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MI5 missed early chance to expose Soviet agent Kim Philby, files reveal | Espionage

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Kim Philby might have been unmasked as a Soviet double agent greater than a decade earlier than his eventual defection had MI5 not missed a chance to query his shut buddy Flora Solomon, in keeping with newly launched intelligence recordsdata.

Solomon, born in Russia to a rich household, was a former lover of Alexander Kerensky, the Russian chief deposed by Lenin. She advised MI5 in 1962 that Philby had tried to recruit her as a Soviet spy in 1937-38.

Philby, a British intelligence officer, was suspected to be the “third man” who tipped off Man Burgess and Donald Maclean, two of the “Cambridge 5”, in 1951 once they fled to Moscow. He was exonerated in 1955, and subsequently labored in Beirut as a journalist for the Observer.

However in 1962, Solomon, then the welfare superintendent at Marks & Spencer and the widow of an English military officer, approached MI5 via the previous MI5 officer Victor Rothschild. She mentioned she had recognized Philby since he was a baby, and that he had an infatuation along with her.

She mentioned that, after coming back from protecting the Spanish civil warfare, Philby had met her for lunch in a “extremely agitated state” and mentioned: “Don’t you see … I’m 100% on the Soviet aspect, and I’m serving to them … I’m carrying [out] a terrifically necessary and troublesome task, and I’m in peril.”

He then tried to enlist her, she mentioned, however she refused, telling him: “I’m not of that sort. It doesn’t curiosity me,” in keeping with recordsdata launched by the National Archives on Tuesday.

Her info “clinched” the case towards Philby, who had already been named by a Soviet defector to the US, in keeping with the Spycatcher writer Peter Wright, then an MI5 agent engaged on the case. Philby would defect shortly afterwards, in January 1963.

When the MI5 agent who interviewed her requested her why she had not come ahead in 1951, Solomon replied: “Look, should you had come to me, if I had been immediately approached … I definitely would have come out.”

Based on a 1971 report on the case by Stella Rimington, the safety providers had been alerted to Solomon in 1951-52 because of phone tapping at Philby’s residence. However Solomon was judged on the time to be “innocuous and pretty inconsequential”.

Solomon, an ardent Zionist, advised MI5 she was at one time sympathetic to the Russian trigger however that modified with the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact. She had come ahead in 1962 as a result of she needed to unburden her conscience, and since she needed to one way or the other stop Philby writing articles that had been, she mentioned, violently anti-Israel.

In her report, Rimington, who would go on to grow to be the primary feminine director basic of MI5, questioned Solomon’s motives for not coming ahead sooner. She may need – as Solomon’s sister claimed – had an emotional tie to Philby, a youthful man who had “swept her off her toes on the finish of her affair with Kerensky”.

She may additionally been below the management of the Russian intelligence service on the time, although Rimington thought if that was the case Solomon would have a extra convincing cause for not coming ahead apart from her “feeble excuse”.

It couldn’t be discounted, nevertheless, that the Russians needed Philby to defect to flee the clutches of western intelligence however he was refusing to take action, and that Solomon’s story was meant to exert extra strain so “they may extra simply persuade him to defect”.

It was laborious to grasp “why having saved this story to herself for thus lengthy, she got here ahead with it on the time which seems to be so consonant with Russian curiosity”, mentioned Rimington, acknowledging that due to Solomon’s declining psychological state in outdated age they might most likely by no means know.

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