Michael Bettaney

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Michael John Bettaney (born 13 February 1950)[1] was an intelligence officer working in the counter-espionage branch of MI5 who was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1984 of offences under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 after passing sensitive documents to the Soviet Embassy in London and attempting to act as an agent-in-place for the Soviet Union.

Born in Fenton, Stoke on Trent, Bettaney attended Pembroke College, Oxford, and graduated from the University,[2] where he was allegedly known for his personal admiration of Adolf Hitler, and for singing the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" in local public houses.[2] One time, while being arrested for public drunkenness, he shouted "You can't arrest me, I'm a spy!" at the arresting officer.[2] He was vetted for betrayal by internal agents twice, and both times was declared a loyal agent.[2]

While working at the Russia desk of MI5, he took a large number of secret documents home with him from the office, before trying to turn over some selected highlights to the Head of KGB Station General Guk. Bettaney did not know that another member of the Station, KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky, was an MI6 agent. Gordievsky informed MI6 and the British authorities managed to identify and arrest him.[2]

The management of Bettaney while working for MI5 was examined by the Security Commission, who concluded that "[t]he Commission make a number of serious criticisms of the errors by the security service in relation to the management of Bettaney's career..."

Bettaney was sentenced to 23 years in prison, and was released on parole in 1998.[3]


  1. ^ "Report of the Security Commission, May 1985", Cmnd 9514, HMSO.
  2. ^ a b c d e Foot, Paul. "Whitehall Farce: Review of The Intelligence Game and The Truth about Hollis", London Review of Books, 11:19, 12 October 1989, p.8-9
  3. ^ "Spy out of jail". BBC News. 13 May 1998. Retrieved 28 February 2013.