Philby, Kim ( Harold Adrian Russell Philby; 1912–1988)
British secret-service officer who, in 1963, was revealed as a longstanding Soviet agent.
The son of the explorer and civil servant Harry St John Philby, Kim Philby studied history and economics at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he first met Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, and Anthony Blunt, all communist sympathizers. Philby was recruited by Soviet Intelligence in London in 1933 and the following year married a militant communist, Litzi Kohlmann, in Vienna. Following the outbreak of the Spanish civil war, Philby went to Spain in 1937 as a freelance journalist and also as a Soviet agent. He was later employed by The Times as their correspondent, both in Spain and with the Allied western front during the initial stages of World War II. He returned to London in 1940 and was recruited into the British Secret Intelligence Service. In this role he was able to maintain a regular flow of information to his Soviet contacts. He became head of Soviet counter-intelligence in the latter stages of the war, which gave him even greater opportunities to further Soviet interests. He intervened in 1945 to obstruct the defection to the Allies of a KGB official in Istanbul, Konstantin Volkov. Philby remained undetected and was even awarded the OBE for his wartime services.
After serving as intelligence officer at the British embassy in Istanbul, Philby was given the delicate job of chief liaison officer between the British and US intelligence services at Britain's embassy in Washington DC. In 1950, his friend and collaborator, Burgess, was posted to Washington by the Foreign Office and even lodged with Philby. Aware of the tightening security net around Maclean, Philby sent Burgess home to warn him. Following the defection of both men in 1951, Philby was recalled to London for interrogation but, in the absence of firm evidence against him, was merely asked to resign. He resumed working as a journalist and was exonerated in a Commons statement made by Harold Macmillan, then foreign secretary, in 1955.
On 23 January 1963, Philby disappeared from his Beirut home, bound for Moscow. Five months later the British government officially admitted that he was a spy – one of the most successful and damaging of the twentieth century.