Kim Philby

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Kim Philby : biography

1 January 1912 – 11 May 1988

Even after Philby’s departure from MI6, speculation regarding his possible Soviet affiliations continued. Interrogated repeatedly regarding his intelligence work and his connection with Guy Burgess, he continued to deny that he had acted as a Soviet agent. From 1952, Philby struggled to find work as a journalist, eventually – in August 1954 – accepting a position with a diplomatic newsletter called the Fleet Street Letter.Seale and McConnville, 224 Lacking access to material of value and out of touch with Soviet intelligence, he all but ceased to operate as a Soviet agent.

In October 1955, Philby was officially cleared by Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan, who told the House of Commons, "I have no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called ‘Third Man’, if indeed there was one."Fisher, John. Burgess and Maclean: A New Look at the Foreign Office Spies. London: Hale, 1977. pp. 193 In November 1955 Philby gave a press conference in which – calmly, confidently, and without the stammer he had struggled with since childhood – he reiterated his innocence, declaring, "I have never been a communist."

Beirut

After being exonerated, Philby was no longer employed by MI6, and Soviet intelligence lost all contact with him. In August 1956 he was sent to Beirut as a Middle East correspondent for The Observer and The Economist. There, his journalism served as cover for renewed work for MI6.

In Lebanon, Philby at first lived in Mahalla Jamil, his father’s large household located in the village of Ajaltun, just outside of Beirut. Following the departure of his father and stepbrothers for Saudi Arabia, Philby continued to live alone in Ajaltun, but took a flat in Beirut after beginning an affair with Eleanor, the Seattle-born wife of New York Times correspondent Sam Pope Brewer. Following Aileen Philby’s death in England in 1957, and Eleanor’s subsequent divorce from Brewer, Philby and Eleanor were married in London in 1959, and set up house together in Beirut.Seale and McConnville, 243 From 1960, Philby’s formerly marginal work as a journalist became more substantial, and he frequently travelled throughout the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Yemen.Seale and McConnville, 248

In 1961, Anatoliy Golitsyn, a major in the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, defected to the United States from his diplomatic post in Helsinki. Golitsyn offered the CIA revelations of Soviet agents within American and British intelligence services. Following his debriefing in the US, Golitsyn was sent to SIS for further questioning. The head of MI6, Dick White, only recently transferred from MI5, had suspected Philby as the "third man." Golitsyn proceeded to confirm White’s suspicions about Philby’s role.Boyle, 432 Nicholas Elliott, an MI6 officer recently stationed in Beirut who had previously believed in Philby’s innocence, was tasked with attempting to secure Philby’s full confession.

It is unclear whether Philby had been alerted, but he began suffering nervous breakdowns and increasing alcoholism. Eleanor noted that as 1962 wore on, expressions of tension in his life "became worse and were reflected in bouts of deep depression and drinking."Boyle, 434 She recalled returning home to Beirut from a sight-seeing trip in Jordan to find Philby "hopelessly drunk and incoherent with grief on the terrace of the flat," mourning the death of a little pet fox which had fallen from the balcony.Boyle, 435 When Nicholas Elliott met Philby in late 1962, the first time since Golitsyn’s defection, he found Philby too drunk to stand, and with a bandaged head; he had fallen repeatedly and cracked his skull on a bathroom radiator, requiring stitches.Boyle, 436

Philby told Elliott that he was "half expecting" to see him. Elliott confronted him, saying, "I once looked up to you, Kim. My God, how I despise you now. I hope you’ve enough decency left to understand why."Boyle, 437 Prompted by Elliott’s accusations, Philby confirmed the charges of espionage and described his intelligence activities on behalf of the Soviets. However, when Elliott asked him to sign a written statement, he hesitated and requested a delay in the interrogation. Another meeting was scheduled to take place in the last week of January. It has since been suggested that the whole confrontation with Elliott had been nothing but a charade to convince the KGB that Philby had to be brought back to Moscow, where he could serve as a British penetration agent of Moscow Centre.Rosenblaum, Ron. "The heart of the matter; Kim Philby and the age of paranoia". New York Times, 10 July 1994.