Intelligence Release Policies

United Kingdom

The Public Record Office lists new releases of government documents at: A Research Guide to intelligence records in the British National Archives is found at: The records are under the following headings: War Office, Admiralty, Air Ministry, Signals Intelligence, Foreign Office, Records of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Joint Intelligence Committee, the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) and its successors, and Defence Intelligence Staff.

The UK's D-Notice System (Now DA-Notice System), managed by the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee, has a Website at

Aldrich, Richard J.

1. "British and American Policy on Intelligence Archives: Never-Never Land and Wonderland?" Studies in Intelligence 38, no. 5 (1995): 17-26. "Never Never Land and Wonderland: British and American Policy on Intelligence Archives." Contemporary Record 8, no. 1 (Summer 1994): 132-150. [With footnotes]

The author initially looks at the importance of recently released papers, using the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and Pearl Harbor as a case study. Aldrich finds nothing in the JIC minutes for 1941 to support the revisionist suggestion that Churchill had and withheld foreknowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In comparing British and American policy on releasing archival material, Aldrich is positive about the briefer de facto waiting period of the U.S. government and the broader U.S. definition of intelligence which includes military intelligence. In addition, there seems to be a profusion of British secret service materials for the period before 1945 available in the U.S. archives.

2. "'Grow Your Own': Cold War Intelligence and History Supermarkets." Intelligence and National Security 17, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 135-152.

"Ultimately, historians who feast only on the processed food available in the PRO's efficient history supermarket may begin to display a flabby posture. There is no such thing as a free lunch and the hidden tariff at the PRO is a pre-selected menu."

3. "Policing the Past: Official History, Secrecy and British Intelligence since 1945." English Historical Review 119 (Sep. 2004): 922-964.

4. "The Waldegrave Initiative and Secret Service Archives: New Materials and New Policies." Intelligence and National Security 10, no. 1 (Jan. 1995): 192-197.

Andrew, Christopher. "Whitehall, Washington and the Intelligence Services." International Affairs 53 (Jul. 1977): 390-404.

Petersen: "U.S. vs. U.K. attitudes on release of information on intelligence."

Andrews, Patricia M. "Changing Attitudes in Government to Record Closures." Journal of the Society of Archivists 19, no. 1 (1998): 17-24.

Bennett, Gill. "Declassification and Release Policies of the UK's Intelligence Agencies." Intelligence and National Security 17, no.1 (Spring 2002): 21-32.

The author is "Chief Historian at the Foreign & Commenwealth Office [FCO] and Senior Editor of the FCO's official post-war documentary history series, Documents on British Policy Overseas." Here, she discusses "the current policies on declassification and release" of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ.

Clark, James, and Maurice Chittenden. "Law Forces MI5 to Open Its Files." Sunday Times (London), 23 Sep. 2001. []

"MI5 is to be forced to open many of its secret files to the public for the first time.... An independent tribunal has accepted that a blanket ban on releasing information ... is unlawful under the Data Protection Act. In future people will be able to apply to see files held on them by the security service, although much sensitive information will still be held back."

Ferris, John.

1. "'Now that the Milk Is Spilt': Appeasement and the Archive on Intelligence." Diplomacy & Statecraft 19, no. 3 (2008): 527-565.

2. "The Road to Bletchley Park: The British Experience with Signals Intelligence, 1892-1945." Intelligence and National Security 17, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 53-84.

The author examines "the state of the evidence and the literature on British signals intelligence between 1892 and 1945,... consider[s] how the evidence in the public domain has changed since the Waldegrave Initiative,... [and] sketches an alternative history of British signals intelligence during 1892-1945."

Hoare, Oliver, ed. "Special Issue on British Intelligence in the Twentieth Century: A Missing Dimension?" Intelligence and National Security 17, no. 1 (Spring 2002): Entire issue.

"This special issue contains the papers given at a two-day research conference held at the [P]ublic Record Office (PRO), The National Archive [italics in original], 29-30 June 2001. The conference ... was designed to investigate the impact of recent open government initiatives ... on the study of intelligence, together with the wider reverberations of intelligence upon military, diplomatic and international history." Oliver Hoare, "Introduction," 1. Click for Table of Contents.

Lander, Stephen [Sir]. "British Intelligence in the Twentieth Century." Intelligence and National Security 17, no.1 (Spring 2002): 7-20.

The Director-General of the Security Service (MI5) discusses his service's archival management and release policies.

Lewis, Jeremy R.T. "Freedom of Information: Developments in the United Kingdom." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 3, no. 4 (Winter 1989): 465-473.

Maechling, Charles, Jr. "Official Secrets: British Style/American Style." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 2, no. 3 (Fall 1988): 359-380.

Naylor, John F. "British Memoirs and Official Secrecy: From Crossman to Thatcher." In Political Memoir: Essays on the Politics of Memory, ed. George Egerton.. Newbury Park, Ilford, Essex: Frank Cass, 1994.

Seaman, Mark. "A Glass Half Full -- Some Thoughts on the Evolution of the Study of the Special Operations Executive." Intelligence and National Security 20, no 1 (Mar. 2005): 27-43.

Serious students of SOE must "ply a difficult course through a sea of patchy paperwork and a host of personal accounts of uncertain accuracy." The author comments on "official" histories and records releases.

Security Service - MI5. "The Security Service at The National Archives." At:

From access on 8 August 2012: "We have released nearly 4,000 files to The National Archives, covering a period up to 1957." Covers releases from 1 April 2000 to 17 February 2012. See also, "History: What's in the National Archives?" at: "Security Service files in the National Archives cover many aspects of the Service's work. They fall into a number of distinct categories, which can be found in the National Archives catalogue under five 'KV' headings (KV being the catalogue reference for the Security Service in general)."

Sheffy, Yigal. "British Intelligence and the Middle East, 1900-1918: How Much Do We Know?" Intelligence and National Security 17, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 33-52.

Until World War I, "almost no institutionalized British intelligence agency functioned in the region on a permanent basis." The coming of the war "completely altered the picture." There are sufficient primary sources available to allow serious study within a broad context of the functioning of the British intelligence apparatus in the Middle East during the first two decades of the 20th century. However, "available evidence remains obscure and fragmentary with regard to the inner mechanism of the system."

Smith, Bradley F. "New Intelligence Releases: A British Side to the Story." Intelligence and National Security 14, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 168-175.

The author reviews the volume and diversity of intelligence-related materials released to the Public Record Office in recent years. He notes that British materials are spread across a larger number of record groups than the U.S. releases to the National Archives, because "Britain's most sensitive intelligence activities in World War II ... were spread much more widely across departments than has heretofore been recognized."

Thurlow, Richard C.

1. "The Charm Offensive: The 'Coming Out' of MI5." Intelligence and National Security 15, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 183-190.

2.. "The Historiography and Source Materials in the Study of Internal Security in Modern Britain (1885–1956)." History Compass 6, no. 1 (Jan. 2008): 147–171.

New release policies have "significantly increased the documentary evidence for historians about the evolution and operation of the Security Service during the first half of the twentieth century.... [A]lready there are important debates developing and significant differences appearing about the value of such censored sources. At the very least, however, they provide intriguing information about state policies ... and the debate among the state authorities about national security and civil liberties particularly during the first and second world wars."

Wark, Wesley K. "In Never-Never Land? The British Archives on Intelligence." Historical Journal 35, no. 1 (1992): 195-203.

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