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Canadian Intelligence Eh! Podcast

John Ferris: The Authorized history of GCHQ

Why would the Brits ask a Canadian to write their official SIGINT history?

GCHQ is a famous British signals intelligence (SIGINT) agency perhaps best known for its work at Bletchley Park during WWII.  The spy service decided to have its official history written – and chose a Canadian to do so! 

In this episode, Borealis talks with John Ferris, a University of Calgary historian, who undertook the task.

About my guest John Ferris

John Ferris is a Professor of History at The University of Calgary, where he also is a Fellow at The Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. He received an MA (1980) and a PhD (1986) in War Studies, from King’s College, The University of London, United Kingdom.

He has published four books and sixty academic articles or chapters in books, on diplomatic, intelligence and military history, as well as contemporary strategy and intelligence. He comments in national and international media, on Canadian and American foreign and military policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, intelligence, and nuclear weapons. 

Behind the Enigma: The Authorized History of GCHQ, Britain’s Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency

The definitive history of GCHQ, one of the world’s most tight-lipped intelligence agencies, written with unprecedented access to classified archives.

For a hundred years GCHQ – Government Communications Headquarters – has been at the forefront of British secret statecraft. Born out of the need to support military operations in the First World War, and fought over ever since, today it is the UK’s biggest intelligece, security and cyber agency and a powerful tool of the British state.


About the host Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). He worked as a senior strategic analyst at CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) from 2001-2015, specializing in violent Islamist-inspired homegrown terrorism and radicalisation.

From 1983 to 2001 he was employed as a senior multilingual analyst at Communications Security Establishment (CSE – Canada’s signals intelligence agency), specialising in the Middle East.

Find out more about Phil Gurski

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of five books on terrorism.

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