Espionage: Honest-to-Badness

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 2)

SMIRCH or Conjecture? Gordon Lonsdale's memoir is not nearly as revealing. Though the Moscow-born Lonsdale (ne Konon Trofimovich Molody) rants against the FBI ("hated enemy of the CIA") and Scotland Yard ("no match for a well-trained intelligence officer"), he slips quietly past the fact that the Yard nabbed him in 1961 Redhanded. Lonsdale's main aim is to compromise a number of double agents apparently still working for both Russia and the West. This aggressive note has led such knowledgeable Western Sovietologists as Britain's Victor Zorza to decide that Lonsdale is working for the KGB's "Department of Disinformation"—an outfit dedicated to sowing dissent and confusion among Western intelligence networks, and hence worthy of the nickname SMIRCH.

Both books are chock-a-block with colorful but valueless details. Penkovsky quotes verbatim a lecture on how to spy in America: "Agent meetings can be held at golf courses ... at, let us say, the 16th hole or at some other hole (there is a total of 18 holes)." "Each motel room has its own entrance." "A taxi can be stopped anywhere by loudly shouting Taxi!' The driver writes in his log the place a fare entered, the place he got out, and the time. Therefore an intelligence officer must never take a taxi directly to the meeting place." Lonsdale cites "dead drop" sites, such as a cistern in the "gents" on Baker Street, the "loo" in Leicester Square's Odeon Cinema, and a phone box near the Savoy.

But despite this amusing, primerlike detail on how to be an agent, neither account says much about what the spies actually learned. The paucity of startling, specific examples of the agents' enterprise suggests that both books were carefully edited—Lonsdale's by the KGB and GRU, Penkovsky's presumably by U.S. and British intelligence—to safeguard sources and techniques that might still have value to the enemy. But if those heavy-editing hands snatched much of the meat from both books, there are still some rewards. Lonsdale, at least, is assured of $140,000 in his . London sales alone.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next Page