MI6/Black budget

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An MI6 black budget (a.k.a. slush fund) of over a million pounds was revealed by a declassified document from the UK National Archives, uncovered in 2017 by Rory Cormac of the University of Nottingham. The fund was personally held by MI6 chief Stewart Menzies, without the knowledge of other members of MI6 until he retired from the service in 1952. It was used to fund black ops, particularly in the Middle East.[1]

Origins

The document indicates that the fund was given by "well-wishers" of MI6, "including a particularly large sum from an American".[1]

Exposure

The fund was so secret that according to Dr Cormac "not the Treasury or the Foreign Office [knew of the fund's existence]. Certainly not ministers. And not even MI6's own finance director".

Disclosure

When MI6 head Stewart Menzies was about to retire from the job, he notified other members of about the "unofficial reserve", as he used to name the secret slush fund. "At the meeting, the permanent secretary to the Treasury, Sir Edward Bridges, asked Sir Stewart how much money he had in the account and across his reserves, explaining that if it was a substantial sum, that might raise questions of accountability."[1]

Usage

The budget was used for a range of operations, including Scant, Scream, Sawdust (at a cost of £200,000, "thought to be operations against President Nasser in Egypt") and Straggle, which were covert actions in the Middle East. It was also used to alleviate MI6 fears that their budget might be reduced.[1]

Recent developments

The BBC reported in 2017 that "files show that in the six years after the civil servants found out about the "unofficial reserve" only a few thousand pounds was being withdrawn each year and it was eventually combined with (smaller) "official" reserves."[1]

Official narrative

The official narrative is that, nowadays, MI6 has no black budgets, doesn't conduct off-the-books operations, and is subject to effective oversight. The 2017 BBC article concludes reassuringly (and naively) that "today, MI6 says it operates under the law and under careful political and financial controls."[1]


References