I have recently been investigating a case where the British, French and American intelligence agencies joined together in a conspiracy to assassinate Lenin in August 1918. It is nearly 100 years ago that this event took place and although we know virtually the whole story now, it is not because of the release of official documents.
In 1993 Gordon Brook-Shepherd decided that he would investigate the case. The former intelligence officer worked as a journalist for the Daily Telegraph and was in a good position to discover what had happened as he was trusted by the British establishment. After all, all the people concerned were long dead and the basic outline of the conspiracy had been revealed in 1931 when the wife of one of the agents involved in the conspiracy published an account based on the diaries of her husband, Sidney Reilly, who had been executed in 1925 by the Russian Secret Police (Cheka) for his part in the assassination attempt. In the next couple of years, two other British agents involved in the plot, Robert Bruce Lockhart and George Alexander Hill, published their accounts of the conspiracy. However, the British government refused to release MI6 files that would have confirmed the story.
Brook-Shepherd had a meeting with an unnamed government minister, who had been a close friend for many years. He later recalled that "over several lengthy sessions, I was briefed on everything that had survived in our closed archives on the subject I was dealing with". Eventually he was allowed to see the official documents held by the British intelligence services. He became suspicious when he could not find one reference to Ernest Boyce, the MI6 station chief in Moscow in the summer of 1918 when the conspiracy took place. Brook-Shepherd writes about finding a file headed "Anti-Bolshevik Activities in Russia" but when opened he found it to be completely empty. He eventually reached the conclusion that every document relating to the assassination plot had been destroyed.
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