Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Paid by MI5 for each person he entrapped. A letter in today's Telegraph gets to the...
Heart of the matter

Sir - As the debate about the detention without trial of British citizens gathers pace (News, Feb 19), the public should be reminded of my father's experience in 1940, when the Defence of the Realm Act's Emergency Regulation 18B allowed for the imprisonment of suspects denounced as Nazi sympathisers.

Ben Greene was a deeply religious Quaker, with a long history of assisting refugees, yet was named by an MI5 agent provocateur as a fifth columnist and arrested. He was, of course, entirely innocent of the charge, as was established when his solicitor traced the man responsible, an unscrupulous Austrian called Harald Kurtz, who had sought his assistance and admitted eventually that he had been paid by MI5 for each person he entrapped.

We now know, from the recently published Guy Liddell Diaries, that MI5 did everything possible to conceal Kurtz's true role, to the point of persuading the Clerk of the House of Commons to remove any reference to him on the Order Paper on the grounds of national security.

My father was eventually vindicated, but not before he had spent months in Brixton prison. His cousin Graham, in return, named the villain after Kurtz when he was writing the script for The Third Man.

Edward Greene, Oxford

This five year old Guardian article says that Public Record Office files relating to Ben Greene's internment have been closed under Section 3(4) of the Public Order Act 1958. The author, former MI5 agent David Shayler, was himself imprisoned for six months for disclosing secret information to a newspaper. (It was accepted that he did not act for money.) Although Shayler should never have been imprisoned I remember thinking at the time I was not convinced by all his allegations. But I see no reason to doubt his basic sincerity, nor the purely factual statement about Greene.

It is typical that my quick Google follow-up on the story of Ben Greene also led to an account of the abuse of power. That is the end result of rule by discretion of the Home Secretary.