The Secrets of The Service

Title:                      The Secrets of The Service

Author:                 Anthony Glees

Glees, Anthony (1987). The Secrets of The Service: A Story of Soviet Subversion of Western Intelligence. New York: Carroll & Graf,

LCCN:    87020862

UB271.R9 G58 1987


Date Updated:  October 9, 2015

From Publisher’s Weekly[1]

Against the background of British foreign policy from 1939 to 1951, Glees examines the evidence of Soviet infiltration into British Intelligence and concludes that the extent of damage has been “grossly exaggerated.” Focusing on the cases of Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, and Klaus Fuchs, the study is nevertheless critical of the British secret service’s failure to alert policy-makers to the dangers of wartime cooperation with Stalin. In a final section, Glees reviews the evidence against Sir Roger Hollis, director of MI5 (roughly equivalent to the FBI) during the ‘50s and early ‘60s, whom many believe to have been a Soviet “super-mole.” Refuting point by point the accusations made in Chapman Pincher’s Too Secret, Too Long[2], Glees calls the case against Hollis “a sham.”

Some comments by Roy Berkeley:[3]

From Old Quebec Street to Bryanston Street, then turning left, finally at Edgware Road turn right. On the left side of Edgware Road, past Connaught Street, is Portsea Hall, Portsea Place.

Anthony Blunt lived here on the sixth floor (flat No. 45) from 1974, when he retired from the Courtauld Institute as Sir Anthony, until a heart attack killed the disgraced scholar in 1983. He was living here when Mrs. Thatcher answered a parliamentary question in 1979 and announced that Britain had known for 15 years of Blunt’s role as a Soviet agent. This startling public disclosure must be credited to the writer Andrew Boyle, who had painstakingly discovered Blunt’s confession and revealed it in his book The Climate of Treason (1979)[4]. Boyle got a few details wrong and didn’t actually name Blunt, resorting instead to the pseudonym “Maurice” for the so-called Fourth Man. But the cat was out of the bag. When the Prime Minister confirmed Blunt’s spying and gave specifics of Blunt’s deal with the government, MI5 was horrified.

Blunt had joined MI5 in 1940. Serving HM Government throughout WWII, he served the Soviets better. As Anthony Glees explains in The Secrets of the Service. “The moles did not simply say, ‘we must do whatever the USSR wants,’ for the obvious reason that this would arouse British suspicions. Rather, they appear to have said, ‘what Russia wants in this specific case is absurd and should be rejected; as a quid pro quo, however, we must make sure that Russia gets what it wants in other areas’.” The moles did more than pass on secrets; in subtle ways they subverted policy, as Glees is not the first to point out.

Blunt, of course, passed on a lot of secrets. Near the war’s end, he told a superior that he had, with consummate pleasure, given the name of every MI5 officer to the Soviets. (This startling admission was followed by an even more startling response from :MI5—no response, at that time or any other time.) Information imparted by Blunt compromised every counter-espionage operation of MI5 during the many months he was in charge of the Watchers. He also routinely delivered information gleaned from his MI5 task of opening the diplomatic bags of other nations. (In so doing, writes John Costello, he “helped facilitate the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe”). Only the courier bags of the Soviet Embassy were “immune to the activities of Blunt’s team,” writes Costello; according to a rumour “perhaps put about by Blunt himself,” the Kremlin’s diplomatic bags were said to be booby-trapped. Blunt’s treachery also ended the work of two key MI5 assets: a secretary to Anastas Mikoyan inside the Kremlin, and Torn Driberg inside the CPGB. Blunt was far more valuable to the Soviet intelligence services than to his own, especially since the Soviets alone were looking beyond Hitler’s defeat to the inevitable confrontation between their expanding empire and the West.

With his treachery made public in 1979, Blunt was obliged to give up his honours and prestigious affiliations. But he was not prosecuted. That was the deal struck in 1964: immunity from prosecution in exchange for Blunt’s telling M15 as much—or as little—as he liked. Defenders of MI5 argue that the government could do no better, lacking evidence for a trial. But does anyone believe that Blunt told the government everything he knew?

The Labour Party made political capital of the case. They couldn”t denounce the Tories for a McCarthyite smear since Blunt had confessed. So they denounced the Tories for allowing an upper-class communist spy like Anthony Blunt to skate while a middle-class communist spy like George Blake did heavy time. They were absolutely right, of course. Blunt’s press conference in November, 1979, was especially outrageous. Held at The Times, and including BBC, ITV and The Guardian, it excluded all newspapers hostile to Blunt. He wasn’t asked any impolite questions; he wasn”t required to apologize; he wasn”t forced to name any of his contacts or recruits. The excluded newspapers were furious—and properly so. Blunt wouldn’t have “co-operated” at all (even to the extent he did) if he hadn’t been betrayed by one of his own recruits.

[1] See

[2] Pincher, Chapman (1984). Too Secret, Too Long. New York: St. Martin’s Press

[3] See Berkeley, Roy (1994). A Spy’s London. London: Leo Cooper, p.

[4] Boyle, Andrew (1979).The Climate of Treason:Five Who Spied for Russia. London: Hutchinson


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2 Responses to The Secrets of The Service

  1. Pingback: Too Secret, Too Long | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Anthony Blunt | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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