BBC is banned from naming ‘dangerous extremist MI5 informant’ who is accused of being a danger to women

Joanne Riford filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.


From: Joanne Riford

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

1.) Any and all records indicating the identity of the ‘dangerous extremist MI5 informant’ who is accused of being a danger to women as judge rules it would damage national security and ‘put him at risk of being killed’ according to the BBC.

According to the BBC news article published on April 7, 2022

"The BBC has been banned from naming a 'dangerous extremist MI5 informant' who is accused of being a danger to women after a judge ruled it would damage national security and 'put him at risk of being killed'.

A broadcast had planned to identify the man, named only as 'X', who is alleged to have used his status as an agent to abuse, control and coerce his former partner - referred to by the pseudonym Beth.

The BBC report also proposed to claim MI5 was aware of or ought to have known about his alleged offending and that it was wrong to use him as an agent.

But Attorney General Suella Braverman sought an injunction to block publication of the agent's identity as part of the programme, arguing it would damage national security and create 'a real and immediate risk of serious or life-threatening harm' to him.

In a ruling today, Mr Justice Chamberlain said the evidence he has seen, both in open court and in closed material used to protect national security, had persuaded him that the injunction was necessary.

The judge said: 'The information about X’s identity, in the context of the allegation that he is a Chis (covert human intelligence source) who works or worked for MI5, is - as the BBC accepts - confidential.

'Although X is said to have disclosed it to Beth (his former partner), and she disclosed it to the BBC, it is not known other than to a small group of individuals.

'The attorney has satisfied me that, if it were to become publicly or widely known, there would be a real and immediate risk that X would be killed or seriously injured.

'In order to address that risk, extensive protective measures would have to be, and would be, taken.

'As a result of those measures, public disclosure of X’s identity would have no significant protective effect on women considering entering into a relationship or liaison with X.

'Whilst including X’s name and image would make the BBC’s story more engaging and potentially more attractive to a wider audience, this would come at the expense of material damage to the effectiveness of the work of the security and intelligence agencies and, therefore, the national security of the UK.'

The judge said the broadcaster can still air the programme and the key issues, but must not identify X.

Mr Justice Chamberlain continued: 'The BBC will still be able to convey what it regards as the core elements of its story, including the allegation that X abused his Chis status and the allegation that MI5 is at fault for using or continuing to use him as a Chis.

'The Government will be heavily constrained in how it can respond to the latter allegation, but the constraints can be explained.

'The relief I grant will constitute a significant interference with the BBC’s right to freedom of expression and the correlative right of the public to receive the information the BBC wishes to convey.

'However, it will not prevent the BBC from making the allegations central to its story, nor from drawing attention to what it contends are the important issues of public concern to which it gives rise.'

Lawyers for the Attorney General said at an earlier hearing that she 'neither confirms nor denies' the BBC's claim that X is an agent, but conducted the case on the 'hypothetical assumption' that he either is or was.

In a statement following the ruling today, the BBC said the judgement did not prevent it from reporting 'key elements' of its story once restrictions are determined.

A spokesperson added: 'This is not the judgment we had hoped for, but it is important to understand what it does and does not mean.

'While the judgment prevents the BBC from identifying X, by showing his picture or naming him, it does not prevent the BBC from reporting key elements of the story, which we will do once the precise restrictions are determined.

'We expect these restrictions to be clarified next week. It is important to understand why the BBC believes this to be such important journalism.

'We fought the case to try to tell as fully as possible two women’s stories and their experiences with X - his abuse of them and his use of his status as an MI5 intelligence source to coerce and terrify one of them - behaviour we say MI5 should have known about and that should have caused them to stop working with X.

'This is because we firmly believe these are matters of the highest public interest - the issues of coercive control of women, male abuse of power and the failure of state institutions to address these problems.

'The BBC also believed identifying X was appropriate because we - and more importantly two separate women, who both experienced abuse at his hands and who have never met each other - believe he is a danger to women and identifying him could warn women considering, or currently in, a relationship with him.'"

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.


Joanne Riford

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

There are eFOIA files available for you to download.

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  • 05/12/2022