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Monday, 13 September, 1999, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Q&A: A spy revealed
Melita Norwood believed communism gave hope to millions
Cambridge academic Christopher Andrew explains how Melita Norwood - alias Hola - became one of the KGB's most highly rated spies.

How did this information come to light?

"I have been working for the last few years on an intelligence archive which is so extraordinary that if I had not seen it I would not have believed it.

"In 1992, a dissident KGB officer, Vasili Mitrokhin, brought, with the help of British intelligence, the contents of thousands of the KGB's most highly classified files - files that were never intended to see the light of day.

"Hola's file is simply one among thousands."

How highly was she rated by the KGB?

Britain Betrayed
"At the end of the 1930s, the KGB had purged many of its foreign intelligence officers, so they were only able to carry on remaining in contact with those that they really rated.

"There was a young fellow called Kim Philby and they thought he was quite promising, but actually he was not top of the list and they broke contact with him - they didn't break contact with Melita Norwood.

"She distinguishes herself from the so called 'magnificent five' in a number of ways.

"They failed to keep their secrets. They were all discovered one after the other.

"The only reason that we know her story at all is because a KGB officer did something which was absolutely unbelievable and got her file out at the beginning of the 1990s."

What sort of information did she pass on to the KGB?

She provided scientific and technological secrets for a period of 40 years, but (the files show that the KGB) are truly and predictably thrilled when she gets hold of the atomic files in 1945.

"They tell her that they are tremendously valuable and on no account to tell her husband what she is doing."

How was her work recognised by the KGB?

"Later in her career they award her - in 1958 with the Order of the Red Banner and in 1960 with a small pension. This is to show her how good she is rather than because she is asking for money."

"Even on her retirement in 1979, she goes to Moscow and they say "What can we do for you? Can we give you a lot of money?"

She says: "No, I did it because I believe in it."

Should action be taken against her?

"I think it is highly unlikely that there is a case which meets legal standards of evidence. What we have are the contents of the KGB files. What lawyers would demand in court would be the original files and it is an awful long time ago.

"My own view is that Melita Norwood made a tragic and a terrible mistake.

"She began working for one of the most loathsome regimes in the history of the 20th century.

"But through her red-tinted spectacles she saw the first state to run by and for working people free from the mass unemployment of the 1930s in Britain, free from the loathsome snobbery of the 1930s.

"Amazingly she still seems to substitute that myth image which bears no relation to reality for the horrid regime she worked for."

Are there any other people to emerge from the Mitrokhin files?

"There are, and some of them will be disclosed next week."

Professor Andrew: "Extraordinary archive"
"KGB stayed in contact with Melita Norwood"
"KGB thrilled with atomic secrets"
"One of the all-time greats"
"Red-tinted spectacles"
"More revelations to come"
See also:

13 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
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