Data analysis by British intelligence agency MI6 helped to unmask Pakistan nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who sold nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, according to information released to The Times.
The revelations are part of growing interaction of British intelligence in recent months with the news media at a time when there are questions about its powers to intercept communication.
Andrew Parker, head of MI5, was interviewed on BBC in September. On Wednesday, he addressed an audience in the City of London, where he revealed that British intelligence had stopped six terrorist plots within Britain and seven overseas in the past year.
Based on “unprecedented access” and interviews with intelligence officers, The Times reported on Thursday that Khan was a target of British intelligence for many years until his proliferation activities were shut down.
‘Paul’, identified as a senior MI6 intelligence officer, referred to the Khan operation as a rare public example of the utility of digital information. Paul indicated that the data analysed by MI6 officers had not been easy to interpret: “We had a real struggle to work out what it all meant,” he said.
Khan was placed under house arrest in Pakistan for five years until 2009 for his part in the world’s biggest nuclear proliferation scandal. Khan has since claimed that he was a scapegoat and that his activities were sanctioned by successive Pakistani leaders.
It was also revealed that, MI6 is seeking to hire more mothers and middle-aged women through a campaign on the online forum Mumsnet.
The report said that interviews with intelligence officers revealed that Britain is creating a new breed of superspy to work across all intelligence services in the race to stay ahead of terrorists and hostile states; that intelligence gathered by GCHQ, was behind most of Britain’s military operations during the war in Afghanistan.