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John Simkin

Freedom of Information Act and Historians

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The Freedom of Information Act became operational this week. Most of the important information being requested is being rejected on grounds of “national security”. However, despite the fact that the government has been very busy destroying files over the last few months, journalists have started obtaining some interesting information about our past.

One journalist has managed to get the statement made by Harold Wilson to his cabinet when he resigned from office in April 1976. What is interesting is that he denied that his resignation was linked in some way with Watergate. Up until now, the UK public did not know about these rumours that were obviously circulating in government circles. This has raised questions about what the connection could have been. We now know that the CIA was involved in bringing down Nixon. Were they also involved in a plot to bring down Wilson. We now know (via Peter Wright) that a group within MI5 was trying to oust Wilson. Were they getting help from the CIA/FBI in this.

The CIA/FBI and MI5/MI6 did of course work closely together. Seymour Hersh revealed in the Dark Side of Camelot that a group of call girls born in Eastern Europe that were being run by Bobby Baker (Lyndon Johnson’s private secretary) were involved in an attempt to force John F. Kennedy from office in 1963. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI was involved in this plot. What is interesting is that the same girls were also being used by Stephen Ward in London. These were used to trap John Profumo. These events led to the resignation of Harold MacMillan. Kennedy watched these events with great concern. However, he was to lose office weeks later when he was assassinated.

Were MI5 and the FBI involved in these two plots? If so it backfired as the more right-wing Alec Douglas Home was defeated by Harold Wilson. As Wright points out in his book Spycatcher, that is why they needed to plot against Wilson. This included the claim that Wilson was a Soviet agent.

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