Britain - A Secret State

'Classified: Secrecy and the State in Modern Britain', by Christopher Moran has won the St Ermin's Hotel Intelligence Book of the Year Award 2014.

"A survey of how successive British governments have exercised censorship and stifled public discussion about the security and intelligence services  Altogether a very impressive, balanced study of what has become a veritable cottage industry of publications that attempt to lift Whitehall's veil of secrecy," commented Chairman of the judges, author and intelligence expert Nigel West at the St James's Park, London hotel Tuesday 29 April, when announcing the £3,000 prize.

The St Ermin’s Hotel in St James’s Park, London offers this annual award for the best new intelligence book in recognition of the hotel’s long connection with the British intelligence community. The award is open to all non-fiction titles concerned with the world of intelligence and espionage published in English during the previous year and which, in the opinion of the judges, adds substantially to the published literature.

Mr Moran is Assistant Professor in US National Security and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Warwick University. The title is published by Cambridge University Press.

Editor’s Note :
The two other titles short-listed for the 2014 award :

Hermiston, Roger : The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake (London : Aurum Press)
Greatest Traitor is a compelling biography of George Blake, who not only betrayed his adopted country, but succeeded in escaping to Moscow while serving a prison sentence of record length. For those who might have imagined there was probably not much more to be said about this notorious spy, who has been the subject of an autiobiography and two biographies, Roger Hermiston confounds by producing all sorts of new material.

Matthews, Peter : SIGINT : The Secret History of Signals Intelligence 1914-45 (The History Press)
SIGINT is a fascinating account of what Allied investigators learned postwar about the Nazi equivalent of Bletchley Park. Turns out, 60,000 crptographers, analysts and linguists achieved considerable success in solving intercepted traffic, and even broke the Swiss Enigma! Based on recently declassifed NSA document, this is a great contribution to the literature.

The St Ermin’s Hotel has a long and rich connection with a variety of UK and foreign secret organizations. First opened as a hotel in 1899 its close proximity to Broadway Buildings, the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) throughout the 1930s and 40s made it a convenient and discreet venue to meet agents.

In fact, the hotel became so familiar to the British intelligence community that in March 1936 SIS took over an entire floor to accommodate a new organization known only as ‘Section D’ (D for destruction). Headed by Colonel Lawrence Grand, its task was to prepare plans for the sabotage of strategic sites in Europe that might fall in the event of another world war.

In 1938 Arthur Owens, the double agent codenamed SNOW by the British and JOHNNY by the Abwehr, was interrogated by Naval Intelligence Division as well as MI5 officers. Later, when SNOW attempted to penetrate the British Union of Fascists, he claimed that the hotel was one of several fronts run for the benefit of what he described as ‘the British Secret Services’.

In July 1940 Section D was absorbed into an entirely new Special Operations Executive, based in Baker Street, which continued to use the hotel as a meeting-place and operational headquarters, extended into the adjacent block where there was a suite
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