MI5 vetting of the BBC – 30th anniversary

The story keeps popping up. It’s 30th anniversary is in August but I find there is still interest in the story David Leigh and I wrote, ably assisted by Mark Hollingsworth, revealing how MI5 vetted the BBC staff.

Mostly recently Michael Rosen mentioned it in a letter to the London Review of Books. He had been blacklisted as a result of vetting. Jean Seaton has suggested it was good thing in her latest official history of the the BBC!


Thirty years on I am more than ever convinced that secretly vetting and blacklisting people without giving them a chance to challenge the veracity of the information was insidious.

Journalists would be condemned for not putting the allegations to those they accuse. And sometimes people have good reasons for their actions. But this is all a microcosm of the larger issue that even now the impact of significant covert interventions of the intelligence services into British political life during the Cold War are not fully recognised.