ABC Case

Pictured: Duncan Campbell, Crispin Aubrey and John Berry during the ABC Case.

The ABC Case of the 1977-78 drew national attention following the incumbent Labour government decision to employ the Official Secrets Act 1911 to intimidate the press from investigating the country's signal intelligence operation.

The case emerged after Duncan Campbell and Time Out reporter Crispin Aubrey met with former Ministry of Defence employee, John Berry in Berry's north London home. Seven years previous, Berry had worked for Signals Intelligence [SIGINT] in Cyprus. Berry claimed to have information exposing the inner working of the UK's surveillance activities.

At the 18 Feb meeting, the two journalists discovered that Berry's knowledge was largely out of date, rendering the encounter journalistically unproductive. Upon their exit from Berry's home, however, all three were arrested by Special Branch and charged under the Official Secrets Act.

Police were alerted to the meeting since Campbell had been placed under surveillance by MI5 and Special Branch following revelations in a Time Out article, The Eavesdroppers, the previous year detailed secret government spying agency GCHQ.

Below will find an ever-growing cache of material related to the case.


In Spies We Trust: On the arrest of Duncan Campbell and the ABC trial of 1978

Rhodhri Jeffreys-Jones talks about Duncan Campbell's arrest in the ABC Trial, which he discusses in a chapter of his new book, 'In Spies We Trust.'  You can read part of the chapter here and purchase a copy from the Oxford University Press



Video: On the Grounds of National Insecurity

On the Grounds of National Security gives some background information into the Agee-Hosenball Affair, which put in motion the events which would lead to the ABC Case the following year.



Further reading

There are a number of interesting first-hand accounts from those involved directly in the case. We have begun to collate these below. We are also including press clipping and interesting documents for those interested in further research.

The Eavesdroppers

Duncan's seminal investigation into GCHQ. Until its publication in 1976, no news source in Britain had mentioned its existence.

May, 1976

Click here to read more

Official secrecy and British libertarianism

In his 1979 essay published in The Social Register, Campbell talks about his experiences of the ABC Case, and the impact on British democracy.

Click here to read more

Ferrets or Skunks?

Geoffrey Robertson QC, was drawn into the ABC Case by serendipity. In his 1999 book, The Justice Game, he gives an excellent account of his involvement as defence lawyer.

Click here to read more

Find The Justice Game on Amazon

MoD Archive

A series of 'confidential' and 'secret' government memos relating to the ABC Case, including details of a dropped BBC programme on the case.

(NB. Many of the documents are poor in quality)

Click here to read more

National Archives

The National Archives has a number of documents related to the ABC Case. You can visit the website, search their catalogue and order documents.

Click here to visit site

Who's Watching You?

The late Crispin Aubrey's 1981 book on the subject of the British Secret Intelligence Services and the ABC Case.

Click here to find on Amazon

Crispin Aubrey

Crispin Aubrey died of a heart attack on 28 September 2012. Below you will find links to various obituaries.

McNae's Essential Law for Journalists

Chapter 12 of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists discusses the legal context on the ABC Case for students.

Click here to read the chapter

Buy the book on Amazon

Unmasking GCHQ

Richard Aldrich's essential history 'GCHQ: the Uncensored Story of Britain’s Most Secret Intelligence Agency' dedicates a chapter to the ABC Trial.

Read chapter

Aldrich's Warwick profile