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The Secret Life of Kim Philby

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Kim Philby was one of the highest ranking officials of British intelligence. He defected to the Soviet Union after working as a double agent for a long time. He belonged to the highly secretive spy group known as The Cambridge Five. Historians believe that he was the most efficient resource agent in presenting the Soviet Union with secret information during the Second World War.  Russian officials and oligarchs never trusted him completely as they believed he could be working for Britain, and led by Joseph Stalin, they highly regulated his activities.

Philby’s change in attitude and philosophy can be traced to his schooling and subsequent employment. He studied economics and history at The Trinity College in Cambridge and held a position in The Cambridge University Socialist Society as a treasurer of the society. Upon his graduation from Cambridge in 1933, an economics tutor in Cambridge by the name Maurice Dobb introduced him to an organization called The World Federation for Victims who had Suffered German fascism in Paris. The organization was operated by a hardcore communist from Germany known as Munzenberg who had fled to France for Refuge. He moved to Vienna to work for the organization.

In Vienna, Philby fell in love with a young lady who was a fanatic communist and he greatly admired her political ideologies and the strength with which she defended them. During those times he assisted Nazi refugees and relied on his British passport to avoid suspicion. He married the Austrian communist in 1933 and they both fled to Britain. A Vietnamese friend of his wife who was working as a Soviet agent is believed to be the one who first floated the idea of working as a Soviet agent to Kim Philby. His wife’s friend was also responsible for the recruitment of the other members of the Cambridge Five spy squad.

Philby moved to London where he studied Russian in the School of Slavonic languages. The main purpose of the school was to train people who would be employed in the intelligence services or those who would pursue diplomatic careers. He worked as a correspondent and freelance journalist during the Spanish civil war while working as a double agent for both the British and Soviet intelligence. He communicated to both agencies by using the ploy of writing letters to fictitious girlfriends. He rose rapidly in British intelligence after he was awarded the Red Cross Military merit for his work in Spain and developed important contacts.

The 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact reached the agreement that the two countries would refrain from attacking each other. The Soviet Union would thus not interfere if Germany attacked any country. The fact that Britain was fighting against Germany made it impossible for Philby to communicate with his Soviet masters without raising suspicion. He lost contact with them.  Philby continued to rise in Britain intelligence and was made the instructor in charge of covert propaganda.

As the instructor of covert agents, he re-established contact with the Soviet agents who wanted him to disclose the names of British agents who were being trained to enter the Soviet Union. Philby was instrumental in warning Stalin about Operation Barbarossa and the Japanese decision to attack Singapore instead of attacking the Soviet Union. Philb continued to become influential in British intelligence and was given posts in various countries. He arrived in the United Sates in late September in 1949. He established important connections between British Intelligence and the CIA and promoted joint intelligence activities between the two agencies.

In America, a mistake led to interception of messages between British agents and Soviet agents. The message revealed details of meetings between the source in the British Embassy and a soviet contact. Investigations led to suspicion of agent Maclean as the Soviet contact and Philby began organizing his escape. The escape led to a cloud of suspicion which made Philby to return to London. Philby then resigned from MI6 following investigations into Maclean’s escape. The resignation was a stun because he would have been dismissed anyway. His involvement in the Scandal was cleared by the House of Commons and he swore before the press that he had never been a communist. He resumed undercover work for M16 in 1956 using the cover of a journalist in Beirut. He was discovered in 1963 upon which he fled from Beirut to Russia where he was disappointed that he was not a KGB officer as he had been led to believe.

The SIS (Secret Service Unit) was formed to deal with external threats against Britain’s national security. The group organized and carried out combat missions overseas to protect Britain’s interests across the world. In the cold war times SIS operations were more rampant due to suspicion that existed between two major world economic ideologies of communism and capitalism. They also gathered intelligent information from other countries. In this type of activities, the SIS structure and operations are normally sketchy in the public domain. The secret service formed a section before world war whose mandate was to set up and coordinate highly sensitive missions. Its activities include active combat operations when necessary in order to eliminate any potential threats against Britain’s intelligence.  Its operations at the time involved assassinations of people they believed had ill motive or plans to attack England.

Philby Kim was a journalist hence he had several qualifications that were important to the unit. His journalism skills were crucial in heading a propaganda section of the service in order to win public opinions against other countries. He used his good communication skills to earn trust among the group which later rendered him a chance to get a job in Russia as a spy. The operations of the secret service were influenced by historical relations between the two countries. Spain tended to support the Germans while the British played a role of supporting Portugal. The secret services were therefore warmly welcomed in Portugal. They also cooperated with US intelligent in terms of doing joints operations, supporting material and other crucial logistical support. Edgar Hoover played the role of advancing cooperation between the two countries. The fall of Britain as a world power and the rise of the Americans led to changes of the roles played by their intelligent units. The Americans started to play a major role than the British.

In the 1940s-50s, the post war was in essence the beginning of the downfall of Philby. Though he may have described his immediate move as communism, it was still suspicious. Russians durring the cold war were already suspicious of some KGB agents snitching. Donald Mclean was the student at the Cambridge and was one of the agents of London spy going rogue. The description of the rogue agents completely fitted the two, Kim Philby and Donald Mclean which made the Russians want to question them. Amid this suspicion, the London secret service did not show interest in it and therefore fully proved to Russians that something was actually a miss. This was in fact the time when Britain was still an ally to the Nazi Germany.

Maclean escaped due to the fact that he was not a high ranking official. This meant that the management of the secret service did not actually investigate him much. On the other hand, Philby was about to be promoted to a higher position. This prompted the management to start investigating his suitability. The investigation reached the man who appointed him. Stewart, his hiring authority had his doubts about the character of Philby and he contemplated the idea of him being a spy of the Russian. The issue was that the American continued to pressure the British about their convictions which led to even more suspicion. Finally, he realized that he was running out of the time hence fleeing to Russia and finally confessing. The investigation of Maclean proved that the British secret services had been compromised by the Russian for several decades and although they were finally able to maneuvers from the situation, this issue tarnished the name of the organization. However the issue still remains controversial even in our recent times.

In the aftermath of cold war, the debate still ranged about the war and how the countries performed their duties of protecting their interests.  The fact that the military operations during that time were highly secretive makes it hard to get any genuine information. Other factors that could have influenced this situation is the government’s unwillingness to release information about their various operations. This can be attributed to the fact that most of this secret services like SIS, KGB and CIA are still in operation.  They therefore fear disclosing information that could jeopardize their operations due to the fact that suspicion still continues up to today.

However, his book may have been produced for the sake of promoting other things rather than the real issues. The fact that the book was funded by the soviet government demonstrates that its credibility is highly controversial. The writer was obviously biased in painting the role these organizations played in the cause of cold war. The Russian were obviously motivated in trying to ridicule the British and Americans. The fact that cold war was actually not a military operation but rather a propaganda one means the book was used to propagate this war later than capture the real events.

In regard to the above information, it is obvious the book was not accurate due to the fact that it was written in Russia by an ex-agent who still enjoyed a good relationship with the government. In Russia, information release was closely monitored by the government which meant that it was thoroughly checked by authorities before its release. The implication of this was that it was easier to compromise the actual facts in order to disgrace other country’s secret service and at the same time painting KGB in good light.

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