection is important to me, because I am still trying to uncover the reasons behind my arrest and conviction. Nowhere in my case was Mitrokhin ever mentioned - from my arrest (August 1992), through to my trial (September - November 1993), or at my appeal (May - June 1995). The story presented, and made public by the Crown, was that Viktor Oshchenko defected in July 1992, and this led directly to my arrest. The jury was encouraged to believe that Oshchenko was the only reason I had been arrested, although he inexplicably never gave evidence in my case.

The key to the Crown’s case rested on the circumstantial evidence of a telephone call, made by an MI5 officer to my home on the morning of my arrest, during which he referred to a person (at that point anonymous) who he called “Victor”. The Crown told the jury that this one name “Victor” must refer to Oshchenko, although this was the only evidence any where in the hundreds of pages of Prosecution material to connect me with Oshchenko.

I believe Oshchenko had been a long-term MI6 agent, and that his defection had become necessary because the Russians had suspected his double role, as was reported at the time. The suspicion about Oshchenko was further increased after it was found necessary to delay the trial of his French agent, Francis Temperville, for over 5 years.

You refer to my employment at Thorn EMI. Actually, it is only my time at the Systems and Weapons Division of EMI Electronics Ltd (July 1976 - May 1978) that is relevant. You may be surprised to learn that, although my EMI work was mentioned at my trial (as part of my employment history), it formed no part of the charges brought against me. The indictment I faced related only to the period 1990-92, when I worked at GEC’s Hirst Research Centre. You may now see the significance of both Mitrokhin (who left the KGB in 1984?) and Oshchenko (who left the UK in 1979), because it is a little difficult to relate them to the charges in 1990-92! These discrepancies became even more puzzling, when you know that MI5’s official testimony was that they had no evidence that I had ever met any KGB officers.

The Crown secured my conviction because I had one classified document in my possession, which was marked ‘restricted’ and dated 1982. I can prove that the MoD witness, who gave evidence about this document, lied when he claimed it contained sensitive material. Mr Harry Cohen MP has asked the MoD to simply confirm the project this document was used on, but the then MoD Minister Mr John Spellar refused to confirm the witness’s evidence. You may have seen the Security Commission’s report on my case (HMSO, Cm2930, July 1995), which states: ‘… at the time the document was created it was not specifically linked to a particular weapons system.’ (Annex A.5). I find that curious.

I am concerned that this MoD witness admitted he was not an expert in the field in which he gave evidence, and that he was allowed to corroborate his claims by saying they had been confirmed to him over the telephone by an expert (hearsay evidence should not be acceptable). There was also considerable unfairness, because this key evidence was not disclosed to my lawyers until the witness gave it from the witness box, and when my Defence QC’s questions became uncomfortable, the MoD persuaded the judge to curtail the cross-examination on the grounds of security.

It may be co-incidence, but the ‘restricted’ document, mentioned above, came from the same site where the recently arrested Rafael Juan Bravo worked - The Grove, Stanmore. However, the 4 documents in his case were all marked ‘secret’, two levels higher than the document in my case, and the Crown was not shy to quickly tell the press which projects these documents were used on (e.g. the Guardian 4 September 2001) - I am still trying to discover this information about my document 9 years after my arrest!

Most interestingly, Mr Bravo was arrested following an entrapment operation, by an MI5 officer posing as a Russian agent. I have always clamed that I was entrapped by a MI5 officer bribing me into an industrial espionage - I had no access to secret material. I now know that I was under surveillance for a considerable period prior to my arrest, so perhaps MI5 engineered my prosecution to justify their budget after the end of the Cold War? Maybe my arrest and Oshchenko’s defection were merely a smokescreen to throw the Russians off the scent, while MI6 extracted the Mitrokhin archive?

If you can help me to find a link between my prosecution and Mitrokhin, then I would be very grateful. Anything you can tell me would be very much appreciated.

Yours sincerely,
Michael John Smith

Below is the reply I received from David Rose:

David Rose letter page 1

David Rose letter page 2

From: David Rose
9 November 2001

To: Michael John Smith
HMP Full Sutton

Dear Mr Smith,

I apologise for taking so long to get back to you. September 11 has made life very busy, and I have been travelling quite a bit.

I can tell you I got to know Mitrokhin well and I understand from conversations both with him and with other, confidential sources, that there was indeed material in his files which related to your case. However, I ought to warn you that were you to acquire access to it through some form of the legal disclosure process, it might not be at all helpful to you. I cannot assist you as to any of its details, nor can I give “chapter and verse” as to the conversations I’ve had about you and Mitrokhin. But I am certain that this material exists, and that those behind your prosecution must be aware of its nature.

Yours sincerely,
David Rose