Kim Philby was one of the 20th century’s most legendary spies. Two 2014 published book on his life and works , A Spy Among Friends and Great Betrayal showcase secrets to his success. Ben Macintyre who authored the book, A Spy Among Friends, shared a tid bit of what the writing is about.
They say a spy’s life may never be fully and truly understood, that no matter how many books and biographies published about him or her, the density and depth of their conviction will always remain a mystery.
Let’s recall the movies’ James Bond, Jason Borne and Ethan Hunt. If you say greatest spy ever, one could imagine super advance technology weapons, never-been-seen gadgets, awesome combat skills and a superb physique. I guess, that’s what we expect to see in the movies.
In real life however, the man who’s been called the most legendary spy in history is none of those qualities, what made him the greatest? He simply made the right friends, plied them with lots of alcohol.
Kim Philby rose through the ranks of British intelligence. There was even talk of him becoming head of MI6. He was loved and admired by his colleagues but he was KGB’s double agent. Ben Macintyre tells Philby’s incredible story in his new book and dropped hints on its content.
On Philby’s friendship with British Intelligence Comrade Nicholas Elliott
Macintyre revealed, “ Elliott, in a way, was cut from the same cloth as Philby. He’d been to Eton, you know, Britain’s premier public school. He had all the privileges in life. And the two of them had, in fact, joined MI6 at much the same time. What Elliott never knew, of course, was that his closest friend, Kim Philby, was actually working for the other side. It’s often told – the Philby stories – if it was simply a Cold War story of ideology and politics. There’s actually, in a way, a much more intriguing, I think, story beneath the surface, which is a story of systematically brutal betrayal of a very close friendship. And that is the friendship with Nicholas Elliott. And yet, throughout this 20-year relationship, Philby took absolutely everything that Elliott told him including a lot of extremely damaging, high-level intelligence information and fed it all back to Moscow.”
How could Philby Possibly Dodged Being Exposed
“It’s an extraordinary story, really. I mean, to understand Philby’s survival in Washington, you, in a way, have to go back to the war again because one of the people that he got to know very well during the war was a young American intelligence officer called James Angleton. Now Angleton, by the time Philby got to Washington, had risen to become a very senior officer in the CIA. And Philby rekindled his friendship with him, began to have regular lunches with him in a rather smart restaurant in Washington called Harvey’s. And at those lunches, Angleton revealed to him everything he knew. It was simply unthinkable to people like Elliott and Angleton that Philby could possibly be playing for the other side. It just was beyond the bounds of credibility”, Macintyre shared.
When asked if after thorough research and writing about the man has made him feel sympathy or deep understanding toward him. “It’s hard to have sympathy for someone as brutal as that”. He also added, “He was a man who was kind of addicted, really, to the drug of faithlessness. And that makes him a fascinating psychological character in a way.”