MI5's headquarters is Thames House on Millbank, a modernised listed building located on the south-west end of Lambeth Bridge in London. It’s the grey building with the copper roof you can see lurking at the right of the picture above. The surveillance officer who took the photo is unidentified and still snorkelling beneath the Thames.

Writer Watch

Stella Rimington (Cont.)

Website Watch

Here you will find links to Dame Stella Rimington's official website, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interviews with Dame Stella, websites for MI5, MI6, and GCHQ, the BBC2–TV documentary Modern Spies, the BBC1 Television Series Spooks and, from the Londonist, the Top 10 Spy Sites in London.


Dame Stella Rimington's Website: Go to Dame Stella’s official website at where you can get the goods on Dame Stella and her fictional MI5 intelligence officer, Liz Carlyle. There are also links to several author interviews featuring Stella Rimington.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interviews with Dame Stella

The 7.30 Report: Read the transcript of the program broadcast in March, 2009: ‘She was the inspiration for Judi Dench’s character of ‘M’ in the James Bond films and was the first female boss of MI5. Stella Rimington now writes novels and is in Australia for the Perth Writers Festival. Stella Rimington shared her insights into the world of espionage with Kerry O’Brien.’

ABC Local: Go to where Richard Glover takes you inside the headquarters of the British secret service in his conversation with former MI5 chief, Stella Rimington.

ABC–Radio National: Books and Arts Daily: Visit this website to read and watch one of the best author interviews ever at In ‘Secrets and Lies with Stella Rimington’ Michael Cathcart spoke with Stella Rimington at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne at an event organized by the Wheeler Centre. This interview was broadcast on Monday, 11 June 2012, and you can read the transcript and also view the full episode at (view full episode).

MI5 Home page: Go to The Security Service (MI5) is responsible for protecting the United Kingdom against threats to national security. This website provides information about the Security Service, the threats it counters, links to sources of security advice and details of careers with the Service. 

On the MI5 website you can check out the news, the threats and what you can do about them, more about MI5 and its history, what a career with MI5 involves, plus a featured page with a video about how MI5 staff go about working together on investigations. Thames House has served as the headquarters of MI5 since December 1994 and is situated on the bank of the River Thames adjacent to Lambeth Bridge.

MI6 (SIS) Home page: Visit The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was established in 1909 as the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau and the Foreign Section’s responsibility for overseas intelligence gathering has been retained by SIS ever since under various names and acronyms. Until 1994 SIS did not have a statutory basis and its existence was never confirmed publicly before 1992. The service was put on a statutory basis with the Intelligence Services Act (SA) 1994.

On this site you can read about SIS history, what jobs are available, how MI6, MI5 and GCHQ work together, what constitutes a good intelligence officer, and you can even take an Intelligence Officer Challenge. Approximately one kilometre away from Thames House on the other side of the river, 85 Vauxhall Cross houses MI6 in an extraordinary building designed by Terry Farrell, which is reputedly nicknamed ‘Legoland’ by its inhabitants.

GCHQ: Sneak into Nerd alert! GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) is one of the three UK Intelligence Agencies. It provides signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the UK government and armed forces with the aim of keeping society safe and successful in the Internet age. GCHQ was originally established as the Government Code and Cypher School after the First World War, and during the Second World War its ultra secret home was at Bletchley Park.

The organisation’s brief includes dealing with cyber attack, international terrorism, a major industrial accident or natural disaster, and international military crises. Along with the Security Service (MI5), and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) GCHQ plays a key role across all these areas. On this site you can learn more about what GCHQ does, the challenges they face (which are set out in the National Security Strategy), the history of the organisation and what careers are available in this, the most technologically savvy of the services. And yes, they do act within the law. All GCHQ operations are conducted under legislation that defines their roles and activities.

Most of GHCQ’s 5,300 or so staff work at their main headquarters at the extraordinary Benhall site located at the entrance to the Regency spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. From the air the building resembles nothing so much as a giant metallic doughnut. There are also two much smaller GCHQ sites operating in Cornwall and Yorkshire.

BBC2–TV Program (Modern Spies): Go to for Modern Spies: Episode 1 of 2 (1 hour) and to for Modern Spies: Episode 2 of 2 (1 hour).

How does the real world of the modern day spy compare with the fictional myths of James Bond, George Smiley or Jason Bourne? In Modern Spies, a two-part program, first broadcast in April 2012, the BBC’s Peter Taylor interviews British secret agents about their work, including an MI6 agent runner and an MI5 surveillance officer. Taylor was given unprecedented access to serving officers but their real names were not used and they were not allowed to talk about specific operations or policy issues. Visit the websites and listen to the interviews.

The program also looks at how today’s spies are recruited and examines the secrets of spycraft, from the sleeper cell to the brush pass and cutout to the increasingly common cyber spy. It also poses some important questions: When does an undercover operation cross the line and become entrapment? Do spies ever have a licence to kill? And were British spies complicit in the rendition of terrorist suspects in Libya where they were allegedly tortured?

BBC NEWS: At this news article published online by the BBC on 9 April 2012, asks the burning question: Did the British Government approve a Libya suspect rendition? The BBC was told that evidence has emerged that the British government was involved in (and MI6 was a party to) the rendition of suspected terrorist Abdel Hakim Belhaj to the Gaddafi regime in 2004, where he claims that he was tortured by the Libyans. Mr Beljaj is now suing an MI6 officer and the British government.

BBC correspondent Peter Taylor understands that Mr Belhaj’s rendition was given ministerial approval but it is not clear which level of government authorised the decision. A succession of UK governments have always denied that they were complicit in either rendition or torture. At that time, MI5 believed that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, of which Mr Belhaj was the leader, was close to al-Qaeda and actively recruiting young disaffected Muslims in Britain to fight in Iraq.

At this link you can Continue reading the main story and also the related stories: Rendition of Abdul Hakim Belhaj, UK torture inquiry is cancelled and UK police launch rendition probe. The BBC’s Modern Spies program above also has more on this story.

BBC1 Television Series – Spooks: Visit and follow the tense and enormously popular drama series, Spooks, which dealt with the challenges faced by the British Security Service (MI5) working against the clock to safeguard the security of the nation. You can check out the characters, cast and crew, episode summaries and watch some clips.

Alas, the producers of Spooks announced that the tenth series would be the last and it finished in 2011. Chief executive of Kudos Film & Television, the company which created the drama, called it ‘a fitting end to a much-loved show’. The last series focussed on Harry’s past and the guilty secret which brought his tumultuous relationship with Ruth (Nicola Walker) to a head.  

From the Londonist – Top 10 Spy Sites in London: Surreptitiously slide into this site at where you can find some unusual facts about Spy vs Spy locations, people and spook practices. London has a long and rich history of espionage and there are details of lesser known sites featured in both real events and in literature such as John Le Carré’s classic spy story Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. There is also a Google map where you can visit the Londonist Top Ten Spy Sites.


This page will self-destruct 15 seconds after reading (or on 21 December for Mayan calendar lovers - whichever is the sooner). Don't tell the Cousins and remember, the walls and your iPhone have ears!

(Oh P.S. UPDATE: The 21 December 2012 thing didn't happen - back to the drawing board!)




MI6's head office is on Vauxhall Cross and the striking green and cream building (nicknamed 'Legoland' by its inhabitants) is immediately visible after you exit the tube station. The building was designed by architect Terry Farrell and built at enormous expense complete with bristling antennae. We could tell you who took this photo from the bank opposite, but then (chorus) we’d have to kill you.