Paranoia with respect to Russia raged in the wake of World War II, just as Churchill had foreseen: fear of a "nuclear Pearl Harbor" and the growing challenge of political stability in Europe gripped the Western world. The advent of new and terrifying weapons of war and annihilation atomic bombs, biological and chemical weapons, and intercontinental missiles contributed to a pervasive atmosphere of menace in the US, Britain and all the countries of Western Europe. And in the thick of this cold war, it was the secret service and its intelligence operations that took action, that was capable of creating early warning systems and making inroads in the years of the cold war it was a time of what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called "the rise of a religion of secrecy," a time that fostered the clandestine relationships and treachery of such infamous "spies" as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Klaus Fuchs, and Kim Philby.
In what one-time British Ambassador Richard Seitz calls "a superlative record of Anglo-American intelligence collection, cooperation, and competition" noted author Richard Aldrich reveals startling new information about the relationship between Britain and the US during the Cold War: the extent of the US and British covert operation successes notably in Iran and Guatemala as well as many costly debacles and follies. How some of the secret agents in Britain and the US unnerved their governments more than the regimes they were supposed to monitor is also part of this gripping and highly readable history.
Using the formidable mass of material recently declassified by the US, as well as many files released by the British, Aldrich details the "special relationship" of cooperation between the British and the US as well as the rampant rancor and suspicion that followed public amity and cooperation in the fight against Nazi Germany and Japan. He describes how interests converged and diverged, at least conceptually, on the question of initiating a "preemptive" war against the Soviets and how bitter arguments over provocation threatened to tear the Western nations apart, eg. documents sent to Churchill and Attlee, revealed for the first time here, show that British intelligence chiefs believed the American military had set a target date (mid-to-late 1952) for a war in which Britain would be obliterated, "a half-blind, half-baked, half-mad-and thankfully half-completed-process." (Cal McCrystal, Financial Times).
Recounted in this masterfully researched book are the early Anglo-US tensions over issues that might have turned the cold war hot, attitudes towards assassinations, British battle for control of the intelligence community, the bugging of embassies and offices, how defectors were treated in Moscow, the success of the Berlin tunnel (and other, unidentified tunnels), CIA funding of the European Movement; and the fascinating details of the clandestine operations of WWII underground armies, radio warfare, economic destabilization, and cultural subversion.
"Aldrich has dug deep. The result is a masterly history of the British intelligence effort during the first two decades of the cold war, and its interaction with that of America Extraordinarily well researched and judicious, but also lively and full of fascinating detail this is a story that needs to be told." Lawrence Freedman, Sunday Times
Richard J. Aldrich began the research for The Hidden Hand while an ACLS-Fulbright Fellow at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He has published extensively on the Secret Service. Co-editor of The Journal Intelligence and National Security, he is currently Director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies and Professor of Politics at the University of Nottingham.