Sir: This week's release of MI5 files has turned out to be a spook public relations exercise, as expected (letter, 14 October).
I glanced over the files myself on Tuesday. They are mostly MI5's official in-house histories for 1909-19, of which several have passages blanked out, three have gone "missing" and one has been withheld. The original operational files were long ago destroyed, with just two exceptions (and these too have sections blanked).
Full-time employees are listed, but the names of officers have long been available elsewhere, and infiltrators, narks and agents provocateurs remain anonymous. Still, at least we now know who MI5's typists and "charwomen" were.
I found no reference to the agent-provocateur activities of the MI5 offshoot PMS2, which in 1917 framed a family of socialists on ludicrous charges of plotting to assassinate Lloyd George with a poisoned air-rifle pellet while he was playing golf.
Contrary to the hype, the story of MI5's successes against German espionage is not news. It was written up as early as 1920 by Sidney Felstead with (as one of the newly released documents confirms) assistance from within MI5. In truth, MI5's achievements in this field were akin to shooting fish in a barrel, and largely parasitic on the work of other agencies.
Borden, KentReuse content