Dalhousie Law Journal


spy, spycraft, M.I.5, Soviet, Peter Wright, Anthony Blunt, Roger Hollis, diplomacy


The central facts in the unfolding of the Spycatcher saga are relatively well-known. Peter Wright left M.I.5 in 1976 after some twenty years' service "in the shadows;" his health was "bad", his pension "derisory", but he had his "memories." After retirement he went to live in Tasmania, where (according to Kirby P in the Court of Appeal of New South Wales) "he still resides in a place with the idyllic name of Cygnet." Despite the distance Peter Wright remained closely involved in the welter of allegations and denials, which emerged especially after the unmasking of Anthony Blunt as a former double agent in late 1979, about the inner workings of M.I.5 and Soviet penetration of M.I.5. In 1984 a television interview with Mr. Wright concerned in part the suggestion that Sir Roger Hollis, a former Director-General of M.I.5, had been a Soviet agent. In March 1985 Mr. Wright was approached by a representative of Heinemann, the publisher, to write a candid account of his life in the shadows; and the British government, on learning of these plans, sought injunctions in the courts of New South Wales. The contents of Spycatcher, as it became, ranged far beyond the allegations concerning Sir Roger Hollis to encompass allegations about the bugging of diplomatic premises and of diplomatic conferences, about a plot to assassinate President Nasser of Egypt, about attempts to destabilise the Labour government under Mr. Harold Wilson, and about much else. Many of the allegations had appeared in print before Spycatcher emerged, but the status of the author, it was claimed by the Crown, gave them a special ring of authenticity.