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|I spent a decade in military intelligence, initially collecting and translating, later reporting on, highly secret intelligence on Middle-East terrorists and Warsaw Pact countries. I have to admit that at the time I didn't really appreciate the importance of the work I and my colleagues were carrying out and when I left the army I certainly had no interest in continuing with that type of work. I wanted to be a journalist. I remember telling a colleague from GCHQ that I wanted to be the defence correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, then probably the most popular newspaper among British servicemen and women. I believed that transferring the reporting skills I had learned in the army would be relatively easy, far easier than it turned out in the end.|
|When I did eventually become a newspaper reporter, the very last subject I wanted to write on was intelligence. But I was astonished at the lack of understanding among most journalists of how the intelligence services operated. The predominant view was largely based on wild conspiracy theories of intelligence services which, far from attempting to protect Britain, spent most of their time trying to undermine democracy.|
|That situation has changed somewhat thanks to a more open approach by both MI5 and MI6 but some of the conspiracy theories still make their way into the media and there is of course the ever-present danger that journalists will unquestioningly accept the version of events put out by the intelligence services, getting the story just as wrong as the conspiracy theorists.|
At any event, the lack of understanding of how the intelligence services worked and the extent to which MI5 and GCHQ had been prepared to release their pre-war and Second World War files, made me realise that it was possible to write a substantial and accurate history of the British intelligence services which would avoid conspiracy theories, at the same time debunking many of the myths. The result was New Cloak, Old Dagger: How Britain's Spies Came in from the Cold, which was published in 1996 by Gollancz, and was described by Professor Christopher Andrew, the official historian of MI5, as 'the best up-to-date survey of British intelligence'.
Praise for Michael Smith's books about British spies:
New Cloak, Old Dagger
'The best up-to-date survey of British intelligence.'
Prof Christopher Andrew, The Daily Telegraph
'One of the finest books on British intelligence published to date. Sets a very high standard indeed for breadth, depth and thorough research.'
Philip H J Davies, Intelligence and National Security
'Draws aside the curtain of secrecy to disclose just about everything that has ever come to light about the history of Britain's security services. A fascinating study, possibly quite the best yet on such a tricky subject.'
Harry Hawkes, The Birmingham Post
'The best introduction to the British intelligence community currently available. Comprehensive, current, informative, and entertaining - it is popular writing at its best.'
Ken Robertson, International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-intelligence
The Spying Game
'Up-to-date and well researched'
Oliver Robinson, The Observer
'Smith has the advantage of access to insiders and an excellent grasp of intelligence and how it functions. The result is a lucid, methodical, informative overview of the nature and role of the British intelligence services.'
Sheila Kerr, Defence Analysis
In the fast-moving, slightly blurred world of intelligence operations it is often hard for anyone except aficionados to distinguish between the authentic and the dross. But Michael Smith's The Spying Game is emphatically in the former category, written by a discriminating journlist who really does know and understand the business of espionage. His information can be relied upon. The result is a balanced assessment packed with good case histories.