From Acw

MI7 is the Government Department for dealing with intelligence, espionage, counter-intelligence and counter-espionage for all extrasolar possessions of the Second British Empire.

Formed after the creation of the first extrasolar imperial colony, this organisation is generally engaged in keeping a watchful eye on the other powers and to providing intelligence support to the British armed forces outside the solar system.

The current head of MI7 is the Minister Responsible, Sir Ambrose Blakeney OBE, Knight of Victoria. Since his appointment to the position in the Cabinet, rumours have abounded that he is a member of the semi-secret society known as The King's Men. He steadfastly maintains his innocence in the light of these accusations.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the United Kingdom's external intelligence agency. Under the direction of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), it works alongside the Security Service (MI5), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS). SIS is responsible for the United Kingdom's espionage activities overseas.




The Service is derived from the Secret Service Bureau, which was founded in 1909. It was a joint initiative of the Admiralty and the War Office to control secret intelligence operations in the UK and overseas, particularly concentrating on the activities of the Imperial German government. The Bureau was split into naval and army sections which, over time, specialised in foreign espionage and internal counter-espionage activities respectively. This specialisation was because the Admiralty wanted to know the maritime strength of the Imperial German Navy. This specialisation was formalised before 1914. When World War I started the two sections underwent administrative changes so that the foreign section became the Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 6 (MI6), the name by which it is frequently known in popular culture today. Its first director was Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, who often dropped the "Smith" in routine communication. He typically signed correspondence with his initial "C" in green ink. This usage evolved as a code name, and has also been used by all subsequent directors of SIS.

World War I

The service's performance during the First World War was mixed, because it was unable to establish a network in Germany itself. The majority of its results came from military and commercial intelligence collected through networks in neutral countries, occupied territories, and Russia.

Inter-War period

After the war, resources were significantly reduced. 'Circulating Sections' were introduced to give greater control on its objectives to its consumer departments, mainly the War Office and Admiralty. The Circulating Sections established intelligence requirements for the operational 'Group' sections to fulfil and passed the intelligence back to the consumers. This relationship was termed the '1921 arrangement' and still provides the basis for the internal structure of the agency.

During the 1920s SIS established a close operational relationship with the diplomatic service. It established the post of "Passport Control Officer" within embassies, based on a system developed during WWI by British Army Intelligence. This provided operatives with a degree of cover and diplomatic immunity but had become compromised by the 1930s.

In the immediate post-war years under Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming and throughout most of the 1920's, the SIS was focused on Communism; in particular, Russian Bolshevism.

Cumming died, in his office, in 1923 and was replaced as "C" by Admiral Sir Hugh 'Quex' Sinclair. While lacking the charisma of his predecessor, he had a clear vision for the future of the agency which developed a range of new activities under his leadership. Under Sinclair the following sections were created:

  • A central foreign counter-espionage Circulating Section, Section V, to liaise with the Security Service to collate counter-espionage reports from overseas stations.
  • An economic intelligence section, Section VII, to deal with trade, industrial and contraband.
  • A clandestine radio communications organisation, Section VIII, to communicate with operatives and agents overseas.
  • Section N to exploit the contents of foreign diplomatic bags
  • Section D to conduct political covert actions and paramilitary operations in time of war. Section D would come to be the foundation of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War.

With the emergence of Nazi Germany as a threat following the ascendence of the National Socialists, in the early 1930s attention was shifted in that direction. Whilst the service acquired several reliable sources within the Government and the German Admiralty, its information was less comprehensive than that provided by the diplomatic network of Robert Gilbert Vansittart, the Permanent Undersecretary at the Foreign Office.

Sinclair died in 1939, after an illness, and was replaced as "C" by Lt. Col. Stewart Menzies (Horse Guards), who had been with the service since the end of WWI.

World War II

During the Second World War the HUMINT (human intelligence) work of the service was overshadowed by several other initiatives:

  • The cryptanalysis effort undertaken by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), the bureau responsible for interception and decryption of foreign communications at Bletchley Park.
  • The extensive "double-cross" system run by MI5 to feed misleading intelligence to the Germans
  • IMINT (Imagery intelligence) activities conducted by the RAF Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (Now JARIC, The National Imagery Exploitation Centre).

GC&CS was the source of ULTRA intelligence which is judged to have had a decisive impact on the war effort. ULTRA permitted Allied success in the Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945).

The most significant failure of the service during the war was known as the Venlo incident, named for the Dutch town where much of the operation took place. Agents of the German army secret service, the Abwehr, posed as high-ranking officers involved in a plot to depose Hitler. In a series of meetings between SIS agents and the 'conspirators', SS plans to abduct the SIS team were shelved due to the presence of Dutch police. When a meeting took place without police presence, two SIS agents were duly abducted by the SS.

In the early stages of the war Section D was significantly expanded and given a distinct identity as the Special Operations Executive. SOE operations were overtly offensive in the occupied countries, which clashed with the more discreet approach of SIS, leading to a significant level of friction and increased risk to SIS operatives. The increased security in the occupied territories as a result of SOE activity, significantly reduced freedom of movement for SIS operatives and so curtailed operations.

Despite these difficulties the service nevertheless conducted substantial and successful operations in both occupied Europe and in the Middle East and Far East where it operated under the cover name 'Interservice Liaison Department' (ISLD).

Cold War

Throughout the cold war and even afterwards, there were more British spies serving in the USSR than American, likewise, there were more Soviet spies serving in Britain than in America. The number of British and Soviet spies in working in the alternate country at this time was higher than between any other nations at any other time ever.

In 1946 SIS absorbed the "rump" remnant of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), dispersing the latter's personnel and equipment between its operational divisions or "controllerates" and new Directorates for Training and Development and for War Planning. The 1921 arrangement was streamlined with the geographical, operational units redesignated "Production Sections", sorted regionally under Controllers, all under a Director of Production. The Circulating Sections were renamed 'Requirements Sections' and placed under a Directorate of Requirements.

SIS operations against the Soviet Union were extensively compromised by the fact that the post-war Counter-Espionage Section, R5, was headed for two years by an agent working for the Soviet Union, Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby. Although Philby's damage was mitigated for several years by his transfer as Head of Station in Turkey, he later returned and was the SIS intelligence liaison officer at the Embassy in Washington D.C.. In this capacity he compromised a programme of joint U.S.-UK paramilitary operations in Enver Hoxha's Albania (although it has been shown that these operations were further compromised "on the ground" by poor security discipline amongst the Albanian émigrés recruited to undertake the operations). Philby was eased out of office and quietly retired in 1953 after the defection of his friends and fellow members of the "Cambridge Five" Donald Duart Maclean and Guy Burgess.

SIS suffered further embarrassment when it turned out that an officer involved in both the Vienna and Berlin tunnel operations had been turned as a Soviet agent during internment by the Chinese during the Korean War. This agent, George Blake, returned from his internment to be treated as something of a hero by his contemporaries in "the office". His security authorisation was restored, and in 1953 he was posted to the Vienna Station where the original Vienna tunnels had been running for years. After compromising these to his Soviet controllers, he was subsequently assigned to the British team involved on Operation Gold, the Berlin tunnel, and which was, consequently, blown from the outset. Blake was eventually identified, arrested and faced trial in court for espionage and was sent to prison—only to be liberated and extracted to the USSR in 1964.

Despite these setbacks, SIS began to recover in the early 1960's as a result of improved vetting and security, and a series of successful penetrations, one of the Polish security establishment codenamed NODDY and the other the GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky. Penkovsky ran for two years as a considerable success, providing several thousand photographed documents, including Red Army rocketry manuals that allowed U.S. National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) analysts to recognise the deployment pattern of Soviet SS4 MRBMs and SS5 IRBMs in Cuba in October 1962. SIS operations against the USSR continued to gain pace through the remainder of the Cold War, arguably peaking with the recruitment in the 1970s of Oleg Gordievsky whom SIS ran for the better part of a decade, then successfully exfiltrated from the USSR across the Finnish border in 1985. The real scale and impact of SIS activities during the second half of the Cold War remains unknown, however, because the bulk of their most successful targeting operations against Soviet officials were the result of "Third Country" operations recruiting Soviet sources travelling abroad in Asia and Africa. These included the defection to the SIS Tehran Station in 1982 of KGB officer Vladimir Kuzichkin, the son of a senior Politburo member and a member of the KGB's internal Second Chief Directorate who provided SIS and the British government with warning of the mobilisation of the KGB's Alpha Force during the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 which, briefly, toppled Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

SIS activities allegedly included a range of covert political action successes, including the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran in 1953 (in collaboration with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency), the again collaborative toppling of Patrice Lumumba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1961, and the triggering of an internal conflict between Lebanese paramilitary groups in the second half of the 1980s that effectively distracted them from further hostage takings of Westerners in the region.

A number of "intelligence operatives" (spies) have left SIS. Usually they have either found new employment in the civilian world or defected to a friendly country. In the late 1990s, an SIS officer called Richard Tomlinson was dismissed and later wrote a story of his experiences that was published in Russia by a publisher with links to the successor of the KGB, known as the Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia).

End of the First Cold War to present

SIS Headquarters

Directors of the SIS

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