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Espionage tales

Print edition : Feb 12, 2010 T+T-

NIGEL WEST, an authority on espionage, and Oleg Tsarev, a retired KGB officer, have collaborated to produce this fascinating volume as they did on an earlier book, The Crown Jewels: The British Secrets at the Heart of the KGB Archives.

Triplex, or XXX, was the secret classification assigned to material illicitly copied from the diplomatic pouches of neutral embassies in wartime London. Triplex was acquired by a joint MI5-SIS operation to distract diplomatic couriers overnight with male and female prostitutes on their journeys home and copy the contents of the pouches.

Invariably, the couriers flew from Hull (to Stockholm) or from Bristol (to Lisbon), but their civil aircraft would be delayed by mechanical problems or adverse weather conditions, causing the pouches to be lodged overnight with the airport police, thus allowing the target to reacquaint himself with the attractive individual he first encountered hours earlier on the train. Once opened and photographed by technicians, the diplomatic seals would be replaced by a team of skilled craftsmen.

The operation was conducted successfully throughout the war without incident and was never compromised. No mention of it has been made in any official history of wartime British intelligence.

However, full details were disclosed in Moscow, where the KGB archives have a collection of the Triplex product supplied by Anthony Blunt while he was the senior MI5 officer supervising the operation. His SIS counterpart was David Boyle. Within Whitehall, Triplex was considered a highly reliable but exceptionally sensitive source on a par with ULTRA, telephone intercepts and other technical sources of intelligence.

This book includes a selection of authentic MI5 and SIS documents never previously seen. This is the very first evidence of precisely what Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross betrayed to their Soviet contacts. Others in the Ring of Five were Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.

The book contains a comprehensive list of MI5s moles placed in embassies in London, complete with their true names, their duties and their code names. Anthony Blunt promised to destroy this document by its MI5 computer because it was so sensitive. Among the premises targeted were the French, Belgian, Swiss, Brazilian and Dutch embassies.

It has the details of a staff employment agency established by MI5 that supplied domestic staff to the diplomatic community and of Japanese espionage suspects in London, including an account of the investigation of Lord Sempili, a Japanese courier reporting to his contact at the embassy in London.

The SIS post-war plans for infiltrating the Soviet Union using natural cover businessmen are listed, together with SIS contacts in each company and the full extent to which the Soviets learned of ULTRA from Kim Philby, including the location and capability of every secret British intercept station and the German wireless channels that were being monitored.

Also included is the War Cabinets review of M15 and SIS, which was conducted by Lord Hankey, and drafted by his Secretary, John Cairncross, the Soviet spy.

This fascinating volume contains a full and instructive exposure of the British intelligence set-up.