Required reading for all would-be members of the intelligence community in order to avoid the amateurish conduct of the British and American services in the 40's, 50's and 60's.
An excellent history.
A testament to the power of personality. He was so likable; he so just "fit" their social/cultural milieu. They just didn't want to believe that he was NOT one of them.
Very intriguing. I will have to go back and read more Le Carre and Fleming in light of this amazing true story of WWII and cold war spying and the failure of the Old Boy's network to weed out some of the sociopaths who became double agents.
Greatest British spy or Greatest Cold War Traitor?
Well written and a very good and riveting story that feels like a novel rather than non-fiction. Macintyre gives us a fascinating account of Philby's friendship with and eventual betrayal of his best friend, and fellow agent Nicholas Elliot and of Angleton, the head of the CIA. Why did Philby become a spy? In Macintyre's view, it was to change the world since "the only bulwark against fascism was Soviet communism... and capitalism was doomed and crumbling." He was an ideological spy that would prove to be staggeringly successful. Philby thought communism was the answer to injustice, poverty and war. Macintyre puts it, "he was the fox not merely guarding the hen-house but building it, running it, assessing its strengths and frailties, and planning its future construction." Incredible but true. His Soviet handler referred to him as 'probably the best ever.'
Macintyre takes the reader through a complex series of events in lives of Philby and Elliot and the other key characters. At one point Elliot comes to Philby's defense when he was suspected and, astonishingly, managed to engineer Philby's return to MI6 (possibly because of the very strong class bound loyalties and rituals within M16).
The big question was whether Philby defected or was allowed to defect. Macintyre strongly suggests the latter as putting him on trail would have shaken the British establishment to the core and clearly shown the huge damage to British intelligence as well as American intelligence under James Angleton (who was 'destroyed' by the defection).
A very enjoyable book, that I would highly recommend. I especially enjoyed the questioning by Elliot trying to get Philby to confess just days before he finally defected.
A page turner! Hard to put down.
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal --- by --- Ben Macintyre. Kim Philby’s career stretched from the years before the Second World War to 1963. He started his career as a handler in Britain’s MI6 and then quickly graduated to double agents, selling secrets to the KGB. A product of Britain’s old-boys class system, no one in the upper class to which he belonged ever believe he could possibly be anything but true and loyal to his class, his club, and his country. And so, in spite of suspicions and charges leveled against him by MI5 more middle-classed operatives, Philby continued his skullduggery until the evidence of his wrong-doing was incontrovertibly overwhelming. Only then did Philby show his true hand and flee to Moscow. This is not and Ian Flemming James Bond spy thriller even though Ian Flemming appears briefly in the book, rather it is true fact. It’s about how one person, perhaps mentally bent, delivered up, literally, hundreds of people to his Russian paymasters in exchange for what, money, or in the belief that what he was doing was for the purpose of bringing about a better world. You won’t read this book in one evening but it is interesting and engaging enough that a few nights should see you through this book.
I could hardly put this book down. It's like sitting at a table over coffee while the author tells you the story. What a look into this clandestine world!
Brilliantly written and so compelling I stood in Canadian Tire reading it while waiting for my husband to shop. What a brilliant but despicable person Philby was - how could he rationalize sending so many young men to certain death, not to mention the effects of his betrayal on Allied war efforts.
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