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VINE VOICEon 2 February 2005
I loved it. There are 2 main parts to this book. First Tomlinsons recruitment,training and operations as an mi6 officer. Secondly his sacking and subsequent conflict with mi6. This second part(the final 1/3 of the book) didn't interest me. We outsiders don't know the reason for his sacking,we'd need to hear both sides of the story. The interesting part for me was the description of mi6 structure and organization in the 1990s(I'd read books describing mi6 structure from the 50s and 60s but this was the most up to date from an insider), the 6 month training course as well as operations. The mi6 officers he names are obviously pseudonyms but many were name in the infamous internet list(including the personnel officer hated by Tomlinson). Tomlinson denied being responsible for it and some commentators said it was flawed. As the number of MI6 officers writing books about current events doesn't happen every day,I recommend it,judge for yourself.
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on 8 June 2001
Nearly everything the public knows about spies is fiction. But Richard Tomlinson worked for the MI6 until he was fired for unknown reasons. According to the author, MI6 hunted him down all over the planet when he following tried to write an autobiography. They used and abused their connections with foreign intelligence services for intimidation purposes, stole his equipment, and had him imprisoned for several months. When the book was in the press despite MI6's vast efforts to prevent it, they took legal action to ban it. They failed spectacularly, and "The Big Breach" became freely available. Contrary to what many would believe, no government secrets are exposed in the book, and the few descriptions of MI6's working methods can surprise no one. The really interesting aspects of the book are an intriguing claim about a top UK politician, secret Serb donations to a British political party, and the degree of unfair treatment by the MI6, combined with alleged incompetence in personnel management. Countless claims and counterclaims have been made about the book. One such claim is that the Russian publisher is really a cover for what was formerly known as KGB, and that they have written sections of the book. An obvious counterclaim is that the MI6 have orchestrated a smear campaign to discredit the book and its author. Whatever the truth, here's a spy story that is as close to reality as we'll probably ever get.
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on 30 June 2005
There's no doubt Mr. Tomlinson is an intelligent, articulate man who writes very well. The book is evenly paced with a lot of interesting events and details. However, by the end of the book, my sympathies were with MI6 and not the author. Whilst I fail to understand WHY they seemingly relentlessly pursued Tomlinson, he does come across as a bit of a moaner and tries a little too hard to play the victim (Oh, poor me! Why is everyone picking on me?). My guess is, MI6 were desperate for any pretext (the tie incident) to get rid of such a whiner. But I found this book to be a fairly fascinating read, and I do recommend it.
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on 24 February 2013
This book reads easily and is never boring. I like the way he describes (with great humor) some events that he had experienced.
I wonder what he's doing nowadays.
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on 20 August 2012
The first half is full of titillating (although by now surely out-of date)detail about the inner-workings of MI6. The second half is Tomlinson's justification for this gratuitous spilling of the beans, which is that in spite of being quite literally the best recruit they'd ever had, MI6 personnel decided to sack him for unknown but certainly trumped-up reasons. His account of how he was persecuted by MI6 merely for wanting to have his dismissal looked at by an employment tribunal is a drawn-out martyrdom. His only way of hitting back is to write a best-selling book.

Is it true? That is anyone's guess, but anyone who can write as well as this is capable of fabrication, and to me his story of consummate hero to utter zero looks too good (or bad) to be true. The self-justification becomes tiresome. There is obviously more to this than meets the eye; those who could enlighten us cannot.
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on 7 March 2001
I found this book gripping, and very disturbing. The first half of the
book charts the author's career in Britain's Secret Intelligence
Service (MI6). Tomlinson's description of his MI6 training is
fascinating, and often amusing. On completion of his training, the
author serves in Moscow and Bosnia. As Tomlinson is a former member of
the Territorial SAS (volunteer branch of the UK special forces), one
would expect him to keep a clear head in a war zone and, indeed, his
activities in Bosnia in 1993-94 testify to his personal courage and
professional commitment.
While serving in Bosnia, Tomlinson is
involved in an operation in which a British army Land Rover rolls over
into a ditch. No one is hurt, and the mission is not compromised, but
Tomlinson's silk tie is destroyed during the subsequent attempt to
restart the engine. Consequently, he is obliged to meet a group of
VIPs wearing an open-necked shirt. Despite the broad success of his
mission to Bosnia, the open-necked shirt incident earns him a bad
performance appraisal on his return to London.
Later, while working
to infiltrate a plot to sell chemical weapons manufacturing equipment
to Iran, Tomlinson is fired by MI6, with no warning and no
explanation. Yet he has received fulsome praise from his new manager
for his work on the chemical weapons project, and cannot understand
why he has been fired. The second half of the book describes
Tomlinson's attempts to discover the reason for his dismissal and take
MI6 to an employment tribunal, and MI6's heavy handed campaign to
resist this...The book is poorly edited and contains numerous typographical
errors that should have been caught by even the most cursory
proof-reading. Nevertheless, it makes compelling and disturbing
reading, and deserves a five-star rating.
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on 25 September 2014
Brilliant insight into the secret world few are privy to.
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on 16 July 2013
Richard Tomlinson's autobiographical account of his time at MI6 and subsequent dismissal and persecution by these henchmen of the state is a welcome addition to the non-fiction secret service genre. We know so little about what these gangs are really up to or how they operate, if only there were more people with the moral conviction and courage to come forward to expose them.

The story of Richard Tomlinson's persecution succinctly demonstrates the small minded and petty mindset of security services in general. They are quite happy to hound an individual to the end of the earth, rather than make the slightest compromise. This "we are always right" attitude can remain only because they are not accountable to anyone for their actions. At one point in the book an MI6 trainee asks, "is there anything we can't do?" the answer to which is apparently, "no, you can do whatever you want, just don't get caught." Remarkable!

Anyone wishing to join MI6 should exhibit the following character traits: Vanity, extroversion, criminal mindedness, cowardice, chronic liar and of course lets not forget the ability to deceive yourself that you are non of the aforementioned.

"The Big Breach," is to a large part autobiographical, for a more technical account of the to's and throw's of secret services, I would recommend Annie Machon's book "Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers." Both of these books are over ten years old, and both individuals have been out of the secret services for almost twenty years, it's about time we had another contemporary whistleblowing author from MI5, MI6 or Army Intelligence.
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on 2 July 2001
I have just finished the book desparately wanting to meet Richard Tomlinson and spend a good few hours discussing the contents of this book. It is both shocking and revealing and demonstrates how unfettered taxpayer funded organisations answerable to no one can persue their own private and ego driven campaigns with such venum, unchecked.
I began the book thinking that he was a lttile niave and should have just gone with the flow, but the subsequent hypocrisy and blatant use of MI6 power to hound and discredit him was both shocking and disturbing.
All large organisations have, by their very nature an element of politics/backstabbing/manipulation but this was taking it to the extreme and is a worrying enditement on the so called 'secret services'
A book I could not put down and one that has really affected my attitude.
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on 24 July 2012
This is a well written, revealing account of M16, in the days when the agency was still mired in the self defeating secrecy of the Cold War. Tomlinson portrays an organisation of suffocating bureaucracy, snobbery, laziness, internal bickering and inefficiency; it is more Yes Minister than James Bond. This might not be wholly fair - there must, surely, have been Bond like figures, SAS crossed with Oxbridge Firsts - but Tomlinson does not appear to have met them. Overall, a fascinating book.
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