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MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743217780, Paperback)MI6, the foreign section of Great Britain's intelligence service, began life early in the 20th century with the charge of keeping tabs on "Red Russia," and, soon thereafter, on Nazi Germany. Less effective during World War II than its American counterpart, the Office of Strategic Services, MI6 came into its own during the cold war, when Britain's spymasters recruited bright young public-school intellectuals to play a modern version of the Great Game against their Soviet counterparts in the KGB and thwart Communist ambitions around the globe.
The Soviets, writes English historian Stephen Dorril, were often a step ahead, helped along by British turncoats like Kim Philby, who provided Stalin with the names of MI6 operatives and later defected. And, like the CIA, the agents of MI6 were obsessed with conjuring elaborate schemes, including plots to assassinate Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser (with poisoned chocolates) and Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic (by means of a carefully engineered car crash). Busy planning elaborate endings to their enemies' lives, the British spies failed to comprehend important developments as they were happening, from the Belgrade-Moscow split of the late 1940s to the collapse of the Soviet bloc in the late 1980s.
Such failures, lapses, and scandals have led to repeated calls for dismantling the agency, especially now that the cold war has ended. Even so, Dorril writes, MI6 enjoys a privileged position within the British government and is unlikely to see meaningful reform. Readers who know of British spydom only through the surprisingly accurate James Bond novels of Ian Fleming will find Dorril's densely detailed, often scathingly critical book to be an eye-opener. --Gregory McNamee
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:23 -0400)
M16, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, is one of the great information-gathering organizations of the world, internationally renowned as the employer of the mythical but emblematic James Bond. Yet it has remained one of the nation's most elusive organizations. Its head, Richard Dearlove, is virtually unknown -- a contemporary photograph has never appeared in the press -- and even its true budget is not made public. There is no legal "right to know" what is undertaken abroad in the name of Britain's security, what it costs or how it is run. In the past, any dissident reports of its operations were effectively quashed. To write about M16 risks harassment and prosecution, as former members and current commentators know to their cost, and the organization has remained veiled from scrutiny. Its inside story has never been told. Until now. Stephen Dorril, a meticulous observer and chronicler of the security services, provides a full fifty-year history for the first time, offering the most complete portrait ever of M16's motives and character and, crucially, what it has done and where it has been most influential. At the beginning
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