Cambridge Five

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Kim Philby, as depicted on a Soviet Union stamp 1990 CPA 6266.jpg
Kim Philby, as depicted on a Soviet Union stamp

The Cambridge Spy Ring was a ring of spies in the United Kingdom, which passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II and was active from the 1930s until at least into the early 1950s. None were ever prosecuted for spying. The number and membership of the ring emerged slowly from the 1950s onwards. As far as the general public was concerned, this started with the sudden flight of Donald Maclean (cryptonym: Homer) and Guy Burgess (cryptonym: Hicks) to the Soviet Union in 1951. Suspicion immediately fell on Kim Philby (cryptonym: Sonny, Stanley), but he did not default until 1963. Anthony Blunt (cryptonyms: Tony, Johnson) and John Cairncross (cryptonym: Liszt), the last two of the group, confessed to British intelligence but this remained a secret for many years, until 1979 for Blunt and 1990 for Cairncross. It therefore took several years for the usual modern name to evolve through the Cambridge Four to the Cambridge Five.[ citation needed ] In the innermost circles of the KGB, they were supposedly dubbed as the Magnificent Five.

Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information without the permission of the holder of the information. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring, in the service of a -government, company or independent operation, can commit espionage. The practice is clandestine, as it is by definition unwelcome and in many cases illegal and punishable by law. Espionage is a method of intelligence gathering which includes information gathering from non-disclosed sources.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Contents

The term "Cambridge" refers to the recruitment of the group during their education at the University of Cambridge in the 1930s. Debate surrounds the exact timing of their recruitment by Soviet intelligence; Anthony Blunt claimed that they were not recruited as agents until they had graduated. Blunt, an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, was several years older than Burgess, Maclean, and Philby; he acted as a talent-spotter and recruiter for most of the group save Burgess. [1]

University of Cambridge University in Cambridge, United Kingdom

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Founded in 1209 and granted a Royal Charter by King Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's fourth-oldest surviving university. The university grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townspeople. The two 'ancient universities' share many common features and are often referred to jointly as 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Cambridge has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

KGB Main security agency for the Soviet Union

The KGB, translated in English as Committee for State Security, was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until its break-up in 1991. As a direct successor of preceding agencies such as Cheka, NKGB, NKVD and MGB, the committee was attached to the Council of Ministers. It was the chief government agency of "union-republican jurisdiction", acting as internal security, intelligence and secret police. Similar agencies were constituted in each of the republics of the Soviet Union aside from Russia, and consisted of many ministries, state committees and state commissions.

Trinity College, Cambridge constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England

Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England. With around 600 undergraduates, 300 graduates, and over 180 fellows, it is the largest college in either of the Oxbridge universities by number of undergraduates. In terms of total student numbers, it is second only to Homerton College, Cambridge.

All of the five were convinced that the Marxism–Leninism of Soviet Communism was the best available political system, and especially the best defence against the rise of fascism. All pursued successful careers in branches of the British government. They passed large amounts of intelligence to the Soviet Union, so much so that the KGB became suspicious that at least some of it was false. Perhaps as important as the intelligence they passed was the demoralizing effect to the British Establishment of their slow unmasking, and the mistrust in British security this caused in the United States.

Marxism–Leninism political ideology

In political science, Marxism–Leninism was the official state ideology of the Soviet Union (USSR), of the parties of the Communist International, after their Bolshevisation, and is the ideology of Stalinist political parties. As Stalin's synthesis of Leninism, the political praxis of Lenin, and of Marxism, the politico-economic theories of Karl Marx, the purpose of Marxism–Leninism is the transformation of a capitalist state into a socialist state, by way of two-stage revolution, guided and led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, drawn from the proletariat. To realise the two-stage transformation of the state, the vanguard party establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat, which determines policy with democratic centralism.

Fascism Form of radical, right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism

Fascism is a form of radical, right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I before it spread to other European countries. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.

The Establishment visible dominant group that holds power or authority in a nation or organization

The Establishment is the dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation or organisation. It may be a closed social group which selects its own members or specific entrenched elite structures, either in government or in specific institutions.

Many others have also been accused of membership in the Cambridge ring. Blunt, Burgess and Cairncross were all members of the Cambridge Apostles, an exclusive and prestigious society based at Trinity and King's Colleges. Other Apostles accused of having spied for the Soviets include Michael Straight and Guy Liddell.

The Cambridge Apostles is an intellectual society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar.

Kings College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. Formally The King's College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge, the college lies beside the River Cam and faces out onto King's Parade in the centre of the city.

Michael Whitney Straight was an American magazine publisher, novelist, patron of the arts, a member of the prominent Whitney family, and a confessed spy for the KGB.

Membership

Maclean and Burgess

Donald Maclean was a British diplomat who was a spy for the Soviet Union during World War II and early on into the Cold War. Maclean studied at the University of Cambridge in the early 1930’s where he met Guy Burgess. Burgess was also a British Diplomat who spied for the Soviet Union in World War II and early on into the Cold War. They both disagreed with the idea of capitalist democracy. Later on they would both be recruited by Soviet intelligence operatives and become undercover agents for the Soviet Union. Maclean began delivering information to the Soviet intelligence operatives as a member of the British Foreign Office in 1934. Soon after, Burgess also began supplying information to the Soviet Union in 1936 from his position as a BBC correspondent up until 1938, he then as an active member of MI6 intelligence agent continued to supply classified information up until 1941, and then finally as a member of the British Foreign Office up until 1944. [2]

Donald Maclean (spy) British diplomat and spy

Donald Duart Maclean was a British diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five spy ring which conveyed government secrets to the Soviet Union.

Guy Burgess British diplomat and Soviet agent, member of the Cambridge Five

Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess was a British diplomat and Soviet agent, belonging to the Cambridge Five spy ring that operated from the mid-1930s to the early years of the Cold War. His defection in 1951 to the Soviet Union, with his fellow spy, Donald Maclean, led to a serious breach in Anglo-American intelligence co-operation, and caused long-lasting disruption and demoralisation in Britain's foreign and diplomatic services.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

Maclean and Burgess were soon known as the “hopeless drunks” due to the fact that they had a hard time keeping their secret occupations to themselves. It is said that one time, while highly intoxicated, Burgess risked exposing his second identity. He was leaving a pub where he accidentally dropped one of the secret files he had taken from the Foreign Office. Maclean was also known to have loose lips and would said to have leaked information about his secret duties to his brother and close friends. Although they struggled to keep secrets, that did not stop them from delivering information. It is said that Burgess handed over about 389 top secret documents to the KGB within the early part of 1945 along with an additional 168 documents in December of 1949. [3]

All five were active during World War II. Philby, when he was posted in the British embassy in Washington, DC, after the war, learned that US and British intelligence were searching for a British embassy mole (cryptonym Homer) who was passing information to the Soviet Union, relying on material uncovered by the Venona project.

Philby learned one of the suspects was Maclean. Realizing he had to act fast, he ordered Burgess, who was also on the embassy staff and living with Philby, to warn Maclean in England, where he was serving in the Foreign Office headquarters. Burgess was recalled from the United States due to "bad behaviour" and upon reaching London, warned Maclean.

In early summer 1951, Burgess and Maclean made international headlines by disappearing. [4] Their whereabouts were unclear for some time and the suspicion that they had defected to the Soviet Union turned out to be correct but was not made public until 1956 when the two appeared at a press conference in Moscow.

It was obvious they had been tipped off and Philby quickly became the prime suspect, due to his close relations with Burgess. Though Burgess was not supposed to defect at the same time as Maclean, he went along. It has been claimed that the KGB ordered Burgess to go to Moscow. This move damaged Philby's reputation, with many speculating that had it not occurred, Philby could have climbed even higher in the Secret Intelligence Service. [5]

Philby

Kim Philby was a senior officer in Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, who began his work for the Soviet Union as a spy in 1934. He would go on to serve the KGB for 54 years. He was known for passing more than 900 British documents over to the KGB. He served as double agent. [6]

Investigation of Philby found several suspicious matters but nothing for which he could be prosecuted. Nevertheless, he was forced to resign from MI6. In 1955 he was named in the press, with questions also raised in the House of Commons, as chief suspect for "the Third Man" and he called a press conference to deny the allegation. That same year, Philby was ruled out as a suspect when British Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan cleared him of all charges. [7]

In the later 1950s, Philby left the secret service and began working as a journalist in the Middle East; both The Economist and The Observer provided his employment there. MI6 then re-employed him at around the same time, to provide reports from that region.

In 1961, defector Anatoliy Golitsyn provided information which pointed to Philby. An MI6 officer and friend of Philby from his earlier MI6 days, John Nicholas Rede Elliott, was sent in 1963 to interview him in Beirut and reported that Philby seemed to know he was coming (indicating the presence of yet another mole). Nonetheless, Philby allegedly confessed to Elliott.

Shortly afterwards, apparently fearing he might be abducted in Lebanon, Philby defected to the Soviet Union under cover of night, aboard a Soviet freighter.

Blunt

Anthony Blunt was a former curator for the art collection of Queen Elizabeth II. He served as an MI-5 member and supplied secret information to the KGB. He also provided warnings to fellow agents of certain counterintelligence that could potentially endanger them. [8]

In 1964, MI5 received information from the American Michael Whitney Straight pointing to Blunt's espionage; the two had known each other at Cambridge some thirty years before and Blunt had tried to recruit Straight as a spy. Straight, who initially agreed, changed his mind afterwards.

Blunt was interrogated by MI5 and confessed in exchange for immunity from prosecution. As he was—by 1964—without access to classified information, he had secretly been granted immunity by the Attorney General, in exchange for revealing everything he knew. Peter Wright, one of Blunt's interrogators, describes in his book Spycatcher how Blunt was evasive and only made admissions grudgingly, when confronted with the undeniable.

By 1979, Blunt was publicly accused of being a Soviet agent by investigative journalist Andrew Boyle, in his book Climate of Treason. In November 1979, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher admitted to the House of Commons that Blunt had confessed to being a Soviet spy fifteen years previously.

The term "Five" began to be used in 1961, when KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn named Maclean and Burgess as part of a "Ring of Five", with Philby a 'probable' third, alongside two other agents whom he did not know.

Of all the information provided by Golitsyn, the only item that was ever independently confirmed was the Soviet affiliation of John Vassall. Vassall was a relatively low-ranking spy who some researchers[ who? ] believe may have been sacrificed to protect a more senior one.

At the time of Golitsyn's defection, Philby had already been accused in the press and was living in a country with no extradition agreement with Britain[ which? ]. Select members of MI5 and MI6 already knew Philby to be a spy from Venona project decryptions. Golitsyn also provided other information, such as the claim that Harold Wilson (then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) was a KGB agent.

Golitsyn's reliability remains a controversial subject and as such, there is little certainty of the number of agents he assigned to the Cambridge spy ring. To add to the confusion, when Blunt finally confessed, he named several other people[ who? ] as having been recruited by him.

John Cairncross

John Cairncross was known as British literary scholar until he was later identified as a Soviet atomic spy. He was recruited in 1936 by James Klugmann to become a Soviet spy. In 1938, he moved to the Treasury but transferred once again in 1940 to the Cabinet office where he served as the private secretary of Sir Maurice Hankey, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at that time. 4 years later, he was transferred to the MI6. Following World War II, it is said that Cairncross leaked information regarding the new NATO alliance to the Soviets. [9]

On the basis of the information provided by Golitsyn, speculations raged on for many years as to the identity of the "Fifth Man". The journalistic popularity of this phrase owes something to the unrelated novels The Third Man and The Tenth Man , written by Graham Greene who, coincidentally, worked with Philby and Cairncross during the Second World War.

John Cairncross (1913–1995) confessed to spying in 1951 and was publicly accused of being the "fifth man" in 1990. He was also accused by Anthony Blunt during Blunt's confession in 1964. Cairncross is not always considered to have been part of the 'Ring of Five'. He was a fellow student at Cambridge and a member of the Apostles with Blunt, and therefore present at the recruitment of the others.

The most important agent talent spotted by Blunt was the Fifth Man, the Trinity undergraduate John Cairncross. Together with Philby, Burgess, Blunt and Maclean, he is remembered by the Center (Moscow KGB Headquarters) as one of the Magnificent Five, the ablest group of foreign agents in KGB history. Though Cairncross is the last of the five to be publicly identified, he successfully penetrated a greater variety of the corridors of power and intelligence than any of the other four.

Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB, The Inside Story. "Chapter 6: Sigint, Agent Penetration, and the Magnificent Five from Cambridge (1930–39)"

This reference suggests the KGB itself recognized Cairncross as the fifth man (found by Gordievsky while doing research on the history of the KGB).

Additional members

Many historians now believe the spy ring had more than five members, possibly many more, since three other persons are known to have confessed, several more were nominated in confessions, and circumstantial cases have been made against others. Many of the following were likely Soviet spies. [10]

In fiction

See also

Further reading

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References

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  4. Turner, Lauren (October 23, 2015). "Cambridge spies: Defection of 'drunken' agents shook US confidence".
  5. The Philby Files by Genrikh Borovik, edited by Phillip Knightley, published by Little, Brown and Company, 1994
  6. Higgins, Andrew (2017-10-01). "Even in Death, the Spy Kim Philby Serves the Kremlin's Purposes". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-04-19.
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  9. "John Cairncross". Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  10. A History of MI5 Christopher Andrew 2010
  11. Abjorensen, Norman. "Following the Moscow Line", in The Sunday Times Canberra, 22 January 1995.[ page needed ]
  12. Spycatcher, p.164.
  13. Rusbridger, Alan. The Guardian, 10 December 1994.[ page needed ]
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