Monday, November 23, 2009

What If J Edgar Hoover Was A Soviet Spy?

I just finished reading a fascinating new book about the notorious British spies of the Cold War-era titled Treachery, by journalist and espionage writer Chapman Pincher. He emerged from retirement at the age of 95 to write this book, his first to be published in almost 20 years. It focuses on is his assertion, which he first advanced in his 1981 book Their Trade is Treachery, that Sir Roger Hollis, who worked in Britain's MI 5 for 27 years and ultimately rose to become its head from 1956-1965, was actually a long-time Soviet spy. (That's him at left.) The nearest US equivalent might be an accusation that J. Edgar Hoover was a Russian spy when he headed the FBI. A truly staggering, almost unthinkable assertion given the implications.

The book is a 600 page chronicle of an amazing amount of accumulated circumstantial evidence, gathered through decades of well-connected investigative journalism, fitted together, puzzle-like, with selected revelations culled from the myriad of autobiographies and analyses of selected KGB files that have been published by former spies (on both sides of the Iron Curtain) since the fall of the Berlin Wall. A huge part of the story is how the British "establishment" attempted repeatedly to hide or minimize the details of this case and others from the Americans and from the British public, by, among other things, repeatedly sheltering suspected spies from thorough investigations, or by entering into "sweetheart" deals with them to avoid prosecution entirely in exchange for even the most partial and uncooperative confessions.
Treachery is both the summation of a life's work, with the depth of perspective that only someone who has lived to the age of 95 can provide, as well as a fascinating look at how a compelling case against a suspected spy may be painstakingly built in the absence of a "smoking gun," through an accumulation of "little coincidences" and scraps of information. You can buy Treachery from Amazon by clicking HERE.
Coincidentally, an authorized history of MI 5 titled Defend The Realm, written by eminent espionage historian Christopher Andrew, was just released on November 3rd. It comes to exactly the opposite conclusion (based on Andrew's privileged access to selected MI 5 files): that the case against Roger Hollis is negligible and that there is no truth in the allegation whatsoever that he was a spy. You can read an article about this new book from the Times of London newspaper by clicking HERE.

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