A former spy handler believes Britain is riddled with undercover foreign agents after it was revealed at the weekend two men were arrested under the Official Secrets Act in March.
M15 believes China is using espionage in an attempt to steal our secrets.
But we can rest easy as: “The UK spy game is better than anywhere else,” vows Ava Glass, who was hired by former Home Secretary John Reid and PM Tony Blair as a spy communications consultant.
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She says: “After Alexander Litvinenko they threw out publicly a lot of Russians they said were spies.
“If they can publicly identify 400 there’s at least 1,000.”
Last month three Bulgarians living in the UK were charged on suspicion of espionage on behalf of Russia.
Ava, a former investigative journalist in her native US, where she attended brutal homicide investigations alongside the FBI, says: “If they’re throwing out three random Bulgarians how many more agents are there? A lot.”
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The Tories are currently under fire for the Department for Education’s handling of the discovery of dangerous lightweight concrete usage in schools, leading to closures around the country.
Ava, now a novelist tipped as the female Ian Fleming after creating female spy character Emma Makepeace, says spies don’t listen to the government.
She continues: “Spies believe in protecting the country; they’re ruthless, intelligent and I feel safer for having them there.
“I know some people still in that world.
“The people on the ground are still doing the same good work. “They don’t care who is in power – they ignore the chaos at the top.
“I would challenge any government to tell spies what to do.”
In her new novel The Traitor, out on Thursday (September 14), Ava’s spy Emma Makepeace goes undercover on a superyacht owned by a Russian oligarch hunting for a chemical weapons supplier believed to be linked to the murder of a fellow M16 operative.
As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues to rage, questions over whether despot Vladimir Putin’s former pal turned rebellion leader, Wagner group head honcho Yevgeny Prigozhin’s supposed death last month in a plane crash was genuine.
Ava says: “We can’t be certain as we thought he was dead before. He obviously knew it was coming, and an assassination attempt.
“If he wanted to disappear, that’s how to do it.
“It’s so World War Two it blows my mind, it’s extraordinary.
“In the Cold War there were only two superpowers.
“Now there’s more and while we withdrew for a while I don’t know if it will ever be over. This tension might be permanent.
“But people can take comfort that there’s never been a time everyone loved their neighbour.
“I don’t think Putin’s going to push the button but it’s awful for Ukraine.
“And after Putin I believe comes something worse.”
Despite talk of it becoming a superpower in its own right, Ava does not believe that AI will replace human spies.
She says: “Looking at the ways you can melt into a crowd, feet on the ground are never going away.
“If you can get a job in the British government as a cleaner or coffee shop worker you can melt into a crowd.
“It’s a life of deception on every level.”
Due to her background in crime reporting, Ava closely watched the case of former nurse Lucy Letby, Britain’s most prolific serial killer of children.
The 49-year-old says: “When looking at a single homicide you’re looking at the ‘why’ but with mass murder there’s sometimes no explanation to give comfort other than people went crazy.
“Letby must be a psychopath.
“The fact she was so manipulative is fascinating but the question is why the hospital didn’t do something sooner – it’s repulsive.
“I feel for the families.”
The Traitor, by Ava Glass is published by Penguin on ebook and paperback on Thursday (Sept 14th).
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