Kim Philby. (Image: Public domain)

Kim Philby was a British spy who worked for MI6 for three decades. The whole time, he was working for the KGB, and in the 1960s, confronted with real evidence of his double agenting, he managed to escape Britain and defect to the Soviet Union. It was one of the biggest scandals in the history of the Secret Intelligence Service.

Recently, the BBC found film of Philby explaining exactly how he pulled it all off.

In 1981, Philby traveled to East Germany to instruct other spies in the craft. He explains that he was able to sneak documents out of the MI6 by befriending an archivist, who gave him access to documents he had no business having access to. After that, his job was simple enough: he would write up reports, which included the documents, put them in a briefcase, and leave the office. He’d hand the papers over to a Soviet contact to photograph, get them back the next morning, and return them to the archive.

Spycraft wasn’t always so simple, though: once he had to organize a (bloodless) palace coup against his boss to rise in the ranks.

The other key to Philby’s success was his upper-class background. Anyone who suspected him of double-crossing Britain would have to have a case strong enough to beat out any strings Philby might pull to salvage his own reputation.

Here are some excerpts from the talk:

So, here are the keys to 20th century spycraft: Be posh, get an archivist drunk, deny, deny, deny.

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