Document release offers new clues on MI5 activities

Sam Wanamaker

S. Wanamaker

A batch of intelligence documents from the immediate post-World War II period released this week by Britain’s National Archives offer glimpses into previously unknown activities by MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service. One set of documents shows that the MI5 closely monitored liberal Americans who escaped McCarthyism by emigrating to the isles in the 1940s and 1950s. Among such targets was Sam Wanamaker, father of actor Zoe Wanamaker, who played in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone among other films. Her father left the US shortly before being called to testify in Senator Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. He became an important figure in British theater, but was monitored by MI5, who at one point considered including him in a list of domestic radicals to be “interned” during a possible military confrontation with the USSR. Another set of documents shows that British spies spent years looking for Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, in places such as Switzerland, Italy and Brazil. Bormann was thought to have been a fugitive until his remains were finally discovered in 1972. MI5 also dismissed as a fabrication the often-repeated post-World War II claim that Hitler was living in a Buddhist monastery in Chinese Tibet. Also released on Monday were documents pointing to a previously unknown World War II operation by MI5 in Iceland. The operation, designed to prevent Germany from monitoring allied preparations for D-Day, involved the capture of three German spies operating on the island.


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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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