Thursday, November 12, 2015

C.G.McKay’s website ‘Intelligence Past’

Craig McKay, author of ‘From Information to Intrigue’, ‘Swedish Signal Intelligence’ and contributor to journals such as Intelligence and National Security, Journal of Intelligence History and Cryptologia has started a new website dealing with intelligence history. He has already added several essays on interesting cases plus he has uncovered the identity of the mysterious Polish agent 594.

If you’re interested in intelligence history you should check out his site Intelligence Past.

Q&A with Craig McKay:

Craig was kind enough to answer some of my questions.

1). How did you become interested in WWII intelligence history and what was the process that led to the publication of two books on the subject?

Part of the reason, I gave on my site, namely growing up at a time when the two great wars of the twentieth century were very much part of living memory. But why, you may still ask, study intelligence, rather than say the history of weapon development, another interesting and perhaps more important subject? I suppose the answer lies somewhere in our psyche. A clue might be the following anecdote. As an insufferable sixteen-year-old, I acquired the atrocious habit of writing down various observations in aphoristic form. One of them was: “But surely, in some sense, the perfect actor is still undiscovered.” Anybody who says something like that, is more or less fated to become interested in the
world of secret intelligence!   With regard to my books, these merely reflected my own location in Sweden. I was there, I was interested in the history of intelligence and discovered that apart from journalistic accounts, not much serious work had been done. My interest in SIGINT, cyphers and such things, however, had another origin. I had worked in the field of mathematical logic under Professor R.L.Goodstein. At that time, logic and the foundations of mathematics were peripheral subjects in the British mathematical curriculum. Computing was mainly still numerical analysis.  I recall giving a lecture on Turing machines about 1964 when few professional mathematicians in Britain had heard of his work, far less took an active interest in the subject. It sounds quite extraordinary now but so it was. Of course, no one spoke about his war work. Turing was only one of the mathematical logicians involved in wartime cypher work. There were others such as Turing 's pupil Robin Gandy, Hasenjaeger in Germany, Quine and Rosser in the US.

2). Why did you decide to start the ‘Intelligence Past’ website and what are your goals for it?  

My motivation was, I confess, entirely egotistical: to get my various bits and pieces on the history of secret intelligence out on the web rather than let them perish instantaneously with me. What other people do with them is entirely up to them. It would be nice when I am still around, if some braver souls were encouraged to post their own pieces on the site. Let’s see what happens. 

3). What areas of intelligence history do you find most interesting and what are you currently researching?

Because of my own history- virtually a lifetime in Sweden to which I remain greatly attached, I have tended  to limit my own interests in two ways (i) geostrategically I focus on Northern Europe and (ii) thematically I am also very interested in the interaction between neutrality and intelligence. About the latter, I say a bit in the first few pages of my book ‘From Information to Intrigue’. At the moment, I have been looking at old puzzles connected with Polish intelligence such as Major Choynacki`s wartime agent network.  The Poles are most extraordinary people. Their troubled history, sandwiched between Germany and Russia, has made them masters of the dark conspiratorial arts. There are naturally many other things which I think about as diligent readers of my site will discover.

4). Which unsolved cases from WWII do you think researchers should try to investigate further?

There is no shortage of questions, that’s for sure! Here’s a few straight from the top of my head.

(1) Why were the Russian organs so concerned with Raoul Wallenberg?  Lots has been written (some by me) but we are still in the dark. 

(2) Why did the Soviet authorities expel the Swedish Minister and his Military Attache during the war? Was it mere tit-for-tat for Swedish action against Soviet espionage in Sweden?  I would be interested to know if it was partly due to certain statements about these Swedish diplomats in Japanese diplomatic traffic that the Soviet Union is known to have read. The Swedish Minister (Assarsson) was a garrulous fellow who occasionally spoke to his Japanese colleague about the war situation.

(3) How far was the Abwehr involved in the Hess flight to Scotland? I have written a short paper on this but so far without being able to interest anyone else to investigate further.

(4) The MAX network in the Balkans: how one longs for a detailed Russian account of this case by a Russian historian using their own archives. Were Kauders, Hatz and Enomoto all long term Soviet assets?  Did Nahum Eitington make a special journey for a conspiratorial treff with Enomoto and Kauders in Greece in October 1940?

(5) How closely did German intelligence follow the telegram traffic of the Jewish Agency during the war?

(6) Who was the spy NERO in Spain/Portugal reporting on the UK and run by the Hungarians in the last year of the war? His name crops up in Schellenberg and Höttl testimonies.

(7) Why is there not more about the use made of COMINT in Economic Warfare during the war?

(8) What was the greatest triumph of Soviet wartime SIGINT?

A last comment: never forget that in any significant spy case there will always be loose ends.
Paradoxically that is both a limitation and an opportunity. 

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