Post-World War II

The Spycatcher Case

Fysh, Michael, Q.C., ed. The Spycatcher Cases. UK: Sweet & Maxwell, 1989.

Hall, Richard V. A Spy's Revenge. New York: Penguin, 1987. Ringwood, Australia: Penguin, 1987.

Wilcox: "Account of Peter Wright (Spycatcher) trial in Australia."

Pincher, Chapman. A Web of Deception: The Spycatcher Affair. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987. The Spycatcher Affair. New York: St. Martin's, 1988.

Turnbull, Malcolm. The Spycatcher Trial. Richmond and Victoria: Heinemann Australia, 1988. London: Heinemann, 1988.

Wright, Peter, with Paul Greengrass. Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer. New York: Viking, 1987. UB271G72W758

Cram sees the book as "filled with errors, exaggerations, bogus ideas, and self-inflation"; nevertheless, it "is one of the outstanding works in the field of intelligence literature.... [I]t is so full of bombast, the joy of the hunt, English eccentricities, and factual data that it must be required reading for anyone interested in intelligence." It is Wright's obsession that "beginning with Golitsyn's 1963 visit to England,... the British services, particularly MI-5, were penetrated by the Russians."

According to Smith, IJI&C 2.1, Spycatcher is "uneven, bitter, sloppy, and fascinating." The author "bitterly resents the small size of his gov't pension.... The generally sober and convincing description of his work is certainly the most interesting part.... [E]xaggeration and distortion ... are less apparent there than in the sections dealing with the activities into which Wright branched out. These include spy-pursuing...; in particular, his efforts to identify his boss, Sir Roger Hollis, as a Russian spy.... [T]he parts ... concerned with the pursuit of Hollis have more than their share of the purple prose and unconvincing, sometimes ludicrous, details that come and go in the book."

NameBase focuses on the history of the book, commenting that "Wright's book was a major challenge to Britain's secrecy laws, as British officials banned the book and then tried unsuccessfully to win an injunction against publication in a widely-reported trial in Australia. This of course guaranteed that the book would be a bestseller, whereupon some of Wright's allegations received more attention than they probably deserved."

For Gelber, I&NS 4.2, the book is "full of fascinating stories and vignettes.... [But] Wright clearly has several chips on both shoulders about the British class system and public school attitudes.... He emerges from his own story as quirky, dogged and pernickety.... He is not a particularly admirable man."

Clark comment: The credibility of Gelber's review is lessened by some glaringly off-the-mark -- and in the final analysis unnecessary -- remarks. For example, he avers that intelligence "[s]ervices employ full-time special and disinformation staffs to confuse comment, for instance by leaking selected or even entirely fictional accounts of some operation or career." The implication of large numbers of people engaged in manipulation of the public record simply does not reflect reality. And he follows that by arguing that "the CIA fabricated an entire Penkovsky 'diary,'" a mantra heard often over the years from anti-CIA types but an untruth that has long been put to rest for those who pay attention to such things.

See also D. Cameron Watt, "Fall-out from Treachery: Peter Wright and Spycatcher," Political Quarterly 59 (Apr.-Jun. 1988): 206-218.

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