Scotsman : Gareth Williams inquest: Spies are far cry from the world of James Bond

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Gareth Williams inquest: Spies are far cry from the world of James Bond

May 3, 2012

THE inquest provided a rare insight into the highly secretive world of Britain’s national security agencies.

But the picture of life working for government intelligence painted at the hearing was a far cry from the glamorous and dangerous world of MI6’s most famous fictional employee, James Bond.

It was bureaucracy and office politics rather than a succession of beautiful women, car chases and lucky escapes from certain death that made Mr Williams want to leave the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), as MI6 is known.

His line manager said he decided to quit because he was getting bogged down in the red tape of “process risk mitigation”. The SIS’s headquarters are in Vauxhall, south London, which is also home to one of London’s liveliest gay scenes.

But his boss – given the codename “SIS F” – indicated that what the maths prodigy got up to in his private life would not necessarily have stopped him carrying out his top-secret work.

She said: “There’s no set template as to what [an employee’s] lifestyle should be. Individuals have lifestyles and sexual choices which are perfectly legitimate. Our concern in the vetting process is to identify whether anything in the individual’s background, lifestyle, creates a risk for him.”

The inquest also undermined the image of MI6 as an ultra-slick agency able to locate anyone anywhere in the world within minutes. Mr Williams failed to turn up for a meeting at work at 3pm on August 16, 2010, but the SIS did not report him missing to police until 23 August.

SIS F blamed the week-long delay in alerting Scotland Yard on a “breakdown in communication”.

It is hard to imagine such an error getting past Miss Moneypenny, the super-efficient secretary to 007’s boss, M.