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Revealed: The MI5 chief who spied on Plaid; EXCLUSIVE Newly-opened secret file tells details of Welsh nationalists surveillance campaign.


THE head of MI5 was personally involved in setting up a wide-ranging surveillance programme of Welsh Nationalists before the Prince of Wales' investiture in 1969, we can reveal today.

A previously secret Cabinet Office file, released following a request by Wales on Sunday, shows that Sir Martin Furnival Jones, who was MI5's director general from 1965 to 1972, helped co-ordinate an 18-month-long spying campaign in the run-up to the ceremony at Caernarfon Castle.

Senior figures in Plaid Cymru have believed for many years that party members were targeted for surveillance because of the British state's inability to distinguish between hardened extremists prepared to resort to violence and those involved in peaceful campaigns for political change.

The newly-released file, whose existence was disclosed in a letter from Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy to former Plaid president Dafydd Wigley, gives details of how the surveillance campaign was born after a series of bomb outrages in Wales.

The file - entitled 'Threat of bomb outrages in Wales at the time of the investiture of the Prince of Wales' - is held at the Public Record Office under the code CAB 164/389. It was opened in November 1967 and closed in 1969, but was not released for inspection under the normal 30-year rule. Instead, because of its supposed sensitivity, it was kept secret indefinitely.

Last April, Wales on Sunday formally asked the Cabinet Office to release the file under the government's 'Open Government' initiative.

Unannounced, it was opened for inspection at the Public Record Office in London shortly before Christmas.

The file contains 16 documents. The first, dated November 10, 1967, is a letter from Cabinet Secretary Sir Burke Trend to Goronwy Daniel, the Permanent Under Secretary of State at the Welsh Office.

It says: "The Security Service (MI5) have recently produced a summary of the Subversive Threat in this country, and have thought the activities of Welsh extremists sufficiently important to rate a place in this summary.

"I attach the relevant extract, which you may like to show to the Secretary of State (George Thomas)."

The extract from the MI5 report relating to "Welsh extremism" has been withheld from public inspection with the approval of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine.

On November 20, Mr Daniel replied as follows: "The Secretary of State has for some time felt increasingly concerned about the activities of these extremists and this concern has been sharpened by Friday's bomb outrage at the Temple of Peace (in Cardiff).

"If the timing mechanism of that bomb had functioned a few hours in arrears there would have been very serious loss of life.

"Moreover, the fact that a bomb was used to protest against a meeting arranged to prepare for the investiture of the Prince of Wales carries with it a threat that the same means of protest will be used again as arrangements for the investiture proceed and there is the danger that the consequences of this could be very serious indeed.

"The Secretary of State has asked me to express his hope that every effort will be made by the security and police services to arrest those who were responsible. They would appear to be a small group with expert (perhaps ex Army) knowledge of bombs and access to explosives.

"They are also likely to be Welshspeaking and to have links with extreme nationalist and Welsh language movements. They were probably responsible for all four recent sabotage incidents:

March 7, 1966. Clywedog reservoir explosion;

March 12, 1967. Crossgates, Llandrindod Wells. Sticks of gelignite found in Elan Valley water pipeline;

September 30, 1967. Llanrhaiadr-ynMochnant pipeline blast;

November 17, 1967. Temple of Peace explosion.

"Contrary to what the note says I would not expect the explosives to have been obtained from mines. Welsh mines are now few and large with very careful control of explosives. A more likely source would seem to be quarries.

"The overwhelming majority of Welshmen would welcome news of the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of these men, and the Secretary of State hopes that they will not still be left at large during the period leading up to and including the investiture."

A week later, on November 27, Sir Burke Trend wrote to Sir Martin Furnival Jones, the director general of MI5, saying that the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was seriously concerned about the possibility of bomb outrages at the time of the investiture and wanted to be assured that the Security Service "are fully alive to this risk and are taking all possible steps to anticipate it".

As a result, a meeting involving representatives of MI5 and all the chief constables of Welsh police forces was held on January 18, 1968, at which it was decided to launch a comprehensive surveillance operation of Welsh Nationalists.

Sir Philip Allen, the top civil servant at the Home Office, wrote to Sir Burke Trend some weeks after the meeting, on February 26, saying: ". . . we have arranged for a sharp increase in the intelligence effort to deal with the extremists. The police officer who coordinates the regional crime squad now has a special unit headed by an inspector which is working full-time on collecting and collating intelligence; and in each of the forces in Wales one full-time officer is being engaged on this work.

This should ensure that intelligence is properly sifted and collated.

"Co-ordination of effort, both on intelligence and on the operational side, is plainly of the first importance. The interests concerned, apart from the regional crime squad and the several police forces, include the Security Service and the Metropolitan Police Special Branch.

We are keeping in close touch with all of them."

The Prime Minister was personally informed of the steps taken.

On May 17, 1968, a committee co-ordinating security matters relating to the investiture was told: ". . . the police were setting systematically about the gradual building up of their coverage. Their correlation of information was good, and the Security Service had close links with them, and expected soon to be able to improve the flow of intelligence they were able to give them."

No further information appears in the file about the surveillance campaign and no details are given about the individuals monitored. The only clue about the extent of the monitoring is that the terms "Nationalist" and "extremist" appear to be interchangeable.

In 1970, army sergeant John Jenkins, 36, and aerial rigger Frederick Alders, 21, both of Wrexham, were jailed for 10 years and six years respectively for conspiring to cause explosions in Wales between 1966 and 1969.

On the eve of the investiture in July 1969, two men blew themselves up while moving explosives from a building site at Abergele on the North Wales coast for what many believe was an attempt to blow up the Royal train on its journey to Caernarfon.

Activists certain of being watched PLAID Cymru's parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd says he is certain a surveillance file was kept on him at the time of the investiture.

And he says that following our disclosure today that MI5 was involved in a monitoring campaign, it is time all relevant files were made public.

Mr Llwyd, the MP for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, said: "At the time I was involved with Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Language Society. I was at school at the time of the investiture and went to university in Aberystwyth the following year.

"It came to my knowledge some years after the investiture that a file on myself was held at an office in Shrewsbury.

Apparently there was another office where files were held in Colwyn Bay.

"A friend of mine took a photograph of the office in Shrewsbury but was forced to hand the film over to the police.

"The problem is that no distinction was made between those who genuinely posed a threat of bombing and those like myself who aspired to self-government for Wales.

"I was told by a chap who had been fairly high in the police that there was a file on me. As a member of the Welsh Language Society I'd done a bit of sign painting of English-only signs, but nothing more than that.

"The surveillance operation was quite a talking point at the time. They were regarded as something of a Fred Karno's army, but obviously spying on people is a serious matter.

"I think it's time the secrecy surrounding this period was blown away and I shall be pressing for that to happen.

"There is no current national security reason why everything should not be in the open. The only reason for keeping it secret is because disclosure would show how naive those responsible for the surveillance were."

Plaid AM Phil Williams, who was a young physics lecturer in Aberystwyth at the time, has no doubt he was put on a list of prominent party activists to watch.

He said: "I was Plaid's candidate at the 1968 Caerphilly by-election and came within 2,000 votes of taking the seat from Labour.

"I often went into my office at the university at unusual hours. One night I'd gone in at 11pm and emerged at 3am. I was followed home by two men in a car.

"There was a lot of surveillance activity in the academic year leading up to the investiture, when Charles was studying at Aberystwyth. It must have cost a lot - they always worked in pairs and needed three shifts a day for a round-the-clock job.

"Some Plaid members struck up a rapport with their followers and would jokingly ask them for a lift to the Gower peninsula, that sore to thing."

Plaid Cymru chief executive Karl Davies said: "I am aware that a circuit judge in the late sixties was convinced his phone was bugged because he was a member of Plaid Cymru.

"There was a lot of paranoia at that time."


WATCHING: Former head of MI5, Sir Martin Furnival Jones, helped coordinate a spying campaign in the run-up to the investiture of the Prince of Wales (inset)

ATTACK: The bomb explosion at the Temple of Peace, Cardiff, in 1967 was blamed on Welsh nationalists ELFYN: Call for all files to be made public
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 6, 2002
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