British Nazi was in fact MI5 double spy, new book reveals

Arthur OwensBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Welsh nationalist, whose aversion to British rule led him to spy for Nazi Germany during World War II, was in fact a double spy for Britain, and was instrumental in helping he Allies win the war, a new book reveals. The book, Snow: The Double Life of a World War II Spy, by Madoc Roberts and Nigel West (At Her Majesty’s Secret Service, A Matter of Trust, etc), centers on the life of Arthur Owens, who was recruited by the Abwehr, Germany’s military intelligence, in 1935, during a business trip to the Continent. Given the operational codename JOHNNY O’BRIEN by the Germans, he quickly began providing Berlin with inside information on Britain’s military buildup in the run-up to the War. But, according to Roberts and West, who base their account on declassified government documents, British counterintelligence agency MI5 became aware of Owens’ espionage activities and eventually recruited him as a double agent for the Crown. According to the book, Owens, who was given the codename SNOW by his British masters, became one of the human intelligence cornerstones of MI5’s XX (Double-Cross) System. Consisting of a close-knit group of deception specialists, XX is known for a series of outrageous —and often highly successful— covert operations during World War II, including Operation FORTITUDE, a plan to deceive the Germans about the location of the invasion of Europe by the Western Allies. The authors claim that agent SNOW’s activities successfully lured a large number of Nazi agents into the arms of MI5, thus eventually paving the way for some of MI5’s greatest wartime counterintelligence successes. In fact, it is believed that Owens’ pro-Nazi activities were so convincing, and his operational cover so deeply buried within the XX System, that in 1941 his MI5 handlers recommended that he be interned in a British prison. But the book alleges that, while in prison in Dartmoor, England, SNOW continued his intelligence collection for the Crown and kept feeding his handlers with information extracted from the prison’s German inmates. Sadly, after the end of the War, Owens was forced to flee to Canada and Ireland, where he lived in virtual anonymity, fearing retribution by both British and German agents. Official files revealing his role in spying for Britain were released in the 1970s, but the new book is the first-ever attempt to offer a complete and authoritative account of Owens’ espionage activities. Speaking to Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, co-author Nigel West described SNOW as “the foundation of the double cross system”, whose contribution to the war effort and the development of espionage “is hard to overstate”.

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