Documents detail history of previously unknown US spy agency

John V. Grombach

J.V. Grombach

A collection of tens of thousands of documents discovered in a barn in a small Virginia town, have brought to light the history and operations of a previously unknown US spy agency that competed for prominence with the CIA during the early stages of the Cold War. The secrecy-obsessed agency was known at various times as the Secret Intelligence Branch, the Special Service Branch, the Special Service Section, or the Coverage and Indoctrination Branch; but insiders referred to it simply as “the Lake” or “the Pond”. It was created in late 1942 by the then newly established US Department of Defense, whose officials did not approve of the civilian character of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA. In its 13-year existence, the Pond operated on a semi-autonomous base under the Departments of Defense and State, but maintained a poor relationship with the CIA, which it considered too “integrated with British and French Intelligence and infiltrated by Communists and Russians”. This information is contained in the files, which were stored in several safes and filing cabinets by the organization’s secretive leader, US Army Colonel John V. Grombach, who died in 1982. Read more of this post

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. Read more of this post

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