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How British Spies Tried To Lend Harry Potter a Helping Hand

April 11, 2016, 10:30 AM UTC
(L-r) EMMA WATSON as Hermione Granger, RUPERT GRINT as Ron Weasley and DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter in Warner Bros. PicturesÕ fantasy adventure ÒHARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Ð PART 2,Ó a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Spies from the British equivalent of the NSA tipped off Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury(BMBYF) about an apparently leaked copy of Harry Potter novel The Half-Blood Prince ahead of its publication.

In an interview with Australian broadcaster ABC, Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton said someone from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had contacted him in an attempt to help fight leaks of J.K. Rowling’s much-anticipated 2005 book.

“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 him to read a page to our editor and she said, ‘No, that’s a fake.'”

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“We don’t comment on our defense against the dark arts,” a GCHQ spokesman told Fortune.

Newton’s interview is very much worth a listen, as it went into fascinating detail about the level of security that became necessary to protect Harry Potter novels ahead of publication.

Attack dogs patrolled the perimeter of the printing works, and there were “masses of security guards” — one of whom stole a damaged copy and tried to sell it to tabloid journalists. People rifled through Rowling’s trash in search of clues.

Bloomsbury also had to deal with corrupt customs operations around the world in order to ensure a coordinated launch date.

For more on J.K. Rowling, watch:

The GCHQ episode certainly makes for an entertaining story, but it does rather make one wonder about the level of intrusion of which the agency is capable — revealed in 2013 by leaker Edward Snowden — and the way in which its resources are deployed.

After all, it probably wasn’t terrorists or foreign spies who were trying to bust the embargo on the death of… Wait, what’s the statute of limitations on spoilers?