Rory Cormac

Professor Rory Cormac’s expertise lies in secret intelligence and covert operations.

A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Rory has written four books on secret intelligence and international security. His most recent is Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Rory’s research has featured in most national newspapers and he regularly appears on radio and television. Alongside Richard Aldrich, he has co-presented history documentaries for Channel 4, most recently The Queen and the Coup (2020). His research has also been adapted into radio documentaries, including BBC Radio 4’s MI6’s Secret Slush Fund (2017).

Rory is an experienced public speaker, having appeared at the Hay, Cheltenham and Edinburgh literary festivals. He also regularly engages with government audiences and has spoken at 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and, in the US, the Pentagon and State Department.

Brought up in Plymouth, Rory now lives in Nottingham with his wife and two children.

Links & Credits

Channel 4 - The Queen and The Coup

Rory Cormac co-presents the Channel 4 history documentary


Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy

Rory Cormac

British leaders use spies and Special Forces to interfere in the affairs of others discreetly and deniably. Since 1945, MI6 has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has instigated whispering campaigns and planted false evidence on officials working behind the Iron Curtain, tried to foment revolution in Albania, blown up ships to prevent the passage of refugees to Israel, and secretly funnelled aid to insurgents in Afghanistan and dissidents in Poland. MI6 has launched cultural and economic warfare against Iceland and Czechoslovakia. It has tried to instigate coups in Congo, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere. Through bribery and blackmail, Britain has rigged elections as colonies moved to independence. Britain has fought secret wars in Yemen, Indonesia, and Oman ― and discreetly used Special Forces to eliminate enemies from colonial Malaya to Libya during the Arab Spring.

This is covert action: a vital, though controversial, tool of statecraft and perhaps the most sensitive of all government activity. If used wisely, it can play an important role in pursuing national interests in a dangerous world. If used poorly, it can cause political scandal ― or worse.

In Disrupt and Deny, Rory Cormac tells the remarkable true story of Britain’s secret scheming against its enemies, as well as its friends; of intrigue and manoeuvring within the darkest corridors of Whitehall, where officials fought to maintain control of this most sensitive and seductive work; and, above all, of Britain’s attempt to use smoke and mirrors to mask decline. He reveals hitherto secret operations, the slush funds that paid for them, and the battles in Whitehall that shaped them.

The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers

Rory Cormac and Richard Aldrich

The Black Door explores the evolving relationship between successive British Prime Ministers and the intelligence agencies, from Asquith’s Secret Service Bureau to Cameron’s National Security Council.

From Churchill’s code breakers feeding information to the Soviets to Eden’s attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, from Wilson’s paranoia of an MI5-led coup d’état to Thatcher’s covert wars in Central America, Aldrich and Cormac entertain and enlighten as they explain how our government came to rely on intelligence to the extent that it does today.