BOB GARFIELD: British agent James Bond faced death at the hands of many a polite-talking madman. Maybe he could have avoided confrontation all together if he'd flashed the bad guys a press card. A spy masquerading as a journalist makes a fine movie plot, but now the British Secret Service, also known as MI6 has been accused of adopting that very scenario. According to Richard Tomlinson, the renegade MI6 officer whose whistle-blowing book The Big Breach: From Top Secret to Maximum Security was just published in Russia, MI6 officers used journalistic cover on 4 of every 10 missions in conflicts ranging from Afghanistan to the Balkans. Tim Gopless from the National Union of Journalists in Britain joins me. Mr. Gopless, if we're to believe what we hear from Richard Tomlinson, the British intelligence community and Fleet Street are dangerously intertwined. How much truth do you think there is to these charges? MAN: I'm certain it's true that Richard Tomlinson had a forged NUJ press card when he was in Bosnia because there were many people trying to get into Bosnia at that time, and the only way you could get in was on a press card. You, you had to get a card issued by the United Nations during the war there, and the United Nations only, only gave press cards to people who came along with national press credentials. Journalists who are working in war zones are always in danger, and if it becomes known to any of the parties that there are people going around claiming to be journalists with apparently authentic journalist I.D. on them, the snipers and the warring factions in the dispute are going to think twice and they'll start thinking that journalists are spies, and we can't have that. BOB GARFIELD:In the short term, obviously having spies operate under journalistic cover serves the interests of for example the British government, however in the medium term and in the long run it can't possibly serve the British government to have its legitimate journalists in danger, can it? MAN: Well there's an implication in what you're saying that the, the intelligence services in Britain are subject to control by the government. Many people think it's almost the other way round. The intelligence services are very much a law to themselves, and are protected by our formidable official secrecy structure. I think most people believe that when the government denies that they're true, the government are telling the truth because they don't know, because the, the security service don't tell them! BOB GARFIELD: I gather MI6 has had no comment on any of this. MAN:No, MI6, M--MI6 never breaks cover. It is government ministers in, in the case of MI6 the foreign and commonwealth office, they are the public face; they answer the questions. The - MI5 and MI6 never say anything publicly at all. I mean this is a real problem in this country and, and if I may say so, quite different from, from the United States where the CIA appears to have a degree of public accountability or at least there's a degree of public knowledge about its activities. BOB GARFIELD:So where does this leave the National Union of Journalists -- what can you do under circumstances like this when you're dealing with a black agency that doesn't even comment on the charges much less act to protect legitimate working journalists? MAN:Well on the specific point of, of, of disguise and masquerading, then we are talking to the foreign office which is the government department that notionally controls MI6. But most importantly we are involved in permanent campaigning against the protected secret world of the British security agencies, and then the Official Secrets Act itself is going to have to be changed because of legal changes in Britain over the last couple of years -- we've now introduced a new law - a human rights law - kind of equivalent to the Bill of Rights which gives people rights - for on-- for instance of freedom of expression and rights to stand a fair trial, both of which the Official Secrets Act procedures appear to be in breach of. So there is going to be a campaign to change the official secrecy laws over the next year or so in our country. BOB GARFIELD: Tim Gopsell, thanks for joining us! MAN: No problem! BOB GARFIELD: Tim Gopsell is editor of The Journalist.