Secret Society

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During the winter of 1985–1986, journalist Duncan Campbell was commissioned by the BBC to make a television documentary series Secret Society. The six episodes were as follows:

  • The Secret Constitution: Secret Cabinet Committees (also known as 'Cabinet')
  • We're All Data Now: Secret Data Banks
  • In Time Of Crisis: Government Emergency Powers
  • The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO): making up their own law and policy
  • Zircon - about GCHQ with particular reference to a secret £500m satellite.
  • A Gap In Our Defences


One of the episodes of Duncan Campbell's (1987) Secret Society (entitled 'Cabinet'), is only now recently widely available on the web. This exposed a conspiracy surrounding the secret decision-making process to buy U.S. Trident nuclear missiles and site Cruise missiles, a cabinet level dirty tricks campaign against CND and its general secretary Bruce Kent, the British Atlantic Committee's role in this, the activities of the ultra-right Coalition for Peace Through Security and the role of Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies members, Peter Blaker and Alan Lee Williams. The intrigue around this was portrayed as part of a process keeping key decisions secret from Secretaries of State as well as MP's. Secret Society was suppressed because it exposed miscellaneous secret groups operating invisibly inside British government.

The constitution's mysteries are compounded with the use of anonymous, ad hoc committees with secret memberships, given coded numbers (such as GEN 29 — Campbell argues that they are more secret than MI5 and MI6). In the words of Times correspondent, Peter Hennessy, interviewed in the programme:

"...with complete lack of self irony labour minister (progressive to the last man and woman) go along with this nonsense, whereby these committees do not exist. It's as if the decisions come out of the æther, as if they hear the voices like Joan of Arc."

These committees were, again in the words of Hennessy: "informal ad hoc groups which [Margaret Thatcher] could stack to get the result she requires."

However, formal cabinet sub-groups were also used such as The Ministerial Group on Nuclear Weapons and Public Opinion together with MISC 7, the seventh miscellaneous group used by Thatcher and a secret committee working on the replacement of Polaris with Trident and arranging the siting of Cruise missiles. For Campbell this process revivified CND and encouraged the campaigns around Trident and Cruise (the programme notes that opinion polls showed the majority of the population were opposed to both moves). The committees became the focal point in government steps to turn the tide of public opinion with propaganda campaigns and dirty tricks. With fears that the defence issue could loose the next election, what emerged was a campaign against CND, described as:

"...a remarkable catalogue of Whitehall improprieties: one group broke the law, government and foreign money was channelled into other groups and the government itself was accused of improperly involving Civil Servants in party politics."

Campbell argues that the campaign against CND operated on three levels and breaks down the campaign's organisation into three initial sections involving: the Government, Conservative party and sympathetic outside organisations. Below is a reproduction of Campbell's diagram.

Secret Society diagram

The Government's secret cabinet MISC 7 led onto the secret sub-group the Ministerial Group on Nuclear Arms and Public Opinion, chaired by the IEDSS' Peter Blaker backed up with junior ministers from the Home and Foreign Offices. Campbell states that the main focus was the Civil Defence programme, including the film ‘Protect and Survive,' which also became an IEDSS obsession as it aimed to counter the response by the non-parliamentary left, particularly with their response to E. P. Thomson's expose 'Protest and Perish'. For Campbell ‘Protect and Survive' failed miserably and made the population more worried about Nuclear war and this encouraged a disgraceful PR campaign by the government's committees. Led by Blaker (and Home Office Civil Defence Minister Patrick Mayhew) these, in 1982, concocted a revised version of the effects of a potential nuclear strike by the Soviets as mostly falling on uninhabited areas and not on marginal constituencies. This revised National Civil Defence Exercise (the last) was so unrealistic it was canceled by the Home Secretary "who blamed opposition from ‘Nuclear Free' local authorities" (another target of right-wing covert operations according to Brian Crozier's Free Agent p. 251). For Campbell this was the first attempt by the government to win the population away from the Peace Movement.

At the same time the Conservative party set up a committee of their own The Campaign for Peace Through Freedom (CPTF) chaired by Winston Churchill, Campbell draws from the testimony of Piers Wooley who worked for the committee who stated that the CPTF was an umbrella organisation [which] "set out to co-ordinate the activities of the British Atlantic Committee and the Coalition for Peace Through Security."

For Campbell the BAC was a highly respected pro-NATO study group with member from all parties — it is not mentioned but this included future NATO secretary (and member of numerous Atlanticist organisations) George Robertson who was on the BAC Council from 1979-90 and yet was remarkably quiet about the matter. The BAC received an increase in funding to promote an "all-out attack on CND". According to Wooley, Ken Aldred was BAC's representative on CPTF and he reported back to BAC with Alan Lee Williams about the political stance on Nuclear weapons resulting in a Charity Commissioners enquiry and BAC (supposedly) removal from the group. The CPTS, ran by three Tory candidates and US business man, was, like the IEDSS, funded by the Heritage Foundation ($60,000) and produced, along with other anti-CND groups such as BAC: ‘50 Tough Questions for CND' and engaged in disruptions and provocations against CND.

In 1983, when Michael Hesletine took over at the MOD to attack CND, he set up DS 19 as an anti-CND think tank and used MI5 to smear leading CND officers particularly Bruce Kent, with CND portrayed as a ‘front for the Soviet Union' and further contributing to the disinformation and character assassination. Once the 1983 election was over DS 19 was disbanded. The programme describe it as: "a piece of propaganda to back up the government" in the 2 years preceding the 1983 election.

What is not explained in the programme is the role of RUSI, the English Speaking Union and the Council for Arms Control, other than as fora suborned to the anti-CND project.

Francis Leonard Holihan was linked to the Heritage Foundation and, it is claimed, misappropriated funds from them intended for the Coalition For Peace Through Security, transferring them into his own Washington Bank account.[1] This also alleges that:

In 1983 he schemed with right-wing Oklahoma lawyer R. Marc Nuttle ('National Field Consultant' to the Committee For The Survival of a Free Congress) to lure Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to a luncheon for the Private Enterprises Foundation. It is claimed that Holihan's share of the proceeds was to be nothing less than $50,000. Unfortunately for Holihan the June 1983 election intervened and Thatcher cut short her US visit following the Williamsburg summit meeting.

According to [2], MI5 officer Cathy Massiter was instructed to carry out the phone-tapping operation by Tony Crasweller, who also supervised MI5's F4 and F6 sections, which ran agents inside political parties and organisations. At the same time, CND member Stanley Bonnett, a former editor of the CND magazine Sanity, was recruited as an informant by Special Branch, on the instructions of MI5. Massiter gathered material on any left-wing affiliations of CND's leaders. A report was then passed to DS19's John Ledlie, who passed it to Michael Heseltine and Sir Peter Blaker who, in turn, passed the information on to the local Conservative Association of Ray Whitney, former head of the Information Research Department, and also with Blaker in the IEDSS.

Brian Crozier[3] reported that his group, the 61 also created fake peace groups to counter the work of CND. One such group, mentioned is the Coalition for Peace Through Security, which he states included Edward Leigh and Julian Lewis (introduced to Crozier by Norris McWhirter), who he states became The 61's leading activist in Britain.

Crozier states he was involved in setting up the Council for Arms Control, run by John Edmonds, a former Foreign Office official, and involving General Sir Hugh Beach (former Warden of St George's House, Windsor Castle) from 1986-89 when he chaired the Ministry of Defence Study Groups on Censorship; Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Lowry of the Atlantic Council of the UK, the European Movement and the European-Atlantic Group; Lord Gilbert; Col John Speight; Peter Foster, former British Ambassador to the German Democratic Republic; the IEDSS' Peter Blaker (also with the the right-wing Freedom Association) and a co-founder was Ray Whitney of the IEDSS and IRD. The council published several works in the 1980s including Philip Towle (who also wrote for the IEDSS on CND) and has worked with Saferworld, the Oxford Research Group and the Centre for Defence Studies. According to the Guardian, November 9, 1984, this was used as a platform to attack and exclude CND (via Sir Frank Cooper) from discussions.

In British Government's Campaign against CND: Ray Whitney and 'Black Propaganda' by Nikolay Gorshkov (from a 1983 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts from the Soviet Union) it is stated that:

A co-founder of this council, Ray Whitney, was until recently the leader of the secret Information Research Section at the Foreign Office. As the creators of this section admitted, the main purpose of the section was to conduct black propaganda. In a slightly changed form, this section is still engaged in propaganda aimed at setting up what it refers to as favourable political attitudes.

This wondered why the government funded such a harmless front as the BAC, and suggested:

Out of the 60% of Britons who said in public opinion polls that they support the CND, about one-third vote Conservative. That is surely an indication that the too obvious connivance with the selfish interests of the USA produces no excess of enthusiasm even among supporters of the Conservative Party. That is exactly why various councils, associations and coalitions are set up to try to deceive the public and to discredit the anti-war movement. [...] we can see that there are the all-too familiar persons in them, [...]who are constantly linked with the government. They move from one organization to another. One noticeable figure is Winston Churchill Jr., who officially is in charge of the struggle against the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at the Tory head-quarters. In this struggle the Tories draw heavily on assistance from their partners in Washington and the NATO HQ in Brussels. For example, NATO finances almost entirely the youth wing of the British Atlantic Committee. As for the so-called Coalition for Peace Through Security, which is closely linked with Winston Churchill Jr., it gets funds from the American Heritage Foundation. The foundation is the (brain trust) of millionaires. It's prompted President Reagan to launch a crusade against communism.

These revelations broadcast by Moscow would not only annoy the government's secret warriors but provide the criticisms that inquiry into their operations was Soviet-directed. They appeared as early as the November 6, 1981, British "Council for Arms Control" Linked with NATO Propaganda Campaign, Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union in Russian (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts). This noted:

...local observers directly link the creation of the new organization with the recent adoption within the NATO framework of a decision to unleash a mass propaganda campaign in order to convince the West European public of the need for the arms race and at the same time to besmirch the peace supporters' movement by accusing it of not being competent [...]the organizers of the Council for Arms Control have avoided giving a direct reply to persistent questions from journalists about the sources of finance for its activities. They confined themselves to the statement that the funds would be forthcoming in the form of voluntary donations. Furthermore, this new organization will be spending quite considerable sums. Judging by statements made by representatives of the council, it also intends to co-operate with the BBC, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, which are well-known for their frenzied anti-Sovietism.

CIA Director William Casey provided Crozier with £50,000 in 1981 and $100,000 the following year to aid with the expansion of anti-Peace Movement activities into Europe. This funding is said to have come through intermediaries, most likely the Heritage Foundation. In his correspondence with Casey (p. 244-245), in 1981 Crozier seems to be critical of Blaker's lack of action, but cites the Julian Lewis CPTS activities as parallel to his own European efforts, with the two coming together with his Heritage Foundation-funded (1983) The Price of Peace and Vladimir Bukovsky's (1982) The Peace Movement and the Soviet Union published jointly by the Coalition for Peace Through Security and The Committee for a Free World (and introduced by Winston Churchill) and also ran in Commentary in 1982, shortly before he joined the Hoover Institution and bacame active in neo-conservative and intelligence circles (including becoming Vice-President of The Freedom Association).

Milan Hauner's (2008) Charter 77 and Western Peace Movements (1980-84), Paper presented at 'Peace Movements in the Cold War and Beyond: An International Conference' at the London School of Economics (where quiet a few of our IRD/CCF sovietologists worked) tries to show the connection between CND and the Soviets, drawing on Vladimir Bukovsky and others, arguing that: "Through its skilful propaganda the Soviets seemed to have succeeded initially in manipulating Western peace movements to take a radical anti-American stand." But in a footnote states this:

Regarding claims of covert Soviet funding of Western anti-nuclear groups, in 1982, John McMahon, the CIA's deputy director, testified before the Congress that the USSR had channeled $100 million annually to the anti-nuclear movements in the West (quoted from "Opposition to The Bomb" by Bruce Kennedy, www.CNN Interactive - accessed 12.3.2007). This claim has yet to be substantiated by evidence from the other side. In any case, although every one knew that the Soviets were financing peace activities in the West, one cannot say that anti-nuclear groups were Soviet tools.

Winston S. Churchill's (1982) The Only Way to Peace, from the US TV programme , "Counterpoint: A Clash of Ideas," quotes a more forthcoming opinion by Bukovsky:

But as a matter of fact, the upsurge of this movement, this huge campaign, was very much instrumented by the Soviet government. In some Soviet publications recently, they quite openly said that they do help peace movements, morally and materially, as they put it. They do help with financing the gatherings, the conferences, the discussions, and so on. They don't conceal the fact. It gives them more possibilities of manipulating world politics. It gives them a chance to increase their defenses while preventing the West from establishing once again a balance of forces. And above all, it creates hysteria in the world.


  • Mark Urban Zircon, UK Eyes Alpha: The Inside Story of British Intelligence, London: Faber and Faber, 1997.


  1. Lobster (1984) The Anti-CND Groups, No.4, drawing on 'The Men Who Are Dying To Win', in Sanity February 1984,
  2. (2003) British Intelligence and the Covert Propaganda Front —and the CIA's Interference in British Politics
  3. Free Agent p. 243