‘Spanking new stuff’ on Soviet spy story
by Randy Boswell, National Post, Oct 1, 2010
Book details 1945 defection in Ottawa
A new book has shed fresh light on Canada’s most famous spy case — the 1945 defection of Soviet embassy employee Igor Gouzenko — and the clandestine efforts by notorious British double-agent Kim Philby to manipulate events in Ottawa and London to Moscow’s advantage.
Queen’s University Belfast historian Keith Jeffery, author of The Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949, says classified documents that only he was authorized to see show the traitorous Philby issuing memos at British foreign intelligence headquarters, MI6, with a “cautious and soothing tone” — a strategy designed to play down the significance of what were, in fact, sensational revelations from Gouzenko about the existence of a Soviet spy ring in North America.
Gouzenko, a cipher clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, defected in September 1945, with about 100 telegrams and other classified documents he had snatched from a consular safe, exposing an extensive espionage network — including scientists, bureaucrats and even the Montreal-area socialist MP Fred Rose — operating in North America and Britain at the end of the Second World War. Among the secret dispatches stolen by Gouzenko were several that revealed the August 1945 handover of experimental uranium samples to Soviet agents in Montreal by Alan Nunn May, a British nuclear scientist working in Canada. Gouzenko’s revelations about May, later dubbed the “Atom Spy,” stunned political leaders in Canada, Britain and the United States. [Photo of Fred Rose, at left.]
Secret papers declassified in 2007 through the U.K. National Archives and others published last year in historian Christopher Andrew’s official history of MI5 — Britain’s domestic spy agency — have previously documented some of Philby’s efforts to stymie the Gouzenko investigation. But Mr. Jeffery told Postmedia News that the secret MI6 files he probed contained “spanking new stuff” that showed how Philby was exploiting his position as head of counter-intelligence at MI6 to restrict information flows in London and to thwart Canadian, British and U.S. officials who were trying to understand the scope of Gouzenko’s disclosures. “It would appear” that Gouzenko’s information is “genuine though not necessarily accurate in all details,” Philby notes in one memo unearthed by Mr. Jeffery.
And when Canadian and British intelligence officials made arrangements to arrest Nunn May at a meeting he had scheduled with his Soviet handler in London, Philby asserts in a report that “other members of the [Soviet spy] network will have been warned” of Gouzenko’s defection, and predicts that the expected rendezvous “between [Nunn] May and the Soviet agent in the U.K. will fail to materialize.” Nunn May was eventually charged and convicted of passing official secrets to the Soviets. He was sentenced to 10 years hard labour, but served only six before his release in 1952. He died in Britain in 2003. Philby was not exposed as a double agent until 1963, when he escaped to the Soviet Union. He was “absolutely trusted” in Western intelligence circles until that time, Mr. Jeffery said.
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NB: There may be more to this article, I found the scan online, and part is cut off. KM