22:39 GMT31 March 2020
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    According to The Times, the UK's home secretary ordered a probe into media reports claiming that the British MI5 intelligence agency withheld some obtained classified information from her.

    British Home Secretary Priti Patel might be not the first UK Cabinet official whom the country's spy services denied broad access to classified information, Independent's Sean O'Grady pointed out in his recent article. He pointed out that her boss, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, allegedly faced a similar attitude towards himself in the past.

    According to media reports, Johnson was largely left in the dark by the intelligence community during his days as Foreign Minister of Theresa May's cabinet, over fears he might release information without authorisation. The concerns reportedly stemmed from an incident back in his days as Mayor of London, when he released confidential information, not scheduled for publication, to irk May, who served as Home Secretary at the time.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlines his government's negotiating stance with the European Union
    © REUTERS / POOL
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlines his government's negotiating stance with the European Union

    The intelligence agencies even reportedly arranged special "pre-meets" to discuss sensitive matters without Johnson being present to his great displeasure. None of these reports was ever acknowledged as true by any of the sides of the story.

    O'Grady noted in the article that the practice, when the secret services even distrusted prime ministers, stems back from the Cold War days. Namely, some intelligence community members in the UK genuinely believed that labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was a Soviet spy, which turned out to be not true, and led to the major scandal depicted in the memoirs of former MI5 officer Peter Wright - Spycatcher.

    UK Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, who held the post between 1957 and 1963, even deliberately asked his intelligence chiefs to keep him in the dark about spy matters and give him only limited info, O'Grady recalled. Macmillan believed it was for the better, although it never saved his political career from the Profumo Affair scandal.

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    Tags:
    Intelligence, MI6, MI5, UK, Priti Patel
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