Intelligence chief called for 'security-style' grilling

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Indy Politics

As a one-time MI6 "station chief" in Moscow and a man with more than 25 years' experience of the front line of the spying game, John Scarlett knew exactly what was meant when he asked for David Kelly to be subjected to a "proper security-style interview".

The 55-year-old chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee has built a fearsome reputation for tracing, and resolving, security lapses, during a long career in the mysterious world of espionage.

He joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1971, directly after leaving Magdalen College in Oxford with a first-class degree in history, working his way through the ranks - and postings in Nairobi and Paris - to become one of MI6's five directors. Little surprise that when presented with a suggestion from the senior civil servant in the Ministry of Defence that Dr Kelly was the BBC's source, Mr Scarlett's reaction was to suggest a rigorous and forensic inquisition in which the security services specialise.

In a memo to Sir David Omand, the permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, before Dr Kelly's name became public, Mr Scarlett said: "Conclusion: Kelly needs a proper security-style interview in which all these inconsistencies are thrashed out. Until we have the full story, we cannot decide what action to take. I think this is rather urgent. Happy to discuss."

It may sound like an extract from the pages of the Cold War thriller, but Rupert Allason, a former Tory MP and intelligence expert, says it is not the first time Mr Scarlett has been involved in the contested exposure of a "mole".

Writing in The Spectator this week under his nom de plume, Nigel West, Mr Allason says the JIC chairman played a role in exposing a great-grandmother as an important Soviet spy. It is alleged Mr Scarlett helped make public the name of Melita Norwood, the octagenerian former civil servant from south London who as agent "Hola" passed Britain's nuclear secrets to Moscow in the 1940s.

Mr Scarlett first hit the headlines when he was asked to leave Moscow in 1994 in a spying case. The father-of-four, appointed OBE in 1987, next emerged publicly two years ago when he was appointed to his present role, as the link between government and the security services.

THE SCARLETT MEMO

RESTRICTED - PERSONAL

SIR DAVID OMAND

John Scarlett dictated the following this morning

ANDREW GILLIGAN AND THE MoD SINGLE SOURCE

I agree with Kevin Tebitt's letter of Saturday that the finger points strongly at David Kelly as Gilligan's source. I have been through the Gilligan/FAC transcript again. I attach copies of two pages in particular which seem to make it clear that Gilligan has only talked to one person about the September dossier. If he could have referred to any corroborating information he would have done so. If this is true, Kelly is not telling the whole story

Gilligan must have got the 45-minute single intelligence report item from somewhere, presumably Kelly. Conclusion: Kelly needs a proper security-style interview in which all these inconsistencies are thrashed out. Until we have the full story, we cannot decide what action to take. I think this is rather urgent. Happy to discuss.

[JS]

John Muir, 07 July 2003

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