Newly released British files shed light on 20th-century espionage

Eric HobsbawmBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Files released last week by Britain’s National Archives have brought to the fore interesting new clues on the history of intelligence operations in the 20th century. One of the files relates to Migel Piernavieja del Pozo, a Spanish journalist in his mid-20s, who arrived in the United Kingdom in 1940, ostensibly to cover British public attitudes to the war in the continent. Britain’s counterintelligence agency, the Security Service, also known as MI5, placed Pozo under surveillance, after the debonair Spaniard proclaimed in public meetings that he was grateful for German Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s support to Spain’s royalist forces and said he hoped Germany would emerge victorious from the war in Europe. The agency was right to do so, as Pozo eventually approached an agent of the Abwehr —Nazi Germany’s military intelligence agency— in the UK, and told him that he too was working secretly for Berlin. But the Abwehr agent, codenamed GW in MI5 documents, was in fact a double spy for the Crown and managed to pass deceptive information to the Spaniard. Eventually, Pozo gave GW a tin of talcum powder containing over £3,500 in banknotes, which is approximately $150,000 in today’s money. Professor Christopher Andrew, official historian of MI5, told The Daily Telegraph that the money supplied by Pozo was “probably the largest sum yet handed to a British agent” by a rival spy. Eventually, Pozo’s inability to acquire useful intelligence in the UK prompted his recall back to Spain.

Another set of files, also released last week by the National Archives, appears to show that C.A.N. Nambiar, a friend of India’s first prime minister and deputy to one of the country’s most fervent pro-independence activists, was a Soviet spy. Nambiar was known as an old comrade of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first elected leader of post-colonial India, who dominated Indian affairs for much of the last century. He was also a close associate of Subhas Chandra Bose, a pro-independence activist considered a hero by Indian nationalists, whose hatred for India’s British occupiers led him to side with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the early 1940s. After India’s independence in 1947, Nambiar worked as a diplomat in Berne, Switzerland, before becoming India’s ambassador to Sweden and later to West Germany. But according to MI5 documents released last week, an Eastern Bloc defector fingered Nambiar in 1959 as an agent of Soviet military intelligence, known as GRU. The source said Nambiar had been recruited while visiting the USSR as a guest of the Soviet state in 1929. Read more of this post

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MI6 archives reveal plans for WWII and Cold War black operations

Sir Stewart MenziesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Recently declassified British archives reveal a host of audacious plans for covert operations aimed at Nazi-occupied Europe during wartime and, after 1948, inside the Soviet Union. The plans, proposed by British intelligence officials, ranged from relatively innocuous psychological operations to assassinations of key political figures. The wartime plans were proposed in 1944 by Charles Peake, a British intelligence officer detailed to the headquarters of General Dwight Eisenhower. The iconic American military commander was in charge of plans for Operation OVERLORD, the allied troop landings on the beaches of Normandy in northern France. According to documents released last week by the United Kingdom National Archives, Peake’s proposal was entitled “Assassination Priorities for OVERLORD”. It contained an extensive list of senior German and French Axis officials that should be targeted for assassination in preparation for the D-Day landings. The hit list included “certain Germans in key positions in France”, notably Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Erwin Rommel. It also incorporated several senior members of France’s Nazi-controlled Vichy administration under Marshal Philippe Pétain. The proposal, however, was quickly shot down by no other than General Stewart Menzies, Director of the Secret Intelligence Service (known as MI6), who feared that intrusive covert actions by allied operatives would cause brutal reprisals against allied prisoners of war. Ironically, Menzies, known in government simply as “C”, drafted an ever more ambitious plan for black operations after the end of World War II, this time targeted at the Soviet Union. Read more of this post

WWII files reveal bizarre case of British cross-dressing spy

Dudley ClarkeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A set of World War II-era British Foreign Office documents detail a highly unusual incident of a senior British spy, who was arrested in Spain for cross-dressing. The files, which were released this week by the National Archives, concern the case of Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Clarke, a senior operative of British intelligence who served with distinction in Europe and the Middle East. In October of 1941, Clarke was traveling though Spain en route to Egypt, by way of the British colony of Gibraltar. His instructions were to maintain a low profile throughout his trip, during which he posed as a foreign correspondent for The London Times. In reality, he was carrying with him key naval intelligence addressed to the British high command in Cairo. However, soon after arriving in Spanish capital Madrid, Clarke was arrested for appearing in a busy street dressed as a woman. A frantic cable sent to the Foreign Office by the British embassy in Madrid mentioned that the intelligence officer had been detained after he had been found “in a main street dressed —down to a brassiere— as a woman’. According to the —now declassified— memoranda complied by the Foreign Office, Clarke had told his Spanish police captors that he was “a novelist” and had dressed as a woman in order to “study the reactions of men to women in the streets”. But the conservative police officials in Francoist Spain did not buy Clarke’s story, and decided to charge him with “engaging in homosexual behavior”. London, meanwhile, was trying frantically to ensure that Clarke was released before either Spanish or German authorities realized that he was a British intelligence officer. The Foreign Office cabled the British embassy in Madrid with direct instructions that “in no circumstances should it be revealed that C[larke] is a British [intelligence] officer”. Read more of this post

MI5 official’s diaries reveal tensions between UK, US spy agencies

Guy LiddellBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Newly declassified personal diaries belonging to a senior British intelligence official reveal tensions between British and American spy agencies in the years immediately following World War II. The National Archives, an executive agency operating under the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Justice, released the diaries on Friday. They belong to Guy Maynard Liddell, a longtime British intelligence operative who rose to the post of Deputy Director General of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. Liddell meticulously kept a diary during most of the 1940s and 1950s, in which he detailed both personal information and details of his work at MI5. Two volumes of his diaries (from 1939 to 1945, edited by Nigel West) have already been published. Now a third installment has been declassified by the National Archives, containing Liddell’s diary entries from the late 1940s and 1950s. The diaries project what some intelligence historians describe as “a certain friction” between postwar British and American intelligence services. Even though the two countries were largely viewed as allies in the immediate postwar period, their respective intelligence agencies did not always see eye to eye. In one instance, Liddell describes his American colleagues as “utterly incapable [...] of seeing anybody’s point of view except their own” and accuses them of being “quite ready to cut off their noses to spite their faces”. He also comes across as skeptical of the then-newly established Central Intelligence Agency, which, he writes, “someday” may be able to produce information that would be “worth disseminating, evaluating, or coordinating”. In 1947, shortly after the CIA’s founding, Liddell wrote with a degree of uncertainty that “in the course of time, [the Agency] may produce something of value”. Further on he relayed the opinion of CIA Deputy Director Edwin Kennedy Wright, who apparently told British intelligence officials that in American intelligence organizations “500 people were employed to do what 50 people would do” in the UK. Read more of this post

Did Czechoslovakian spies plan to blackmail British leader?

Ted HeathBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In 1975, Czechoslovakian intelligence officer Josef Frolík, who had defected to the United States, published a book titled The Frolik Defection: The Memoirs of an Intelligence Agent. Among several revelations in the book was an alleged plot by the ŠtB, Czechoslovakia’s Cold-War-era secret intelligence service, to sexually blackmail British Conservative politician Edward “Ted” Heath. According to Frolík, the ŠtB had concluded that Heath, a lifelong bachelor and Britain’s Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, was gay. Based on this —highly questionable— belief, Jan Mrázek, an ŠtB officer working out of the Czechoslovakian embassy in London, had allegedly devised a plan in the mid-1960s, which aimed to expose Heath to homosexual blackmail. Frolík claims in his book that Mrázek developed the plot around Heath’s well-known preoccupation with classical music. Specifically, he planned to recruit Czechoslovakian classical organist Jiří Reinberger, who would be instructed to meet the British conservative politician in London and invite him to Prague for a concert. While there, the ŠtB hoped that a romantic affair would ensue, under the watchful eye of Czechoslovakian spies, who would make sure to capture the more intimate moments of the two men on camera. The audiovisual evidence would, the ŠtB believed, convince Heath to spy for Czechoslovakian intelligence. According Frolík, the plan was put to action but was eventually scrapped after MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence agency, warned Heath that a trip to Czechoslovakia would expose him to blackmail by that country’s intelligence service. When Frolík’s book came out, Heath, who had stepped down from his post as Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, dismissed the story as a fabrication, and threatened to sue the author. But was Frolík telling the truth? Read more of this post

Declassified MI5 files offer wealth of new information

Sophie Kukralova

Sophie Kukralova

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Britain’s National Archives have authorized the release of nearly 200 files from the vaults of MI5, the country’s domestic intelligence service. The release of the documents, which range from 1937 to 1955, has given rise to numerous interesting historical revelations, including an apparent effort by German Hitler Youth groups to establish personal and institutional links with Lord Baden-Powell, founder and leader of the Boy Scouts. The relevant MI5 file notes that Baden-Powell, who was “wined and dined by senior Hitler Youth figures”, responded enthusiastically to the Nazi charm offensive. Other revelations include the Soviet sympathies of Sidney Bernstein, later Baron Bernstein, who founded Britain’s Granada Theatres (later Granada Television) in 1926. Read more of this post

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