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Posted at 2:48 PM ET, 09/23/2010

British spy chief fretted over U.S. intelligence leaks

By Jeff Stein

Following their victorious collaboration with the American OSS during World War II, British intelligence leaders were eager to continue a close relationship with their U.S. counterparts in the looming Cold War against the Soviet Union.

But they worried about leaks from U.S. spy chiefs, according to a new book, “The Secret History of MI6, 1909-1949.”

It “was thought that American agencies had a tendency towards leakage,” writes author Keith Jeffery, citing an internal memo, “which meant that SIS [the Secret Intelligence Service] had to be ‘especially careful about passing to the Americans the very information they themselves most want to have, namely that connected with the USSR.'”

After a visit to Washington in April 1946, senior SIS official Charles Howard “Dick” Ellis reported that postwar U.S. intelligence officials were also aware of their predecessors’ reputation for self-promotion.

(The OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, had been disbanded at the end of the war and absorbed into a new organization, the Strategic Services Unit, or SSU.)

Ellis observed that “as a reaction against the rather loose and publicity-minded tendencies of the OSS, there is an extremely cautious, official atmosphere about the SSU.”

He attributed that to the new leaders of U.S. intelligence, “New England types who are notoriously not addicted to display or loquacity.”

Ellis may have been mistaken. Except for its chief, Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, an Irish Catholic whose nickname spoke for itself, the wartime OSS was notorious for its Ivy League tint.

“OSS,” the Washington jibe went, really stood for “Oh-So-Social.”

The same would be said of the early CIA, founded in 1947 in a National Security Act signed by President Harry S. Truman.

By Jeff Stein  | September 23, 2010; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Media  
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What's ironic if not comical is that while SIS was fretting about American-based leaks, KGB mole Kim Philby had securely burrowed himself into SIS by this time.

Posted by: alexrblackwell | September 23, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Moles are a natural impediment to secrecy, but quite a different problem from intentional leakage by the heirarchy of the government agency.

Posted by: Hazmat77 | September 23, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Funny they would make qualitative distinctions among Americans based on the geographic regions that they originate from.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 23, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

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