By Kieren McCarthy for The Register. This article has been reproduced with permission.
The ex-MI6 officer was fired in 1995 after four years in the foreign arm of British secret intelligence and spent a year in a maximum security prison for publishing a book about his time in the organisation. But he has fought back against what he claims is intimidation by his old employees with the publication of chapter one of The Golden Chain on his blog.
Tomlinson had his house and boat in France raided earlier this year after MI6 claimed he was responsible for releasing a list of alleged active MI6 agents on the internet. Even though Tomlinson now links to the list from his blog, he swears he wasn't behind the list. Since the raid, he has fought with the UK government, including MI6 and Special Branch, for the return of his possessions, publishing copies of emails and letters sent to him over the matter online.
Recently, the UK authorities confirmed that they were retaining ownership of his possessions because he had "made a number of references to writing a novel or book to be based in whole or in part on information falling within the terms of the Order". That order was the terms of Tomlinson's release and he was effectively accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act a second time. Tomlinson's response has been to publish the first chapter of his book on his blog, presumably with the threat of releasing further chapters until his possessions are returned.
The online battle has been going on since March this year, when Tomlinson discovered blogging and set about trying to force MI6 to respond to his endless requests for his sacking to be reviewed by a tribunal.
He soon gained the ire of MI6 chief John Scarlett by accusing him of having blood on his hands thanks to his part in the production of the now-discredited Iraq war dossiers. Tomlinson also threatened to expose what he knew, including the names of MI6 agents, online. His house was raided and in August his Typepad blog was shut down at the request of Special Branch. Tomlinson opened up a Blogger account immediately afterwards with the title "Tomlinson v MI6 (it's back!)".
Tomlinson gained some notoriety in 1998 when he published The Big Breach, an account of his time with MI6. He made the book available online from a server in Russia, and then used the defence created by another famous SIS book, Spycatcher, by Peter Wright, to argue that the book should be published in the UK since all the harm that could be done by its publication had already happened. The book is now readily available. Tomlinson also found notoriety, if not credibility, in his claim that MI6 may have been behind the death of Princess Diana.
© The Register 2006