You have to admire the cheek of Open Secret
's author Stella Rimington. After a career spanning 25 years in MI5, during which she was more than happy for the Official Secrets Acts to be used to the government's advantage, she is now outraged that attempts should have been made to block publication of her memoirs and is calling for the act to be reformed. In an extended preface to Open Secret
, Rimington writes of her encounter with Cabinet secretary, Sir Richard Wilson, "By the end of an hour or so of being threatened, bullied and cajoled in the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger way the Establishment behaves to its recalcitrant sons and, as I now know, daughters, I was very shaken". One wonders what else she expected? The thought of any former director-general of MI5 writing his or her memoirs was bound to have disturbed the security services and, compared to many, Rimington got off lightly. But then, whatever else she might think, Rimington is still very much an Establishment woman. She submitted her manuscript for vetting, took out one or two edgy bits, and as she disarmingly points out, there are no revelations about the inner workings of the intelligence services. When she gets to any contentious issues, such as MI5's role in infiltrating CND and breaking the miners' strike, all she has to say is that MI5 never did anything wrong, that that those who say otherwise are conspiracy theorists and that we'll just have to take her word for it because she's right. The portrait that emerges of a bunch of mildly incompetent bureaucrats who wouldn't say boo to a goose does no favours to Rimington or MI5. The books does have its moments, particularly those describing a woman isolated in an almost exclusively male world, but its real significance lies in the fact it was published at all. If the director-general is allowed to go public, there's precious little to stop the MI5 foot soldiers doing likewise. And when they do, the skeletons that Rimington has kept firmly locked in the cupboard might start to come tumbling out. --John Crace
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Was she right to publish? Most certainly. If we are to have a mature attitude to our intelligence services, we need this kind of inside account - it is vital in stripping away mystique and building understanding" (Daily Telegraph
"Stella Rimington deserves our thanks for resisting the bullying of the cabinet office and many of her colleagues and associates in Whitehall, and pushing on to publication" (New Statesman
"She writes in a refreshingly self-deprecating style of juggling the roles of single parent and chief "spook"" (Independent on Sunday