Chapter 14: What 'National Security' Angle?

In the months before his death, Gareth Williams
worked at MI6 Headquarters, Pimlico, London
"Aisde from the hint that the mysterious couple -- if they exist at all -- may be foreigners," I said, "there has been very little in the press concerning the one aspect of this case which I should think would be foremost."

"Surely you refer to the 'national security' angle?" replied Holmes, and I nodded in assent. "The way in which it has been handled," he continued, "may be one of the most fascinating aspects of the case."

"It has been very confusing," I continued. "On one hand, we've lost, in a most shocking manner, one of our leading warriors in the fight against the terrorists, and yet on the other hand, it's as if his job -- apparently the most remarkable aspect of Gareth Williams' life -- were the most unremarkable thing ever!"

"Precisely," said Holmes, "and one could apply that statement equally to the press and the investigators. The police announced almost immediately that they were looking for clues to the mystery in Gareth Williams' private life -- even though he seems to have had no private life to speak of. And the press, even with so-called 'security experts' at their side, still don't find anything interesting about the professional life of a man who worked not only for GCQH but also MI6, and if those trips to the USA are any indication, NSA as well.

"Before Bucky came to see us," Holmes continued, "I was under the impression -- perhaps I should now say 'delusion' -- that the police might be working an elaborate 'dodge', pretending they were mostly interested in the private life of this unfortunate young man while they were in fact doing otherwise, to further their investigation. But, according to Bucky, that's not the case, and I suppose we're left to wonder whether the police are running an elaborate 'dodge' for other reasons entirely."

"The security experts who comment on such matters seem to agree," I said, "that there could not be a threat to national security, unless Gareth Williams had sold, or given away, state secrets."

"Right," said Holmes. "Rupert Allason said the very same thing, in just so many words, according to Jonathan Owen in The Independent. And all the other experts seem to agree -- to a man, they are unfazed by the rather obvious fact that a brazen and brutal crime has been committed, ostensibly against MI6, within walking distance of MI6 headquarters, and in a supposedly 'safe' MI6 house!"

"It was almost as if," I tried a simile, "someone broke into an art gallery and vandalized one of its most valuable exhibits; and then the police, the press, and even international art experts all said the gallery's security hadn't been violated because nothing appeared to be missing!"

"Indeed!" said Holmes. "Most outrageous, is it not? We would expect at least one of them to mention that -- since a valuable work of art had been damaged within the confines of the gallery -- the question of whether security had been breached was in fact a rather ridiculous one."

"Holmes," I asked, "do you happen to remember the horse named Silver Blaze? He was kidnapped from his own stall in the dead of night, and you were able to deduce that the kidnapper was well-known in the stables because the dog which slept there did not bark."

"I do recall something of that case, Watson," he replied.

"These 'security experts' are beginning to remind me of that dog, Holmes," I said, and he almost laughed.

"There's another 'dog that didn't bark' in this story as well, Watson," Holmes continued. "For his entire adult life, Gareth Williams served his country at the very highest level, first in Cheltenham and later in London. With valued service always comes protection, and with any violation of that protection one would expect a reaction, at least on the diplomatic front."

"In other words, Holmes," I said, "if Gareth Williams was killed by an agent of a foreign power --"

"-- or if our intelligence people even suspected as much --" Holmes interjected.

"-- then the official response would have been much different, would it not?" I asked.

"One would expect the diplomatic channels to be churning, but there has been no sign of any unusual activity," said Holmes. "Quite the contrary, the 'official' pronouncements from the security services on this matter have been calm and reassuring.

"If foreign involvement were suspected," Holmes continued, "one would expect the Official Secrets Act to be invoked, in which case we would not have heard about this case at all until William Hughes arrived on our doorstep."

"What does an incident such as this do to the morale of the security services?" I asked. "I can hardly imagine what Gareth Williams' former colleagues at MI6 and GCHQ must be thinking!"

"I don't think too many of them believe he zipped himself into the bag and locked it, Watson," Holmes replied, and again we sat quietly for a time, listening to the clackety-clack of the wheels.