Security guard filmed images of colleagues’ families inside embassy, court told

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Security guard David Smith snooped around colleagues’ desks at the British embassy in Berlin, copying pictures of their family and friends as Russian military forces loomed on the border of eastern Ukraine, a court has heard.

The 58-year-old Scot has admitted sending classified documents to the Russian Embassy anonymously in May and November 2020.

But he denies the accusation he was on the Russian payroll and being directed to provide a stream of intelligence.

The Old Bailey heard that in his letter of November 2020, Smith revealed the identity of a diplomat identified only as X who had worked in Moscow.

He included photographs of other employees and added details of their specific roles at the embassy, the court heard.

Smith told the court he felt “ashamed” when he saw the people he had betrayed afterwards and did not send anything else to the Russian Embassy.

David Smith court case
David Smith has admitted spying for Russia while working at the British embassy in Berlin (Met Police/PA)

“Presumably you told them you had endangered their safety? At any moment the Russians would know who they were, what role they performed.”

Smith replied: “As far as I was concerned the information was already known.

“I took the pictures to show the lack of security as I pushed back against the embassy but I assure you I haven’t sent another thing.”

But Ms Morgan told the court that in June 2021, Smith filmed around the embassy, identifying colleagues and even recording personal pictures on their desks.

Smith said: “I was pissed when I made the video. It was a good idea at the time.”

Ms Morgan went on: “These are not drunken videos taken by a teenager and put on TikTok.

“Your hand appears steady throughout. It’s more than that, because although you say you were ashamed you revealed information about X and other members of staff, those videos show you going to particular offices in the building.

“You film the name plaque on the door, and when you’ve done that you go into the room and you film the outside space outside the window. The purpose is showing a person who might look at the video here is the name and here is their precise location.

“What the videos then show is other things – rifling through drawers, walking over to whiteboards, and we see your hands appearing next to particular names, and those names are not accidental drunken choices.”

Smith replied that he did not remember.

Ms Morgan said: “How was your guilt in June 2021 when you zoomed in on photos on their desks showing them with their family members and friends?

David Smith court case
David Ballantyne Smith taking a video of the CCTV monitors in the British Embassy security kiosk (Met Police/PA)

“When you say you feel guilty, do you want to say now who was directing those videos?”

Smith replied: “No-one at all.”

Ms Morgan went on to ask Smith what he knew of the global situation at the time he was making the videos inside the embassy.

Smith said he could only think of the Covid situation at the time.

The prosecutor suggested he would also be aware of Russian forces amassing on the border with Eastern Ukraine, where his wife Svetlana was living.

She said: “In this period in 2021 when you were gathering information of this type on video, the Russian forces were gathering on the border of Ukraine and they were gathering on the border of the very area of where your wife lives, weren’t they?”

Smith said that he would have seen it if it was on the news.

Ms Morgan asserted he did take a closer interest in Russian activities, as demonstrated by a cartoon of president Vladimir Putin posted inside his work locker.

In the picture, Putin had his hands around the neck of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel in German uniform with the caption: “Russia, please free us once again.”

Ms Morgan said: “You are working at the embassy for the United Kingdom and you chose to put a particular thing in your locker.

“It is precisely what Russia was saying as its justification for amassing vast amounts of troops on the border, and it is a cartoon that depicts Angela Merkel as a Nazi.

“The point being the justification Vladimir Putin was promulgating at the time was he was the one taking action against Nazi oppressors.

“What is encapsulated in that cartoon is played out in Ukraine.”

Smith replied: “I just thought it was funny and my work colleagues even laughed at it.

“If the Russian troops were amassed on the border of Ukraine I didn’t think they would invade.”

Ms Morgan said that at the time of Smith’s offending the situation with Russia “could not have been more finely balanced” and intelligence, such as Britain’s approach to sanctions, would have been valuable.

Defence barrister Matthew Ryder KC said Smith loved and cared about his country and his interest in “alternative truths” was neither uncommon nor proof of anti-British sentiment.

He said: “He has questioned the mainstream view presented in the media. The broadcast of (Russian government-funded) RT was available on Freeview until fairly recently.

“Social media is teeming with alternative versions of the truth and even world leaders amongst the UK’s allies have espoused alternative truths in recent years that people may think were not well supported.

“That doesn’t mean he has an ideology contrary to the state. He did have a sympathy for the Donbas. He has explained how that changed after a visit in 2019.

“To see someone as being pro- or anti-UK in binary terms is overly simplistic.”

Paisley-born Smith began collecting secrets material over four years and was caught following an undercover sting in August 2021.

The former RAF serviceman has pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Official Secrets Act by committing an act prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state.

He will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday.

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