Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars A good accessible history for the non expert reader, 27 April 2014
This review is from: MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service (Paperback)
There is a passage in Le Carre's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" where the traitor Bill Haydon tells George Smiley that the secret services are the only true expression of a nation's character. Corera's book relates how the secret service tried to preserve the nation's character from Moscow's attempts to subvert and undermine the British establishment through post 2nd WW classic tradecraft espionage until the arrival of multi facetted, and arguably more potent, threats from terrorism and proliferation heralded a whole new set of responses during the post Soviet era.

If there is a discernible theme running through the narrative it's how the secret service became less elitist and insulated from mainstream political oversight and was compelled by global events and social change to be more transparent and accountable for its actions. Corera relates the history of these changes with lively anecdotes and commentary from many of the major practitioners who helped to bring the secret service out of the shadows. He cites the fallout from the "Cambridge Five" betrayals in the 1950s/1960s and the Iraq WMD fiasco of 2002/2003 as the two low points in the service's credibility to the British public. Although the book is entitled "MI6" there is a generous amount of material and first hand attribution from those more directly connected to its sister service "MI5".This didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book but perhaps a broader themed title may have been more appropriate to reflect the duality and interdependence of both agencies.
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