Rupert Murdoch's popular and influential, bur sensationalist tabloid newspaper The Sun claims an exclusive story about the sudden, critical illness of Alex Allan, the current Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
The story is a scoop, but it is also full of speculative conspiracy theories, without any hard facts to back them up:
Being in charge of analysing and presenting summaries of secret and open intelligence to the Government, puts him at the head of the intelligence analysis, but does not make him a "spy".in any James Bond 007 operational sense. Even he did directly control such "spies", that would make him a "spymaster" rather than a "superspook" or "top spy".
We wish Alex Allan a speedy recovery to full health
UPDATE: Friday 11th July 2008 The mainstream media are reporting that he has now woken after 10 or 11 days in a coma, and seems to be recovering. e.g. The Daily Telegraph
By JOHN KAY
Published: 03 Jul 2008
BRITAIN'S top spy was last night fighting for life in a coma after being found unconscious at his home amid fears he may have been poisoned.
Alex Allan, 56, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, was secretly rushed to hospital on Monday.
The superspook may have been an assassination target of the Russians or al-Qaeda, security experts said.
The chairman of the Government's Joint Intelligence Committee is in a coma in hospital and has had toxicology tests to see if he has been poisoned.
Last night officers from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command were on a round-the-clock vigil hoping they will be able to interview Mr Allan.
He is described as a keen runner and extremely fit, but is said to have begun to feel ill towards the end of last week. He was found unconscious at his home.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown was immediately told that he had been taken to hospital and asked to be kept closely informed of his condition, which is "critical".
Mr Allan had direct access to the PM and regularly updated him about terrorist threats facing Britain.
That is the end of the meagre hard facts in this article, now for not one, but several strands of speculation and conspiracy theories.
Former Fleet Street journalist and author of several books on terrorism,Chris Dobson was presumably asked to speculate on possible theories, it is The Sun which has chosen to add their own speculations, and to report them in this sensational way.
Detectives are now carrying out an intensive investigation into what happened and are looking at the possibility he was targeted by an enemy.
The members of the Joint Intelligence Committee Mr Allan chairs are senior civil servants and the heads of the UK's three intelligence agencies MI5, MI6, and GCHQ.
The JIC membership is actually:
"The JIC's members are senior officials in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence (including the Chief of Defence Intelligence), Home Office, Department of Trade and Industry, Department for International Development, Treasury and Cabinet Office, the Heads of the three intelligence Agencies and the Chief of the Assessments Staff. Other Departments attend as necessary. "
The JIC is responsible for providing ministers with co-ordinated intelligence assessments.
Top security expert Chris Dobson said: "Alex Allan's illness raises suspicion of foul play simply because of his job.
"He oversees and co-ordinates every aspect of our intelligence community.
"He is therefore a prime target for an assassination attempt by Britain's enemies.
"The nature of his sudden illness, if it is an assassination attempt, points towards the FSB, successors of Russia's KGB. They are the acknowledged masters of assassination by poison.
"They were blamed by Britain for the horrific death of Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive polonium poisoning in London in 2006. And anti-Russian Vicktor Yashenko was horribly disfigured by poison which almost killed him during the election which made him President of the Ukraine.
"So Mr Putin, the former KGB colonel who runs Russia, 'has form'. And he has become increasingly aggressive towards Britain, accusing us of espionage plots against Russia.
Conspiracy theory number 1 - evidence ? Zero.
What exactly have the Russian's to gain by such an assassination attempt ?
"Al-Qaeda is another suspect. They would see his death as a great victory, fulfilling Osama Bin Laden's threat to strike at the heart of the 'infidel enemy'. What better target than the man whose job is dedicated to wiping them out?"
Conspiracy theory number 2 - evidence ? Zero.
Like most of the so called Al Quaeda plots, the intention for evil may well be there, but the technical means and opportunity are not.
Yet senior security sources say they are "as certain as we can be at this stage" that Mr Allan was not the target of a sinister attack by Bin Laden's henchmen.
And they insisted that "nothing suspicious" had so far been detected.
Exactly, but that proves nothing either way.
The words "so far" are significant. It took several days to find evidence of poison in the cases of the ricin poisoning of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in September 1978, or the radioactive Polonium-210 poisoning of British citizen and Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006.
Another theory is that Mr Allan, whose 58-year-old Australian wife Katie Clemson died from cancer in November, may have taken a drugs overdose.
Conspiracy theory number 3 - evidence ? Zero.
He was also under pressure because of the scandal last month when top secret JIC documents were found on a train and handed to the BBC.
But colleagues insisted that Mr Allan was "upbeat" and his £185,000-a-year job was safe.
It was obviously one of his subordinates who left the Top Secret documents on the train.
Doctors at the London hospital where he is being treated are also investigating whether he has contracted pneumonia.
Conspiracy theory number 4 - evidence ? Zero.
Pneumonia ? How ? Or is simple chemical "poison" now going to magically become a "biological weapon" attack ?
Does The Sun have a journalistic source at this hospital (they are rich enough to pay a lot of money for a big story), or have they only been anonymously briefed by the Government ?
Earlier in his career, he was principal private secretary to John Major and then Tony Blair.
He role as Principle Private Secretary was the real life equivalent of the character "Bernard Woolley" in the fictional (but still close to the truth) "Yes , Minister" / "Yes Prime Minister" satirical comedy television series.
He was also appointed by Tony Blair to be the UK's first e-Envoy, in charge of Government information technology strategy, which involved "joined up e-government", but without the wretched centralised biometric database, the National Identity Register.
We know of numerous UK Government e-government security scandals, which were remedied or averted, after concerned patriotic UK techies contacted Alex Allan directly via email.
He left the UK and spent some time as a Professor in Australia, as his wife was ill, but then returned to the UK as the "Sir Humphrey" Permanent Secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (a remarkably similar title to the fictional "Department of Administrative Affairs" in "Yes, Minister"), where he oversaw the coming into force of the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
He plays guitar and is a fan of '60s rock band Grateful Dead.
He runs a lyric and song-finder website for the group.
The site includes pictures of him apparently windsurfing to work during a transport strike in the 1980s.
The WHOIS registration details of this personal website, which he had run for years, putting him far ahead of most of his Civil Service colleagues in terms of internet experience, revealed his home address and wife's mobile phone number, which made a small stir when he was appointed as Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
See our previous Spy Blog article Alex Allan is now Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee - his home address, phone and mobile phone number are...
A security source said: "Everyone at the highest level is concerned."
The BBC makes a briefer, but less sensational report:
Britain's top spy, Alex Allan, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, is unconscious and seriously ill in hospital.
The 57-year-old collapsed at his home earlier this week. Government sources say that there is no sign of foul play.
BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera understands that there is no police involvement or concern over the reason for his condition.
The Times (also owned by Rupert Murdoch, like The Sun) has another couple of details:
Mr Allan, 56, whose wife, Katie Clemson, died of cancer last year, had told colleagues late last week that he was feeling unwell.
The police discovered, however, that he was well enough to visit his favourite website on the Grateful Dead rock group as recently as Saturday. One colleague said: "He is a very charismatic person and there were no indications that anything was wrong apart from him saying that he was not feeling quite up to scratch."