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Posted Tuesday, January 26, 1999

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Saturday 23 January 1999

MI5 to release files on Hess and Mata Hari

By Michael Smith

MI5 WILL open the contents of its registry of personal files to the public for the first time next week with the release of all the material it holds on Mata Hari, Rudolf Hess and Roger Casement.

The move follows the service's decision that it should not hold back personal files that would otherwise be released unless they would cause "substantive distress" to those involved or to their relatives. MI5 released its First World War files in 1997, but it was forced to keep back the files on Mata Hari, who was executed by the French as a spy, and Casement, hanged by the British for seeking German support for Irish independence.

The endorsement of MI5's new policy means they can be added to next week's release, the first of two covering the Second World War. It also contains the personal files of the 13 German spies executed in the last war. In addition, MI5 will release a history of its operations from 1908 to 1945 which covers the first Cold War against the Bolsheviks and the rise of Fascism.

When it was first written, the history was to be seen by only five people and remained locked in the director general's safe throughout the Fifties and Sixties. It not only covers MI5's battles with the Soviet, German, Italian and Japanese secret services, but also its turf wars with the British secret service MI6.

Nevertheless, it will be the files on Hess and Mata Hari that are likely to excite the most interest. Hess, Hitler's deputy, flew to Britain on a bizarre peace mission in May 1941. He was "debriefed" for more than a year by MI6 before finally being taken to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.

There has been continued speculation that he was lured to Britain by elements within British intelligence which, despite the release of large numbers of Foreign Office files on Hess, has refused to go away. Although historians will see the new release as an opportunity finally to dispel the conspiracy theories attached to Hess, the public's interest is more likely to focus on the First World War spy Mata Hari.

Margarete MacLeod was the former wife of a Dutch army colonel who fell on hard times and, while performing as an exotic dancer in Berlin under the stage name Mata Hari, was recruited to work for German intelligence. Despite her age - she was 40 when she was recruited - Mata Hari attracted a large number of admirers to her dance show during which she slowly stripped completely naked.

After being trained in the use of invisible ink, she was dispatched as a spy but was so ineffective in garnering any useful pillow talk that the Germans wrote her off as "a dud shell". Mata Hari was arrested in London in 1916 and interrogated by MI5, but was released. She was arrested again a year later by the French and shot as a spy.

The new guidelines on what personal files should be released state that in no circumstances can references to someone being a prostitute be made public. But other forms of immoral activity are clearly not covered by this directive. The material in Mata Hari's file is believed to include a list of some 20 German officers with whom she admitted having been "on intimate terms".

[David Irving donates RSHA files on Rudolf Hess to Institut für Zeitgeschichte, June 1999]
The Independent
London, Tuesday, January 26, 1999
Fuhrer's obscenity provoked Britain

MI5 papers: How secret service goaded Chamberlain, tried to bribe Irish nationalist's gay lover - and recruited birds.

By Paul Lashmar and Chris Staerck

MI5 DELIBERATELY provoked Neville Chamberlain into taking a harder line against Nazi Germany by revealing that Adolf Hitler had derided the Prime Minister with a "schoolboyish obscenity," accoding to newly released MI5 files. They show that Chamberlain was so infuriated he brought forward the introduction of conscription.

The story is revealed in the Security Service's internal history from 1909 to 1945, released yesterday by the Public Record Office in Kew.

It reveals MI5's growing frustration with Chamberlain in the run-up to the Munich crisis of 1938. MI5 pushed Chamberlain to take a stronger line with Hitler by disclosing that the Fuhrer respected only men prepared to stand up to him and thought the Prime Minister was weak. "The Fuhrer was very fond of making jokes about 'umbrella pacifism', of the once imposing 'British World Empire' and referred to Mr Chamberlain in terms of schoolboyish obscenity."

Several First World War files have also been released,including those covering the activities of the glamorous spy Mata Hari and the Irish nationalist Sir Roger Casement, both executed for helping Germany.

British agents plotted to entice Casement's 24-year-old gay lover into betraying him. Mansfeldt de Cardonnel Findlay, the ambassador to Norway, wrote an undertaking to pay Adler Christiansen, £5,000 in return for the capture of Casement as he plotted an uprising in Ireland with German help in 1915. The documents proved for the first time the claims that were denied by the British Government of the day. Christiansen was a double agent and news of the plot, which was never carried out, was quickly leaked to the press.

The files also tell the story of Hitler's deputy, Rudolph Hess, who flew to Britain in 1941 during a bizarre and unauthorised attempt to negotiate a peace deal between Britain and Germany. MI5 considered using a "truth drug" on him to force him to disclose Nazi secrets.

The British were not impressed with Hess although a War Office official did write to MI5 with a suggestion for "the picking of whatever brains that gentleman may still possess".

The files give detailed accounts of MI5's greatest Second World War coup - the double-cross system. Most Germans agents sent into Britain fell into the hands of MI5. One by one they were "turned" and persuaded to feed false information back.

The centrepiece of the double-cross system was the agent codenamed Garbo. Hewas a Spaniard whose real name was Juan Pujol Garcia.

For the D-Day landings in 1944 the Allies wanted to fool the Germans into thinking the main point of the invasion was the Pas-de-Calais. The Garbo ring was a key part of the D-Day deception plan.

The Germans did not discover Garbo's treachery. The MI5 files show that after D-Day, "Himmler . expressed his appreciation of the work carried out by the Garbo organisation".

Mata Hari Revealed

The glamorous female spy passed through England in 1915 and was of great interest to MI5. Born Marguerite Gertrude Zelle, she found fame across the Continent for her erotic "Hindu dances", complete with coiled snakes. She was arrested at Folkestone in December and interrogated by Captain Dillon of MI5. "Under cross-examination although she had good answers to every question, she impressed me very unfavourably but after having her very carefully searched and finding nothing I considered I hadn't enough grounds to refuse her embarkation." In Paris she was watched by MI5 and the file lists her associates. Mata Hari's undoing was Captain Ladoux of the French security service. He revealed to MI5 he thought her guilty of spying. In 1916 Ladoux had her arrested. She was later tried, found guilty and shot.

Undercover conflict

Mind wars: The wills of German spies were broken, without physical violence, at a centre where the "omniscience and omnipotence" of the British security service was displayed.

In the few cases where suspects held out, they were shown obituaries of executed prisoners. None the less, 14 spies were executed because of information they gave.

Feathered fiends: Nazi commanders hatched a plan to use pigeons to spearhead an invasion of Britain. Lofts in occupied Belgium and the Netherlands were identified as bases for the feathered squadrons before they were sent with agents heading to Britain. Security officers believed use of the birds, which would be sent back with messages, had the blessing of the SS head, Himmler, identified by MI5 as a "life-long pigeon-fancier". The Army trained peregrine falcons to intercept enemy birds, two of which became "prisoners of war".

Sign language: A crackdown on the defacing of telegraph poles was ordered by security chiefs during the 1940 invasion scare, because it was feared the marks may have helped enemy paratroopers. The signs on the poles were in fact the result of a survey in the area by an American oil company.

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