Islamabad, Nov 7: A scandal centred around Britain’s internal spy service MI5’s bid to bug the Pakistan embassy in London has caused ripples in the ministry of foreign affairs here.
Foreign office spokesman Masood Khan confirmed that the British High Commissioner Mark Lyall Grant met senior ministry officials yesterday and was briefed on the ministry’s internal evaluation of the bugging incident. The Sunday Times newspaper in London had reported earlier this week that MI5 had tried to bug Pakistan’s London embassy in order to get “valuable” information on the war against terror.
MI5 had hoped to quietly obtain embassy archives of visa applications, a potentially valuable database that could be cross-referenced with other intelligence to help identify possible terrorists, the Lahore-based Daily Times said.
“We have yet to determine whether it was the Pakistan High Commission the media report hinted at and whether authorities are also looking into the charges that the bugging actually took place,” The News daily quoted Masood Khan as saying. However, a former professor of international relations at the Karachi University said the incident was “simply unbelievable”. “How Britain can possibly resort to such disgusting measures against an old friend and an ally,” she said.
However, MI5’s attempt to bug the embassy was aborted as the building contractor turned MI5 agent, codenamed Notation, had quit the operation because he felt his cover could easily be blown and his life was in danger.
Masood Khan said it is difficult to say whether the issue is being probed. According to The Sunday Times, British home secretary David Blunkett authorised the operation, which led MI5 to infiltrate the embassy and steal codes used by embassy staff to send confidential messages.