Spooks are represented on every national paper'

The intelligence services have a representative in every national newspaper, according to investigative reporter Phillip Knightley.

“And they have representatives throughout the BBC too,” he told students at the University of Lincoln last week. After it was revealed in the Eighties that an M15 agent was routinely vetting all applications to the BBC, the corporation claimed the practice had been stopped. “But that’s nonsense. It still goes on,” he said.

The Hutton Inquiry had highlighted Andrew Gilligan’s contacts with weapons expert Dr David Kelly and the Government’s manipulation of intelligence. But it was “appalling” that the issues associated with national newspaper journalists’ broader contacts with the intelligence services had been completely ignored.

Knightley, the author of a seminal history of the intelligence services, also expressed fears that strategies adopted by companies in the US to deter investigative reporting could soon be adopted in Britain.

An ABC reporter had taken a job at Food Lion as a food worker and, using a hidden camera, exposed alleged fraudulent practices. But instead of suing ABC for libel, the company sued the reporter for falsifying a job application and trespass. A US court awarded damages against ABC of $5.5m (£3.29m) and forced the reporter to reveal who provided the original tip-off.

“To stop this happening again, journalists in the US are campaigning for a change in the law. But this case will clearly deter other journalists from using subterfuge in the pursuit of stories – and it will be more difficult to find people to be whistleblowers. Above all, there is a distinct danger such practices will be adopted by companies in this country.”

By Richard Keeble

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