Inquiry into leak of MI5 chief's memoirs

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The Independent Online

Security officials are investigating the apparent leak of the memoirs of the former MI5 chief Dame Stella Rimington to The Sun. A copy of the unpublished book was returned to Downing Street yesterday by the newspaper, whose executives said it had been sent to them anonymously.

Security officials are investigating the apparent leak of the memoirs of the former MI5 chief Dame Stella Rimington to The Sun. A copy of the unpublished book was returned to Downing Street yesterday by the newspaper, whose executives said it had been sent to them anonymously.

Dame Stella retired from the security service in 1996, and earlier this year said she had written her recollections of life as the first woman boss of a British intelligence service.

The 338-page book, A Life of Surprises, included material on issues such as Cold War spying, the fight against terrorism and the role of the Special Air Service. The book also included references to the left-wing Militant Tendency and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

MI5 has a copy of the book and is negotiating with its former chief to remove anything that might damage national security. Ms Rimington is said to have had offers of up to £500,000 from publishers. There have been suggestions that the copy was leaked to sabotage any publishing deal Ms Rimington is contemplating.

The intelligence services and SAS have criticised Ms Rimington's decision to write her memoirs. Senior officials believe it will be harder to crack down on renegade officers such as the ex-MI5 officer David Shayler and the ex-MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson if the authorities allow publication.

Sun executives said the manuscript spent weeks in an office safe while journalists checked the facts to ensure it was not a fake. They said they decided not to run extracts because that could damage national security.

More cynical observers believe the paper returned the memoirs for publicity rather than run extracts because Ms Rimington's book is said to be "rather dull and unrevealing".

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