San Francisco Examiner : Was British code-breaker assassinated?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Was British code-breaker assassinated?

By Barbara Hollingsworth, Local Opinion Editor | September 10, 2010

Jeff Stein, the Washington Post’s SpyTalk blogger, says that unnamed “U.S. intelligence officials” have downplayed the possibility that British code-breaker Gareth Williams – who worked closely with the U.S. National Security Agency at Fort Meade and American intelligence officials in Kabul – was assassinated.

But back in London, where the naked, decomposing body of the 31-year-old “math genius” was found August 23 in a padlocked duffel bag in the bathroom of an apartment kept as a “safe house” by Britain’s M16, police are not so sure. “Murder detectives say they are still looking at whether Gareth Williams may have been killed by a foreign intelligence agency seeking to stop his work on intercepting messages and code-breaking,” according to the Daily Telegraph.

Williams was “on loan” to M16 from Britain’s top-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and reportedly played a “key role” overseeing Echelon, a secret electronic network that links satellites and super computers in Britain, the U.S. and other Western allies that eavesdrop on terrorist networks.

There was no sign of forced entry at the Cambridge-educated mathematician’s Pimlico address. William Hughes said his nephew had recently returned from a summer visit to the U.S. (presumably to NSA). And according to the Daily Mail, investigators were also looking for Williams’ personally configured laptop, which is reportedly still missing.

Misinformation released at the time Williams’ body was discovered, including initial rumors that he had been stabbed, were later refuted. British officials also backed away from earlier reports that “bondage gear, gay contact magazines and male escorts’ phone numbers” were found at the scene.

The cause of death has still not been established. Toxicology tests found no alcohol or recreational drugs in Williams’ system. Scotland Yard called the death “suspicious and unexplained,” and announced it was looking for a “young Mediterranean couple” who visited Williams a month or two ago, but haven’t been seen since.

Detective Chief Inspector Jacqueline Sebire of London’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command, who is leading the investigation into Williams’ murder, told reporters: “This remains a complex unexplained death enquiry.”

So ruling out the possibility that Williams was assassinated by a foreign intelligence agency would seem to be slightly premature.