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

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

MI5 concealed report on Soviet penetration from CIA

Kim Philby

Kim Philby

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
British counterintelligence officials decided to conceal from their American counterparts a report detailing Soviet spy penetration of the UK, because it showed London’s permissive attitude towards intelligence infiltration. The secret report, entitled “Survey of Russian Espionage in the UK 1935-1955”, was authored by the D Branch of MI5, which was tasked with countering Soviet intelligence operations on British soil. It was declassified on Monday by Britain’s National Archives, 55 years after it was initially authored. The survey was apparently commissioned following the embarrassing defections of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, MI5 and MI6 officers respectively, who escaped to Moscow in 1951, after several years of spying for the Soviet Union. Its pages detail the cases of over 50 Soviet intelligence operatives and double agents who were believed at the time to be mostly at large in the UK or abroad. But senior MI5 officials decided to limit the report’s distribution, fearing that it revealed too many weaknesses in Britain’s counterintelligence posture. Instead, they decided to print only about 25 copies of the report, which were to be distributed strictly within MI5. Read more of this post

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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