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Group.png Military Intelligence, Section 5   History Commons Namebase Powerbase Spartacus
MI5 thames house.jpg
MI5 Headquarters at Thames House, Millbank, London
MI5 crest and logo.png
Motto Regnum Defende 
(Defence of the Realm)
Formation 1909
Type intelligence agency
Headquarters Thames House
Leader Home Secretary
Amber Rudd.jpg
Incumbent: Amber Rudd
Since 13 July 2016
Subgroups • MI5/A Branch
• MI5/B Branch
• MI5/C Branch
• MI5/D Branch
• MI5/E Branch
• MI5/F Branch
• MI5/G Branch
• MI5/H Branch
• MI5/K Branch
• MI5/T Branch
• Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre
• Irish Joint Section
Staff 3,961
Website https://www.mi5.gov.uk
Interest of Richard M. Bennett, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament
Exposed by Cathy Massiter, Tony Robinson
SubpageMI5/A Branch
MI5/B Branch
MI5/C Branch
MI5/D Branch
MI5/E Branch
MI5/F Branch
MI5/G Branch
MI5/H Branch
MI5/K Branch
MI5/T Branch
MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5), is the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core in the main British domestic intelligence service.

MI5's correct title is "The Security Service".

Official narrative

MI5 is the internal "Security Service" of the UK State, based at Thames House, Millbank London on the North bank of the river Thames. Map Since 1989, its principal statutory basis is the "File:Security Services Act 1989.pdf". Its main responsibilities are "protecting the UK against threats to national security from espionage, terrorism and sabotage, from the activities of agents of foreign powers, and from actions intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means".

The following is from the UK National Archives - Intelligence Records section: [1]

"MI5 started life in March 1909 when, following a recommendation of the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Secret Service Bureau was founded by Captain Vernon Kell (K) and Captain Mansfield Cumming (C) who were responsible for counter-espionage and gathering overseas intelligence, respectively. The extreme secrecy surrounding its operations is reflected by the fact that the sole copy of the sub-committee report regarding its foundation was placed in custody of the Director of Military Operations at the War Office: CAB 16/232 . During August 1914 Kell and his small staff were absorbed into the Directorate of Military Operations as MO5 (g). The following year MO5 became part of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, assumed the title MI5, and was made responsible for upholding the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Regulations and the Aliens Restriction Act in the face of German espionage. Following the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 MI5 began to concentrate on the perceived threat of Communist subversion, which (together with Irish "terrorism") was to remain a principal theatre of operations until 1989."
"The majority of MI5 records are retained under section 3 (4) of the Public Records Act (1958). They remain exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (2000). However, since 1999 approximately 2000 'historical' files have been transferred to The National Archives. These cover a wide range of subjects and individuals that have fallen under the purview of MI5 since its inception. These include files on MI5 operations during World War One; German spies and intelligence agents, renegades, double agent operations, espionage cases, Japanese, Hungarian and Italian intelligence agents, SOE agents, right-wing extremists and fascists, Soviet intelligence officers, communist 'front' organisations, pacifists and refugees; German and Soviet intelligence operations, the ARCOS raid and British fascism; the History of the Security Service, the 'Curry Report' and MI5 section history's; Soviet, Pro-Nazi and Zionist organisations; Jeffrey Hamm, compromised SOE agents and investigation of leaks of information to German intelligence."
The Millbank Entrance to Thames House

History of political involvement

Monitoring UK Prime Ministers

Official narrative

Details of the bugging were due to appear in Professor Christopher Andrew's 2009 official history of MI5, The Defence Of The Realm, but were removed at the insistence of the Cabinet Office. [2] The official narrative of MI5 was established with the publication in 2009 of Defence of the Realm, the first authorised history of MI5, which claimed that, while MI5 kept a file on Harold Wilson from 1945, when he became an MP – because communist civil servants claimed that he had similar political sympathies – there was no bugging of his home or office, and no conspiracy against him.[3] However in 2010 newspaper reports made detailed allegations that the bugging of 10 Downing Street had been omitted from the history for "wider public interest reasons".


The Mail on Sunday reported in April 2010 that MI5 bugged Downing Street under five UK Prime Ministers between 1963 and 1977. The bugs were initially ordered by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. After a brief gap they were reinstated by his successor, Alec Douglas-Home. It is not clear whether Edward Heath and Harold Wilson were told of the surveillance. Historian Stephen Dorrill suggests this revelation appears to justify Wilson's belief that he was being spied on.[4]

The surveillance was ended on the orders of Prime Minister James Callaghan in 1977. Callaghan nevertheless denied in the Commons that No. 10 had ever been bugged.[5]

In 1963 on Harold Macmillan's orders following the Profumo Affair MI5 bugged the cabinet room, the waiting room, and the prime minister’s study until the bugs were removed in 1977 on Jim Callaghan's orders. From the records it is unclear if Harold Wilson or Edward Heath knew of the bugging.[6] Professor Andrew had previously recorded in the preface of the history that "One significant excision as a result of these requirements (in the chapter on The Wilson Plot) is, I believe, hard to justify" giving credence to these new allegations.[7] However Wright declined to let them see the files on Wilson and the plan was never carried out but Wright does claim it was a 'carbon copy' of the Zinoviev Letter which had helped destabilise the first Labour Government in 1924.

Vetting Ministers of State

Once a new Government has been formed MI5 briefs the incoming Prime Minister on any Ministerial appointments it thinks may be of concern to 'national security'. MI5's director general, Sir Stephen Lander told Radio 4: "In 1997 therefore the way the then cabinet secretary and I agreed we would deal with it... was that I would produce the summaries, one sheet for each of the individuals that we thought we should make a comment on... and if the prime minister said I'm thinking of making X secretary of state for defence, they [the cabinet secretary and the prime minister's principal private secretary] would say 'well prime minister, you might like to read this from the security service'." [8]

Undermining Scottish Independence

In 2007, The Scotsman claimed that documents had provided "the first incontrovertible evidence that the state spied on the SNP in the 1950s". The documents showed that "Agents from MI5 and Special Branch infiltrated the party as part of a campaign to undermine support for Scottish independence".[9]

Political monitoring of CND

Cathy Massiter was in charge of MI5's surveillance of CND from 1981 to 1983. She resigned and stated that her work was not justified by any security threat posed by the group, but was political in nature and therefore illegal.[10] No one is known to have been disciplined in this regard, but Richard Norton-Taylor wrote in 2001 that the government never bothered to challenge Massiter's 1985 revelations.[11]

2005 London bombings

Full article: Stub class article Rated 3/5 2005 London bombings
Why would someone deliberately so obfuscate a photograph before sending it for identification?

Andrew Parker lead MI5's response to the 7/7 attacks.[12] MI5's legal team argued that by law only "brief, neutral and factual" verdicts can be recorded, leading to charges that they were attempting to gag justice by restricting the verdicts of the inquests into the victims of the 7 July attacks.[13] In 2011, it emerged[14] that at the inquest into the deaths of the 7/7 victims, it emerged that in April 2004 an unnamed senior officer in the security services had sent a photo of Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer to USA, supposedly in an effort to identify them. Rather than send the original photo, however, he cropped it, added noise, decreased the contrast, and rendered it in black and white. When asked why, an anonymous 'Agent G.' suggested that the aim might have been to get them identified "as speedily as possible". G insisted that it would be "nonsensical and offensive" to suggest that MI5 had failed to act to prevent an attack that they "supposed or hypothesised" was coming.[14]

The May 2009 Commons intelligence and security committee inquiry into the preventability of 7-7 noted that the (above) butchered black and white photo of Tanweer was observed to be of "poor quality", and that 'Agent G' suggested that it was probably deemed too poor even to forward. The Guardian notes dryly that "The committee appears not to have been aware of the original, very clear, colour photograph of both men."[14]

Keelan Balderson supports Tom Secker's research into the 2005 London bombings. He writes about Secrets, Spies and 7/7 that "at the very least the book demonstrates that the authorities have lied about and distorted the amount of data they had on Khan. MI5 refused to cooperate and downplayed any wrongdoing. At the inquest they sent a non-operational employee with no 7/7 experience who was allowed to remain anonymous. Plain and simply there is a cover-up. But a cover-up of what?"[15]

Human rights problems

Binyam Mohamed case

In February 2010, the Security Service was sharply criticised in a draft judgement by the Master of the Rolls (head of the Court of Appeal) Lord Neuberger over its role in the case of Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed:

as the evidence in this case showed, at least some SIS officials appear to have a dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques, and indeed when it comes to frankness about the UK's involvement with the mistreatment of Mr Mohammed by US officials. I have in mind in particular witness B, but it appears likely that there were others.[16]



Full article: Stub class article Director General of MI5

Since 1993, MI5 has released the name of Director General of MI5, and their website features a comprehensive list.[17] The names of the Deputy Directors General are not however released and remain a matter of some conjecture. A common pattern is that the DDG goes on to become DG.[18]

Senior Management

Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding give the following list of senior officers

According to the MI5 website, the Director General, Deputy Director General and Legal Advisor make up the Management Board of the Service, along with seven branch Directors. The board is supplemented by two Non-Executive Directors from outside the Service in an advisory role.[20]


The following list is taken from the 2003 edition of Hollingsworth and Fielding's Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism and may now be somewhat dated.[21] This is supplemented with branch descriptions from the MI5 website in italics where these seem to match Hollingsworth and Fielding's account.[22]

There are some differences between the two accounts. According to the website, international counter-terrorism and counter-espionage are the the responsibility of a single branch, suggesting that Hollingsworth and Fielding's D and G branches may have been merged or re-organised. The website also lists a separate Information Services and Technology Capability branch, suggesting that information technology may have been separated from H Branch.

  • A Branch - Operational Support (Operational Capability)
    • A1A: Technical Operations, such as covert entry and audio and video surveillance.
    • A1F: As above, but on longer term target sites.
    • A2A: intercept transcription.
    • A3 and A5: Technical support for operations, including specialised covert photography and lockpickers.
  • B Branch - Human Resources (People and Security)
    • B1: Protective security for MI5 including building security and staff vetting.
    • B2: Personnel.
    • B7: Training and recruitment.
  • D Branch - Non Terrorist Organisations
    • D1: Vetting of non-MI5 personnel.
    • D4: Counter-espionage. Targets include Russia and China.
    • D5: D Branch agent runners.
  • G Branch - International Terrorism (International Counter Terrorism, Counter Espionage, Counter Proliferation)
    • G2P: Counter-proliferation
    • G3A: C-ordination of threat assessments.
    • G3C: Countering threats from South Asia, e.g. Sikh militants.
    • G3W: International terrorist threats not covered by other sections.
    • G6: G Branch agent runners.
    • G9A: Libya, Iraq, Palestinian and Kurdish groups.
    • G9B: Iranian state and Iranian dissident groups.
    • G9C: Islamic extremists.
  • H Branch - Corporate Affairs (strategy, policy, finance and facilities)
    • H1 and H2: Liason with Whitehall, the police and the media, covert financial enquiries, management policy including information technology.
    • H4: Finance.
    • R2: Main Registry
    • R5: Restricted 'Y-boxed' files.
    • R10: Registry for temporary files.
    • R20: Administers GCHQ material.
  • T Branch - Irish Terrorism (Northern Ireland Counter Terrorism)
    • T2A: Republican and loyalist "terrorism" in Great Britain.
    • T2B: Liaison with local Special Branches and agent runners responsible for investigating Irish "terrorism" in Great Britain.
    • T2C: Threat assessment for Irish terrorist groups.
    • T2D: Researches Irish terrorist groups.
    • T2E: Liaises with Metropolitan Police Special Branch, based at Scotland Yard.
    • T5B: Investigates arms trafficking
    • T5C: Counters Irish "terrorism" in Continental Europe, including the Republic of Ireland.
    • T5D: Irish "terrorism" in the rest of the world.
    • T5E: Studies terrorist logistics
    • T8: T Branch agent-runners, includes a Northern Ireland-based section.[23]

Defunct Branches

  • C Branch - Protective security
  • E Branch - Empire and Commonwealth counter-subversion - 1953-1971
  • F Branch - Domestic counter-subversion
  • K Branch - counterespionage 1968-1994

Related organisations


In July 2006, parliamentarian Norman Baker accused the British Government of "hoarding information about people who pose no danger to this country", after it emerged that MI5 holds secret files on 272,000 individuals—equivalent to one in 160 adults.[24] It was later revealed that a "traffic light" system operates:[25][26]

  • Green: active — about 10% of files
  • Amber: enquiries prohibited, further information may be added — about 46% of files.
  • Red: enquiries prohibited, substantial information may not be added — about 44% of files


Events carried out

Operation Crevice30 March 2004
Project Rich Picture

Documents by MI5

TitleDocument typePublication dateSubject(s)
File:2010 07 14 PUB Binyam Mohamed Civil Case - Secret Services Memos Exhibit 19.pdfmemo14 July 2010Binyam Mohamed
File:2010 07 14 PUB Binyam Mohamed Civil Case - Secret Services Memos Exhibit 20.pdflegal document14 July 2010Binyam Mohamed
File:2010 07 14 PUB Binyam Mohamed Civil Case - Secret Services Memos Exhibit 21.pdfmemo14 July 2010Binyam Mohamed
File:2010 07 14 PUB Binyam Mohamed Civil Case - Secret Services Memos Exhibit 22.pdfmemo14 July 2010Binyam Mohamed

Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Gerald James 2007 FOIA Appeal Statementlegal document2007Gerald JamesGerald James' appeal statement in the matter of the UK government refusal to release documents which would support his allegations of SIS orchestration of events and people that resulted in the destruction of his company, Astra Holdings.
File:Gerald James 2007 FOIA Appeal Statement.pdflegal document2007Gerald James
File:GeraldJamesStatements.pdflegal document2007Gerald James
Getting it Rightarticle2011Lobster MagazineA realistic appraisal of the functioning and lack of EFFECTIVE political oversight of the UK Secret Intelligence Services
MI5 DG Speech 16-9-10speech16 September 2010Jonathan EvansSpeech by Jonathan Evans, as Director General of MI5, to the "Worshipful Company of Security Professionals" in October 2010. The "Worshipful Company" (ie livery company of the City of London) tag hints at the Masonic and occult nature of the British establishment in general and its Intelligence and security structures in particular.
MI5 and MI6 pay out £12m to Britons held in Guantánamowebpage11 August 2011Christopher Hope
MI5 and the Christmas Tree Filesbook extract1988Mark Hollingsworth
Richard Norton-Taylor
Mrs. May & MI5 In Disarraywebpage11 June 2017Matthew Jamison
File:Osp8.pdfreportNovember 2005The selection criteria and process for deciding on the selection of Intelligence records for declassification and inclusion in the National Archive
Our Secret Servants - The Shayler Affairarticle1 January 1998Robin RamsayMI5 and it's schizophrenic relationship with government
File:Security Services Act 1989.pdflegal documentThe Security Services Act 1989
Speech by Head of MI6speech28 October 2010John SawersA speech by then Director General of MI6 to The Society of Editors about the work of the SIS's and their relationship with the media.
File:Spycatcher.pdfebookPeter WrightMemoirs of former senior MI5 officer Peter Wright.
The postwar photographs that British authorities tried to keep hiddenarticle3 April 2006Ian CobainThe British military and security services are no strangers to torturing their prisoners when they judge it necessary.
Theresa May's personal role in facilitating terror attacksvideo5 June 2017Dan GlazebrookTheresa May and her Cabinet are complicit in murder. They are war criminals. If the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II were applied, they would be hung.
UK Intelligence And Security Report, 2003reportJune 2003Richard M. Bennett
Katie Bennett
A compendious summary of the UK Intelligence And Security agencies, including people, events and places.
File:Ukintell0809.pdfreport2008UK Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report 2007-2008

A document sourced from MI5

TitleTypeSubject(s)Publication dateAuthor(s)Description
MI5 DG Speech 16-9-10speechMI5
Worshipful Company of Security Professionals
16 September 2010Jonathan EvansSpeech by Jonathan Evans, as Director General of MI5, to the "Worshipful Company of Security Professionals" in October 2010. The "Worshipful Company" (ie livery company of the City of London) tag hints at the Masonic and occult nature of the British establishment in general and its Intelligence and security structures in particular.


  1. UK National Archives - Intelligence Records
  2. Jason Lewis and Tom Harper, Revealed: How MI5 bugged 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet and at least five Prime Ministers for 15 YEARS, Mail on Sunday, 18 April 2010.
  3. MI5 kept file on former PM Wilson, BBC News, 3 October 2009
  4. Jason Lewis and Tom Harper, Revealed: How MI5 bugged 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet and at least five Prime Ministers for 15 YEARS, Mail on Sunday, 18 April 2010.
  5. Jason Lewis and Tom Harper, Revealed: How MI5 bugged 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet and at least five Prime Ministers for 15 YEARS, Mail on Sunday, 18 April 2010.
  6. Brendan Bourne (18 April 2010). "Allegations No.10 was bugged by MI5 ‘removed’ from official history". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  7. Jason Lewis and Tom Harper (18 April 2010). "Revealed: How MI5 bugged 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet and at least five Prime Ministers for 15 YEARS". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  8. Day One in Number Ten, BBC Radio 4 at 1100hrs BST on Friday, 14 May 2010.
  9. http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/files-prove-that-mi5-spied-on-snp-1-1423283
  10. James Rusbridger The Intelligence Game: The Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage, London: I.B. Taurus, 1991, p.208. Originally published by The Bodley Head in 1989.
  11. Richard Norton-Taylor "Truth, but not the whole truth", The Guardian, 11 September 2001
  12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21970091
  13. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/feb/17/77-inquiry-mi5-accused-gag
  14. a b c http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/feb/21/mi5-cropped-7-7-bombings
  15. http://wideshut.co.uk/secrets-spies-and-77-tom-seckers-honest-critique-of-the-london-bombings-case/
  16. Binyam Mohamed case: full texts of Paragraph 168 - and how they changed, 26 February 2010.
  17. https://www.mi5.gov.uk/former-dgs
  18. MI5 - Director General, accessed 26 February 2008.
  19. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, pp.320-321.
  20. Organisation, MI5, accessed 19 July 2009.
  21. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, pp.320-321.
  22. Organisation, MI5, accessed 19 July 2009.
  23. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, pp.320-321.
  24. MI5 has secret dossiers on one in 160 adultsThe Mail on Sunday, 9 July 2006.
  25. Parliamentary Answer Revealing Traffic Light Coding of MI5 FilesHansard, 25 February 1998.
  26. "Traffic Light Coding of MI5 Files". Archived from the original on 2007-07-02. Hansard, 5 June 2006.