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Monday, 24 August 2015

Why the BBC and the Daily Mail ran a false story on anti-fascist campaigner, Cedric Belfrage

On Friday morning (21st August), the BBC ran a story on its website entitled, Cedric Belfrage, the WW2 spy Britain was embarrassed to pursue. The right-wing press had the same story. The Daily Mail used the headline, More prized than Philby, the film critic turned Soviet agent who passed secrets while working for British security services in the US - but was never tried whereas the Financial Times went with Cedric Belfrage — ‘sixth man’ Soviet spy who hid in plain sight.

Later that day the BBC and Channel 4 broadcast the same story. These newspaper articles and television programmes had the same information and was clearly based on some kind of Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) press release about the journalist, Cedric Belfrage, who died in 1990. It must have accompanied the latest release of intelligence documents that had arrived in the National Archives. They all included quotes from Professor Christopher Andrew, the official historian of MI5. He told The Daily Mail: "Moscow were so pleased with him (Belfrage) they held him as a key asset and held him in higher regard than Philby, a member of the notorious Cambridge Five spy ring."

MI5 also provided quotes from Svetlana Lokhova, who is described as an expert on Russian intelligence (this is not supported by a search on the web although she does seem to have been a student at Cambridge University, where Andrew has taught for many years). Lokhova argues "I think he was one of the most important spies the Soviet Union ever had". Gordon Corera of the BBC tells us that "Ms Lokhova and Prof Andrew both say the fact the KGB has never revealed anything about Belfrage suggests he was important".

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