MI6 chief’s hacked emails attacked MI5 and betrayed British spy operations in China

Emails published by Russian hackers and systematically analysed by Computer Weekly reveal that in January 2020 the former “C” (chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6) Richard Dearlove linked up with hard-Brexit campaigners and White House lobbyists to send a threat-laden briefing to 10 Downing Street warning about telecoms company Huawei.  

Dearlove’s exposure of former MI6 spy colleagues – in support of a Donald Trump government campaign – came as a secretive group of hard-Brexit supporters attempted to clandestinely replace advice from Britain’s main national security organisation, the National Security Council (NSC). Dearlove also attacked every other British security and intelligence organisation, including MI5, GCHQ and one of his successors as chief of MI6.

This group, formed with Dearlove’s help, used a variety of cover names to push its agenda and was launched on 18 August 2018 by former historian and retired LSE research professor Gwythian (Gywn) Prins. The conspiratorial group initially campaigned to replace then prime minister Theresa May with Boris Johnson, according to emails published this year by Russian hackers. The group labelled its “super top secret” plans “Operation Surprise”.

Johnson did replace May less than a year later, in July 2019. Six months after that, Prins and his group thought they had made it to the very top. Two weeks before the event they had dreamed of and campaigned for – the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) – Prins was invited to the Cabinet Office for a 90-minute meeting with Michael Gove, then chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and number two to Johnson.

According to leaked emails Prins sent out after he met Gove on 16 January 2020, Gove offered him a top job. “I shall likely head up a small geo-strategic assessment unit in the Cabinet Office,” he wrote. “It will … be a rival to the NSC behemoth … Gove understands that.”

Wanting the group to campaign against official MI5 advice on Huawei, Gove had also asked for “a short, hard-hitting note which explains why Huawei should not be touched in any aspect”.

“The Prime Minister … should NOT take the advice of the current…