Kim Philby


Kim Philby : biography

1 January 1912 – 11 May 1988

By September 1941, Philby was working for Section V of MI6, responsible for offensive counter-intelligence. On the strength of his knowledge and experience of Franco’s Spain, he was put in charge of the subsection which dealt with Spain and Portugal. This entailed responsibility for a network of undercover operatives in Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar, and Tangier.Seale and McConnville, 161–162 At this time, the German Abwehr was active in Spain, particularly around the British naval base of Gibraltar, which its agents hoped to watch with cameras and radar to track Allied supply ships in the Western Mediterranean. Thanks to British counter-intelligence efforts, of which Philby’s Iberian subsection formed a significant part, the project (code-named Bodden) never came to fruition.Seale and McConnville, 164–165

During 1942–43 Philby’s responsibilities were expanded to include North Africa and Italy, and he was made the deputy head of Section V under Major Felix Cowgill, an army officer seconded to SIS. Cowgill was the SIS representative on the XX Committee run by John Masterman, which dealt with double agents working for the Abwehr but controlled by the British. In late 1944, Philby was chosen to replace Cowgill as head of Section.Boyle, 254–255Charles Arnold-Baker, an officer of German birth (born Wolfgang von Blumenthal) working for Richard Gatty in Belgium and later transferred to the Norwegian Swedish border, voiced suspicions of Philby but was ignored.

While with Section V, Philby met James Jesus Angleton, a young American counter-intelligence officer working in liaison with SIS in London. Angleton, later chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) counter-intelligence staff, became suspicious of Philby when he failed to pass on information relating to a British agent executed by the Gestapo in Germany. It later emerged that the agent – known as Schmidt – had also worked as an informant for the Rote Kapelle organisation, which sent information to both London and Moscow.Boyle, 268 Nevertheless, Angleton’s suspicions went unheard.

In late summer 1943, the SIS provided the GRU with an official report of the activities of German agents in Bulgaria and Romania, soon to be invaded by the Red Army. The NKVD complained to Cecil Barclay, SIS representative in Moscow, that much had been withheld. Barclay reported the complaint to London. Philby claimed to have overheard discussion of this by chance and sent a report to his controller. This turned out to be identical with Barclay’s dispatch, convincing the NKVD that Philby had seen the full Barclay report. A similar lapse occurred with a report from the Japanese Embassy in Moscow to Tokyo. The NKVD received the same report from Richard Sorge, its spy in Tokyo, but with a most significant extra paragraph that Hitler might seek peace with the Soviet Union. These lapses by Philby aroused intense suspicion in Moscow.

Elena Modrzhinskaya at GUGB headquarters in Moscow was the person who assessed all material from the Cambridge Five. She noted that they produced an extraordinary wealth of information on German war plans but next to nothing on the repeated question of British penetration of Russian intelligence in either London or Moscow. Philby had repeated his claim that there were no such agents. She asked, "Could the SIS really be such fools they failed to notice suitcase-loads of papers leaving the office? Could they have overlooked Philby’s communist wife?" Modrzhinskaya concluded that all were double agents, working essentially for the British.

A more serious incident occurred in August 1945, when Konstantin Volkov, an NKVD agent and vice-consul in Istanbul, requested political asylum in Britain for himself and his wife. For a large sum of money, Volkov offered the names of three Soviet agents inside Britain, two of whom worked in the Foreign Office and a third who worked in counter-espionage in London. Philby was given the task of dealing with Volkov. He warned his Soviet controller and went to Istanbul – slowly. By the time he arrived in Turkey, three weeks later, Volkov had been removed to Moscow, in bandages.