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Cambridge Spies and vetting experiences

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Cambridge Spies and vetting experiences

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Old 9th Oct 2018, 20:56
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Cambridge Spies and vetting experiences

I am reading Lownie's biography of Guy Burgess, "Stalin's Englishman". It is almost soiling and contaminating to read about this arrogant flawed genius, with filthy finger nails and clothes and Old Etonian tie, chewing garlick, swilling any alcohol in sight, and bumming indiscriminately even when he had a steady living-in boyfriend. How such a bastard was allowed to betray his country for so long is an indictment of the then Establishment, and the unmasking [painfully slow and clumsy] of Burgess, Maclean and Philby may mark the beginning of the loss of respect [even deference] towards our leaders, lords and masters.
However, one fact jumped out at me, the introduction of Positive Vetting, said to be c. 1951, in the wake of Klaus Fuchs and the Cambridge quintet. Thus I, and many RAF PPruners, signed up when PV was tiered on to NV. I expect almost all aircrew needed PV [or a military equivalent] from the outset, a huge task for the ex-Policemen and ROs in flashers' macs to maintain.
NV was good enough for most Met men and women unless they were appointed to certain posts, and my first experience of PV was doing leave reliefs from Finningley to Wyton in the early 1970s. It had to be topped up [5 years]? when I joined the TACEVAL team in BFG [with quite a few bolt-on indoctrinations which I am sure were not relevant on a need to know basis], and lapsed when I went from 1 Group HQ to civil aviation. Finally it was needed again at JHQ.
This last fling involved the usual interview in 1989, by which time all manner of naughty behaviour was legal and tolerated, so some of the questions seemed fatuous.
"What do you consider to be deviant sex?"
"Anything I wouldn't do!"
So, if you are allowed to tell PV tales of long ago, please tell them.

Last edited by langleybaston; 9th Oct 2018 at 20:59. Reason: tried to correct expperiences !
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 21:15
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LB, not all aircrew. The main criteria was access to TS and other caveated material. I remember one Confessor, ex+policeman. He would interview referred nominated by the subject and other should be decide he needed more evidence.

What asked one delicate question the referee said "Give us a kiss and I'll tell you.". The referee lost his clearance .

I was once questioned as an additional referee. The confessor just could not read his target, nor could be understand what I told him. There were two crucial facts: the target was engaged in an extremely hostile divorce and was in the point of leaving the Air Force and going civvie.

To facilitate the former he spent every penny he had on things a BMW 2500 when most settled on a 2002. Clothes, all beautifully stored etc etc. He had a very regular GF. His interest in the Air Force was not pending his courts martial. He was arrow straight, had no need of a PV, and the whole thing a farce.

I was told that a confession was like a Catholic confessional. A particular wg cdr, having confessed, could not be dismissed. OTOH an airman confessing to his flt cdr would be dismissed. A VSO, posted to the US failed US clearance but because our system was confidential his posting could not be cancelled. It was believe that the US staged a situation where the VSO was compromised.

Last edited by Pontius Navigator; 9th Oct 2018 at 22:22.
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 21:33
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I was PVed when I completed my Valiant course at Gaydon as were all aircrew entering the V Force. I was marched in to be a character witness for my best mate from ITS. When I had finished he was marched in to be my character witness.

Despite our efforts we both passed.
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 21:56
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Thank you both. From WIKI I infer that the process/ grading levels is/ are now much more complicated.
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 22:12
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Originally Posted by langleybaston View Post
I am reading Lownie's biography of Guy Burgess, "Stalin's Englishman". It is almost soiling and contaminating to read about this arrogant flawed genius, with filthy finger nails and clothes and Old Etonian tie, chewing garlick, swilling any alcohol in sight, and bumming indiscriminately even when he had a steady living-in boyfriend. How such a bastard was allowed to betray his country for so long is an indictment of the then Establishment, and the unmasking [painfully slow and clumsy] of Burgess, Maclean and Philby may mark the beginning of the loss of respect [even deference] towards our leaders, lords and masters.
However, one fact jumped out at me, the introduction of Positive Vetting, said to be c. 1951, in the wake of Klaus Fuchs and the Cambridge quintet. Thus I, and many RAF PPruners, signed up when PV was tiered on to NV. I expect almost all aircrew needed PV [or a military equivalent] from the outset, a huge task for the ex-Policemen and ROs in flashers' macs to maintain.
NV was good enough for most Met men and women unless they were appointed to certain posts, and my first experience of PV was doing leave reliefs from Finningley to Wyton in the early 1970s. It had to be topped up [5 years]? when I joined the TACEVAL team in BFG [with quite a few bolt-on indoctrinations which I am sure were not relevant on a need to know basis], and lapsed when I went from 1 Group HQ to civil aviation. Finally it was needed again at JHQ.
This last fling involved the usual interview in 1989, by which time all manner of naughty behaviour was legal and tolerated, so some of the questions seemed fatuous.
"What do you consider to be deviant sex?"
"Anything I wouldn't do!"
So, if you are allowed to tell PV tales of long ago, please tell them.
Read the book 'Guy Liddell's Diaries Of a Cold War Spymaster' by Nigel West and be prepared to be actually sickened how MI5 and MI6 operated in catching these traitors. Maclean's interrogation was more a friendly chat than actually really holding his feet to the fire. He was lucky it ws the British who questiond him rather than the NKVD which I suspect would have been far more brutal and terminal for his health. Blunt and Caircross should also have been rigoursly interrogated. The establishment at this time covered up treason for which a rope was still an option.
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 22:21
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Thank you, that will be next on my book list [I have read the Maclean biography, and Philby is next.] Could it still happen? Probably not, because the upside of the death of deference is that young and middle-aged people have been taught to question and to abandon respect for their "betters". Tugging forelocks has gone, unless one wants a knighthood. This is not an easy concept for me, an octogenarian, but it is healthier if inconvenient.
Would PV have ended their wickedness? Not with the old boy system.
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 22:41
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Have a look at https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/revealed-welsh-fighter-pilot-jailed-2035807
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 22:42
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Could it happen again? Well the US seem to think so in light of the Manning and Snowden affairs, and there have been recent press reports saying how they are really clamping down on financial issues and debt.

Interestingly BBC4 have just shown a really good 2 parter on submarine warfare in the Cold War. They explained one of the biggest leaks from the Walker family was so damaging in enabling the Soviets to catch up in the technology stakes that the Akulas were nicknamed Walker Class boats. Seems he did it for money too, so I guess they have been burned in the past and therefore their current approach is understandable.

It might be interesting to see if people turn traitor for different reasons in different countries - is there a national stereotype?
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 23:18
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We may suppose that the money motive might prove the one easiest to detect ........ no point in having it in the bank, and spending above income is very noticeable.
In the liberal cultures developed in the West, many of the erstwhile blackmail levers are much enfeebled:
buggery? no worries; drugs? legal or about to be; alcoholism? who cares ........
Self-motivated and highly educated idealogues may be a rare species in the present climate of cynicism and instant information. The Cambridge spies were a product of their time, an unrepeatable cancer on the body politic I believe. With one significant exception, believing in a creed or a system to the degree required is in short supply. Spies aren't what they used to be.
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 23:48
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Originally Posted by langleybaston View Post
Thank you, that will be next on my book list [I have read the Maclean biography, and Philby is next.] Could it still happen? Probably not, because the upside of the death of deference is that young and middle-aged people have been taught to question and to abandon respect for their "betters". Tugging forelocks has gone, unless one wants a knighthood. This is not an easy concept for me, an octogenarian, but it is healthier if inconvenient.
Would PV have ended their wickedness? Not with the old boy system.
It is a very dry almost arid book, a good cure for insomnia.
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Old 9th Oct 2018, 23:54
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Oh!
Sounds like a library loan rather than a purchase. It is difficult to make wickedness dull.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 00:27
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Back in the 1980's, while employed as a NIS (now NCIS) Special Agent I had a weak moment of weakness and assume the Boss Fellah was serious when he asked for suggestions re Personnel Security (think Insider Threat) and I raised my hand and upon being acknowledged.....suggested we do covert Credit Checks, review Credit Card Accounts, and do Net Worth Studies on those folks holding Top Secret Compartmented Information and/or Crypto Clearances.

I was informed just how ludicrous an idea such a thing was.....and I should restrain my thinking to showing up to work on time and other similarly complex issues.

It was not more than a few weeks later when the Walker Spy Case broke....and I was amongst the Team of Agents who removed the Son from his ship during a port call to our Base.

If you remember.....the Senior Walkers were doing their treasonous acts for monetary reasons and were spending money far beyond their means.

Of course.....reminding my Boss of all those facts did not fall within his previous guidance to me and keep my thoughts to myself.

When. you opt for a Security Clearance....you certainly should shed some of your Rights and Freedoms in order for the Government to trust you with very sensitive information.


Look at the current situation with our FBI and DOJ....where existing internal security protocols were not followed by very senior staff of the FBI and DOJ.

There have been some dismissals, resignations, and even a couple of criminal referrals for investigation and possible prosecution......in the end....it will all be forgotten and ignored by those running the show.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 08:03
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In the late 60s I was put, at no notice, into a post that required PV clearance because I necessarily had access to the war plans for the unit. About 4 months later, a plod turned up to do the PV interview, which mostly consisted of him telling me how brilliant the system was and how much better they were at catching people than in the Philby era.

At the end of the chat, he asked when I expected to be in the post for which the clearance was needed. When I said "Four months ago", he blanched. Two weeks later, a story broke in the press of a junior airman at Digby who had been giving away (or selling - can't recall) highly classified material.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 08:24
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Vetting was seemed to be a pretty narrow process. It was assessing your susceptibility to blackmail by or sympathy with the Soviet Union. Loyalty and treason in our modern world has far more flavours. If your ethnic origin is the same as your potential foe, will you be reliable?

In many scenarios the risk will be ideological and not blackmail or financial.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 08:31
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Back to the OP, one problem with the confessional was its absolute confidentiality. A wg cdr, confessing to homosexuality would be cleared even though he remained susceptible to outing. An airmen confessing to his superior would be discharged.

A VSO, earmarked for a NATO post in the USA could not have his posting cancelled as that would compromise the confessional. As we wouldn't cancel his posting the cousins set up a compromise which outed him.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 11:14
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My favourite PV story concerned the young submarine officer who was having his PV review. He sailed through all the standard questions, but things became more interesting when he was asked if had any unusual pursuits or even, ahem, fetishes. He asked the interviewer what sort of thing did he have in mind, because he wasn’t exactly sure what constituted a fetish, so he was given a few examples.

On hearing the explanation, he then admitted that he particularly enjoyed dressing-up and wearing rubber next the skin, at which point the note taking went into overdrive. When asked for more specific details, such as when he engaged in this practice and whether he indulged in it in private or with others, he replied that he did so as often as possible and that, whenever possible, he preferred to be involved with at least one buddy. The next question was whether he preferred the buddies to be male or female, to which he replied that he much preferred them to be male.

The interviewer, by now burning holes in his notebook, then asked whether he had any particularly favourite buddy, and whether they were civilians or in the Service, and was more than a little surprised to be told that his favourite buddy was his First Lieutenant. This was almost too much for the interviewer, who then asked whether their Commanding Officer was aware of this apparently very close relationship, only to be told, “Of course he does - after all I am the Ship’s Diving Officer!”

Jack
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 12:29
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UJ,

Classic.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 12:44
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my boss was getting his done for some nuke stuff.

When I was interviewed it came to the sexual stuff and my reply was "well his nickname is Chai Chai". Who was in London zoo at the time.

interviewer leans forward and says "so he has a preference for Chinese ladys?"

"No... he has the sexual prowess of a giant panda" was my reply.

My thoughts that the interview was confidential to the person being enquired about proved to be false.
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 13:41
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In the early 80s and on my way back to Saxa Vord I stayed over at Turnhouse before an early flight to Lerwick. PSS had decided Turnhouse was a convenient place to do my DV Red Seal! It was latish on a sunday night, I had travelled up from the Midlands and had arrived after dinner had finished - as usual I was thirsty and very hungry and after 4 pints and a packet of nuts on an empty stomach was interviewed by the PSS retired officer. Cant remember much about the interview but regarding having any sort of problems with drink, suspect that he was mildly convinced that this pi$$ed young PO did not have a problem!! As for deviancy, well the sheep looked quite pretty after long happy hours and 6 months without leave but I didn't admit that.

name withheld.............................................
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Old 10th Oct 2018, 14:15
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The old PV process was walk in the park compared to what happens now with the DV - their appetite for details of your on-line life seems to know no bounds.
Just check out Section 22!

DV Form
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