The two sides in the Cold War, finding each other irresistible, ended up in a contrapuntal relationship where, as George Urban put it, ‘they marched in negative step, but in step all the same.’ They had their spies, we had ours. They had their files, we had ours. True, we didn’t have gulags. But what kind of democracy is it that congratulates itself on not having gulags? Never mind the dragnet surveillance, the burglaries, the smearing of reputations, the bugging of public telephone boxes, cafés, hotels, banks, trade unions, private homes, all this legitimised by the thesis that everyone is a potential subversive until proven otherwise – the problem is that the defenders of the realm took on the symptoms of the disease they were meant to cure.– In the essay Stuck on the Flypaper historian and journalist Frances Stonor Saunders goes through the recently released MI5 file on Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm [previously] to explain how the British secret service surveilled and interfered with the lives of British citizens during World War II and the early part of the Cold War.
British intelligence agencies have policies allowing staff to access confidential communications between lawyers and their clients, official documents have revealed. The guidance was disclosed for the first time at a tribunal which examines complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
The UK's National Archives has today released the formerly secret files detailing MI5's monitoring of the British Marxist historians Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill [PDF downloads available]. The Guardian reports. An official historian explains. [more inside]
It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do. But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different. It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.—Bugger: Maybe the Real State Secret Is that Spies Aren't Very Good at Their Jobs and Don't Know Very Much About the World by Adam Curtis. It's about the checkered history of the MI5.
Files have been released showing that the MI5 investigated Charlie Chaplin's origins at the request of the FBI, attempting to check claims that besides being a communist, he might be Jewish, and/or French. His life story by his own account has him born in London, but no birth certificate has been found and last year evidence emerged that he might in fact have been born in a gypsy camp.
How Britain's largest corporations helped engineer the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
Lobster: The Journal of Parapolitics was started in 1983 by Robin Ramsay and Stephen Dorril, two conspiracy enthusiasts who weren't actually nuts and believed in proper research. The magazine primarily covered the activities of the British security and intelligence services and what they term 'parapolitics'. They've had a brochure website for a while with some sample articles, but starting from the current issue the full journal will be free online (PDF download). The pair had a falling-out some time ago and have gone their separate ways. On his personal site Dorril, now also the author of a well-received study of Mosley and the Blackshirts, offers early back issues of the magazine for free download too.