Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5

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9780307263636: Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5

An unprecedented publishing event: to mark the centenary of its foundation, the British Security Service, MI5, has for the first time opened its archives to an independent historian. The book reveals the precise role of the Security Service in twentieth-century British history, from its foundation by Captain Kell of the British Army in October 1909, through two world wars, up to and including its present roles in counterespionage and counterterrorism. The book describes how MI5 has been managed, what its relationship has been with government, where it has triumphed, and where it has failed. In all of this no restriction has been placed on the judgments made by the author.

Defend the Realm also adds significantly to our knowledge of many celebrated events and notorious individuals and definitively lays to rest a number of persistent myths. Above all, it shows the place of this previously extremely secretive organization within the United Kingdom. Few books could make such an immediate and extraordinary increase to our understanding of British history over the past century.

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Review:

A Q&A with Christopher Andrew

Question: Where does "MI5" come from?

Christopher Andrew: MI5 originally stood for "Military Intelligence [Department] 5." The Secret Service Bureau (SSB) was formed in 1909 to counter the danger to Britain from German espionage, and the division of the SSB responsible for counter-espionage within the British Isles became Department 5, or "MI5." MI5 was renamed the Security Service in 1931, but is still commonly known as MI5 today.

Question: Where is MI5 based?

Christopher Andrew: MI5's staff, headed by Director General Jonathan Evans, is largely based in their headquarters at Thames House in London. They also have eight regional offices around Great Britain plus a Northern Ireland headquarters. The Service is organized into seven branches, each with specific areas of responsibility, which work to counter a range of threats including terrorism, espionage and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Question: What happened to MI1-MI4?

Christopher Andrew: There were a number of departments within the Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI1 through MI19) which dealt with a range of issues. For example, MI1 was responsible for code-breaking, and MI2 handled Russian and Scandinavian intelligence. The responsibilities of these departments were either discontinued or absorbed into The War Office, MI5 and MI6 and, later, the Government Communications Headquarters.

Question:What is the difference between MI5 and MI6?

The Security Service (MI5) is the UK’s security intelligence agency, responsible for protecting the UK, its citizens and interests, at home and overseas, against the major threats to national security. The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) is primarily responsible for gathering intelligence outside the UK in support of the government's security, defence, foreign and economic policies.

Question: How realistic is the depiction of MI5 in the television series Spooks (MI-5 here in the United States)?

Christopher Andrew: The BBC's Spooks is a slickly-produced and entertaining drama, but, like other works of spy fiction, it glamorizes the world of intelligence. The nature of MI5's work can be stimulating and highly rewarding (as the show's strapline declares, it is not "9 to 5"), but the program does not portray the full range of their activities, nor the routine, but vitally important, aspects of their operations which would not make such exciting viewing. Particularly unrealistic is the way in which the characters in Spooks regularly act outside the law in pursuit of their investigations!

(Photo © Michael Jones)

About the Author:

Christopher Andrew is Britain’s leading historian of intelligence, professor of modern and contemporary history and chair of the faculty of history at Cambridge University. He is also chair of the British Intelligence Study Group, coeditor of Intelligence and National Security, former visiting professor at Harvard, Toronto, and the Australian National University, and a regular presenter of BBC Radio and TV documentaries. His thirteen previous books include The Mitrokhin Archive, volumes 1 and 2, and a number of groundbreaking studies on the use and abuse of secret intelligence in modern history.

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Andrew, Christopher; Foreword by Jonathan Evans, Director General of the Security Service
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, Random House, Inc., New York (2009)
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Book Description Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, Random House, Inc., New York, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. BRILLIANT: REVEALING: UNPRECEDENTED: NEW hardcover, copyrighted under the British Crown 2009, stated 1st United States edition, new unclipped mylar-protected jacket showing orig. $40.00 price, immaculate text-block exterior w/ smooth-cut top & bottom edges & cut-page-style side-edging, as-new durable coal-black linen-over-boards cover, titles boldly silver-stamped on spine w/ sober elegance, as-new sewn binding w/ tight signatures & w/ dark-silver & white-checked cloth banding at spine-caps, impeccable cream-white end-papers on heavy stock, pristine interior printed w/ handsome clarity on superb paper * 6.56" x 9.50" x 2.26", 1.58 kg, xxiv+1032 (1056) pp. * 32 pages of photographs presented on gloss-laminated stock between pp. 552 & 553 & 50 additional black & white illustrations distributed throughout the text * CONTENTS: List of Illustrations (viii), Foreword (xv), Preface (xix), Acknowledgments (xxii); Section A: The German Threat, 1909-1919 (3), Section B: Between the Wars (113), Section C: The Second World War (217), Section D: The Early Cold War (321), Section E: The Later Cold War (547), Section F: After the Cold War (771); Conclusion: The First Hundred Years of the Security Service (831), Appendix 1: Directors & Director Generals 1909-2009 (853), Appendix 2: Security Service Strength 1909-2009 (854), Appendix 3: Nomenclature & Responsibilities of Security Service Branches / Divisions 1914-1994 (855); Notes (865), Bibliography (989), Index (1005) * To mark the centenary of its founding, the British Security Service, MI5, opened its archives to an independent historian, the first time any of the world's leading intelligence or security services has taken such a step. "Defend the Realm", the resulting book, is an unprecedented publication. It reveals the precise role of the Service in 20th century British history, from its establishment by Captain Kell of the British Army in October 1909 to root out the "spies of the Kaiser" to its present role in countering Islamic terrorism. The book describes the distinctive ethos of MI5, how the organization has been managed, its relationship w/ the government, where it has triumphed, & where it has failed: NO restrictions were placed on the judgments made by its ideally designated author, Christopher Andrew, Britain's leading historian of intelligence, professor of modern & contemporary history, & former chair of the faculty of history at Cambridge University. Bookseller Inventory # 007451

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