Jonathan Aitken MI6, CIA?
Information is power. Trading in information gives you trading power. Along with impeccable charm and a keen sense of diplomacy, it is the key to success in any international trade - and the arms trade is no exception. Inside information keeps you on the inside track.
Former MP Jonathan Aitken learnt the power of inside information at a very early age. In 1971, while a journalist, he was prosecuted unsuccessfully under the Official Secrets Act. A British Army general had passed him a report 'in strictest confidence' which suggested that the government of the day was lying about the amount of arms it was supplying Nigeria, which was then in the midst of a cruel civil war.

A few years later, while at the investment conglomerate Slater Walker, Aitken developed hi network of high level Middle Eastern contacts who were to raise him up and in the end precipitate his downfall at the hands of the press. A natural progression was the provision of intelligence on Middle Eastern affairs to the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6 - a progression no doubt encouraged by Aitken's close friend and mentor, the late Julian Amery MP.

Amery was a latter-day Imperialist and had a strong interest in all things Middle-East. He shared and perhaps nurtured Aitken's right-wing views (both men were involved with Le Cercle, a secretive international group which promotes extreme right wing ideology and which is allegedly funded by the CIA. While an MP Amery was a consultant to the insanely fraudulent Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

The relationship Aitken subsequently developed with MI6 was to stand him in good steed. Favours were no doubt reciprocated. On occasion, as part of the turf war between the Security Service MI5 and MI6, Aitken publicly criticised MI5 for allowing itself to become infiltrated by KGB agents such as Anthony Blunt.

In 1979, while still a back-bencher, Aitken wrote to Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister, warning her of 'certain developments and possible new disclosures' arising out of the Anthony Blunt affair.

Chapman Pincher revealed in his book, Their Trade is Treachery, that one of Aitken's sources for the information was James Angleton, former CIA head of counter-intelligence, and a close family friend. Angleton had officially been out of the Agency for some five years but still maintained a network of well-placed informants.

Aitken's letter to Thatcher on Blunt was made public in the Australian Courts during the Spycatcher trial. During that trial Sir Robert Armstrong, Thatcher's cabinet secretary, when cross-examined by the lawyer for author Peter Wright, agreed that Aitken had 'intelligence experience'. Earlier Aitken had tried to broker a deal between Wright and the Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers, and MI5, to stop the prosecution of Wright by the removal of agreed material from his book.

However Aitken's intelligence connections may well have extended far beyond the shores of Britain. Stephen Dorrell, author and one of the country's leading experts on intelligence, believes that Aitken fits the profile of one of a number of unnamed British MPs and journalists allegedly paid by the CIA through BCCI for information. Dorrell is presently writing a post-war history of MI6 entitled 'legal thuggery'.

Meanwhile, how many other MPs and public servants have unseen and unaccountable lobbyists from both MI6 and foreign intelligence services pulling on their coat-tails? Surely you can't have a greater corruption than access to secret information, paid for by the public purse, for personal gain and influence? More worrying still are the 'favours' and compromises demanded by the spooks, in return for the use of their inside information.

First published on Pete Sawyer's 'Assignments Unlimited' homepages February 1998.

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