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Official Secrets


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Heroes and Hacks 2. Poachers and Gamekeepers 3. City of Myths and Contradictions 4. Culture and Language of Secrecy 5. Secrecy Obsessed 6. History is an Official Secret 7. Spies - 1 8. Spies - 2 9. Provoking Terror 10. Chilcot Redux 11. Defending the Past 12. Defending the Future

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An insider account of the worlds of journalism, security, spies and intelligence

About the Author

Richard Norton-Taylor writes for the Guardian on defence and security and the paper's Security Editor. He joined the Guardian in 1973 as the newspaper's first European correspondent based in Brussels and returned to Britain in 1975 to report on issues of intelligence and security. He won the Freedom of Information Campaign Award in 1986 and in 1994, and Liberty's Human Rights Award for journalism in 2010. He currently co-edits the Guardian Defence and Security blog and is a regular broadcaster.


An entertaining and timely book, written by a fine reporter who has made a habit of speaking unwelcome truth to power. * The Observer *
Fans of Norton-Taylor's reporting will enjoy The State of Secrecy, which reprises and updates his admirably determined efforts on these and other topics. Vivid vignettes depict the blunders and quirks of the secret world. He excoriates attempts to suborn friendly journalists with thrills and scoops, and to smear or bully those who write "unhelpful" articles. * Financial Times *
When it comes to matters of defence and security Norton-Taylor is probably Britain's most perceptive, persistent and best informed commentator ... He has succeeded (in exposing the mindset which encourages the fetishisation of official secrecy) brilliantly. * The Irish Times *
Readable, well-structured ... [A] well-timed book. * Standpoint Magazine *
Lively and revealing. * CHOICE *
A lifetime of experience in why, when and how officials prevaricate or lie has trained [Norton-Taylor] to make proper use of an investigative journalist's best source: the leak. * London Review of Books *
A hugely welcome contribution from Richard Norton-Taylor ... providing a richly informed discussion of the relationship between the British security system and the press. * openDemocracy *
In a finely written memoir that every student and observer of British politics and journalism must read, Norton-Taylor rightly identifies secrecy as the British disease which stifles and undermines democracy in this country. It's a classic of telling truth to power from a formidable journalist of real integrity. Uniquely, among British journalists, Norton-Taylor had access to sources at the highest levels of the civil service and the intelligence services but didn't fall for their blandishments and lies. Often faced with deliberate official obstruction and, sometimes, employer indifference, he doggedly pursued stories when the media circus had moved on. In forensic detail and with controlled anger Norton-Taylor revisits the stories, scandals and events which have now drifted back into history but which illustrate the enduring power of secrecy to deny citizens access to truth. * Dr Stephen Dorril, author of MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations *

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