Former British spy jailed for secrecy breach

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A British court on Friday handed a 12-month jail term to a former employee of Britain's foreign spy agency MI6 for illegally disclosing the contents of intelligence files.

Daniel Houghton, 25, tried to sell the electronic files to the Netherlands for two million pounds (3.1 million euros, 2.4 million euros). Dutch agents filmed him as he displayed the material and passed the evidence to MI6.

He pleaded guilty to two breaches of Britain's Official Secrets Act at a hearing in July.

"The effect on the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service, MI6) credibility, and the morale of its officers, of this kind of act of betrayal is a serious matter," judge David Bean said as he sentenced Houghton.

He added that Houghton, who had claimed that he had heard voices that had told him to sell the files, was a "strange young man".

Houghton would, however, likely go free almost immediately as he has served half the time in detention during the court case.

The court heard that Houghton, who worked for MI6 from 2007 to 2009, tried to sell two secret staff lists with the details of more than 400 people.

Dutch agents originally thought his offer was a hoax but then took on the case -- and negotiated the price for the information down to 900,000 pounds.

Houghton was arrested immediately after handing over the files at a London hotel as he left with the cash in a suitcase.

In searches of his flat, police found a computer memory stick containing 7,000 files and paperwork marked "top secret".

© 2010 AFP

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