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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last British secret
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,...
Published on 8 Oct 2010 by John Sheldon

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 5 months ago by LimaTango


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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last British secret, 8 Oct 2010
By 
John Sheldon (Walton-on-Thames, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: GCHQ (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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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book using open sources, 29 July 2010
By 
Justin Havens - See all my reviews
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This review is from: GCHQ (Hardcover)
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to Read and Informative., 20 Aug 2012
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This review is from: GCHQ (Paperback)
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
This review is from: GCHQ (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
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This review is from: GCHQ (Paperback)
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
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This review is from: GCHQ (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: GCHQ (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learned something, 18 Oct 2010
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This review is from: GCHQ (Hardcover)
America's signals intelligence "special relationship" with the UK was surprising to me, as it really does (did?) seem to be close (as opposed to the "special relationship" much touted and abused as a concept by the media nowadays). So I found this book just as interesting from the wider political perspective, as well as the detail about GCHQ's activities.

Only drawback for me was the one or two references to how other academics' writings were wrong. Academics can't resist an opportunity for an argument.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What GCHQ, 15 Aug 2010
By 
Mr. J. Alistair Read "JARead" (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: GCHQ (Hardcover)
I was immediately immersed in this admirable book which I found joined up a great number of dots from previously published literature on the topic. I do, however, that Aldrich or his proof-readers have devoted just a few seconds to UK locations; Chicksands is not near Baldoch (which is in Hertfordshire), rather Bedford. Likewise, Bletchley somehow landed up in Bedfordshire. Small criticisms, though. The notes and bibliography are breath-taking - and will keep me busy for years to come!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GCHQ, 12 Aug 2010
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This review is from: GCHQ (Hardcover)
Very interesting. Enough information to make it very worthwhile. Having some experience in the intelligence/security business I have always been surprised at the level of secrecy that continues to surround matters that have well passed their need to be classed secret or above. I appreciate that the UK secerity/secret services are governed by treaty obligations. I also appreciate that there are people that wish to expose matters of importance purely for the sake of doing so and that this has an adverse effect on disclosures by the intelligence services. This book has taken us a big step forward in understanding the valus of sigint.
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