Seminar or event series

Sir Michael Howard, an official historian of WW2 intelligence, wrote in 1985: ‘So far as official government policy is concerned, the British security and intelligence services do not exist. Enemy agents are found under gooseberry bushes and intelligence is brought by the storks.’

Even the existence of SIS (MI6) was not officially admitted until 1992. Intelligence is still missing from much modern historiography. Even when present, the interpretation often suffers from Historical Attention-Span Deficit Disorder (HASDD). Edward Snowden’s sensational revelations of UKUSA signals intelligence SIGINT operations had a far smaller impact on 21st-century British government policy and public opinion than mid-19th-century revelations of the official interception of Mazzini’s correspondence. 

We also tweet: @CamIntelligence 

The Seminar will continue for now to convene virtually using Zoom. In order to attend, you must be subscribed to our mailing list. The Zoom link will be distributed in advance of the session. To subscribe, please email Dr Dan Larsen with a brief indication of your affiliation or interest in the Seminar.

Any technical queries, please email Dr Dan Larsen. 

Seminars are not recorded.


5-30 pm BST Friday 29 April

Christopher Andrew, ‘Russian Intelligence Operations against Ukrainian targets from Stalin to Putin’ (illustrated)

The disinformation campaign by Stalin’s intelligence services on Ukraine targeted against the West worked far better 90 years ago than those of Putin over the last decade. Those taken in by Soviet ‘active measures’ in the 1930s included the leader of France’s largest political party (3 times prime minister), the Moscow bureau chief of the New York Times and George Bernard Shaw. Professor Andrew’s study of continuity and change in Russian intelligence operations against Ukraine will range from assassinations of Ukrainian leaders to the distortion of the historical record from the Holodomor to Mariupol.

Neil Kent, ‘The Russian FSB, Belarusian KGB, Orthodox Church and Ukraine’ (illustrated)

Professor Kent is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Intelligence and Cyber Security, a long-standing member of the Cambridge Scott Polar Institute, and has carried out extensive research in Russia (where he was visiting Professor for ten years in St Petersburg, lecturing in Russian), Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic (he also lectures and writes in Finnish and Swedish). The illustrations to his presentation will include the FSB church in Moscow, where he has attended services.


5-30 pm BST Friday 6 May

Andrew Lownie, ‘The Nature of Intelligence History’

Andrew Lownie’s most recent best-sellers are Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (recently featured in a Channel 4 documentary); The Mountbattens: Their Lives & Loves; and Stalin's Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess.


5-30 pm BST Friday 13 May

Tim Tate, ‘Michał Goleniewski and early Cold War Intelligence’ 

As a senior Polish intelligence officer, simultaneously employed by the Soviet KGB as its point-man in Warsaw, from April 1958 to December 1960, Goleniewski acted as an Agent In Place for Western intelligence, smuggling out an unprecedented volume of top secret Soviet Bloc military and intelligence secrets. The KGB and GRU spies he exposed included the Portland Spy Ring, George Blake, Heinz Felfe, Stig Wennerström and Israel Beer. Goleniewski continued to provide intelligence after his defection early in 1961. Tim Tate argues, however, that both US and British intelligence ignored evidence he provided which warned of the extent of Russian disinformation operations – a continuing 21st Century problem - and Soviet penetration of Western agencies. Tim Tate is an award-winning documentary film-maker and bestselling author.

James Hanning, ‘Philby in Beirut’

As a former senior journalist with an interest in intelligence matters, James Hanning is well placed to talk about the relationship between the press and the spy world, which was perhaps at its most intense and glamorous in St George’s Hotel in Beirut, where Kim Philby spent much of his time. He will also discuss why he felt the Philby story - as familiar as any in the spy world - was worth revisiting and how he was able to break new ground with previously unused material from impeccably placed sources. He also hopes to shed light and invite discussion on some of the remaining mysteries in the Philby story. James Hanning’s latest book is Love and Deception: Philby and Beirut (Hachette UK)


5-30 pm BST Friday 20 May

Huw Dylan and Thomas Maguire, ‘The Ukraine War: A Public Crucible for Secret Intelligence’ 

Intelligence is generally collected and utilised in secret to inform internal audiences. But during the build-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and ongoing through the war so far, the UK and US (in particular, but not exclusively) have deployed intelligence extensively to influence external audiences, both publicly and privately, regarding Russian intentions, capabilities, practices, and consequences of their actions. While the scale, manner, and initially pre-emptive nature of these external disclosures represent a significant evolutionary step in how liberal democratic governments use their intelligence assets, it has built upon recent and much longer historical legacies. We will examine: why states choose to use intelligence – including fabricated intelligence – for influencing external audiences; the different methods they deploy for doing so; the gains and costs of publicising intelligence, and how open-source third-parties affect this; and, therefore, how the use of intelligence during the Russia-Ukraine conflict should be understood within broader historical and contemporary trends. We conclude that while liberal democracies’ use of intelligence in public is to be welcomed, this will need careful risk management if it is to become a new normal of statecraft moving forward. 

Dr Huw Dylan is a Senior Lecturer in Intelligence and International Security at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, and Director of its MA in Intelligence and International Security, specialising in strategic deception, clandestine diplomacy, and intelligence politics. 

Dr Thomas Maguire is Assistant Professor of Intelligence and Security in the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University, Visiting Fellow with the King's Intelligence and Security Group in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, and a co-convenor of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar, specialising in covert action, propaganda, and the politics and legacies of international security cooperation.

At a glance

Lent Term
Fridays 5:30pm
Online: Zoom
Professor Christopher Andrew (
Dr Dan Larsen (
Dr Thomas Maguire (,
Dr John Ranelagh (
Dr Daniela Richterova (
Tim Schmalz (
Dr Calder Walton (
Sir Richard Dearlove
Professor Simon Heffer