Listening in to spy talk

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Code messages to Russia from Harry Pollitt, leader of the British Communist Party from the Twenties until the Cold War, were systematically deciphered by the British Security Services, according to government papers released yesterday by the Public Record Office in London. At the same time, Pollitt's personal secretary, Ann or "Olga" Grey, was one of the most valued agents of the Security Services and helped smash a Communist spy ring.

Thousands of the cryptic dispatches passing between the Moscow headquarters of the Communist International and its agents throughout Europe, including Pollitt and his acolyte the MP Willy Gallagher, have been released from 1934-37. Decoded by the government's Code and Cypher School, they used a coded alphabet taken from a book to give comrades directions on Kremlin policy, courier arrangements and notice of the arrival of funds for promoting revolution.