MI5 F Branch

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F Branch was formerly the part of MI5 responsible for counter-subversion until 1988.

Contents

History

In its earliest incarnation, F Branch was responsible for preventive intelligence in the MI5 organisation of 1916.[1]

A new F Division covering counter-subversion was established by Director General Sir David Petrie in 1941.[2]

Counter-subversion branch

In Dick White's 1953 re-organisation, F Branch had responsibility for counter-subversion at home, while E Branch was responsible for counter-subversion in the British Empire and Commonwealth.[3]

In 1972, F Branch director John Jones defined subversion as "activities threatening the safety or well-being of the State and intended to undermine of overthrow Parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means."[4]

Peter Wright describes a meeting of senior A Branch and MI5 F Branch officers to discuss the "far and wide left" early in Michael Hanley's tenure as head of MI5:

The Prime Minister and Home Secretary had left him in no doubt that they wanted a major increase in effort on this target. He then handed over to a young and ambitious F Branch officer, David Ransome, who outlined the activities and structure of a host of left-wing splinter groups , like the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) and the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP).[5]

Stephen Dorril states that Ranson was an F2 officer at the time of this meeting, which he places in 1972.[6]

In 1976, Director General Michael Hanley established a separate FX branch to deal with Irish terrorism. Its director continued to report to the director of F Branch.[7]

By the time former F Branch director John Jones became head of MI5 in 1981, it had become the premier branch of the service, largely at the expense of K Branch counter-espionage.[8]

In 1988, the FX Branch was renamed G Branch.[9] The rest of F Branch was incorporated into MI5 C Branch at around the same time.[10]

Targets

The Left

Labour

F1A section was tasked in 1975 to launch an wide-ranging investigation of subversion in the Labour Party.[11]

Communist Party of Great Britain

In April 1976, a threat assessment by F2 section argued that the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was a major subversive threat in the trade union movement.[12]

Socialist Workers Party

The International Socialists, which became the Socialist Workers Party in 1977, was one of the three main overt Trotskyist groups monitored by MI5 in the 1970s, according to Christopher Andrew.[13]

Workers Revolutionary Party

The Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) was one of the three main overt Trotskyist groups monitored in the 1970s, according to Christopher Andrew.[14]

John's Lennon reportedly became an MI5 target after a mole reported his contacts with the party in the early 70s.[15]

Stephen Dorril suggests that MI5 may have been involved in a raid on the WRP's 'Red House' in the mid-1970s, and in promoting a split in the party in 1985-86. Ken Livingstone claimed in March 1990 that a high-ranking agent in the leadership had fomented the split.[16]

International Marxist Group

The International Marxist Group was one of the three main overt Trotskyist groups monitored in the 1970s, according to Christopher Andrew.[17]

Militant Tendency

The Militant Tendency operated a covert Trotskyist grouping in the Labour Party in the 1970s. By the late 1970s, MI5 believed it had identified 75 per cent of its membership through various methods, including agent penetration.[18]

Trade Unions

TGWU

In October 1970, MI5 obtained a Home Office warrant against the general Secretary of the TGWU, Jack Jones, because of his contacts with the Russians. MI5 head Martin Furnival Jones noted that Jones was unlikely to be charged with espionage, but the operation "could be of great value in particular to the Department of Employment and to the Government generally in the field of industrial disputes.[19]

National Union of Mineworkers

According to Christopher Andrew, MI5 was unable to provide the Government with a full intelligence picture during the 1972 miner's strike, because its remit only extended to figures such as the Communist Scottish NUM leader Mick McGahey.[20]

On 14 November 1972, MI5 obtained a Home Office warrant against Arthur Scargill, "to help establish the extent of communist influence on present negotiations in the mining industry."[21]

Grunwick Dispute

The Guardian's Richard Norton-Taylor reports:

Elwell also targeted Harman's husband, Jack Dromey. He opened a file on him during the late 1970s after the Grunwick dispute, in which Dromey, now Labour party treasurer, played a leading part.[22]

Peace Movement

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

MI5 opened a temporary file on Bruce Kent as a "possible anarchist" in 1977, when he became chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). This became a permanent file when he was elected secretary general in 1979.[23]

F1A reported in April 1982 that CND was expanding so fast its leaders did not know how big it was.[24]

In 1982, F Branch officer Cathy Massiter opened a temporary file on CND Chair Joan Ruddock. This was made a full Personal File (PF) in 1983.[25]

Stephen Dorril reports that MI5 recognised Ruddock had no subversive affiliation:

According to former MI5 officer Cathy Massiter, whose desk dealt with CND, the problem was solved when, by chance, Mrs Ruddock was interviewed by a Soviet journalist, who was a KGB officer. "Joan Ruddock didn't know that, but it provided the grounds for recording her as a "contact of a hostile intelligence service."[26]

Official MI5 historian Christopher Andrew, likewise recounts that a PF file was opened in 1983, "because of her meetings with Mikhail Bogdanov, whom Ruddock was doubtless unaware was a KGB officer."[27]

According to Stephen Dorril, another file was opened on CND member Cathy Ashton, who was labelled 'a communist sympathiser', because she shared a house with a party member.[28]

Other Groups

National Council for Civil Liberties

According to Stephen Dorril, F Branch Officer Charles Elwell was responsible for the decision to open files on Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman, who were both officers of the National Council for Civil Liberties in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[29]

Anti-Apartheid Movement

The Anti-Apartheid Movement was under MI5 scrutiny between 1983 and 1985, with information being passed on to the South African Embassy.[30]

Structure

Directors

F1

Responsible for investigating the Communist Party of Great Britain, according to Stephen Dorril.[37]

  • F1/O - Assistant Director in charge of monitoring the CPGB and other subversive organisations, i.e head of F1 section.[38]
  • Charles Elwell, served as F1/0 from April 1974 until his retirement in May 1979.[39]
  • Bill Ruckstan, section head, c.1981-83.[40]

F1A

At one point, probably in the 1950s, this was the designation for the "study group" which identified Communist Party members, a traditional training ground for new MI5 officers.[41] This section was tasked in 1975 to launch an wide-ranging investigation of subversion in the Labour Party.[42]

  • F1A/1 - noted in 1975 that work in this field was expanding to include the 'Ultra Left' where previously it had focused on Communists.[43]
  • F1A/9 - Wrote nine papers on Militant in the two years to January 1978.[44]

F1B

A full-time desk on Irish security issues, with a particular focus on the North, was set up in F1B in the spring of 1969. By the autumn of that year, F1B consisted of a female assistant officer supported by the young Stella Rimington.[45]

F1C

In the spring of 1969, an internal MI5 newsletter stated: "The total effort deployed by F. Branch in matters Irish was until recently confined to one part-time desk officer in F.1.C.[46] At some point F1C replaced F2C as the designation of the 'study group' section which identified Communist Party members.[47]

F2

Responsible during the early 1980s for investigating trade unions and the production of Box 500 reports, according to Stephen Dorril.[48]Responsible for investigating the Communist Party, according to Nick Fielding and Mark Hollingsworth. This may reflect a confusion with F1.[49] According to Stephen Dorril, F2 worked closely with the Civil Contingencies Unit during strikes.[50]

F2A

Responsible for monitoring the CPGB.[57]

F2C

Engaged in studies of the Communist Party, which were often used as training for new officers.[59] At some point it replaced F1A as the section designation for this activity. It was itself replaced by F1C.[60]

F2N

Trade Unions[62]

F2R

The media, education, Members of Parliament.[63]

  • F2R/1 - Responsibilities c. 1984 included monitoring subversion in the peace movement.[64]

F3

Terrorism, excluding Irish Terrorism.[65]

F4

Counter-subversion agent-running, according to Christopher Andrew.[68]

F5

Irish terrorism, (loyalist).[69]

FX

In the early 1980s, according to Stephen Dorril, FX controlled F4 and F6. Focussed on long-term infiltration of agents and informers.[73]

F4

Responsible for Counter-subversion agent-running.[75] Trade unions and Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).[76]

F6

Trotskyist and radical organisations.[79]

F7

Investigated Trotskyist, anarchist, feminist, pacifist, black power, nationalist and other radical groups. Also fascists.[81] Among the organisations infiltrated by F7 were the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Socialist Workers Party.[82]

F8

Served as London headquarters for MI5's Belfast station after the winding up of the Irish Joint Section in 1984.[84]

  • G/02 (De Silva report cipher) - Head of the agent-running section, probably F8, February 1987.[85]

Other F Branch officers

External Resources

Books

  • Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994.
  • Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism, Andre Deutsch, 2003.
  • Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009.

Articles

  • MI5 brings back officer who led 'smear campaign', The Guardian, 8 May 1987.

Notes

  1. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.84.
  2. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.236.
  3. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.327.
  4. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.591.
  5. Peter Wright, Spycatcher, Viking, 1987, p.360.
  6. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.8.
  7. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.647.
  8. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.5.
  9. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.745.
  10. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.862.
  11. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  12. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.656.
  13. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  14. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  15. John Harlow and Nicholas Rufford, How MI5 spied on Lennon; Focus, Sunday Times, 20 February 2000.
  16. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, pp.8-9.
  17. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  18. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  19. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.588.
  20. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.593.
  21. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.598.
  22. Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Charles Elwell: An MI5 officer during the cold war, he went on to target domestic 'subversives'’, The Guardian, 21 January 2008
  23. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.673.
  24. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.673.
  25. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.675.
  26. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.13.
  27. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.676.
  28. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.13.
  29. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.29.
  30. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.35.
  31. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.236.
  32. Chapman Pincher, Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-Ups: Six Decades of espionage, Mainstream Publishing, 2012, p.102.
  33. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism, Andre Deutsch, 2003, p.136.
  34. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.621.
  35. Brian Crozier, Free Agent: The Unseen War 1941-1991, Harper Collins, 1993, p.114.
  36. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  37. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  38. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.591.
  39. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.669.
  40. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  41. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.334.
  42. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  43. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  44. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.664.
  45. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.604.
  46. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.602.
  47. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.334.
  48. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  49. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism, Andre Deutsch, 2003, p.34.
  50. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.7.
  51. Chapman Pincher, Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-Ups: Six Decades of espionage, Mainstream Publishing, 2012, p.100.
  52. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.281.
  53. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism, Andre Deutsch, 2003, p.34.
  54. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.660.
  55. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  56. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.8.
  57. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.274.
  58. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.278.
  59. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.561.
  60. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.334.
  61. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.277.
  62. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  63. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  64. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.674.
  65. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  66. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.690.
  67. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  68. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.498.
  69. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  70. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.195.
  71. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  72. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.699.
  73. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  74. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  75. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.498.
  76. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  77. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  78. Julia Pirie, The Telegraph, 28 October 2008.
  79. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  80. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  81. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  82. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.8.
  83. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.486.
  84. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.700.
  85. Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 6: The recruitment of Brian Nelson, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  86. Chapman Pincher, Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-Ups: Six Decades of espionage, Mainstream Publishing, 2012, p.136.
  87. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.558.
  88. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism, Andre Deutsch, 2003, p.35.
  89. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism, Andre Deutsch, 2003, p.101.
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