Spy Cases

The Debate

P - Z

Perry, Roland. The Fifth Man. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1994.

Pincher, Chapman.

1. Their Trade Is Treachery. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1981.

For Cram, Pincher's book is a "detailed exposition of the case against [Roger] Hollis and Graham Mitchell." It is an "example of 'mole mania.'" Angleton pointed Pincher toward the story, but the information came from Peter Wright. Rocca and Dziak comment that although some critics "maintain that he is careless with data, Pincher sheds light on such past activities as Soviet strategic deception operations during World War II ... and KGB defector Golitsyn's revelations."

Constantinides notes that, although he never gives them, Pincher clearly "had access to sources with highly privileged information." The book contains "a wealth of information," some of which must await further authoritative disclosures before it can be evaluated.

2.. Too Secret Too Long. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1984. New York: St. Martin's 1984.

Rocca and Dziak find that "Pincher makes a massive effort to demonstrate that ... Sir Roger Hollis[] was a Soviet 'mole'.... Pincher's evidence is incomplete and fractious.... Notwithstanding the controversy, the work surfaces numerous operations, cases and details ... never before or rarely aired in published literature."

3. Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders, and Cover-ups: Six Decades of Espionage against America and Great Britain. New York: Random House, 2009.

Goulden, Washington Times, 19 Jul. 2009, and Intelligencer 17.2 (Fall 2009), notes that the author has been telling the same story since 1981. Some of the "anomalies" in Hollis' career that Pincher points to are "thin gruel"; others, however, "are more disturbing." The reviewer notes that Pincher "does not burden readers with chapter notes, so one is expected to accept his text at face value.... More glaring, he is most selective in the evidence he chooses to present." Goulden concludes that Hollis may have been "[a]n ineffectual spymaster,... but treason remains unproven."

For King, NIPQ 26.1 (Jan.2010), Pincher "does not provide the 'smoking gun,' but does set out a strongly circumstantial case" against Hollis. Similarly, Jens, AIJ 28.2 (2010), suggests that Pincher's case against Hollis "is at once striking in its overwhelming mass of circumstantial evidence, and frustrating in its lack ... of any single evidentiary coup de grace."

Nicholson, Providence Journal, 26 Jul. 2009, calls this "a riveting account of duplicity and incompetence at the highest levels." The reviewer sees the author adding "compelling details to the charge" that the man who headed MI5 from 1956 to 1965, Sir Roger "Hollis (codenamed Elli)[,] was one of the most spectacularly successful Russian spies ever."

To Peake, Studies 53.4 (Dec. 2009), this "is a 600-page speculative treatise devoted to the conclusion that Hollis may have been a GRU agent throughout his MI5 career, or, at the very least, concealed his relationship with the Communist Party before he joined the service.... Despite its length and his detailed analysis, Treachery does not close the case on the Hollis saga. But it is a fascinating book and illustrates the challenges faced by counterespionage officers in every service."

West, IJI&C 23.3 (Fall 2010), finds that the author has created "only a very circumstantial case" against Hollis. He "has been highly selective in highlighting particular events and documents." In addition, "his case exhibits some fundamental flaws." The "evidence" is at times "deliberately skewed and can hardly be characterized as a fair presentation." West also offers counter-comments to Pincher's "Scroll of [52] Anomalies."

4. Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-ups -- Six Decades of Espionage, The True History of MI5. Rev & updated. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 2011.

According to Peake, Studies 55.4 (Dec. 2011) and Intelligencer 19.1 (Winter-Spring 2012), in this revised edition, Pincher stresses the key omissions and contradictions in Christopher Andrew's authorized history of MI5, Defend the Realm (2009). Although this work "does not resolve the Hollis dilemma,... it does refine the arguments while providing considerable material for counterintelligence scholars. The many questions it raises and the interpretation Pincher provides need to be resolved."

Dylan, I&NS 27.3 (Jun. 2012), comments that "Treachery is no less persuasive than many accounts that vindicate Hollis. It is clear and enjoyable, and although it does not close the Hollis file it represents the better part of a lifetime's work and contains a wealth of evidence."

5. "Who Was the Fifth Man?" Unsolved 1, no. 7 (1984), 129-148.

This article includes an early reference to what we now know as Venona. Pincher rejects Cairncross as the fifth man, because he does not fit Golitsin's profile of the "Ring of Five." He offers Leonard Long and Alistair Watson as candidates for the fifth man, but does not mention the long-time object of his "affections," Roger Hollis.

West, Nigel. [Rupert Allason] Mole Hunt: Searching for Soviet Spies in MI5. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987. New York: William Morrow, 1989.

West, William J. The Truth about Hollis: An Investigation. London: Duckworth, 1989. Spymaster: The Betrayal of MI5. New York: Wynwood Press, 1990.

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.

Return to UK Spy Cases Table of Contents