Le Carré says spies plotted murders

Assassinations were carried out by British intelligence services during the Cold War, a former secret agent has revealed. John le Carré, who became a novelist after working for MI5 and MI6 in the 1950s and 1960s, said he saw "very bad things" during his career. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, admitted the British carried out "direct action", but insisted he was never involved.

The news comes just days after 30-year-old MI6 worker Gareth Williams was found dead in his flat in Pimlico, London. Le Carré said: "Certainly we did some very bad things. We did a lot of direct action. Assassinations, at arm's length. Although I was never involved."

However, he claimed there was a fundamental difference between the Western agency strategies and those of the Soviet bloc during that era. "Even when quite ruthless operations are being contemplated [in the West] the process of democratic consultation was still relatively intact and decent humanitarian instincts came into play," he said. "Totalitarian states killed with impunity and no one was held accountable."

The 79-year-old has published 21 espionage novels since he began writing in 1961. His books are inspired by his time as a member of the British Foreign Service after studying modern languages at Oxford University in the early 1950s.

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