Letter: Spying's legacy

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The Independent Culture

Spying's legacy

Sir: The decision by Her Majesty's Government not to prosecute various old communists who spied for the USSR for ideological reasons is commendable.

However, Michael Bettaney is still in jail and he acted for the same reasons, although he only tried to spy. He was an MI5 officer who offered to spy for the Soviets but had the misfortune to contact the double-agent Oleg Gordievsky who persuaded the KGB that Bettaney was a "plant" and shopped him back to MI5.

In 1984 Bettaney was jailed for 23 years. His two-thirds of time is now up and he has not been released on parole. If ever Britain has a prisoner of conscience, it is him.

His last words before being led down from the dock at the Old Bailey were to the effect that communism would triumph. His cause has long since collapsed. He failed anyway. Those who succeeded where he failed will not be punished. He should be released immediately.


Chevilly-Larue, France