back to article Ex-spook jailed for selling secrets

Ex-MI6 worker Daniel Houghton has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for unlawfully disclosing top secret material, in breach of the Official Secrets Act. Houghton, 25 years old and previously living in Hoxton, London, worked for MI6 for just under two years. He left the organisation with Top Secret files which he then …


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  1. Jolyon Ralph

    The Dutch?

    Now, I may not be a super spy myself, but I wouldn't have figured the dutch would have been the obvious buyers for purloined MI6 information.

    1. Anonymous John

      Weird isn't it?

      "I've got £900k worth of secrets. All I need is a customer. Russia? No. China? No. North Korea? No. Iran? No.

      I know! Holland! I've always liked their cheese.

    2. JohnG

      The Dutch

      That's because he holds both British and Dutch citizenship.

      Are they now going to revoke his British passport, like they did for Anna Chapman? Unlike Houghton, she had not attempted to pass on any British secrets to anyone. EU rules allow EU nationals to be barred entry for criminal offences or matters of national security.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      going dutch

      maybe you think james bond films are documentaries?

      it's quite possible the dutch spy was pretending to work for someone else. spies sometimes tell lies and use false identities you know. any competent intelligence agency will be keen to find out what another one is up to, who its agents are, etc.

      intelligence agencies don't just spy on the opposition. they will spy on allies and friendly powers too. you'd expect mi6 and gchq to try and find out what line the yanks or aussies were going to take at trade talks or what sort of deal the germans and french were cooking for the next eu summit. i'd be rather peeved if her majesty's spies didn't do that of thing.

      paris icon because she works for mossad and nsa. allegedly.

  2. ratfox

    Only 12 months??

    I'm really surprised here. Ok, so he would not have hurt anybody directly, and anyway he failed. But still, I would have assumed that such a breach of trust would be punished more severely in these circles.

    - M doesn't mind you earning a little money on the side, Dryden. She'd just prefer it if it wasn't selling secrets.

    - You have the wrong man, Bond. If M was so sure that I was bent, she'd have sent a double-0. Your file shows no kills, and it takes...


    1. Colin Brett
      Black Helicopters


      "I'm really surprised here. Ok, so he would not have hurt anybody directly, and anyway he failed. "

      He wouldn't have killed anyone directly but, had he managed to sell it to a foreign power or terrorist outfit, they would have combed the lists, eliminated any agents that posed a threat to them and then perhaps passed the info on to more <insert your favourite badguy here>, so they could remove their threats.

      How many on the list? 300? That's 300 agents burned plus however many they ratted out themselves under duress or torture (depending who is using the information).

      12 months is excessively lenient, I would say.

      Or have I been reading too much Tom Clancy?

    2. JohnG

      Not even 12 Months

      He has served about half that time on remand, so they are apparently going to release him soon.

  3. David Kelly 2

    Only 12 Months?

    He should be shot for releasing Top Secret material.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      he probably has been..

      but the Executioner is sworn to the Offical Secrets Act (... secrete might be better)

  4. The Indomitable Gall

    Who did they tell?

    MI5 or MI6?

    Make up your mind, your time starts... now!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "MI6 were unaware they'd even lost the data "

    Lost the data, copies had been made.

    Don't let symantics get in the way of a good story.

    1. M Gale


      Is that the thing that throws popups in front of full-screen apps and slows my computer to a crawl, while routinely forgetting which applications I've allowed access to the Internet?

      Gets in my way all the damned time.

  6. Stu J


    Yeah, good luck getting a job anywhere again with that conviction on your "CV"....


  7. DrXym Silver badge

    I would have thought...

    ... the best way to sell stuff to a foreign power is to catch a plane to a nearby country, walk into the suitable embassy, ask for their security officer and present them with a sample of the merchandise they can expect if they stump up the £££.

    And the worst way to sell stuff to a foreign power is to talk to a division B ally and watch as they shop you to your own intelligence services. Still 12 months is getting off pretty lightly.

  8. Shane McCarrick

    The Dutch?

    Thats the puzzling part- why on earth did he imagine the Dutch would have one iota of interest in the information?

    1. Jolyon

      This field left intentionally blank

      Maybe he knows soemthing we don't know.

  9. Richard IV

    Deplorable lack of training

    Assuming that you are the only one who can do the betraying is surely etched on the first page of the bumper book of spying mistakes...

    Mine's the one made by a Panamanian tailor.

  10. shmirsh
    Big Brother

    the Dutch

    Why do you guys imagine that the Dutch would NOT have any interest in these materials? We regularly spy on all our so called allies and they spy on us. Of course all parties vehemently deny this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the Dutch

      I'd assume that we spied on our allies in a more "sideways glance at their homework while teacher has their back turned" rather than buying stuff directly from agents.

      I doubt they'd risk the possibility of their transaction getting back to British Intelligence or even that it was a deliberate sting? My knowledge of inter-country espionage is limited to novels and films but it seems unlikely.

  11. John Savard Silver badge


    Aside from the CD burners and USB ports... perhaps MI5 ought to investigate something called "Security Enhanced Linux" by the agency corresponding to GCHQ over across the pond.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    12 months?!


    Had I been in charge, the penalty for this would have been to be "hanged by the teeth until he falls into a pot of boiling electronic fire".. paraphrasing a certain author...

    Failing that, death by Asian giant hornets with an adrenaline drip just so he suffers more.. that'll learn 'em.

    AC, because wiring said traitor up to it would also be an effective "deterrent"....

  13. Eke

    Selling to the duth

    Why do you think he has been trying to sell it to the dutch?

    Just that they turned out to be dutch doesn't mean he thought they were dutch at the outset...

    1. myhandle
      Thumb Up

      Didn't think they were Dutch?

      But he was Dutch himself. I suppose they could have been Dutch imports, but a native Dutchman would have trouble hiding his Dutch accent from another Dutchman. Despite the fact the Americans in the movies would do it all the time with Germans and get away with it :-)

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    *very* fishy

    He's got access to a list of 300 agents within 2 years of starting work.

    He's able to copy the list to removable storage and get out of the building with it.

    MI6 appear to be *unaware* the data has been copied and/or copied to removable media.

    He then decides to sell it in Holland (not such a bad idea). But did he *really* think he was selling it to *Dutch* intelligence?

    He get's 12 months, half of which is already served. How long did David Shayler get?

    BTW it is unclear which of the 300 were under diplomatic cover (and hence diplomatic immunity) and which were not.

    I'd still say the loss of the USB stick from the bag of a SOCA staff member in Columbia was a *bigger* loss and probably lead to a lot more immediate death, given most of them were informants on the drugs trade.

  15. Rogerborg

    Thumbs up to the thumbs down

    All this shows is that MI5 and MI6 are both run by pussies. I'd far rather that they were run by cold eyed chaps in expensive suits who would put a bullet in this monger's head as soon as look at him.

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Disabled? How about not having any?

    When I worked at the university surplus outlet, we'd frequently get machines with CD readers -- departments would special order computers specifically without burners. And that wasn't even a concern about secrets, it was a concern that people'd waste time burning each other music or whatever. In the case of Top Secret, I think I would "disable" the USB ports physically -- probably either fill them with hot glue or bust out the innards on unused ports, and either get a PS2 keyboard and mouse, or glue them in if they are USB. (I just don't think I would trust disabling ports in software.)

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Rewriting This For You

    "Given recent enormous government data losses you might assume that computer systems at the highest levels of security would have things like CD burners and USB ports disabled."

    should read

    "Given that the data is very sensitive and affects 300 officers, you might assume that computer systems have some access control, logging, reporting and alerting systems in place. The same could be said about INSCOM"

    Just ten years ago I read about lots of stuff built into Unix systems to accurately log anything which happens on a computer. Now that juvenile US Army "Analyst" managed to copy tens of thousands of "Top Secret" messages UNDETECTED (and then sent it to Wikileaks).

    All the smart people have apparently deserted Anglosaxon government offices and gone into Destructive Finance, errm I mean Quant Finance.

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