Ex-MI6 Worker Sentenced for Trying to Sell Secrets

LONDON (AP) -- A former low-level employee of Britain's MI6 spy agency was sentenced Friday to one year in prison for trying to sell top-secret information to Dutch agents, with the judge calling him "a strange young man."

Daniel Houghton, 25, was guilty of "an act of betrayal" when he copied secret files, including spy agency staff lists with home phone numbers, and tried to peddle them to another government, Judge David Bean said.

MI6 is Britain's overseas intelligence service.

"If the material had found its way into the hands of a hostile power it would have done enormous damage and put lives at risk," the judge said.

Bean also said he received conflicting reports about Houghton's mental state and he could not determine if Houghton was hearing voices in his head, as his lawyers claimed.

"You seem to be a strange young man," he said. "But whether you were hearing voices at the time, I don't know. If you were hearing voices they may have had a significant influence on your behavior, but they could not be said to remove your responsibility for your actions."

Prosecutors said in court Friday that Dutch agents were suspicious about Houghton's true identity and met with him in the Netherlands in January and determined that he had worked for MI6 and that he did possess secret documents. They then told British agents about his actions.

He was arrested at a London hotel in March.

Houghton, a dual Dutch and British national, admitted to two counts of unlawfully disclosing intelligence material but denied a charge of theft. He is expected to be released shortly because he has already served nearly half of his prison time while awaiting sentencing.