UK spooks used Hitler insults to get PM to listen

Mon Oct 5, 2009 11:17am EDT
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By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British intelligence officers played on former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's pride to get him to take notice of Adolf Hitler's aggressive ambitions on the eve of World War Two, a new book reveals.

Frustrated by Chamberlain's policy of appeasement toward Hitler in the 1930s, officers at Britain's MI5 security service, putting together a report on intelligence from German sources, included insults about the prime minister said to have been made by Hitler in private.

"MI5 warnings to the government that Hitler was serious, that 'Mein Kampf' should be taken seriously, had no effect," said Christopher Andrew, author of "The Defense of the Realm," the first authorized history of the British security service.

"So it fell back to the thing that any prime minister is always going to pay attention to, that he's been insulted by his opponent," he added. "It was the only way of getting through to him."

Hitler's description of the British leader as an "arsehole," underlined three times in red pencil, as well a reference to him mocking Chamberlain's trademark umbrella, were said to have made a "considerable impression on the prime minister," who was known to be infuriated by disrespect.

Among the book's other insights into Britain's previously secretive intelligence service are revelations that MI5 kept a file on former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

But Andrew dismisses long-standing claims of MI5 plots against Wilson, who was monitored after concern was raised about his relationships with Eastern European businessmen and contact with KGB officers.

The book also reveals MI5's first major counter-terrorist operation to tackle the threat from Middle Eastern terrorism was directed not against Palestinian or Islamist groups, but Zionist extremists who believed the creation of an independent Jewish state required the use of terror.   Continued...