Le Monde [translated] : The mystery of the spy who was healthy in all respects

Friday, September 03, 2010

The mystery of the spy who was healthy in all respects

Marc Roche | London correspondent | September 2, 2010

The body of a young man, healthy in all respects, is discovered in a gym bag sealed with a padlock in the bathroom of his apartment. The corpse, in a state of decomposition, shows no traces of blows or bullets. Neighbors claim to be unaware of the existence of the victim, a lonely 31-year-old avid cyclist with a PhD in mathematics. Enough ingredients for a decent detective story? Except that the person concerned, Gareth Williams, was a high-flying spy in the service of Her Majesty.

The native of Wales was one of the star code-breakers of GCHQ, the secretive British intelligence agency in charge of wiretapping and monitoring communications. For the past year, Williams was assigned to MI6, the Secret Service outside the kingdom. In September, he should have been promoted to the safety of "figure" at GCHQ. The home where the officer was found dead on August 25 was actually a safe house of the "Six", located close to the organization's headquarters on the banks of the Thames. The lack of conclusion of the second autopsy, performed on September 1, has thickened the mystery. The police are exploring the possibilities of action by Islamic terrorists, Russian spies and dissident Irish Republican Army (IRA) members.


For its part, the popular press is suggesting a sex scandal. It would be a sexual game, a break from a monotonous and painstaking existence, a game gone wrong. The sleuths of the tabloids have discovered that, unbeknownst to his employer and his parents, Gareth Williams frequented sadomasochistic homosexual bars in Vauxhall, near the headquarters of MI6. The right-wing dailies remind us of the stories of gay spies who made criminal headlines. The specter of a "pink" column who had infiltrated the intelligence establishment sends shivers down the spines of its devotees.

In the meantime, it's a hands-down battle among thugs. U.S. investigators have arrived in London to sift the computer and mobile phone of the deceased. His expertise in the reconstruction of a puzzle from scattered or hidden pieces, his persistence and his methodical mind had led to his being sent for month-long sessions at Fort Mead in Maryland, headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA). The Brits were exchanging information with their American "cousins".

The incredible response to Gareth Williams' strange death reveals the deception that always lies behind the scenes in the country that invented the secret agents of film, dilettantes and masterful seducers wielding great checkbooks and deadly gadgets.

George Smiley, the grand old guardian of the jewels of spying, would think, "this is not very proper". He was a gentleman.