Who is SIS4?

by Chris Ames

In his blog in January, The compelling evidence of SIS4, Paul Waugh speculated that this very important but anonymous witness was Sir Mark Allen, a former director of MI6/SIS.

From my research, and speaking to people who might know, it seems that he is right. You can read about Allen here, and here and in this Sunday Times article from 2004:

AN MI6 director has quit amid reports of divisions at the top of the service.
Mark Allen, who was in charge of the Middle East and Africa department, left abruptly in the summer. He is said to have found it difficult to accept John Scarlett as chief.

In his former role as chairman of Whitehall’s joint intelligence committee, Scarlett had to prepare the dossier. Some senior intelligence officers disowned the document, saying it gave the impression that MI6 was more certain than it actually was about Iraq’s banned weapons.

Allen, who learnt Arabic at Oxford, will join BP as an adviser next month. He will be working with Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s former special envoy to Iraq. BP wants to exploit opportunities in the Middle East — including Iraq, which has the world’s largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

During the first (secret) session with SIS4, Roderick Lyne did remark that the Director Middle East in the Foreign Office was SIS4’s opposite number at the time – December 2001 – he wrote three papers on Iraq for No 10, although SIS4 is said to have taken up a new role in January 2002. What is interesting about the redactions that the Inquiry has made to the transcript of this session is that many of them remove references to SIS4’s career and the time that he left MI6, which seems to be intended to conceal the identity of the witness from someone who already knows the identity of an MI6 officer who had such a career.

A lot of the press coverage of Allen’s career after he went to work for BP concerns his role in rehabilitating Libya and the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, for example this piece in the Mail.

He is the modern Lawrence of Arabia who used his relationship with Colonel Gaddafi to help to secure a £200,000-a-year job with BP.

The career of ex-MI6 agent Sir Mark Allen, the driving force behind the suspected ‘deal’ to return Abdelbaset Al Megrahi to Libya, reads like an espionage novel, taking in Middle East spy schools, falconry and secret meetings in Pall Mall gentlemen’s clubs.

Allen’s MI6 career isn’t exactly a secret. So, if SIS4 is Allen, on what grounds did the Inquiry agree to make him anonymous? I asked the Inquiry whether SIS4 was allowed to remain anonymous to conceal the fact that he was formerly a senior SIS officer or whether he was in fact a public figure whose former role in SIS is a matter of public record. The reply referred me to paragraph 4 of the Inquiry’s “Protocol for hearing evidence by the Iraq Inquiry in public, and for identifying witnesses“:

Anonymous Witnesses

4 The great majority of witnesses to the Inquiry will be identified at public evidence sessions and in the Inquiry Report. Exceptions are likely to be limited to the following categories of witnesses, although the Committee will consider all such requests carefully in accordance with the principles set out in the Witness Protocol
a Members and past members of the Intelligence and Security Agencies or other organisations who have not been avowed as such, and whose effectiveness and personal security may be put at risk if they are identified; and
b Junior staff or contractors who are giving evidence in confidence, who have reasonable concerns that their safety, career or future employment may be at risk if they are identified.

It is in fact true that Allen is someone whose role in MI6 has not been “avowed” but the second limb of the condition, that his “effectiveness and personal security” could be put at risk if he is identified doesn’t really apply, given the extensive press coverage of the issue.

We can’t be absolutely sure that SIS4 is Allen, but we can say that Allen has not been identified as a witness at the Inquiry and that he certainly should have been. Under the Inquiry’s own protocol, having worked for MI6 is not, in itself, a reason to allow a witness to spin his own version of events under a cloak of anonymity.

2 comments to this article

  1. Bobm

    on May 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm -

    While I take your main point, Chris, I am not sure that it is fair to refer to “spin” in quite the way you do.
    SIS4 explicitly deplored the blurring of the intelligence/policy separation, dating from 1997, and his boss’s over-familiarity with No10.
    His comments about the “silver bullet” sought by Blair chime with Brian Jones’.

    Could it be that SIS4 felt he could be that bit freer if his identity was concealed, for the time being?

  2. John Bone

    on May 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm -

    It’s not so much spin as mandarin-speak. SIS4 is saying some interesting stuff, though wrapped up in mandarin-type phrases like “carrying too much weight at the bar of history”. Although Waugh would like a lot of this to be copied and pasted into Chilcot’s report, I wonder whether it’s clear enough for an outside audience.

    The other point is that so far I haven’t seen a reason for why, in the immediate aftermath of September 2001, parts of the UK state got involved in Bush’s plans for a Global War on Terror that meant losing focus on the terrorists.