The London reviews of Spymasters

UScoverThumbNail2New Spymasters, my new book, went on sale in 2015 the USA with St Martin’s Press in the USA and Viking Penguin in the UK. It’s had some good reviews. Here are some of the comments and links to the full text:

“For almost 50 years, British and American intelligence officers went toe-to-toe with their counterparts at the Lubyanka, suppressing the threat from communist Russia by recruiting agents inside the Soviet system. Those days are long gone. As Stephen Grey explains in his exceptional new book about spying, the unique political circumstances of the post-9/11 world, combined with rapid developments in weapons and telecommunications technology, have permanently shifted the espionage paradigm…. a blueprint for productive, sophisticated espionage in the age of Islamist terror”

(Charles Cumming; Full review: Daily Telegraph)

“Convincing … a lucid, well-written analysis” (Malcolm Rifkind; Full review: The Spectator)

Grey is a Reuters reporter who has previously written books about the UK-US military campaign in Afghanistan and the CIA’s rendition programme. He has now turned his attention to espionage, and the result — revelatory, deeply informed and subtle — is an antidote to any view of the intelligence agencies as being all-knowing or, conversely, all over the place. Their world…is a dark one, but one in which agents can sometimes discern flashes of colour that offer clues, leads and, sometimes, a licence to kill….Grey’s book reveals above all the relentless uncertainty of spy work, beset with human error and technological over-optimism.

(John Lloyd: Full review: The Financial Times)

“Valuable and thought-provoking .. breaks new ground ..” (Richard Norton-Taylor, Full Review: The Guardian)

Many books on intelligence are a mixture of rehashed secondary sources, salted with speculation. Grey’s is not. He draws on an impressive array of interviews with current and serving intelligence officers, as well as official documents, and provides some notable new insights into the most tangled tales of recent years…..a page-turner for those outside the secret world, and also a thought-provoker for those inside it.” (Edward Lucas, Full review: The Times

“An exposé with real intelligence … Stephen Grey, one of the best investigative journalists in the business, explores the industry’s transformation in a detailed and highly readable book.” (Paul Callan, Daily Express)

NewSpymasters was rated the No 1 Bestseller in Non-Fiction in London by the Evening Standard on July 2nd.

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Much of Grey’s book demonstrates that “intelligence” is often blunder, bluff and worse, and that only the “cult of intelligence” prevents these spies from being seen as a waste of taxpayers’ money (Ed Vulliamy, Full review: The Observer)

“Stephen Grey is a good writer with a reputation for doggedness. He goes where a story leads, even if it doesn’t suit his preconceptions.” (Liam Clarke, the Belfast Telegraph.)

On the trail of torture

UPDATE: Binyam Mohamed returned to the UK on February 23, 2009

(Published in the Sunday Times, Feb 8, 2009)
by Stephen Grey and David Leppard

Prisoner No 1458 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, woke up each day last week in his solitary cell and waited for the inevitable: the arrival of a team of guards to take him down the corridor in shackles to be painfully force fed through a tube.
This was not another attempt to extract a confession, but an attempt to keep Binyam Mohamed alive. The 30-year-old former resident of Notting Hill, west London, was continuing his hunger strike against what he sees as failed promises to set him free. When he last saw his lawyer two weeks ago, his arms, she said, stuck out of his 6ft body “like little thin twigs”.
Although previously accused by US authorities of plotting a terrorist attack on American soil, Mohamed has not been charged with any crime. His former military prosecutor declared a month ago that he presented no threat to either America or Britain.
After losing almost 50lb in weight, and wasting further by the day, he was probably in no state to be told or even to care that two High Court judges in London last Wednesday were appealing for the public release of “powerful evidence” that might help prove his astonishing claims of mistreatment to be true. The issues at stake, said the British judges, were nothing short of the lofty interests of “law, free speech and democratic accountability”.
Involved shocking allegations of extreme mental and physical torture at the behest of America’s CIA, it is a case that has threatened to embarrass the new administration of President Barack Obama, whose inaugural speech included a pledge to halt such activities, as well as to shed an unwelcome spotlight on what exactly the British government knew and kept secret about potential crimes committed by its closest ally. Continue reading On the trail of torture

MI5 enabled UK pair's 'rendition'

(Watch Newsnight report)

Eight UK residents are thought to be held at Guantanamo BayTelegrams sent by the British security service led to the “extraordinary rendition” of two UK residents now in Guantanamo Bay, BBC News has learned.
Flight details sent to US authorities allowed Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna to be arrested in Gambia.
The UK government has always said it opposes “extraordinary rendition” – secret flights taking terror suspects for interrogation in other countries.
The Foreign Office denies requesting the men’s detention.
Mr al-Rawi and Mr al-Banna were arrested at Gatwick airport in November 2002, BBC2’s Newsnight has learned.
British intelligence then sent US authorities a telegram saying one of them had been carrying an object that could have been used as part of an improvised explosive device.
The men were later released after MI5 found the device to be an innocent battery charger – but this time the US authorities were not informed. Continue reading MI5 enabled UK pair's 'rendition'