In 1907 Major Vernon Kell become Director of the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau with responsibility for investigating espionage, sabotage and subversion within and outside Britain. Later the organisation became known as Military Intelligence (MI5).
In 1911 MI6 took over responsibility for counter-espionage outside Britain. Kell worked closely in this work with Basil Thomson, head of the Special Branch. Kell and Thomson decided to create a card-index system on all potential subversives.
Kell discovered that foreigners were collecting information about Britain's ships, factories and harbours. However, under the terms of the Official Secrets Act, these spies were not committing any offences. Kell eventually persuaded the government to make changes to the Official Secrets Act.
By 1914 Vernon Kell had a staff of four officers, one barrister, two investigators and seven clerks. This enabled MI5 to collect a great deal of information of spies in Britain. On the outbreak of the First World War MI5 officers arrested 22 German agents. Over the next year another seven spies were caught. Eleven men were executed, as was Sir Roger Casement, who was found guilty of treason in 1916.
By the end of the war MI5 had a staff of 5,000 people whose main job was inspecting foreign mail. MI5 also had files on 137,500 individuals. This included trade unionists, members of the Independent Labour Party and those who had campaigned for peace negotiations during the First World War.
In September 1924 MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Hugh Sinclair, head of MI6, provided "five very good reasons" why he believed the letter was genuine. However, one of these reasons, that the letter came "direct from an agent in Moscow for a long time in our service, and of proved reliability" was incorrect. After consulting Basil Thomson at Special Branch, Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. Kell told MacDonald that MI5 and the Special Branch were convinced the letter was genuine.
It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret but someone in MI5 leaked it to Lord Rothermere, the owner of the The Daily Mail, and Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of The Times (both these men were supporters of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s). The letter was published in these newspapers four days before the 1924 General Election and contributed to the defeat of Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour Party.
After the election it was claimed that two of MI5's agents, Sidney Reilly and Arthur Maundy Gregory, had forged the letter. According to Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985): "Reilly played an active part in ensuring that the letter was publicised. A copy of the Russian version of the letter has been discovered in what appears to be Reilly's handwriting, and there can scarcely have been another past or present SIS agent with so few scruples about exploiting it in the anti-Bolshevik cause."
It later became clear that Major George Joseph Ball (1885-1961), a MI5 officer, played an important role in leaking it to the press. In 1927 Ball went to work for the Conservative Central Office where he pioneered the idea of spin-doctoring. Later, Desmond Morton, who worked under Hugh Sinclair, at MI6 claimed that it was Stewart Menzies who sent the Zinoviev letter to the Daily Mail.
In 1925 Vernon Kell recruited Maxwell Knight, the Director of Intelligence of the British Fascists (BF). Knight played a significant role in helping to defeat the General Strike in 1926 and by the early 1930s was placed in charge of B5b, a unit that conducted the monitoring of political subversion. The vast majority of Knight's agents were part-time. Knight recruited a large number of his agents from right-wing political organizations such as the Nordic League, British Union of Fascists and the Right Club. This included William Allen and William Joyce who was later to become known as Lord Haw Haw in Nazi Germany.
The Soviet Union became aware that British Intelligence was recruiting from pro-fascists organisations. They therefore decided to order their British agents to join far-right groups. Kim Philby and Guy Burgess both joined the Anglo-German Fellowship, a pro-Nazi pressure group. Philby also became a journalist working for The Times while Burgess was employed by the BBC. They now had the perfect CV for British intelligence and it was not long before they were recruited as agents.
In 1932 Compton Mackenzie published Greek Memories, an account of his experiences as a MI6 officer during the First World War. In the book he disclosed for the first time that Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) existed. He even revealed that the first Director-General of the organization was Mansfield Cumming. In one passage he referred to the organization as being "scores of under-employed generals surrounded by a dense cloud of intelligence officers sleuthing each other."
The book was immediately withdrawn and all remaining copies were destroyed. Mackenzie was fined £100 for breaching the Official Secrets Act. Mackenzie's actions were now monitored by MI5. One agent claimed that he was overhead telling a journalist from the Daily Telegraph that MI5 was an inefficient organization and that Vernon Kell and his staff were incompetent.
In 1935 Dick White, an MI5 officer, had a meeting with Jona Ustinov, the press attaché working with the German ambassador, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ustinov identified anti-Nazis in Germany that could be persuaded to become British agents. White visited Nazi Germany and began to recruit German agents in preparation for the likely war between the two countries.
In 1930 Maxwell Knight recruited Olga Grey. Although only 19 she joined the Friends of the Soviet Union. She soon gained the confidence of Percy Glading, a member of the Communist Party. In 1937 Glading asked Grey to find a safe house. This became a meeting place for Glading and Theodore Maly, a Soviet intelligence officer. Glading also arranged for several people working at Woolwich Aresnal, to take pictures of blueprints of weapons being developed. On 14th May, 1938, Glading, Albert Williams and George Whomack were convicted under the Official Secrets Act.
When Joseph Stalin instigated the Great Purges in 1936, known critics of Stalin, including the Soviet agent, Ignace Reiss were murdered by KGB agents. Walter Krivitsky, one of the most senior Soviet intelligence officers in Europe decided to defect. He managed to escape to Canada where he lived under the cover name of Walter Thomas. Krivitsky eventually contacted the FBI and gave details of 61 Soviet agents working in Britain.
In 1939 Walter Krivitsky was brought to London to be interviewed by Dick White and Guy Liddell of MI5. Krivitsky did not know the names of these agents but described one as being a journalist who had worked for a British newspaper during the Spanish Civil War. Another was described as "a Scotsman of good family, educated at Eton and Oxford, and an idealist who worked for the Russians without payment." These descriptions fitted Kim Philby and Donald Maclean. However, White and Liddle were not convinced by Krivitsky's testimony and his leads were not followed up.
Walter Krivitsky was found dead in the Bellevue Hotel in Washington on 10th February, 1941. At first it was claimed that Krivitsky had committed suicide. However, others claimed his hiding place had been disclosed by a Soviet mole working for MI5 and had been murdered by Soviet agents.
During the early stages of the war with Germany Vernon Kell agreed to establish a double-cross operation organized by Dick White. Arthur Owen, an agent working for Abwehr, was arrested and he eventually agreed to become a double-agent. As well as sending false information to Nazi Germany, Owen also kept White informed about the arrival of German agents in Britain. Between September and November 1940, a total of 21 German agents were arrested by Special Branch officers.
MI5 also recruited a large number of part-time agents during the war including Anthony Blunt, Goronwy Rees, Victor Rothschild, Alan P. Herbert and Ian Fleming. Over the next couple of years MI5 grew to 570 officers and staff. MI5 also moved its headquarters from Horseferry Road to Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.
During the war MI5 had responsibility for dealing with enemy aliens (Germans and Italians living in Britain). This included around 60,000 German refugees that had entered Britain in the 1930s. These were mainly Jews and left-wing opponents of Adolf Hitler who had escaped from Nazi Germany.
In 1939 police arrested a large number of Germans living in Britain. The government feared that these people might be Nazi spies pretending to be refugees. They were interned and held in various camps all over Britain. Like other refugees they were eventually appeared before tribunals which classified them into three different groups. 'A' class aliens were interned, whereas 'B' class aliens were allowed to leave the camps but had certain restrictions placed upon their movements. The vast majority of refugees were identified as 'C' class aliens and were allowed to go free.
On 12th May, 1940, John Anderson, who was in charge of national security, ordered the arrests of over 2,000 male aliens living in coastal areas. A few days later all 'B' class aliens were rounded up and placed into internment camps.
The three largest internment camps were at Wharf Mills (Bury), Huyton (Liverpool) and on the Isle of Man. Others were sent to the prisons at Brixton and Holloway and to a camp at Kempton Park Racecourse. At Brixton several Jewish refugees were beaten up by interned members of the British Union of Fascists.
The conditions in these internment camps were often appalling. In some camps refugees and foreign aliens were housed in tents without mattresses. Men and women were sent to different camps and so husband and wives were separated. Internees were refused to right to read newspapers, listen to the radio or to receive letters. They were therefore unable to discover what had happened to family members. Several refugees who had fled to England to avoid persecution in Nazi Germany committed suicide in these camps.
In May 1940 Winston Churchill became prime minister. Six months later he sacked Vernon Kell, Director-General of MI5, and replaced him with David Petrie. Over the next four years Petrie brought in experts to form sections for dealing with different types of agent. He also established closer links with MI6, the Secret Service with responsibility for counterespionage outside Britain.
Petrie's reforms particularly benefited Guy Liddell and Dick White. As controllers of B division, they now managed MI5's most significant operations. One of B division's most important agents was Joan Miller, a member of various right-wing organizations. Miller eventually became very close to Archibald Ramsay, the leader of the Right Club. In 1939 Miller began to suspect that Ramsay was a German spy. Miller also believed that Anna Wolkoff, who ran the Russian Tea Room in South Kensington, the main meeting place for members of the Right Club, was also involved in espionage.
In February 1940, Anna Wolkoff met Tyler Kent, a cypher clerk from the American Embassy. He soon became a regular visitor to the Russian Tea Room where he met other members of the Right Club including Archibald Ramsay.
Kent was concerned that the American government wanted the United States to join the war against Germany. He said he had evidence of this as he had been making copies of the correspondence between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Kent invited Wolkoff and Ramsay back to his flat to look at these documents. This included secret assurances that the United States would support France if it was invaded by the German Army. Kent later argued that he had shown these documents to Ramsay in the hope that he would pass this information to American politicians hostile to Roosevelt.
On 13th April 1940 Anna Wolkoff went to Kent's flat and made copies of some of these documents. Joan Miller and Marjorie Amor were later to testify that these documents were then passed on to Duco del Monte, Assistant Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy. Soon afterwards, MI8, the wireless interception service, picked up messages between Rome and Berlin that indicated that Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence (Abwehr), now had copies of the Roosevelt-Churchill correspondence
Soon afterwards Wolkoff asked Joan Miller if she would use her contacts at the Italian Embassy to pass a coded letter to William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) in Germany. The letter contained information that he could use in his broadcasts on Radio Hamburg. Before passing the letter to her contacts, Miller showed it to Maxwell Knight, head of B5b, a unit that conducted the monitoring of political subversion.
On 18th May, Knight told Guy Liddell about the Right Club spy ring. Liddell immediately had a meeting with Joseph Kennedy, the American Ambassador in London. Kennedy agreed to waive Kent's diplomatic immunity and on 20th May, 1940, the Special Branch raided his flat. Inside they found the copies of 1,929 classified documents including secret correspondence between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Kent was also found in possession of what became known as Ramsay's Red Book. This book had details of the supporters of the Right Club and had been given to Kent for safe keeping.
Anna Wolkoff and Tyler Kent were arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act. The trial took place in secret and on 7th November 1940, Wolkoff was sentenced to ten years. Kent, because he was an American citizen, was treated less harshly and received only seven years. It is said that after being sentenced Wolkoff swore that she would get her revenge by killing Joan Miller.
In September 1945, a Russian diplomat, Constantin Volkhov, approached the British vice-consul in Istanbul with information about three Soviet agents working in the Foreign Office and the counterespionage service in London. Kim Philby was able to tell the KGB who quickly arrested Volkhov and took him back to the Soviet Union.
Also in September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Russian Legation, defected to the West claiming he had evidence of an Soviet spy ring based in Britain. The case was passed on to Philby . He suggested that Gouzenko should be interviewed by the MI% agent, Roger Hollis.
Gouzenko provided evidence that led to the arrest of 22 local agents and 15 Soviet spies in Canada. Information from Gouzenko also resulted in the arrest and conviction of Klaus Fuchs and Allan Nunn May. Gouzenko also claimed that there was a Soviet agent inside MI5. However, he was later to argue that Hollis showed little interest in this evidence. "The mistake in my opinion in dealing with this matter was that the task of finding the agent was given to MI5 itself. The results even beforehand could be expected to be nil."
Clement Attlee, Britain's new Labour Party prime minister, received information from sympathizers that MI5 was dominated by people with a right-wing agenda. It was even suggested that they might try and destabilize the government. He therefore decided in May 1946 to appoint an outsider, Sir Percy Sillitoe, the former chief constable of Sheffield and Glasgow, to replace David Petrie as head of MI5.
After the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948, Clement Attlee gave permission for MI5 to carry out surveillance of left-wing members of the House of Commons. Their mail was secretly opened and telephone taps were installed. It was also decided to continue the policy of Maxwell Knight in the 1930s of inserting agents into the Communist Party and the trade union movement.
In 1949 Kim Philby became the SIS liaison officer in Washington. The following year Stewart Menzies and John Sinclair discussed the possibility of Philby becoming the next Director General of MI6. Dick White was asked to produce a report on Philby. He asked Arthur Martin and Jane Archer to carry out an investigation into his past. They became concerned about how quickly changed from a communist sympathizer to a supporter of pro-fascist organizations. They also discovered that the description of the mole provided by Walter Krivitsky and Igor Gouzenko could be that of Philby. It was now decided that Philby could in fact be a double-agent.
When Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean defected in 1951 Philby became the chief suspect as the man who had tipped them off that they were being investigated. Under pressure from Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison, Stewart Menzies agreed that Philby should be interrogated by MI6. However, they cleared him of being part of a spy ring. However, the CIA insisted that he should be recalled to London. In September 1951 Philby officially resigned from MI6 but continued to work for the organization on a part-time basis.
When MI5 search Burgess's flat in London in 1951 they discovered papers written by John Cairncross. When interviewed by Jim Skardon admitted he had passed secret documents to Burgess. In order to avoid another scandal Cairncross was not prosecuted.
Guy Liddell was expected to succeed David Petrie as chief of MI5. However, Ellen Wilkinson, who served under Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary, had heard rumours from Europe that Liddell was suspected of being a double-agent. As a result, Liddell did not get the top job and instead became Deputy Director-General. Sillitoe eventually retired in 1953 and was replaced by Sir Dick White.
White's major innovation was the creation of F Branch. This section infiltrated every left-wing organization in Britain including the Labour Party, the trade unions, the peace movement and student unions. White appointed Alexander Kellar as the director of F Branch. Keller, a former president of the National Union of Students, suggested that MI5 should recruit British students and trade unionists. These people were then told to express views sympathetic to communism in the hope that they would be recruited as Soviet agents.
David Maxwell-Fyfe, the home secretary, told Sir Dick White to "wage war on the communists and crypto-communists". In 1955 Hugh Winterton of MI5 organized the burglary of a flat occupied by a senior Communist Party official. During the operation MI5 agents were able to photograph files detailing the party's entire 55,000 membership.
On 23rd October, 1955, the newspaper, New York Sunday News, reported that Kim Philby was a Soviet spy. Two days later Marcus Lipton asked Anthony Eden in the House of Commons: "Has the prime minister made up his mind to cover up at all costs the dubious third-man activities of Mr. Harold Philby". Eden refused to reply but, Harold Macmillan, the foreign secretary, issued a statement a couple of days later: "While in government service he (Philby) carried out his duties ably and conscientiously, and I have no reason to conclude that Mr Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called 'Third Man', if indeed there was one."
Philby now called a press conference where he denied he was a spy. He added that "I have never been a communist and the last time I spoke to a communist knowing he was one, was in 1934". Philby accused Lipton of lying and challenged him to repeat his claims outside the protection of the House of Commons. Lipton was forced to issue a statement where he withdrew his comments. Philby now moved to the Middle East where he worked as a foreign correspondent for The Observer and the The Economist. He also continued to work as a part-time agent for MI6.
In December 1961, Anatoli Golitsin, a KGB agent, working in Finland, defected to the CIA. He was immediately flown to the United States and lodged in a safe house called Ashford Farm near Washington. Interviewed by James Angleton, Golitsin supplied information about a large number of Soviet agents working in the West.
In these interviews Golitsin argued that as the KGB would be so concerned about his defection, they would attempt to convince the CIA that the information he was giving them would be completely unreliable. He predicted that the KGB would send false defectors with information that contradicted what he was saying.
In June 1962 Yuri Nosenko made contact with the CIA in Geneva. He was deputy chief of the Seventh Department of the KGB. His main responsibility was the recruitment of foreign spies. He like Golitsin, provided evidence that John Vassall was a Soviet agent. However, most of his evidence undermined that given by Golitsin. This included Golitsin's claim that a senior figure in the Admiralty was a spy.
Arthur Martin, head of MI5's D1 Section, went to to interview Anatoli Golitsin in America. Golitsin provided evidence that suggested that Kim Philby had been a member of a Ring of Five agents based in Britain. The same spy ring that had included Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean.
Philby was questioned once more by MI6 about being a Soviet agent. Aware that he was in danger of being arrested, on 23rd January, 1963, Philby fled to the Soviet Union. In his book, My Silent War (1968), Philby admitted that he had been a Soviet spy for over thirty years.
Anthony Blunt also confessed his crimes but was granted immunity from prosecution and continued as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures. Blunt was not exposed as a spy until 1979.
In July 1963, Golitsin travelled to London to be interviewed by Arthur Martin. Soon afterwards a senior MI5 officer leaked information to British newspapers that they were interviewing a KGB defector in London. As soon as this story appeared in the press, Golitsin returned to the United States and refused to give any more information to MI5.
When back in Washington Golitsin was interviewed once more by Angleton. Golitsin provided information that suggested Hugh Gaitskell had been murdered in January 1963 to allow Harold Wilson, a KGB agent, to become leader of the Labour Party. Angleton believed Golitsin but few senior members of the CIA agreed with him. They pointed out that Gaitskell had died after Golitsin had left the Soviet Union and would have had to know in advance what was about to take place.
Golitsin also suggested that W. Averell Harriman had been a Soviet spy, while he was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Angleton was convinced by this story as he knew someone was involved in spying during the negotiations that took place between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. However, other CIA officers thought the story ridiculous and Harriman was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as ambassador-at-large for Southeast Asian affairs.
In January 1964 Yuri Nosenko contacted the CIA and said he had changed his mind and was now willing to defect to the United States. He claimed that he had been recalled to Moscow to be interrogated. Nosenko feared that the KGB had discovered he was a double-agent and once back in the Soviet Union would be executed. Nosenko also claimed that he had important information about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He insisted that although Lee Harvey Oswald had lived in the Soviet Union he was not a KGB agent.
Nosenko arrived in the United States on 14th February, 1964. However, soon afterwards, Nosenko was undermined by the US National Security Agency who had been monitoring communications between Moscow and Geneva. It discovered that Nosenko had lied about being recalled to the Soviet Union. Nosenko was now taken to a CIA detention cell and after extensive interrogation he admitted the story about him being recalled was untrue.
James Angleton believed that Anatoli Golitsin was a genuine double-agent but argued that Yuri Nosenko was part of a disinformation campaign. However, some MI5 officers believed Nosenko and considered Golitsin was a fake.
In January 1964 Arthur Martin interviewed Michael Straight, an American who had studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. While at university he became friends with Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. Straight claimed that Blunt had tried to recruit him to become a Soviet spy.
Arthur Martin and Jim Skardon had interviewed Blunt eleven times since 1951. Martin, now armed with Straight's story, went to see Blunt again. This time he made a confession. He admitted being a Soviet agent and named John Cairncross, Peter Ashby, Brian Symon and Leo Long as spies he had recruited. Cairncross was now interviewed by MI5 and made a full confession in return for not being prosecuted.
Martin was disappointed when it was discovered that Roger Hollis and the British government had decided not to put Anthony Blunt on trial. Martin once again began to argue that there was still a Soviet spy working at the centre of MI5. Hollis thought Martin's suggestion was highly damaging to the organization and ordered Martin to be suspended from duty.
After his suspension had ended, Arthur Martin, along with Martin Furnival Jones and Peter Wright, went to see Dick White, head of MI6. They told White that they were convinced that either Hollis or his deputy, Graham Mitchell, were Soviet agents. White contacted Hollis and it was agreed that Mitchell should be kept under constant surveillance. Hollis was also investigated but no evidence was found and he was officially cleared of being a spy.
In 1964 Roger Hollis ordered the investigation into Graham Mitchell should be brought to an end. Martin protested by accusing Hollis of protecting Mitchell. Hollis was furious and took his revenge by replacing Arthur Martin with Ronald Symonds as head of DI (Investigations). Soon afterwards Martin was sacked from MI5. When Dick White heard the news he offered Martin a job with MI6. However, Martin's career as MI5's chief investigating officer had come to an end.
In 1968 Peter Wright was involved with Cecil King, the publisher of the Daily Mirror and a MI5 agent, in a plot to bring down Wilson's government and replace it with a coalition led by Lord Mountbatten. The conspiracy failed and King was forced to resign as chairman of International Publishing Corporation.
Roger Hollis retired in 1965 and was replaced as Director-General by Martin Furnival Jones. He held office until Michael Hanley took over in 1972. According to Peter Wright Hanley told his officers that the prime minister, Edward Heath, had ordered the service to target left-wing politicians.
When Harold Wilson returned to power in 1974 Peter Wright once again became involved in a plot against the Labour government. It was suggested that MI5 files on Wilson should be leaked to the press. Eventually Victor Rothschild persuaded Wright not to take part in the conspiracy. Rothschild warned him that he was likely to get a caught and if that happened he would lose his job and pension.
In 1975 Harold Wilson discovered that MI5 agents were involved in a smear campaign against him. When Hanley was interviewed by Wilson he claimed that this plot only involved a small group of "disaffected right-wing officers". When James Callaghan took office he replaced Hanley with an outsider, the diplomat Howard Smith.
In his retirement Peter Wright wrote an account of his work at MI5. Despite attempts by Margaret Thatcher and her government to suppress the publication and distribution of the book, Spycatcher, was published in 1987. In the book Wright claimed that Roger Hollis had been a Soviet double-agent and had been the fifth man in the spy ring that included Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt.
Other allegations in Wright's book included attempts by MI6 to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser during the Suez Canal Crisis and a conspiracy by MI5 to overthrow the government of Harold Wilson between 1974 and 1976.
In November 1979, Goronwy Rees, gave a deathbed confession that he had been a Soviet spy. He also claimed that Guy Liddell was also a traitor and had been part of the Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt spy ring.
Howard Smith retired as Director General of MI5 in 1981. He was followed by John Jones (1981-85), Anthony Duff (1985-88), Patrick Walker (1988-91) and Stella Rimmington (1991-96).
The Daily Mail carried the story of the Zinoviev letter. The whole thing was neatly timed to catch the Sunday papers and with polling day following hard on the weekend there was no chance of an effective rebuttal, unless some word came from MacDonald himself, and he was down in his constituency in Wales. Without hesitation I went on the platform and denounced the whole thing as a forgery, deliberately planted on, or by, the Foreign Office to discredit the Prime Minister.
The outstanding feature of the general election of 1924 in the country as a whole was the Zinoviev letter. This purported to be a document written by a prominent member of the Communist Party in Russia, and, if authentic, certainly did not make pleasant reading for the friends of the Soviet Government in this country. A copy of it was printed in one of the Conservative newspapers at the eve of the poll. The publication was a bombshell for Labour candidates everywhere. Many were defeated, and only 151 secured re-election to the House of Commons.
After the ARCOS raid in London in 1928, where MI5 smashed a large part of the Russian espionage apparatus in a police raid, the Russians concluded that their legal residences, the embassies, consulates, and the like, were unsafe as centers for agent running. From then onward their agents were controlled by the "great illegals," men like Theodore Maly, Deutsch, "Otto," Richard Sorge, Alexander Rado, "Sonia," Leopold Trepper, the Piecks, the Poretskys, and Krivitsky. They were often not Russians at all, although they held Russian citizenship. They were Trotskyist Communists who believed in international Communism and the Comintern. They worked undercover, often at great personal risk, and traveled throughout the world in search of potential recruits. They were the best recruiters and controllers the Russian Intelligence Service ever had. They all knew each other, and between them they recruited and built high-grade spy rings like the "Ring of Five" in Britain, Sorge's rings in China and Japan, the Rote Drei in Switzerland, and the Rote Kapelle in German-occupied Europe - the finest espionage rings history has ever known, and which contributed enormously to Russian survival and success in World War II.
In 1938 Stalin purged all his great illegals. They were Trotskyists and non-Russians and he was convinced they were plotting against him, along with elements in the Red Army. One by one they were recalled to Moscow and murdered. Most went willingly, fully aware of the fate that awaited them, perhaps hoping that they could persuade the demented tyrant of the great services they had rendered him in the West. Some like Krivitsky, decided to defect, although even he was almost certainly eventually murdered by a Russian assassin in Washington in 1941.
Bill Younger had been an MIS agent since his Oxford days, when M (Maxwell Knight) had recruited him to check up on some undergraduates propagating a rather noisy brand of pacificism in the wake of the celebrated motion passed at an Oxford Union debate that 'this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country'.
From two independent sources we learn that the activity of the Right Club is centred principally upon the contacting of sympathisers, especially among officers in the armed services, and the spreading by personal talks of the Club's ideals. There is talk of a military coup d'etat, but there seems to be lack of agreement among members on the question of leadership. Sir Oswald Mosley they regard with suspicion.
These individuals are agreed in their hatred of Jewry and their conviction that Jews are responsible for the 'misunderstanding' between Germany and Britain, and are the instigators of the present war. There is, however, a wide range of views among them as to their own action now that the country is actually at war. Whilst very few are willing to bear arms against Germany, the majority feel that nothing should be done which might prejudice this country's interests and that they should play their part in civilian defence and humanitarian work, striving at the same time to enlighten those with whom they come into contact as to the 'real' nature of the factors which brought about the war.
Captain Ramsay MP has expressed himself as willing to continue his anti-Jewish propaganda and has enlisted the support of the above mentioned.
He intends to proceed on two lines:
(a) The distribution among MPs; in clubs; in the Services, of a carefully prepared memorandum or leaflet aimed at refuting the Prime Minister's statement that Hitler cannot be trusted, dealing with the issues of Austria, Bohemia and Poland and designed throughout to show that World Jewry are the instigators of the war.
(b) Leaflets and adhesive labels bearing purely anti-Semitic propaganda. It is intended that these latter shall be printed secretly and distributed during the night.
Captain Ramsay has been in touch with Sir Oswald Mosley with a view to arriving at a basis for cooperation, and it is reliably reported that the two have reached agreement. In this connection two articles which appeared in the current issue [16 September] of 'Action', headed 'Peace Aims' and 'War Aims' respectively, may be significant - they are framed on very similar lines to those of Ramsay's proposed memorandum.
The Right Club, which bore certain similarities to Admiral Sir Barry Domvile's organization, the Link had been founded in 1938 by Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay, Unionist member for Peebles since 1931 Its members - about three hundred altogether, peers and MPs included-professed a belief in the ideal of an Anglo-German fellowship, as well as nurturing vigorous anti-Semitic feelings. Captain Ramsay was a friend of Sir Oswald Mosley. The Ramsays had a house in Onslow Square, but the club usually held its meetings in a flat above a little restaurant in South Kensington. This restaurant was the Russian Tea Rooms.
Early in 1940 M (Maxwell Knight) decided I was ready to go ahead with the task he had set me. I had already met FRS Aims (Marjorie Hackie) one of the other agents involved in the business (a Casey middle-aged lady who will always remind me of Miss Maple), and it was arranged that she should take me along to the tea-shop one evening, presenting me as a friend other son who was serving with the RJR. The restaurant was on the corner of Herringbone Gardens, directly opposite South Kensington tube station. It was owned and run by an émigré White Russian admiral and his wife and daughter. These people, whose name was Wolkoff, had been dispossessed as a consequence of the Bolshevik revolution - Admiral Wolkoff had been the Tsar's naval attaché in London at the time - and understandably took a fervent anti-Communist line Anna, the daughter, in particular, had come to revere the policies of Nazi Germany. From its inception, she had been among the leading activists of the Right Club.
Liddell was a towering figure in the story of MI5. He joined in 1927, from the Special Branch, where he almost single handedly ran a Soviet counterespionage program. He controlled MI5 counterespionage throughout the war with determination and elan, and was the outstanding candidate for the Director-General's chair in 1946. But Attlee appointed a policeman. Sir Percy Sillitoe, instead, almost certainly as a snub to MI5, which he suspected of engineering the Zinoviev letter in 1929. Liddell soldiered on under Sillitoe, barely able to contain his bitterness, only to fall foul of the Burgess/Maclean scandal in 1951. He had been friendly with Burgess for many years, and when Burgess went, so too did whatever chances Liddell still had for the top job. He retired soon after, heartbroken, to the Atomic Energy Commission.
We have had Fuchs' activities under intensive investigation for more than four months. Since it has been generally agreed that Fuchs' continued employment is a constant threat to security and since our elaborate investigation has produced no dividends, I should be grateful if you would be kind enough to arrange for Fuchs' departure from Harwell as soon as is decently possible.
He was obviously under considerable mental stress. I suggested that he should unburden his mind and clear his conscience by telling me the full story. He (Fuchs) said: 'I will never be persuaded by you to talk." At this stage we went to lunch. During the meal he seemed to be resolving the matter and to be considerably abstracted... He suggested that we should hurry back to his house. On arrival he said that he had decided it would be in his best interests to answer my questions. I then put certain questions to him and in reply he told me that he was engaged in espionage from mid 1942 until about a year ago. He said there was a continuous passing of information relating to atomic energy at irregular but frequent meetings.
I was a student in Germany when Hitler came to power. I joined the Communist Party because I felt I had to be in some organization. I was in the underground until I left Germany. The Communist Party said that I must finish my studies because after the revolution in Germany people would be required with technical knowledge to take part in the building of the Communist Germany. I went first to France and then to England, where I studied and at the same time I tried to make a serious study of the bases of Marxist philosophy.
I had my doubts for the first time (August, 1939) on acts of foreign policies of Russia; the Russo-German pact was difficult to understand, but in the end I did accept that Russia had done it to gain time, that during the time she was expanding her own influence in the Balkans against the influence of Germany.
Shortly after my release (from detention as an enemy alien) I was asked to help Professor Peierls in Birmingham, on some war work. When I learned the purpose of the work I decided to inform Russia and I established contact through another member of the Communist Party. Since that time I have had continuous contact with the persons who were completely unknown to me, except that I knew they would hand whatever information I gave them to the Russian authorities. At that time I had complete confidence in Russian policy and I believed that the Western Allies deliberately allowed Russia and Germany to fight each other to the death. I had therefore, no hesitation in giving all the information I had, even though occasionally I tried to concentrate mainly on giving information about the results of my own work.
There is nobody I know by name who is concerned with collecting information for the Russian authorities. There are people whom I know by sight whom I trusted with my life.
Taking the line that it was almost inconceivable that anyone like Burgess, who courted the limelight instead of avoiding it, and was generally notorious for indiscretion, could have been a secret agent, let alone a Soviet agent from whom strictest security standards would be required. I did not expect this line to be in any way convincing as to the facts of the case; but I hoped it would give the impression that I was implicitly defending myself against the unspoken charge that I, a trained counter-espionage officer, had been completely fooled by Burgess. Of Maclean, I disclaimed all knowledge.... As I had only met him twice, for about half an hour in all and both times on a conspiratorial basis, since 1937, I felt that I could safely indulge in this slight distortion of the truth.
I cannot deny that during my first few weeks as head of MI5, I found it so extremely difficult to find out precisely what everyone was doing that I felt its popular reputation for excessive secrecy was in no way exaggerated. The men I was attempting to direct were highly intelligent, but somewhat introspective, each working ... in a rather withdrawn isolation.
He (Dick White) was the anonymous director of an organisation governed by a three-page charter but without any status in law. This absence of legal status was an anomaly, setting MI5 apart from the security services of every other country in the world, whether democracy or dictatorship, but it was justified and even envied as a source of strength. Denied any legal powers, White was nevertheless authorised, in the interests of the nation's security, to pry into the affairs of every individual in the land. The limitations of his authority depended upon his own self-discipline, the animus of his political masters and his taking care to avoid public exposure. "I could only advise ministers on risks to security. The decision to take action was the politicians." Under his control were experts in - lock-picking, burglary, telephone-tapping, placing bugs, opening sealed letters, organising surveillance, photographing targets in compromising circumstances and blackmailers.
Improperly used, his signature - even his nod of approval - could disturb relationships, careers and lives without any redress for those afflicted. Although in theory his officers required signed authorisation to break into homes, eavesdrop and breach confidentialities, in practice he knew that there was a higher law: thou shall not get caught. Unaccountable to the public, MI5 understood that those in Whitehall whose job was to safeguard the national interest approved of MI5's surreptitious activities.
In the 1930s a number of young men at Cambridge University were recruited as Soviet spies. They became known by the KGB as the 'magnificent five' but were better known in Britain as the Cambridge spy ring.
They were not motivated by financial gain but by the belief that capitalism was corrupt and that the Soviet Union offered a better model for society.
The Cambridge spy ring was informally led by Harold 'Kim' Philby. He and his friends later moved into jobs in British Intelligence and the Foreign Office where they had access to top secret information. They spent their working lives passing valuable information to the Soviet Union.
Roger Hollis was never a popular figure in the office. He was a dour, uninspiring man with an off-putting authoritarian manner. I must confess I never liked him. But even those who were well disposed doubted his suitability for the top job. Hollis, like Cumming, had forged a close friendship with Dick White in the prewar days. For all his brilliance, Dick always had a tendency to surround himself with less able men. I often felt it was latent insecurity, perhaps wanting the contrast to throw his talents into sharper relief. But while Hollis was brighter by a good margin than Cumming, particularly in the bureaucratic arts, I doubt whether even Dick saw him as a man of vision and intellect.
Hollis believed that M15 should remain a small security support organization, collecting files, maintaining efficient vetting and protective security, without straying too far into areas like counterespionage, where active measures needed to be taken to get results, and where choices had to be confronted and mistakes could be made. I never heard Hollis express views on the broad policies he wanted MI5 to pursue, or ever consider adapting MI5 to meet the increasing tempo of the intelligence war. He was not a man to think in that kind of way. He had just one simple aim, which he doggedly pursued throughout his career. He wanted to ingratiate the Service, and himself, with Whitehall. And that meant ensuring there were no mistakes, even at the cost of having no successes.
I am haunted and burdened by what I know of official secrets, especially by the content of high-level Anglo-American conversations. The British Government, whom I have served, have betrayed the realm to Americans ... I wish to enable my beloved country to escape from the snare which faithless politicians have set ... I have decided that I can discharge my duty to my country only through prompt disclosure of this material to Stalin.
Mr Philby had been a friend of Burgess from the time when they were fellow undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge. Burgess had been accommodated with Philby and his family at the latter's home in Washington from August 1950 to April 1951 . . . and, of course, it will be remembered that at no time before he fled was Burgess under suspicion. It is now known that Mr Philby had Communist associates during and after his university days. In view of the circumstances, he was asked in July 1951 to resign from the Foreign Service. Since that date his case has been the subject of close investigation. No evidence has been found ... to show that he was responsible for warning Burgess or Maclean. While in government service he carried out his duties ably and conscientiously, and I have no reason to conclude that Mr Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called "Third Man', if indeed there was one.
It was considered important to gain Blunt's cooperation in the continuing investigations by the security authorities, following the defections of Burgess, Maclean and Philby, into Soviet penetration of the security and intelligence services and other public services during and after the war. Accordingly the Attorney-General authorized the offer of immunity to Blunt if he confessed. The Queen's Private Secretary was informed both of Blunt's confession and of the immunity from prosecution, on the basis of which it had been made. Blunt was not required to resign his appointment in the Royal Household, which was unpaid. It carried with it no access to classified information and no risk to security and the security authorities thought it desirable not to put at risk his cooperation.
If there actually was such a fifth man, the pool of serious candidates, with the requisite access and seniority, is very small. Indeed, it probably consists of no more than three people.
One is Guy Liddell, who was the deputy director general of MI5 from 1947 until he retired, in 1952. He, Burgess, and Blunt were friends, and Liddell was very much a part of the hothouse wartime circle revolving around Victor Rothschild's 5 Bentinck Street flat, in which Burgess and Blunt both lived. During the war Liddell ran MI5's counterespionage division, where Anthony Blunt was his personal assistant. Philby had a high regard for Liddell, whom he described in My Silent War - with Empsonian ambiguity - as "an ideal senior officer for a young man to learn from." In 1944 Liddell assisted Philby in the successful bureaucratic knifing of Philby's then superior, Felix Cowgill, so that Philby could become the head of SIS's expanding counterintelligence effort (which Philby terms his "Fulfillment"). Liddell, however, was greatly admired, professionally and personally, and has many staunch defenders. These include Sir Dick White, Philby's nemesis in both MI5 and MI6, both of which White headed, and Peter Wright (of Spycatcher fame), one of the most avid of all mole-hunters.
The two others are Graham Mitchell and Sir Roger Hollis. In 1951 Mitchell was in charge of counterespionage; he became deputy director general of MI5 (under Hollis) in 1956 and retired in 1963. He drafted the patently mendacious, demonstrably erroneous 1955 white paper on the Burgess-Maclean defection. On the strength of that document the Foreign Secretary, Harold Macmillan, gave Philby what the latter would call the happiest day of his life by publicly affirming Philby's innocence in the House of Commons - declaring, in a statement that Mitchell helped draft, that Philby was not the third man ("if indeed, there was one"). Hollis became deputy in 1953 and moved up in 1956 to be director general until his retirement, in 1965. Mitchell and Hollis were the subject of a series of investigations during the 1960s. Both were eventually declared innocent of any wrongdoing.
I remember Arthur came to my office the day it happened, steely quiet.
"They've sacked me," he said simply. "Roger's given me two days to clear my desk." In fact, he was taken on straightaway by MI6, at Dick White's insistence and over Hollis' protests. But although this transfer saved Arthur's pension, his career was cut off in its prime.
I could scarcely believe it. Here was the finest counterespionage officer in the world, a man at that time with a genuine international reputation for his skill and experience, sacked for the pettiest piece of bureaucratic bickering. This was the man who since 1959 had built Dl from an utterly ineffectual section into a modern, aggressive, and effective counterespionage unit. It was still grossly undermanned, it was true, but that was no fault of Arthur's.
Arthur's great flaw was naiveté. He never understood the extent to which he had made enemies over the years. His mistake was to assume that advancement would come commensurately with achievement. He was an ambitious man, as he had every right to be. But his was not the ambition of petty infighting. He wanted to slay the dragons and fight the beasts outside, and could never understand why so few of his superiors supported him in his simple approach. He was temperamental, he was obsessive, and he was often possessed by peculiar ideas, but the failure of MI5 to harness his temperament and exploit his great gifts is one of the lasting indictments of the organization.
Much of the effort made by Macmillan and his government to blanket the horrific details of Blake's treachery was to conceal from the British public the inefficiency which had allowed such a spy to operate for so long inside the Secret Service. The main objective, however, was to conceal the facts from the US Congress, after the Fuchs and Maclean cases had already done so much damage to the reputation of Britain as a safe ally with whom to share secrets.
Mention interrogations, and most people imagine grueling sessions under blazing lamps: men in shirt-sleeves wearing down a sleep-deprived suspect with aggressive questioning until finally he collapses sobbing on the floor, admitting the truth. The reality is much more prosaic. MI5 interrogations are orderly affairs, usually conducted between 9:30 A.M. and 5 P.M. with a break for lunch.
So why do so many spies confess? The secret is to achieve superiority over the man sitting across the table. This was the secret of Skardon's success as an interrogator. Although we mocked him years later for his willingness to clear suspects we subsequently learned to have been spies, he was genuinely feared by Blunt and other members of the Ring of Five. But his superiority in the interrogation room was not based on intellect or physique. Mainly, of course, it was the devastating briefs provided for him by Arthur Martin and Evelyn McBarnet which convinced men like Fuchs that Skardon knew them better than they knew themselves. It was not only the briefs that helped Skardon but also the skill of the eavesdroppers. In the Fuchs case, Skardon was convinced that he was innocent until they pointed out where Fuchs had lied. This information enabled Skardon to break him. But Skardon himself played an important role too. He epitomized, in his manner, the world of sensible English middle-class values - tea in the afternoon: and lace curtains - so much so that it was impossible for those he interrogated to ever see him as the embodiment of capitalist iniquity, and thus they were thrown off balance from the very start.
The MI5 technique is an imperfect system. But like trial by jury, it is the best yet devised. It has the virtue of enabling a man, if he has I nothing to hide, and has the resilience to bear the strain, to clear himself. But its disadvantage is that hidden blemishes on an innocent; man's record can often come to the surface during intensive investigation and render continued service impossible. It is a little like medieval justice: sometimes innocence can be proved only at the cost of a career.
We all know about the Zinoviev letter, which led to the downfall of the first Labour Government in 1924. It is now believed to have been produced by two Russian emigres who were working in Berlin. They passed the forgery to an MI5 officer, Donald Thurn. Once in the hands of MI5, senior officials realised that its details of an alleged communist plot would be a devastating blow to the Labour Government in the closing days of the election campaign. MI5 leaked the letter to a Tory Member of Parliament and former intelligence officer, Sir Reginald Hall. It also leaked it to Tory central office and the Daily Mail, which obligingly ran it on its front page.
In the run-up to the 1929 election, the links between MI5 and the Tory party were renewed. The head of MI5's investigation branch, Major Joseph Ball, was employed by Conservative central office to run agents inside the Labour party. After the election, Ball was rewarded with the directorship of the Tories' research department.
The major problems inside MI5 concern its relationship with the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. As the Minister responsible for trade in the Attlee Government, he attempted to increase exports to the USSR. He constantly ran up against United States Government opposition towards any growth in such trade. Wilson felt that the United States used the hysteria of the cold war to prevent Britain from increasing its trade with the USSR. His was not a position that was likely to be viewed with favour in MI5. In fact, there was near hysteria in MI5 when he was sent to the USSR to negotiate the sale of 20 advanced jet engines. Wilson was only a junior Minister carrying out a Cabinet decision, but from that point on he was viewed with suspicion by MI5 officers.
When the unexpected death of Hugh Gaitskell led to the election of Wilson in 1963, MI5 immediately tried to recruit Wilson's campaign manager, George Caunt, to spy on the Labour leader. Shortly before the 1964 election, the FBI told MI5 that it had discovered a KGB mole who had been operating inside MI5 in the key post-war period. The fact that Sir Anthony Blunt was a KGB agent and had close connections with the Queen was certain to create a spy scandal as damaging as that of Kim Philby. Even worse for MI5 was the knowledge that it had been tipped off about Blunt's spying a decade earlier and had failed to take action. It now feared that Wilson would use the opportunity of the scandal to dismember its organisation. Sir Roger Hollis, then director-general of MI5, and Arthur Martin, head of the counter-espionage department, decided on a cover-up and did not even tell the outgoing Tory Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. Instead, Blunt was granted immunity and was interrogated by Peter Wright, who made the position clear in Spycatcher, when he wrote: "We had strict orders from successive Director-Generals to do nothing that might provoke Blunt to go public." All that was concealed from Wilson when he became Prime Minister, and he was also not informed when Hollis and his deputy, Graham Mitchell, eventually came under suspicion as KGB moles.
Other news was kept from Wilson. In 1961, Anatoli Golitsin, a KGB defector, had arrived in the USA with all sorts of wild allegations few of which yielded anything of substance except the identity of the Admiralty spy, John Vassall. By coincidence, shortly after Wilson's election as Leader of the Opposition, Golitsin was sent to Britain to be interviewed by MI5. His agreed fee was £10,000 a month - £70,000 at today's prices - which was a considerable incentive to keep the interest of his MI5 hosts. Although he had made no mention of it during his two-year interrogation in the USA, Golitsin now told MI5 that he had heard of a KGB plot to kill the leader of a west European political party so that its man could take over. That was all that Peter Wright and other extreme right-wingers inside MI5 needed to confirm the suspicions that had been hanging around ever since the jet engine trade deal and Wilson's annual visits to the USSR while in opposition. They believed that the assassinated party leader had to be Gaitskell.
Oblivious to the suspicions of MI5 and the CIA, the new Labour Prime Minister Wilson issued instructions that MI5 was to stop tapping the telephones of Members of Parliament, although it never occurred to him that MI5 could continue to get access to the information gleaned from taps on Members of Parliament run by the CIA or GCHQ. He also instructed that MI5 should stop using Members as agents without knowing that one Tory Member, Captain Henry Kerby, had been used by MI5 to ingratiate himself with Wilson's shadow Cabinet colleague George Wigg by spying on the Tory party for Wigg. It gives one great encouragement that such people might have a greater role in law enforcement in the future.
The instructions from Wilson caused deep resentment inside MI5, where some officers retaliated by leaking damaging bits of gossip about members of Wilson's Government from MI5 files to the press. That was of course a breach of the Official Secrets Act 1911, but no one has ever been prosecuted.
MI5 believed that seven members of Wilson's Government and three other Labour Members of Parliament were either spies or at the very least security risks. Only one of those 10, Will Owen, the Member of Parliament for Morpeth, eventually turned out to be guilty. He had been taking £500 a month from Czechoslovakian intelligence in exchange for low-grade information that it could most probably have got cheaper by buying Hansard and reading the quality press. All the other names on MI5's list were completely innocent, but that did not stop MI5, in particular Peter Wright, hounding Bernard Floud, who had been devastated by the death of his wife. MI5 pursued him until he finally committed suicide in a moment of despair.
When Treasury Minister Niall MacDermot had his promotion to the Cabinet blocked following MI5 pressure on Wilson, he resigned from politics in disgust. The other seven Members on MI5's list were John Diamond, Tom Driberg, Judith Hart, Stephen Swingler, John Stonehouse, Barnet Stross and, of course, Wilson.
The MI5-inspired rumours about Wilson eventually reached the ears of former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who asked James Scott-Hopkins, a former MI6 officer who had become a Tory Member of Parliament, to conduct his own investigation to discover whether there was any danger of Wilson's being blackmailed.
In the summer of 1967, people from MI5 met people from the CIA, the FBI and the Australian and New Zealand security services in Melbourne, Australia, where they were addressed by Golitsin about his Wilson allegations.
Matters began to hot up when the press baron Cecil King, a long-standing MI5 agent, began to discuss the need for a coup against the Wilson Government. King informed Peter Wright that the Daily Mirror would publish any damaging anti-Wilson leaks that MI5 wanted aired, and at a meeting with Lord Mountbatten and the Government's chief scientific adviser, Solly Zuckerman, he urged Mountbatten to become the leader of a Government of national salvation. Lucky old Britain. Zuckerman pointed out that that was treason, and left the meeting. The idea came to nothing because of Mountbatten's reluctance to act.
The late Harold Wilson was not the only one under suspicion. While the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) was Leader of the Opposition, the Tory Member of Parliament, Captain Henry Kerby - as I have explained, he was an MI5 agent who had ingratiated himself with George Wigg - was used to spread rumours that the right hon. Gentleman was a homosexual who had had an affair with a Swedish diplomat.
Doubts about the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup were not confined to the more extreme elements who clustered round Peter Wright. The newly appointed head of MI5, Mr. Hanley - otherwise known as Jumbo - did not inform the right hon. Gentleman that investigations were taking place to try to determine whether Sir Roger Hollis had been a KGB agent.
The head of MI5 did not inform the Leader of the Opposition of MI5's doubts about Wilson, either, or reveal the contents of the file on Wilson that he had inherited from his predecessor, Furnival Jones, and which was kept in his safe, filed under the name "Henry Worthington".
The second factor that increased MI5's alarm at the time was the rise in trade union militancy and the swing to the left in the Labour party. Any pretext that MI5 existed to catch Russian spies went right out of the window at that point. From 1972, there was a vast growth in the sections of MI5 that were involved with domestic surveillance.
Trade unionists, peace campaigners, Cabinet Ministers and political activists in their tens of thousands became the objects of illegal telephone taps and letter intercepts. Recruitment of agents on a scale not considered necessary even at the height of the cold war meant that, by the mid-1970s, even a small group of left-wingers meeting anywhere was likely to have an MI5 agent reporting back on its activities. By the end of the 1970s, 2 million British citizens had security files held on them by MI5.
A constant drip of innuendo about Wilson's loyalty was fed by MI5 to Private Eye, and Michael Halls, the liaison officer between No. 10 and MI5, considered Marcia Williams to be a security risk and funnelled damaging smears about her and Wilson to Private Eye. As Peter Wright put it in his book: "most people in MI5 didn't have a duty to Parliament. They have a duty to the Queen . . . It's up to us to stop Russians getting control of the British government."
Although it is easy to dismiss some of what I have described as the work of a lunatic fringe, the views of MI5 chief Sir Michael Hanley are well known. When he was asked at a seminar for junior MI5 officers what would happen if Michael Foot became Prime Minister, he replied: "I and every other officer in the service will have to consider our position."
Other officers in MI5 did not share Hanley's sense of resignation, and 30 MI5 officers, including Peter Wright, engaged, on Wright's own admission, in 23 criminal conspiracies and committed 12 acts of treason against the elected Government of the day.
Finally, what was happening came to the attention of Sir Maurice Oldfield, then head of MI6, who took Wright to dinner at Lockets restaurant in July 1975 and asked him about the extent of the plot in MI5 against Wilson. Having heard Wright out, Oldfield told him to put MI5 chief Hanley in the picture. This Wright did the next day, and in his book he says: "Hanley . . . went white as a sheet . . . he was learning that half of his staff were up to their necks in a plot to get rid of the Prime Minister."
When we consider that record, we realise that it involves more than one or two eccentrics such as Peter Wright, and that there is clearly a culture of extreme right-wing politics in MI5, which has been there throughout this century. Occasionally there are brought to the surface very deep links with individual Conservative Members of Parliament who have been able to use MI5, disinformation and black propaganda to damage Labour Members of Parliament and Governments.
Feelings had run high inside MI5 during 1968. There had been an effort to try to stir up trouble for Wilson then, largely because the Daily Mirror tycoon, Cecil King, who was a longtime agent of ours, made it clear that he would publish anything MI5 might care to leak in his direction. It was all part of Cecil King's "coup," which he was convinced would bring down the Labor Government and replace it with a coalition led by Lord Mountbatten.
I told F.J. (Martin Furnival Jones) in 1968 that feelings were running high, but he responded in a low-key manner.
"You can tell anyone who has ideas about leaking classified material that there will be nothing I can do to save them!"
He knew the message would get back.
But the approach in 1974 was altogether more serious. The plan was simple. In the run-up to the election which, given the level of instability in Parliament, must be due within a matter of months, MI5 would arrange for selective details of the intelligence about leading Labour Party figures, but especially Wilson, to be leaked to sympathetic pressmen. Using our contacts in the press and among union officials, word of the material contained in MI5 files and the fact that Wilson was considered a security risk would be passed around.
Soundings in the office had already been taken, and up to thirty officers had given their approval to the scheme. Facsimile copies of some files were to be made and distributed to overseas newspapers, and the matter was to be raised in Parliament for maximum effect. It was a carbon copy of the Zinoviev letter, which had done so much to destroy the first Ramsay MacDonald Government in 1928.
"We'll have him out," said one of them, "this time we'll have him out."
"But why do you need me?" I asked.
"Well, you don't like Wilson any more than we do... besides, you've got access to the latest files - the Gaitskell business, and all the rest of it."
"But they're kept in the DG's safe!"
"Yes, but you could copy them."
"I need some time to think," I pleaded. "I've got a lot to think about before I take a step like this. You'll have to give me a couple of days."
At first I was tempted. The devil makes work for idle hands, and I was playing out my time before retirement. A mad scheme like this was bound to tempt me. I felt an irresistible urge to lash out. The country seemed on the brink of catastrophe. Why not give it a little push? In any case, I carried the burden of so many secrets that lightening the load a little could only make things easier for me.
It was Victor who talked me out of it. "I don't like Wilson any more than you do," he told me, "but you'll end up getting chopped if you go in for this."
He was right. I had little more than a year to go. Why destroy everything in a moment of madness?
A few days later I told the leader of the group that I would not get the files.
"I'd like to help you," I told him, "but I can't risk it. I've only got half a pension as it is. I can't afford to lose it all."
Some of the operational people became quite aggressive. They kept saying it was the last chance to fix Wilson.
"Once you've retired," they said, "we'll never get the files!"
But my mind was made up, and even their taunts of cowardice could not shake me.
The Welsh author and academic Goronwy Rees has been named as a spy by the KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin. Until now there had been nothing more than suspicion that Rees was a Soviet agent.
BBC Wales's Sally Davies: "No evidence that he passed anything of note" But he has been unmasked in the KGB archives smuggled out of Moscow by Mitrokhin, which also revealed Melita Norwood and John Symonds were spies.
Sally Davies, who has been looking into the claims, said the Mitrokhin Archives revealed that Rees had two code names - Fleet and Gross. He was regarded as a key element in Guy Burgess's recruitment strategy at Oxford University in the late 1930s.
"His daughter Jenny Rees said he was just passing on tittle tattle because he was part of the Oxbridge set and knew the famous five who were unmasked," she said.
"She said he was a minor player and not actually a spy because she always maintained that if he were a spy they would have a KGB file on him, well there now appears that there was."
The KGB regarded Rees as a useful contact because of his position as a fellow of All Souls Oxford where he would come into contact with top politicians.
But most commentaries suggest his communist sympathies were ideological rather than political.
He was recruited after writing an essay on mass unemployment in the South Wales Valleys.
But the archives confirm that Rees passed no information of any great importance to the Soviet regime - and that he ended his contact after three years because he was so sickened by the Nazi-Soviet pact.
However according to Mitrokhin, Guy Burgess wanted Rees assassinated because he was afraid of what he knew.
One Girl's War poses no threat to national security; if other books do and if the Government wishes to take action against them, then that is their business, not ours. The content of One Girl's War has to do solely with events which took place over forty years ago, and we believe that it should be considered for what it is, not for what other books might be.
The Government's attempt to suppress One Girl's War is part of a larger project to keep from the British public any information about the operations of the intelligence services and thus to render impossible any public debate on the matter. In the 1960s and 1970s most countries of the western world gradually liberalised public access to information; in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher's Governments have sought to reverse that trend. There are general ideological reasons for this, and there are particular reasons.
Between 1974 and 1976 a coalition of right-wing Conservative politicians and elements of the armed forces and of the intelligence services worked secretly to subvert the elected Labour Government led by Harold Wilson. It is not suggested that this coalition was responsible for the demise of the Wilson Government and the installing of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. But the whole notion of such secret activity involving state security services in efforts to undermine the elected Government runs so sharply against the general perception of British democratic tradition that it is hardly surprising if the Thatcher Government is determined to ensure that the full story is never told.