Head Of Britain’s MI6 Had A Secret Cold War Slush Fund To Pay For Black Ops To Destabilize Countries In North Africa And The Middle East, According To Newly Revealed Documents
Kate Ferguson, Political Correspondent for the DailyMail posted a November 20, 2017 article with the title above. Recently released and previously classified documents — revealed to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) — reveal that the head of Britain’s Foreign Intelligence Service known as MI6, “had a secret Cold War slush fund,” which in part, funded covert or ‘black ops,’ aimed at destabilizing regimes in North Africa and the Middle East — that were deemed a threat to British interests.
Ms. Ferguson writes that Sir Stewart Menzies, “used the secret account to bankroll covert operations and plans to launch assassinations and topple regimes deemed troublesome to the British. The account, which had 1.4M pound sterling — which roughly converts to 39M pound sterling in today’s money — was kept hidden from British Government officials; and even, the MI6’s own Finance Director,” she noted. “Documents unearthed in the depths of the [Britain’s] National Archive, warned that the spy chief — known as ‘C’ — to carry out his own, unofficial foreign policy.
The memo states: “The use of such unofficial reserves by “C,” without the prior consent of the Foreign Office, could enable him to carry out policies — other than those approved by the Foreign Office; and, without their knowledge. Clearly this was unlikely to happen,” the memo stated, “but, it would be wrong to preserve against it.”
“The Top Secret fund was set up in the wake of WWII,” Ms. Ferguson notes, “and, Sir Stewart said the cash was kept [on hand], in case he needed to bribe foreign officials, or protect MI6 from budget cuts. Where the money came from remains shrouded in mystery,” she noted, and experts she interviewed speculated that “the U.S. [intelligence/Office of Strategic Services (OSS)] may have helped bankroll it.”
The files that the BBC reviewed, “refer to operations: Scant, Scream, Sawdust, and Strangle — secret missions against [inside] Sudan, Oman, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt,” Ms. Ferguson wrote. “Some 200K pound sterling was spent on Operation Sawdust — a shadowy mission thought to have been launched against Egyptian President Nasser, Egypt’s powerful nationalist leader.” Perhaps this operation was in some fashion related to the 1956 War and Egypt’s/Nasser’s nationalization/seizure of the Suez Canal in July 1956.
“While most of these operations were [likely] propaganda efforts to try and turn the tide of pubic opinion against the [their] leaders — who were a thorn in the side of the British establishment, others were more sinister,” Ms. Ferguson asserts. “These included plans to assassinate senior officials in Syria; and elsewhere, in a bid to topple the regime, although these [operations] were not enacted. And, many of these operations were running [initiated] after Britain’s humiliating defeat trying to recapture the Suez Canal in 1956,” as Britain’s overseas stature and influence was on the decline.
Stephen Dorril, an MI6 expert who Ms. Ferguson wrote reviewed the files said: “If you add all these up, what you discover is a big increase in the number of special operations, post-Suez. There had been an idea that Suez had dealt a major blow to Britain, and MI6; but actually, they came back.”
“Sir Stewart came clean to officials about the money in 1952, when he was getting ready to step down from MI6; and, said the money had been set aside for bribes; and, [potential] cuts to the service [intelligence budget],” Ms. Ferguson wrote.
According to the newly disclosed documents, Mr. Menzies said: “He thought it right to have a large sum to meet such contingencies as (a) a very large inducement to some person in an absolutely key position; or (b) the Vote for the Service being drastically cut in some political emergency in a way which it would make it impossible to carry on [out] the Service [operations] in the way it was necessary.”
I don’t think these revelations surprise anyone; and, they should be scrutinized and understood — according to the context of their time. The immediate aftermath of WWII and the dawn of the Cold War was indeed a different time, a period of muscular foreign policy and the waning of the British empire. The fact that Sir Menzies was able to hide a covert slush fund from everyone is quite remarkable.
If you want to immerse yourself in the WWII spy-world, then you should treat yourself to British historian, Max Hastings masterpiece, “The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, And Guerrillas, 1939-1945,” published by Harper Collins last year. In a June 23, 2016 review of Mr. Hastings’ book in the New York Review Of Books, historian Anthony Beevor wrote. “the secret war probably produced more misleading myths than any other aspect of the conflict. The outcomes of most clandestine efforts are virtually impossible to quantify, so specious assertions have abounded. It has been claimed, for example, that Ultra, the British project to decode German messages, shortened the war by months if not years. For these reasons alone, we badly needed a reliable reassessment to put the secret war in perspective, and this Max Hastings accomplishes with fine judgment in his new book. He covers human intelligence through old-fashioned spying, “signals intelligence” through intercepts as well as deception and counterintelligence, and “resistance,” or partisan warfare.”
Mr. Beevor added, “Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, achieved very little, apart from the odd victory over its upstart rival Special Operations Executive (SOE). It survived under its unimpressive chief, Stewart Menzies, only because he managed to keep the Government Code and Cipher School at Bletchley Park, which developed Ultra, within his own organization. MI6’s worst humiliation occurred in November 1939. Two of its officers went to the Dutch town of Venlo on the German–Netherlands frontier, supposedly to meet a representative of dissident Wehrmacht generals. Instead, they were kidnapped by Walter Schellenberg and members of the SS’s security service, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). Both officers appear to have cooperated fully, giving away details of MI6’s organization on the Continent. The true measure of MI6’s incapacity was its lack of a single worthwhile source of information inside Germany.”
When looking back at British covert intelligence operations in North Africa and the Middle East, post-WWII, one is reminded of Malcolm Muggeridge’s introductory quotation at the beginning of Mr. Hastings’ book. Mr. Muggeridge, who worked for MI6 during WWII, told Mr. Hastings: “Intelligence work necessarily involves such cheating, lying, and betraying, that it has a deleterious effect on the character. I have never met anyone professionally engaged in it — whom I should care to trust in any capacity.”
Stephen Budiansky, writing a review of Mr. Hastings new work in the May 7/8, 2016 Wall Street Journal, noted that “the years after WWII brought a spate of memoirs recounting daring escapades behind enemy lines, many of which existed only in the writers’ imagination — but that still shape perceptions about the role of spies and saboteurs of America’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Britain’s MI6, Special Operations Executive, and the French Resistance. The ensuing decades,” Mr. Budiansky wrote, “did little to correct the balance.”
“One immensely popular account of Allied intelligence,” the 1975 book Bodyguard of Lies,” by British journalist Anthony Cave Brown — is “largely a work of fiction,” Mr. Hastings contends.
These most recently revealed, and formerly highly classified documents, will shed some light on a very important time for post-WWII espionage. RCP, fortunascorner.com.