David Spedding

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Person.png David Spedding  
(spook)
David Spedding.jpg
Born 7 March 1943
Died 13 June 2001 (Age 58)
Cause of death
"lung cancer"
Nationality British
Alma mater Hertford College Oxford
Children sons
Spouse Gillian Kinnear
Founder of Global Issues Controllerate

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In office
September 1994 - August 1999
Preceded by Colin McColl
Succeeded by Richard Dearlove
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In office
September 1994 - August 1999
Preceded by Colin McColl
Succeeded by Richard Dearlove
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Sir David Rolland Spedding was head of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1994 to 1999.[1]

Background

The son of an Army colonel, Spedding was educated at Sherborne School and Hertford College, Oxford, where he graduated in Mediaeval History.[2]

MI6 career

One of Spedding's tutors at Hertford College was an MI6 spotter.[1] He was recruited into MI6 in 1967, aged 24, while a postgraduate student at Oxford. After training for a year in Britain, he was sent to Mecas, the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies, at Shemlan in Lebanon, to learn Arabic.[2]

Lebanon

Two years later, Spedding joined the MI6 station in Beirut as a Second Secretary. His time there coincided with growing tensions between the Lebanese Army and the Palestinians, particularly after the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan in 1971. According to the Telegraph, "Spedding cut his teeth collecting intelligence on the various Palestinian factions which were to become his main area of expertise."[2]

In 1971, Spedding was named as an MI6 officer by Kim Philby, an act interpreted as KGB revenge for the expulsion of 105 Soviet intelligence officers from Britain that year.[2]

Chile

Spedding was attached to the British Embassy in Chile from 1972 to 1974, during which time the CIA was fomenting the opposition to Salvadore Allende's government, which lead to the 1973 Chilean coup d'état..[2][1]

Abu Dhabi

Spedding was next posted back to London, and then to Abu Dhabi, as Head of Station.[2]

Jordan

Spedding continued to receive more senior Middle East-related appointments, according to The Telegraph:

A senior post in London, within the Middle East Directorate, was followed during the mid-1980s by a period as Head of Station in Amman, where he led intelligence operations on Iraq's secret attempts to procure nuclear technology and weapons. The balance in the Iran-Iraq war had begun to swing towards Iraq, and Jordan was being used as a conduit for new weapons.[2]

Richard Norton-Taylor makes a similar observation slightly more pointedly, noting that Spedding "was posted to Amman at a time when Jordan was used by Iraq as a conduit to buy western arms."[1]

Return to London

In 1986, Spedding was appointed head of a joint MI6-MI5 section in charge of tracking Middle Eastern terrorists and spies.[2]

Controller Middle East

Spedding was subsequently appointed Controller Middle East, a post which he held during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.[2]

According to Stephen Dorril "following the invasion scores of MI6 officers were tasked with gathering intelligence on the Iraqi leadership. The effort was a dismal failure, and those in receipt of the morsels gathered often 'preferred to read the newspapers which proved to be quicker and more in-depth.'"[3]

MI6 made a token effort to organise disruptive actions, using the SAS in abortive attempt to train Kuwaiti volunteers in Saudi Arabia. More successful were the psychological warfare operations organised by the Defence Advisory Group, a joint MI6-Ministry of Defence Committee.[4]

MI5 liason

According to Richard Norton-Taylor, Spedding combined his Middle East role with responsibility for relations with MI5:

His reputation inside Whitehall was not damaged by MI5's role in the detention of innocent Palestinians during the Gulf war - an operation which seriously embarrassed the Foreign Office.[1]

Director of Requirements and Production

Spedding took over responsibility for MI6 operations as Director of Requirements and Production in 1993. According to Stephen Dorril, this appointment was significant because of Spedding's status as a 'non-Sovbloc officer.'[5]

Dorril describes the move as part of a 'Christmas massacre' by MI6 chief Colin McColl, who had been expected to retire in September 1992 to make way for Barrie Gane, Spedding's predecessor as Director of Requirements and Production.[6]

The Telegraph notes that Spedding "was simultaneously made Assistant Chief of SIS, the official deputy, and anointed successor, of "C":

His predecessor Sir Colin McColl had stayed on in order to see through the new legislation officially putting SIS and GCHQ on a statutory footing. Spedding was named as the next Chief in March 1994, taking over immediately after the legislation obtained royal assent in September of that year.[2]

Chief of SIS

The Telegraph notes that Spedding's appointment came at a time when MI6 was "under intense scrutiny over the Matrix Churchill Affair".[2] The BBC announced in February 1999 that he was due to retire at the "end of August".[7]

Quinlan Report

Richard Norton-Taylor credits Spedding with successfully defending MI6 "in the face of an internal review conducted by by Sir Michael Quinlan, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, into Britain's "foreign intelligence requirements and capability".[1]

However, Philip H. J. Davies notes that:

As a result of the Quinlan Review and subsequent cuts to intelligence expenditure as part of the “peace dividend,” SIS experienced a 25 percent reduction in staffing and expenditure, part of which took the form of a 40 percent decrease in senior staff. [8]

Reorganisation

In 1995, Spedding undertook major changes to MI6's structure. The Western Hemisphere and Far East Controllerates were merged, as were the Africa and Middle East Controllerates. A separate Global Tasks controllerate was also established, as was an Operational Support department focused on supporting officers engaged in deep-cover operations.[9]

The Telegraph refers to the Global Issues Controllerate set up by Spedding to "address the threats of crime and weapons proliferation."[2]

Tomlinson Affair

MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson was sacked a year into Spedding's tenure, sparking a wave of publicity.[2]

Vauxhall Cross

Spedding presided over MI6's move to a new headquarters at Vauxhall Cross on the Thames in Central London. He defended the building against criticisms that it was too high-profile for a secret service.[1]

Operation Tango

In July 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) formal instructions for the arrest of Simo Drljaca and Dr Milan Kovacevic, two Bosnian Serbs wanted by the war crimes tribunal at the Hague. According to Stephen Dorril, the JIC asked Spedding to take control of the operation:

Spedding handed it over to the 'General Support Branch', which handles 'dirty' operations and uses the SAS's Counter-Revolutionary Warfare wing as its executive arm. One of the SAS's NATO special force functions is kidnapping. Members of the undercover surveillance 14th Intelligence Company tracked the targets in Bosnia until the SAS moved in for a 'fast-ball' operation - hitting the targets when they least expected it.[10]

Drljaca was shot dead after reportedly shooting a soldier in the leg, while Kovacevic surrendered peacefully.[11]

Robin Cook

In 1998, MI6 was strongly praised by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who was regularly briefed by Spedding in his first year in office. In a speech at the Mansion House on 23 April, Cook highlighted MI6 operations against Iraqi chemical and biological weapons programmes, and against the Iranian nuclear programme.[12]

"I would like to pay tribute to the way that the intelligence agencies - the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ - have responded to the fresh priorities of the new government," he said.
"The results of their work cannot speak for themselves. The nature of what they do means that we cannot shout about their achievements if we want them to remain effective. But let me say I have been struck by the range and quality of their work."[13]

Death

The Guardian reported that he died of lung cancer on 13 June 2001[14] although other obituaries did not mention his cause of death.[2] He is reported not to have been a known smoker.[15]


References

  1. a b c d e f g Richard Norton-Taylor, Sir David Spedding, The Guardian, 14 June 2001.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Sir David Spedding, telegraph.co.uk, 14 June 2001.
  3. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, p.752.
  4. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, p.752.
  5. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, p.760.
  6. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, p.759-760.
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/286128.stm
  8. Philip H. J. Davies, A Critical Look at Britain's Spy Machinery, Studies in Intelligence, Volume 49, Number 4, 2005, CIA.
  9. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, p.777.
  10. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, p.328.
  11. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, p.329.
  12. Ian Black and Richard Norton-Taylor, Cook brings spies out of cold, The Guardian, 24 April 1998.
  13. Ian Black and Richard Norton-Taylor, Cook brings spies out of cold, The Guardian, 24 April 1998.
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2001/jun/14/guardianobituaries.politics
  15. http://www.onlinepublishingcompany.info/content/sitenewsreadmore/infobox/news/template/default/active_id/1333