International liaison and diplomatic matters

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International liaison and diplomatic matters

Liaison with the FBI (KV 4/394-396)

These three reconstituted files document the early history of liaison between the Security Service (and, incidentally, the Secret Intelligence Service) and the newly established Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

KV 4/394 (1938-1942) shows the beginnings of the relationship in a desire to establish close co-operation on surveillance of German and Italian covert activities. A file note detailing the state of the FBI in 1938 (serial 1z) emphasises the lack of American preparations to counter hostile intelligence services at the time. One of the chief interests of the file is to chart the progress of the FBI's position, as viewed from Britain, over the coming years. The arrangements for the arrival of two FBI representatives in 1940 to study British methods is recorded on this file, and J Edgar Hoover's letter of thanks is at serial 13b. The file also details British concerns that German agents might be covertly introduced into Britain from America under cover of lend-lease arrangements, and discussion of the role the FBI might play to counter that threat. By 1942 (serial 69b) Guy Liddell was recording discussions in Washington about future collaboration in which it is clear that the balance of power in the partnership had moved in favour of the FBI – and at serial 73b we see the acceptance of the principle of free exchange of information, "subject to the condition of no action without prior consultation."

In December 1942, (KV 4/395, 1942-1945) Arthur M Thurston arrived in London as an attaché to the American embassy, to set up direct liaison with the Security Service. There were immediate concerns as to the implications of this, as recorded in minute 98: "Unless we are now going to show Thurston the door, with the inevitable result that co-operation between ourselves and the FBI will cease, we will have to supply him with all the information he requires." Much of the rest of the file consists of working out the practicalities of this arrangement, and the possibility of sending a Service attaché to Washington to liaise with the FBI there. One curiosity on this file is the case of a mis-addressed letter from Hoover to Sir David Petrie, which circulated around various post-rooms in Britain before finally reaching its destination (serial 112z). There is a detailed study (from May 1943) of the present and future relations with the FBI, including discussion of particular cases, at serial 114b.

The final file (KV 4/396, 1945-1947) consists principally of discussion of the role of the FBI in the West Indies post-war. There is also (serial 194b) discussion of the possibility of honours for the FBI liaison officers who served in London during the war.

Control of diplomats (KV 4/401-404)

These four reconstituted files detail the formation of policy and some individual cases in the controls over diplomats and similar foreign nationals in Britain during the Second World War.

The first file opens in 1939 (KV 4/401, 1939-1940) with consideration of the difficulties caused by German demands in April 1939 that senior Nazi party officials should be accorded diplomatic status. After the fall of France, Norway and the other Western allies in 1940, the file examines the status of refugee diplomats and officials connected to the governments in exile as they arrived in the UK. For most states, the example set for the Dutch government in exile was followed (serial 3a).

Initially focused on core diplomats, the policies developed to cover officials of semi-official bodies (KV 4/402, 1940-1941), including some where the Service expressed doubts as to the reliability of the officials involved; and state bank officials and diplomats from neutral states such as Portugal - for the involvement of Kim Philby at the Secret Intelligence Service see serial 184a. (KV 4/403, 1941-1942).

In the run up to D-Day (KV 4/404, 1941-1947) a committee under Sir Findlater Stewart worked to control diplomatic access to ensure the security of vital war secrets, and the committee's considerations of individual cases are on this file, as is Churchill's minute to ministers and senior officials warning of the need for extreme caution when in discussion with foreign diplomats. The file also covers the position of Polish diplomats after official recognition of the government in exile was withdrawn.