“[T]o all intents and purposes US security is being run for them at the President’s request by the British. A British officer sits in Washington with Mr Edgar Hoover [Director FBI] and [Colonel] Bill Donovan [Coordinator of Information] for this purpose and reports regularly to the President. It is of course essential that this fact should not become known in view of the furious uproar it would cause if known to the Isolationists.” – Major Desmond Morton [PM Churchill’s personal secretary for intelligence liaison]
Conceived by Churchill in the desperate spring of 1940 and delivered covertly by MI6, the birth of the Anglo-American intelligence alliance was formalised on 17 May 1943 in the “Britain-United States of America Agreement” (BRUSA). When Churchill became prime minister in May 1940, Britain’s intelligence services found their American counterparts divided and unfit for purpose. Between the wars, the Government Code and Cipher School (GCCS) stole more official secrets from the United States than any other country. Relative to Roosevelt, GCCS’ greatest consumer was by far the better informed suitor during the Anglo-American courtship. In Churchill’s eyes a predominantly isolationist Washington appeared complacently incapable of properly perceiving the existential threat that Nazi Germany posed to America’s and Britain’s eternal interests. As France fell, Britain’s beleaguered new prime minister struggled to secure the nation’s immediate survival and a corollary long-term Allied victory by realising his governing policy objective: the formation of a warfighting alliance with the United States. Informed by GCCS and MI6 covert operations, Churchill adroitly deployed actionable intelligence to lubricate his existential relationship with Roosevelt, engender an Anglophile American central intelligence service, and unify the United States’ disjointed cryptographic services in common cause with GCCS. Against the odds, he succeeded in creating an “unparalleled” security alliance.
Dr John Jenner is Senior Fellow, University of Oxford Rothermere American Institute; Visiting Senior Research Fellow, King’s College London; Director, Bounding Power in the Island Chains, University of Oxford – Office of Naval Research. He holds Master of Studies and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Modern History from Oxford, and held various academic appointments in Asia, Europe, and the USA. Before his election as Senior Fellow at Oxford he was a First Sea Lord Fellow; Research and Teaching Fellow, Joint Services Command and Staff College, Shrivenham; and Visiting Research Fellow, University of Cambridge.
In addition to his academic work, John undertakes governmental analytical assignments for policy makers in Whitehall, Washington, and elsewhere including the Indo-Pacific Brief. His current research focuses on U.S.-China strategic engagements in the Indo-Pacific since the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895).