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UK Asks Journalists to Not Name Ex-Agent Allegedly Behind Trump Report

The UK government issued what is known as a D-notice, but plenty of outlets aren’t taking the advice.

Joseph Cox

Joseph Cox

MI6 building in London. Photo: I Wei Huang

One name is suddenly on everyone's lips. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal revealed who is allegedly behind the salacious and unverified report of compromising material related to President-elect Donald Trump: Christopher Steele.

But the UK government has issued a so-called D-Notice to members of the media, firmly asking them not to print Steele's name.

"In view of media stories alleging that a former SIS officer was the source of the information which allegedly compromises President-elect Donald Trump, would you and your journalists please seek my advice before making public that name," the notice, tweeted by The Register on Wednesday, reads.

D-Notices, or Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Notices, are guidelines for media around national security topics. Complying with a notice is voluntary, but media outlets sometimes do follow them.

The system has been used controversially, however. In 1967, the UK government accused a national paper of ignoring D-Notices. The paper had been reporting on the warrantless search of thousands of private cables and telegrams.

The UK government pushed out a D-Notice in 1999 in an attempt to suppress a list of 115 MI6 officers. The notice, according to investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, drew even more attention to the list.

Funnily enough, that list of agents includes a Christopher David Steele, who was apparently assigned to Moscow.

As for this latest notice, it asks "editors and journalists not to disclose (without first seeking DSMA advice) 'the identities, whereabouts and tasks of people who are or have been employed by these services or engaged on such work, including details of their families and home addresses, and any other information, including photographs, which could assist terrorist or other hostile organisations to identify a target'."

The notice doesn't appear to have really worked. Multiple British outlets have run stories including Steele's name.

Steele, 52, is a director of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence, Ltd., a company that provides "senior decision-makers with strategic insight, intelligence and investigative services," according to the firm's website. According to The Telegraph, Steele fled his Surrey home on Wednesday morning, and fears a potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow.

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