Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5

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9780091793609: Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5

Stella Rimington writes: 'Nothing in my life ever turned out as expected. Having originally chosen a safe career, I ended up as leader of one of the country's intelligence agencies and a target for terrorists. Having conventionally married my schoolfriend, I ended up a single parent. Having begun work in the days when women's careers were not taken seriously, I ended up advising ministers and Prime Ministers. I have experienced all this from an unusual position, inside the secret state. 'In the 1980s I was seen by some as Mrs Thatcher's stooge, the leader of an arm of the secret state which was helping her to beat the miners' strike and destroy the NUM. I was portrayed as the investigator of CND and even as the one who had ordered the murder of an old lady peace campaigner. In 1992, when I first emerged into the public gaze as Director-General of MI5, I became a female James Bond, 'Housewife Superspy', 'Mother of Two Gets Tough with Terrorists'. And finally, with the writing of this book, I have become, to some, 'Rickless Rimington', careless of our national security. I don't recognize myself in any of those roles. 'The unexpected course of my life has involved me closely with some of the significant issues of the late 20th century: the rise of terrorism, the end of the Cold War and some of the big social questions: women's place in society - how can work and family be combined? Civil liberties - how far should the state intrude on the citizens' privacy to ensure their safety? Open government - how much should the public know about the secret state and how should it be controlled? These are some of the issues that concerned me throughout my career in MI5, and which I discuss in this book.'

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Review:

You have to admire the cheek of Open Secret's author Stella Rimington. After a career spanning 25 years in MI5, during which she was more than happy for the Official Secrets Acts to be used to the government's advantage, she is now outraged that attempts should have been made to block publication of her memoirs and is calling for the act to be reformed. In an extended preface to Open Secret, Rimington writes of her encounter with Cabinet secretary, Sir Richard Wilson, "By the end of an hour or so of being threatened, bullied and cajoled in the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger way the Establishment behaves to its recalcitrant sons and, as I now know, daughters, I was very shaken". One wonders what else she expected? The thought of any former director-general of MI5 writing his or her memoirs was bound to have disturbed the security services and, compared to many, Rimington got off lightly. But then, whatever else she might think, Rimington is still very much an Establishment woman. She submitted her manuscript for vetting, took out one or two edgy bits, and as she disarmingly points out, there are no revelations about the inner workings of the intelligence services. When she gets to any contentious issues, such as MI5's role in infiltrating CND and breaking the miners' strike, all she has to say is that MI5 never did anything wrong, that that those who say otherwise are conspiracy theorists and that we'll just have to take her word for it because she's right. The portrait that emerges of a bunch of mildly incompetent bureaucrats who wouldn't say boo to a goose does no favours to Rimington or MI5. The books does have its moments, particularly those describing a woman isolated in an almost exclusively male world, but its real significance lies in the fact it was published at all. If the director-general is allowed to go public, there's precious little to stop the MI5 foot soldiers doing likewise. And when they do, the skeletons that Rimington has kept firmly locked in the cupboard might start to come tumbling out. -- John Crace

Review:

"The story of MI5's transformation... is fascinating. So too is Rimington's account of her rise in what was very definitely a man's world." -- "The Guardian "The most effective Secret Service is the one which is secret. She should shut up." -- Bernard Ingham "Stella Rimington deserves our thanks for resisting the bullying of the cabinet office and many of her colleagues and associates in Whitehall and pushing on to publication." -- "New Statesman "From the Trade Paperback edition.

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RIMINGTON, Stella
Published by Hutchinson (2001)
ISBN 10: 0091793602 ISBN 13: 9780091793609
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Stella RIMINGTON
Published by Hutchinson (2001)
ISBN 10: 0091793602 ISBN 13: 9780091793609
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Book Description Hutchinson, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 91793602

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