MI5 provides immunity for agents' criminal acts, tribunal told

Secret Service policy is so secret that judicial oversight was not initially acknowledged


 MI5 building on Millbank, London

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Published on Nov 13, 2018

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 Edward Snowden, the American intelligence officer who broke into world awareness after being responsible for

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"Said former deputy head of the Mossad Ram Ben-Barak. Snoden said this through visual meetings (VC), as part of a closed event. The conversation was led by technology journalist Dror Globerman.

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News & Politics


MI5 Building - Thames House, London

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters: WHOLE WORLD Must Focus on Julian Assange Arrest!


Published on Apr 17, 2019 

 We speak to Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters on the arrest of Julian Assange. He calls on the UK to rise up to oppose Assange’s extradition,

 labels the UK a satellite state of US empire for arresting Assange and attacks the government of Lenin Moreno for revoking his asylum LIKE Going Underground http://fb.me/GoingUndergroundRT FOLLOW Going Underground //twitter.com/Underground_RT

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What is the difference between MI5 and MI6 (SIS)?

MI5 is responsible for protecting the UK, its citizens and interests, at home

and overseas, against threats to national security.

SIS is responsible for gathering intelligence outside the UK in support of the 

government's security, defence, foreign and economic policies.

MI5 is the British security service while MI6 is the British foreign intelligence service.

Crudely, MI6 are "our" spies while MI5 is there to catch "their" spies.

It gets a little more complicated in that MI6 has its own "counter-intelligence" section.

MI5 grants its informants legal cover to participate in crimes that may extend to murder, torture and sexual assaults, a tribunal has heard.

The policy, in existence since the early 1990s, is likely to have enabled the Security Service to conceal wide ranging illegal activity, Ben Jaffey QC, representing an alliance of human rights group, told the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) on Thursday.

The policy was so secret that even judicial oversight of the practice, introduced in 2012, was not initially acknowledged. Sir Mark Waller, a retired judge appointed to oversee the policy, was instructed by the prime minister at the time, David Cameron, not to comment on its legality.

Known within the intelligence services as “the third direction”, a letter from Cameron to Waller dated 27 November 2012 said his “oversight would not provide endorsement of the legality of the policy”.

Cameron continued: “You would not be asked to provide a view on whether any particular case should be referred to the prosecuting authorities; and your oversight would not relate to any future consideration given by prosecuting authorities to authorisations.”

Waller was the intelligence services commissioner at the time, charged with independent judicial oversight of the conduct of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Cameron’s letter explained that in protecting national security, MI5’s agent-handlers permit informants to participate in “crime, in circumstances where it is considered [that] involvement is necessary and proportionate in providing or maintaining access to intelligence” that would disrupt more serious crimes or security threats.

He added that he had considered whether his letter should be published for transparency purposes, but “concluded that it should not on the basis that doing so would be detrimental to national security and contrary to the public interest”.

Some details of the policy were also disclosed on Thursday during the hearing. A heavily redacted copy of a three-page MI5 document, entitled Guidelines on the use of agents who participate in criminality (official guidance), was released.

The document shows that MI5 sought to give its agents even greater freedom to commit criminal offences than that usually proffered to police informers. “The service has established its own procedure for authorising the use of agents participating in crime,” it states.

It says any authorisation to commit crimes “has no legal effect and does not confer on either agent or those involved in the authorisation process any immunity from prosecution. Rather, the authorisation will be the service’s explanation and justification of its decisions” should the police investigate.

The IPT case, which is potentially embarrassing for the government, has been brought by Privacy International, Reprieve, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre.

MI5’s policy is illegal if it breaches fundamental human rights, such as the ban on the use of torture, Jaffey told the tribunal.

The policy appears to be the equivalent of MI6’s powers created under the Intelligence Services Act 1994. Section 7 of the act is sometimes known as the “James Bond clause” because it provides a legal amnesty for spies to commit abroad what would otherwise be crimes.

The MI5 guidelines date back to the early 1990s and, it is believed, attempted to formalise the legal gap exposed earlier during the Troubles in Northern Ireland when special branch agent-handlers sought clarity from Downing Street on how far they were permitted to go in allowing informants to participate in crimes without facing prosecution themselves.

At that stage, in the 1980s, the office of the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was unwilling to give clear guidance. Those exchanges were carefully documented in the De Silva report into the murder of the Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane.

Sir James Eadie QC, representing the intelligence agencies, the Home Office and the Foreign Office, told the the IPT that details of MI5’s conduct had to be kept secret and could not be aired in open court. He argued that the claim should be restricted to investigating over a “sensible time period”, at most six years.

For part of the day, the IPT went into closed session from which the press, public and lawyers for the claimants were excluded.

Reprieve’s director, Maya Foa, said: “We want to know if it’s government policy to let MI5 agents get away with serious crimes such as torture and murder.

“While our intelligence agencies have an important role in keeping this country safe it does not follow that agents can be permitted to break the law without limits. If this is indeed the government’s position it must inform MPs and the public, and open the policy to legal and parliamentary scrutiny.”

Interference China’s covert political influence campaign

in Australia Four Corners(日本語字幕)

CI Research & Studies

Uploaded on Apr 9, 2019

A joint investigation by Four Corners, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reveals fresh and compelling evidence of covert Beijing-backed political activity taking place in Australia.

Four CornersThe AgeSydney Morning Herald





News & Politics

The British government has quietly admitted it lets MI5 break the law for national security

Kieran Corcoran


Mar. 2, 2018, 

MI5 Building

MI5 headquarters in central London.




Theresa May issued an obscure-sounding statement to parliament on Thursday.

It revealed the text of secret instructions she gave to Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence

agency last year.

It included rules for the oversight of agents committing criminal acts in the line of duty.

This is the first time the government has explicitly admitted that its agents commit crimes.

The government made the admission after a campaign by human rights activists.

LONDON — The British government has quietly acknowledged for the first time that it lets agents break domestic law to keep the country safe.

The admission was contained in a formal statement describing secret instructions issued by the Prime Minister to Britain's security agencies, which include MI5 (domestic intelligence), MI6 (foreign intelligence) and GCHQ (signals intelligence).

Officials delivered the written statement to the UK parliament with little fanfare. It contained an oblique reference to the civil servant who oversees MI5's rules on "agents who participate in criminality."

That reference to "criminality" is the first time that the government has said publicly that agents sometimes break the UK's own laws.

The full statement was submitted in the name of Prime Minister Theresa May, and describes an instruction she issued on August 22, 2017, designed to expand the powers of a government official, The Investigatory Powers Commissioner, to oversee MI5.

Here's a picture of the memo, signed by hand:

MI5 Memo of Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office-MI5 Business Insider

nvestigatory Powers Act 2016

Investigatory Powers Commissioner (Additional Directed Oversight Functions)

(Security Service agent participation in criminality) Direction 2017

The Prime Minister, in exercise of the power contained by section 230 of the Investigatory Powers Act (“the Act”), directs the Investigatory Powers Commissioner as follows:

Citation and Commencement

1. This direction may be cited as the Investigatory Powers Commissioner

(Additional Directed Oversight Functions of Security Service agent participation in criminality) Direction 201?….

2. This Direction comes into force on 1st September 2017

Additional Review Functions

3. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner shall keep under review the application of the Security Service guidelines on the use of agents who participate in criminality and the authorisations issued in accordance with them.

Signed: Theresa May

Theresa May

Theresa May


Date: 22/8/17

The Right Honourable Theresa May MP

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Assumed office - 13 July 2016

Theresa Mary May (/təˈriːzə/;[1] née Brasier; born 1 October 1956) is a British politician serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Partysince 2016. She served as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016. May was first elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Maidenhead in 1997. Ideologically, she identifies herself as a one-nation conservative.[2]

May grew up in Oxfordshire and attended St Hugh's College, Oxford. After graduating in 1977, she worked for the Bank of England. She also served as a councillor for Durnsford in Merton. After unsuccessful attempts to be elected to the House of Commons she was elected as the MP for Maidenhead in the 1997 general election. From 1999 to 2010, May held a number of roles in Shadow Cabinets. She was also Chairwoman of the Conservative Party from 2002 to 2003.

When the coalition government was formed after the 2010 general election, May was appointed Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, but gave up the latter role in 2012. She continued to serve as home secretary after the Conservative victory in the 2015 general election, and became the longest-serving home secretary in over 60 years. During her tenure she pursued reform of the Police Federation, implemented a harder line on drugs policy including the banning of khat, oversaw the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners, the deportation of Abu Qatada, and the creation of the National Crime Agency, and brought in additional restrictions on immigration.[3] She is to date, the only woman to hold two of the great offices of state.

In July 2016, after David Cameron resigned, May was elected as Conservative Party Leader, becoming Britain's second female Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher. As Prime Minister, May began the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union, triggering Article 50 in March 2017. The following month, she announced a snap general election, with the aim of strengthening her hand in Brexit negotiations.[4][5] This resulted in a hung parliament, in which the number of Conservative seats fell from 330 to 317, despite the party winning its highest vote share since 1983. The loss of an overall majority prompted her to enter a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support a minority government.

May survived a vote of no confidence from her own MPs in December 2018 and a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in January 2019. May has said that she will not lead her party in the next general election scheduled for 2022 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act,[6] but has not ruled out leading it into a snap election. May carried out the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, adhering to the Chequers Agreement, which resulted in the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. This agreement was defeated by Parliament in January 2019, and negotiations continue to try and reach a deal.[7] May’s revised deal was defeated in Parliament by 391 votes to 242. In March 2019, May committed to stepping down as Prime Minister if Parliament passed her Brexit deal, to make way for a new leader in the second phase of Brexit.[8]

The full instruction was "to keep under review the application of the Security Service guidelines on the use of agents who participate in criminality and the authorisations issued in accordance with them."

Though it seems minor, the statement was a rare insight into the world of the UK's tightly-guarded intelligence services and how they operate.

Human rights group Reprieve claimed the publication as a victoryin their campaign to make more of the intelligence services' activities public.

It was published after Reprieve and Privacy International launched a legal action against the government the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special court which handles cases to do with the security agencies.

A spokesman for Reprieve told Business Insider that the government published its statement as a result of the challenge, probably to avoid the prospect of being forced to make even more disclosures.

The group has started a petition asking the government to reveal the substance of the guidelines on criminal action, rather than simply the fact that they exist.

UK legislation already explicitly allows MI6 and GCHQ to break the law in countries.

Section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 mandates the Foreign Secretary (currently Boris Johnson) to approve criminal acts by either agency so long as they are "necessary" and "reasonable."

MI5 is the British security service while MI6 is the British foreign intelligence service.

Crudely, MI6 are "our" spies while MI5 is there to catch "their" spies.

It gets a little more complicated in that MI6 has its own "counter-intelligence" section.

The Security Service, also known as MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5),[3] is the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agencyand is part of its intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and Defence Intelligence (DI). MI5 is directed by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and the service is bound by the Security Service Act 1989. The service is directed to protect British parliamentary democracy and economic interests, and counter terrorism and espionage within the UK.

Within the civil service community the service is colloquially known as Box 500 (after its official wartime address of PO Box 500; its current address is PO Box 3255, London SW1P 1AE).[4]

The service has had a national headquarters at Thames House on Millbank in London since 1995, drawing together personnel from a number of locations into a single HQ facility:

Thames House also houses the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, a subordinate organisation to the Security Service; prior to March 2013, Thames House additionally housed the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).

The service has offices across the United Kingdom including an HQ in Northern Ireland.[5]

Details of the northern operations centre in Greater Manchester were revealed by the firm who built it.[6]



How is MI5 different to MI6, what do they stand for and what do the spy agencies do?

Both agencies, dating back to the World War One, are tasked with protecting the country but their remits differ


THE agencies widely associated with fictional super spy James Bond both serve the same purpose - gathering intelligence.

But the secretive and highly-skilled organisations have very different remits, as SunOnline explains.

MI5 and MI6 intelligence agencies are widely associated with fictional spy James Bond, played most recently by Daniel Craig

What does MI5 do and what are its limitations?

MI5 is widely understood to focus its intelligence efforts inside the UK but that isn't always the case.

With threats to Britain's security often coming from abroad, the agency says it does "work outside the UK where it’s necessary to protect the UK's national security or to counter security threats".

It describes itself as a "publicly accountable civilian intelligence organisation", not a "secret police force", as it does not have the power to arrest people.

Reporting to the Home Office, it was formed in 1909 under British army captain Vernon Kell to identify and counteract German spies in the country, according to the Britannica.

What does MI6 do?

The Secret Intelligence Service, commonly referred to as MI6, works on suppressing and countering threats from abroad.

Its roles include counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, providing cyber security intelligence and disrupting terrorism and other criminal activities overseas.

It is known to have been active in the Balkans and Libya, where it was reported to have been instrumental in capturing Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader Muammar.

In November 2006, MI6 allowed two officers - a man and woman - to take part in an interview for the first time, where they alluded to the existence of a 'Q' figure on BBC Radio 1.

MI5 largely works on domestic threats while MI6, its headquarters pictured, counters danger from abroad.

What does MI5 and MI6 stand for?

The name MI5 dates back to the First World War when it was the fifth branch of the Directorate of Military Intelligence of the War Office - now the Ministry of Defence.

The other "MI" (Military Intelligence) branches were later discontinued or absorbed into other organisations, its official website states.

MI5 was renamed to the Security Service in 1931 when it merged with Scotland Yard's Special Section, which had similar responsibilities.

From 1909 and throughout the war, MI6 had several names including the "Foreign Intelligence Service", the "Secret Service" and the "Special Intelligence Service".

Its official origins go back to the start of the Second World War when it was adopted as a "flag of convenience", the MI6 website says.

It adds: "Although 'MI6' officially fell into disuse years ago, many writers and journalists continue to use it to describe SIS."

MI5 Organisation

The Security Service comes under the authority of the Home Secretary within the Cabinet.[7] The service is headed by a Director General at the grade of a Permanent Secretary of the British Civil Service who is directly supported by an internal security organisation, secretariat, legal advisory branch and information services branch. The Deputy Director General is responsible for the operational activity of the service, being responsible for four branches; international counter-terrorism, National Security Advice Centre (counter proliferation and counter espionage), Irish and domestic counter-terrorism and technical and surveillance operations.[8]

The service is directed by the Joint Intelligence Committee[9] for intelligence operational priorities. It liaises with SIS, GCHQ, DIS, and a number of other bodies within the British government and industrial base. It is overseen by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Members of Parliament, who are directly appointed by the Prime Minister, by the Interception of Communications Commissioner, and by the Intelligence Services Commissioner. Judicial oversight of the service's conduct is exercised by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.[10]

Operations of the service are required to be proportionate and compliant with British legislation including the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998, and various other items of legislation. Information held by the service is exempt from disclosure under section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[11]

All employees of the service are bound by the Official Secrets Act.[12] In certain circumstances employees can be authorised to carry out activity, which would otherwise be criminal, within the UK.[13]

The current Director General is Andrew Parker, who succeeded Jonathan Evans on 22 April 2013.[14]

The service marked its centenary in 2009 by publishing an official history, written by Christopher Andrew, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Cambridge University.[15]

MI5 History

Early years

The Security Service is derived from the Secret Service Bureau, founded in 1909 and concentrating originally on the activities of the Imperial German government as a joint initiative of the Admiraltyand the War Office. The Bureau was split into naval and army sections which, over time, specialised in foreign target espionage and internal counter-espionage activities respectively. This specialisation was a result of the Admiralty intelligence requirements related to the maritime strength of the Imperial German Navy. This specialisation was formalised prior to 1914 and the beginning of World War I, with the two sections undergoing a number of administrative changes and the home section becoming Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 5 (MI5), the name by which it is still known in popular culture.[16]

The founding head of the Army section was Vernon Kell of the South Staffordshire Regiment, who remained in that role until the early part of the Second World War. Its role was originally quite restricted; existing purely to ensure national security through counter-espionage. With a small staff and working in conjunction with the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, the service was responsible for overall direction and the identification of foreign agents, whilst Special Branch provided the manpower for the investigation of their affairs, arrest and interrogation.[17]

On the day after the declaration of World War I, the Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, announced that "within the last twenty-four hours no fewer than twenty-one spies, or suspected spies, have been arrested in various places all over the country, chiefly in important military or naval centres, some of them long known to the authorities to be spies",[18] a reference to arrests directed by the service. These arrests have provoked recent historical controversy. According to the official history of MI5, the actual number of agents identified was 22 and Kell had started sending out letters to local police forces on 29 July giving them advance warning of arrests to be made as soon as war was declared. Portsmouth Constabulary jumped the gun and arrested one on 3 August, and not all of the 22 were in custody by the time that McKenna made his speech, but the official history regards the incident as a devastating blow to Imperial Germany which deprived them of their entire spy ring, and specifically upset the Kaiser.[19]

This view has been challenged by Nicholas Hiley who has asserted that it is a complete fabrication. In 2006 his article "Entering the Lists" was published in the journal Intelligence and National Security outlining the products of his research into recently opened files.[20] Hiley was sent an advance copy of the official history and objected to the retelling of the story. He later wrote another article, "Re-entering the Lists", which asserted that the list of those arrested published in the official history[21] was concocted from later case histories.[22]

Inter-war period

MI5 was consistently successful throughout the rest of the 1910s and 1920s in its core counter-espionage role. Throughout World War I, Germany continued trying to infiltrate Britain but MI5 was able to identify most, if not all, of the agents dispatched. MI5 used a method that depended on strict control of entry and exit to the country and, crucially, large-scale inspection of mail. In post-war years, attention turned to attempts by the Soviet Union and the Comintern to surreptitiously support revolutionary activities within Britain. MI5's expertise, combined with the early incompetence of the Soviets, meant the bureau was successful once more in correctly identifying and closely monitoring these activities.[23]

In the meantime, MI5's role had been substantially enlarged. Due to the spy hysteria, MI5 had been formed with far more resources than it actually needed to track down German spies. As is common within governmental bureaucracies, this caused the service to expand its role, to use its spare resources. MI5 acquired many additional responsibilities during the war. Most significantly, its strict counter-espionage role blurred considerably. It became a much more political role, involving the surveillance not merely of foreign agents but also of pacifist and anti-conscription organisations, and of organised labour. This was justified through the common belief that foreign influence was at the root of these organisations. Thus, by the end of the World War I, MI5 was a fully-fledged investigating force (although it never had powers of arrest), in addition to being a counter-espionage agency. The expansion of this role continued after a brief post-war power struggle with the head of the Special Branch, Sir Basil Thomson.[24]

After World War I, Kell's department was considered unnecessary by budget-conscious politicians. In 1919, MI5's budget was slashed from £100,000 and over 800 officers to just £35,000 and 12 officers. At the same time, Sir Basil Thomson of Special Branch was appointed Director of Home Intelligence, in supreme command of all domestic counter-insurgency and counter-intelligence investigations. Consequently, as official MI5 historian Christopher Andrew has noted in his official history Defence of the Realm (2010), MI5 had no clearly defined role in the Anglo-Irish War. To further worsen the situation, several of Kell's officers defected to Thomson's new Agency, the Home Intelligence Directorate. MI5 therefore undertook no tangible intelligence operations of consequence during the Irish War of Independence. MI5 did undertake the training of British Army Case Officers from the Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) for the Army's so-called "Silent Section" otherwise known as M04(x). Quickly trained by MI5 veterans at Hounslow Barracks, outside London, these freshly minted M04(x) Army case officers were deployed to Dublin beginning in the Spring of 1919. Over time, 175 officers were trained and dispatched to Ireland. In Ireland, they came under the command of General Cecil Romer and his Deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Searle Hill-Dillon.[25]

In April 1919, Colonel Walter Wilson of DMI arrived in Dublin to take over the day-to-day management of these 175 Army intelligence officers, and the unit was designated as the "Dublin District Special Branch" (DMI/MO4(x)/DDSB) because it operated exclusively within the confines of the Army's Dublin Military District. Royal Marine Colonel Hugh Montgomery of the Department of Naval Intelligence, was also seconded to Romer's intelligence staff at this time. British Army after-action reports and contemporary accounts indicate that M04(x)/DDSB was considered a highly amateurish outfit. Serious cover constraints, coupled with alcohol abuse and social fraternization with local prostitutes would prove to be the downfall of several of these amateur sleuths.[26] Despite these failings, it was not MI5 but one of Basil Thomson's agents, John Charles Byrnes, a double agent within the IRA, who identified Michael Collins and came close to arranging his capture. Byrnes was discovered as a British spy and executed by the IRA in March 1920.[27]

The intelligence staff of Michael Collins Irish Republican Army penetrated the unit.[28] Using DMP detectives Ned Broy and David NelliganMichael Collins was able to learn the names and lodgings of the M04(x) agents, referred to by IRA operatives as "The Cairo Gang". On Bloody Sunday, Collins ordered his Counter-intelligence Unit, The Squad, to assassinate 25 M04(x) agents, several British Courts Martial Officers, at least one agent reporting to Basil Thomson, and several intelligence officers attached to the Royal Irish Constabulary Auxiliary Division, at their lodgings throughout Dublin. Although the shooting of 14 British officers had the desired effect on British morale, in many ways Bloody Sunday was a botched job. Three of Collins's men were apprehended after engaging in a shoot-out on the street, and at least two of the wounded British officers had no connection whatsoever to British Intelligence. Moreover, with MO4(x) having fielded a total of 175 agents of the DDSB, Collins's operation only temporarily slowed British momentum. Within days, the remaining 160-odd M04(x) agents were re-established in secure quarters inside solidly Loyalist hotels in Dublin, from where they continued to pursue Collins and the IRA relentlessly right up until the Truce. In December 1920 the entire DDSB was transferred from British Army Command to civil command under Deputy Police Commissioner General Ormonde Winter, and thereafter was known as "D Branch" within Dublin Castle. By January 1921, the highly experienced MI6 operative David Boyle arrived at Dublin Castle to take over the day-to-day management of D Branch. The unit's former commander, Colonel Wilson, resigned in protest for having had his command taken from him. D Branch thrived under Boyle's leadership. The net impact of Collins's strike of Bloody Sunday, November 21, 1920, was therefore quite negligible—even though the IRA had not gone up against MI5 professionals but instead only a quickly trained outfit of amateur army "D-Listers."[26]

That afternoon, a mixed force of the British Army, the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the Black and Tans retaliated by indiscriminately shooting dead 14 civilians at a Gaelic Football match at Croke Park.[29]

In 1921, Sir Warren Fisher, the Government inspector general for civil service affairs, conducted a thorough review of the operations and expenditures of Basil Thomson's Home Intelligence Directorate. He issued a scathing report, accusing Thomson of wasting both money and resources and conducting redundant as well as ineffectual operations. Shortly thereafter, in a private meeting with Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Sir Basil Thomson was sacked, and the Home Intelligence Directorate was formally abolished. With Thomson out of the way, Special Branch was returned to the command of the Commissioner of The Criminal Investigation Division at Scotland Yard. Only then was Vernon Kell able once again to rebuild MI5 and regain its former place as Britain's chief domestic spy agency.[26]

MI5 operated in Italy during inter-war period. MI5 helped Benito Mussolini get his start in politics with the £100 weekly wage.[30]

MI5's decline in counter-espionage efficiency began in the 1930s. It was, to some extent, a victim of its own success. It was unable to break the ways of thinking it had evolved in the 1910s and 1920s. In particular, it was unable to adjust to the new methods of the Soviet intelligence services the NKVD and GRU. It continued to think in terms of agents who would attempt to gather information simply through observation or bribery, or to agitate within labour organisations and the armed services, while posing as ordinary citizens. The NKVD, meanwhile, had evolved more sophisticated methods; it began to recruit agents from within the upper classes, most notably from Cambridge University, who were seen as a long-term investment. They succeeded in gaining positions within the Government (and, in Kim Philby's case, within British intelligence itself), from where they were able to provide the NKVD with sensitive information. The most successful of these agents—Harold "Kim" PhilbyDonald MacleanGuy BurgessAnthony Blunt and John Cairncross—went undetected until after the Second World War, and were known as the Cambridge Five.[31]

Second World War

MI5 experienced further failure during the Second World War. It was chronically unprepared, both organisationally and in terms of resources, for the outbreak of war, and utterly unequal to the task which it was assigned—the large-scale internment of enemy aliens in an attempt to uncover enemy agents. The operation was poorly handled and contributed to the near-collapse of the agency by 1940. One of the earliest actions of Winston Churchill on coming to power in early 1940 was to sack the agency's long-term head, Vernon Kell. He was replaced initially by the ineffective Brigadier A.W.A. Harker, as Acting Director General. Harker in turn was quickly replaced by David Petrie, an SIS man, with Harker as his deputy. With the ending of the Battle of Britain and the abandonment of invasion plans (correctly reported by both SIS and the Bletchley Park Ultra project), the spy scare eased, and the internment policy was gradually reversed. This eased pressure on MI5, and allowed it to concentrate on its major wartime success, the so-called "double-cross" system.[32]

This was a system based on an internal memo drafted by an MI5 officer in 1936, which criticised the long-standing policy of arresting and sending to trial all enemy agents discovered by MI5. Several had offered to defect to Britain when captured; before 1939, such requests were invariably turned down. The memo advocated attempting to "turn" captured agents wherever possible, and use them to mislead enemy intelligence agencies. This suggestion was turned into a massive and well-tuned system of deception during the Second World War.[32]

Beginning with the capture of an agent named Owens, codenamed Snow, MI5 began to offer enemy agents the chance to avoid prosecution (and thus the possibility of the death penalty) if they would work as British double-agents. Agents who agreed to this were supervised by MI5 in transmitting bogus "intelligence" back to the German secret service, the Abwehr. This necessitated a large-scale organisational effort, since the information had to appear valuable but actually be misleading. A high-level committee, the Wireless Board, was formed to provide this information. The day-to-day operation was delegated to a subcommittee, the Twenty Committee (so called because the Roman numerals for twenty, XX, form a double cross).[32]

The system was extraordinarily successful. A postwar analysis of German intelligence records found that of the 115 or so agents targeted against Britain during the war, all but one (who committed suicide) had been successfully identified and caught, with several "turned" to become double agents. The system played a major part in the massive campaign of deception which preceded the D-Day landings, designed to give the Germans a false impression of the location and timings of the landings (see Operation Fortitude).[32]

All foreigners entering the country were processed at the London Reception Centre (LRC) at the Royal Patriotic School which was operated by MI5 subsection B1D, 30,000 were inspected at LRC. Captured enemy agents were taken to Camp 020Latchmere House, for interrogation. This was commanded by Colonel Robin Stephens. There was a Reserve Camp, Camp 020R, at Huntercombewhich was used mainly for long term detention of prisoners.[33]


The Prime Minister's personal responsibility for the Service was delegated to the Home Secretary Maxwell-Fyfe in 1952, with a directive issued by the Home Secretary setting out the role and objectives of the Director General. The service was subsequently placed on a statutory basis in 1989 with the introduction of the Security Service Act. This was the first government acknowledgement of the existence of the service.[34]

The post-war period was a difficult time for the Service with a significant change in the threat as the Cold War began, being challenged by an extremely active KGB and increasing incidence of the Northern Ireland conflict and international terrorism. Whilst little has yet been released regarding the successes of the service there have been a number of intelligence failures which have created embarrassment for both the service and the government. For instance in 1983 one of its officers, Michael Bettaney, was caught trying to sell information to the KGB. He was subsequently convicted of espionage.[35]

Following the Michael Bettaney case, Philip Woodfield was appointed as a staff counsellor for the security and intelligence services. His role was to be available to be consulted by any member or former member of the security and intelligence services who had "anxieties relating to the work of his or her service"[36] that it had not been possible to allay through the ordinary processes of management-staff relations, including proposals for publications.[37]

The Service was instrumental in breaking up a large Soviet spy ring at the start of the 1970s, with 105 Soviet embassy staff known or suspected to be involved in intelligence activities being expelled from the country in 1971.[35]

One episode involving MI5 and the BBC came to light in the mid-1980s. MI5 officer Ronnie Stonham had an office in the BBC and took part in vetting procedures.[38]

Controversy arose when it was alleged that the service was monitoring trade unions and left-wing politicians. A file was kept on Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson from 1945, when he became an MP, although the agency's official historian, Christopher Andrew maintains that his fears of MI5 conspiracies and bugging were unfounded.[39] As Home Secretary, the Labour MP Jack Strawdiscovered the existence of his own file dating from his days as a student radical.[40]

One of the most significant and far reaching failures was an inability to conclusively detect and apprehend the "Cambridge Five" spy ring which had formed in the inter-war years and achieved great success in penetrating the government, and the intelligence agencies themselves.[31] Related to this failure were suggestions of a high-level penetration within the service, Peter Wright (especially in his controversial book Spycatcher) and others believing that evidence implicated the former Director General, Roger Hollis or his deputy Graham Mitchell. The Trend inquiry of 1974 found the case unproven of that accusation, and that view was later supported by the former KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky.[41] Another spy ring, the Portland Spy Ring, exposed after a tip-off by Soviet defector Michael Goleniewski, led to an extensive MI5 surveillance operation.[42]

There have been strong accusations leveled against MI5 for having failed in its obligation to provide care for former police agents who had infiltrated the Provisional IRA during the Troubles. The two most notable of the agents, Martin McGartland and Raymond Gilmour, are presently residing in England using false identities and in 2012 launched test cases against the agency. Both men claimed to journalist Liam Clarke in the Belfast Telegraph that they were abandoned by MI5 and were "left high and dry despite severe health problems as a result of their work and lavish promises of life-time care from their former Intelligence bosses". Both men suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.[43]

The Security Service's role in counter-terrorism

The end of the Cold War resulted in a change in emphasis for the operations of the service, assuming responsibility for the investigation of all Irish republicanactivity within Britain [44] and increasing the effort countering other forms of terrorism, particularly in more recent years the more widespread threat of Islamic extremism.[45]

Whilst the British security forces in Northern Ireland have provided support in the countering of both republican and loyalist paramilitary groups since the early 1970s, republican sources have often accused these forces of collusion with loyalists. In 2006, an Irish government committee inquiry found that there was widespread collusion between British security forces and loyalist terrorists in the 1970s, which resulted in eighteen deaths.[46][47] In 2012, a document based review by Sir Desmond de Silva QC into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane found that MI5 had colluded with the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).[48] The review disclosed that MI5 assessments of UDA intelligence consistently noted that the majority came from MI5 sources with an assessment in 1985 finding 85% came from MI5.[48] Prime Minister David Cameron accepted the findings and apologised on behalf of the British government and acknowledged significant levels of collusion with Loyalists in its state agencies.[49]

On 10 October 2007, the lead responsibility for national security intelligence in Northern Ireland returned to the Security Service from the Police Service of Northern Ireland that had been devolved in 1976 to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) during Ulsterisation.[50][51] During April 2010 the Real IRA detonated a 120 lb. car bomb outside Palace Barracks in County Down which is the headquarters of MI5 in Northern Ireland and also home to the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.[52]

MI5 is understood to have a close working relationship with the Republic of Ireland's Special Detective Unit (SDU), the counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence section of the Garda Síochána(national police), particularly with regards to threats from dissident republican terrorism and Islamic terrorism.[53]

Executive Liaison Groups enable MI5 to safely share secret, sensitive, and often raw intelligence with the police, on which decisions can be made about how best to gather evidence and prosecute suspects in the courts. Each organisation works in partnership throughout the investigation, but MI5 retain the lead for collecting, assessing and exploiting intelligence. The police take lead responsibility for gathering evidence, obtaining arrests and preventing risks to the public.[54]

Serious crime

In 1996, legislation formalised the extension of the Security Service's statutory remit to include supporting the law enforcement agencies in their work against serious crime.[55] Tasking was reactive, acting at the request of law enforcement bodies such as the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), for whom MI5 agents performed electronic surveillance and eavesdropping duties during Operation Trinity.[55] This role has subsequently been passed to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and then the National Crime Agency (NCA).[56]


In 2001, after the September 11 attacks in the U.S., MI5 started collecting bulk telephone communications data under a little understood general power of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (instead of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which would have brought independent oversight and regulation). This was kept secret until announced by the Home Secretary in 2015.[57][58][59]

In July 2006, parliamentarian Norman Baker accused the British Government of "hoarding information about people who pose no danger to this country", after it emerged that MI5 holds secret files on 272,000 individuals—equivalent to one in 160 adults.[60] It had previously been revealed that a "traffic light" system operates:[61][62]

  • Green: active—about 10% of files
  • Amber: enquiries prohibited, further information may be added—about 46% of files.
  • Red: enquiries prohibited, substantial information may not be added—about 44% of files

Participation of MI5 Agents in Criminal Activity

In March 2018 the government acknowledged that MI5 agents are allowed to carry out criminal activity in the UK. Mao Foa, the director of Reprieve, said: “After a seven-month legal battle the prime minister has finally been forced to publish her secret order but we are a long way from having transparency. The public and parliament are still being denied the guidance that says when British spies can commit criminal offences and how far they can go. Authorised criminality is the most intrusive power a state can wield. Theresa May must publish this guidance without delay.”[13]

Directors General of the Security Service

Main article: Director General of MI5

1909–1940: Sir Vernon Kell (b. 1873–d. 1942)

1940–1941: Oswald Allen Harker (b. 1886–d. 1968)

1941–1946: Sir David Petrie (b. 1879–d. 1961)

1946–1953: Sir Percy Sillitoe (b. 1888–d. 1962)

1953–1956: Dick White (b. 1906–d. 1993)

1956–1965: Roger Hollis (b. 1905–d. 1973)

1965–1972: Martin Furnival Jones (b. 1912–d. 1997)

1972–1979: Michael Hanley (b. 1918–d. 2001)

1979–1981: Howard Smith (b. 1919–d. 1996)

1981–1985: John Jones (b. 1923–d. 1998)

1985–1988: Antony Duff (b. 1920–d. 2000)

1988–1992: Patrick Walker (b. 1932)

1992–1996: Stella Rimington (b. 1935)

1996–2002: Stephen Lander (b. 1947)

2002–2007: Eliza Manningham-Buller (b. 1948)

2007–2013: Jonathan Evans (b. 1958)

From April 2013: Andrew Parker (b. 1962)

Past names of the Security Service

Although commonly referred to as "MI5", this was the Service's official name for only thirteen years (1916–1929), but it is still used as a sub-title on the various pages of the official Security Service website, as well as in their web address (http://www.mi5.gov.uk).

October 1909: Founded as the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau.

April 1914: Became a subsection of the War Office Directorate of Military Operations, section 5 (MO5)—MO5(g).

September 1916: Became Military Intelligence section 5—MI5.

1929: Renamed the Defence Security Service.

1931: Renamed the Security Service.

See also

Annie Machon – MI5 whistleblower

David Shayler – MI5 whistleblower

Club de Berne – a European intelligence sharing forum

Counter Terrorism Command – of London's Metropolitan Police Service

Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre

Spooks – a BBC television drama about the work of a group of MI5 officers (renamed MI-5 in the United States)


1. ^ Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament "Annual Report 2016–2017", page 72. House of Commons (20 December 2017). Retrieved 1 June 2018.

2. ^ "Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Annual Report 2015–2016" (PDF)House of Commons. 5 July 2016. p. 10. Retrieved 12 January 2017.

3. ^ "What's in a name?"MI5. Retrieved 14 May 2014.

4. ^ Geraghty, Tony (2000). The Irish War. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00638-674-2.

5. ^ "Intelligence, Counter-terrorism and Trust"MI5 (Press release). 5 November 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2015.

6. ^ Leppard, David (14 June 2009). "Oops! Building firm blurts out secrets of hush-hush MI5 HQ"The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 15 June 2010. Retrieved 28 December2011.

7. ^ "Security Service Act 1989: The Security Service"Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 27 August 2017.

8. ^ "People and organisation". MI5. Retrieved 21 November2018.

9. ^ "Intelligence Services Act 1994"Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 27 August 2017.

10. ^ "What the Tribunal can investigate"Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 6 July 2014.

11. ^ "Freedom of Information Act, section 23"Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 3 February 2009.

12. ^ Leach, Robert; Coxall, Bill; Robins, Lynton (17 August 2011). British Politics. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 341. ISBN 978-0-230-34422-8. Retrieved 11 July 2015.

13. Jump up to:a b Grierson, Jamie (2 March 2018). "MI5 agents can commit crime in UK, government reveals"The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2018.

14. ^ "Appointment of the new Director General of the Security Service"Home Office. 28 March 2013. Retrieved 20 August2013.

15. ^ "MI5 - The authorised centenary history"MI5. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013.

16. ^ "SIS Records — War Office Military Intelligence (MI) Sections in the First World War". Sis.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 26 August 2006.

17. ^ "End for Special Branch after 122 years". The Telegraph. 9 September 2005. Retrieved 21 November 2018.

18. ^ Reginald McKenna, Home Secretary (5 August 1914). "Aliens Restriction Bill"Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 1985.

19. ^ Andrew, Christopher (2009). The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5. Allen Lane. pp. 49–52.

20. ^ Hiley, Nicholas (2006). "Entering the Lists: MI5's great spy round-up of August 1914". Intelligence and National Security21(1): 46–76. doi:10.1080/02684520600568303.

21. ^ Andrew, Christopher (2009). The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5. Allen Lane. pp. 873–875.

22. ^ Hiley, Nicholas (2010). "Re-entering the Lists: MI5's Authorized History and the August 1914 Arrests". Intelligence and National Security25 (4): 415–452. doi:10.1080/02684527.2010.537022.

23. ^ "How MI5 combated Communist attempts to take over the scouts". The Telegraph. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2018.

24. ^ "Basil Thomson"Spartacus Educational. Archived from the original on 20 May 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

25. ^ "Stephen Searle Hill-Dillon". Bloody Sunday. Retrieved 21 November 2018.

26. Jump up to:a b c Hittle, J. B. E. (2011). Michael Collins and the Anglo-Irish War: Britain's Failed Counterinsurgency. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1-59797-535-3.

27. ^ "John Charles Byrnes or Jack Jameson"www.cairogang.com.

28. ^ Dwyer, T. Ryle (2005). The Squad and the Intelligence Operations of Michael Collins. Cork: Mercier PressISBN 978-1-85635-469-1.

29. ^ "Croke Park: Queen in emotionally charged visit"BBC News. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

30. ^ Kington, Tom (13 October 2009). "Recruited by MI5: the name's Mussolini. Benito Mussolini Documents reveal Italian dictator got start in politics in 1917 with help of £100 weekly wage from MI5"The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 October 2009.

31. Jump up to:a b "The Cambridge Spies"BBC. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

32. Jump up to:a b c d Masterman, John C. (1972) [1945]. The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939 to 1945. Australian National University Press. ISBN 978-0-7081-0459-0.

33. ^ Hoare, Oliver (2000). Camp 020: MI5 and the Nazi Spies — The Official History of MI5's Wartime Interrogation CentrePublic Record OfficeISBN 978-1-903365-08-3.

34. ^ "Security Service Act 1989". 4 July 2000. Retrieved 1 July2012.

35. Jump up to:a b Harrison, David (11 November 2007). "Cold War rivals play at spy game"The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

36. ^ The Earl of Caithness, Minister of State, Home Office (30 November 1987). "Security Services Ombudsman: Access"Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. col. 811.

37. ^ John PattenMinister for Home Affairs (21 December 1988). "Official Secrets Bill"Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 538.

38. ^ Hollingsworth, Mark; Norton-Taylor, Richard (1988). Blacklist: The Inside Story of Political Vetting. London: Hogarth Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-70120-811-0.

39. ^ "MI5 kept file on former PM Wilson"BBC News. 3 October 2009.

40. ^ Schaefer, Sarah (22 January 1999). "Parliament & Politics: Straw will not see his MI5 file"The Independent. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

41. ^ Bamford, James (18 November 1990). "Gordievsky's People"The New York Times. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

42. ^ Lewis, Jason; Wynne-Jones, Jonathan (18 June 2011). "MI5 labelled the Archbishop of Canterbury a subversive over anti-Thatcher campaigns"The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 July2012.

43. ^ Clarke, Liam (14 September 2012). "Two ex-spies target MI6 in landmark legal battle over payouts"Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 7 January 2013.

44. ^ "7 Tied to Faction of the I.R.A. Face Terrorism Charges"The New York Times. 19 May 2012. Retrieved 20 November2011.

45. ^ Palmer, Alasdair (14 May 2006). "MI5 mission: impossible"The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

46. ^ "Barron finds British collusion in attacks"The Irish Times. 29 November 2006.

47. ^ "Final Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay's Tavern, Dundalk" (PDF)Houses of the Oireachtas. November 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2008. Retrieved 20 November2011 – via Burnsmoley.com.

48. Jump up to:a b "Volume 1 Chapter 11: The flow of information from members of the security forces to the UDA"Pat Finucane Review. Archived from the original on 16 December 2012.

49. ^ "Pat Finucane murder: 'Shocking state collusion', says PM"BBC News. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2017.

50. ^ "MI5 In Northern Ireland"Security Service MI5. Retrieved 15 July 2017.

51. ^ "Transfer of national security lead to the Security Service"Police Service of Northern Ireland. Archived from the originalon 8 June 2008.

52. ^ "Man arrested over Palace Barracks bomb released"BBC News. 9 May 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2012.

53. ^ McDonald, Henry (2 March 2008). "MI5 targets Ireland's al-Qaeda cells"The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2014.

54. ^ Howells, Kim (May 2009). Could 7/7 Have Been Prevented? Review of the Intelligence on the London Terrorist Attacks on 7 July 2005 (PDF). London: UK Cabinet Office, Intelligence and Security Committee. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2009.

55. Jump up to:a b Baroness Blatch, Minister of State, Home Office (10 June 1996). "Security Service Bill"Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 1502–1503.

56. ^ "About us". National Crime Agency. Retrieved 21 November2018.

57. ^ Corera, Gordon (5 November 2015). "How and why MI5 kept phone data spy programme secret"BBC News. Retrieved 9 November 2015.

58. ^ Whitehead, Tom (4 November 2015). "MI5 and GCHQ secretly bulk collecting British public's phone and email records for years, Theresa May reveals"The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 November 2015.

59. ^ "Here's the little-known legal loophole that permitted mass surveillance in the UK"The Register. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2015.

60. ^ "MI5 has secret dossiers on one in 160 adults"The Mail on Sunday. 9 July 2006.

61. ^ Jack StrawHome Secretary (25 February 1998). "Security Service Files"Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 346–348.

62. ^ "MI5 Files"Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 5 June 2006. col. 278W.

63. ^ "MI5 (The Security Service)"The Secret Architecture of London. Retrieved 18 February 2017.

64. ^ Sheldon, Robert (June 1993). Thames House and Vauxhall Cross (PDF). London: National Audit Office. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-10556-669-4. Retrieved 7 July 2013.

Further reading

Aldrich, R. J.; Cormac, R. (2016). The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers. Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-755544-4.

Andrew, Christopher (2009). The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-1-84614-284-0. Published as Defend the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5, USA: Knopf, November 2009, ISBN 978-0-307-26363-6.

Curry, John (1999). The Security Service, 1908–1945. Public Record Office. ISBN 978-1-873162-79-8.

Hennessey, Thomas; Thomas, Claire (2009). Spooks: The Unofficial History of MI5 from the First Atom Spy to 7/7, 1945–2009. Amberley. ISBN 978-1-84868-079-1.

  • Hennessey, Thomas; Thomas, Claire (2010). Spooks: the Unofficial History of MI5 from Agent ZIGZAG to the D-Day Deception, 1939–45. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4456-0184-7.
  • Machon, A. (2005). Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers: MI5, MI6 and the Shayler Affair. The Book Guild. ISBN 978-1-85776-952-4.
  • Milne, Seumas (2014). The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners. Verso Books. ISBN 978-1-78168-342-2.
  • Murphy, Christopher J. (2006). Security and Special Operations: SOE and MI5 during the Second World War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-00241-8.
  • Pincher, Chapman (2011). Treachery Betrayals, Blunders and Cover Ups: Six Decades of Espionage. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78057-540-7.

Quinlan, Kevin (2014). The Secret War Between the Wars: MI5 in the 1920s and the 1930s. Bowyer. ISBN 978-1-84383-938-5.

Rimington, Stella (2001). Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5. Hutchinson. ISBN 978-0-09943-672-0.

Thomas, Martin (2008). Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-52025-117-5.

Thurlow, R. (1994). The Secret State: British Internal Security in the Twentieth Century. Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-16066-3.

West, Nigel (1981). A British Security Service Operations, 1939–1945. Bodley Head. ISBN 978-0-370-30324-6.


United Kingdom

Secret Intelligence Service

Government bureau

MI6 Secret Intelligence Service For the United Kingdom

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with thecovert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) in support of the UK's national security.


UK Military Intelligence Section 6

The Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence in support of the UK's national security. Wikipedia

HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom

FounderH. H. Asquith

FoundedJuly 1909

MottoSemper Occultus (Always Secret)

Number of employees2,594 (31 March 2016)

JurisdictionUnited Kingdom

Our operations

MI6 Die Et Mon Droit

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), often referred to outside the Service as MI6, has its iconic headquarters at Vauxhall Cross. Our mission is to provide Her Majesty's Government with a global covert capability. We collect secret intelligence and mount operations overseas to prevent and detect serious crime, and promote and defend the national security and economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom. We work closely with the MI5 and GCHQ, and the secret nature of our work means we operate within a strict legal framework and report to government ministers. It takes people from a wide range of backgrounds with a variety of different skills to help counter the increasing number of threats to the UK. But they all share the same mission – to protect the country, its people and interests.

A national and global team

MI6 _UK Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)

Our people are at the heart of our mission.

We fulfil our operations in a number of ways –

 with the information our agents provide, the technical resources at our disposal and our close relationship with foreign intelligence and security services.

These include The Security Service (MI5) and GCHQ, as well as other UK law enforcement agencies and government departments.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) in support of the UK's national security. SIS is a member of the country's intelligence community and its Chief is accountable to the country's Foreign Secretary.[4]

Formed in 1909 as a section of the Secret Service Bureau specialising in foreign intelligence, the section experienced dramatic growth during World War I and officially adopted its current name around 1920.[5] The name MI6(meaning Military Intelligence, Section 6) originated as a flag of convenience during World War II, when SIS was known by many names. It is still commonly used today.[5] The existence of SIS was not officially acknowledged until 1994.[6] That year the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (ISA) was introduced to Parliament, to place the organisation on a statutory footing for the first time. It provides the legal basis for its operations. Today, SIS is subject to public oversight by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

The stated priority roles of SIS are counter-terrorismcounter-proliferation, providing intelligence in support of cyber security, and supporting stability overseas to disrupt terrorism and other criminal activities.[7] Unlike its main sister agencies, the Security Service (MI5) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), SIS works exclusively in foreign intelligence gathering; the ISA allows it to carry out operations only against persons outside the British Islands.[8] Some of SIS's actions since the 2000s have attracted significant controversy, such as its alleged acts of torture and extraordinary rendition.[9][10]

Since 1995, SIS has been headquartered in the SIS Building in London, on the South Bank of the River Thames.

MI6 - SIS Building in London

















MI6 Are The Lords of the Global Drug Trade By James Casbolt – Former MI6 Agent c. 2006  



  MI6 Are The Lords of the Global Drug Trade By James Casbolt – Former MI6 Agent c. 2006 


On my father's international MI6 drug runs, whatever fell off the back of the lorry so to speak he would keep and we would sell it in Britain. As long as my father was meeting the speedboats from Morocco in the Costa del Sol and then moving the lorry loads of cannabis through their MI6, IRA lorry business into Britain every month, British intelligence were happy. 

As long as my father was moving shipments of cocaine out of Rome every month, MI5 and MI6 were happy.

 If my father kept a bit to sell himself no one cared because there was enough drugs and money to go round in this £500 billion a year global drugs trade. 

 It may be a revelation to many people that the global drug trade is controlled and run by the intelligence agencies. In this global drug trade British intelligence reigns supreme. As intelligence insiders know MI5 and MI6 control many of the other intelligence agencies in the world (CIA, MOSSAD etc) in a vast web of intrigue and corruption that has its global power base in the city of London, the square mile. My name is James Casbolt and I worked for MI6 in 'black ops' cocaine trafficking with the IRA and MOSSAD in London and Brighton between 1995 and 1999. My father Peter Casbolt was also MI6 and worked with the CIA and mafia in Rome, trafficking cocaine into Britain. My experience was that the distinctions of all these groups became blurred until in the end we were all one international group working together for the same goals. We were puppets who had our strings pulled by global puppet masters based in the city of London. Most levels of the intelligence agencies are not loyal to the people of the country they are based in and see themselves as 'super national'. It had been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the CIA has been bringing in most of the drugs into America for the last fifty years (see ex LAPD officer Michael Rupert's 'From the wilderness' website for proof).

The CIA operates under orders from British intelligence and was created by British intelligence in 1947. The CIA today is still loyal to the international bankers based in the city of London and the global elite aristocratic families like the Rothchilds and the Windsor's. Since it was first started, MI6 has always brought drugs into Britain. They do not bring 'some' of the drugs into Britain but I would estimate MI6 bring in around ninety percent of the drugs in.

They do this by pulling the strings of many organised crime and terrorist groups and these groups like the IRA are full of MI6 agents.

MI6 bring in heroin from the middle east, cocaine from south America and cannabis from morocco as well as other places.

British intelligence also designed and created the drug LSD in the 1950's through places like the Tavistock Institute in London.

By the 1960's MI5, MI6 and the CIA were using LSD as a weapon against the angry protestors of the sixties and turned them into 'flower children' who were too tripped out to organise a revolution. Dr Timothy Leary the LSD guru of the sixties was a CIA puppet. Funds and drugs for Leary's research came from the CIA and Leary says that Cord Meyer, the CIA agent in charge of funding the sixties LSD counter culture has" helped me to understand my political cultural role more clearly".

In 1998, I was sent 3000 LSD doses on blotting paper by MI5 with pictures of the European union flag on them.

The MI5 man who sent them told my father this was a government 'signature' and this LSD was called 'Europa'.

This global drugs trade controlled by British intelligence is worth at least £500 billion a year.

This is more than the global oil trade and the economy in Britain and America is totally dependent on this drug money. Mafia crime boss John Gotti exposed the situation when asked in court if he was involved in drug trafficking.

He replied "No we can't compete with the government".

 I believe this was only a half truth because the mafia and the CIA are the same group at the upper levels. In Britain, the MI6 drug money is laundered through the Bank of England, Barclays Bank and other household name companies. The drug money is passed from account to account until its origins are lost in a huge web of transactions.

The drug money comes out 'cleaner' but not totally clean. Diamonds are then bought with this money from the corrupt diamond business families like the Oppenheimers.

These diamonds are then sold and the drug money is clean. MI6 and the CIA are also responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic in Britain and America. In 1978, MI6 and the CIA were in south America researching the effects of the natives smoking 'basuco' cocaine paste.

This has the same effect as crack cocaine. They saw that the strength and addiction potential was far greater than ordinary cocaine and created crack cocaine from the basuco formula.

MI6 and the CIA then flooded Britain and America with crack.

Two years later, in 1980, Britain and America were starting to see the first signs of the crack cocaine epidemic on the streets. On august 23, 1987, in a rural community south of Little Rock in America, two teenage boys named Kevin Ives and Don Henry were murdered and dismembered after witnessing a CIA cocaine drop that was part of a CIA drug trafficking operation based at a small airport in Mena, Arkansas. Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas at the time.

Bill Clinton was involved with the CIA at this time and $100 million worth of cocaine was coming through the Mena, Arkansas airport each month. For proof see the books 'Compromise' and 'Dope Inc'.

On my father's international MI6 drug runs, whatever fell off the back of the lorry so to speak he would keep and we would sell it in Britain. As long as my father was meeting the speedboats from Morocco in the Costa del Sol and then moving the lorry loads of cannabis through their MI6, IRA lorry business into Britain every month, British intelligence were happy.

As long as my father was moving shipments of cocaine out of Rome every month, MI5 and MI6 were happy.

 If my father kept a bit to sell himself no one cared because there was enough drugs and money to go round in this £500 billion a year global drugs trade.

The ones who were really paying were the people addicted. Who were paying with suffering. But karma always catches up and both myself and my father became addicted to heroin in later years and my father died addicted, and poor in prison under very strange circumstances. Today, I am clean and drug-free and wish to help stop the untold suffering this global drugs trade causes. The intelligence agencies have always used addictive drugs as a weapon against the masses to bring in their long term plan for a one world government, a one world police force designed to be NATO and a micro chipped population known as the New World Order.

As the population is in a drug or alcohol-induced trance watching 'Coronation Street', the new world order is being crept in behind them.

To properly expose this global intelligence run drugs trade we need to expose the key players in this area:

1- Tibor Rosenbaum, a MOSSAD agent and head of the Geneva based Banque du Credit international.

This bank was the forerunner to the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce international (BCCI) which is a major intelligence drug money laundering bank. 'Life' magazine exposed Rosenbaum's bank as a money launderer for the Meyer Lansky American organised crime family and Tibor Rosenbaum funded and supported 'Permindex' the MI6 assassination unit which was at the heart of the John F. Kennedy assassination.

 2- Robert Vesco, sponsored by the Swiss branch of the Rothchilds and part of the American connection to the Medellin drug cartel in Columbia. 

3- Sir Francis de Guingand, former head of British intelligence, now living in south Africa (and every head of MI5 and MI6 has been involved in the drug world before and after him). 

4- Henry Keswick, chairman of Jardine Matheson which is one of the biggest drug trafficking operations in the world. His brother John Keswick is chairman of the bank of England. 

5- Sir Martin Wakefield Jacomb, Bank of England director from 1987 to 1995, Barclays Bank Deputy Chairman in 1985, Telegraph newspapers director in 1986 ( This is the reason why this can of worms doesn't get out in the mainstream media. 

The people who are perpetrating these crimes control most of the mainstream media. In America former director of the CIA William Casey was, before his death in 1987, head of the council of the media network ABC. Many insiders refer to ABC as 'The CIA network.)

6- George Bush, Snr, former President and former head of the CIA and America's leading drug baron who has fronted more wars on drugs than any other president. Which in reality is just a method to eliminate competition. A whole book could be written on George Bush's involvement in the global drug trade but it is well-covered in the book 'Dark Alliance' by investigative journalist Gary Webb. Gary Webb was found dead with two gunshot wounds to the back of his head with a revolver. The case was declared a 'suicide'. You figure that out.

Gary Webb as well as myself and other investigators, found that much of this 'black ops' drug money is being used to fund projects classified above top secret.

These projects include the building and maintaining of deep level underground bases in Dulce in New Mexico, Pine gap in Australia, Snowy mountains in Australia, The Nyala range in Africa, west of Kindu in Africa, next to the Libyan border in Egypt, Mount Blanc in Switzerland, Narvik in Scandinavia, Gottland island in Sweden and many other places around the world (more about these underground bases in my next issue).

The information on this global drugs trade run by the intelligence agencies desperately needs to get out on a large scale.

Any information, comments or feedback to help me with my work would be greatly welcomed.   



     By BOB CUTTS    

      Published: October 21, 1968


DI AN, Vietnam — The 1st Inf. Div. trooper moaned in pain as the man in the medical tunic bent over his head. Chrome instruments flashed in the dingy light.

The deep-throated "Boom!" of incoming mortar rounds shook dust from the tent flaps, and the doc worried momentarily about keeping the pincers and scissors clean. It was impossible.

The company exec, a captain, ran into the tent and gasped something about "Y'all right Doc?" Capt. Earle Yeamans  never stopped the swift, sure strokes of his hands. "Yeah. Fine." The captain disappeared — there were other men to worry about.

"There," Yeamans whispered at last, sweat glistening on his forehead. "Got it." He held up the tweezers to the light, and his assistant could see right away what it was — a cavity-blackened molar.

"Now," Yeamans went on, "you won't have any more trouble. Just brush your teeth regularly, like we told you, and you won't get any more cavities. Your teeth aren't bad at all."

"Thanks, Doc," said the GI. He wiped his mouth, slipped out of the dentist's chair and disappeared.

"Well," said Yeamans, 1st Inf. Div. dentist, "Who's next? Let's get to that corporal with all the fillings."

It doesn't exactly happen every day to Yeamans, the Big Red One's traveling dentist.

"We didn't know until we got back to Di An that we were under mortar attack at all. We were pretty lucky, I guess. I don't know what I'd have done if they'd told me."

But drilling and filling cavities and pulling teeth are in his "traveling bag" — three times a month. Yeamans and his assistant, Spec. 5 Richard Ackley, hoist their 600-pound portable dentist's office aboard a helicopter and head for the boonies — to add electric drills and evil-looking picks to the infantryman's normal ration of combat grief.

Yeamans visits night defensive positions of the Big Red One, setting up generator and air-pump-operated drills, suction tubes, operating lights, instrument tables and collapsible dentist's chair to pull "preventive maintenance" on the teeth of entire companies.

He stays in an area three or four days, examining every man in the unit and scheduling appointments.

"What it's for," he says, "is to try to keep the men out with their units — these outfits need every man they've got — and still get them good dental care. It relieves emergencies that might later take a man out of action for days, and it's a great morale factor. We try to make it as easy as possible for them to get dental care.

"We treat only emergencies, or those likely to become emergencies — the rest, we schedule for return to base camps in stand-down periods. But we can give them pretty good care, really, with this stuff — we can put in permanent fillings, make extractions, even do minor oral surgery."

Doc Yeamans, who often spends 12 hours a day bending over his portable chair, under trees and in tents, says "the men really are glad to see us."

Nobody can remember exactly what the Army calls its new tooth goo, says Yeamans, but he's heard some pretty racy nicknames from battled-hardened old sergeants brushing their molars with the Pfcs out in public drill, under the benevolent gaze of the doc. Only one seems to be almost universally popular: "Yecchhh!"

Capt. Earle Yeamans, a dentist with the 1st Infantry Division, works on a soldier's teeth at a Big Red One defensive perimeter in

Vietnam in October, 1968 as Spec. 5 Richard Ackley, left, helps out. In the background, troops waiting their turn offer protection against the dangers of a war zone.


Soldiers at Di An get instruction on the proper methods of using a toothbrush and the Army's new "super-paste."



By Professor Christopher Andrew, author of "The Defence of the Realm".

The Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) began operations in October 1909 as a single organization, the Secret Service Bureau, staffed initially by only two officers: the fifty-year-old Royal Navy Commander Mansfield Cumming and an Army captain fourteen years his junior, Vernon Kell. Cumming and Kell later parted company to become the first heads of, respectively, the future SIS and MI5.

As well as being an accomplished linguist, Kell also proved adept at running an office on a shoestring. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, he had only sixteen staff (including the caretaker), well below the minimum which any modern security service would think necessary in order to function at all.

Kell’s original remit was to deal with what an official committee reported in 1909 was ‘an extensive system of German espionage’, based largely on German nationals in Britain. ‘Refuse to be served by a German waiter’, the Daily Mail advised its readers. ‘If your waiter says he is Swiss, ask to see his passport.’ Such alarmism reflected the tensions caused by the Anglo-German naval arms race and the approach of the First World War. Most of the ‘spies’ who persuaded Whitehall that it was faced with ‘an extensive system of German espionage’ in Britain were figments of the media and popular imaginations.

After initially pursuing some false leads, Kell discovered a real network of spies working for German Naval Intelligence who, because of the naval arms race, presented a significant threat to British security. As Home Secretary in 1910-11, Winston Churchill, the greatest intelligence enthusiast in all the cabinets in which he served, enabled Kell to make maximum use of his slender resources in two vital ways.

First, Churchill successfully urged chief constables to assist Kell’s counter-espionage operations. Secondly, he introduced a system of Home Office Warrants (HOWs), each personally authorised by the Home Secretary, which authorised the interception of all the correspondence of suspects. Hitherto individual warrants signed by the Home Secretary had been required for every letter opened. Home Office Warrants are still used today and the Home Secretary continues to be responsible for authorising them. These new arrangements proved crucial in enabling MI5 to investigate suspects.


United Kingdom

Secret Intelligence Service

Government bureau


The Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence in support of the UK's national security. Wikipedia

HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom

FounderH. H. Asquith

FoundedJuly 1909

MottoSemper Occultus (Always Secret)

Number of employees2,594 (31 March 2016)

JurisdictionUnited Kingdom

Our operations

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), often referred to outside the Service as MI6, has its iconic headquarters at Vauxhall Cross. Our mission is to provide Her Majesty's Government with a global covert capability. We collect secret intelligence and mount operations overseas to prevent and detect serious crime, and promote and defend the national security and economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom. We work closely with the MI5 and GCHQ, and the secret nature of our work means we operate within a strict legal framework and report to government ministers. It takes people from a wide range of backgrounds with a variety of different skills to help counter the increasing number of threats to the UK. But they all share the same mission – to protect the country, its people and interests.

A national and global team

Our people are at the heart of our mission. We fulfil our operations in a number of ways – with the information our agents provide, the technical resources at our disposal and our close relationship with foreign intelligence and security services. These include The Security Service (MI5)and GCHQ, as well as other UK law enforcement agencies and government departments.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) in support of the UK's national security. SIS is a member of the country's intelligence community and its Chief is accountable to the country's Foreign Secretary.[4]

Formed in 1909 as a section of the Secret Service Bureau specialising in foreign intelligence, the section experienced dramatic growth during World War I and officially adopted its current name around 1920.[5] The name MI6(meaning Military Intelligence, Section 6) originated as a flag of convenience during World War II, when SIS was known by many names. It is still commonly used today.[5] The existence of SIS was not officially acknowledged until 1994.[6] That year the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (ISA) was introduced to Parliament, to place the organisation on a statutory footing for the first time. It provides the legal basis for its operations. Today, SIS is subject to public oversight by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

The stated priority roles of SIS are counter-terrorismcounter-proliferation, providing intelligence in support of cyber security, and supporting stability overseas to disrupt terrorism and other criminal activities.[7] Unlike its main sister agencies, the Security Service (MI5) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), SIS works exclusively in foreign intelligence gathering; the ISA allows it to carry out operations only against persons outside the British Islands.[8] Some of SIS's actions since the 2000s have attracted significant controversy, such as its alleged acts of torture and extraordinary rendition.[9][10]

Since 1995, SIS has been headquartered in the SIS Building in London, on the South Bank of the River Thames.


The service derived from the Secret Service Bureau, which was founded on 1 October 1909.[5] The Bureau was a joint initiative of the Admiralty and the War Office to control secret intelligence operations in the UK and overseas, particularly concentrating on the activities of the Imperial German government. The bureau was split into naval and army sections which, over time, specialised in foreign espionage and internal counter-espionage activities, respectively. This specialisation was because the Admiralty wanted to know the maritime strength of the Imperial German Navy. This specialisation was formalised before 1914. During the First World War in 1916, the two sections underwent administrative changes so that the foreign section became the section MI1(c) of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.[11]

Its first director was Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith-Cumming, who often dropped the Smith in routine communication. He typically signed correspondence with his initial C in green ink. This usage evolved as a code name, and has been adhered to by all subsequent directors of SIS when signing documents to retain anonymity.[5][12][13]

First World War[edit]

The service's performance during the First World War was mixed, because it was unable to establish a network in Germany itself. Most of its results came from military and commercial intelligence collected through networks in neutral countries, occupied territories, and Russia.[14]

Inter-War period

After the war, resources were significantly reduced but during the 1920s, SIS established a close operational relationship with the diplomatic service. In August 1919, Cumming created the new passport control department, providing diplomatic cover for agents abroad. The post of Passport Control Officer provided operatives with diplomatic immunity.[15]

Circulating Sections established intelligence requirements and passed the intelligence back to its consumer departments, mainly the War Office and Admiralty.[16]

The debate over the future structure of British Intelligence continued at length after the end of hostilities but Cumming managed to engineer the return of the Service to Foreign Office control. At this time, the organisation was known in Whitehall by a variety of titles including the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Secret ServiceMI1(c), the Special Intelligence Service and even C's organisation. Around 1920, it began increasingly to be referred to as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a title that it has continued to use to the present day and which was enshrined in statute in the Intelligence Services Act 1994. During the Second World War, the name MI6 was used as a flag of convenience, the name by which it is frequently known in popular culture since.[5]

In the immediate post-war years under Sir Mansfield George Smith-Cumming and throughout most of the 1920s, SIS was focused on Communism, in particular, Russian Bolshevism. Examples include a thwarted operation to overthrow the Bolshevik government[17] in 1918 by SIS agents Sidney George Reilly[18] and Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart,[19] as well as more orthodox espionage efforts within early Soviet Russia headed by Captain George Hill.[20]

Smith-Cumming died suddenly at his home on 14 June 1923, shortly before he was due to retire, and was replaced as C by Admiral Sir Hugh "Quex" Sinclair. Sinclair created the following sections:

  • A central foreign counter-espionage Circulating Section, Section V, to liaise with the Security Service to collate counter-espionage reports from overseas stations.
  • An economic intelligence section, Section VII, to deal with trade, industry and contraband.
  • A clandestine radio communications organisation, Section VIII, to communicate with operatives and agents overseas.
  • Section N to exploit the contents of foreign diplomatic bags
  • Section D to conduct political covert actions and paramilitary operations in time of war. Section D would organise the Home Defence Scheme resistance organisation in the UK and come to be the foundation of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War.[15][21]

With the emergence of Germany as a threat following the ascendence of the Nazis, in the early 1930s attention was shifted in that direction.[15]

MI6 assisted the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, with "the exchange of information about communism" as late as October 1937, well into the Nazi era; the head of the British agency's Berlin station, Frank Foley, was still able to describe his relationship with the Gestapo's so-called communism expert as "cordial".[22]

Sinclair died in 1939, after an illness, and was replaced as C by Lt Col. Stewart Menzies (Horse Guards), who had been with the service since the end of World War I.[23]

On 26 and 27 July 1939,[24] in Pyry near Warsaw, British military intelligence representatives including Dilly KnoxAlastair Denniston and Humphrey Sandwith were introduced by their allied Polish counterparts into their Enigma-decryption techniques and equipment, including Zygalski sheets and the cryptologic "Bomba", and were promised future delivery of a reverse-engineered, Polish-built duplicate Enigma machine. The demonstration represented a vital basis for the later British continuation and effort.[25] During the war, British cryptologists decrypted a vast number of messages enciphered on Enigma. The intelligence gleaned from this source, codenamed "Ultra" by the British, was a substantial aid to the Allied war effort.[26]

Second World War

During the Second World War the human intelligence work of the service was complemented by several other initiatives:

  • The cryptanalytic effort undertaken by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), the bureau responsible for interception and decryption of foreign communications at Bletchley Park. (See above.)
  • The extensive "double-cross" system run by MI5 to feed misleading intelligence to the Germans.
  • Imagery intelligence activities conducted by the RAF Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (now JARIC, The National Imagery Exploitation Centre).

GC&CS was the source of Ultra intelligence, which was very useful.[27]

The chief of SIS, Stewart Menzies, insisted on wartime control of codebreaking, and this gave him immense power and influence, which he used judiciously. By distributing the Ultra material collected by the Government Code & Cypher School, for the first time, MI6 became an important branch of the government. Extensive breaches of Nazi Enigma signals gave Menzies and his team enormous insight into Adolf Hitler's strategy, and this was kept a closely held secret.[28]

The British intelligence services signed a special agreement with their allied Polish counterparts 1940. In July 2005, the British and Polish governments jointly produced a two-tome study of bilateral intelligence cooperation in the War, which revealed information that had until then been officially secret. The Report of the Anglo-Polish Historical Committee was written by leading historians and experts who had been granted unprecedented access to British intelligence archives, and concluded that 48 percent of all reports received by British secret services from continental Europe in 1939–45 had come from Polish sources.[29] This was facilitated by the fact that occupied Poland had a tradition of insurgency organizations passed down through generations, with networks in emigre Polish communities in Germany and France; a major part of Polish resistance activity was clandestine and involved cellular intelligence networks; while Nazi Germany used Poles as forced labourers across the continent, putting them in a unique position to spy on the enemy. Liaison was undertaken by SIS officer Wilfred Dunderdale, and reports included advanced warning of the Afrikakorps' departure for Libya, awareness of the readiness of Vichy French units to fight against the Allies or switch sides in Operation Torch, and advance warning both of Operation Barbarossa and Operation Edelweiss, the German Caucasus campaign. Polish-sourced reporting on German secret weapons began in 1941, and Operation Wildhorn enabled a British special operations flight to airlift a V-2 Rocket that had been captured by the Polish resistance. Polish secret agent Jan Karski delivered the British the first Allied intelligence on the Holocaust. Via a female Polish agent, the British also had a channel to the anti-Nazi chief of the Abwehr, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.[29]

The most significant failure of the service during the war was known as the Venlo incident, named for the Dutch town where much of the operation took place. Agents of the German army secret service, the Abwehr, and the counter-espionage section of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), posed as high-ranking officers involved in a plot to depose Hitler. In a series of meetings between SIS agents and the 'conspirators', SS plans to abduct the SIS team were shelved due to the presence of Dutch police. On the night of 8–9 November 1939, a meeting took place without police presence. There, the two SIS agents were duly abducted by the SS.[30]

In 1940, journalist and Soviet agent Kim Philby applied for a vacancy in Section D of SIS, and was vetted by his friend and fellow Soviet agent Guy Burgess. When Section D was absorbed by Special Operations Executive (SOE) in summer of 1940, Philby was appointed as an instructor in the arts of "black propaganda" at the SOE's training establishment in Beaulieu, Hampshire.[31]

In May 1940, MI6 set up British Security Co-ordination (BSC), on the authorisation of Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the objections of Stewart Menzies.[32][33] This was a covert organisation based in New York City, headed by William Stephenson intended to investigate enemy activities, prevent sabotage against British interests in the Americas, and mobilise pro-British opinion in the Americas.[34][35] BSC also founded Camp X in Canada to train clandestine operators and to establish (in 1942) a telecommunications relay station, code name Hydra, operated by engineer Benjamin deForest Bayly.[36]

In early 1944 MI6 re-established Section IX, its prewar anti-Soviet section, and Philby took a position there. He was able to alert the NKVD about all British intelligence on the Soviets—including what the American OSS had shared with the British about the Soviets.[37]

Despite these difficulties the service nevertheless conducted substantial and successful operations in both occupied Europe and in the Middle East and Far East where it operated under the cover name Interservice Liaison Department (ISLD).[38]

Cold War

In August 1945 Soviet intelligence officer Konstantin Volkov tried to defect to the UK, offering the names of all Soviet agents working inside British intelligence. Philby received the memo on Volkov's offer and alerted the Soviets, so they could arrest him.[37] In 1946, SIS absorbed the "rump" remnant of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), dispersing the latter's personnel and equipment between its operational divisions or "controllerates" and new Directorates for Training and Development and for War Planning.[39] The 1921 arrangement was streamlined with the geographical, operational units redesignated "Production Sections", sorted regionally under Controllers, all under a Director of Production. The Circulating Sections were renamed "Requirements Sections" and placed under a Directorate of Requirements.[40]

IS operations against the USSR were extensively compromised by the presence of an agent working for the Soviet Union, Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby, in the post-war Counter-Espionage Section, R5. SIS suffered further embarrassment when it turned out that an officer involved in both the Vienna and Berlin tunnel operations had been turned as a Soviet agent during internment by the Chinese during the Korean War. This agent, George Blake, returned from his internment to be treated as something of a hero by his contemporaries in "the office". His security authorisation was restored, and in 1953 he was posted to the Vienna Station where the original Vienna tunnels had been running for years. After compromising these to his Soviet controllers, he was subsequently assigned to the British team involved on Operation Gold, the Berlin tunnel, and which was, consequently, blown from the outset. In 1956, SIS Director John Alexander Sinclair had to resign after the botched affair of the death of Lionel Crabb.[41]

SIS activities included a range of covert political actions, including the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état (in collaboration with the US Central Intelligence Agency).[42]

Despite earlier Soviet penetration, SIS began to recover as a result of improved vetting and security, and a series of successful penetrations. From 1958, SIS had three moles in the Polish UB, the most successful of which was codenamed NODDY.[43] The CIA described the information SIS received from these Poles as "some of the most valuable intelligence ever collected", and rewarded SIS with $20 million to expand their Polish operation.[43] In 1961 Polish defector Michael Goleniewski exposed George Blake as a Soviet agent. Blake was identified, arrested, tried for espionage and sent to prison. He escaped and was exfiltrated to the USSR in 1966.[44]

Also, in the GRU, they recruited Colonel Oleg Penkovsky. Penkovsky ran for two years as a considerable success, providing several thousand photographed documents, including Red Army rocketry manuals that allowed US National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) analysts to recognise the deployment pattern of Soviet SS4 MRBMs and SS5 IRBMs in Cuba in October 1962.[45] SIS operations against the USSR continued to gain pace through the remainder of the Cold War, arguably peaking with the recruitment in the 1970s of Oleg Gordievsky whom SIS ran for the better part of a decade, then successfully exfiltrated from the USSR across the Finnish border in 1985.[46]

The real scale and impact of SIS activities during the second half of the Cold War remains unknown, however, because the bulk of their most successful targeting operations against Soviet officials were the result of "Third Country" operations recruiting Soviet sources travelling abroad in Asia and Africa. These included the defection to the SIS Tehran station in 1982 of KGB officer Vladimir Kuzichkin, the son of a senior Politburo member and a member of the KGB's internal Second Chief Directorate who provided SIS and the British government with warning of the mobilisation of the KGB's Alpha Force during the 1991 August Coup which briefly toppled Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.[47]

After the Cold War

The end of the Cold War led to a reshuffle of existing priorities. The Soviet Bloc ceased to swallow the lion's share of operational priorities, although the stability and intentions of a weakened but still nuclear-capable Federal Russia constituted a significant concern. Instead, functional rather than geographical intelligence requirements came to the fore such as counter-proliferation (via the agency's Production and Targeting, Counter-Proliferation Section) which had been a sphere of activity since the discovery of Pakistani physics students studying nuclear-weapons related subjects in 1974; counter-terrorism (via two joint sections run in collaboration with the Security Service, one for Irish republicanism and one for international terrorism); counter-narcotics and serious crime (originally set up under the Western Hemisphere controllerate in 1989); and a 'global issues' section looking at matters such as the environment and other public welfare issues. In the mid-1990s these were consolidated into a new post of Controller, Global and Functional.[48]

During the transition, then-C Sir Colin McColl embraced a new, albeit limited, policy of openness towards the press and public, with 'public affairs' falling into the brief of Director, Counter-Intelligence and Security (renamed Director, Security and Public Affairs). McColl's policies were part and parcel with a wider 'open government initiative' developed from 1993 by the government of John Major. As part of this, SIS operations, and those of the national signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, were placed on a statutory footing through the 1994 Intelligence Services Act. Although the Act provided procedures for authorisations and warrants, this essentially enshrined mechanisms that had been in place at least since 1953 (for authorisations) and 1985 (under the Interception of Communications Act, for warrants). Under this Act, since 1994, SIS and GCHQ activities have been subject to scrutiny by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.[49]

During the mid-1990s the British intelligence community was subjected to a comprehensive costing review by the government. As part of broader defence cut-backs SIS had its resources cut back twenty-five percent across the board and senior management was reduced by forty percent. As a consequence of these cuts, the Requirements division (formerly the Circulating Sections of the 1921 Arrangement) were deprived of any representation on the board of directors. At the same time, the Middle East and Africa controllerates were pared back and amalgamated. According to the findings of Lord Butler of Brockwell's Review of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the reduction of operational capabilities in the Middle East and of the Requirements division's ability to challenge the quality of the information the Middle East Controllerate was providing weakened the Joint Intelligence Committee's estimates of Iraq's non-conventional weapons programmes. These weaknesses were major contributors to the UK's erroneous assessments of Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction' prior to the 2003 invasion of that country.[50]

War on Terror

During the Global War on Terror, SIS accepted information from the CIA that was obtained through torture, including the extraordinary rendition programme. Craig Murray, a UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, had written several memos critical of the UK's accepting this information; he was then sacked from his job.[51]

SIS members were present in Afghanistan during the 2001 invasion following the September 11 attacks; after members of the 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment returned to the UK in mid-December 2001, members of both territorial SAS regiments remained in the country to provide close protection to SIS members.[52]

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it is alleged, although not confirmed, that some SIS conducted Operation Mass Appeal which was a campaign to plant stories about Iraq's WMDs in the media. The operation was exposed in The Sunday Times in December 2003.[53][54] Claims by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter suggest that similar propaganda campaigns against Iraq date back well into the 1990s. Ritter says that SIS recruited him in 1997 to help with the propaganda effort. "The aim was to convince the public that Iraq was a far greater threat than it actually was."[55] Towards the end of the invasion, SIS agents operating out of Baghdad international airport with Special Air Service (SAS) protection, began to re-establish a station in Baghdad and began gathering intelligence; in particular on WMDs, after it became clear that Iraq did not possess any WMDs, MI6 had to officially withdraw pre-invasion intelligence about them. In the months after the invasion, they also began gathering political intelligence; predicting what would happen in post-Baathist Iraq. MI6 personnel in the country never exceed 50; in early 2004, apart from supporting Task Force Black in hunting down former senior Ba'athist party members, MI6 also made an effort to target "transnational terrorism"/jihadist network that led to the SAS carrying out Operation Aston in February 2004: They conducted a raid on a house in Baghdad that was part of a 'jihadist pipeline' that ran from Iran to Iraq that US and UK intelligence agencies were tracking suspects on – the raid captured members of Pakistan based terrorist group.[56]

Shortly before the Second Battle of Fallujah, MI6 personnel visited JSOCs TSF (Temporary Screening Facility) at Balad to question a suspected insurgent, afterwards they raised concern about the poor detention conditions there and as a result the British government informed JSOC in Iraq that prisoners captured by British special forces would only turn them over to JSOC if there was an undertaking not to send them to Balad. In Spring 2005, the SAS detachment operating in Basra and southern Iraq, known as Operation Hathor, escorted MI6 "case" officers into Basra so they could meet their sources and handlers and MI6 provided information that enabled the detachment to carryout surveillance operations. MI6 were also involved in resolving the Basra prison incident; the SIS played a central role in the British withdrawal from Basra in 2007.[56]

In July 2011 it was reported that SIS has closed several of its stations in the past couple of years, particularly in Iraq, where it used to have several outposts in the south of the country in the region of Basra according to the annual report of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. The closures have allowed the service to focus its attention on Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are its principal stations.[57] On 12 July 2011, MI6 intelligence officers, along with other intelligence agencies tracked 2 British-Afghans to a hotel in Herat, Afghanistan who were discovered to be trying to "establish contact" with the Taliban or al-Qaeda to learn bomb-making skills; operators from the SAS captured them and they are believed to be the first Britons to be captured alive in Afghanistan since 2001.[58][59]

In October 2013, SIS appealed for reinforcements and extra staff from other intelligence agencies amid growing concern about a terrorist threat from Afghanistan and that the country will become an "intelligence vacuum" after British troops withdraw at the end of 2014.[60]

In March 2016, it was reported that MI6 had been involved in the Libyan Civil War since January of that year, escorted by the SAS, to meet with Libyan officials to discuss the supplying of weapons and training for the Syrian Army and the militias fighting against ISIS.[61] In April 2016, it was revealed that MI6 teams with members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment seconded to them had been deployed to Yemen to train Yemeni forces fighting AQAP, as well as identifying targets for drone strikes.[62] In November 2016, the Independent reported that MI6, MI5 and GCHQ supplied the SAS and other British special forces- as part of a multinational special forces operation- a list (compiled from intelligence) of 200 British jihadist to kill or capture before they attempt to return to the UK. The 200 male and female jihadists are senior members of ISIS that pose a direct threat to the UK; Sources said SAS soldiers have been told that the mission could be the most important in the regiment's 75-year history.[63]

Other activities

On 6 May 2004 it was announced that Sir Richard Dearlove was to be replaced as head of SIS by John Scarlett, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Scarlett was an unusually high-profile appointment to the job, and gave evidence at the Hutton Inquiry.[64]

SIS has been active in the Balkans, playing a vital role in hunting down people wanted by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. British intelligence operations in the Balkans are thought to have played a vital role in the handover of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević to The Hague; SIS has also been heavily involved in the hunt for Radovan Karadžić and General Ratko Mladic, who are linked to a vast range of war crimes including the murder of Srebrenica's surrendering male population and organising the Siege of Sarajevo.[65]

On 27 September 2004, it was reported that British spies across the Balkans, including a SIS was chief officer in Belgrade and another spy in Sarajevo, were moved or forced to withdraw after they were publicly identified in a number of media reports planted by disgruntled local intelligence services – particularly in Croatia and Serbia. A third individual was branded a British spy in the Balkans and left the office of the High Representative in Bosnia, whilst a further two British intelligence officers working in Zagreb, remained in place despite their cover being blown in the local press. The exposure of the agents across the three capitals has markedly undermined the British intelligence operations in the area, including SIS efforts to capture The Hague's most wanted men, which riled many local intelligence agencies in the Balkans, some of which are suspected of continuing ties to alleged war criminals. They were riled due to MI6 operating "not so much a spy network as a network of influence within Balkan security services and the media," said the director of the International Crisis Group in Serbia and Bosnia, which caused some of them to be "upset". In Serbia, the SIS station chief was forced to leave his post August 2004 after a campaign against him led by country's DB intelligence agency, where his work investigating the 2003 assassination of the reformist prime minister Zoran Djindjic won him few friends.[65]

On 15 November 2006, SIS allowed an interview with current operations officers for the first time. The interview was on the Colin Murray show on BBC Radio 1. The two officers (one male and one female) had their voices disguised for security reasons. The officers compared their real experience with the fictional portrayal of SIS in the James Bond films. While denying that there ever existed a "licence to kill" and reiterating that SIS operated under British law, the officers confirmed that there is a 'Q'-like figure who is head of the technology department, and that their director is referred to as 'C'. The officers described the lifestyle as quite glamorous and very varied, with plenty of overseas travel and adventure, and described their role primarily as intelligence gatherers, developing relationships with potential sources.[66]

Sir John Sawers became head of the SIS in November 2009, the first outsider to head SIS in more than 40 years. Sawers came from the Diplomatic Service, previously having been the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations.[67]

On 7 June 2011, John Sawers received Romania's President Traian Băsescu and George-Cristian Malor, the head of the Serviciul Roman de Informatii (SRI) at SIS headquarters.[68]

Five years before the Libyan Civil War, a UK Special Forces unit was formed called E Squadron which was composed of selected members of the 22nd SAS Regiment, the SBS and the SRR. It was tasked by the Director Special Forces to support MI6's operations (akin to the CIA's SAD – a covert paramilitary unit for SIS). It was not a formal squadron within the establishment of any individual UK Special Forces unit, but at the disposal of both the Director Special Forces and the SIS; previously, SIS relied primarily on contractor personnel. The Squadron carried out missions that required 'maximum discretion' in places that were 'off the radar or considered dangerous'; the Squadron's members often operated in plain clothes, with the full range of national support, such as false identities at its disposal. In early March 2011, during the Libyan Civil War, a covert operation in Libya involving E Squadron went wrong: The aim of the mission was to cement SIS's contacts with the rebels by flying in two SIS agents in a Chinook helicopter to meet a Libyan Intermediary in a town near Benghazi, who had thereafter promised to fix them up a meeting with the NTC. A team consisting of six E Squadron members (all from the SAS) and two SIS officers were flown into Libya by an RAF Special Forces Flight Chinook; the Squadron's members were carrying bags containing arms, ammunition, explosives, computers, maps and passports from at least four nationalities. Despite technical backup, the team landed in Libya without any prior agreement with the rebel leadership, the plan failed as soon as the team landed, the locals became suspicious they were foreign mercenaries or spies and the team was detained by rebel forces and taken to a military base in Benghazi. They were then hauled before a senior rebel leader, the team told them that they were in the country to find out the rebels needs and to offer assistance, but the discovery of British troops on the ground enraged the rebels who were fearful that Gaddafi would use such evidence to destroy the credibility of the NTC. Negotiations between senior rebel leaders and British officials in London finally led to their release and they were allowed to board HMS Cumberland.[69][70][71]

On 16 November 2011 SIS warned the national transitional council in Benghazi after discovering details of planned strikes, said foreign secretary William Hague. 'The agencies obtained firm intelligence, were able to warn the NTC of the threat, and the attacks were prevented,' he said. In a rare speech on the intelligence agencies, he praised the key role played by SIS and GCHQ in bringing Gaddafi's 42-year dictatorship to an end, describing them as 'vital assets' with a 'fundamental and indispensable role' in keeping the nation safe. 'They worked to identify key political figures, develop contacts with the emerging opposition and provide political and military intelligence. 'Most importantly, they saved lives,' he said. The speech follows criticism that SIS had been too close to the Libyan regime and was involved in the extraordinary rendition of anti-Gaddafi activists. Mr Hague also defended controversial proposals for secrecy in civil court involving intelligence material.[57]

The Daily Star reported in November 2011 that SIS helped capture Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The top-secret mission, dubbed Operation X to disguise its purpose, used modern electronic intelligence (ELINT) technologies to bug him along with his friends and family. Gaddafi had been hiding out in the desert for a month but the breakthrough came when he made two phone calls, one after the other, to say he was safe. It allowed the joint British and French bugging operation to pinpoint his location. SIS agents using the £25 million top-secret equipment closed in on him before calling in the Libyan snatch squad to apprehend him.[72]

In February 2013 Channel Four News reported on evidence of SIS spying on opponents of the Gaddafi regime and handing the information to the regime in Libya. The files looked at contained "a memorandum of understanding, dating from October 2002, detailing a two-day meeting in Libya between Gaddafi's external intelligence agency and two senior heads of SIS and one from MI5 outlining joint plans for "intelligence exchange, counter-terrorism and mutual co-operation".[73]

In February 2015, The Telegraph reported that MI6 contacted their counterparts in the South African intelligence services to seek assistance in an effort to recruit a North Korean "asset" to spy on North Korea's nuclear programme. MI6 had contacted the man who had inside information on North Korea's nuclear programme, he considered the offer and wanted to arrange another meeting, but a year passed without MI6 hearing from him, which prompted them to request South African assistance when they learnt he would be travelling through South Africa. It is not known whether the North Korean man ever agreed to work for MI6.[74]

CIA activities in the United Kingdom


There is a long history of close cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom intelligence services; see Clandestine HUMINT and Covert Action for World War II and subsequent relationships. There are permanent liaison officers of each country in major intelligence agencies of the other, such as CIA and Secret Intelligence Service ("MI6"), FBI and the Security Service (MI5), and National Security Agency (NSA) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Oleg Penkovsky, a Soviet military intelligence colonel, who was a defector in place, was a joint US-UK espionage operation. Much of Penkovsky's product is available online at the CIA FOIA Reading Room under the code name IRONBARK.[1]

A major source of tension between the two countries was Kim Philby, a senior UK SIS officer who was a Soviet agent. Philby, at one point, was the SIS liaison officer resident in the US. James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counterintelligence, was surprised by Philby's activity, and, as a consequence, began hunts for moles within CIA.


An indication of the United States' close operational cooperation is the creation of a new message distribution label within the main US military communications network. Previously, the marking of NOFORN (i.e., NO FOREIGN NATIONALS) required the originator to specify which, if any, non-US countries could receive the information. A new handling caveat, USA/AUS/CAN/GBR/NZL EYES ONLY, used primarily on intelligence messages, gives an easier way to indicate that the material can be shared with Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. This marking is now used as FVEY or Five Eyes.[2] There is also a marking for US/UK access only, which is "REL TO USA, GBR."#


In his early 2005 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss mentioned that in 2004, the UK detected and dismantled an al-Qa'ida cell.[3]

See Also:

1953 Iranian coup d'état

ISI activities in the United Kingdom


1.  CIA FOIA - Overview

2. ^ US Defense Information Services Agency (19 March 1999), DMS [Defense Messaging Service] GENSER [General Service] Message Security Classifications, Categories, and Marking Phrase Requirements Version 1.2 (PDF)

3. ^ Goss, Porter (16 February 2005), Global Intelligence Challenges 2005, archived from the original on 2008-12-02


IA Vision, Mission, Ethos & Challenges


CIA’s information, insights, and actions consistently provide tactical and strategic advantage for the United States.


Preempt threats and further US national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters, producing objective all-source analysis, conducting effective covert action as directed by the President, and safeguarding the secrets that help keep our Nation safe.


The officers of the CIA are guided by a professional ethos that is the sum of our abiding principles, core values, and highest aspirations. This ethos holds us on course as we exercise the extraordinary influence and authorities with which we have been entrusted to protect the Nation and advance its interests. CIA’s ethos has many dimensions, including:

Service. We put Nation first, Agency before unit, and mission before self. We take pride in being diverse, inclusive, agile, responsive, and consequential.

Integrity. We uphold the highest standards of lawful conduct. We are truthful and forthright, and we provide information and analysis without institutional or political bias. We maintain the Nation’s trust through accountability and oversight.

Excellence. We bring the best of our diverse backgrounds and expertise to everything we do. We are self-aware, reflecting on our performance and learning from it. We strive to give all officers the tools, experiences, and leadership they need to excel.

Courage. We accomplish difficult, high-stakes, often dangerous tasks. In executing mission, we carefully manage risk but we do not shy away from it. We value sacrifice and honor our fallen.

Teamwork. We stand by and behind one another. Collaboration, both internal and external, underpins our best outcomes. Diversity and inclusion are mission imperatives.

Stewardship. We preserve our ability to obtain secrets by protecting sources and methods from the moment we enter on duty until our last breath.

Key Challenges


Close intelligence gaps with enhanced collection and analysis on the countries, non-state actors, and issues most critical to the President and senior national security team.

Fulfill our global mission to give customers decision advantage as they confront an unprecedented volume and diversity of worldwide developments that affect US interests.

Leverage technological advances for better performance in all mission areas—collection, analysis, covert action, and counterintelligence—while protecting against technological threats to the security of our information, operations, and officers.

Improve the ways we attract, develop, and retain talent to maximize each CIA officer’s potential to contribute to achieving mission.

Better manage Agency resources during a period of fiscal austerity.

Posted: Apr 04, 2007 03:54 PM

Last Updated: Nov 01, 2018 11:30 AM


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, tasked with gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As one of the principal members of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States.

Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is a domestic security service, the CIA has no law enforcement function and is mainly focused on overseas intelligence gathering, with only limited domestic intelligence collection.[6] Though it is not the only agency of the Federal government of the United States specializing in HUMINT, the CIA serves as the national manager for coordination of HUMINT activities across the U.S. intelligence community. Moreover, the CIA is the only agency authorized by law to carry out and oversee covert action at the behest of the President.[6][7][8][9] It exerts foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Division.[10]

Before the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the CIA Director concurrently served as the head of the Intelligence Community; today, the CIA is organized under the Director of National Intelligence(DNI). Despite transferring some of its powers to the DNI, the CIA has grown in size as a result of the September 11 attacks. In 2013, The Washington Post reported that in fiscal year 2010, the CIA had the largest budget of all IC agencies, exceeding previous estimates.[3][11]


CIAVerified account


We are the Nation's first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.

Langley, VA


Joined February 2014

Born September 18, 1947

The CIA has increasingly expanded its role, including covert paramilitary operations.[3] One of its largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber-operations.[12]


El 68: Los estudiantes, el presidente y la CIA



Gandhi Publica.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of the book of the same title, available online through Gandhi Publica.

The golden age began one Sunday in August, 1958. That morning, a breakfast meeting was held between the presidential candidate for the PRI, Adolfo López Mateos, and the CIA Station Chief in Mexico, Winston Scott. From that day forward, a collaboration developed that would become strategic following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution a few months later. Mexico became one of the main arenas of confrontation between the superpowers, and Scott occupied a privileged niche in the highest circles of Mexican political power. His access was so important that Washington left him in charge for thirteen years, when station chiefs are customarily relieved every four years.

The CIA Station in Mexico was considered by Washington to be “the best in WH [Western Hemisphere] and possibly one of the best in the Agency.” There were 50 U.S. agents stationed in Mexico, with 200 Mexicans as agents and informers. The jewel in the crown were the 14 agents of LITEMPO.

In 1960, Scott created the LITEMPO program, described by Anne Goodpasture —a CIA official who worked closely with Scott— as “a productive and effective relationship between CIA and select top officials in Mexico,” There were fourteen top-level officials In LITEMPO: three presidents (Adolfo López Mateos, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, and Luis Echeverría Álvarez), two directors of the Federal Security Division (Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios and Miguel Nazar Haro) and possibly, the Chief of Díaz Ordaz’s Presidential General Staff (General Luis Gutiérrez Oropeza). The essential point here is that all of them were on the CIA payroll: they were paid agents of the CIA. The exact sum of their salaries is unknown.

We do know that when Díaz Ordaz was named presidential candidate, the CIA collaborated with his campaign by delivering “400 [dollars] per month as a subsidy from December 1963 to November 1964” This figure “was in addition to a regular salary of [deleted] per month paid to LITEMPO-1 as a station support agent.

This rapport benefited both governments. The DFS helped the United States monitor and control the Cubans, the Soviets, and the disenchanted Americans and exiles who were passing through Mexico. The CIA corresponded by informing the president what the enemies of the regime were doing on a daily basis and if necessary, collaborating in their neutralization.

Instances of active CIA involvement in repression include the joint DFS-CIA operation against Víctor Rico Galán, a well-known, critical journalist in those years. According to Morley, “Win helped build the case against [Rico] Galan. In September 1966 he and twenty-eight associates were arrested.” The journalist was imprisoned in Lecumberri for seven years.

The relationship between Scott and Díaz Ordaz was so close that, according to Morley, in the sixties Winston Scott was the “second most powerful man in Mexico” after the president. Here are a few examples of his status: in December 1962, López Mateos and Díaz Ordaz signed their names as witnesses to Scott’s second wedding ceremony; in April 1964, Scott learned from the president that Díaz Ordaz was to be revealed as the PRI presidential candidate and in May 1969, Díaz Ordaz confided to him that he had hand-picked Luis Echeverría to become the next president of Mexico. He had vital pieces of information months ahead of the events.

Scott and Díaz Ordaz were passionate anti-communists, and there is evidence that both the American and the Mexican contributed to the official narrative according to which the Movement of ’68 formed part of an international conspiracy assembled by the Soviets and the Cubans, among others. By transforming the Movement into an enemy of the fatherland, the president and the United States, they justified its repression. According to them, as well as other members of the upper echelons of power, the Mexicans largely responsible were Javier Barros Sierra, the president of the UNAM, and university professor Heberto Castillo.

After the night of Tlatelolco, Díaz Ordaz essayed an explanation that held the Movement responsible for the massacre: one that allows us to appreciate the intensity of his relationship with the CIA Station Chief. At that crucial moment, Scott defended the flimsy official story to his superiors in Washington and as a result, he lost credibility. An official from the United States Embassy in Mexico wrote that Scott presented “fifteen differing and sometimes flatly contradictory versions of what happened at Tlatelolco”. A few months later, they withdrew his appointment, adducing the excessive time he had spent in Mexico; in my opinion, Washington could no longer defend someone who had lost all objectivity.

These facts are related to a crucial aspect of our history that has been ignored: those aggressions against the population in which other governments knowingly participated. As a working hypothesis, it may be argued that the CIA was jointly responsible for the deaths and suffering caused on October 2, and that the same holds true for other Mexican tragedies. A similar argument may be made regarding the role played by Cuba and other international players during ’68. It is one of my long-term research goals to continue exploring this hypothesis.

Re-examining ’68 is also relevant in light of the crisis being experienced in Mexico today, in 2018. Fifty years have gone by and yet, the political elite continues to do everything in its power to prevent citizen participation in public affairs, despite the fact that a convergence between society and State seems to be the best way to confront criminal violence, government corruption, inequality, impunity and the hostility of Donald Trump and his followers.

Rethinking ’68 allows us to evoke a movement born out of the hope that a better Mexico is possible. Reliving that feat is one way to dispel uncertainty and discouragement: if it could be done then, we can do it now.




FEBRUARY 1, 2017

Joshua Kurlantzick, A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

If you work at it, you can make a case that Americans fought on the right side in Vietnam. There is an argument — not conclusive, but defensible — that with all its faults, the anti-Communist side offered South Vietnam’s people a freer and more prosperous future than they would face if the Communists won. That didn’t mean war was a wise choice or that its goal justified the death and destruction it caused. But Americans looking for some moral comfort could at least tell themselves that they were fighting for a better outcome for the Vietnamese.

By contrast, it is harder to find anything morally defensible in American actions in Laos and Cambodia. U.S. operations in those countries, including among the heaviest bombing in military history, were conducted to support American objectives in Vietnam rather than for any achievable benefit for its smaller, weaker neighbors. That was also the reason for U.S. air support and military aid that kept weak, ineptly led local Laotian and Cambodian ground forces in the field long after it was clear they had no chance of winning against their stronger North Vietnamese enemies. Exactly the same can be said about the Vietnamese Communists, who intervened in Laos and Cambodia for the identical purpose: to support their war in Vietnam. In those “sideshow” conflicts (as the British writer William Shawcross called the Cambodian war) Americans and Vietnamese both pursued their own goals with little regard for the grievous price being paid by the Laotian and Cambodian people.

In A Great Place to Have a War, a new history of the largely clandestine American effort in Laos, Joshua Kurlantzick quotes from a passage  that starkly captures the moral blindness of U.S. policy in that war. It’s from a now-declassified retrospective written by CIA historians years after the war ended. Kurlantzick only used part of the quote, but the full version makes the issue even clearer:

In the opinion of many officers in the CIA Clandestine Services, the paramilitary programs that the Agency operated in Laos between 1963-71 were the most successful ever mounted. Small in numbers of personnel and even smaller in relative dollar costs, the CIA Laos operations shone in contrast to the ponderous operations of the US military forces in Vietnam.

Think about that. A war that was won by the enemy, leaving America’s principal allies to flee or live under a particularly harsh Communist dictatorship, was… successful? A low cost in dollars and personnel? True only if you choose to ignore the devastating casualties among the tribesmen (and boys) who made up the Americans’ principal fighting force, and came out of the war with their land and way of life irretrievably lost. It is hard to imagine how anyone could think of Laos as a victory, but apparently that’s what it is in the CIA’s institutional memory. In former agency director Richard Helms’s memoir, the chapter on Laos is titled “The War We Won.” This characterization is possible only if Laotian lives and the fate of their country counted for nothing at all.

America’s involvement in Laos began in the 1950s, when the United States started providing conventional military assistance to government forces fighting Laotian Communist insurgents who were backed by North Vietnam. Despite U.S. aid, the government army proved ineffective. Early in 1961, the Americans turned to a different strategy, arming and directing an irregular force of Hmong tribesmen (then commonly called Meo), a mountain tribe living in the Plain of Jars region in northern Laos. That plan was conceived and organized by Bill Lair, a CIA officer who had been based in Thailand for many years and knew the region well. The guerrillas were commanded by a Hmong officer in the Laotian army named Vang Pao.

The year after the CIA’s initial contacts with the Hmong, a Laos peace agreement was signed in Geneva, establishing a new and officially neutral coalition government. Despite the agreement, the fighting did not end, and CIA support for Vang Pao’s guerrilla movement continued to grow. Meanwhile, U.S. involvement in Vietnam was also deepening, turning to open war in early 1965 with a full-scale bombing campaign against North Vietnam and the commitment of U.S. ground forces in South Vietnam. From then on events in Vietnam, not any goals for Laos, were decisive in determining the course of the Laos war.

Four personalities figure prominently in Kurlantzick’s account of those events. In addition to Bill Lair and Vang Pao, they are Tony Poe, a soldier-of-fortune archetype who ran missions by Laotian guerrillas in the field, and William Sullivan, the career diplomat who was the U.S. ambassador in Laos and effectively commanded the secret U.S. war during his tenure between 1965 and 1969. Kurlantzick conducted first-hand interviews with three of the four, all except Sullivan.

Along with their own stories, the four protagonists stand for broader themes. Bill Lair, who tried unsuccessfully to stop his superiors from pushing the Hmong guerrillas past the point of no survival, stood for the kind of honorable commitment that America ultimately did not represent in Laos. Tony Poe, a man of violence with little or no moral restraint, was in Laos to fight a war, not to be a spy or pursue any political goal. As Kurlantzick points out, he can be seen as a symbol of the CIA’s shift from intelligence-gathering to paramilitary operations. Bill Sullivan, both as ambassador and then as a member of Henry Kissinger’s negotiating team in the American-Vietnamese peace talks in Paris, exemplifies the cynicism of U.S. policy, which for years backed a war that destroyed Laoian lives and society to serve American interests and then walked away, without visible twinges of conscience, when those interests changed. Vang Pao could stand in for other American clients who were too dependent on U.S. power (and too concerned with keeping their own) to find a different path when American needs diverged from theirs.

Kurlantzick also examines that war’s lasting consequences for the agency and the nature of America’s involvement in foreign conflicts. Laos, he writes, was the CIA’s “template” for large-scale clandestine warfare in Afghanistan and Central America in the 1980s (with Laos veterans often in key roles in paramilitary operations in both regions) and then in numerous places after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, as the CIA assumed a major combat role in the war-on-terror era.

That evolution came about, Kurlantzick argues, because the Laos operation had gratifying results for both the agency and its political masters, even if the war ended in defeat. For the CIA, Laos meant bigger payrolls and richer budgets and stronger influence in national policy discussions — all standard bureaucratic goals in the Washington power game (which may explain why Richard Helms called it a victory). The fact that the war was lost was irrelevant. The Laos model was enticing for U.S. political leaders too: a way to wield power at less cost in money and American lives with poor foreigners doing almost all the bleeding and dying, largely hidden from congressional scrutiny and “almost totally unwatched by the media” or other nosy critics. What, as they say, was there for a president not to like?

A Great Place to Have a War adds illuminating details to the historical record and gives useful insights on the CIA’s militarization and its meaning for today’s world. At the same time, though, it is sometimes fuzzy and occasionally wrong on the facts and meaning of events in the wider war outside Laos.

The book’s treatment of the air war is one example. Even while its tone about the bombing is critical, it does not do justice to the real story of the overall U.S. air campaign and how little priority the Americans put on the consequences for Laos. Writing about the massive escalation of bombing in Laos in 1968 and 1969 — a tenfold increase, from 20 or 30 strikes a day to 300 or more — Kurlantzick notes that there were no additional targets to justify the skyrocketing number of missions. But he nowhere explains that the escalation had nothing to do with supporting the Laotian government or its troops. The only reason ten times as many more bombers flew over Laos was that President Johnson halted bombing in North Vietnam in 1968, so the airpower no longer used in North Vietnam was diverted to Laos. (As a classified Pentagon study put it “probably the best analogy would be a fire hose, running under full pressure most of the time and pointed with the same intensity at whichever area is allowed.”)

Throughout the air campaign, the essential U.S. objective was to strike North Vietnamese targets on the so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail, a mission having nothing to do with the ground war in Laos. Strikes supporting the Hmong guerrillas or other Laotian forces did not really reflect a military strategy other than keeping them in the field to tie down North Vietnamese troops. That goal served American purposes, not theirs. The Lao were expendable. That is a central point of Kurlantzick’s thesis that could have been made more strongly if the context — here and elsewhere — had been more accurately and clearly explained.

Even with some bits of bad history, though, A Great Place to Have a War is a valuable work, especially in its examination of the CIA’s evolution since the Laos war and the implications of that change for U.S. actions overseas and for American policymaking at home. Kurlantzick raises important issues: Who should wage America’s wars? Who agrees on when and where to fight them, and who controls how they are fought? And ultimately, when wars are fought by proxy and in secret, what does that mean for American institutions and American character? Those questions are critical now, not just for a war fought two generations in the past. Indeed, in today’s world the answers matter a great deal more than they did then.


Arnold R. Isaacs was a war correspondent in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 1972 to 1975.

He wrote Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia and co-authored Pawns of War, a history of the Lao and Cambodian conflicts.

 He is also the author of 

Vietnam Shadows: The War, Its Ghosts, and Its Legacy and From Troubled Lands: Listening to Pakistani Americans and Afghan Americans in Post-9/11 America.


Tibet: The CIA’s Cancelled War

Jonathan Mirsky

Tibet: The CIA's Cancelled War | by Jonathan Mirsky | NYR Daily ...

The New York Review of Books

Tibet resistance fighters.jpg


hamo Tsering Collection

Resistance fighters on the Tibetan border during the early years of the CIA’s Tibet program

For much of the past century, US relations with Tibet have been characterized by kowtowing to the Chinese and hollow good wishes for the Dalai Lama. As early as 1908, William Rockhill, a US diplomat, advised the Thirteenth Dalai Lama that “close and friendly relations with China are absolutely necessary, for Tibet is and must remain a portion of the Ta Ts’ing [Manchu] Empire for its own good.” Not much has changed with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama one hundred years later. After a meeting in 2011 with President Obama in the White House Map Room—the Oval Office being too official—the Dalai Lama was ushered out the back door, past the garbage cans. All this, of course, is intended to avoid condemnation from Beijing, which regards even the mildest criticism of its Tibet policy as “interference.”

However there was one dramatic departure from the minimalist approach. For nearly two decades after the 1950 Chinese takeover of Tibet, the CIA ran a covert operation designed to train Tibetan insurgents and gather intelligence about the Chinese, as part of its efforts to contain the spread of communism around the world. Though little known today, the program produced at least one spectacular intelligence coup and provided a source of support for the Dalai Lama. On the eve of Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 meeting with Mao, the program was abruptly cancelled, thus returning the US to its traditional arms-length policy toward Tibet. But this did not end the long legacy of mistrust that continues to color Chinese-American relations. Not only was the Chinese government aware of the CIA program; in 1992 it published a white paper on the subject. The paper included information drawn from reliable Western sources about the agency’s activities, but laid the primary blame for the insurgency on the “Dalai Lama clique,” a phrase Beijing still uses today.

The insurgency began after the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet following its defeat of the Nationalists, and after Beijing forced the Dalai Lama’s government to recognize Chinese administration over the region. In 1955, a group of local Tibetan leaders secretly plotted an armed uprising, and rebellion broke out a year later, with the rebels besieging local government institutions and killing hundreds of government staff as well as Han Chinese people. In May 1957, a rebel organization and a rebel fighting force were founded, and began killing communist officials, disrupting communication lines, and attacking institutions and Chinese army troops stationed in the region.

By that point, the rebellion had gained American backing. In the early 1950s, the CIA began to explore ways to aid the Tibetans as part of its growing campaign to contain Communist China. By the second half of the decade, “Project Circus” had been formally launched, Tibetan resistance fighters were being flown abroad for training, and weapons and ammunition were being airdropped at strategic locations inside Tibet. In 1959, the agency opened a secret facility to train Tibetan recruits at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado, partly because the location, more than 10,000 feet above sea level, might approximate the terrain of the Himalayas. According to one account, some 170 “Kamba guerrillas” passed through the Colorado program.

While the CIA effort never produced a mass uprising against the Chinese occupiers, it did provide one of the greatest intelligence successes of the Cold War, in the form of a vast trove of Chinese army documents captured by Tibetan fighters and turned over to the CIA in 1961. These revealed the loss of morale among Chinese soldiers, who had learned of the vast famine that was wracking China during The Great Leap Forward. Over the next decade, however, there was growing disagreement in Washington over the CIA’s activities in Tibet, and in 1971, as Henry Kissinger prepared for Nixon’s meeting with Mao, the program was wound down.

“Although Tibet may not have been on the table in the Beijing talks, the era of official US support for the Tibetan cause was over,” recalled John Kenneth Knaus, a forty-year CIA veteran, in his 1999 book Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival. “There was no role for Tibet in Kissinger’s new equation.” By 1975, President Gerald Ford was able to say to a skeptical Deng Xiaoping, China’s future leader, “Let me assure you, Mr. Vice-Premier, that we oppose and do not support any [United States] governmental action as far as Tibet is concerned.”

Many friends of Tibet and admirers of the Dalai Lama, who has always advocated nonviolence, believe he knew nothing about the CIA program. But Gyalo Thondup, one of the Dalai Lama’s brothers, was closely involved in the operations, and Knaus, who took part in the operation, writes that “Gyalo Thondup kept his brother the Dalai Lama informed of the general terms of the CIA support.” According to Knaus, starting in the late 1950s, the Agency paid the Dalai Lama $15,000 a month. Those payments came to an end in 1974.

In 1999, I asked the Dalai Lama if the CIA operation had been harmful for Tibet. “Yes, that is true,” he replied. The intervention was harmful, he suggested, because it was primarily aimed at serving American interests rather than helping the Tibetans in any lasting way. “Once the American policy toward China changed, they stopped their help,” he told me. “Otherwise our struggle could have gone on. Many Tibetans had great expectations of CIA [air] drops, but then the Chinese army came and destroyed them. The Americans had a different agenda from the Tibetans.”

This was exactly right, and the different goals of the Agency and the Tibetans are explored fully by the Tibetan-speaking anthropologist Carole McGranahan in her Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War (2010). Although sometimes clouded by anthropological jargon, her account fascinatingly explores how differently from their American counterparts the Tibetan veterans remember the CIA operation. A striking example is the matter of the Chinese army documents, whose capture in a Tibetan ambush of a high-ranking Chinese officer is depicted in grisly detail in a huge painting in the CIA’s museum in Washington. In addition to revealing low Chinese morale, the documents disclosed the extent of Chinese violence in Tibet. “This information was the only documentary proof the Tibetan government [in exile] had of the Chinese atrocities and was therefore invaluable,” MacGranahan notes. Yet the documents and their capture rarely came up during her long interview sessions with the veterans. “Why is it that this particular achievement, so valued by the US and Tibetan governments, is not remotely as memorable for [the] soldiers?”

One reason is that the Tibetan fighters were told nothing about the value of the documents, which they couldn’t read. One veteran explains to her:

Our soldiers attacked Chinese trucks and seized some documents of the Chinese government. After that the Americans increased our pay scale. Nobody knew what the contents of those documents were. At that time, questions weren’t asked. If you asked many questions, then others would be suspicious of you.

The leader of the ambush tells her that “as a reward the CIA gave me an Omega chronograph,” but he, too, had little knowledge of the documents’ importance. As McGranahan shows in extensive detail, the veterans were preoccupied above all by their devotion to the Dalai Lama, whom they wanted to resume his position as supreme leader of an independent Tibet.

After the CIA mission was ended, Tibet became increasingly marginal to Washington’s China policy, as Knaus has now made clear in a second book, Beyond Shangri-la: America and Tibet’s Move into the Twenty-First Century. The reality is that American presidents now face a world power in Beijing. In language that sums up the cats-cradle of American justifications for ignoring Tibet, ex-Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Marshall Green recalls to Knaus, “there was nothing we could do to help the Tibetans except by improving our relations with the Chinese Communists so that we might be in a position to exert pressure on them to moderate their policies towards the Tibetans.” Green “admitted that this was ‘perhaps a rationalization.’”

President Obama will soon meet the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. His advisers will have reminded him of the encounter between his predecessor, Bill Clinton, and then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin on June 27, 1998. In that meeting, Clinton assured Jiang that, “I agree that Tibet is a part of China, an autonomous region of China. And I can understand why the acknowledgement of that would be a precondition of dialog with the Dalai Lama.” Banking on his well-known charm, Mr. Clinton added, “I have spent time with the Dalai Lama. I believe him to be an honest man, and I believe if he had a conversation with President Jiang, they would like each other very much.” Jiang, it is reported, threw back his head and laughed. Clinton’s suggestion was omitted from the official Chinese transcript.

April 9, 2013,

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Sergio Aguayo Quezada is a full-time Professor at El Colegio de México since 1977. In 2014, he joined the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights of Harvard School of Public Health as a Research Associate. Aguayo has authored dozens of books and academic articles. He publishes a weekly syndicated column in the newspaper Reforma and since March 2001, he has appeared on Primer Plano, a weekly television program broadcast on Canal 11. Throughout his career, he has actively promoted democracy and human rights. His Twitter  is @sergioaguay

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The Story of My Experiments with Truth


The Story of My Experiments with Truth is the autobiography of Mohandas K. Gandhi, covering his life from early childhood through to 1921. It was written in weekly instalments and published in his journal Navjivan from 1925 to 1929. Its English translation also appeared in installments in his other journal Young India.[1] It was initiated at the insistence of Swami Anand and other close co-workers of Gandhi, who encouraged him to explain the background of his public campaigns. In 1999, the book was designated as one of the "100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a committee of global spiritual and religious authorities.[2]

Translator's preface

This section is written by Mahadev Desai who translated the book from Gujarati to English in 1940. In this preface Desai notes that the book was originally published in two volumes, the first in 1927 and second in 1929. He also mentions that the original was priced at ₹1 (1.4¢ US) and had a run of five editions by the time of the writing of his preface. 50,000 copies had been sold in Gujarati but since the English edition was expensive it prevented Indians from purchasing it. Desai notes the need to bring out a cheaper English version. He also mentions that the translation has been revised by an English scholar who did not want his name to be published. Chapters XXIX-XLIII of Part V were translated by Desai's friend and colleague Pyarelal.[3]#


The introduction is written by Gandhi himself mentioning how he has resumed writing his autobiography at the insistence of Jeramdas, a fellow prisoner in Yerwada Central Jail with him. He mulls over the question a friend asked him about writing an autobiography, deeming it a Western practice, something "nobody does in the east".[1] Gandhi himself agrees that his thoughts might change later in life but the purpose of his story is just to narrate his experiments with truth in life.[3] He also says that through this book he wishes to narrate his spiritual and moral experiments rather than political.

Part I[edit]

The first part narrates incidents of Gandhi's childhood, his experiments with eating meat, smoking, drinking, stealing and subsequent atonement.[4] There are two texts that had a lasting influence on Gandhi, both of which he read in childhood. He records the profound impact of the play Harishchandra and says,"I read it with intense interest...It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number."[5] Another text he mentions reading that deeply affected him was Shravana Pitrabhakti Nataka, a play about Shravana's devotion to his parents. Gandhi got married at the age of 13.[3] In his words, "It is my painful duty to have to record here my marriage at the age of thirteen...I can see no moral argument in support of such a preposterously early marriage." Another important event documented in this part is the demise of Gandhi's father Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi wrote the book to deal with his experiment for truth. His disdain for physical training at school, particularly gymnastics has also been written about in this part.[6]

Part II[edit]

After a long history of antagonism, the British and the Dutch shared power in South Africa, with Britain ruling the regions of Natal and Cape Colony, while the Dutch settlers known as the Boers taking charge in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, two independent republics. The white settler and the independent Boer states continued to engage in volatile interactions with the British, so a threat of violent eruptions always loomed large. In order to placate both the Boer and other white settlers, the British adopted a number of racist policies, and while the Indians, most of them working on sugar and coffee plantations, did not suffer as much as the black population, they clearly experienced a treatment as second-class citizens. The initial story of Gandhi’s travails in South Africa and of his systematic struggle against oppression is well known. Gandhi repeatedly experienced the sting of humiliation during his long African sojourn. The incident at Maritzburg, where Gandhi was thrown off the train has become justly famous. When Gandhi, as a matter of principle, refused to leave the first class compartment, he was thrown off the train.[7] Later, Gandhi also had difficulty being admitted to hotels, and saw that his fellow-Indians, who were mostly manual laborers, experienced even more unjust treatment.

Very soon after his arrival, Gandhi's initial bafflement and indignation at racist policies turned into a growing sense of outrage and propelled him into assuming a position as a public figure at the assembly of Transvaal Indians, where he delivered his first speech urging Indians not to accept inequality but instead to unite, work hard, learn English and observe clean living habits. Although Gandhi's legal work soon start to keep him busy, he found time to read some of Tolstoy's work, which greatly influenced his understanding of peace and justice and eventually inspired him to write to Tolstoy, setting the beginning of a prolific correspondence. Both Tolstoy and Gandhi shared a philosophy of non-violence and Tolstoy's harsh critique of human society resonated with Gandhi's outrage at racism in South Africa.

Both Tolstoy and Gandhi considered themselves followers of the Sermon on the Mount from the New Testament, in which Jesus Christ expressed the idea of complete self-denial for the sake of his fellow men. Gandhi also continued to seek moral guidance in the Bhagavad-Gita, which inspired him to view his work not as self-denial at all, but as a higher form of self-fulfillment. Adopting a philosophy of selflessness even as a public man, Gandhi refused to accept any payment for his work on behalf of the Indian population, preferring to support himself with his law practice alone.

But Gandhi's personal quest to define his own philosophy with respect to religion did not rely solely on sacred texts. At the time, he also engaged in active correspondence with a highly educated and spiritual Jain from Bombay, his friend Raychandra, who was deeply religious, yet well versed in a number of topics, from Hinduism to Christianity. The more Gandhi communicated with Raychandra, the more deeply he began to appreciate Hinduism as a non violent faith and its related scriptures. Yet, such deep appreciation also gave birth to a desire to seek inner purity and illumination, without solely relying on external sources, or on the dogma within every faith. Thus, although Gandhi sought God within his own tradition, he espoused the idea that other faiths remained worthy of study and contained their own truths.

Not surprisingly, even after his work assignment concluded, Gandhi soon found a reason to remain in South Africa. This pivotal reason involved the "Indian Franchise Bill", with which the Natal legislature intended to deprive Indians of the right to vote. No opposition existed against this bill, except among some of Gandhi's friends who asked him to stay in South Africa and work with them against this new injustice against Indians, who white South Africans disparagingly called "coolies." He found that racist attitudes had become deeply entrenched, especially in the Dutch-ruled regions, where they lived in the worst urban slums and could not own property or manage agricultural land. Even in Natal, where Indians had more influence, they were not allowed to go out after 9 p.m. without a pass, while in Cape Colony, another British territory, they were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk. The new bill which prohibited Indians from voting in Natal only codified existing injustice in writing.

Although a last-minute petition drive failed to the Indian Franchise Bill from passing, Gandhi remained active and organized a much larger petition, which he sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London, and distributed to the press in South Africa, Britain and India. The petition raised awareness of the plight of Indians and generating discussions in all three continents to the point where both the Times of London and the Times of India published editorials in support of the Indian right to the vote. Gandhi also formed a new political organization called the Natal Indian Congress (a clear reference to the Indian National Congress), which held regular meetings and soon, after some struggles with financing, started its own library and debating society. They also issued two major pamphlets, An Appeal to Every Briton in South Africa, and The Indian Franchise–An Appeal, which offered a logical argument against racial discrimination. He was also thrown of the Train when he didn't agree to move from his first class seat which he paid for.

Though, at first, Gandhi intended to remain in South Africa for a month, or a year at most, he ended up working in South Africa for about twenty years. After his initial assignment was over, he succeeded in growing his own practice to about twenty Indian merchants who contracted manage their affairs. This work allowed him to both earn a living while also finding time to devote to his mission as a public figure. During his struggle against inequality and racial discrimination in South Africa, Gandhi became known among Indians all around the world as "Mahatma," or "Great Soul."

Part III

In South Africa with the Family, the Boer War, Bombay and South Africa Again.

In 1896, Gandhi made a brief return to India and returned with his wife and children. In India, he published another pamphlet, known as the Green Pamphlet, on the plight of Indians in South Africa. For the first time, Gandhi realized that Indians had come to admire his work greatly and experienced a taste of his own popularity among the people, when he visited Madras, an Indian province, where most manual laborers had originated. Although his fellow-Indians greeted him in large crowds with applause and adulation, he sailed back to South Africa with his family in December 1896.

Gandhi had become very well known in South Africa as well, to the point where a crowd of rioters awaited him at Port Natal, determined that he should not be allowed to enter. Many of them also mistakenly believed that all the dark-skinned passenger on the ship that took Gandhi to Natal were poor Indian immigrants he had decided to bring along with him, when, in reality, these passengers were mostly returning Indian residents of Natal. Fortunately, Gandhi was able to establish a friendly relationship with the British in South Africa so the Natal port's police superintendent and his wife escorted him to safety. After this incident, local white residents began to actually regard him with greater respect.

As Gandhi resumed his work at the Natal Indian Congress, his loyalty to the British guided him to assist them in the Boer War, which started three years later. Because Gandhi remained a passionate pacifist, he wanted to participate in the Boer War without actually engaging in violence so he organized and led an Indian Medical Corps which served the British in a number of battles, including the important battle of Spion Kop in January 1900.

At the time, Gandhi believed that the British Empire shared the values of liberty and equality that he himself embraced and that, by virtue of defending those principles, the British constitution deserved the loyalty of all British subjects, including Indians. He viewed racist policy in South Africa as a temporary characteristic aberration, rather than a permanent tendency. With respect to the British in India, at this point in his life, Gandhi considered their rule beneficial and benevolent.

The armed conflict between the British and Dutch raged on for over three years of often brutal fighting with the British conquering the Transvaal and Orange Free state territories. Gandhi expected that the British victory would establish justice in South Africa and present him with an opportunity to return to India. He wanted to attend the 1901 meeting of the Indian National Congress, whose mission was to provide a social and political forum for the Indian upper class. Founded in 1885 by the British, the Congress had no real political power and expressed pro-British positions. Gandhi wanted to attend its meeting nevertheless, as he was hoping to pass a resolution in support of the Indian population in South Africa. Before he left for Bombay, Gandhi promised the Natal Indian Congress that he would return to support their efforts, should they need his help.

As Gandhi attended the 1901 Indian National Congress, his hopes came true. G.K. Gokhale, one of the most prominent Indian politicians of the time, supported the resolution for the rights of Indians in South Africa and the resolution passed. Through Gokhale, in whose house Gandhi stayed for a month, Gandhi met many political connections that would serve him later in life.

However, his promise to always aid his friends in Natal soon prompted him to return to South Africa, when he received an urgent telegram informing him that the British and Boers had now formed a peaceful relationship and often acted together to the detriment of the Indian population, as Britain was planning to live local white individuals in power in South Africa, much like it had done in Canada and Australia.

Gandhi travelled back to South Africa immediately and met with Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and presented him with a paper on the injustice against the Indian population but Chamberlain indicated that the Indians would have to obey the new rulers of South Africa, now called the "Afrikaners," which included both Dutch and British local settlers.

Gandhi began to organize a fast response to this new South African political configuration. Instead of working in Natal, he now established a camp in the newly conquered Transvaal region and began helping Indians who had escaped from the war in that region, and now had to purchase overly expensive re-entry passes. He also represented poor Indians whose dwellings in a shantytown the authorities had dispossessed. Gandhi also started a new magazine, Indian Opinion, that advocated for political liberty and equal rights in South Africa. The magazine, which initially included several young women from Europe, expanded its staff around the country, increasing both Gandhi's popularity and the public support for his ideas.

At round same time, Gandhi read John Ruskin's book Unto This Last, which maintained that the life of manual labor was superior to all other ways of living. As he adopted this belief, Gandhi chose to abandon Western dress and habits, and he moved his family and staff to a Transvaal farm called the Phoenix, where he even gave renounced the use of an oil-powered engine and printed Indian Opinion by hand-wheel, and performed agriculture labor using old, manual farming equipment. He began to conceive of his public work as a mission to restore old Indian virtue and civilization, rather than fall prey to modern Western influence, which included electricity and technology.

Between 1901 and 1906, he also changed another aspect of his personal life by achieving Brahmacharya, or the voluntary abstention from sexual relations. He made this choice as part of his philosophy of selflessness and self-restraint. Finally, he also formulated his own philosophy of political protest, called Satyagraha, which literally meant "truth-force" in Sanskrit. In practice, this practice meant protesting injustice steadfastly, but in a non-violent manner.

He put this theory into practice on September 8, 1906, when, at a large gathering of the Indian community in Transvaal, he asked the whole community to take a vow of disobedience to the law, as the Transvaal government had started an effort to register every Indian child over the age of eight, which would make them an official part of the South African population.

Setting a personal example, Gandhi became the first Indian to appear before a magistrate for his refusal to register, and he was sentenced to two months in prison. He actually asked for a heavier sentence, a request, consistent with his philosophy of self-denial. After his release, Gandhi continued his campaign and thousands of Indians burned their registration cards, crossing the Transvaal-Natal border without passes. Many went to jail, including Gandhi, who went to jail again in 1908.

Gandhi did not waiver when a South African General by the name of Jan Christiaan Smuts promised to eliminate the registration law, but broke his word. Gandhi went all the way to London in 1909 and gathered enough support among the British to convince Smuts to eliminate the law in 1913. Yet, the Transvaal Prime Minister continued to regard Indians as second-class citizens while the Cape Colony government passed another discriminatory law making all non-Christian marriages illegal, which meant that all Indian children would be considered born out of wedlock. In addition, the government in Natal continued to impose crippling poll tax for entering Natal only upon Indians.

In response to these strikingly unjust rules, Gandhi organized a large-scale satyagraha, which involved women crossing the Natal-Transvaal border illegally. When they were arrested, five thousand Indian coal miners also went on strike and Gandhi himself led them across the Natalese border, where they expected arrest.

Although Smuts and Gandhi did not agree on many points, they had respect for each other. In 1913, Smuts relented due to the sheer number of Indians involved in protest and negotiated a settlement which provided for the legality of Indian marriages and abolished the poll tax. Further, the import of indentured laborers from India was to be phased out by 1920. In July 1914, Gandhi sailed for Britain, now admired as "Mahatma," and known throughout the world for the success of satyagraha.

Part IV[edit]

Part IV. Mahatma in the Midst of World Turmoil

Gandhi was in England when World War I started and he immediately began organizing a medical corps similar to the force he had led in the Boer War, but he also faced health problems that caused him to return to India, where he met the applauding crowds with enthusiasm once again. Indians continued to refer to him as "Mahatma" or "Great Soul," an appellation reserved only for the holiest men of Hinduism. While Gandhi accepted the love and admiration of the crowds, he also insisted that all souls were equal and did not accept the implication of religious sacredness that his new name carried.

In order to retreat into a life of humility and restraint, as his personal principles mandated, he decided to withdraw from public life for a while spending his first year in India focusing on his personal quest for purity and healing. He also lived in a communal space with untouchables, a choice which many of his financial supporters resented, because they believed that the very presence of untouchables defiled higher-caste Indians. Gandhi even considered moving to a district in Ahmedabad inhabited entirely by the untouchables when a generous Muslim merchant donated enough money to keep up his current living space for another year. By that time, Gandhi's communal life with the untouchables had become more acceptable.

Although Gandhi had withdrawn from public life, he briefly met with the British Governor of Bombay (and future Viceroy of India), Lord Willington, whom Gandhi promised to consult before he launched any political campaigns. Gandhi also felt the impact of another event, the passing of G.K. Gokhale, who had become his supporter and political mentor. He stayed away from the political trend of Indian nationalism, which many of the members of the Indian National Congress embraced. Instead, he stayed busy resettling his family and the inhabitants of the Phoenix Settlement in South Africa, as well as the Tolstoy Settlement he had founded near Johannesburg. For this purpose, on May 25, 1915, he created a new settlement, which came to be known as the Satyagraha ashram ( derive from Sanskrit word "Satya" means "truth" ) near the town of Ahmedabad and close to his place of birth in the western Indian province of Gujarati. All the inhabitants of the ashram, which included one family of untouchables, swore to poverty and chastity.

After a while, Gandhi became influenced by the idea of Indian independence from the British, but he dreaded the possibility that a westernized Indian elite would replace the British government. He developed a strong conviction that Indian independence should take place as a large-scale sociopolitical reform, which would remove the old plagues of extreme poverty and caste restrictions. In fact, he believed that Indians could not become worthy of self-government unless they all shared a concern for the poor.

As Gandhi resumed his public life in India in 1916, he delivered a speech at the opening of the new Hindu University in the city of Benares, where he discussed his understanding of independence and reform. He also provided specific examples of the abhorrent living conditions of the lower classes that he had observed during his travels around India and focused specifically on sanitation.

Although the Indians of the higher-castes did not readily embrace the ideas in the speech, Gandhi had now returned to public life and he felt ready to convert these ideas to actions. Facing the possibility of arrest, just like he always did in South Africa, Gandhi first spoke for the rights of impoverished indigo-cultivators in the Champaran district. His efforts eventually led to the appointment of a government commission to investigate abuses by the indigo planters.

He also interefered whenever he saw violence. When a group of Ahmedabad mill workers went on strike and became violent, he resolved to fast until they returned to peace. Though some political commentators condemned Gandhi's behavior as a form of blackmail, the fast only lasted three days before the workers and their employers negotiated an agreement. Through this situation, Gandhi discovered the fast as one of his most effective weapons in late years and set a precedent for later action as part of satyagraha.

As the First World War continued, Gandhi also became involved in recruiting men for the British Army, an involvement which his followers had a difficult time accepting, after listening to his passionate speeches about resisting injustice in a non-violent manner. Not surprisingly, at this point, although Gandhi still remained loyal to Britain and enamored with the ideals of the British constitution, his desire to support and independent home rule became stronger. As time passed, Gandhi became exhausted from his long journey around the country and fell ill with dysentery. He refused conventional treatment and chose to practice his own healing methods, relying on diet and spending a long time bedridden, while in recovery in his ashram.

In the meantime, India’s unrest was overwhelming at the prospect of the British destroying the world's only Muslim power, the Ottoman Empire. While the British alleged that they fought to protect the rights of small states and independent peoples from tyranny, in India, an increasing number of people found this alleged commitment less than genuine.

After the end of the war, the British government decided to follow the recommendations of the Rowlatt Committee, which advocated the retention of various wartime restrictions in India, including curfews and measures to suppress free speech. Gandhi was still sick when these events took place and, although he could not protest actively, he felt his loyalty to the British Empire weaken significantly.

Later, when the Rowlatt Act actually became law, Gandhi proposed that the entire country observe a day of prayer, fasting, and abstention from physical labor as a peaceful protest against the injustice of the oppressive law. Gandhi's plea generated an overwhelming response as millions of Indians did not go to work on April 6, 1919.

As the entire country stood still, the British arrested Gandhi, which provoked angry crowds to fill the streets of India's cities and, much to Gandhi's dislike, violence erupted everywhere. Gandhi could not tolerate violence so he called off his campaign and asked that everyone return to their homes. He acted in accordance with his firm belief that if satyagraha could not be carried out without violence, it should not take place at all.

Unfortunately, not all protesters shared Gandhi's conviction as ardently. In Amritsar, capital of the region known as the Punjab, where the alarmed British authorities had deported the local Hindu and Muslim members of the Congress, the street mobs became very violent and the British summoned Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer to restore order. Dyer prohibited all public meetings and instituted public whippings for Indians who approached British policemen. Despite these new regulations, a crowd of over ten thousand protesters gathered in the center of Armitsar, and Dyer responded with bringing his troops there and opening fire without warning. Tightly packed together, the protesters had nowhere to run from the fire, even when they threw themselves down on the ground the fire was then directed on the ground, ceasing only when the British troops no longer had ammunition. Hundreds died and many more were wounded.

This unfortunate occurrence became known as the Amritsar Massacre, it outraged the British public almost as much as Indian society. The authorities in London eventually condemned Dyer's conduct, forcing him to resign in disgrace. The effect the massacre had on Indian society became even more profound as more moderate politicians, like Gandhi, now began to wholeheartedly support the idea of Indian independence, creating an intense climate of mutual hostility. After the massacre, Gandhi eventually obtained permission to travel to Amritsar and conduct his own investigation. He produced a report months later and his work on the report motivated him to contact a number of Indian politicians, who advocated for the idea of independence from British rule.

After Amritsar, Gandhi attended the Muslim Conference being held in Delhi, where Indian Muslims discussed their fears that the British would suppress Caliphs of Turkey. Muslims considered the Caliphs as heirs of Mohammed and spiritual heads of Islam. While the British considered such suppression a necessary effort to restore order after World War I, the Muslim populations viewed it as slap in the face. Gandhi urged them not to accept the actions of the British. He proposed a boycott of British goods, and stated that if the British continued to insist on the elimination of the Caliphate, Indian Muslims should take even more drastic measures of non-cooperation, involving areas such as government employment and taxes.

During the months that followed, Gandhi continued to advocate for peace and caution, however, since Britain and Turkey were still negotiating their peace terms. Unlike more nationalistic politicians, he also supported the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms for India, as they laid the foundation for constitutional self-government. Eventually, other politicians who thought the reforms did not go far enough had to agree with Gandhi simply because his popularity and influence had become so great that the Congress could accomplish little without him.

As the British remained determined to put an end to the Muslim Caliphate, they enforced the Rowlatt Act resolutely. Even Gandhi became less tolerant towards British practices and in April 1920, he urged all Indians, Muslim and Hindu, to begin a "non-cooperation" protest against the British rule by giving up their Western clothing and British jobs. As a personal example, on August 1, he returned the kasar-i-hind medal that he had received for providing medical service to the Boer War's wounded British army in South Africa. He also became the first president of the Home Rule League, a largely symbolic position which confirmed his position as an advocate for Indian Independence.

In September 1920, Gandhi also passed an official constitution for the Congress, which created a system of two national committees and numerous local units, all working to mobilize a spirit of non-cooperation across India. Gandhi and other volunteers traveled around India further establishing this new grass roots organization, which achieved great success. The new British Viceory in India, Lord Reading, did not dare to interfere because of Gandhi's immense popularity.

By 1922, Gandhi decided that the initiative of non-cooperation had to transform into open civil disobedience, but in March 1922, Lord Reading finally ordered Gandhi's arrest after a crowd in the city of Chauri Chaura attacked and killed the local representatives of British authority. Gandhi, who had never encouraged or sanctioned this type of conduct, condemned the actions of the violent crowds and retreated into a period of fasting and prayer as a response to this violent outburst. However, the British saw the event as a trigger point and a reason for his arrest.

Part V

The British authorities placed Gandhi on trial for sedition and sentenced him to six years in prison, marking the first time that he faced prosecution in India. Because of Gandhi's fame, the judge, C.N. Broomfield, hesitated to impose a harsher punishment. He considered Gandhi clearly guilty as charged, despite the fact that Gandhi admitted his guilt and even went as far as requesting the heaviest possible sentence. Such willingness to accept imprisonment conformed to his philosophy of satyagraha, so Gandhi felt that his time in prison only furthered his commitment and goals. The authorities allowed him to use a spinning wheel and receive reading materials while in prison, so he felt content. He also wrote most of his autobiography while serving his sentence.

However, in Gandhi's absence, Indians returned to their British jobs and their every day routines. Even worse, the unity between Muslims and Hindu, which Gandhi advocated so passionately, had already begun to fall apart to the point where the threat of violence loomed large over many communities with mixed population. The fight for Indian independence could not continue while Indians themselves suffered disunity and conflict, all the more difficult to overcome in a huge country like India, which had always suffered religious divisions, as well as divisions by language, and even caste.

Gandhi realized that Independence and that the British had lost the will and power to sustain their empire, but he always acknowledged that Indians could not rely simply on the weakening of Britain in order to achieve independence. He believed that Indians had to become morally ready for Independence. He planned to contribute to such readiness through his speeches and writing, advocating humility, restraint, good sanitation, as well as an end to child marriages. He acknowledged that he had changed his position on many issues, like child marriages, and that he had not always managed to discern the most moral course of action in his life.

After his imprisonment ended, he resumed his personal quest for purification and truth. He ends his autobiography by admitting that he continues to experience and fight with "the dormant passion" that lie within his own soul. He felt ready to continue the long and difficult path of taming those passions and putting himself last among his fellow human beings, the only way to achieve salvation, according to him.

"That is why the worlds' praise fails to move me; indeed it very often stings me. To conquer the subtle passions is far harder than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms,"

Gandhi writes in his "Farewell" to the readers, a suitable conclusion for an autobiography that he never intended to be an autobiography, but a tale of experiments with life, and with truth.

Publication and later editions

After its initiation, The Story of My Experiments with Truth remained in the making for 4–5 years (including the time while Gandhi was imprisoned at Yerwada Central Jail near PuneMaharashtra), and then it first appeared as a series in the weekly Gujarati magazine Navjivan during 1925–1928, which was published from Ahmedabad, India.

The Story of My Experiments with Truth was first published in the United States in 1948 by Public Affairs Press of Washington, DC.[8][9]


Gandhi wrote in his autobiography that the three most important modern influences in his life were Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within YouJohn Ruskin's Unto This Last, and the poet Shrimad Rajchandra (Raychandbhai).[10][11]

Book Reviews

Development in Action (UK): Book Review by Joni Hillman

South Asian Women's Forum: Book Review

Editions in print[edit]

India – ISBN 81-7229-008-X

United States – authorized edition with forward by Sissela Bok, Beacon Press 1993 reprint: ISBN 0-8070-5909-9

Dover Publications 1983 reprint of 1948 Public Affairs Press edition: ISBN 0-486-24593-4


1.  Johnson, edited by Richard L. (2006). Gandhi's experiments with truth : essential writings by and about Mahatma Gandhi. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. p. 388. ISBN 978-0-7391-1143-7.

2. ^ "Spiritual books of the century"USA Today. 2 December 1999.

3. Jump up to:a b c Desai, M. K. Gandhi. Transl. from the original Gujarati by Mahadev (1987). An autobiography : or the story of my experiments with truth (reprint. ed.). London [u.a.]: Penguin Books. p. 454. ISBN 978-0-14-006626-5.

4. ^ Men of Turmoil – Biographies by Leading Authorities of the Dominating Personalities of Our Day. Hesperides Press. 2007. p. 384. ISBN 1-4067-3625-2.

5. ^ Post, Pitirim A. Sorokin ; introduction by Stephen G. (2002). The ways and power of love : types, factors, and techniques of moral transformation (Timeless classic pbk. ed.). Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press. p. 552. ISBN 978-1-890151-86-7.

6. ^ Rudolph, Susanne Hoeber; R, Lloyd I. (1983). Gandhi : the traditional roots of charisma ([Pbk. ed.]. ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-226-73136-0.

7. ^ Narrain, Arvind (April 1, 2013). " """MY EXPERIMENTS WITH LAW": GANDHI'S EXPLORATION OF LAW'S POTENTIAL"NUJS Law Review. Retrieved January 3, 2015.

8. ^ "Books and Authors"The New York Times. 1948-04-21. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-02.

9. ^ "BOOK PUBLISHER MORRIS SCHNAPPER DIES AT AGE 86"Washington Post. 1999-02-07. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-12-02.

10. ^ Singh, Purnima (2004). Indian cultural nationalism (Ed. 1st. ed.). New Delhi: India First Foundation. p. 290. ISBN 978-81-89072-03-2.

11. ^ editor, Wendy Doniger, consulting (1999). Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of world religions ; Wendy Doniger, consulting editor. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster. p. 1181. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0.

External Links

The Story of My Experiments with Truth – Google books

National Institute of Technology CalicutKozhikodeNalanda Digital Lib.

An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth, full text

Read online The Story of My Experiments with Truth - Gandhi Heritage Portal

Mahatma Gandhi Autobiography

What is the difference between the CIA and the KGB? Both are survelling the citizens.


Dustin K. MacDonald
, former Crisis Line Manager (2013-2017)

The CIA primarily operates externally to the United States and adopts specific policies and procedures to ensure that its work is carried out in a generally fair and transparent (to those who have a “need to know”) way.

For example, the CIA virtually never uses journalists, clergy or aid workers as Intelligence Officers. This is to prevent legitimate US workers in these areas from being mistaken as spies.

The CIA also does not use “honeypots” or “honeytraps”, where an intelligence officer is required or allowed to become romantically or sexually involved with an asset to collect intelligence.

Finally, the CIA and internal intelligence agencies like the FBI are independent of other elements in the government.

The KGB no longer exists, but its successors like the FSR (which handles external intelligence like the CIA does) has no qualms about using a variety of tactics like honeypots or extortion to collect information.

The FSB (which handles internal intelligence like the FBI) is deeply involved in the government; it’s pretty common to have an FSB agent on the Board of most large corporations and your average citizen can be subject to wide-ranging human rights abuses at the hands of these individuals.

The KGB (RussianКомите́т Госуда́рственной Безопа́сности (КГБ)tr. Komitet Gosudarstvennoy BezopasnostiIPA: [kəmʲɪˈtʲet ɡəsʊˈdarstvʲɪnːəj bʲɪzɐˈpasnəsʲtʲɪ]


The KGB (RussianКомите́т Госуда́рственной Безопа́сности (КГБ)tr. Komitet Gosudarstvennoy BezopasnostiIPA: [kəmʲɪˈtʲet ɡəsʊˈdarstvʲɪnːəj bʲɪzɐˈpasnəsʲtʲɪ] (listen)), translated in English as Committee for State Security, was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until its break-up in 1991. As a direct successor of preceding agencies such as ChekaNKGBNKVD and MGB, the committee was attached to the Council of Ministers. It was the chief government agency of "union-republican jurisdiction", acting as internal securityintelligence and secret police. Similar agencies were constituted in each of the republics of the Soviet Unionaside from Russia, and consisted of many ministries, state committees and state commissions.

The agency was a military service governed by army laws and regulations, in the same fashion as the Soviet Army or MVD Internal Troops. While most of the KGB archives remain classified, two online documentary sources are available.[1][2] Its main functions were foreign intelligence, counter-intelligence, operative-investigatory activities, guarding the State Border of the USSR, guarding the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government, organization and ensuring of government communications as well as combating nationalism, dissent, and anti-Soviet activities.

In 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the KGB was split into the Federal Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation.

After breaking away from Georgia in the early 1990s with Russian help, the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia established its own KGB (keeping this unreformed name).[3]



Battleground Berlin

Java Films

For 50 years, Berlin was the symbol of the Cold War. The city at the heart of the intelligence war between the US and the Soviet bloc. Thousands of KGB or CIA agents observed each other, cogs in the biggest information war in history.

But the war between the secret services was one dimension of a much larger conflict. A confrontation that almost boiled over just under the surface of the cold war. Economic pressures, secret diplomacy and espionage were the hallmarks of this hidden war that never turn into armed conflict. An underground war between two institutions, without the knowledge of official diplomacy.

We hear from former CIA and KGB agents and discover the hidden face of the cold war.

Running Time

53 mins



Kanopy ID



David Muntaner




Documentaries > Politics & Current Affairs

Social Sciences > History - Modern

Social Sciences > Law & Criminal Justice

Documentaries > Historical Perspectives

Social Sciences > Political Science


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