Spy captured in Berlin! Brit working at embassy passes secrets to the Russians! The Berlin spy story this week has all the makings of a Le Carré novel.
But the truth, as ever, lies elsewhere. Yes, a security officer at the British Embassy in Berlin has been arrested for colluding with the Russian regime. But the facts are a little less glamorous: he’s a locally employed security guard. A Russian flag is on display at home, alongside stuffed animals wearing Russian military paraphernalia – hardly a tuxedo wearing, Martini shaken-but-not-stirred sort of spy, but certainly the sort of everyday person who becomes an agent for hostile states. He’s contractor, not a diplomat and it’s understood he didn’t have access to national security information systems.
David S, the spy in question, did have access to our embassy though. He was able to see, hear, identify, and monitor, and to pass that information on. Information is the most important weapon in today’s constant warfare with hostile states, with every country trying to gain the information advantage, without their opponent knowing that they know what they know.
That’s why the publicising of this arrest is so interesting. It’s a message to the Russian state: we know you’re hostile and we know what you’re doing.
The Kremlin now has not only a red-face, but a headache: it needs to re-evaluate its operations across Berlin, Germany and potentially Europe. Putin and his cronies do not know if we discovered David by turning one of their agents, nor if we tarnished the information David had access to and passed on false intel, or if we’ve identified those agents running David.
It also tells them that we know their techniques, that they got sloppy or we outwitted them, and that we will continue to hunt down and expose their operations.
This week’s news is a clear reminder however that the UK faces an active threat from Putin’s regime.
The heinous Salisbury attack is sufficient evidence that British lives are meaningless in Putin’s pursuit of those he believes have wronged him personally, and I don’t need to go into a complete list of the Russian government’s further attempts to undermine the UK, but suffice to say that this is not unexpected behaviour.
This article originally appeared in The Express on 17th August 2021.
Most of us would be shocked if the Russians weren’t attempting to get information about Britain overseas and at home.
But are our laws up to scratch to protect us from Russian machinations and hostilities? Our security services are outstanding. They prevent multiple terror attacks each month and protect us and stop hostile states from harming our interests.
We introduced new legislation earlier this year, but there’s more to be done to support them to do what they need to do.
The Home Office will be bringing forward the Counter Hostile State Activity bill, updating the Official Secrets Act, and is consulting on how best to completely overhaul our treason laws, which currently are more likely to imprison you if you seduce the sovereign’s spouse than if you betray your own country.
Treason is currently constituted as a crime against the Crown, so new legislation is absolutely vital to help us prosecute those who commit crimes against us all.
Because passing information to our enemies can be as great a crime as mass violence, and we must ensure we can bring the full force of the law against those who betray us.
David S is a traitor. A low-level spy, yes, and we must hope his betrayal didn’t compromise our people or nation too severely, and that once his betrayal was discovered we gathered our own intelligence about how Russia runs its agents.
David S handed information to the Russians, happy in the knowledge that his actions could harm British nationals, interests and most certainly our country.
He betrayed us all. This incident reinforces that whilst the Cold War may have ended, the Russian leopard most certainly hasn’t changed its spots, and its time our laws did what they need to do to punish traitors and protect our great country.