Sunday, May 6, 2012

#Leveson #MI5 #BBC : Targeting Journalists - ITN Jon Snow

In 1975 a special desk was set up within MI5 to look at 'subversives in the media’. Based in F Branch, one of the desk’s first tasks was to compile a report on 'bias in the media’. This was inspired by the notion that Trotskyists had infiltrated the press and broadcasting, The strategy was to recruit journalists as agents for MI5 and to persuade them to spy on their left-wing colleagues. MI5 officers were told to list possible recruits in the monthly ‘Resources Index' and pass the names on to FX Division.
One reporter who was approached was Tim Jones, a labour correspondent on The Times. In 1975 he was taken out to lunch at Simpsons in the Strand by an MI5 officer and told that the security services were worried about ‘Soviet penetration of the industrial correspondents group’. Jones was asked to provide ‘intelligence’ about certain journalists, but he refused."
MI5 tried harder the following year with Jon Snow, a senior ITN correspondent. He was approached as a possible agent because his background as the son of the Bishop of Whitby was thought promising. At first he was asked to give information about the Communist Party. But he was then asked to spy on certain 'left-wing people’ working in television. In return MI5 would make secret monthly tax-free payments into his bank account. Snow rejected the approach.'
It was clear that this intelligence-gathering operation was for blacklisting purposes. Evidence for this was revealed by MI5’s attempts to block the career of Anna Ford, the former ITN news reader and darling of the popular press. In 1974 she had joined Granada Television and became a journalist for their daily news programme Granada Reports. There she met fellow-journalist Trevor Hyett, and they soon began living together. It was then that the Security Services began their operation against her.
Although she had been an outspoken student politician at Manchester University in the late 1960s, Ford was not politically active. Yet she was logged in intelligence records as ‘an associate of a subversive'. For Trevor Hyett was a former member of the Communist Party. He had joined the Young Communist League in 1962, and three years later was appointed Editor of the YCL newspaper Challenge. Under Hyett’s editorship it was the first Western communist publication to criticise the Soviet Union over its treatment of artists and writers. And in 1968 Hyett led a YCL delegation to Moscow to protest at the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. He was becoming increasingly disillusioned by the British Communist Party’s refusal to change its internal structure and its unwillingness to criticise Soviet policy. In 1972 Hyett resigned and returned his party card.
Despite his resignation, Special Branch officers in Manchester kept a file on Hyett, details of which were relayed to MI5 in London. The file showed that he was living with Anna Ford. In 1975, in an attempt to discover more information about the couple, particularly Hyett, Special Branch tried to recruit Granada journalists as office spies. One such reporter was Geoffrey Seed, who was then working with Ford and Hyett on Granada Reports. He was approached by a Special Branch officer, Constable Kevin Moore.
‘I had met Moore two or three times,’ Seed recalls. 'To me he was just another contact, a police contact. Then one evening, when I was having a drink with him, he started saying that he could help me with information if I would help him. He said he was interested in some people who worked for Granada – "lefties and communists”. And he specifically mentioned Trevor Hyett, who was sharing a house with Anna. He wanted me to give him information. I had a feeling of revulsion. It had nothing to do with national security. This was pure Eastern Europe. I simply refused and finished my more