Nigel West

With Others


West, Nigel [Rupert Allason], and Madoc Roberts. SNOW: The Double Life of a World War II Spy. New York: Dialogue, 2011.

According to Peake, Studies 55.4 (Dec. 2011) and Intelligencer 19.1 (Winter-Spring 2012), Arthur Owens, code named SNOW, was "the first agent in the WW II Double Cross System." The authors "have answered many of the questions that surrounded the career of double agent SNOW. But as to 'which side was Arthur Owens really on' they conclude that only he knew for sure."


West, Nigel [Rupert Allason], and Oleg Tsarev. The Crown Jewels: The British Secrets at the Heart of the KGB Archives. London: HarperCollins, 1998. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

Clark comment: The genesis of this work is similar to others produced in recent years: Writers, often a Westerner and a Russian working in tandem, are provided access to KGB documents about Soviet espionage activities in the West. Murphy, AFIO WIN 25-99 (25 Jun. 1999) and Intelligencer 10.2, notes that Crown Jewels is "a series of essays covering Soviet foreign intelligence activity in the United Kingdom from the early 20s up through the Cold War. The authors have sought to present cases that are either new or could be looked at in a new light."

For Andrew, Telegraph (London), 11 Apr. 1998, "[t]he most important documents cited by Nigel West and Oleg Tsarev concern the least known of the [Cambridge] Five, John Cairncross. The Crown Jewels exposes Cairncross's memoirs, published posthumously late last year, as something of a hoax on their unfortunate publisher.... The Crown Jewels also publishes the text of documents and reports passed to the KGB by two other members of the Magnificent Five, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt.... The main weakness of The Crown Jewels, by comparison with other recent volumes based on documents from the KGB archives, is that it subjects them to less rigorous analysis and takes less account of previous research." In addition, West and Tsarev leave "a number of unanswered questions about the confused beginnings of Soviet espionage in Britain."

Watt, Telegraph (London), 28 Mar. 1998, believes that historians "will treat this not as a narrative but as a source book. Had Mr West chosen to edit Colonel Tsarev's manuscript properly and reconcile it to what has been published in the West, this would truly have been a major contribution to our general understanding of the black game in the 1930s and after. As it is, it is to be greatly welcomed. But be warned: because the KGB thought something to be true does not make it so."

In a substantial essay, Sheila Kerr, "Oleg Tsarev's Synthetic KGB Gems," International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 14, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 89-116, acknowledges the importance of this work but also sounds a strong cautionary note about accepting it at face value. In her view, "Tsarev has skillfully choreographed his version of history to dance around the facts of some very well known intelligence and espionage cases." She also reminds us that while Tsarev is a former KGB lieutenant colonel, he continues to "serve[] as a consultant to the [Russian Foreign Intelligence] Service's press department." She concludes that this book is "about money, not historical truth" and that Tsarev remains a friend to KGB history.

Kerr's treatment in this review of Tsarev gives West, IJI&C 14.4, major heartburn. The reviewer's implication that "Tsarev has been dishonest, untruthful, and mendacious" is "unfounded and she would be hard-pressed to find many scholars in the West who share her perspective.... The animosity shown to Tsarev by Dr. Kerr requires an explanation, but I cannot offer a plauible one." Responding, Kerr, IJI&C 15.2, comments that "I have no personal prejudice against Tsarev; I am simply evaluating his work.... In particular, claims of colossal damage to British and American interests cannot be believed without substantial and credible evidence." West, IJI&C 15.4, offers a further riposte to Kerr's comments.

Gordievsky, Spectator, 18 Apr. 1998, finds that the book contains "no real revelations to speak of." This is the result of the KGB's rules that "forbid them from mentioning anything that has not been published in the West already." However, it "is a perfectly readable book, especially where it concerns the first 30 years of Soviet espionage ... against Britain." To Powers, NYRB (11 May 2000) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 101, the authors provide a "rich account ... of the recruiting of the Cambridge Five."

[Russia/SovSpies/Jewels; UK/SpyCases/Gen][c]

West, Nigel [Rupert Allason], and Oleg Tsarev, eds. TRIPLEX: Secrets from the Cambridge Spies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

According to Peake, Studies 54.1 (Mar. 2010) and Intelligencer 17.3 (Winter-Spring 2010), TRIPLEX was the code name given to an "MI5 operation during WWII that illegally acquired material from diplomatic bags of neutral missions." Anthony Blunt supervised TRIPLEX; and he "forwarded selected copies to Moscow," some of which are reproduced in Part I of the book. Part II is devoted to materials supplied to the Soviets by Philby. Part III "reproduces four documents supplied by John Cairncross." Part IV "reproduces six documents prepared by NKVD analysts that assess some of the material the Cambridge spies furnished." This book "is a unique and valuable addition to the intelligence literature."

[Russia/SovSpie/Jewels; UK/SpyCases/Gen]

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