MI5 A Branch

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A Branch is a division of the Security Service (MI5).

According to Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, A Branch is responsible for telephone tapping, covert entry, and specialised secret photography:

Known as 'Operational Support', this also runs mobile and static surveillance units, who cover long-term targets like embassies. Other parts of A Branch keep safehouses and and listening posts, and transcribe the tapes of tapped telephone calls.[1]

A Branch is presumably identical to the branch reporting to the Deputy Director General which is identified on the MI5 website as "responsible for managing the Service's operational capabilities such as its technical and surveillance operations".[2]

Contents

Organisation

Directors

A1

Section responsible for technical operations.[9]

A1A

Responsible for Technical Operations, such as covert entry and audio and video surveillance, according to authors Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding.[12]Similarly, Stephen Dorril describes the section as responsible for "Housebreaking, planting bugs, stealing or photographing of documents".[13]

A1B

Responsible for running officials in government departments, banks, etc, to improperly pass on confidential information.[14]

A1C

  • Provides safe-houses.[15]

A1D

Lockpickers and carpenters.[16][17]

A1E

Production of Bugs and electronic equipment.[18]

A1F

As A1A, but on longer term target sites.[19]

A2

Technical support.[20]

A2A

Bug and tap intercept transcription.[23][24]

A2B

Photograph service, laboratory work and liason with GCHQ.[26]

A3

Liason with special branch, disbanded by 1993, according to Dorril.[27] Responsible, along with A5, for technical support for operations, including specialised covert photography and lockpickers, according to Hollingsworth and Fielding.[28]

A4

Physical surveillance teams or 'watchers'.[29]

A5

Scientific research and development, according to Dorril.[34] Responsible, along with A3, for technical support for operations, including specialised covert photography and lockpickers, according to Hollingsworth and Fielding.[35]

Other A Branch Officers

Facilities

A Branch was at one time based at Euston Tower, near Kings Cross, London.[39]

Watchers have used cars based at a garage in Streatham High Street, South London, officially used by the Department of the Environment.[40]


History

Early Incarnations

The name A Branch has been applied to a number of different divisions within MI5 over the course of its history.

The earliest A Branch covered monitoring aliens during the First World War.[41]

When MI5 became the Security Service in 1931 the administration division was named A Branch.[42] After a re-organisation in 1938, A Branch covered administration and registry functions.[43] A Branch retained responsibility for administration in another re-organisation, launched by Sir David Petrie in 1941.[44]

1950s

A Branch retained responsibility for technical support and the surveillance 'watchers', in a re-organisation under Sir Dick White in the early 1950s.[45]

1970s

In mid-1974 false rumours that Labour Minister Judith Hart was a communist circulated around London after A Branch intercepted her phoning the British Communist Party HQ to inquire about the fate of dissidents in Chile.[46]

During the mid-1970s, former K Branch officer Hal Doyne-Ditmass worked in A Branch on computerising watcher records.[47]

1980s

In 1987, Frank Larsen, a Norwegian charged with plotting to kidnap ANC members, claimed to have links to A Branch and to MI5 K Branch. The charges were dropped after consultations with MI5.[48]

1990s

MI5 whistleblower David Shayler revealed the Guardian journalist Victoria Brittain was under A Branch surveillance between 1993 and 1995, after MI5 wrongly concluded she was laundering money for Libyan intelligence.[49]

2000s

A Branch surveillance during Operation Large in late 2000 led to the 2002 conviction of Moinul Abedin for commiting an act with intent to cause explosions.[50]

A Branch was responsible for the electronic surveillance of the house that was targetted in the June 2006 Forest Gate Raid.[51]

2010s

After a failed attempt to have Russian national Katia Zatuliveter deported in 2011, it was reported that Russian diplomat Mikhail Repin had been expelled following surveillance by A Branch.[52]

Notes

  1. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.59.
  2. Organisation, MI5, accessed 19 July 2009.
  3. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.127.
  4. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.236.
  5. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  6. Julian Faux, The Times, 23 July 1998.
  7. Michael Smith, The Spying Game, Politico's 2003, p.136.
  8. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.290.
  9. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  10. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.337.
  11. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  12. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, pp.320-321.
  13. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  14. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  15. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  16. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.74.
  17. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  18. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  19. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.74.
  20. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  21. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.508.
  22. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  23. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.74.
  24. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  25. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.336.
  26. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  27. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  28. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, pp.320-321.
  29. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.74.
  30. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.335.
  31. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.335.
  32. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.336.
  33. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  34. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  35. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, pp.320-321.
  36. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.485.
  37. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.127.
  38. David Leigh, The Wilson Plot, Mandarin, 1989, p.242.
  39. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.73.
  40. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.74.
  41. Michael Smith, The Spying Game, Politico's 2003, p.77.
  42. Michael Smith, The Spying Game, Politico's 2003, p.81.
  43. Michael Smith, The Spying Game, Politico's 2003, p.85.
  44. Michael Smith, The Spying Game, Politico's 2003, p.88.
  45. Michael Smith, The Spying Game, Politico's 2003, p.110.
  46. David Leigh, The Wilson Plot, Mandarin, 1989, p.228-229.
  47. David Leigh, The Wilson Plot, Mandarin, 1989, p.242.
  48. Richard Norton-Taylor, ANC case man threatens the Government, The Guardian, 27 October 1987.
  49. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and The War on Terrorism, André Deutsch, 2003, p.194.
  50. Michael Evans, Terrorist plotter trapped by MI5 is given 20 years, 28 February 2002.
  51. Sean Rayment, MI5 fears silent army of 1,200 biding its time in the suburbs In the wake of terror raid, injured man's solicitor claims police gave no warning before opening fire, Sunday Telegraph, 4 June 2006.
  52. Mikhail Repin: the perfect party guest who was Whitehall spy for the Russians, The Telegraph, 10 December 2011.
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