Jeffery Keith - The secret history of MI6

Author : Jeffery Keith
Title : The secret history of MI6 1909-1949
Year : 2010

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Foreword. Keith Jeffery’s history of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 is a landmark in the history of the Service. At the initiative of my predecessor, John Scarlett, SIS decided in the run up to our centenary to commission an independent and authoritative volume on the history of the Service’s first forty years. The aim was to increase public understanding of SIS by explaining our origin and role in a rigorous history, which would be accessible to the widest possible audience but would not damage national security. This is the first time we have given an academic from outside the Service such access to our archives. The Foreign Secretary of the day approved our plans. Why focus on 1909-1949? Firstly, SIS’s first forty years cover a period of vital concern for the United Kingdom. Secondly, 1949 represents a watershed in our professional work with the move to Cold War targets and techniques. Thirdly and most importantly, full details of our history after 1949 are still too sensitive to place in the public domain. Up to 1949 Professor Jeffery has been free to tell a complete story and to put on the public record a well-informed picture of the intelligence contribution to a key period of twentieth-century history. During this time, SIS developed from a small, Europefocused organisation into a worldwide professional Service ready to take an important role in the Cold War. Throughout, we have been at pains to provide the necessary openness to enable the author to tell our history definitively. We take very seriously our obligations to protect our agents, our staff and all who assist us. Our policy on the non-release of records themselves, as opposed to information drawn from the archive, remains unchanged. A statement on this policy is outlined below. Professor Jeffery has had unrestricted access to the Service archive covering the period of this work. He has made his own independent judgements as an experienced academic and scholar. In so doing he has given a detailed account of the challenges, successes and failures faced by the Service and its leadership in our first forty years. Above all Professor Jeffery’s history gives a view of the men and women who, through hard work, dedicated service, character and courage, helped to establish and shape the Service in its difficult and demanding early days. I see these qualities displayed every day in the current Service as SIS staff continue to face danger in far-flung places to protect the United Kingdom and promote the national interest. I know my predecessors would be as proud as I am of the men and women of the Service today. I am grateful to Keith Jeffery for accepting the appointment to write our history and to Queen’s University Belfast for releasing him for this task. It is a fascinating read. I commend it to you. John Sawers, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. ...

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