Image copyright Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records
Image caption Kim Philby devoted a secret lecture to the Stasi, the East German Intelligence Service

A previously unseen video of one of Britain's most infamous snoops describing his career as a Soviet agent has been uncovered by the BBC.

The tape is of Kim Philby devoting a secret lecture to the Stasi, the East German Intelligence Service, in 1981.

It is the first time the ex-MI6 policeman can be seen talking about their own lives as a snoop from his recruitment to his escape.

He describes his career rising up the ranks of MI6 whilst its secrets to the Soviet Union's KGB.

He ends with advice to the East German snoops.


“Dear Comrades.”

With those two words spoken in an impeccable upper-class English accent, one of Britain's most famous snoops and its greatest traitor begins a masterclass in disloyalty to a select audience of East German spies.

Philby's hour-long address was preserved on video tape and never seen in public until now.

The BBC unearthed it in the official archives of the Stasi in Berlin.

It was never constructed for public intake( and the grainy video and poorly synchronised audio shows the limits of technology at the time ), but that entails the former MI6 officer is open about his career in a way never heard before.

‘Enemy camp'

After an introduction from East German spymaster Markus Wolf, who was so elusive to western spy bureaux that he was known for many years as “the man without a face”, Philby attains his way to the lectern to a hero's welcome.

“I must warn you that I am no public speaker, ” Philby says.

“I've spent most of my life trying to avoid publicity of any kind.”

That much is true. Previously the only known video of Philby speaking was a 1955 press conference in his mother's London flat.

On that occasion he said very little, merely denying he was a communist.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Previously the only known video of Philby speaking was a 1955 press conference in his mother's London flat

In this newly discovered video, for the first time, we hear Philby himself boast about what he calls his “3 0 years in the adversary camp”.

He describes himself as born into “the ruling class of the British Empire” and explains how he first was drawn towards communism at Cambridge.

He details his recruitment by the Soviet intelligence service, later known as the KGB, after he returned from working with activists in Austria.

The most surprising thing about his recruitment, he says, was that it happened at all since he had no real job or prospects at that moment.

“It was basically a long range project. No immediate outcomes were expected or could have been expected.”

Image copyright Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records
Image caption In the video he explains how he first was drawn towards communism at Cambridge

He says his Soviet contact did convey his ambitions for his recruit.

“It was induced perfectly clear to me that the best target in the eyes of the Centre in Moscow would be the British Secret Service.”

Philby details how he spent years trying to work his route in – turning to journalism, working for The Times newspaper, encompassing the Spanish Civil War, building up contacts in the creation and then as war came falling hints about his desire to work for government.

At last, he was interviewed and accepted in to the inner sanctum of the British country – the Secret Intelligence Service – SIS( or as it is popularly known MI6 ).

In one of the most remarkable segments of the talk, Philby then exposes just how easy it was to steal secrets from Britain's secret service.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Philby describes his career rising up the ranks of Britain's MI6

He says that he simply attained friends with the archivists who managed the files by going out two or three times a week for a drink with him.

This allowed Philby to get hold of files which had nothing to do with his own job.

“If there had been proper discipline in the handled with papers in SIS that would have been quite impossible.

“But there was, in fact , no discipline.”

Philby goes on to explain what he did with all the documents.

“Every evening I left the office with a big briefcase full of reports that I had written myself, full of files and actual documents issued for the archive.

“I used to hand them to my Soviet contact in the evening.

“The next morning I would get the files back, the contents having been photographed and early the next morning I would set them back in their place. That I did regularly year in year out.”

‘Very dirty story'

Philby, a Soviet agent, is then appointed number two in a new MI6 section, devoted to countering Soviet espionage.

His KGB handler next instructs him to get the top chore by removing his boss, Felix Cowgill.

“I said ‘Are you proposing to shoot him or something? ‘” Philby recalls asking.

Instead his instructions were to use bureaucratic intrigue.

“So I set about the business of removing my own chief. You oughtn't to listen to this, ” he tells the audience of secret service policemen to considerable laughter.

He succeeded.

“It was a very dirty story – but after all our work does connote getting dirty hands from time to time but we do it for a cause that is not dirty in any way, ” Philby explains.

“I have to admit that was the most blatant intrigue against a man I instead liked and I admired but the instructions stood and nothing I could do would alter them.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption In his lecturing Philby claimed he helped prevent World War Three

There is one episode which is usually cited to illustrate the human cost of Philby's treachery.

When he was posted to Washington DC as MI6's liaison with the CIA and FBI, he betrayed an operation to secretly send thousands of Albanians back into their country to overthrow the communist regime.

Many were killed.

In his lecture, Philby tries to turn it to his credit – even claiming he helped avoid World War Three.

He claims that if he had not compromised the operation and it had succeeded, the CIA and MI6 would have tried it again in countries like Bulgaria.

He says the Soviet Union would then have become involved, leading to an all-out war.

Escape from Beirut

While he was in Washington, two fellow Cambridge snoops, Burgess and Maclean, fled to Moscow, leading to suspicions about Philby and his interrogation.

He says there were two reasons why he got away with his espionage for so long.

The first was the British class system, which could not accept one of their own was a traitor.

The second was the fact that so many in MI6 had so much to lose if he was proven to be a spy.

Philby did officially leave MI6 but remarkably was soon taken back.

He became an agent based in Beirut under cover of being a newspaper journalist. This allowed him to resume his spying.

Philby objective the formal segment of his talk with an account of his escape from Beirut which he uses to mock MI6.

In 1963, an MI6 colleague came to confront him with new evidence pointing to his work for the Soviets.

Philby bluffed and stalled. Another MI6 officer was then left to watch over him.

But that human was an avid skier.

Philby says that news came in of a fresh snowfall and the officer could not defy heading off to the Lebanese mountains to induce the most of it.

At that point, Philby got the signal from the KGB for his deviation and was able to slip away.

Image caption Philby lived in a fifth floor flat in this building in Beirut

Philby then sits down and takes questions from the East German spies.

A fascinating first answer explains how he first acquired his socialist faiths and was then able to hold on to them despite living in the West.

He praises his Soviet handler and advises his audience that they need to take care of the political as well as physical health of any agents they run.

Philby finishes with one piece of advice to the snoops assembled before him that had served him well: never confess.

“If they tackle you with a document with your own handwriting then it's a forgery – merely deny everything

“They interrogated me to break my nerve and force me to confess.

“And all I had to do really was keep my nerve. So my advice to you is to tell all your agents that they are never to confess.”

This video, designed to be secret, is the closest Philby came to a confession in his own words.

The tone is one of total self-confidence.

Philby died in Moscow in 1988 just before the collapse of the Communist ideal which he had expended his life serving.

Hear “The Philby Tape” on BBC Radio 4 on Monday at 08:00 BST .

Read more: www.bbc.co.uk