The Real Special Relationship
The True Story of How MI6 and the CIA Work Together
Michael Smith, Michael Hayden, Sir John Scarlett
- 616 Pages
- July 18, 2023
- ISBN: 9781956763683
- Trim Size: 6in x 9in x 0in
Gripping, deeply researched, and authoritative, the history of one of the closest intelligence and security relationships in the world
The Special Relationship between the United States and Britain is touted by politicians when it suits their purpose and, as frequently, dismissed as myth, not least by the media. Yet the truth is that the two countries are bound together more closely than either is to any other ally. In The Real Special Relationship, Michael Smith reveals how it all began, eighty years ago, when a top-secret visit by four American codebreakers to Bletchley Park in February 1941—ten months before the US entered World War II—marked the start of a close collaboration between the intellitence services of the two nations. When that war ended and the Cold War began, both sides recognized that the way they worked together to decode German and Japanese ciphers could be used to counter the Soviet threat. They laid the foundation for the behind-the-scenes intelligence sharing that has continued—despite rivalries among the services and occasional political conflict and public disputes between the two nations—through the collapse of the Soviet Union, 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to the threats of the present moment.
Smith, who served in British military intelligence, brings together a fascinating range of characters, from Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming to John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Edward Snowden. Supported by in-depth interviews and a broad range of personal contacts in the intelligence community, he takes the reader into the workings of MI6, the CIA, the NSA, and all those who strive to keep us safe. Sir John Scarlett, former chief of MI6, has written the introduction, and Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the NSA, has provided the foreword.
Sir John Scarlett is the former chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6.
Michael Hayden is a former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA).
“As NSA director for six years, I participated firsthand in this special relationship. So special in fact that in the early days of the War on Terror, I told my British counterpart that in the event of a catastrophic loss at NSA Headquarters we would entrust management of the US SIGINT system to him. There is an unprecedented level of trust, and this book is an excellent chronicle of the critical junctures that created this relationship, tested it, and kept it strong.”—Michael Hayden, former director of both NSA and the CIA
“A well-written and gripping overview of one of the closest intelligence and security relationships in the world—one that has served both the UK and the US incredibly well over the past eighty-plus years and that continues to make a true difference today to each nation and their friends and allies. Amazing to see the twists and turns in the relationship laid out before the reader in such a compelling story.”—Admiral Mike Rogers, former NSA director
“As former director of the CIA, it became very clear to me that there is no more critical intelligence partnership than that between the US and the British secret services. . . . Michael Smith has done a remarkable job in this book detailing the sheer depth of that historic collaboration. It is truly a ‘special relationship’ built on trust and shared values and one that has been absolutely essential to protecting the national security of the US, Britain, and the world.”—Leon E. Panetta, former CIA director and Secretary of Defense
“This excellent book gives a detailed, highly professional account of the unique intelligence relationship, originally between the US and UK, now including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—the Five Eyes. For more than eighty years this ‘special relationship’ has been fundamental to the security of our countries and of liberal democracy. As the story makes clear, we certainly need each other now.”—Sir John Scarlett, former MI6 chief
“The US/UK intelligence relationship has quietly shaped world events over the last eighty years. Michael Smith convincingly explains how and why this unique partnership of trust came into being. He does not shy away from illuminating the difficulties and personality clashes in its early years, but it is the account of the subsequent extraordinary joint successes that provide the most riveting read, successes that will ensure that the relationship will continue to be essential to our national security.”—Professor Sir David Omand, former director of GCHQ and UK security and intelligence coordinator
“The pre-eminent hi storian of Bletchley Park cuts through the hype about the Special Relationship to tell the gripping stories of what has been achieved in secret through the ups and downs of this enduring eighty-year partnership. His account reminds us why it is worth preserving.”—Robert Hannigan, former director of GCHQ and Prime Minister’s security adviser
"A significant contribution to the literature of intelligence. It is a masterful, comprehensive exposition of a complex, compelling, often shrouded history."—International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
"Smith approaches his work in the tradition of a seasoned researcher—exploring primary sources in archives, referencing other secondary literature, and conducting interviews—but he writes with the captivating prose of a crime novelist. Despite Smith’s laudable objectivity, his access to interviews with key players is illustrative of the trust that the US and UK intelligence communities place in him."—Society
"Excellent . . . the book makes for an easy, well-organized read. The author’s style is clear and crisp and the substance backed by extensive English-language research, much of it archival as well based on interviews with former intelligence officers."—Intelligence and National Security
“The most important takeaway from The Real Special Relationship is its calm provision of evidence as to why this relationship has been and remains so important. . . . The level of detail . . . is quite extraordinary.”—Washington Examiner
"Michael Smith was an intelligence professional before turning to journalism. There are few as qualified as he to put the whole story together and few who could tell it with such cogency. He relates the eighty years’ cooperation between the intelligence communities (principally the SIS and CIA) in astonishing and revelatory detail, with pace, clarity and authority. It is, quite simply, magnificent.”—Country Life
“A fascinating analysis of the greatest military-intelligence-political alliance of the modern era . . . warts and all.”—Nigel West