Arthur Martin went to a local grammar school before being employed during the Second World War by the Radio Security Service (RSS). After the war Martin joined MI5. Over the next few years he emerged as the organization's most important investigative officers. A fellow officer, Peter Wright, commented: "Martin quickly proved himself a brilliant and intuitive case officer... Martin had one huge advantage in his approach to counter-espionage work: he never attended a public school." (1)
In 1951 Martin was involved in the investigation of Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. After looking at the files he became convinced that Kim Philby was also a spy. Martin and Dick White were sent to Washington to discuss the matter with the FBI. One of its officers, Robert J. Lamphere, later recalled: "Dick White and Arthur Martin came over to Washington together. We were more than a little unhappy with MI5 because it had held out on us over Maclean. So when I sat down with Arthur Martin to discuss things in detail, I let him know about my unhappiness. But then he showed me this document on Philby. From that day in the summer of 1951 forward, there was never any doubt in my mind that Philby was a Soviet spy... I never understood why SIS refused to do anything about him. I can only think that it had to do with the old-boy network and its refusal to believe an individual of the upper classes would betray its own." (2)
John Marriott, head of MI5's counter-subversion branch, was not convinced by Arthur Martin and considered him as a "conspiracy theorist". Marriott wrote at the time: "In spite of his undeniable critical and analytical gifts and powers of lucid expression on paper, I must confess that I am not convinced that he is not a rather small minded man, and I doubt he will much increase in stature as he grows older." (3)
Arthur Martin was convinced that Philby was a Soviet spy and according to his friend Peter Wright he "pressed the management of MI5 to sanction urgent inquiries into the whole complex network of Communist infiltrations of Cambridge in the 1930s. But his requests for permission to interview the numerous members of the Philby, Burgess, and Maclean social circles were mostly refused. For two years he struggled against this woeful policy, until finally he went to see the Director-General, Dick White, and told him that he intended to resign and take a job with the new Australian Security Intelligence Organization, ASIO. White, who had a high regard for Martin's abilities, persuaded him to go to Malaya instead, as MI5's Security Liaison Officer, until the climate in D Branch was better. It was, at the time, a vital job, and Martin played a leading role in the successful counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya, but the consequences for counterespionage were disastrous. For most of the decade MI5's most talented, if temperamental, officer was missing." (4)
When Martin Furnival Jones became head of MI5 he brought Martin back to England. In 1959 he became head of D1 and became responsible for Soviet Counter Espionage. In this role he interviewed Anatoli Golitsin, the KGB officer who had defected to the CIA in December, 1961. Golitsin claimed that Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess were members of a Ring of Five agents based in Britain. Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009), has accused Martin of using Golitsin's "circumstantial evidence" with "no precise information" to back up his theories. (5)
An old friend of Kim Philby's, Flora Solomon, disapproved of what she considered were Philby's pro-Arab articles in The Observer. It has been argued that "her love for Israel proved greater than her old socialist loyalties." (6) In August 1962, during a reception at the Weizmann Institute, she told Victor Rothschild, who had worked with MI6 during the Second World War and enjoyed close connections with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service: "How is it that The Observer uses a man like Kim? Don't the know he's a Communist?" She then went on to tell Rothschild that she suspected that Philby and his friend, Tomas Harris, had been Soviet agents since the 1930s. "Those two were so close as to give me an intuitive feeling that Harris was more than a friend."
It was expected that Arthur Martin would be sent out to interview Kim Philby in Beirut at the beginning of 1963. However, it was decided to send Philby's friend and former SIS colleague Nicholas Elliott instead. According to Philby's later version of events given to the KGB after he escaped to Moscow, Elliott told him: "You stopped working for them (the Russians) in 1949, I'm absolutely certain of that... I can understand people who worked for the Soviet Union, say before or during the war. But by 1949 a man of your intellect and your spirit had to see that all the rumours about Stalin's monstrous behaviour were not rumours, they were the truth... You decided to break with the USSR... Therefore I can give you my word and that of Dick White that you will get full immunity, you will be pardoned, but only if you tell it yourself. We need your collaboration, your help." (7)
Roger Hollis wrote to J. Edgar Hoover on 18th January 1963, about Elliott's discussions with Kim Philby: "In our judgment Philby's statement of the association with the RIS is substantially true. It accords with all the available evidence in our possession and we have no evidence pointing to a continuation of his activities on behalf of the RIS after 1946, save in the isolated instance of Maclean. If this is so, it follows that damage to United States interests will have been confined to the period of the Second World War." (8) This statement was undermined by the decision of Philby to flee to the Soviet Union a week later.
Arthur Martin and Peter Wright spent a great deal listening to the confession that Philby had made to Nicholas Elliott. Wright later argued: "There was no doubt in anyone's mind, listening to the tape, that Philby arrived at the safe house well prepared for Elliott's confrontation. Elliott told him there was new evidence, that he was now convinced of his guilt, and Philby, who had denied everything time and again for a decade, swiftly admitted spying since 1934. He never once asked what the new evidence was." Both men came to the conclusion that Philby had not asked about the new evidence as he had already been told about it. This convinced them that the "Russians still had access to a source inside British Intelligence who was monitoring the progress of the Philby case. Only a handful of officers had such access, chief among them being Hollis and Mitchell." (9)
Plans for Philby's interrogation were known to five members of the Service, of whom only Roger Hollis and Graham Mitchell had long enough service and good enough access to classified information to fit the profile of a long-term penetration agent. Martin, according to Christopher Andrew, was the "Service's leading conspiracy theorist at the time of Philby's defection, believed Mitchell was the chief suspect. Martin claimed that Mitchell "had the reputation of being a Marxist during the war". An "assertion, which, he later acknowledged, rested only on (inaccurate) hearsay evidence." (10)
Martin took his conspiracy theories to Dick White, the Chief of the SIS. White refused to believe Hollis was a Soviet spy but agreed to contact him about his suspicions concerning Mitchell. On 7th March 1963, Martin attended a meeting with Hollis. Martin later recalled that while explaining his theory that Mitchell was a Soviet agent, Hollis reacted in a strange way: "He (Hollis) sat hunched up at his desk, his face drained of colour and with a strange half-smile playing on his lips. I had framed my explanation so that it led to the conclusion that Graham Mitchell was in my mind, the most likely suspect... I had expected that my theory would at least be challenged but it received no comment other than I had been right to voice it and he would think it over." (11)
On 13th March 1963 Arthur Martin was told that he could make "discreet enquiries" into Mitchell's background, which he was to report to Martin Furnival Jones. As Chapman Pincher pointed out: "It had been decided, in order to dispose of the case against Mitchell one way or the other and as quickly as possible, he should be given the full technical treatment. A mirror in his office was removed and made see-through by resilvering so that a television camera could be hidden behind it, the object being to allow the investigators to see if Mitchell was in the habit of copying secret documents." (12)
Peter Wright was one of those involved in the surveillance operation. "I treated his ink blotter with secret-writing material, and every night it was developed, so that we could check on everything he wrote. But there was nothing beyond the papers he worked on normally... I asked him (Hollis) for his consent to pick the locks of two of the drawers which were locked. He agreed and I brought the lockpicking tools the next day, and we inspected the insides of the two drawers. They were both empty, but one caught my attention. In the dust were four small marks, as if an object had been very recently dragged out of the drawer." This made Wright suspicious of Hollis: "Only Hollis and I knew I was going to open the drawer and something has definitely been moved... Why not Mitchell? Because he didn't know. Only Hollis knew." (13)
However, Martin began to suspect that Mitchell had been told he was under investigation. "He wandered about in parks, repeatedly turning around as though to check that he was not being followed. In the street, he would peer into shop windows, looking for the reflections of passers-by. He also wore tinted spectacles, which might enable him, from the reflections, to see anyone who might be on his trail. The 'candid camera' in his office revealed that whenever he was alone, his face looked tortured as though he were in deep despair." (14)
The investigation was unable to find any conclusive evidence that Graham Mitchell was a Soviet spy. Hollis wanted to keep the investigation secret. However, Dick White, the head of the SIS, pointed out that this would break the Anglo-American agreement on security. White told the prime minister, Harold Macmillan, and he was forced to tell President John F. Kennedy. Hollis was sent to Washington to have a meeting with J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI and John McCone and James Jesus Angleton, of the FBI. Hollis told them that "I have come to tell you that I have reason to suspect that one of my most senior officers, Graham Mitchell, has been a long-term agent of the Soviet Union." (15)
Mitchell's biographer argues that after the investigation Mitchell was a broken man: "The evidence accumulated against Mitchell was all very circumstantial, and centred on the poor performance of MI5's counter-espionage branch during the 1950s. During this period MI5 experienced a number of set-backs, failed to attract a single Soviet defector, and only caught one spy on its own initiative. "During the last five months of his career Mitchell was the subject of a highly secret and inconclusive ‘molehunt’ which was eventually terminated." (16) As a result of the investigation, Mitchell decided to retire early from MI5.
On 4th June 1963, Michael Straight was offered the post of the chairmanship of the Advisory Council on the Arts by President John F. Kennedy. Aware that he would be vetted - and his background investigated - he approached Arthur Schlesinger, one of Kennedy's advisers, and told him that Anthony Blunt had recruited him as a spy while an undergraduate at Trinity College. Schlesinger suggested that he told his story to the FBI. He spent the next couple of days being interviewed by William Sullivan. (17)
Straight's information was passed on to MI5 and Arthur Martin, the intelligence agency's principal molehunter, went to America to interview him. Michael Straight confirmed the story, and agreed to testify in a British court if necessary. Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) has argued that Straight's information was "the decisive breakthrough in MI5's investigation of Anthony Blunt". (18)
Peter Wright, who took part in the meetings about Anthony Blunt case, argues in his book, Spycatcher (1987) that Roger Hollis decided to give Blunt immunity from prosecution because of his hostility towards the Labour Party and the damage it would do to the Conservative Party: "Hollis and many of his senior staff were acutely aware of the damage any public revelation of Blunt's activities might do themselves, to MI5, and to the incumbent Conservative Government. Harold Macmillan had finally resigned after a succession of security scandals, culminating in the Profumo affair. Hollis made little secret of his hostility to the Labour Party, then riding high in public opinion, and realized only too well that a scandal on the scale that would be provoked by Blunt's prosecution would surely bring the tottering Government down." (19)
Anthony Blunt was interviewed by Arthur Martin at the Courtauld Institute on 23rd April 1964. Martin later wrote that when he mentioned Straight's name he "noticed that by this time Blunt's right cheek was twitching a good deal". Martin offered Blunt "an absolute assurance that no action would be taken against him if he now told the truth". Martin recalled: "He went out of the room, got himself a drink, came back and stood at the tall window looking out on Portman Square. I gave him several minutes of silence and then appealed to him to get it off his chest. He came back to his chair and confessed." (36) He admitted being a Soviet agent and named twelve other associates as spies including Michael Straight, John Cairncross, Leo Long and Peter Ashby. (20)
Arthur 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 and that pressure should be put on Blunt to make a full confession. Hollis thought Martin's suggestion was highly damaging to the organization and ordered Martin to be suspended from duty for a fortnight. Martin offered to carry on with the questioning of Blunt from his home, but Hollis forbade it. As a result, Blunt was left alone for two weeks, and nobody knows what he did... Soon afterward, Hollis picked another quarrel with Martin, and though he was very senior, summarily sacked him. Martin believes that Hollis sacked him because he feared him, but his action did Hollis little good, whatever his motive." (21)
Dick White, the head of MI6, agreed with Martin that suspicions remained about the loyalty of Hollis and Mitchell. In November, 1964, White recruited him and immediately nominated Martin as his representative on the Fluency Committee, that was investigating the possibility of Soviet spies in British intelligence. The committee initially examined some 270 claims of Soviet penetration, which were later whittled down to twenty. It was claimed that these cases supported the claims made by Konstantin Volkov and Igor Gouzenko that there was a high-level agent in MI5. (22)
Arthur Martin died in 1996.
Arthur Martin, a former Army signals officer who joined MI5 soon after the war. Martin quickly proved himself a brilliant and intuitive case officer, handling in quick succession the Fuchs and Maclean investigations, ably assisted by Evelyn McBarnet, a young woman research officer, whose contribution to these cases has never been adequately acknowledged. Martin had one huge advantage in his approach to counterespionage work: he never attended a public school. Once it was known that a serious leakage of secrets had occurred at the British Embassy in Washington, the conventional view was to search for the culprit among the clerks, cleaners, and secretaries. But Martin realized at an early stage that the culprit was a senior diplomat. He doggedly pursued the investigation, and was only foiled when Maclean defected.
After the defections, Martin pressed the management of MI5 to sanction urgent inquiries into the whole complex network of Communist infiltrations of Cambridge in the 1930s. But his requests for permission to interview the numerous members of the Philby, Burgess, and Maclean social circles were mostly refused. For two years he struggled against this woeful policy, until finally he went to see the Director-General, Dick White, and told him that he intended to resign and take a job with the new Australian Security Intelligence Organization, ASIO.
White, who had a high regard for Martin's abilities, persuaded him to go to Malaya instead, as MI5's Security Liaison Officer, until the climate in D Branch was better. It was, at the time, a vital job, and Martin played a leading role in the successful counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya, but the consequences for counterespionage were disastrous. For most of the decade MI5's most talented, if temperamental, officer was missing.
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.