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4.0 out of 5 stars What happens behind the scenes.
There is much in this book which I had not known and also much that I had not suspected. Very interesting. More goes on than appears on the 'News' or in the newspapers.
Published 6 months ago by Andrew William Dunsire

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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read but lacking in fact
An interesting book that reads well enough, but more like a fictional spy novel than a well researched history book; and that's its failing. A quick look at the sources will show you mainly American and Israelis with a smattering of British sources - predominantly former officers from over a decade ago, some of which are known whistleblowers. Much of it is therefore out...
Published on 10 Jun 2009 by Well Read


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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read but lacking in fact, 10 Jun 2009
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An interesting book that reads well enough, but more like a fictional spy novel than a well researched history book; and that's its failing. A quick look at the sources will show you mainly American and Israelis with a smattering of British sources - predominantly former officers from over a decade ago, some of which are known whistleblowers. Much of it is therefore out of date and more worryingly, often in wildly factually inaccurate. Additionally, I felt that if I counted them up I'd find more pages written about the CIA and Mossad than MI5 and MI6 combined. Like I said, an interesting enough read if you're not interested in what MI5 and MI6 are really about, and certainly don't expect to learn much about the UK intelligence services and their 100 year history. Can I send the book back? Sorry.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Complete Rubbish, 2 July 2009
Inside British Intelligence is described by its publisher as "the definitive and up-to-date history of two of the oldest and most powerful secret services in the world" though it has no source notes, has very little on M15 and M16 before 1990 - and what there is is unfamiliar only because it is often inaccurate - and is largely devoted to the activities of Mossad and CIA .

There is no mention of important British intelligence episodes such as the Zinoviev letter which influenced the outcome of the 1924 election, the breaking of Enigma, the Venlo incident where two SIS officers were captured at the outbreak of war, the Profumo Affair, Buster Crabb, the running of Penkovsky and his role in the Cuban missile crisis and the intelligence services role in Empire. All very curious.

Mr Thomas a self-styled "leading expert on the intelligence community" knows a great deal about what people wore (suits "tailored by Gieves & Hawkes, a hand-sewn shirt with double cuffs and his Travellers Club tie" etc), what they said, thought, ate and drank at particular moments but is less certain in other areas: sometimes Century House is the headquarters of M15 (p.208 and 255) and sometimes correctly M16 (p.286); sometimes Sir Christopher Curwen is head of M15 (p.216)and sometimes rightly M16 (p.195); Vernon Kell is head of MI6(p.421) and sometimes accurately M15(p.78); the M15 chiefs Stella Rimington and Patrick Walker also mysteriously work for M16 (p.177 and p.255). Maybe Mr Thomas knows something we don't?

He makes much of his `prime sources' which for the UK are: Eddie Chapman, a low-level World War Two agent who died aged 83 twelve years ago; the former M16 officer Richard Tomlinson who claims Princess Diana was murdered by British Intelligence and the former M15 couple Annie Machon (who believes Mossad was behind the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in London in 1994) and David Shayler (who has declared himself the messiah and having discovered eternal life). For some reason, Mr Thomas prefers these accounts to the thousands of readily available M15 documents declassified over the last twenty years.

He cites an extensive bibliography but doesn't appear to have consulted the books himself . A few pages about The Cambridge Spies, extensively chronicled in numerous books, gives a flavour of the Thomas interpretation of history : Kim Philby's father St John Philby is called Sir Harry Philby, Kim is a member of the Apostles (he was not) and is recruited at Cambridge (he was not) is a fluent Spanish speaker (he was not) and appears to defect from Britain rather than is commonly assumed Beirut. Maclean begins his spying career in 1938 some three years after the generally accepted date of his recruitment and his London apartment is bugged though in truth he didn't have one and commuted from just outside London.

Guy Burgess is described as a counterintelligence officer (he wasn't), serves alongside George Blake in the Far East Department (he doesn't) , his outrageous behaviour in Washington leads to calls for his recall in the summer of 1950 (he only arrived in August 1950) ; he is ordered to leave America "within forty-eight hours" of engineering traffic violations to warn Maclean( the violations take place in February 1951 , have nothing to do with his departure and he leaves in May 1951), he returns to "a job in the Foreign Office" (he doesn't) etc. Blunt is identified by the press as `the Third Man' thirty years earlier than the reality. You get the picture.

The book, a series of incorrectly spelt names, discredited conspiracy theories and repetitious, often completely fabricated, stories the purpose of which it is sometimes difficult to ascertain, jumps around in time and location with no central narrative and it is difficult to ascertain at whom it is aimed since readers new to the subject will be baffled and those with some knowledge will be exasperated.

One can only assume in this wilderness of mirrors that a deeper deception game is being played by the proof reader and our intelligence expert, a winner, as he proudly states , of "the Mark Twain Society Award for Reporting Excellence and an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Investigation" to confuse us when the official histories of M15 by Christopher Andrew and M16 by Keith Jeffery appear later this year and next. That can be the only explanation for this farrago of nonsense.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Getting Inside the Secret Service, 21 July 2009
By 
N. BARTLETT (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The subtitle of Gordon Thomas' latest - `100 years of MI5 and MI6' led me to believe I was in for an insightful overview of a century of spooks. A preface with an authoritative listing of the directors of Britain's secret service branches from 1909 promised similar. But it's not. This is very much a book by a journalist. It has some rattling good tales yet it is really a compilation. Some are like feature length articles; others can only be described as anecdotes.
Although many chapters set out to be a cohesive narrative, the author readily diverts to talk about other things. Flashbacks and extensive fillings-in of backgrounds sometimes make the main thread difficult to follow. I was also left confused between MI5 and MI6. Stories about either were woven together so that the non-expert is adrift in understanding which agency is being described.
The non-sequiturs seem strange unless I'm missing something. A gripping chapter about the probable murder of Dr David Kelly and the travesty of the Hutton Inquiry concludes with a description of Saddam Hussein's execution. Another section on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the 1990s has a paragraph in the middle about MI5 mistrusting Harold Wilson. A paragraph about recruiting starts off, "In the 1970s, MI5...." The next par talks about focus on Cambridge and Oxford that "...were turning out graduates who had returned from the war." This, of course, was thirty years earlier. It is a pattern that repeats in so many chapters, jumping backwards, forwards and sideways to other topics.
There are a few irritating errors too. In July 1941, we are told, Germany had overrun Europe and acquired Russia as an ally. Difficult to believe as Germany had invaded Russia on 22nd June that year. Blunt is described as being identified as the Third Man by the press after Burgess and MacLean fled in 1951. Not so as it was not until 1979 that his spying became public knowledge. Forest Gate is described as being in south London when it's deep in East Ender's territory.
The title is somewhat of a misnomer as much of the book is about the adventures and misadventures of the CIA and Mossad. The Chinese secret service is also well covered.
Many of the stories are already well known but some were entirely new to me. Thomas has built an enviable network of contacts over the years and in this book they have spilt the beans on a number of special jobs. I found many of them quite fascinating.
Although the run of the narrative is sometimes tiresome, this book is definitely a good read for those interested in the real life George Smiley world of espionage. (NRB)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Probably the Worst Book on British Intelligence Ever, 10 Aug 2011
By 
John N. L. Morrison "jnlm" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 (Paperback)
Long on pointless "colour" detail, short on facts or accuracy. The opening is set in the recent past and shows an almost complete lack of understanding and regard for facts. The funding for MI6 is not infinite, as the author implies, it comes fom the Single Intelligence Account (formerly the Single Intelligence Vote) - not the Single Unified Account as he has it. SCOPE does not mean limited to the eyes of the Agency Heads - it is a government-wide intelligence IT network. The functions of MI6 and MI5 are hopelessly confused. And so on and on. Any former intelligence practitioners could compete to find the howlers.

When the author gets to the genesis of modern British intelligence before the war he omits the birth of MI6 and the contribution of Room 40 before moving on to the post-WW I period. He may come on to them later, but by this point I had completely lost faith in him - the clock had sounded its 17th strike of the bell. One for the WPB, I'm afraid. If I could have given this no stars I would have.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Change the title, 13 April 2011
By 
Mr gareth E Price (Milton Keynes, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 (Paperback)
One look at this 500-odd page book and you know it can't fulfil the promise of the title. As other reviewers have noted there are errors in the text and if you can spot one as an amateur it makes the rest of the book impossible to trust. The part about David Kelly was very interesting - but how much is correct. My guess is that the author had a load of material left over from updating his Mossad book "Gideon's Spies" and needed somewhere to put it. You can get decent books on MI5, MI6 and GCHQ for less than a tenner so only buy this for a light read.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wilderness of Cracked Mirrors, 28 Jun 2010
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I enjoyed the first two chapters and also some other parts of this easy-reading purported analysis of MI6/MI5 activities over the past century. It is written in the style of the late Readers Digest and that is not necessarily any bad thing. It is no history of these organizations, though. To be a full history, it would have to be a multi-volume work, really.

I was, like other reviewers, dismayed at the number of errors in the book. A few which caught my attention might be:

Century House is/was at 100 Westminster Bridge Road, not Westminster Bridge;

The one-time SIS Chief, Christopher Curwen's first wife, was Burmese not Vietnamese or so I was told --if memory serves-- by a lady who was a personal friend of that first wife (who claimed, I was told, that the divorce had happened mainly because he thought her origins might damage his career);

pp. 177-178 are a confused mess, claiming that Stella Rimington worked at Century House; the same pages also seemed to confuse MI6 and MI5. I was amused to read that Rimington's big moment in her earlier career phase came when she managed to have cancelled a Russian's visa. What happened to Smiley and James Bond?!

There are a lot of confused anachronisms without logical connection; also, the author is Welsh and the publisher British, so why use Americanese like "prep school" to refer to a British fee-paying secondary school?

I was amused to read about how, it is claimed, the then Chief of SIS and the then DG of MI5 used to meet at a good restaurant close to Century House. Well, though I have and have had nothing to do with secret intelligence, I was once enrollled as p/t student (Russian and German) at Morley College, opposite Century House, as well as at a nearby language laboratory. I cannot recall seeing any good restaurant within miles. Perhaps the author is thinking of the excellent workers' cafes which then existed in The Cut, before it was sadly redeveloped. They had been used for agent meetings between Gordon Lonsdale/Konon Molody and the Portland naval spies of the early 1960's, too, though I find it hard to see the heads of the secret and security services sitting down to a double egg and chips therein...

There are numerous other errors in the book.

Also, why talk about Oleg Lyalin without noting the most significant fact about him, that, despite being KGB and not GRU, his task was to scout for a possible pre-main-attack phase of special forces raids on strategic targets in the UK in advance of a Soviet main attack?

There is virtually nothing said of that most serpentine of SIS Chiefs, Maurice Oldfield.

The parts of the book which did interest me were the bits about how (thanks partly to the defaults of that secret sadist, little Donald Rumsfeld) germ warfare capabilities may have been transferred from the USA to pre-1990 Iraq and thence to other Arab countries, to Iran and to N. Korea. What struck me more (as a supporter of European race, culture and civilization...meine Ehre heisst Treue lol!) was that those countries might have a weapon which, thanks to human genome technology, would be able to kill only white European people. If so, they must be stopped.

I was also interested by the CIA report which apparently described the Japanese (correctly, in my view) as "amoral, manipulative and operating in a culture which is intent on world economic dominance...a racialist, non-democratic nation". Hm...!

Another fascinating part of the book deals with the death of Dr. Kelly, which may have been connected to the germ warfare scenario and not just the Iraq WMD one. Can it be true that a senior police officer started to write his "report on the death of Dr. Kelly" BEFORE the man had even died? Something not quite right with the whole of that story. I wonder whether it will ever come out?

And what is the truth about Helium-3 on the Moon? I had never heard of it or of the idea that it could replace hydrocarbon fuels. Is that true?

Despite the good parts and easy style, I cannot give this book more thean 3 stars because of the immense number of flaws and errors.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What happens behind the scenes., 3 Oct 2013
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There is much in this book which I had not known and also much that I had not suspected. Very interesting. More goes on than appears on the 'News' or in the newspapers.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside British INtelligence: 100 years of MI5 and MI6, 22 Nov 2010
By 
Amitpal S. Aujla "Xylem" (London, UK.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 (Paperback)
An Excellent insight to the work of the British Intelligence Agencies, MI5 and MI6. This book is thoroughly fascinating and an enjoyable read into the work and the daily challenges, choices and decisions that the British Intelligence Agencies have to make when defending the country against threats throughout the last century. The book provides an insight into how intelligence agencies operate and the politics that take place within them. This book is for someone who has a great interest in twentieth-century political history and international relations but with particular emphasis on the role and influence of intelligence agencies during the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War and the so called 'War on Terror'. I would thoroughly recommend this book for anyone who want to understand history and international relations in a far greater context and detail.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Review, 22 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 (Paperback)
Book arrived quickly and in perfect condition, especially great as it was purchased as a birthday gift. The book is full of interest. Would recommend the supplier.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6, 9 Jun 2010
This review is from: Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 (Paperback)
Instead of plain history, Gordon Thomas elucidates a cornucopia of detail while dealing with the evolution of MI5/6 that also reveals a personal and social side to these decision-makers. Thomas' window on the milieu of MI5 & MI6 comes from genuine contacts. This lends great liveliness and a `peeking inside' aspect to the author's style of writing that shines uniquely throughout this book, making it a necessary addition to your library.
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Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6
Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 by Gordon Thomas (Paperback - 25 May 2010)
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