The State of Secrecy by Richard Norton-Taylor review – spooks in the spotlight

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In a penetrating and entertaining memoir, the Guardian’s former intelligence reporter exposes the folly of excessive state secrecy

It was the 1960s and Richard Norton-Taylor had just finished Oxford with a third-class degree in history. “What would you like to do?” his tutor asked him. Norton‑Taylor shrugged. A few days later, he found himself arriving at a grand building in Carlton Gardens.

It was the headquarters of MI6. Upstairs a figure with a military bearing in a pin-stripe suit greeted Norton-Taylor. The person said: “Don’t tell anyone you have come here.” Another interview followed. It featured questions on the policy of Harold Wilson’s Labour government towards Southern Rhodesia.

The “fetish” for keeping the public ignorant is absurd and counterproductive, he argues

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