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Ex-MI6 man jailed for secrets sale

A former member of MI6 who tried to sell secrets for £2 million has been sentenced to 12 months in jail.

However Daniel Houghton, 25, will be released almost immediately because he has already served half the sentence while on remand.

Houghton, a software engineer from Hoxton, east London, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Official Secrets Act at an earlier hearing.

He offered to hand over sensitive computer files containing information about intelligence collection and MI6 staff lists to agents from The Netherlands, the Old Bailey heard. They thought it was a hoax at first but then tipped off their UK counterparts and Houghton was arrested.

Mr Justice Bean told him: "The effect on the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) credibility and the morale of its officers of this kind of act of betrayal is a serious matter."

Houghton tried to sell two secret staff lists, one containing the names of 387 people and the other with the telephone numbers of 39 individuals. He worked for MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service, between September 2007 and May 2009.

During that time he accessed secret computer files belonging to MI5 (the British Security Service) which related to the work of both intelligence agencies. They were described in court as "sensitive capabilities files, important tools developed by SIS staff for the gathering of intelligence for national security purposes".

Mr Arnold said Houghton tried to sell them to Dutch secret agents in August 2009. After a series of telephone calls it was agreed that he would fly to The Netherlands for a meeting in January this year, at which the Dutch agents were persuaded that he had worked for the SIS as he claimed, and they tipped off MI5.

Houghton wanted £2 million for the files but agreed to accept £900,000. He handed over the files to the Dutch agents at a London hotel on March 1 and was given a suitcase containing £900,000 but he was arrested in the lobby by plain-clothes police officers.

SIS found that if the files he sold had fallen into the hands of a "hostile nation" they would have posed "significant risk to future SIS operations", as with MI5's work.

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