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GCHQ [Hardcover]

Richard Aldrich
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Jun 2010

The gripping inside story of the last unknown realm of the British secret service: GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters).

GCHQ is the successor to the famous Bletchley Park wartime code-breaking organisation and is the largest and most secretive intelligence organisation in the country. During the war, it commanded more staff than MI5 and MI6 combined and has produced a number of intelligence triumphs, as well as some notable failures. Since the end of the Cold War, it has played a pivotal role in shaping Britain's secret state. Still, we know almost nothing about it.

In this ground-breaking new book, Richard Aldrich traces GCHQ's evolvement from a wartime code-breaking operation based in the Bedfordshire countryside, staffed by eccentric crossword puzzlers, to one of the world leading espionage organisations. It is packed full of dramatic spy stories that shed fresh light on Britain's role in the Cold War - from the secret tunnels dug beneath Vienna and Berlin to tap Soviet phone lines, and daring submarine missions to gather intelligence from the Soviet fleet, to the notorious case of Geoffrey Pine, one of the most damaging moles ever recruited by the Soviets inside British intelligence. The book reveals for the first time how GCHQ operators based in Cheltenham affected the outcome of military confrontations in far-flung locations such as Indonesia and Malaya, and exposes the shocking case of three GGHQ workers who were killed in an infamous shootout with terrorists while working undercover in Turkey.

Today's GCHQ struggles with some of the most difficult issues of our time. A leading force of the state's security efforts against militant terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, they are also involved in fundamental issues that will mould the future of British society. Compelling and revelatory, Aldrich's book is the crucial missing link in Britain’s intelligence history.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition edition (10 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007278470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007278473
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 293,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Praise for ‘The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence’:

‘Rivetting, and essential reading not only for intelligence specialists but for everyone interested in the Cold War and in British-American relations.’ Christopher Andrew

‘A triumph of assiduous research and cogent analysis.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Aldrich's meticulously factual account of British and American spookery…is hugely impressive.’ John Booth, Tribune

‘A truly brilliant book…this is intelligence for adults, and all the more enthralling for it.’ George Walden, Evening Standard

From the Back Cover

A gripping exploration of the last great unknown realm of the British secret service: Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ).

GCHQ is the successor to Bletchley Park and is the largest and most secretive intelligence organisation in the country. Since the end of the Cold War, it has played a pivotal role in shaping Britain's secret state. Still, we know almost nothing about it.

In this ground-breaking new book, Richard Aldrich traces GCHQ's evolution from a wartime code-breaking operation based in the Bedfordshire countryside to one of the world’s leading espionage organisations.

Packed to the brim with dramatic spy stories – including secret submarine missions, hidden tunnels dug to tap phones and Soviet moles – GCHQ also explores the organisation’s role in tackling some of the most troubling issues of our time: Al Qaeda, privacy and surveillance. Revelatory and brilliantly written, this is the crucial missing link in Britain’s intelligence history.

‘Richard J. Aldrich is an outstanding analyst and historian of intelligence … an important book’ Sunday Times

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last British secret 8 Oct 2010
Format:Hardcover
GCHQ, by Richard J Aldrich

Like most former employees of GCHQ, I did not have much idea of what went on outside my particular section. To satisfy my curiosity I have read all three recently published volumes on this notorious establishment, of which this, as a serious history, is the most weighty. That such a detailed account was needed is undeniable, considering the major contribution to our national survival made by this band of dedicated codebreakers, as we now know them to be, coupled with its reputation as "The last British secret".

Every significant event in its development is charted, from its beginnings in 1919 as the Government Code and Cypher School, through the years of the second world war when a massively expanded team at Bletchley Park cracked the Nazi Enigma code, to modern times when the former business of monitoring foreign states has to a large degree been overtaken by the need to combat terrorism and international crime.

The extent to which information derived by GCHQ has played a part in international happenings will be a revelation to many. It is plain that in the modern world this country still needs effective monitoring, or Sigint as it is known, to protect its interests. However not all will approve the way in which the emphasis is now on recording details of all electronic communications, and of the individual citizens who send and receive them, enabled by astronomical computing power. There are moral questions here, as well as our willingness to devote serious resources to acquiring the technology, much of which already exists. In this respect it is fortunate that the British have long enjoyed a policy of sharing Sigint with the United States, and it could well be that we will ultimately be dependent on it.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book using open sources 29 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The great thing about this book is that it isn't a sensationalist revelation from an ex. member of the intelligence services, but a research based book using open sources. The line 'there are no secrets, just lazy researchers' is very apt.

The information about some of the big stories of the last century are fascinating - the General Belgrano where SIGINT had picked up a command for it to proceed to task force and sink British ships, and its zig zag course meant that it was true when the Argentinians said it was outside exclusion zone, and sailing away from Falkland islands at the time it was hit. There was no other real decision for the British commanders to take.

As someone who lives in Cheltenham, it is great to see some of the big episodes of GCHQ, and also the relationship with the US.

First class book and to be recommended for anyone with an interest in this area!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to Read and Informative. 20 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Richard Aldrich traces the development of GCHQ and it's predecessors from the 1940's when the focus was on Germany to 2010 and the "War on Terror". In between he covers a lot of ground showing how the organisation grew and adapted to changing threats and new technologies. It is interesting to see how the need and desire for more and better intelligence has influenced foreign policy decisions since the end of the Second World War. I am interested in history and in particular military history so I was pleased to find information in this book which I had not previously read about intelligence activities surrounding major historical events. Given the close (and sometimes tricky) relationship between British and American intelligence services there is quite a lot of information about the NSA (the US version of GCHQ) and it's occasionally difficult relationship with the CIA.
What I liked in particular was how easy the book is to read; not at all bogged down in detail as some books on intelligence services can be. Indeed it is written in quite a lively style which makes it easy to cover the ground quickly.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of the role of communications and signals intelligence in the events of the decades since the end of the war.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absoluely Briliant 29 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback
THis is an absolutely briliant read Whether or not you are interested in history, news, feel annoyed at being led by the nose when the UK attacked Iraq, journalists hacking celebrity phones or computing there is something in this book for you An absolute page turner I bought 4 more copies for friends once I had finished reading the book. I cannnot recommend it more highly!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very educating and enthralling read 23 Jan 2012
By Webb
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very well written, easy to follow and, as someone else said, a book that is difficult to put down. Having an interest in this subject I was aware of some of the content but I have learned a great deal more than I anticipated. For anyone interested in this subject this book is a must.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GCHQ 9 Dec 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A fantastic book covering the history of GCHQ and the collection of signals intelligence.
Superbly researched and written by an expert in his field. Anyone with an interest in
espionage and or politics, should read this excellent publication.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GCHQ 6 Oct 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a fantastically interesting and very well researched book. Richard has achieved what I'm sure many other non-fiction writers can only dream of, a book that is a real page turner! I finished this 600+ page book in under three days!! Highly recommended!!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good
supeer book
Published 1 day ago by Pi
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice one Richard.
Just how I remembered the big doughnut! When reding the book I could even smell the fresh paint! You have it spot on the offices that existed and those which didn't are in the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. C. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enlightening read.
A very well written book about a subject that over a period of years gets forgotten. The story line is like a time line, but brings together information from over a period of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by TerryG
2.0 out of 5 stars Technical Bore
Long winded and tiring. Could not read it without falling asleep after a few pages and gave up before the halfway point.
Published 2 months ago by LimaTango
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredibly well researched and balanced history of British signals...
If you have taken a passing interest in the Manning or Snowden revelations, this book explores how GCHQ and NSA have come to be.
Published 3 months ago by John Flanagan
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative and very well written
A very good read. Whether very accurate or not is not for me to say, as I'm just a retired professional businessman. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brian Lait
5.0 out of 5 stars GCHQ
Having worked at 'The Secret Spy Base' (Gloucestershire Echo, commonly used term),

For the best part of 30 years, I look forward to finding out exactly what I did... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Naguere
5.0 out of 5 stars In-depth history from Bletchley park to Cheltenham.
Compelling and revelatory. It reveals how the organisation and those that worked in it affected not just military and espionage outcomes, but also political decisions. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Iheanyi
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
A fascinating insight into a secret world. I haven't finished reading it yet but so far I'm hooked! I recommend it.
Published 6 months ago by JoRo
4.0 out of 5 stars Very revealing
Appears to be a very well researched book. Full of fascinating 'Cold War' revelations. The 60's and 70's now are realised as a very scary period.
Published 6 months ago by L Brasi
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