Russian security services honor members of the Cambridge spy ring with plaque

Guy BurgessThe intelligence service of Russia has openly honored two British members of the so-called Cambridge Five spy ring, who caused great controversy during the Cold War by defecting to Moscow. The intelligence services of the Soviet Union recruited five Enlishmen, H.A.R. ‘Kim’ Philby, John Cairncross, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, as well as an unnamed fifth person, to spy for them in the 1930s. All five were recruited while they were promising young students at Britain’s elite Cambridge University, and entered the diplomatic and security services in order to supply Moscow with classified information about Britain and its allies.

In 1951, shortly before they were detained by British authorities on suspicion of espionage, Burgess and Maclean defected to the Soviet Union. They both lived there under new identities and, according to official histories, as staunch supporters of Soviet communism. Some biographers, however, have suggested that the two Englishmen grew disillusioned with communism while living in the Soviet Union, and were never truly trusted by the authorities Moscow. When they died, however, in 1963 (Burgess) and 1983 (Maclean), the Soviet intelligence services celebrated them as heroes.

On Friday, the Soviet state recognized the two defectors in an official ceremony in the Siberian city of Samara, where they lived for a number of years, until the authorities relocated them to Moscow. Kuibyshev, as the city was known during Soviet times, was technically a vast classified facility where much of the research for the country’s space program took place. While in Kuibyshev, Burgess and Maclean stayed at a Soviet intelligence ‘safe house’, where they were debriefed and frequently interrogated, until their handlers were convinced that they were indeed genuine defectors.

At Friday’s ceremony, officials unveiled a memorial plaque at the entrance to the building where Burgess and Maclean lived. According to the Reuters news agency, the plaque reads: “In this building, from 1952-1955, lived Soviet intelligence officers, members of the ‘Cambridge Five’, Guy Francis Burgess and Donald Maclean”. On the same day, a letter written by Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the institutional descendants of the Soviet-era KGB, appeared online. In the letter, Naryshkin said that Burgess and Maclean had made “a significant contribution to the victory over fascism [during World War II], the protection of [the USSR’s] strategic interests, and ensuring the safety” of the Soviet Union and Russia.

Last year, Russian officials named a busy intersection in Moscow after Harold Adrian Russell Philby. Known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, Philby was a leading member of the Cambridge spies. He followed Burgess and Maclean to the USSR in 1963, where he defected after a long career with the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 December 2019 | Permalink

Revealed: British prime minister was not told about fourth Cambridge spy ring member

Anthony BluntThe Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was kept in the dark by his own home secretary about the discovery of a fourth member of the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring in 1964, according to newly released files. The Cambridge Spies were a group of British diplomats and intelligence officials who worked secretly for the Soviet Union from their student days in the 1930s until the 1960s. They included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, all of whom eventually defected to the Soviet Union. In 1964, Sir Anthony Blunt, an art history professor who in 1945 became Surveyor of the King’s Pictures and was knighted in 1954, admitted under interrogation by the British Security Service (MI5) that he had operated as the fourth member of the spy ring.

Despite his allegedly full confession, Blunt was never seriously disciplined for his espionage activities against Britain. In return for revealing his spy activities and naming others who had assisted him, he was granted immunity from prosecution. He was also allowed to remain in his academic post and retained his title of Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures –effectively the curator of Queen Elizabeth II’s art collection. It wasn’t until 1979 when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher revealed in a statement to the British House of Commons that Blunt had been the fourth member of the Cambridge Spy Ring. Minutes after the prime minister’s statement entered the public record, Buckingham Palace (which had been made aware of Blunt’s espionage role back in 1964, but had been asked by Britain’s Interior Ministry to not draw attention to the scandal) stripped him of his 1954 knighthood.

It has now been revealed known that, in the days following her House of Commons statement about Blunt, Prime Minister Thatcher received several letters by Henry Brooke, who was serving as home secretary in 1964, when Blunt’s treachery was discovered. In his letters, Brooke (by then Lord Brooke of Cumnoor) expressed his support for the prime minister’s revelation. But the letters, which were previously classified but were published on Tuesday by Britain’s National Archives, also reveal that Brooke kept Blunt’s 1964 confession hidden from the then Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home. In his 1979 letter to Thatcher, Brooke states that he did not inform the prime minister in 1964 in his “well-meant effort not to add to [Douglas-Home’s] burdens”. But he adds that “I may, with hindsight, have expressed my discretion wrongly”. By that time, Blunt had voluntarily withdrawn from public life and was rarely heard of. Upon his death in 1984, his unfinished memoir was given to the British Library by the executor of his will, under the stipulation that it be kept sealed for 25 years. It was released to the public in 2009.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 July 2018 | Permalink

British judge denies request to name alleged new member of Cambridge spy ring

Corpus Christi College CambridgeA document that allegedly contains the name of a man who could be connected to one of the most sensational spy rings of the Cold War is to remain secret after a judge rejected a request to have it released. The man is believed by some to have been associated with the so-called ‘Cambridge spy ring’, a group of upper-class British graduates of Cambridge University, who spied for the USSR from the 1930s until the 1960s. Among them was Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, all of whom eventually defected to the Soviet Union. In 1979, it was revealed that Anthony Blunt, an art history professor who in 1945 became Surveyor of the King’s Pictures and was knighted in 1954, was also a member of the group. A fifth member, career civil servant and former intelligence officer John Cairncross, was publicly outed as a Soviet in 1990, shortly before his death.

Over the years, more individuals have been suggested by historians as potential members of the group, including intelligence officers Leo Long and Guy Liddell, academics Ludwig Wittgenstein and Andrew Gow, and physicist Wilfrid Mann. But according to British newspaper The Daily Mail, another individual may be identified in a classified document as a possible member of the Cambridge spy ring. The document was allegedly traced by Andrew Lownie, who authored the recently published Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess. Lownie filed a Freedom of Information request to have the document, which is held at the National Archives in London, released. But the request was denied, and a judge has now upheld the decision.

In denying the request, the judge argued that the man named in the document is still alive and that a possible release of the document could “jeopardize […] personal relationships”. He also contended that the case is too old to warrant immediate public interest, and thus there was “no pressing need” to declassify the file. The Mail speculates that the individual named in the document could have cooperated with the British government in the past in return for protection, or that the file in question may contain details that could embarrass the British government.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 September 2016 | Permalink

Cambridge spy’s last years in Russia are detailed in new biography

Guy BurgessThe life of Guy Burgess, one of the so-called ‘Cambridge Five’ double agents, who spied on Britain for the Soviet Union before defecting to Moscow in 1951, is detailed in a new biography of the spy, written by Andrew Lownie. Like his fellow spies Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross, Burgess was recruited by the Soviets when he was a student at Cambridge University. He shook the British intelligence establishment to its very core when he defected to the USSR along with Maclean, after the two felt that they were being suspected of spying for the Soviets.

A few years after his defection, Burgess wrote to a close friend back in the UK: “I am really […] very well and things are going much better for me here than I ever expected. I’m very glad I came”. However, in his book, entitled Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess, Lownie suggests that Burgess’ life in the USSR was far from ideal. After being welcomed by the Soviets as a hero, the Cambridge University graduate was transported to the isolated Siberian city of Kuybyshev. He lived for several months in a ‘grinder’, a safe house belonging to Soviet intelligence, where he was debriefed and frequently interrogated until his Soviet handlers were convinced that has indeed a genuine defector.

It was many years later that Burgess was able to leave Kuybyshev for Moscow, under a new name, Jim Andreyevitch Eliot, which had been given to him by the KGB. Initially he lived in a dacha outside Moscow, but was moved to the city in 1955, after he and Maclean spoke publicly about their defection from Britain. He was often visited in his one-bedroom apartment by Yuri Modin, his Soviet intelligence handler back in the UK. According to Lownie, Burgess often complained to Modin about the way he was being treated by the Soviet authorities. His apartment had apparently been bugged by the KGB, and he was constantly followed each time he stepped outside.

The British defector worked for a Soviet publishing house and produced foreign-policy analyses for the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also produced a training manual for KGB officers about British culture and the British way of life. But he did not like living in the USSR and argued that he should be allowed to return to the UK, insisting that he could successfully defend himself if interrogated by British counterintelligence. Eventually, Burgess came to the realization that he would never return to his home country. He became depressed, telling friends that he “did not want to die in Russia”. But in the summer of 1963 he was taken to hospital, where he eventually died from acute liver failure caused by his excessive drinking.

Andrew Lownie’s Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess, is published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK and by St Martins’ Press in the US. It is scheduled to come out in both countries on September 10.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 September 2015 | Permalink

New book on British double spy Kim Philby published in Russia

Kim Philby

Kim Philby

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An important new biography of H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, the British MI6 officer who defected to Russia during the Cold War, has been published in Moscow. It is based on candid interviews with his surviving fourth wife, Rufina Pukhova-Philby, as well as on an array of declassified documents from Russian state archives. The book, titled just Kim Philby, is authored by Nikolai Dolgopolov, editor of Moscow-based daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, which acts as the official organ of the Russian state. Aside from Pukhova-Philby, the book, whose publication is set to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Kim Philby’s birth, on January 1, enjoyes the official blessing of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the successor organization to the KGB’s external intelligence directorate. The SVR allowed Dolgopolov access to previously secret documents on Philby, including a newly declassified Russian translation of the British double spy’s personal account of the events that led to his 1963 defection, as well as a description of his escape to Russia through Lebanon. Dolgopolov’s books describes Philby as “one of the greatest Soviet spies”, thus siding with the mainstream view in intelligence research literature, which recognizes Philby as one of the most successful double spies in history. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, Philby spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and its successor, the KGB, from the early 1930s until his 1963 defection. Two years later, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. The Soviet authorities buried him with honors when he died in 1988. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #530

  • Another spy ring reportedly busted in Kuwait. Kuwait has allegedly busted another spy ring, working for the intelligence services “of an Arab country [that] is currently embroiled in political turmoil”, reports Al-Jaridah daily. The paper also said that information gathered by the spy ring was sent to a liaison officer in the embassy of that country. Last April, two Iranians and a Kuwaiti national, all serving in Kuwait’s army, were sentenced to death for belonging to an Iranian spy ring.
  • How defectors come in from the cold. Interesting historical account of how defectors adjust to their new lives, from the BBC’s News Magazine. Sadly, much of the article is about –you guessed it– the Cambridge Five, which the British seem unable to get over, half a century later.
  • UK report says hackers should fight cyber spies. Britain faces losing its position at the leading edge of technology unless new ideas are developed to fight cyber attacks, including recruiting computer hackers to help fight organized cyber crime and espionage by foreign powers. This is the conclusion of a new report by the University College London’s Institute for Security and Resilience Studies.

News you may have missed #451 (history edition)

News you may have missed #323 (Cold War edition)

  • Story of the Soviet Trojan seal retold. Ken Stanley, who was chief technology officer at the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service from 2006 to 2008, retells the story of the large wooden replica of the US Great Seal, which the Soviets gave to the US ambassador to Moscow as a present in 1945. The seal, which was, of course, bugged, hanged in the US ambassador’s office until 1952, when it was discovered.
  • Soviet spy radio found in a Welsh field. It has been revealed that a Soviet encrypted radio transmitter was found near the Welsh coastal town of Ipcress in 1960. It is speculated that it belonged to the late Goronwy Rees, an academic from Aberystwyth, who was a friend of the Cambridge Five, although his daughter disputes it.
  • 1950s-60s spy gadgets on sale at eBay. Gadgets used by British spies who trained from the 1940s to the 1960s at top-secret camp Camp X near Ontario, Canada, are being sold off on eBay. They include a camera that shoots darts, a lipstick tube containing a dagger and fake monkey dung that explodes (!).

 

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Philby’s granddaughter revisits Moscow in search of ‘Kim’

Charlotte Philby

Charlotte Philby

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Charlotte Philby, daughter of John Philby, H.A.R. “Kim” Philby’s oldest son, has written an account of a recent trip to Moscow to revisit her grandfather’s apartment and grave. In her article, published in British daily The Independent, she describes her visit to Kuntsevo Cemetery, where her grandfather, a British intelligence officer, who secretly spied on behalf of the Soviet KGB and NKVD, was given a hero’s burial in 1988. Even though Kim Philby has been dead for over 20 years, his legacy is very much alive in both sides involved in the Cold War. Charlotte Philby reveals that, in 2005, she and her mother were refused service in a store in the US state of Arizona “on account of the name on our credit cards”. She also claims that “a gang of five or six of Kim’s former colleagues still meet up every month [in Moscow] and raise a toast in his honor”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0258

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BBC releases archival documents on KGB spy Guy Burgess

Guy Burgess

Guy Burgess

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The BBC’s archive unit has released 24 previously unpublished documents on Guy Burgess, a British-born KGB double spy who defected to Moscow during the early stages of the Cold War. Prior to joining the British Foreign Office, Burgess worked for the BBC as a producer of its Week in Westminster radio program, which covered British Parliamentary activity. The archival documents, some of which date back to 1936, shed light on his activities while at the BBC. They include a reference letter addressed to the BBC from Burgess’ academic mentor, renowned Cambridge University historian Sir George Trevelyan. In the letter, Professor Trevelyan describes Burgess as “a first rate man” and notes that “[h]e has passed through the communist measles that so many of our clever young men go through and is well out of it”. Read more of this post

Kim Philby’s granddaughter describes memories of her grandfather

Charlotte Philby

Charlotte Philby

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Charlotte Philby, daughter of John Philby, H.A.R. “Kim” Philby’s oldest son, has penned an extensive account of her memories of her grandfather. In her article, published yesterday in British daily The Independent, she describes Kim Philby as “a proud man, and one who chose to publicly stand by his actions”. Kim Philby was probably the most successful double spy in history. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, he spied on behalf of the Soviet KGB and NKVD from the early 1930s until 1963, when he defected to Moscow. Two years later he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. The Soviet authorities buried him with honors when he died in 1988. Read more of this post

Cambridge spy ring member’s memoir reveals motives behind actions

Anthony Blunt

Anthony Blunt

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The British Library kept its promise and released yesterday the closely guarded, incomplete autobiographical manuscript of Anthony Blunt, fourth member of the Cambridge spy ring. The group of British spies, which worked secretly for the Soviet Union from the 1930s until the 1960s, included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, all of whom eventually defected to the Soviet Union. In his 30,000-word memoir, Blunt, an art history professor who in 1945 became Surveyor of the King’s Pictures and was knighted in 1954, describes his recruitment to spy for the Soviets as “the most important decision of my life”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0012

  • New book on KGB activities in the United States. Based on archival material, authors John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr estimate that from the early 1920s more than 500 Americans, including many Ivy League graduates and Oxford Rhodes Scholars, were recruited to assist Soviet intelligence agencies, particularly in the State Department and America’s first intelligence agency, the OSS (forerunner of the CIA). 
  • South Korean spy agency launches video game. “Spot the Spy” video game is offered online by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) “to promote public awareness about security”. But pro-unification activists complain the game demonizes them. 
  • 2006 spy satellite failure a mystery, says NRO. The secretive US National Reconnaissance Office claims it still doesn’t know what caused the 2006 failure of one of its most expensive spy satellites, despite “an exhaustive formal failure investigation and three different independent review team investigations”. 
  • Memoir of fourth Cambridge spy soon to be unsealed. In early July the British Library will permit public access to the 30,000-word unfinished autobiographical manuscript of Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of Pictures for Queen Elizabeth II, and a member of the Cambridge Five, a group of spies working for the Soviet Union from the 1930s to the early 1950s.