British Security Coordination

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British Security Coordination was a cover organization set up in New York City by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in May 1940 upon the authorization of Winston Churchill.


The office, which was established for intelligence and propaganda services, was headed by Canadian industrialist William Stephenson. Its first tasks were to promote British interests in the United States, counter Nazi propaganda, and protect the Atlantic convoys from enemy sabotage.

The BSC was registered by the State Department as a foreign entity. It operated out of offices in Rockefeller Center, and was officially known as the British Passport Control Office.

Although the British and Americans were cooperating at the Prime Minister-President level at the time, the arrival of "British spies" in the United States infuriated J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, as well as displeasing the U.S. State Department.

Despite the fact that Stephenson and Hoover did not see eye to eye, they had cooperated in a number of operations against espionage activities by Nazi Germany in the U.S. Although they also agreed that the British would not hire Americans, the BSC did the contrary. The Americans who were recruited in the BSC were given British identification numbers beginning with the digits 4 and 8, apparently representing the 48 states.

The British novelist William Boyd, in a 2006 article for The Guardian,[1] stated that although the total number of BSC agents operating in the USA is unknown, he estimated the number to be at least "many hundreds" and had seen "the figure of up to 3,000 mentioned".

Noel Coward saw Stephenson, colloquially known as Little Bill, at the end of July 1940 when on an world entertainment and propaganda tour. He wrote that the suite in the Hampshire House with the outsize chintz flowers crawling over the walls became pleasantly familiar to me .. and that Stephenson had a considerable influence on the next few years of my life. Stephenson offered him a job, but this was vetoed by London. [2]

Notable employees


See also



  • Boyd, William, "The Secret Persuaders," The Guardian, 19 August 2006.
  • Conant, Jennet The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington (Simon and Schuster, 2008)
  • Hodgson, Lynn Philip, (foreword by Secret Agent Andy Durovecz), Inside Camp X (2003) - ISBN 0-9687062-0-7
  • Macdonald, Bill, The True Intrepid: Sir William Stephenson and the Unknown Agents, (Raincoast, 2001) - ISBN 1-55192-418-8 This book contains interviews with several Canadian employees of BSC in New York.
  • Mahl, Thomas E., Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44, (Brassey's Inc., 1999) ISBN 10: 1574882236
  • Stephenson, William Samuel, Roald Dahl, Tom Hill and Gilbert Highet (introduced by Nigel West), British Security Coordination: The Secret History of British Intelligence in the Americas, 1940-1945, Fromm International (June 1999) - ISBN 088064236X (first published in the UK in 1998) Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb (National Endowment for the Humanities), December, 1999.
  • Stevenson, William (no relation to Stephenson), A Man Called Intrepid, The Secret War, (Harcourt Brace Javonovich, 1976) - ISBN 0-15-156795-6.