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Operation TIGRESS: deception for counterintelligence and Britain’s 1952 atomic test

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Intelligence History
Volume14
Issue number1
Early online date14 Aug 2014
DOIs
Accepted/In press9 Jul 2014
E-pub ahead of print14 Aug 2014
PublishedJan 2015

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Abstract

Britain tested its first atomic weapon on the Montebello islands, off Western Australia, in October 1952. This test, known as HURRICANE, was supported by an elaborate deception operation, one designed to deceive the Soviets about the date and the true nature of the test. This article examines this deception. It introduces Britain’s post-war deception organisations, the London Controlling Section, later the Directorate of Forward Plans, and how they worked closely with Britain’s atomic scientists from early in the Cold War. Their plans were complicated both by the Soviets’ success in gathering intelligence on Britain’s nuclear programme, and by the West’s difficulty in gathering intelligence on Soviet dispositions. Nevertheless, they utilised a broad range of channels, both open and secret, to implement their scheme. The manner in which they operated suggests that the deception and intelligence machinery had clearly adapted their methods to the Cold War environment, but that the task was considerably more difficult than the one they faced in wartime.

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