We don't necessarily blame the British government for denying the use of these fake rocks to spy on Russians in 2006, as admitting you're using these unsophisticated clunkers (like a former official did today) is just as embarrassing as actually being caught spying. Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's former chief of staff, came clean about the fake rocks (above) and the espionage in a documentary airing tonight. "The spy rock was embarrassing," Powell said in the BBC2 documentary series Putin, Russia and the West (snippets aired on BBC radio today have been picked up by news agencies), though reports don't make clear whether he was more embarrassed about being caught or that the country's prestigious MI6 agency and real-life James Bonds produced and used such clunky devices better suited to hiding one's spare keys. "They had us bang to rights. Clearly they had known about it for some time and had been saving it up for a political purpose." Admittedly, we aren't as fluent in British slang as we'd like to be, but Powell is referring to the hard evidence Russians possessed in 2006 when they accused the Brits of using the device, spying and making secret payments to pro-democracy groups. Britain had denied the charges then. "There's not much you can say. You can't really call up and say 'terribly sorry about that and it won't happen again'," Powell said. Jonathan, you could always build a better rock.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.