This is the only history that exists of the famed British secret intelligence agency, MI6, the service responsible for gathering intelligence overseas. Chapters focus on each of the reigning MI6 chiefs, beginning with Sir Mansfield Cumming, and describe clandestine operations that took place during each chief's tenure through 2004. Made famous by the wildly popular James Bond 007 movies, the London-based organization—known internally as The Firm and to other agencies as The Friends—has attracted a great deal of attention over the years as it collected secret foreign intelligence around the world. Until the publication of this book in 1983, however, the truth about the service's past had remained largely unwritten. Nigel West, the author, is the pseudonym of Rupert Allison, a Conservative ex-MP who has written numerous spy books under the West name. Until 2010, when an "official" history of MI6 through the early Cold War is scheduled to be published, this book remains the only source to turn to.