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 Media Alert: HACKS AND SPOOKS, Newspapers are the playthings of MI5
Posted: Jul 19 2009, 08:03 PM

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Remember this?

Morgan Tsvangirai is the 'western' supported opposition leader in Zimbabwe who runs against Robert Mugawe.

Yesterday the British Guardian published an op-ed by Tsvangirai which called for military intervention. That op-ed has since been taken down from the Guardian website.


Today the Guardian publishes a letter by Tsvangirai, that delegitimizes yesterdays comment which is still available via the Google cache:

In his letter to the Guardian Morgan Tsvangirai now writes:

An article that appeared in my name, published in the Guardian (Why I am not running, June 25), did not reflect my position or opinions regarding solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis. Although the Guardian was given assurances from credible sources that I had approved the article this was not the case.
By way of clarification I would like to state the following: I am not advocating military intervention in Zimbabwe by the UN or any other organisation.


It appears that wasn't the first time the Guardian have had fake opinion pieces:
Colombia: “Defense Acknowledges That Guardian Article Was Phonier Than a Paraguayan Marlboro”

Posted by Colin Brayton on September 26, 2007


The “coincidences” of which the minister spoke on Monday do exist. Yesterday, spokespersons for the Guardian told this newspaper that Mark Donne, spokesman for Justice for Colombia, submitted the article as if it had been written by Gaviria, and only yesterday informed them that this was not the case. The NGO was the same that paid for an ad calling Uribe’s father a “mafioso.”

Mark Donne, a Labour Party representative to the NGO, admitted to W that it was all a misunderstanding, but inexplicably did not want to come out publicly and acknowledge it. But he did acknowledge that he himself sent the article in after a meeting with members of the PDA in Bogotá a few days ago.

The text of the fake article is at the link.

Posted: Sep 25 2010, 07:01 PM

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Posted: Feb 17 2012, 05:26 PM

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The CIA and the Media by Carl Bernstein
How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency

Scanned Copy of an article from Rolling Stone 20th October 1977 (4.15MB PDF)

Text of the article is reproduced here:

The Antagonist
Posted: Feb 28 2012, 06:36 PM


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Question: Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to a major circulation journal?

Answer: We do have people who submit pieces to American journals.

Question: Do you have any people paid by the CIA who are working for television networks?

Answer: This I think gets into the details id like to get into in executive session. (so the public doesn’t hear how we control all the networks)

That was in the 1950s. Everything is much better now and there is no manipulation of the news agenda by shadowy, secretive and sinister agencies.

Video: CIA Admits Using News To Manipulate the USA - YouTube
Posted: Jul 12 2012, 09:38 PM

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Encounter, the CIA, the IRD and the relationship of British intellectuals with the Establishment

    Matthew Spender (son of Stephen Spender and a board member of the Stephen Spender Trust); Frances Stonor Saunders (author of Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War); James Smith (New College; he is writing a book on British intellectuals and the Establishment); Maren Roth (writing a biography of Melvin Lasky and is supervisor of the Lasky papers in Munich); Jason Harding (Durham University, and TS Eliot Project, Institute of English Studies)

Event date:
    Friday 20 January 2012


    Stephen Spender Research Seminar - Encounter, the CIA, the IRD and the relationship of British intellectuals with the Establishment

    In 1967 it was revealed that the magazine Encounter had been secretly financed by the CIA since its foundation. Stephen Spender, its British co-editor, resigned. Its American editor Melvin Lasky stayed on. Whereas the CIA aspect has received much publicity and several academic studies, the involvement of the British co-sponsors, the Information Research Department of the Foreign Office, has largely been ignored. This symposium will discuss the extent to which editorial decisions were compromised by the magazine's secret sponsors, what were the differences in outlook and policy between the CIA and the IRD, and what damage was caused by the revelation of its secret agenda. Though the symposium will concentrate on Encounter, it will also discuss the larger question of Anglo-American cultural relationships.

[Embedded Youtube]
Posted: Oct 31 2012, 05:47 PM

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Revealed: how the BBC used MI5 to vet thousands of staff
Some of the biggest names were probably vetted
By Chris Hastings, Arts and Media Editor
12:01AM BST 02 Jul 2006

user posted image

It is a tale of secret agents and surveillance that could have come straight out the BBC's classic spy drama Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

But the difference is that genuine spies were involved and they were operating behind the scenes at Broadcasting House rather than on the small screen.

Confidential papers, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, have revealed that the BBC allowed MI5 to investigate the backgrounds and political affiliations of -thousands of its employees, including newsreaders, reporters and continuity announcers.

The files, which shed light on the BBC's hitherto secret links with the Security Service, show that at one stage it was responsible for vetting 6,300 different BBC posts - almost a third of the total workforce.

They also confirm that the corporation held a list of "subversive organisations" and that evidence of certain kinds of political activity could be a bar to appointment or promotion.

The BBC's reliance on MI5 reached a peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s at exactly the same time as millions of viewers were tuning into the fictional adventures of George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and -Smiley's People.

David Dimbleby, John Humphrys and Anna Ford all began their careers with the broadcaster when the system was still in place.

The papers show that senior BBC figures covered up these links in the face of awkward questions from trade unions and the press. The documents refer to a "defensive strategy" based on "categorical denial". One file note, dated March 1 1985, states: "Keep head down and stonewall all questions."

The BBC, however, has always refused to be drawn on the extent of its collaboration with the secret services.

It is only now, after a request by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, that it has finally been willing to release details of the vetting operation.

Another internal BBC document, dated 1983, confirms: "We supply personal details to the Security Service. If there is any adverse information known, we receive this information and also, where necessary, an assessment based upon the involvement of the individual. This is presented to us as advice; line management then make the decision as to action."

The documents do not name any of the individuals subjected to vetting, but it is possible that some of the BBC's biggest names were scrutinised.

Different posts were vetted for different reasons. Senior officials, including the director-general, and their support staff were checked because they had access to confidential government information in relation to their jobs. But thousands of employees were vetted because they were involved in live broadcasts and the BBC was worried about the possibility of on-air bias or disruption.

In 1983, 5,728 BBC jobs were subjected to this second kind of scrutiny known as "counter-subversion vetting".

The vetting system, which was phased out in the late 1980s, also applied to dozens of other employees, including television producers, directors, sound engineers, secretaries and researchers.

The details of freelance television and radio staff were also routinely passed on to the security services and even the posts of editor and deputy editor of Radio 4's Woman's Hour were subject to background checks by MI5. In many cases, the spouses of applicants were also subjected to scrutiny.

The BBC tried on several occasions to be more open about the system, but was blocked by the Security Service. A memo, dated March 7 1985, states: "Secrecy of the complete vetting operation is imposed upon us by the Security Service - it is not of our making."

For their part, the security services were increasingly concerned about the number of people being referred to them by the BBC. During the first four months of 1983, they were asked to investigate 619 different individuals.

In the early 1980s, the BBC had a list of "major subversive organisations", which included the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers' Party, the Workers' Revolutionary Party, Militant Tendency, the National Front and the British National Party.

In contrast, CND, which was very popular at the time, was not regarded as a "subversive organisation". Youthful attachments to extreme causes did not necessarily mean an automatic ban on employment.

The papers show that, in 1968, Sir Hugh Greene, the BBC's then director-general, and John Arkell, the head of administration, successfully evaded questions on the issue during an interview with a journalist.

A memo from Mr Arkell, dated March 1 1968, to another senior colleague states: "You might like to get a bit of credit for the BBC next time you talk to MI5 by telling them that I stuck resolutely to the brief which you prepared for me in spite of very pointed and penetrating questions.

"I still denied that we had any vetting procedures."

The BBC declined to -comment.

The suggestion that the security services were unaware of Jimmy Savile's behaviour appears incredible......
Posted: Oct 31 2012, 07:27 PM

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QUOTE ("Sinclair")
The suggestion that the security services were unaware of Jimmy Savile's behaviour appears incredible......

Room 105 - BBC

Revealed: How MI5 vets BBC staff

EXCLUSIVE by David Leigh and Paul Lashmar, The Observer,
18th August 1985, page 1.

THE OBSERVER has obtained concrete evidence for the first time of the way the security service, MI5, secretly controls the hiring and firing of BBC staff.

Senior executives in the corporation have revealed to us a series of cases in which the careers of journalists, directors and broadcasters have been affected by MI5 blacklisting.

Until now the BBC has always consistently denied any interference, on MI5 instructions.

When we went to see Mr Christopher Martin, Director of Personnel, at the corporation's headquarters in Portland Place, last Friday, and presented him with details of our dossier, he refused to respond to the substance of our evidence, saying that the area was 'confidential.'

The most disturbing aspect of the vetting system, which can make or mar the careers and lives of both BBC radio and television staff is that often the blacklisting is quite misguided or based on simple errors of fact.

On page 9 of today's Observer we detail eight cases where individuals were initially either prevented from getting a job in the BBC or denied promotion.

In one case the security service blocked the appointment of an editor of The Listener.

Others blacklisted for periods of their careers include two television directors, Stephen Peet (who later went on to make the 'Yesterday's Witness' series for BBC) and John Goldschmidt (who recently made a film about the whistle-blower Stanley Adams); journalist Isabel Hilton, who now works for the Sunday Times; and numerous young film editors, reporters and producers accused of having left-wing sympathies.

At the last count, in 1984, the BBC had a staff of almost 30,000. We have discovered that all current affairs appointees, together with many of those involved in the actual making of programmes - including directors and film editors - are vetted.

We have also established who runs the system. It operates, unknown to almost all BBC staff, from Room 105 in an out-of-the way corridor on the first floor of Broadcasting House - a part of that labyrinth on which George Orwell modelled his Ministry of Truth in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four.'

The legend on the door - 'Special Duties-Management'- gives little away. Behind that door sits Brigadier Ronnie Stonham, 'Sp.A. to D.Pers.'

As special assistant to Christopher Martin, his job, with a team of three female assistants, is to liaise with MI5.

Brigadier Stonham, a signals officer with an Intelligence background who left the Army in 1982, has signed the Official Secrets Act, like all his BBC colleagues in the appointments department.

Last week, after our initial approaches to the BBC, Brigadier Stonham's office said he would be absent all week. At his Clapham, south London, home, his wife said 'He is not here.'

Brigadier Stonham gets the names of successful candidates from chairmen of the various interviewing boards, or hiring producers. They call what they are doing 'college' or 'the formalities.'

For internal BBC staff applying for promotion, MI5 keeps continuous political surveillance on those it considers 'media subversives' - a category which can include directors, film editors, even actors.

Their files are stamped with a symbol which looks like a Christmas tree. That means that a second, secret file is held in Room 105. Some of these merely contain intimate personal details. Most contain purported 'security' information, collected by local Special Branch policemen.

If a staff member in this category is shortlisted the second file, a buff folder with a round red sticker and the legend 'secret,' is given to the department head, who has to sign for it.

What is happening is concealed from the individuals concerned, who have no idea what is being used against them.

The names of outside applicants are submitted to F Branch 'domestic' subversion desks at MI5, which is headed by the diplomat Sir Antony Duff. They are fed into a computer containing the details of 500,000 'subversives'.

The vetting operation is run by C Branch, who also obtain access to other big private companies.

Cathy Massiter, who was a junior officer at M15 in the mid- 1970s, has described to us how lists of BBC candidates would pass across her desk for approval.

Often the word from MI5 that it regards a person as a 'security risk' is enough to blacklist him or her permanently. Ordinary interviewing board members are not encouraged to ask questions,

A particularly bizarre aspect of the system is that BBC boards, when interviewing candidates, are expressly forbidden to ask them openly about their political views.

We found that senior executives were fearful of speaking out about vetting because of the Official Secrets Act. We also found that victims of blacklisting were generally too frightened to admit it.

Now, however, two former director-generals have described the system to us, and executives holding past and current senior BBC posts have described what happened in eight specific cases.

Sir Hugh Greene, one former director-general, says: 'In my day we would never have allowed jobs like The Listener to go to MI5.'

In every instance when MI5's claims were challenged the allegations dissolved into instances of, at best, over-zealousness, and at worst false information against the applicant, or even political spite.

The blacklist in Room 105 p. 9

Clarion Notes. Clarion obtained the above text directly from a copy of the Observer.


The full p9 article:
David Leigh, Paul Lashmar, Observer, 18 August 1985, page 9

Today 'The Observer' reveals that MI5 have been vetting BBC appointments, basing their operations in Room 105 in Broadcasting House. DAVID LEIGH and PAUL LASHMAR report.

ONLY A YEAR after he had graduated from his art college in London, John Goldschmidt, a bright, young film director, was asked to make a film for the BBC 'Omnibus' series. Goldschmidt could not believe his luck. The year was 1969 and the film was to be about the occupation by students of the Hornsey Art College.

One day during filming he discovered that police had been checking the details of a car he had hired and had also been watching his house. Soon after, without warning, the BBC cancelled Goldschmidt's film on Hornsey without explanation.

Two years later the BBC once again asked him to make a film -this time a 'Play for Today' about school-leavers based on an existing script. He was intalled in an office in Television Centre and set about his business. Once again he was stopped from working. An embarrassed executive told him: 'You're not supposed to be allowed to work here.'

A major row erupted in the BBC drama department about Goldschmidt's treatment and the truth of his double sacking was revealed. He had been blacklisted by a BBC 'personnel officer' working with MI5. Goldschmidt's 'offence' was to have taken part in an exchange of students between his art college and a Czech film school, spending a few weeks in Czechoslovakia. He was not, nor ever had been, a Communist.

After an outraged deputation went to see Huw Wheldon, at that time Managing Director, Television, the banning was eventually lifted. But Goldschmidt was by no means the only victim of the BBC's secret blacklisting system. The Observer has compiled detailed evidence of how the BBC vetting system, backed by MI5, has barred individuals from employment by the BBC or stopped their advancement in the organisation. In each case the victims were oblivious of their place on the blacklist - and therefore unable to challenge the often untrue or fanciful evidence against them. The man currently in charge of MI5 vetting is Brigadier Ronnie Stonham, formerly of the Signals Regiment, operating from Room 105 on the first floor of Broadcasting House.

In 1965 the distinguished documentary director Stephen Peet was prevented by MI5 from being awarded a BBC staff job. Two BBC executives, Stuart Hood, BBC Controller of Programmes 1961-64, and Hallam Tennyson, a BBC careers officer at the time, disclosed how the MI5 operated in Peet's case.

Peet's brother John was a Communist. In 1950, 15 years before Peet's application for a BBC job was considered, his brother had caused a sensation in Reuters by leaving his job as their West Berlin correspondent and moving to East Germany, where he still lives.

Stephen Peet was neither a Communist nor politically active in any way. MI5's only assertion was that he maintained links with his brother and sometimes met him. Peet was persistently turned down for full-time BBC jobs. All he was told by the BBC was that he had failed to be accepted. After some time, sympathetic executives tipped him off that he was being blacklisted.

He appealed to his MP, Kenneth Robinson, at that time a Minister in the Wilson Government. Robinson remembers: 'I went to see a Minister-I think it was the Home Secretary-and I made representations on Peet's behalf.' This approach worked. The blacklisting disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived. Peet went on, with the BBC, to make the much-acclaimed 'Yesterday's Witness' series and to win a Royal Television Society special award.

With the international flowering of the 'New Left' and student activism at the end of the Sixties, MI5 detected ever-wider potential conspiracies within the BBC. All the young graduate general trainees had their names passed on to Curzon Street, although there was little to help them on the files. John Laird, responsible for graduate recruitment, remembers one particular graduate's case: 'They said his father, who had left Hungary in 1956, was suspect. I had to write a letter saying we had not chosen him, although in fact we had.'

It was at about this time that John Goldschmidt was hired- then vetoed by MI5. After his 'rehabilitation' by Wheldon he made no complaint and went on to a solid career as a film director.

But at about the same time that Goldschmidt had been cleared, one of the BBC's brightest graduate trainees, Michael Rosen, known as an Oxford student activist, was blacklisted by MI5. Rosen had caused ripples during his BBC training by making a radio documentary about the French Marxist, Regis Debray, and the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square had complained about another Rosen project which used film clips of US soldiers being tested with the drug LSD.

In 1972, Rosen was sacked. He was told that no department was prepared to offer him a job. This was quite untrue. John Laird says: 'I was called by the chairman of one board, who said "You'll be glad to know we've appointed Rosen." Then he called again, embarrassed, and said it had been "blocked."'

Rosen had made no secret of his political attitudes when he was originally appointed, telling the board he had Marxist views. He had a subsequent successful career as a writer of plays and children's books.

By the mid-Seventies the categories of staff vetted were growing wider and so were the definitions of subversion. In 1975, a 29-year-old assistant film editor in Wales, Paul Turner, was becoming increasingly depressed at his repeated rejection for jobs.

Last week, a senior executive who sat on one of his interview boards told us why: 'He was applying for a six-month attachment with the Community Programmes Unit. He was interviewed, but as soon as he left the room, the appointments officer said there'd been a mistake. His file had a Christmas tree (meaning a security file was held) and he should not have even been allowed an interview. He was a "security risk" because of something to do with Welsh nationalism.'

Turner's reaction when we told him he had been blacklisted 10 years ago was immense relief. 'I feel I want to go out and celebrate. For years I'd worried my career at the BBC never blossomed because I was somehow second-rate.'

Turner's blacklisting - he now helps run a successful independent production company in Wales, Teliesyn - easy to explain. As a young man, he joined the Welsh Communist Party for two years, he was an active ACTT shop steward and attended two World Festivals of Youth, in Berlin and Cuba.

The following year, MI5 attempted to blacklist Isabel Hilton from a job as a TV reporter in Scotland. Their secret allegations were, as it turns out, completely false.

By chance the then controller of BBC Scotland, Alastair Hetherington, former editor of the Guardian, knew her personally. Last week, when we put Ms Hilton's name to him, he confirmed the case.

'I refused to accept it. It was inconceivable. There was obviously some mistake. As a result of my protests, eventually a personnel man came up from London and said she was an organiser of a pro-Chinese group-SACU, the society for Anglo-Chinese understanding.

'It was a clerical error. She was a Chinese linguist and had agreed to act as secretary to a completely different academic body based in the Chinese Department at Edinburgh University: SCA, the Scottish China Association.'

Ms Hilton, having despaired of delays lasting weeks described by the BBC as 'administrative referral to London,' decided to leave Scotland and accepted a job elsewhere. She is now a journalist on the Sunday Times.

She was shocked when we told her last week why she had been denied the Scottish job: 'I suppose what those people did changed my life without me ever knowing.' She was lucky -had Hetherington not discovered the mistake and followed it up, she would have been permanently blacklisted -and kept in ignorance of it.

Things did not work out as happily for Yvette Vanson. In 1979 she was considered of sufficient talent and integrity to be hired to help make 'access' films in the BBC's community programmes unit. But days before she was to start, an embarrassed executive told her the job had been withdrawn.

In a series of letters now held by The Observer, the BBC wrote telling her that 'the job should have gone to an internal candidate.' She was told she could apply for other jobs and offered £500 for her 'inconvenience.'

We traced one of the senior officials concerned who admitted that the BBC had been telling lies. She had been blacklisted by MI5 as 'an organiser of the Workers Revolutionary Party.' Indeed, she had been a member of the WRP when, five years earlier, she was an actress. Although she had subsequently left the party, she made no bones about her left-wing opinions.

The blacklisting is intended to be permanent. Last year, 10 years since Yvette Vanson stopped being a member of any political group, another BBC producer wished to hire her. An executive told us : 'Personnel said: "But wasn't she in the WRP?"' This time there were protests, the blacklisting was withdrawn and she has successfully worked for the BBC.

In 1982 a similar attempt was made to blight the career of a young journalist-the only one we traced who is too worried to be named. A former student activist and briefly a member of the small and eccentric Maoist group, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), he joined the BBC on an informal three-month contract and reported an incident, based on leaks from policemen, that a rape by a Saudi in Britain had been concealed for diplomatic reasons.

His producer was delighted and congratulated the young man on a successful start to his journalistic career. But there were complaints from the local police establishment and within three weeks, word came from personnel in Broadcasting House, London, that his contract was not to be renewed because he was 'subversive.'

Once again the blacklisting was challenged by indignant superiors and their appeal was successful.

The final example of MI5 blacklisting of potential BBC personnel is both the most comic and the most sinister. In 1981 a board met to consider whom to appoint as editor of the Listener. After a brilliant presentation from Richard Gott, the Guardian's features editor, he was chosen.

However, MI5 had other ideas. 'His file went off for "colleging" (BBC jargon for MI5 vetting),' said one senior executive, 'and it was blocked. They said he was an ultra-leftist. The phrase was: "He digs with the wrong foot".' After an unexplained delay, Russell Twisk was appointed editor of the Listener.

Richard Gott's editorial work on the Guardian is conscientiously fair-minded. However, 20 years ago he stood as a by-election candidate against the Vietnam War. He also spent three years in Latin America where he openly supported Che Guevara and the Bolivian guerrillas. The Bolivian regime arrested him alleging he was engaged in 'Communism.' He had also caused tension when broadcasting on the Foreign Office-funded BBC World Service and supporting trade unionists in the then British colony of Aden. Such activities condemned him 20 years later.

MI5 probably got their toe-hold in the BBC during the war when staff running the external services broadcasting to occupied Europe were vetted. Sir Hugh Greene, later to become director-general of the BBC, remembers: 'I was vetted in 1940. MI5 thought I was a Communist, but it turned out to be a mistake .' During the Cold War, Attlee's Government openly announced that civil servants who were Communists (or Fascists) would not be allowed access to classified material. But the BBC were keeping a secret blacklist. Hugh Greene recalls a case in the external services: 'He wasn't a security risk at all. It turned out he had worked for MI6,the rival secret service, and there had been an internal quarrel.'

In 1952, General Sir Ian Jacob was made director-general by Churchill. He remembers: I was shown lists of Communists in the BBC. It was handled by the controller of administration. A relative of mine was actually on the list:he had a Communist wife.'

Throughout the Sixties, Greene, as director-general, headed a new liberalisation of the stuffy BBC. But behind the scenes vetting continued at that time under the head of administration, John Arkell.

Stuart Hood recalls: "I went one meeting m the early Sixties where slips of paper were being handed out about an actress They said "Not to be used on sensitive programmes." I knew the woman. She was not political, but husband was a pre-war left-wing Austrian refugee. I protested at the time. On another occasion I was brought a slip of paper saying someone had written an article in Peace News.'

By the time Ian Trethowan, a man of known conservative views became director-general in 1975, the vetting system was still elaborate. One senior executive explained: 'Regular digests were being supplied of political surveillance of extremist groups of both left and right.'

Another senior BBC figure tells of the sort of information kept in the secret files. 'There was a journalist's Christmas tree file (security file) I saw. For about 12 years it had recorded notes such as "Has subscription to Daily Worker" or "Our friends say he associates with Communists and CND activists." It is fair to add there were contemporary memos from personnel adding they thought this was ridiculous But it was still in file.'

Trethowan thought the BBC's political balance was too left-wing. John Laird says: 'I recall a conversation when he asked me why I had hired so many reds as general trainees. I said they weren't Communists but Trotskyists, Maoists, all sorts of groups. All the brightest young people were left-wing in those days. Trethowan said "They're all the same to me. They're all Commies."'

So, what do the BBC and MI5 achieve from their secret black- balling? Whatever the reasons, the system is clumsy, dishonest and often very unfair. Whereas government vetting of civil servants is officially acknowledged and those who fail vetting are informed of the fact, the BBC method is secret, allowing no appeal-with often damaging injustice to individuals and careers.

But most important, perhaps, is that even if the system of vetting were cleaned up and acknowledged to those it affects, it would only hamper the activities of those whose radical opinions are above board. The real 'moles' - if they exist - are buried too deep to be discerned by such an inaccurate and incompetent vetting procedure.

Additional reporting by Mark Hollingsworth
Clarion notes

See also Revealed: How MI5 vets BBC staff David Leigh and Paul Lashmar, The Observer, 18 August 1985, page 1.

Above the headline of the article above, the Observer on page 9 carried the photographs of six people mentioned in the article with a few words in tabular form under each summarising each case. The photographs are labelled, from left to right: Stephen Peet, Isabel Hilton, Richard Gott, Paul Turner, John Goldschmidt, Michael Rosen.

Clarion: MI5 secretly controlling BBC staff, Observer 18 August 1985
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