Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover Ups

I am just over half way through this astonishing 688 page book by Chapman Pincher that summarises in excruciating depth the breadth and depth of the Soviet penetration of the British Intelligence Services for over 30 years and the impact on so many lives.  The book covers the Cambridge 6 as well as Philby in MI6 and builds an unassailable case against Hollis who rose to the very top of MI5.  The most striking thing for me has been how English cultural attitudes of old boy networks, a chap having the right background, allowed for such mind-boggling ‘incompetence’ to largely go unchallenged by the UK authorities that people are taught to trust with the protection of their society.  Add to that the systematic, deliberate lying that then took place across a wide section of the civil service and politicians to protect “reputations”.  It says so much that Americans had to exert huge pressure to get even the slightest public acknowledgement that there was a problem and usually that occurred only when the traitors had fled to Russia and were unavailable for interviewing by either the authorities or the press.

When you read this you understand why there is such widespread disillusionment with political, military, civil service echelons in the UK.  So many people criticise the Americans and American culture but there is a much more effective set of checks and balances in the US than in the UK.  I think there will be many people in the UK who lost relatives in WW2 and the Cold War who might question the sacrifices made by so many to defend such a morally corrupt outcome.

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