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SpyCatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a…

SpyCatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer (original 1987; edition 1988)

by Peter Wright

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1,266109,319 (3.54)30
Title:SpyCatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer
Authors:Peter Wright
Info:Dell (1988), Edition: 1st, Mass Market Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, politics, intelligence, biography, united kingdom, ussr, kgb, mi5

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Spy Catcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer by Peter Wright (1987)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The British government's efforts to block publication of Peter Wright's Spycatcher: Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Agent climaxed in a sensational trial in Australia in 1986 that cast a shadow of disrepute on the British legal system, the Official Secrets Act and the government itself. The author of this engrossing, suspenseful account is the Australian attorney who represented Wright and his would-be Australian publisher. Excerpts from the trial testimony reveal that Turnbull uncovered mendacity, hypocrisy and cynicism at the highest levels of the British government, principally during his cross-examination of Sir Robert Armstrong, cabinet secretary and adviser on intelligence matters. In 1987 the High Court at Canberra dismissed the case and ordered the Thatcher government to reimburse legal costs to Wright and Heinemann Publishers Australia. Turnbull calls the Britishers' conduct in the affair "quite disgraceful" and adds that the experience "galvanized my determination to see Australia rid herself of its sic remaining constitutional links with England."
  Cultural_Attache | Jul 30, 2018 |
Not a writer of genius, but the book is quite interesting. I wonder how much of the material covered is still state of the art, and I expect that very little of it is. There's quite a gap, one would hope, between escapist literature on this topic and the actual tradecraft of the current operations. But with Edward Snowdon throwing out great heaps of sensitive information, the future's probably full of changes for our invisible grey eminences. By writing this review, have I added to my file? Does anyone care? I'd like to be fully informed, but I'm afraid of knowing too much. A normal human, I think. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 22, 2013 |
As the subtitle indicates, this is "the candid autobiography of a senior intelligence officer" with Britain's MI5, the domestic intelligence service. My edition, a mass market paperback, is covered with plenty of laudatory quotes. The Financial Post believed that "Margaret Thatcher was quite right in trying to ban the book," while The New York Times said that "anyone with a taste for cloak-and-dagger mysteries should find Spycatcher a compelling read." I can't speak to the accuracy of the statement re Mrs Thatcher, but I will partly agree with the quote about cloak-and-dagger mysteries. Indeed, some parts, particularly in the early days when Wright chronicles the major surveillance operations he was involved in, are fascinating in the same way as a le Carré novel. (Given that le Carré himself worked as an intelligence officer around that time, this is not entirely surprising.)

Those who have read Christopher Andrew's Defence of the Realm may have a slight edge in knowing the major players and events in this book, which is definitely a more personal perspective than Andrew's book. Spycatcher is also a bit dated of course, given that it was published in 1987 (or rather my edition was). I think the book overall was pretty good, but for me personally my interest waned in the events once the 1970s rolled around. This also happened with Andrew's book so it's not necessarily Wright's fault that I find WW2 and the Kim Philby affair much more interesting.

If you plan to read this, beware of copious typographical errors in this edition. Also the chapters don't have any internal section breaks, so some can be tougher slogs than others. But overall I would say the content is good and worth a read if you're interested (at least the first half). ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | Jan 29, 2012 |
Riveting ( )
  susannelson | Mar 2, 2010 |
Imagine that both the FBI AND the CIA having Directors who are Soviet Moles planted decades earlier and now doing everything possible to not only ensure that U.S. espionage activities are unsuccessful, but passing all information to Moscow. This is what appears to have happened, in effect, to the British Intelligence services MI5 and MI6 from 1945 to 1965. And this was all because the Ox-bridge 'Old Bouy' network did not want anyone to even surmise that 'their kind' could even be suspected of disloyalty, much less treason. Through-out this period, even attempts to expose the traitors were suppressed for political reasons, to benefit the Party in Power. There were so many traitors that the effort to discover them was eventually abandoned on the premise other priorities demanded more attention of limited resources. All this while the spies were giving the Soviets all the information on U.S. advances in submarine warfare and missile technology, electronic warfare and much else; all so that the British 'Upper Claasses' could save face. This whole story is the Intelligence Fiasco of the Century. Now we know whom we cannot trust. ( )
  JimThomson | Mar 29, 2009 |
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Wright, Peterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greengrass, Paulmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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