UK Spy Agency Worked to Prevent “Half-Blood Prince” Leaking Online in 2005

Remember the extreme security and the fear of leaks surrounding the release of the last few Harry Potter books? We’re now learning that even GCHQ, the UK’s secret intelligence agency, was involved in helping prevent Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from leaking online in 2005.

Publisher Nigel Newton of Bloomsbury was interviewed last week on ABC Radio in Australia, saying that GCHQ called him to tell him that they had found an early copy of Half-Blood Prince on the internet. He had them read a page to the book’s editor, who said that it was fake.

At the time, Bloomsbury was under intense pressure to keep the book under wraps, and they needed all kinds of help, including police and judges. Extra security guards and dogs surrounded the press where the books were being printed.

Newton says there was even a reporter from a tabloid newspaper who circled the printing press, offering workers £5,000 in cash to steal a copy of the book.

Newton recalls,

It was completely mad, and we were at the eye of the storm – I remember Jo Rowling phoning me once after she had delivered a new book saying, ‘please, will you release the name of the title because I have people outside searching my trash can looking for bits of paper.’

A spokesperson for GCHQ told the Sunday Times, “We don’t comment on our Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

What do you remember from the Half-Blood Prince release? Did you encounter any spoilers or leaked information, real or fake?

Catherine Lai

I have been a fan of Harry since 2000, a fan of MuggleNet since 2005, and a MuggleNet team member since 2013. I believe in the power of stories to bring people together, and nothing does that quite like Harry Potter. I live in Toronto, Canada.