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MI5 : Sex, spies & H-bombs – documents made public

Fear of the US hydrogen bomb and the tangled tales of “traitors” and spies; documents newly released by the British secret services cast fresh light on Cold War intrigue and the shady and sordid lives of British spies.

Four hundred Foreign Office, Cabinet Office and MI5 files have been made public for the first time in 50 years.

They reveal a climate of fear surrounding the US development of the H-bomb and highlight the operational failures of the secret service during the Cold War. They also offer fresh insight into the private lives of the so-called Cambridge spy ring.



H-bomb fear

The global race to build the H-bomb sent a shiver down Whitehall’s collective spine, the documents show. When US scientists detonated the first hydrogen bomb in 1952, 1,000 times more powerful than the atom-bomb, British security officials imagined nightmare scenarios where London fell in the Cold War firing line.

Instead of dropping 32 bombs on London, they would probably use three, four or five very powerful ones … [each] with a radius of total destruction of 2-3 miles,” nuclear weapons scientist William Penney noted in a letter to the chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority.