Saturday, April 18, 2009

How many times does one have to repeat this?

An e-mail from JR Books informs me that they are about to publish a book by Gordon Thomas, "Inside British Intelligence - 100 Years of MI5 and MI6". This is the book, they crow, on the basis of an article in the Guardian, that the government or the Intelligence Services or somebody, tried to ban but could not. The article is somewhat dismissive of the book and the information in it.

Whether Mr Thomas, whose book, we are told, is "based on prodigious research and interviews with significant players from inside the intelligence community" really does know what went on behind those closed doors remains to be seen. After all, his biography tells us merely that he is a journalist and likes writing about spies and his picture tells us that he has an execrable taste in sweaters. But you never know. I look forward to reading the book.

However, I was a little puzzled about the fuss. The summary of the book in the press release gives no indication of what the problem might be:
Gordon Thomas’s wide-sweeping history chronicles a century of both triumphs and failures within MI5 and MI6. He recounts the roles that British intelligence played in the Allied victory in World War II; the post-war treachery of Britain’s own agents; the defection of Soviet agents and the intricate process of ‘handling’ them; the tricky relationship that both agencies have with the CIA, European spy services, and the Mossad; the search for Osama bin Laden; and how MI5 and MI6 continue the ‘war on terror’.
Explanation came from the publisher. Mr Thomas fell foul of the Services in that he names "British spies".

Well, I certainly hope so. I should like to have a list of all those Soviet agents who were active for years in the Foreign Office, and the various Intelligence organizations. Alas, I suspect that what they mean is that he names British agents.

Now then, how many times does one have to repeat this: our chaps and chapesses are agents. Spies are the people who work for the other side. Even then, we can differentiate between those who work for the other side because that is their side and those who have betrayed us. It is the latter that I would like to know about. I wonder if Mr Thomas will oblige.

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