Maggie’s Hobby

Nicholas Hiley

  • New cloak, Old dagger: How Britain’s Spies Came in from the Cold by Michael Smith
    Gollancz, 338 pp, £20.00, November 1996, ISBN 0 575 06150 2
  • Intelligence Power in Peace and War by Michael Herman
    Cambridge, 436 pp, £50.00, October 1996, ISBN 0 521 56231 7
  • UK Eyes Alpha by Mark Urban
    Faber, 320 pp, £16.99, September 1996, ISBN 0 571 17689 5

Why are the British secret services so secret? The assumption is that they are so because they handle secret information. Yet there is no reason why an organisation entrusted with secret information should itself be secret. Most companies and large organisations generate material of great commercial sensitivity, but few of them would consider lodging it in a secret department with considerable autonomy. Why should the British government have decided to act differently? Why did it create a secret adjunct to the Civil Service in 1909, and why has it preserved it until the present day?

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