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Gchq: The Uncensored Story of Britain's Most Secret Intelligence Agency Paperback – July 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


'Thoroughly engaging' Daily Telegraph 'Skilfully weaves together the personal, political, military and technological dimensions of electronic espionage' Economist 'Aldrich packs in vast amounts of information, while managing to remain very readable. He paints the broad picture, but also introduces fascinating detail.' Literary Review 'Richard J. Aldrich is an outstanding analyst and historian of intelligence and he tells this story well...an important book, which will make readers think uncomfortably not only about the state's power to monitor our lives, but also the appalling vulnerability of every society in thrall to communications technology as we are.' Max Hastings, Sunday Times 'This is a sober and valuable work of scholarship, which is as reliable as anything ever is in the twilight world of intelligence-gathering. Yet there is nothing dry about it. Aldrich knows how to write for a wider audience, while avoiding the speculations, inventions, sensationalism and sheer silliness of so much modern work on the subject' Spectator

About the Author

Richard Aldrich is a regular commentator on war and espionage and has written for the 'Evening Standard', the 'Guardian', 'The Times' and the 'Telegraph'. He is the author of several books, including 'The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence' which won the Donner Book Prize in 2002.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 2011 edition (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007312660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007312665
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,516,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Matthew M. Aid on April 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Richard Aldrich's book on GCHQ is by far and away the best book written about the subject. No ifs, ands, or buts.

It is a weighty tome, weighing in at over 600-pages, and it certainly is not cheap. But you get your money's worth here. If you are really interested in the inner-workings of Britain's most secretive intelligence service and what it has been up to over the past 60+ years, this is the book you have to read.

You get it all here, both the successes and the failures, descriptions of the key personalities and the high-tech spy gear that the "Boys at Cheltenham" use, all written in a fashion that is both informative and quite readable.

It is also an honest book, candid and forthright about the darker aspects of GCHQ's work that in the past would have earned the author a less tha polite invitation to have a sit-down chat with the Crown Prosecutor's office. The material on GCHQ's up-and-down relationship with its American and English-speaking Commonwealth partners is particularly good.

Having spent the better part of twenty-five years myself researching the history of GCHQ's American counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA), I can fully appreciate just how much work went into this book. The book's Source Notes are ample testament to how industrious Dr. Aldrich was in searching out information from a variety of archival sources about a spy agency that has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep even the most mundane aspects of its work out of the public realm.

Well done. I honestly wish there were more books like this out there for us to read.

Matthew M. Aid
Washington, D.C.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul Rooney on January 17, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is the uncensored story of Britain's most secret intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters.

This book tells the story of Britain's electronic spying from WWII up until the present day.

It is a fascinating read and shows that the real intelligence gathering was done by "geeks" rather than by James Bond.

Tales of amazing bravery are told, we have submarines going into enemy harbours and getting as close as 6 feet away listening to signals from the opposition.

It shows how the electronic intell. gathering has had a huge bearing on all major military operations since WWII.

All is not perfect though, for some reason the British intelligence community did not learn from McLean , Philby and others. Geoffry Prime, the last really damaging spy found inside GCHQ was allowed to work for two years in a high security area before he was even vetted. Everyone was later surprised when he was found to be a spy and a paedophile!!!!!!

One very interesting fact written of here was that the Auckland power outages of 1998 were caused by hackers in Holland, rather than by faulty equipment in New Zealand, something that has never been spoken of here.

This is a very good book, not too technical and flows nicely covering many of the major moments of the 20th century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By uglygorilla on August 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
From a complete layman on the subject of espionage and electronic surveillance, I expected this book to be only of interest to the initiated but it is very well written and kept a good pace of interesting facts and incidents that shaped the future if intelligence gathering. The author avoided the common mistake of including too much techno-speak and the mundane, which would consign this book to the text book shelves of the shops and libraries. Although not a "couldn't put this down" book (as I would have been awake 3-4 days), I didn't find it hard work to read and enjoyed the many different stories that proved interesting and entertaining.
If this subject even semi-interests you, I recommend to buy this book, I don't think you will be disappointed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ole Bjrsvik on November 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
I reeled back as I got the book: British books this thick are usually horribly badly written, with a tiring never-ending use of passive voice. And where the author never let down a chance to use an obsolete four syllable adjective, where none would do better. ("See! I know a word!") - The forty pages of notes at the back didn't make it better. Seen it all before you know...

"OK, Let's slug it out. Let's see if we get to page thirty before I throw the book in the basket..."

But the writing was good. And it just became better and better. Especially when we got to the cold war... My breakfasts on street cafés in Paris got longer and longer. Even the labor strike in GCHQ in the eighties became readable.

For the cold war it fleshed out parts of the world that always have been somewhat hazy, perhaps dull. And you get stories that would have been a smash news hit on our days of news networks and internet. And without getting sensational.

Some seems to hold themselves aloft of reading novels by authors like Forsyth, Clancy Swedish Jan Guillou, and off coarse Belgian Albert Weinberg. But a series of books the last fifteen years are evidence that these authors really talked to people that was in the know: You read Aldrich's GCHQ, you come to a passage and you realize: "Oh, so that was the story behind that slightly cryptic subsentence in The Hunt for Red October..."

The book turned out to be a page turner.
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