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GCHQ by Richard Aldrich

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This is the first time the secrets of GCHQ have been revealed and Richard Aldrich takes us from the agency’s beginnings at Bletchley Park bringing the history up to date showing the complex problems we face today. There is a nautical analogy to be made here, general history books reveal what’s going on above the waves and Richard Aldrich details the frantic activity going on below. It really does throw a great deal of light on recent history. A real brick of a book that keeps the reader’s interest to the end.

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The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5, Christopher Andrew
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There, Sinclair McKay

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GCHQ by Richard Aldrich

A gripping exploration of the last great unknown realm of the British secret service: Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ). GCHQ is the successor to the famous Bletchley Park wartime code-breaking organisation and is the largest and most secretive intelligence organisation in the country. During the war, it commanded more staff than MI5 and MI6 combined and has produced a number of intelligence triumphs, as well as some notable failures. Since the end of the Cold War, it has played a pivotal role in shaping Britain's secret state. Still, we know almost nothing about it. In this ground-breaking new book, Richard Aldrich traces GCHQ's evolvement from a wartime code-breaking operation based in the Bedfordshire countryside, staffed by eccentric crossword puzzlers, to one of the world leading espionage organisations. It is packed full of dramatic spy stories that shed fresh light on Britain's role in the Cold War -- from the secret tunnels dug beneath Vienna and Berlin to tap Soviet phone lines, and daring submarine missions to gather intelligence from the Soviet fleet, to the notorious case of Geoffrey Pine, one of the most damaging moles ever recruited by the Soviets inside British intelligence. The book reveals for the first time how GCHQ operators based in Cheltenham affected the outcome of military confrontations in far-flung locations such as Indonesia and Malaya, and exposes the shocking case of three GCHQ workers who were killed in an infamous shootout with terrorists while working undercover in Turkey. Today's GCHQ struggles with some of the most difficult issues of our time. A leading force of the state's security efforts against militant terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, they are also involved in fundamental issues that will mould the future of British society. Compelling and revelatory, Aldrich's book is the crucial missing link in Britain's intelligence history.


'Thoroughly engaging'
Daily Telegraph

'Skilfully weaves together the personal, political, military and technological dimensions of electronic espionage'

'Aldrich packs in vast amounts of information, while managing to remain very readable. He paints the broad picture, but also introduces fascinating detail.'
Literary Review

'Richard J. Aldrich is an outstanding analyst and historian of intelligence and he tells this story well!an important book, which will make readers think uncomfortably not only about the state's power to monitor our lives, but also the appalling vulnerability of every society in thrall to communications technology as we are.'
Max Hastings, Sunday Times

'This is a sober and valuable work of scholarship, which is as reliable as anything ever is in the twilight world of intelligence-gathering. Yet there is nothing dry about it. Aldrich knows how to write for a wider audience, while avoiding the speculations, inventions, sensationalism and sheer silliness of so much modern work on the subject'

About the Author

Richard Aldrich is a regular commentator on war and espionage and has written for the Evening Standard, the Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph. He is the author of several books, including 'The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence' which won the Donner Book Prize in 2002.

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Book Info

Publication date

7th July 2011


Richard Aldrich

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HarperPress an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


448 pages


Biography / Autobiography
The Real World
eBook Favourites

Espionage & secret services



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