Double Cross agents

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Double Cross agents

Background to the Double Cross system

The Double Cross system was one of the greatest intelligence coups of the Second World War. J C Masterman, Chairman of the Double Cross Committee, concluded that 'we actively ran and controlled the German espionage system in this country [Britain]'. The Double Cross Committee was known as the Twenty Committee because the Roman numerals, XX, formed a double cross. In the Near and Middle East, Double Cross was run by the Special Section of SIME (and its sub-section CICI in Persia and Iraq). A small number of Double Cross operations were also run out of Gibraltar.

Due to a combination of counter-espionage work prior to the war and signals intelligence during it, MI5 were in a position to monitor and pick up German agents as they were 'dropped' into Britain. These agents were then 'turned' and began working for the British authorities. The preferred communication was via wireless telegraphy, although secret ink, microphotography and, in some cases particularly in Gibraltar direct contact with the enemy was also employed.

Initially the Double Cross system was used for counter-espionage purposes, but its comprehensive success provided an excellent conduit for strategic deception, culminating in the D-Day deception operation, known as FORTITUDE. This plan misled the Germans into believing that the Pas de Calais was the real landing area of the Allied invasion, rather than Normandy. Further successes were achieved in U-boat and V-weapon deception, and during operations HUSKY and TORCH.

A good summary of the most significant Double Cross cases may be found in JC Masterman's book, The Double Cross System.

Gibraltar Double Cross agents (KV 3/250)

This file (1943-1945) concerns the small number of Double Cross agents run by the Security Service out of Gibraltar. Though of less overall significance than the double agents run from London, the cases out of Gibraltar form an interesting and little known story. The cases of, particularly, double agents NAG, JEEP and T60 are detailed on this file, which includes lengthy discussion of the difficulties of providing adequate 'chicken-feed' information for them to pass to their handlers. Arrangements for handling the cases jointly with the Secret Intelligence Service in Gibraltar are mentioned, as are the practicalities of handling double agents who had regular face-to-face contact with their German controllers. Lists of the double agents' sub-agents (imaginary ones in the case of JEEP, real but unaware ones in the cases of NAG and T60) are at serial 74a, along with brief case histories.

This release also includes the files on the Double Cross agent WASHOUT who was run from England (KV 2/2099-2101, 1942-1943).