Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy

ISBN : 9780198784593

Rory Cormac
416 ページ
161 x 237 mm
  • The remarkable story of British covert action — now told in full
  • Traces the secret operations of spies and Special Forces from 1945 to the present day
  • Draws on never-before-seen archival documents, and interviews with government and intelligence insiders
  • How British leaders turned to covert action after WWII, through the Cold War, and as a means to counter terrorism in a post-9/11 world

British leaders use spies and Special Forces to interfere in the affairs of others discreetly and deniably. Since 1945, MI6 has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has instigated whispering campaigns and planted false evidence on officials working behind the Iron Curtain, tried to ferment revolution in Albania, blown up ships to prevent the passage of refugees to Israel, and secretly funnelled aid to insurgents in Afghanistan and dissidents in Poland. MI6 has launched cultural and economic warfare against Iceland and Czechoslovakia. It has tried to instigate coups in Congo, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere. Through bribery and blackmail, Britain has rigged elections as colonies moved to independence. Britain has fought secret wars in Yemen, Indonesia, and Oman — and discreetly used Special Forces to eliminate enemies from colonial Malaya to Libya during the Arab Spring. 
This is covert action: a vital, though controversial, tool of statecraft and perhaps the most sensitive of all government activity. If used wisely, it can play an important role in pursuing national interests in a dangerous world. If used poorly, it can cause political scandal — or worse. 
In Disrupt and Deny, Rory Cormac tells the remarkable true story of Britain's secret scheming against its enemies, as well as its friends; of intrigue and manoeuvring within the darkest corridors of Whitehall, where officials fought to maintain control of this most sensitive and seductive work; and, above all, of Britain's attempt to use smoke and mirrors to mask decline. He reveals hitherto secret operations, the slush funds that paid for them, and the battles in Whitehall that shaped them.


Introduction: Covert Action
Part I - Cold War
1: False Starts: From Counter Attack to Liberation
2: Operation Valuable: Defending Greece; Detaching Albania
3: Pinpricks: The Early Cold War
4: A Long Game: Exploiting Rifts Behind the Iron Curtain
Part II - End of Empire
5: Operations Boot: Regime Change in Iran
6: Expansion: Covert Action Before Suez
7: Interdependence: Covert Action After Suez
8: Decolonisation and Drift: The Battle for Influence after Empire
9: Militarisation: Secret Wars in Yemen and Indonesia
Part III - Age of Illusions
10: Operation Storm and Beyond: From Latin America to Oman
11: Troubles: Covert Action in Northern Ireland
12: Containment: The Second Cold War
13: Transition: The New Agenda
14: Counter-Terrorism: Disrupting Threats; Managing Risk
Conclusion: The British Way


Rory Cormac is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Nottingham. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a leading expert among a new generation of intelligence historians, he specialises in British covert operations and the secret pursuit of foreign policy. He has published widely on intelligence and security issues and regularly appears on radio and television. He is the co-author of The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers and featured on Channel 4's Spying on the Royals.

"Revelatory and meticulously researched. Rory Cormac moves in the forensic footsteps of Peter Hennessy, patiently sleuthing his way through forgotten archives and private papers, finding disturbing documents that Whitehall civil servants hoped had long been buried. Half a century after we began to learn about SOE and Bletchley Park, there are still surprises." - Richard Aldrich, The Times Literary Supplement

"Disrupt and Deny is a bold study of the postwar history of British covert action [and] Cormac attacks the subject with impressive energy and industry. The result is an engrossing journey through the history of a stubbornly opaque area of the secret world." - Huw Dylan, BBC History Magazine

"A ground-breaking book ... It reads like a thriller and shines valuable light on how Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, M16, has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe." - Francis Ghiles, ES Global

"This excellent book relies on a high amount of archival material and represents the first detailed history of British covert action." - Lucy Trenta, Intelligence and National Security

"A welcome and most timely book [which] provides plenty of evidence to show why it is time [that policy makers and spy chiefs] absence of accountability and freedom to break the law with impunity must end." - Richard Norton-Taylor, Literary Review

"An important book about an important subject Disrupt and Deny should be read by anyone, citizens, scholars or those in government interested in Britain's place in the world, past and present." - Calder Walton, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"A pioneering and highly readable book uncovering how Britain secretly used spies and special forces to stem national decline." - Professor Michael Goodman, King's College, London

"Rory Cormac is one of the brightest rising stars in the expanding firmament of Intelligence Studies. Here he takes on one of the most difficult of research endeavors: probing the ins-and-outs of covert action as practiced by the British. He comes up with a balanced assessment written in lovely prose that is a pleasure to read. This book is a valuable dissection of an important topic that few have had the audacity to address." - Loch K. Johnson, Regents Professor of International Affairs, University of Georgia

"This is a ground-breaking book—the first history of British covert action ever published, from wartime SOE to new and unacknowledged adventures in Syria."" - Richard J. Aldrich, University of Warwick and author of GCHQ:The Uncensored Story of Britain's Most Secret Intelligence Agency