There was a lot of anticipation prior to the release of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as the author had teased that a major character would be killed off.
Enter GCHQ, a secret UK intelligence agency based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, tasked with monitoring electronic communications to prevent terrorism and serious crimes.
GCHQ contacted the publisher, Bloomsbury, in 2005 to alert them that they had found what appeared to be a leaked copy of the book online prior to its release.
When asked for comment, GCHQ merely said, “We don’t comment on our defence against the dark arts.”
There was much excitement surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince after author JK Rowling hinted a major character would be killed off.
Mr Newton told Australia’s ABC Radio the publisher regarded keeping the plot secret as very important saying: “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.”
It led Bloomsbury to bring in extra security guards and dogs to patrol the press where the books were being printed and help stop any leaks.
“We fortunately had many allies,” [Bloomsbury’s Nigel] Newton said. “GCHQ rang me up and said, ‘We’ve detected an early copy of this book on the internet’. I got them to read a page to our editor and she said, ‘No, that’s a fake’. We also had judges and the police on our side.
“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’.
“We had to go into a complete security lockdown because people were trying to steal the manuscript.”