We are delighted to welcome back in from the cold, the former SIS officer and author Nicholas Anderson, to talk about his new (and final) book in his explosive NOC trilogy out on May 1 and available for pre-order now – NOC Three Times: Knock-On Effect.
What has been the over-arching experience been like writing and now completing this trilogy?
Mainly closure, personally. Then, as I was getting older, I didn’t realise how little people knew about what was really going on behind closed doors. The dumbing down of knowledge over the decades needs to be reversed. I’m making an effort to educate readers on subjects that previous to seeing it in one of The NOC Trilogy instalments, they were not previously aware it existed, and now they do know.
What can readers expect of this 3rd installment in the series and what would you like them to take away?
Further insights into the dastardly world I came from! Hopefully, it opens doors in readers’ minds. Actually several of those that have read each of my books a second time have e-mailed me to say they admitted they missed a lot the first time around.
Each book imparts Eastern philosophy, seemingly a paradox within traditional Western intelligence, so how has this helped you in your career?
When I occasionally found myself in the deep end, I think it was a lot to do with my own way of surviving the difficulties I was facing. I mean my way of reasoning, to myself, is to say, ‘It is what it is.’ Then psychologically this sends the message, in a karmic way, to all and sundry that were present and to my inner self ‘to fully accept the situation and now it is time to move on’. And then you do. Looking back, I can’t proffer a more logical explanation on how I did it, I must admit. So adopting this mind-set is the next best thing.
You have borne witness to the best and worst of humanity while both in the field and the corridors of power. Which side is winning that war?
Well, those that know me well would tell you that I’m a can-do, positive character. I mean I’ve often been told that so I must be. But to answer your question, I would say that the people are losing and the few are winning at their expense. I say, don’t be the useful idiots they take us for.
What is your opinion of the current intelligence strategies to combat terrorism?
To understand the mind of the Islamic terrorist, we in the West are regarded as softies with our largesse, human rights laws and extending the benefit of the doubt by talking before acting, etcetera. So we first need to comprehend their views of us in order to effect change for the better. This perceived soft underbelly of ours – it is really a strength – will only be understood by the other side (jihadis) with an iron fist, which they will understand better. Absolutely two wrongs do not make a right but I am choosing the lesser of two evils. I realise my statement may come across as a contradiction but that’s my view, having come the full circle around to where I am today. We have to punch them into submission and not sit back and watch the train coming at us.
Your NOC assignments took you to many hotspots including Belfast, Lebanon, Bulgaria and Africa. Do you feel that these places are better off as a result of the work that you and your colleagues undertook?
Yes and no. You can’t lump them all into one generalised yea or nay. Each has its positives and negatives. Northern Ireland and Bulgaria have since moved forward. Lebanon and Africa have not. What works and what doesn’t? I would say every nation and its people has to find the answers their own way without undue interference from outsiders. But the human conditions doesn’t unravel that way, does it? Very few of us readily accept another person’s views, especially if it clashes with what was already in their head. Most stubbornly want someone else to convert to their own way of thinking. And there lies the problem! Agreeing to disagree works best, compromising, but it is oh so difficult to achieve in practice.
You obviously have to be careful about using real names but certain organisations and names are mentioned such as Kintex in Bulgaria. What informed decisions when to use them?
If the details already appears in the public domain in some form then I am free to mention the name. But if it doesn’t, especially under the laws of England, which are rather draconian and protects the bad boy, then I do not venture forth with naming the actual name. I can only hint subtly, and sometimes not so subtly. Nobody wants to be sued for slander.
Is this it for your writing career now or do you have any unfinished business?
I most certainly do have a lot of unfinished business. Will I ever get to the very end and conclude to myself that I’m satisfied with justice…no, not really. It’s a neverending journey. I probably will write another book or three, yes.
The recent Panama Papers leak about money laundering is something you had written about in books in places such as Bulgaria and Belize. Why do you think it was the media rather than intelligence agencies that have exposed this?
It was a combination of both. I understand that hackers like Anonymous first broke into Mossack Fonseca’s computers that were, astonishingly, last upgraded seven years previously. Who pays those hackers in the first place? I can only speculate. What’s interesting is all this hoo-ha emanates from exposing only the fourth largest law firm (Mossack Fonseca) involved in offshore incorporations. The mind boggles what those in first, second and third in size are hiding.
In Thunderball, Ian Fleming wrote that “Wishful intelligence, the desire to please or reassure the recipient, was the most dangerous commodity in the whole realm of secret information.” Care to comment from your experiences?
Hmm, by way of commenting on that, I can only refer to what George Blake, an SIS (MI6) mole who betrayed us and spied for the Soviet Union before exfiltrating (defecting) there, noted. In his own book he wrote something that I always thought was true in the almost two decades I served. I quote him:
“MI6 is one of those types of organisations that once they have taken a decision on a subject then tries to interpret everything thereafter to so confirm that decision and subsequently also tends to discount matters which is contrary to that decision.”
A long sentence he wrote! This wrong mind-set from the start to the end is the most dangerous commodity in the whole realm of secret information because it is distorted from the onset. If it commences inaccurate it will sure-fire end inaccurate. It doesn’t somehow later corrects itself.
A 19-year veteran of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Servic, who in 2002-2007, was recalled to active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now retired and resides in the French Riviera where he continues to write his fictionalized covert action stories based on true life experiences.
Read our previous interview with Mr. Anderson