In this book, MI5/Security Service ex-employee Annie Machon goes into the so-called Shayler Affair: why he left MI5, why he went public with various allegations about its activities (and those of MI6/SIS), why she also left the Security Service.
I felt that the interest-value of the book, speaking purely personally, was patchy. I am not particularly interested in Libya (Shayler's main professional target)and so found that much of the book was only of passing interest to me.
It is clear to me, as a disinterested observer, that many of the couple's criticisms of MI5 have some weight. Many (especially of the older generation of MI5 employees) were indeed recruited by the tap-on-shoulder or I-know-someone-you-should see-for-a-job method. That much is well-known and can be seen in the known biographies of senior staff: see Stella Rimington, Open Secret (was a housewife who was bored and wanted a p/t job when her husband was a diplomat in India); also the Wikipedia entry etc for Eliza Manningham-Buller (father had been Attorney-General during the early 1960's spy scandals and ---father at least-- was known as "Bullying Manner"; recruited "at a drinks party". Both of these become Directors-General.
Machon says that the first newspaper ads for staff brought in 20,000 responses! Many who were recruited were excellent but many also left, alienated by poor management, drunken or negligent supervizors etc. So she says.
I was also interested that her criticism was mainly if not entirely of the upper and middle regions of what she calls MI5's "pregnant", I think she says, or "pear-shaped" structure, heavy around the middle ranks. I noted that she makes little criticism of the more hands-on and technical branches, particularly the surveillance directorate which she calls Branch A4. Those elements are probably very competent.
Whatever the shortcomings of the management of MI5, when it comes to infiltration of political and protest movements they are quite competent, in my opinion anyway. Anecdotal evidence: I knew people peripherally involved with the promotion of Soviet dance tours in the UK in the mid-1980's (Bolshoi, Moscow Dance Theatre, Georgian State Dance etc). At one point, there was concern that there might be Jewish-Zionist protests to disrupt the shows of one tour, on behalf of Soviet "refuseniki", meaning Jews, mostly scientists etc, refused permission to emigrate to Israel (in fact, many of those who DID emigrate ended up not in Israel but in New York City, in London or elsewhere). The British impressario and some of his people had a meeting with the Special Branch sergeant who was a kind of liaison person. The result was that the SB officer said that there indeed would be a protest, but it would only be once (first night) and would consist of three Jews standing up in a particular specified row of the stalls and shouting out "Free Shcharansky" (a leading refusenik, later a minister in the Begin government in Israel). And so it was....Admittedly this was SB and not MI5, but obviously the two organizations worked together in this sort of area.
Some surprising allegations are made, eg that the Israelis blew up their own London embassy, either to prod the British into increasing security, or for propaganda purposes. Perhaps not impossible. There have been suspicions for decades, albeit I think never proven, that many of the pointless unsolved and allegedly "neo-nazi" attacks on Jewish cemetaries around the world have been done by Zionists (either Mossad or Jewish volunteer co-workers) wanting to stir up the mass media about "the far right" or "neo-Nazi" "extremists" etc. She is sure to underline what she says by adding that her belief is that "Israel has the right to exist", albeit only within the 1967 boundaries (why, because ethnic cleansing and large-scale theft are OK if done only between 1948 and 1967?).
I found Machon a little prissy at times: she seems to think that agencies such as MI6 (of which she plainly disapproves mightily) or MI5 should be very very law-abiding, which may be a good thing but would certainly clip their wings totally in some circumstances. Also, she seems to think that the so-called "granny spy", Melita Norwood and others should have been prosecuted. She shows little judgment there, I think. It all happened a long time ago, when the world was different (true that a few 90-y-o Ukrainians, Latvians and Poles have been charged in relation to shooting Jews in WW2, but one has to remember that the American and UK Jewish lobby built up a big head of steam about that in the 1990's and insisted...).
I was very interested to read about the work of the branch of MI5 still, in the early 1990's "studying" and (?) combatting political extremism. Machon seems a biy naive about this, in that she says, in effect, that Communist demonstrations and other activities etc were "lawful" so should not have been interefered with. A dubious proposition if you are going to have any counter-subversion branch at all. I believe that such activity is probably now of low intensity, with more dangerous targets in view.
I laughed when I read the list of some of the more prominent people (out of a million or more) who have had "Personal Files": Lenin is there, as is Trotsky and also de Valera. Less obvious as an MI5 study-target would be (at first glance) the businessman and one-time convicted rapist Owen Oyston, or the Thatcherite Conservative MP Teddy Taylor. Most of the "New Labour" Cabinet careerists had a file from their youthful days: Tony and Cherie Blair, Jack Straw, Harriet "Harperson" Harman. Of these, only Peter Hain could be said to have been involved with actual violence or sub-terrorism (organized the very violent Anti-Nazi League, dug up sports fields against South Africa etc), though he did have links with the ANC and other serious African political/terrorist movements. It might be argued, though, that people like the Blairs, Straw et al have done more to destroy the UK via their overt political careerism than any simple spies or terrorists could ever have done. One claim that did make me laugh out loud was that MI5 could not easily pigeonhole Arthur Scargill, so he had a category all his own, as an or even THE "Unaffiliated Subversive". Brilliant! Could not make it up, etc...
The book does raise questions about really what is the role of an organization like MI5 in a supposedly open, democratic etc society. The book finishes with the (supposed) comments from the Queen about "dark forces" in our society etc (uncorroborated, said to have been made to royal butler Paul Burrell). My own feeling is that Machon has not examined the whole role of large-scale forces like Freemasonry (which some say is rife in the secret world) and Zionist groups in the UK. The activities of secret agencies, to my mind, fly lower than some other, less obvious groupings. Perhaps that was the reality behind the Hollis kefuffle long ago. Anyway, to my mind the "traitors", in the colloquial sense at least, would be people like the System politicians who over a half-century have made the UK into a multicultural mess, rather than those who nicked a few documents from the War Office safe or leaked a ministerial memo.
As to Shayler himself, since 2006 when this book came out, he has declared himself to be "the Messiah" and, also, a transvestite called Dolores. Machon has said to newspapers that MI5 have caused him to have a mental breakdown; he was not so long ago living in a squat in the Surrey countryside. All that does not detract from the very good points made against MI5 in this book.
Perhaps I missed an opportunity for a good chat a couple of times: I saw Shayler and Machon jump onto an old red bus at the Baker Street traffic lights once...presumably for convenience rather than for what their predecessors' Soviet opponents would have called "KR" (kontr-razvedka, or counter-surveillance, also often called, simply, "proverka"); and I once saw Shayler before that, sometime in the early to mid-90's, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, being interviewed (I was there on an unconnected matter).
There are a few typos and other mistakes in the book. Two which struck me were these: the Balfour Declaration was 1917, not 1927; "KGB" (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopaznosti) is usually translated as "Committee of State Security" and not, as here and to my mind eccentrically, "Committee of Public Safety". Machon says that she has "some knowledge of Russian", so perhaps she is just trying to be clever. I think that she genuinely is clever, but I also think that she seems narrow and rather driven, but by what, other than resentment, I know not.
Makes one wonder why MI5 was not disbanded after 1989. Probably in order to spy on "we the people"...
Annie Machon has her own website which has a lot of links to para-intelligence websites. A veritable wilderness of mirrors.
Well worth a read, taken as a whole and read with a little skepticism.