The government today lost its bid to stop three London newspapers from publishing excerpts from “Spycatcher,” the memoirs of former intelligence agent Peter Wright, which has been sold in 40 countries but banned in Britain.
The five judges of the Law Lords, Britain’s highest court, unanimously upheld a ruling by the Court of Appeal that the Guardian, the Observer and the Sunday Times could publish the excerpts.
The ruling represented a victory after prolonged legal battles by the administration of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that have turned “Spycatcher” into a test case of freedom of speech versus national security.
“It is absolutely terrific,” said Peter Preston, editor of the Guardian. “This has gone on for 2 1/2 years and been heard by 23 judges. It is smashing to win hands down at the end.”
The book describes Wright’s experiences during 20 years with MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence agency. Among other things, Wright claims that the late Roger Hollis, an MI5 chief, was a double agent working for the Soviets--a claim the government says has never been substantiated.