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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SPY FOR ALL SEASONS
Many years ago,Professor Christopher Andrew has written an article with co-author David Dilks.They claimed that the history of intelligence and espionage was missing and was ignored even by serious historians.They called this "the missing dimension of history".Indeed, it would be absurd today for any serious historian
to dismiss or disregard this important part of...
Published on November 3, 2009 by Paul Gelman

versus
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plodding history, but with much of interest
This book is mostly an organizational and management history, with much more on the interactions between MI-5 and other British government bodies than I had anticipated. I am amused that the jacket blurb includes a glowing endorsement from Stella Rimington, who is a former DG of MI-5 and was heavily consulted by the author; it's not surprising that Rimington would think...
Published on February 5, 2011 by Victor A. Vyssotsky


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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SPY FOR ALL SEASONS, November 3, 2009
This review is from: Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (Hardcover)
Many years ago,Professor Christopher Andrew has written an article with co-author David Dilks.They claimed that the history of intelligence and espionage was missing and was ignored even by serious historians.They called this "the missing dimension of history".Indeed, it would be absurd today for any serious historian
to dismiss or disregard this important part of history.In the past, historians said that the history of espionage and intelligence should be dealt by quacks,second- or third-hand writers or amateurs
and that this kind of history does not have any importance or relevance for the historical profession.
However,with the fall of the Iron Curtain,this view has changed drastically mainly because classified archival materials were open to everyone.
The USA archives were among the first to declassify and thus enable historians and others to come and read perhaps tens of millions of documents that were produced by intelligence analysts and sources
during the Cold War.
Professor Andrew was among those pioneers to whom humanity and serious researchers owe a lot in this respect, because he has dedicated many years to write and lecture about many and various intelligence episodes, thus offering the readers a new perspective on the Cold War.
This is exactly what he has done again.We all remember his magnum opus on the Mitrockhin Archive, published some years before.In this current heavyweight volume, which has more than one thousand pages,he offers us a linear ,fascinating and intriguing history of MI5.
It all started in 1909 when two officers from the Navy and the Army started to work in an office in London.Their mission was to try and catch as many German spies as they could.The first German agent who showed up in England after WW1 started was Carl Lody,who was sentenced to death and he was executed in the Tower of London.The first director of MI5 was Vernon Kell and he kept his job for more than 31 years- the longest period of any director.
Another director was Maxwell Knight.He is described as someone who had a special interest " in unusual pets".Visitors to his house would usually find him taking his bear for a walk.(The bear's name was Bessie.)Knight would also feed a giant toad or carry a parrot on one of his shoulders.He did not mind being "considered a bit mad" because "a few unusual people give a little colour to life"(.p.123)
We are talking about the period between the two wars,especially during the thirties,when the job of MI5 agents was to infiltrate as many fascist groups as possible.This was also when the famous Cambridge spies made their debut and Prof.Andrew devotes many pages to the way Kim Philby and the others were recruited by the Russians.
Another short chapter deals with the way the Soviets penetrated the Communist party in Britain .
The best part of this book, however,which starts the second third of it,is-in my opinion- about the history of MI5 during the Cold War.Here we are offered much new information about the various spies that were engaged to work for the Soviet Union during the forties.The first female recruits were employed by the MI5 masters.Many new insights are given about Igor Gouzenko,a cipher clerk who was working for the GRU and decided to defect in Canada.He had with him hundreds of pages which showed clearly to what extent the Manhattan Project and other sectors of the American administration were deeply penetrated by KGB spies.In fact, one can say that Giuzenko has caused a Pandora box to open and spill out many secrets which shocked the public opinion in the west, especially in the USA and Britain.During the fifties and sixties the hunt for the Magnificent Five of Cambridge was itensified .A KGB agent by the name of Oleg Gordievsky ,who was recruited by the the British(and has written a number of intelligence studies together with Prof.Andrew)confirmed that the fifth man's name was John Cairncross.(p.441)
Chapter 9 is unique because it has-for the first time- a new topic never discussed before, namely:the role of MI5 during the decolonizanion and demise of the British Empire.African leaders were especailly kept under surveillance because of their ties with the masters from the Kremlin.
The author dismisses all the conspiracy theories which were built around Roger Hollis, one of the most famous MI5 directors,and this beacuse he found no evidence about such claims in the Hollis archives.
The most surprising revelation in the book is that Harold Wilson was under surveillance of the MI5 agents, not because he was suspected of being a spy, but because of Wilson's many contacts with the Russians.Talking one day in his PM's office to one of his confidants,Lord Kissin, Wilson told him:"There are only three men listening-you, me and MI5"(p.632) Andrew also thinks that one cabinet minister,John Stonehouse,who was a Czech agent, was the only
minister to have worked for a foreign power.Stonehouse faked his own death in Miami in 1974.
The various attitudes to the MI5 displayed by the various Prime Ministers after 1945 is discussed in detail.Harold Macmillan, for instance,used to bellitle the agents of MI5.Here, we get vintage Andrew, as he discusses in length the Profumo affair and offers the reader new facts unknown hitherto.
Additional chapters are about Mi5's role in the struggle against IRA ,and the service's battle against organized crime and the different ways that are employed to combat contemporary terrorism.There are 82 photos which show many the many players of the Great Game,including the present Director General's picture,Jonathan Evans,who has also written the foreword of the book.
This is a brilliant and authoritative work, full of vignettes and hundreds of meticulously- researched episodes running from 1909 to 2009.
In short: this work is a must for everyone interested in spies, espionage,modern and contemporary history and the role of intelligence ,written by a master historian.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcomed addition to my library, April 27, 2010
This review is from: Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (Hardcover)
As an official history, vice an unauthorized "tell-all" like Spycatcher, Andrew's work should be approached and read as a product of officially-imposed constraint. With that acknowledgement, enjoy it.

The book is well-structured. The chapters are relatively short and quickly digestable. Andrews' writing style is masterful and polished, and keeps the reader's interest. The history moves along at a measured but brisk pace.

Each section begins with a snapshot of MI5 life at a given point in time. Amusing anecdotes are mixed with Andrew's more general observations; the personalities and the lifeblood of the organization emerge from the past. The quaint, almost amateurish, charm of early MI5 makes for particularly enjoyable reading.

Beyond the well-trodden path of "the Ring of Five" etc., Andrew sheds light on lesser episodes and achievements. Complementing these are critical, detached assessments: Andrew does not shirk from his historian's duty. The result, I believe, is a balanced, constructive account of a lesser publicized arm of government.

If you are looking for "dirt", this is not the book. It better appeals to people interested in, say, long-term historical trends, organizational evolution, and panoramic history---and diversely amusing characters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plodding history, but with much of interest, February 5, 2011
This book is mostly an organizational and management history, with much more on the interactions between MI-5 and other British government bodies than I had anticipated. I am amused that the jacket blurb includes a glowing endorsement from Stella Rimington, who is a former DG of MI-5 and was heavily consulted by the author; it's not surprising that Rimington would think it reads like a thriller.

My personal interest is in the internal workings of an intelligence agency, and in its interactions with intelligence agencies of other powers. This book contains quite a bit that I either had not known on these matters, or that I had not fully understood. It also shed light on various episodes in the history of US intelligence organizations that I was aware of but had been puzzled by. A number of these have to do with failures to take advantage of VENONA decrypts, or decisions not to use the info derived from these. These were very delicate questions, and although I've been aware of Venona for a great many years. I was never privy to decisions about what to use and what not to use, and why. I understand this much better now. By the way, for people interested in cryptology, "Defend the Realm" contains information on the construction of Soviet one-time ciphers that I've never seen elsewhere and was surprised to see here. For the first time I can reconstruct methods of attack on certain ciphers of that type, and why some messages can be completely decrypted, some partially, and others not at all. I wonder if NSA realized how much insight into methods of attack on "unbreaakable" ciphers cn be inferred from the material in this book.

There is little on ULTRA, which is OK, given that the ULTRA effort has been extensively discussed elsewhere. Unfortunately, however, there is essentially nothing on other cryptology work at Bletchley Park, including studies of what ciphers could be used by Britain and the US. For example, the book does not mention (nor does any other document I've seen) the fact that Turing, while at Bletchley Park, developed most of the necessary theory to make public key cryptography work and that he proposed this as an encipherment method for certain allied communications. His proposal was rejected for what at the time were very good reasons. But this is an interesting aspect of the history of public key cryptography, and one that's not generally known.

All told, I'm glad I bought and read this book, although much of it was hard. dull reading.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Domestic Intelligence and National Security, January 7, 2010
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This review is from: Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (Hardcover)
This book is one of the most comprehensive books ever written about an intelligence organization. It is also an authorized history meaning that MI5, the UK's domestic intelligence service actually co-operated with the author to produce this astonishingly complete history.
It should be emphasized that MI5 has evolved considerably since its creation in 1909, but it was never simply a "domestic intelligence" organization. Its original purpose was what today is called counter-intelligence and the allied mission of keeping track of foreign residents in the UK. As the organization evolved and, in spite of missteps and pratfalls along the way, proved its worth it branched out into other duties and responsibilities. After a rather confused start MI5 performed quite well in WWI preventing sabotage, espionage and subversion by German agents. In WWII it did much the same, but also created and executed the so-called `double-cross' system of turning enemy spies into double agents. After the war it was active not only in the UK, but also in the British colonies as the UK slowly dismantled it Empire. And long before the al Qaeda terrorist movement, MI5 operatives initiated counter-terrorist strategies against both colonial terrorist movements, particularly in Malaysia and Kenya, and in the UK against the Provisional Wing of the IRA.
The real mission of MI5 is and has always been what is called national security and its organization and mission has changed repeatedly as threats to UK national security have changed. Today MI5 responsibilities include domestic intelligence operations, executive protection, and counter-terrorism/counter-intelligence. Yet it is essential that MI5 has always avoided anything that could be called `law enforcement' or para-military operations. By avoiding these it has avoided being called a secret police organization. It is what it has always been, an organization that identifies and develops information (intelligence) on threats to UK national security and if required involves the police or military to actually counter them. MI5 often walks a very fine line between domestic intelligence and law enforcement, but for the most part has succeeded in keeping the two separate.
This is a very fine book that provides an absolutely riveting account of a most interesting organization.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rest of The Story, November 14, 2009
By 
Gail H. Nelson (Boulder, Colorado United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (Hardcover)
Once again Christopher Andrew has written the quintessential history of intelligence and in this case 20th century British internal intelligence & security. What remains to be done is the 19th century history of British intelligence from the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and Victorian Imperial Intelligence -- no matter how viscerated by Foreign Office and Defense Ministry inter-ministerial intrigues. Or does the real story of intelligence & security during this period shift to the French, Russian, and Prussian-German intelligence services? Professor Andrew would be our best source.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, December 31, 2010
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I have just completed "Defending The Realm" and I have to say from a amatuer historian's view I loved it. From the minute that I picked it up I could not put it down. I found it well written and very informative, Christopher Andrew is an excellent author and I have another book that he has written about the KGB that I am looking forward to getting to. I will be buying more books by this author that is for sure.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read around the subject, February 18, 2012
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This book is so obviously and deliberately dull. Here was an opportunity to take the Hollis affair on and dismantle it bit by bit. Instead Christopher Andrew is authorised only to discredit the likes of Chapman Pincher in a very simplistic and dismissive manner. This is a pity and does justice to no one.

Instead of being a balanced and illuminating history this ends up being dull and laborious and very obviously sanitised.

I suggest that anyone with a genuine interest now reads Chapman Pincher on the subject (Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-ups: Six Decades of Espionage Against America and Great Britain)...only then make your mind up as to whether Christopher Andrew has done justice to the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A readable academic history of counter intelligence, May 4, 2014
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An academic précis but one that has enough detail for the mildly interested right up to the serious student of intelligence studies.
Intensive research and annotation provides a unique credibility of a subject that is notoriously difficult to publish on due to the secrecy of the environment. Altogether one of the pillars of writing on the subject of counter intelligence in the commonwealth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best., April 21, 2014
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Anything by Andrew is a worthy read. While DTR might be a bit quixotic if your interests aren't in the realm of espionage, but this is one of the best investments I've made, certainly the longest since "The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich".
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3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate, fun, informative., November 27, 2013
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Well, yes. This is a good survey of how MI 5 came to be. For those generally unfamiliar with some of the greater spy scandals that rocked the 20th Century, best to have read something about them first, as there is gloss in places, assumptions the reader must have known prior to reading.

Having said that I consider reading it twice. The book itself is a tome, so I went with the kindle version.
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Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5
Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew (Hardcover - November 3, 2009)
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