‘Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince’ Manuscript Was Protected By The British Spy Agency GCHQ

The British spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), was recruited to stop Harry Potter and The Half Blood-Prince from leaking onto the internet in the lead-up to the books release Nigel Newton, the co-founder of publishing house Bloomsbury, has spilled during an interview with an Australian radio station.

Bloomsbury printed Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in July 1997 and Newton has spoken about the lengths people went to try to get an early copy of any of the Harry Potter books that were to follow the phenomenon of the first.

“It was completely mad and we were at the eye of the storm,” Newton said of the time in between book releases.

“I remember Jo Rowling phoning me once after she’d delivered a new book, saying ‘please Nigel will you release the name of the title, because I have people outside searching my trash can looking for bits of paper.’

“At about that time we had to go into a complete security lock-down because people were trying to steal the manuscript.”

Newton told ABC Radio the lengths some people went to in order to get an early release of a Harry Potter book and how they had a “genuine desire to know what happened next,” even if that would ruin Harry Potter for the rest of the world. He recalled how a journalist from tabloid newspaper The Sun went to the factory where Harry Potter was being printed with £5,000 ($9,300) in a briefcase to give to anyone who would “go in and nick a copy” for them.

Security increased with each book and by the time the fifth book in the Harry Potter series was ready for release, German Shepherds and Alsatians were patrolling the publishing depot to ensure nobody broke in to steal a book. But this did not stop some people inside the factory from trying to get their hands on a copy.

A security guard stole a damaged copy of an unpublished Harry Potter book from a cage of damaged copies he was paid to protect, but fortunately Newton and Bloomsbury had many allies, and the leak was stopped. Newton questioned everyone and did not even tell his own family when the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince manuscript was in his home. He recalls the night he received a call from GCHQ.

“I remember the British spy eavesdropping station GCHQ rang me up and said ‘we’ve detected an early copy of this book on the internet,'” Newton said.

“I got them to read a page to our editor and she said, ‘nah, that’s a fake’. They’re good guys.”

When a comment on the situation was sought from GCHQ the spy agency smugly replied with: “we do not comment on our defense against the dark arts,” reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

GCHQ, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, usually monitors electronic communication to prevent terrorism and organized crime, according to the Harry Potter publishers, Bloomsbury, keeping the plot secret was very important in keeping the magic alive.

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“If newspapers splashed ‘Dumbledore dies,’ what pleasure is there going to be for a kid reading it? The enemies stood to ruin a great deal of pleasure for the world.” Newton said during the Australian radio interview.

Despite the GCHQ listening out for news of a manuscript leak and the fierce protection from Bloomsbury of Harry Potter manuscripts, some copies were given out early in extreme cases, according to the BBC.

“There was [an instance] where a child was going to die of an awful childhood condition before the book came out,” he said. “So we did the only thing we could do and referred it to the author to decide how to handle it because it’s her story, not ours.”

The Australian interview is the first time that Newton has mentioned that GCHQ had a role in Harry Potter’s success, saying that ‘interactions surrounding the series became very cloak and dagger,’ including late night meetings in pubs where the manuscript was swapped over pints of beer without a mention of ‘The Boy Who Lived’.

[Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP]