Diplomacy and Secret Service – Online Updating Pages

Chapter 1:   The Ambassador as Agent-runner

p. 3, Box 1.1 (third bullet), English merchants: intelligence from such men was particularly valuable earlier in  the sixteenth century to the efforts of Cardinal Wolsey, right-hand man of King Henry VIII of England, to suppress the production and smuggling into his kingdom of heretical books from Northern Europe, especially from Antwerp (Fudge below, p. 144ff, pp. 172-8).

pp. 5-8, changing role of the ambassador: Firm evidence of a substantial regular bribe, or ‘pension’, still being paid by an embassy to a senior government official in the late nineteenth century is provided by the leading Ottomanist, Feroze Yasamee (see ‘Main references and further reading’ below), citing Foreign Office document FO933/117, held in the National Archives in London. In April 1886 the British Embassy in Istanbul secured the agreement of Artin Efendi (later Pasha) Dadyan to accept a Secret Service pension of £600 per annum. On the face of it, Artin would have been a prized agent for any foreign power. An Armenian who was culturally also Ottoman and European, he was close to the Sultan and under-secretary of state at the Ottoman Foreign Office in 1875-6, 1883-5 and 1885-1901; and, from 1884, also head of the bureau set up to censor ‘harmful’ telegrams from Europe (see Mansel, below). How long Artin remained a British agent is not clear, nor how useful was the intelligence he provided. Some British ambassadors regarded him as untrustworthy and Yasamee doubts his value. But that he was indeed an agent is further confirmed by a letter of 26 February 1909 from the then British Ambassador at Constantinople, Sir Gerard Lowther, to Sir Charles Hardinge, the permanent under-secretary in the Foreign Office in London. Lamenting his insufficiency of Secret Service funds to subsidise the ailing English-language Constantinople newspaper, the Levant Herald, Lowther wrote: ‘In former days we used to give Artin £600 a year, but the £1000 a year given now [for all Secret Service requirements] disappears in driblets on which no further economy can be made’ (Kuneralp and Tokay, see below). It is worth adding that on 29 June 1909, Hardinge told Lowther that ‘the Germans and Russians spend countless sums for information’, and offered to increase his Secret Service allowance, provided it were to be spent only on obtaining better information, and definitely not on subsidising newspapers, to which he had previously told him (23 March 1909) he was ‘in principle opposed’. Gerard replied that he needed no more since Fitzmaurice, his chief dragoman, was able to obtain all the information needed (Kuneralp and Tokay, see below).

pp. 8-9, removal of diplomats from direct involvement in espionage: It must be recorded that a minor late twentieth century counter-development to this trend in the US Foreign Service was revealed by leaked diplomatic cables. In the urgent quest for intelligence in the aftermath of 9/11, US diplomats were instructed to expand the boundaries of the usual information they were expected to obtain themselves to include such items as ‘credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries’ (Mazzetti below).


Main references and further reading

Fudge, John D., Commerce and Print in the Early Reformation (Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2007)

Kuneralp, S. and  Tokay, G. (eds), The Private Correspondence of Sir Gerard Lowther, British Ambassador to Constantinople (1908-1913) (The Isis Press: Istanbul, 2018), pp. 81-2, 91, 137-40

Mansel, P., Constantinople: City of the world’s desire, 1453-1924 (John Murray: London, 1995) pp. 334-5

Mazzetti, Mark, ‘U.S. Expands Role of Diplomats in Spying’, New York Times, 28 Nov. 2010

Yasamee, F. A. K., ‘Some notes on British espionage in the Ottoman Empire, 1878-1908’, in Balim-Harding, C. and C. Imber (eds), The Balance of Truth: Essays in honour of Professor Geoffrey Lewis (Isis Press: Istanbul, 2000)