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Reuters and MI6

Based on my own rather limited experience with the SIS, there was indeed some sort of "Reuters off limits" policy operating there. But it was not always followed to the letter, at least not in the early 1960s.

Before I joined Reuters, and after being trained as a Russian interpreter during military service in 1956-58, I was contacted by a very affable Scot who took me out to lunch. What he/they wanted was for me to "get a feel for what the climate was like among the Soviet students" at Moscow University, where I was heading for a year on a British Council scholarship.

There was no more contact until I returned a year later, when I was quite happy to recount my experiences in a rather bare apartment somewhere near Millbank, since I was already writing about them for a British political journal anyway.

A few weeks later, I was accepted as a trainee at Reuters and I thought I would never hear from the SIS again. But about a year later, in 1963, I was invited out again - another Scot - and asked if I might be ready to "make friends" with Soviet exchange students in London and report back on their attitudes. I can't honestly remember if I said yes or no, but I was far too busy with a complicated love life (a year before I met my future wife), apart from making my way on the Africa Desk, to get involved.

Over all the subsequent years in Moscow - about 17 in all for Reuters - I was, and I should say thankfully, never approached again. Not by the SIS at any rate. ■