Coffee House

The mundanity of espionage

5 December 2010

" Denies Russian Aide Is 'Sleeper Spy'&attrib_url="> "'Sleeper%20Spy'&attrib_url="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always">

And the most curious political story of the day has to be the one
about Mike Hancock’s 25-year-old parliamentary researcher, Katia Zatuliveter. If you haven’t seen it already, she is facing allegations of spying for the Russians – and looks set to be
deported as a result. It’s the first time that a Commons employee has been arrested on charges of spying since the Cold War thawed out twenty years ago.


There’s some lively colour in this tale, but the full picture is, as yet, shaded from view. For his part – as per the video above – Hancock has denied that Zatuilivter is a spy. But the
only Cabinet minister to comment on the matter so far, Iain Duncan Smith, has said that the allegations have to be taken seriously. The main concern appears to be that, given Hancock’s role as a
member of the defence select committee, anyone working for him could have access to some fairly high-grade military chit-chat.

The parallels with the recent spy ring in America are striking, even if nothing has yet been proved in Zatuilivter’s case. There, the Russian agents were operating in the lowest foothills of
government. Here, the allegations centre on the assistant to a Lib Dem backbencher. The scramble for intelligence secrets may be heating up, as Fraser reports in his cover story this week. But it
is, so often, far more mundane than Ian Fleming’s back catalogue would have you believe.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • Chris lancashire

    Edward McLaughlin: Did you mean files or flies?

  • Bumpkin

    How did Hancock get a work permit for a Russian.
    Permits are only supposed to be available for jobs that require scarce skills for high paying jobs.

  • 2trueblue

    Mike Hancock is in a class of his own, The Lib Dumbs.

  • yank

    Lovely. Putin puts ’em right on staff in the Commons.

    Those Wikileaks guys are pikers. Why wait years for the Guardian to churn it out, when you can just have a text message popped over same day?

    Mr. Lindsay is right. No reason for a foreign national Russian, American or otherwise, to be directly on the public payroll. At least put ’em on contract, with all proper restrictions associated.

  • Fulcra1537

    Perversely reassuring evidence,if proven,that the Kremlin still considers this country worth devoting espionage effort to.

  • cityboozer

    There are arguments on all sides but one – “mundanity” is an indefensible word.

  • Mike Spilligan

    Hancock is clearly a half-wit and yet he’s on the Defence Select Committee, and doesn’t seem to be concerned that spies are trained to hack into computers. A clear case for deselection. Is this a result of the coalition doling out jobs on a one-for-you-two-for-me basis?
    I also wonder how many members of the Russian Duma have foreign assistants, appealing or not. Zero, I bet.

  • wrinkled weasel

    A career with the FSB is like a career with Tescos, or Tata or the Intercontinental Hotel Chain, all of which have about 350,000 employees worldwide, including the FSB.

    I am however, shocked, shocked, I say, that they are using young beautiful women as spies. Obviously, it cannot be true. Pretty white women never do anything so bad. You should know that Peter, before you cast aspersions.

    I am willing to bet that she is not the only one. I am willing to bet that at least one MP (not this one, he’s merely a mark)is in the pay of Russia. I am willing to bet that the BBC has regularly had deep cover spies in its ranks, all the way back to Guy Burgess.

    Arthur Ransome? That lovely man who wrote Swallows and Amazons? Never.

  • Baron

    what is it this slim sexy blonde has to offer that a plump, comprehensive school trained English girl cannot? Come on, Hancock, let’s have it out.

  • John Bracewell

    ‘Hancock has denied that Zatuilivter is a spy’.
    If he knew, he is not likely to say she is a spy. However, as is rather more likely, he did not know, then, if as alleged, she is a spy, then surely she has just done her job i.e. to make sure Hancock did not know. Hancock’s denial or opinion means nothing either way. As stated above, an explanation from him why he employed a Russian instead of a Brit would be rather more useful.

  • davidk

    She looks like a lovely girl. She’d charm me way too easily.

  • TomTom

    How do Non-UK-born nationals get to such positions ? It is astounding that in other countries you would need to be native-born to have such access – but then again her employer faces an indecent assault charge in Jan 2011 – so who knows what goes on in our House of Fools

  • marc antony

    Personally, I don’t think she’s that pretty. I can see the allure of Chapman, but this one is too thin, obviously asexual, and has empty eyes. Surely, we still have some secrets left worth knowing about. C’mon Putin, send over some some proper spies. This country is going to the dogs.

  • bob frost

    C Martel has it right. Meanwhile how many others were pleasantly surprised to find that a supposed scandal involving a male Liberal M.P. at least involved a female?

  • scouser

    these are the idiots we trust to run our country, why would any person working in government not look into someone they want to hire

  • Dennis Churchill

    What would someone have to do to be accused of being an Agent for the European Union?

  • Annie

    This Hancock man is already at the heart of some very unsavoury allegations about his personal behaviour and has recently been bailed in connection with such. Mr Hancock seems to be a total nincompoop after all if she is a Russian spy and presumably good at her job how the hell would he know anyway.

  • Edward McLaughlin

    You might think it mundane now Mr Hoskin, but wait till you’re Mike Hancock’s age and the thought of a beautiful 25 year old Russian woman going through your files will, I assure you, be – khow shall we pwut it? – rather more than dull.

  • sinosimon

    the dog that didn’t bark……..russians spy….it’s expected…but the spectator has no comment on the fact that a man whose personal conduct leaves him ridiculously open to blackmail…hancock is currently under police investigation for allegations surrounding attempts to seduce a constituent with mental problems that leave her vulnerable(that hancock knew about).
    how is someone like him allowed near any classified material?

  • AJC

    @porkbelly. “Who is this mysterious country that controls U.S. airport security and listens in to all its communications? “.

    I guess its the country which quite probably has (back door) access to far too much network infrastructure worldwide.

  • steveal

    I’m not too concerned about the spying angle. But it’s nice to see that with 2,500,000 Brits out of work, our MPs can employ ferkin’ Russians!

  • JohnAnt

    This is Mike Hancock, reported in the Portsmouth newspaper ‘The News’ on 29th August.
    “He [MH] said: ‘When I got back from holiday she (Ms Zatuliveter) told me they were stopped when they were coming through customs, but that has happened before. I don’t know anything about her being questioned by MI5.

    ‘She has worked for me for two years and she is extremely good at her work.

    ‘A lot of people in Portsmouth have met her and have been very complimentary about her.

    ‘I think she would be a very unlikely spy. I have never heard anything so ridiculous and I won’t be contacting MI5 about it.'”

    So a lot of local people have met her, ergo she can’t be a spy. What an eejit. Clearly, MPs with access to government military intelligence should be given a loyalty test and an IQ test as well.

  • JohnAnt

    Isn’t it rather ironic to have the news story of LibDem agonizing about the fees and future debt of British students juxtaposed with the story in which a LibDem MP sees fit to employ a non-EU foreigner?
    And how is Hancock in a position to deny flatly, as he did today, that his assistant has been engaged in espionage? Is he psychic, or just incapable of logical thought?
    Mind you, I did laugh when the BBC News item ended with the words: ‘Mr Hancock said she was appealing.’

  • Austin Barry

    If I resembled the exploded bullrush that is Hancock I too would hire a fruity Russian – and hope that a honey trap is in the offing. Grrrrr.

  • M. Rowley

    What on earth is this man doing employing a Russian as his parliamentary researcher, irrespective of the question whether or not she is working on behalf of the Kremlin? Aren’t there any suitably qualified Brits out there equally capable of doing this work? Or is this about Hancock doing his bit for improving UK – Russian relations?

  • Verity

    Checking out the tens of thousands of sons of the prophet living in Britain would be money better spent.

  • Stewart

    Have to agree with Kestrel. All MPs on defence/foreign affairs/home affairs and intelligence committees must themselves pass vetting and only be allowed to hire British (vetted) staffers. It is a ludicrous situation if we don’t have this rule in place already. I hope the Russian will be appropriately interrogated before she leaves.

  • Charles Martel

    David Lindsay, in your alternate universe where America is the evil incarnate and Russia & China are some sort of benevolent happy-go-lucky ‘Axis of Freedom’, maybe we should worry about the Americans.

    But back in the real world, where Russian agents murder people on British soil with Polonium, yet the Americans get hauled over the coals for rendition using Britain as a staging post.

    Taking a long hard look at the corruption index and you realise that places such as Congo, Pakistan and Libya are less corrupt than Russia, quite an achievement really.

    So yeah, you can look over the Atlantic for your conspiracy theory CIA/USA straw-man, but the rest of us can thank the Security Services for focusing on the real threats.

  • Chuck Unsworth

    Another lengthy and repeated post from David Lindsay who seems not to understand that wars can be fought in a whole variety of different ways and a vast gamut of fronts, too. Wikileaks, the manner of publishing and, indeed, the content of the cables is but a small example.

    Economic warfare is rife.

    At best Hancock is a dangerous, deluded, idiot. At worst he is a traitor.

  • porkbelly

    David Lindsay – you end your spy fantasy with a cliffhanger. Who is this mysterious country that controls U.S. airport security and listens in to all its communications? Or do we need to wait until the next installment to find out? And where does the ancient yet peace-loving civilization of Persia fit in?

  • John

    Good ‘ol ‘Handycock’ he knows how to pick ’em

  • Kestrel Sprite

    It frightens me that an obvious twerp like Hancock, employing a Russian assistant, should be allowed anywhere near the Defence Select Committee

  • David Lindsay

    A Russian “spy” in the office of some backbench Lib Dem? “Spying” on what, exactly? And what if she were? What threat is Russia to British jobs? Into what war does Russia wish to drag us? By contrast, David Leigh writes:

    Conservative party politicians lined up before the general election to promise that they would run a “pro-American regime” and buy more arms from the US if they came to power this year, the leaked American embassy cables show.

    Liam Fox, now the defence secretary, promised to buy American military equipment, while the current foreign secretary, William Hague, offered the ambassador a “pro-American” government. Hague also said the entire Conservative leadership were, like him, “staunchly Atlanticist” and “children of Thatcher”.

    The frontbencher admitted that there was an opposed faction within Tory ranks. “Fox asserted that some within the Conservative party are less enthusiastic, asserting that ‘we’re supposed to be partners with, not supplicants to, the United States”.

    Despite British leaders’ supportive stance, the dispatches also reveal – in what some will see as humiliating detail – how US diplomats in London are amused by what they call Britain’s “paranoid” fears about the so-called special relationship.“

    Meanwhile, Luke Coffey is an American citizen, a former captain in his country’s Army, and the founder of the London branch of Censa (Council for Emerging National Security Affairs), a think tank the true character of which may be discerned from the list of members: Matthew Thompson, a former CIA analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence; Jeff Benson, who worked in the US Office of Naval Intelligence; Sean Bielat, who serves in the United States Marine Corps Reserve as an intelligence watch officer; and Paul Crespo, who served as a defence and naval attaché at American embassies in the Balkans, the Gulf and Latin America.

    Luke Coffey is also a Special Adviser to Liam Fox. He has not been given full security clearance, and I am reliably informed that he will not be. However, he has a pass giving him access to all areas of the MoD, and he works in an open plan office where he has ready access to any file he wants. Fox is known to favour buying cheap, off the shelf equipment from America, an approach which would destroy thousands of British jobs and put our defence capability wholly at the mercy of the United States for repairs and spare parts.

    Michael Gove has at least been exiled to a domestic policy department where he can do nothing more than play about with Toby Young’s whites-only schools for people who could afford to go private but are too tightfisted. He would be dangerous if he stood any chance of getting anywhere, but he doesn’t. Fox, on the other hand, is very dangerous indeed. So dangerous that he appoints an operative of a foreign intelligence agency as his Special Adviser, a man refused full security clearance by the proper Tories – war-wary, pro-Commonwealth, supportive of British manufacturing, not infatuated with America, concerned for Britain’s longstanding ties to the Arab world – who decide these things.

    Does Liam Fox have full security clearance? If so, why? After all, it is obvious from whom he took the order to appoint this particular Special Adviser. Less obvious is who gave them the order to give that order. American espionage against Britain is a serious concern. But it is child’s play compared to the reason for it, which has nothing to do with the American people, but rather is directed against them: espionage against the United States by the country that controls airport security there and in numerous other lands, and which has such a hold on telecommunications that it can listen to every call into or out of the country.

  • bob

    What has Guido got to say about this.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here