Annie Machon

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Annie Machon
Annie Machon standing, left hand raised, speaking into a headset microphone
Annie Machon presenting at 30C3 in Hamburg, December 2013
United Kingdom
  • Writer
  • public speaker
Known forWhistleblowing

Annie Machon (born 1968) is a former MI5 intelligence officer, a writer, and public speaker.

Early life and MI5[edit]

Born in 1968, the daughter of a pilot-turned-Guernsey newspaper editor, Machon won a scholarship to a private school and then read classics at Girton College, Cambridge.[1][2] After her graduation, she began a career working for a minor publisher.[3]

In 1990, Machon sat a Foreign Office examination to become a diplomat but was recruited by MI5, where she was posted to their counter-subversion department, officially known as 'F2'.[4]

One year after joining the service, she met David Shayler and they became a couple. Machon said she and Shayler were "trying to track down old communists, Trotskyists, and fascists, which to us seemed like a waste of time". During the 1992 general election, she and Shayler provided summaries of the files of "anybody who stood for parliament". They were both "horrified by the scale of the investigations" and "argued most vociferously that we shouldn't be doing this". Two years later, she and Shayler moved to 'T' Branch, investigating Irish terrorism.[5][6]

Resignation and whistleblowing[edit]

In October 1996, Machon and Shayler resigned from the service[1] with the intention to blow the whistle on a series of alleged crimes committed by the service, such as secret MI5 files held on the very government ministers responsible for overseeing the intelligence services, illegal MI5 phone taps, lying to the government by MI5, IRA bombs that could have been prevented, the 1994 bombing of the Israeli embassy in London, when two innocent people were wrongfully convicted, and the attempted Secret Intelligence Service assassination of Colonel Gaddafi of Libya.

Shayler took classified documents to The Mail on Sunday; the first story published on the penultimate Sunday of 24 August 1997 concerned the allegation of widespread spying on so-called subversives including Peter Mandelson, whose telephone had been bugged for three years, and other government ministers. A court injunction prevented claims about what the security services knew about the IRA from being revealed.[7] The couple claimed the British government had been involved in an assassination attempt against colonel Muammar Gaddafi and that the security services had foreknowledge of the 1994 London Israeli Embassy bombing and the IRA's City of London bombing.[1]

After they resigned, Shayler and Machon went on the run around Europe for a month. Machon then returned to London to face arrest but was never charged with any crime. She then returned to France and lived with Shayler in a rural area for a year. In July 1998, Shayler worked with BBC Panorama, The Sunday Times, and The Mail on Sunday to reveal what became known as the Gaddafi assassination plot in 1996. Due to British issues and urgent requests for extradition under the terms of the Official Secret Act, Shayler was imprisoned in Paris for almost four months, awaiting the hearing. France declined the extradition on the basis that whistleblowing was a political act. Shayler and Machon lived in Paris for two years and then returned to the UK in August 2000 for Shayler to stand trial.[8]

Shayler was imprisoned for six months in November 2002 for offences contravening the Official Secrets Act. The trial judge said he should thank Machon for helping to quash the claim in her evidence that he had copied secret documents to begin a career in journalism.[9] Machon did not face any criminal action herself.[7]

Later activities[edit]

Machon at 30C3 in Hamburg, December 2013

From 2012 to 2016, Machon was the European director of LEAP, a global group of serving and former police officers, lawyers, judges, intelligence officers, prison governors, customs officers, and former drug czars. LEAP speakers have worked on the front line of the war on drugs policy and campaign for an end to drug prohibition. In this role, Machon kick-started new national LEAP groups in the UK and Germany, has spoken in a number of European parliaments, international conferences, and festivals, met with government ministers, government advisers, and drug czars across Europe. She has represented LEAP four times at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual event in Vienna, and even appeared in the occasional film—most notably in The Culture High.[citation needed]

She is part of the organising committee of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, a founding member of the Global Council of the Good Technology Collective, as well as a member of Veterans for Peace UK and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.[citation needed]

Machon appears in Mads Brügger's The Mole: Undercover in North Korea, where her intelligence experience is used in debriefing the principal agents.

In October 2021, Machon spoke at the Belmarsh Tribunal in opposition to the US request to extradite Julian Assange.[10]


  • Machon, A. (2005). Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers: MI5 and the David Shayler Affair. Book Guild Ltd.; ISBN 1-85776-952-X


  1. ^ a b c Dickson, E. Jane (23 January 1999). "Point of No Return: David Shayler". The Independent. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  2. ^ Durrant, Sabine (3 April 2000). "No place to hide". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  3. ^ Thomas, Gordon (2009). "Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6". JR Books. p. 209. ISBN 9781907532658.
  4. ^ Machon, Annie (29 August 2010). "Annie Machon: my so-called life as a spy". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  5. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (15 November 2002). "The spy who loved me". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  6. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (15 November 2002). "The spy who loved me". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b Freeman, Sarah (9 February 2017). "Annie Machon: Forget Hollywood, being a whistleblower is hard work". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Shayler home to face the music". The Independent. 26 August 2000. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Shayler jailed for six months". The Guardian. 5 November 2002. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  10. ^ Magnay, Jacquelin (25 October 2021). "Edward Snowden says Julian Assange 'wont bend' as the Australian faces a US extradition court appeal". The Australian. Retrieved 25 October 2021.

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