SpyCast 5.31.22
Ep 541 | 5.31.22

“My Life Looking at Spies & the Media” – with Paul Lashmar

Show Notes


Paul Lashmar (Twitter, Website) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss investigative journalism and intelligence. He is a former UK Reporter of the Year. 

What You’ll Learn


  • The similarities and differences between spooks and journalists 
  • The role Watergate played for his generation of journalists 
  • Intelligence overseers as “Ostriches,” “Cheerleaders,” “Lemon-suckers,” or “Guardians”
  • Bellingcat, Spycatcher and the “Zinoviev Letter”


  • The long shadow of the Second World War
  • Investigative journalism in democratic societies

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

“Cardiac stimulating experiences,” is how this week’s guest describes meeting sources in smoky IRA pubs in Belfast all on his lonesome. But he also met sources in the oak-paneled clubs of Whitehall and in many other places around the world. So, what has our guest distilled from his long career examining intelligence agencies? What are the types of relationships spooks and journalists have had with one another? What are the similarities and differences between both tribes?

To answer these questions and more, Andrew sat down with investigative reporter and current Head of the Dept. of Journalism at City, University of London, Paul Lashmar. Paul has worked across the media landscape, as a producer for the BBC, as a broadcast journalist with British current affairs television program World in Action, and as an investigative journalist for the Observer newspaper. He won Reporter of the Year in the 1986 UK Press Awards. He is the author of Spy Flights of the Cold War, Britain’s Secret Propaganda War, and most recently Spies, Spin and the Fourth Estate


World in Action was a legendary investigative TV program in the U.K. It’s programming led to the resignation of a Home Secretary, one of the Great Offices of State in the UK; the release of the Birmingham Six, who were wrongfully convicted of planting IRA bombs; and the exposure of Combat-18, a violent neo-Nazi movement. It would also publish the original story of the Spycatcher allegations that the head of MI5 was a Soviet mole and that there had been a joint MI5-MI6 plot to overthrow Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Paul co-wrote that 1984 episode. For all these reasons and more, it was rarely out of the courts. The last series was broadcast in 1998. 

Quote of the Week

"They would meet you in an up-market club in the center of London…it's leather Chesterfields, gentleman walking around getting your gin and tonic. It was all of that, in those days it was all informal…there are now in most newspapers, somebody who is usually appointed by the editor who maintains those connections… it's a sensible arrangement." – Paul Lashmar


Headline Resource

  • Spies, Spin and the Fourth Estate, P. Lashmar (EUP, 2021)



  • Zinoviev Letter, G. Bennett (OUP, 2020)
  • Spies and the Media in Britain, R. Norton-Taylor (IBT, 2018)
  • Spinning Intelligence, R. Dover and M. Goodman (CUP, 2009)
  • Spycatcher, P. Wright (Viking, 1987)

Beginner Articles



Primary Sources

*Wildcard Resource*