John le Carré: ‘We carried out assassinations during the Cold War’
British intelligence services carried out assassinations during the Cold War, John le Carré, the novelist and former secret agent, has said.
By Olga Craig
The writer, who worked for both MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s, said: ”Certainly we did some very bad things. We did a lot of direct action. Assassinations. Although I was never involved.”
Mr le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, insisted, however, that there was a huge difference between the ways that Western intelligence agencies and their Soviet bloc counterparts operated during the Cold War.
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“Even when quite ruthless operations are being contemplated (in the West) the process of democratic consultation was still relatively intact and decent humanitarian instincts came into play,” he said. “Totalitarian states killed with impunity and no one was held accountable. That didn’t happen in the West.”
His comments come in the week that Gareth Williams, 31, an agent who worked for the GCHQ listening station in Cheltenham and was on secondment to MI6 in London, was found murdered in a Pimlico apartment.
In an interview in The Sunday Telegraph’s Seven magazine Mr le Carré, 79, also reveals how he was recruited as a spy and why he turned down the opportunity to meet Kim Philby, the double agent.
He also describes how he risked the ire of Margaret Thatcher when, at lunch, he brought up the subject of the Palestinian cause, and speaks about his bizarre childhood, growing up with a con man father and a mother who deserted the family.