Spy case man 'warned of security risks': 'Shortcomings' at weapons firm identified

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The Independent Online
A LIST of security failures at one of Britain's top-secret weapons manufacturers was sent to the Ministry of Defence by the man accused of spying for the Russians, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

In 1980, after losing security clearance as an engineer at EMI's systems and weapons division, Michael Smith, who is facing charges under the Official Secrets Act, wrote to the MoD claiming security measures at EMI 'left much to be desired'.

Mr Smith, 44, from Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, had lied about his past membership of the Young Communist League during a security interview at EMI. He was later informed, while working on classified weapons systems, that due to his attempts to cover up his Communist past, his security clearance had been terminated.

In November 1980 he wrote to the MoD stating that despite having no official clearance to visit the EMI systems centre at Feltham, west London, he had been taken there by another engineer and allowed unaccompanied access, with little or no checks on where he could go.

His letter said there was no need to sign in, no need to show identification cards, and that people often showed security guards a 'Barclaycard' to gain access.

Mr Smith wrote: 'I hope enemies of this country never learn how easy it is to enter (this place).' He described sensitive projects lying on tables unattended and 'shopping bags being put into cars unchecked'. He asked: 'Can we afford to take such risks?'

Mr Smith wrote that engineers discussed 'Marxism'. Some, he claimed, openly stated that they had visited Moscow and 'liked the life there'. There was also talk of 'secret Nato trials in East Germany'. He also informed the MoD that 'pieces of secret equipment had disappeared' and documents had gone missing.

Earlier in the trial it was revealed that Mr Smith had written to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, asking her to assist in the restoration of his security clearance.

In the letter to the MoD, Mr Smith - who is alleged to have been recruited by the KGB nearly 20 years ago - claims that his past was 'not a threat to national security'. He referred to his Communist past as a process of 'maturation'.

Transferred out of EMI systems and weapons and moved to its medical research division, Mr Smith complained that his career was suffering due to his 'security problem'. Why, he asked, was he being penalised, when in other areas of EMI security was lax. He urged the MoD to clamp down and end security being 'regarded as a joke, as many do'.

The trial continues on Monday.