February 22, 2015

1. Spies

A. St John Philby

I saw an interesting interview with Anthony Cave Brown, part of Brian Lamb’s Booknotes. The interview is from 1994, and the audio leaves something to be desired. Brown had just published Treason in the Blood: H. St. John Philby, Kim Philby, and the Spy Case of the Century.

The title (Treason in the Blood) implies that Kim Philby inherited his treasonous proclivities from his father, St John Philby. Kim Philby was perhaps the most famous ColdWar spy; he was employed by MI6, the British intelligence agency, but was actually working for the Soviets; in other words, he was a “double agent.” His father, St John Philby, nicknamed him “Kim” after the protagonist of Kipling’s spy novel Kim; St John Philby apparently knew Kipling.

St John Philby

St John Philby lived in the Arab world for much of his life, and wrote numerous books about the Arab world and his adventures there. He was a great explorer, who made long and dangerous journeys through wilderness and desert. During World War I, he helped Lawrence of Arabia organize the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. He became a close friend and adviser to Ibn Saud, founder of Saudi Arabia. Though he was on the payroll of British intelligence, St John Philby is believed to have been disloyal to Britain by arranging for U.S. oil companies to enter Saudi Arabia, and by being too close to Ibn Saud. Perhaps we should give credit to Anthony Cave Brown for resurrecting an interesting historical figure, St John Philby, instead of focusing entirely on his more famous son, Kim Philby.

Ibn Saud, always the tallest man in the picture


Ibn Saud

B. The Cambridge Five

Kim Philby was one of several Soviet agents who were recruited during the 1930s, when they were Cambridge undergrads. These agents are often called The Cambridge Five. They were Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, and John Cairncross.

When The Cambridge Five were recruited, Fascism was on the march — it had gained power in Italy and Germany, and was soon to gain power in Spain. The Western democracies, reeling from the Depression, seemed unable to resist the march of Fascism. Since the truth about Stalin had not yet emerged, the Soviets seemed to be the world’s best hope. Furthermore, if you helped the Soviets, you weren’t helping an enemy; indeed, the Soviets would soon become an important ally in the war against Hitler.

Cairncross, Burgess, Maclean, Philby

Many Western intellectuals were sympathetic toward Communism. Blunt and Burgess were members of a secret Cambridge discussion society, The Apostles, most of whose members were Communists.1

Once these young students became Soviet agents, it was difficult to turn back. In his interview with Brian Lamb, Anthony Cave Brown says that once the Soviet tentacles were wrapped around you, you remained a Soviet agent for the rest of your life.

The Cambridge Five did as the Soviets hoped they would: they graduated from college, and then rose into important positions in the Foreign Service and the intelligence agency. In 1951, Burgess and Maclean fled to Moscow, probably because they were going to be arrested. It was suspected that Philby had tipped them off, that Philby was the “Third Man” in their spy ring; Philby was a close friend of Burgess. But Philby admitted nothing, and there was little evidence against him. In 1955, British Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan told the House of Commons, “I have no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called ‘Third Man,’ if indeed there was one.” Soon afterwards, Philby gave a press conference in which he “calmly, confidently... reiterated his innocence, declaring, ‘I have never been a communist.’”2

But in 1961, a Soviet agent named Anatoliy Golitsyn defected to the West, and identified Philby as a Soviet agent. So MI6 sent an agent, Nicholas Elliott, to confront Philby and demand a full confession; Philby was then living in Beirut. Philby confessed to Elliott, and the two men agreed to meet again. But before this meeting could take place, on the morning of January 23, 1963, a Soviet freighter in Beirut departed for Odessa, apparently with Philby on board; the freighter left Beirut so hastily that “cargo was left scattered over the docks.”3

Stalin wasn’t certain that Philby was trying to help the Soviets, that Philby was a double agent. Stalin thought that Philby might be helping the British, that he might be a triple agent. In the shadowy world of espionage, agents are often suspected of being double agents, and double agents are often suspected of being triple agents. When Philby arrived in Moscow in 1963, he was kept under a kind of house arrest, lest he flee to London.4 He became disillusioned with Communism, felt depressed, drank to excess, and apparently slit his wrists. He survived, however, and lived in Moscow for 25 years. He wrote a memoir called My Silent War.

After his 1951 flight to Moscow, Burgess lived twelve more years, dying at the age of 52, perhaps from alcoholism. He never learned Russian, and never adjusted to life in Russia. Maclean, on the other hand, became a respected Soviet academic. His wife and children left England and joined him in Russia. Maclean died in 1983, at the age of 69.

Anthony Blunt

Anthony Blunt became a prominent art historian. His espionage was exposed in 1963, and he confessed in 1964, revealing the identities of several other spies. He was given immunity from prosecution, and it was agreed that his spying would be kept secret for fifteen years, until 1979. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher revealed Blunt’s spying in a speech in the House of Commons. Blunt confessed on TV in 1980. He died in 1983. His memoirs were kept under wraps until 2009. He explained his decision to work for the Soviets thus: “The atmosphere in Cambridge was so intense, the enthusiasm for any anti-fascist activity was so great, that I made the biggest mistake of my life.”

John Cairncross worked at Bletchley Park, where the British developed a way to intercept and decode German messages. These messages had been encoded by a German machine called Enigma. Cairncross brought documents out of Bletchley Park in his pants, and supplied the Soviets with raw German communications. (The British were willing to share intelligence with the Soviets, but not in raw form; they didn’t want the Soviets to know that they had broken German codes.) Cairncross probably gave the Soviets information about the British effort to build an atom bomb. Cairncross was a brilliant student who later published translations of, and commentaries on, French literature. When his spying was discovered, he lost his job but wasn’t prosecuted. He went to the U.S. and became a college teacher. When his earlier spying was publicized, he left the U.S., and lived in Italy and France until his death in 1995. His autobiography, The Enigma Spy, was published after his death.

What generalizations can be made about these spies? They were highly intelligent and well-educated, but somewhat unstable, flawed. When they were recruited to be spies, they were young, idealistic, looking for excitement, looking for something to do, and somewhat ill-informed. Most of them probably regretted becoming spies, but found it difficult to reverse course. Their lives were, in general, sad, even tragic.

I suspect that Philby is a case of “absent father, weak super-ego.” His father, a renowned explorer, was probably away from home for long periods. Philby grew up with little “father influence,” and therefore a weak super-ego, a weak conscience. Lying came easily to him, self-discipline came hard.

Some people might think that these spies didn’t do much, except provide material for novelists and filmmakers. And it’s true that some spies probably don’t do much, and that even in the life of Kim Philby, there were probably many years when he didn’t do much. But the value of information is indisputable. The recipe for the atomic bomb was certainly valuable information, as was the time and place of the D-Day invasion. Some have argued that The Cambridge Five impacted the Korean War; MacArthur thought that their information cost 30,000 American casualties in Korea, by telling the Chinese when and where to strike. And the value of spying today may be even greater than in the days of Philby, since asymmetrical warfare depends on surprise. For example, the 9/11 attacks could have easily been prevented if we had information about them beforehand.

Some people may find spying distasteful, unpleasant, etc. An intelligence agency is like an army, unpleasant but necessary. We may wish that we lived in a world where spies and soldiers were unnecessary, but we don’t live in such a world.

The doings of The Cambridge Five caused an international sensation. Doubtless many people were surprised that the Soviets had so many agents in high-level positions, and doubtless they wondered if there were more Soviet agents. The McCarthy Hearings and the “Red Scare” were, in part, a response to the notoriety of Burgess, Maclean, etc. So here again, spies had a big impact.

It may seem that Britain had lots of double-agents. But the Soviets had a goodly supply, too — Polyakov, Gordievsky, etc. And there were notorious American double-agents also — Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, etc. It seems that there’s an inherent risk of agents becoming double-agents; every intelligence agency seems to have some turncoats. And the problem is greater with a large agency; as Ames put it,

You’ve got two or three or four thousand people running around doing espionage. You can’t monitor it. You can’t control it. You can’t check it. And that’s probably the biggest problem with an espionage service. It has to be small.5

Of all the double-agents, the most impressive seem to be the Russians. They had the least interest in money, and the firmest conviction that their own political system was rotten. In a rotten system, good men become traitors. The least impressive seem to be the Americans, who were motivated by a desire for money, excitement, a fast life, etc., had no political convictions, and no admiration for the Soviet system. When we hear that Polyakov was decorated for bravery in World War II, we’re not surprised, and when we hear that Aldrich Ames’ second wife had 500 pairs of shoes, we’re not surprised.

C. Robert Hanssen

One of the American double-agents, Robert Hanssen, is a good example of how a troubled childhood produces psychological wounds, and these wounds lead to deviant behavior, including crime, including selling national secrets. Hanssen’s father was “emotionally abusive” to him, and “constantly disparaged” him. Once he rolled Hanssen up in a carpet. Shortly before Hanssen married, his father asked the bride-to-be, “Why are you marrying him? He’s a loser.”5B

Hanssen’s upbringing is comparable to that of John Walker, Jr., head of the Walker Spy Ring, who sold Navy secrets to the Soviets from 1968 to 1985. His father, James Walker, was a salesman for Warner Brothers, the movie studio.

[James Walker] spent weeks on the road, driving along the East Coast pitching the studio’s movies to local theater owners. [He] was a heavy drinker who beat his wife and brutalized his sons. John Jr. grew up hating his father. At age 10, he daydreamed about different ways to kill him. [James Walker] eventually abandoned his wife and children, leaving a note on the kitchen table with no forwarding address.6

It seems that Hanssen and Walker are products of their upbringing. Instead of punishing them, should we punish their fathers? But couldn’t their fathers also say, “We, too, are products of our upbringing.” So let’s try to find the grandfathers, and punish them. And so we would go back further and further, until finally we get to Adam, and lay the blame at his doorstep. But couldn’t Adam also say, “I didn’t make myself”? So it’s difficult to pin the blame on any one individual. Perhaps we should say, No one is to blame, the whole universe is responsible, the whole universe simply is.

As a youngster, Hanssen read MAD Magazine, and his favorite section was “Spy vs. Spy”. He later said he wanted to be a spy since he was a child. He continued subscribing to MAD until he was in his 20s. When he had to choose a foreign language in college, he chose Russian. He admired Russian music and literature (when his daughter was four, he read War and Peace with her).

When Hanssen was 24, he read Philby’s memoir, and it made a strong impression on him. Here was a man who had lived the spy fantasy, had survived to tell the tale, and had become a celebrity. Hanssen pressed his friend, Robert Lauren, to read Philby’s book, then pressed him to give it back to him. When Lauren returned the book, Hanssen said to him, “Someday I’d like to pull off a caper like that.”

Should we regard Hanssen as a Philby protégé? Perhaps the Hanssen case is a case of life imitating literature, a case of “mimetic syndrome.” In an earlier issue, I mentioned other cases of mimetic syndrome:

Hanssen had big ambitions, he wanted to be a famous spy like Philby. And in fact, Hanssen was skillful, some say “diabolically clever.” He began working for the Soviets in 1979, and wasn’t caught until 2001.

If Hanssen decided to follow the Philby path when he was 24, that would help to explain why he applied for work in the NSA (National Security Agency) in 1970, when he was 26, six years before he began working for the FBI. It would also help to explain why, just three years after he began working for the FBI, he volunteered his services to the Soviets. It seems that he needed no coaxing, he had made up his mind long before, and was impatient to get started.

Hanssen seemed to enjoy the thrill of deceiving people, the thrill of being a spy. He wanted to live in the fast lane, and he dated a stripper. He was an aficionado of JamesBond movies; his favorite was From Russia With Love. He handed a friend Chesterton’s novel The Man Who Was Thursday, and said “things aren’t always what they seem.” Perhaps this novel struck a chord with him because it’s about a spy who hides in plain sight, hides under the noses of those looking for him.

Hanssen seemed to be playing a role, he seemed to be living in a JamesBond movie. He didn’t have a firm grasp of reality, he blurred the distinction between fantasy and reality. In my book of aphorisms, I said that Hitler also blurred the distinction between fantasy and reality:

Some people realized that Hitler was fundamentally an actor playing various roles. The philosopher Emil Fackenheim said, “I don’t think he knew the difference between acting and believing.” The Dutch writer Harry Mulisch said, “Perhaps Hitler, the man of the theater... had only played theatrically with toy soldiers, albeit of flesh and blood.”

People who study Hanssen often say that he “compartmentalized,” he had several different roles, he wasn’t an integrated person. When I discussed Hitler, I said that he dissociated parts of himself from other parts, he wasn’t an integrated person. Abused children, like Hanssen and Hitler, sometimes develop Multiple Personality Disorder. Both Hanssen and Hitler were sane, but not completely sane; they were on the border of sanity and insanity.

After Hanssen was married, he made a video of his wife and himself having sex, and invited his friend to watch the video, live, from the next room. People who worked with Hanssen said he was somewhat aloof and arrogant, somewhat solitary and introverted, he didn’t “pal around” with co-workers. He was a “computer nerd,” not a manager of people. His personality has been described as “dank,” his colleagues called him Dr. Death and The Mortician, and compared him to the sadistic dentist in the movie Marathon Man. He had a habit of coming up to people and just staring at them.

Hanssen was a contradictory character, his personality had multiple facets. One of his FBI colleagues admired him so much that she named her son after him, and she was taken aback when he was arrested. Once he was giving a presentation, and a female colleague, apparently bored, walked out. Hanssen was deeply offended, and attacked her physically; some people say he threw her down, others say he dragged her by the hair. When she reported the incident, Hanssen was put on leave for a week. Some people say Hanssen was partly insane, and his lawyer considered an insanity plea.

Before joining the FBI, Hanssen was a Chicago cop for four years. He worked in the department that investigated corrupt cops. His boss was eager to be rid of him; it was suspected that Hanssen was telling the mayor’s office everything they were doing. Adrian Havill, who wrote a book about Hanssen, says that, if the FBI had talked to Hanssen’s boss in the police department, they wouldn’t have hired Hanssen.

When I discussed the Madoff case, I said that several people suspected Madoff years before his arrest, but the authorities were fooled by Madoff, and couldn’t believe that he was perpetrating a gigantic scam. The same thing happened with Hanssen: several people suspected him years before his arrest, and spoke to the FBI, but the FBI apparently couldn’t believe that this “ordinary guy” could be a double-agent. In 1990, eleven years before Hanssen was arrested, his brother-in-law, Mark Wauck, suspected him. Wauck was in the FBI (as Hanssen was), and Wauck relayed his suspicions to his supervisor, but no action was taken. A few years later, a double-agent named Earl Pitts said that he suspected Hanssen, but his tip was ignored. “Pitts was the second FBI agent to mention Hanssen by name as a possible mole, but the FBI’s hierarchy was still unconvinced. No action was taken.”8

Meanwhile, the FBI constructed an elaborate “matrix” showing who had access to certain cases/materials. They began investigating an innocent man, Brian Kelley. In focusing on Kelley, the FBI was ignoring “gut instincts” and hunches, and relying on hyper-rational thinking.

How was Hanssen finally caught? The same FBI people who had used the complicated matrix decided to try a different strategy: approach a variety of Russians, and offer to pay millions for information about the mole. This led to a bag of information — including fingerprints, voice recordings, and letters — and this information led to the arrest of Hanssen. Apparently the FBI paid $7 million for the bag. In Philby’s last years, he enjoyed a certain amount of fame, fortune, and happiness, but Hanssen didn’t manage to flee to Russia, so now he’s in prison.

Hanssen was a devout Catholic, and once confessed to his priest that he had sold secrets to the Soviets. His priest told him to give the money to charity, and stop working for the Soviets. For several years after this conversation, Hanssen ceased to work for the Soviets. Should the priest have gone further? Should he have turned Hanssen in to the authorities? At what point should a priest violate “confession privacy”?

There’s a popular movie about Hanssen called Breach (2007). Norman Mailer wrote the screenplay for a TV movie called Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story.

D. Aldrich Ames

Looking at Ames’ childhood, I don’t find a problem in his relationship with his father, I don’t find the sort of problem that we found with Hanssen and Walker. This may explain why we don’t find the sort of deviant behavior in Ames’ life that we find in Hanssen’s life.

What we find in Ames is sloppiness, avoiding homework, procrastinating — a weak super-ego. What caused this? Jung said that a minister’s son sometimes becomes a criminal because the minister is “too good,” he represses his shadow, and the shadow is expressed by the son. Perhaps this throws light on Ames. Ames’ grandfather was a college president, a community leader, a model citizen; Ames described his grandfather as “immensely dignified and always formal, even to me.”8B Grandpa Ames had four children, and three became alcoholics. Carleton Ames (Aldrich’s father) was a rebel, an alcoholic, and a failure as a CIA agent. Is Aldrich Ames a case of “minister’s son” or rather, minister’s grandson?

Unlike Hanssen, Ames was from an upper-class family. His father was a college teacher (before he worked for the CIA), his mother a high-school teacher. Ames had excellent language skills. Ames wasn’t the only CIA agent from the upper crust. One agent said of Ames, “Here’s a guy with a last name for a first name — this place is full of people like that, people with their own money.” Ames’ father also had an upper-class name: Carleton Cecil Ames.

Aldrich Ames had a passion for acting, like the Confederate spy whom we discussed in an earlier issue. Ames acted in high-school plays, and he continued acting at the University of Chicago, until his preoccupation with theater caused him to flunk out. Ames had the same aloof ways that Hanssen had; Ames wasn’t popular with colleagues. What Hanssen’s colleague said of Hanssen could also have been said of Ames: “[he was] thought to be a bit of an intellectual and a bit of a loner.”9

Though he failed to accomplish much, Ames exuded a feeling of superiority that amazed colleagues. “The failure to produce results, coupled with Mr. Ames’s attitude, was a dangerous combination, producing in Mr. Ames a kind of smoldering resentment.”10 Both Hanssen and Ames had the narcissism that’s typical of criminals, and the independence that’s typical of the narcissistic personality. According to Freud, the narcissistic personality has no super-ego, no conscience.11

After he was arrested, Ames told a writer, Pete Earley,

I have a character flaw that never got corrected. If someone says, “Hey, you got to do this,” and I don’t want to, I don’t argue about it, I simply don’t do it. What’s odd is that I react this way without ever really considering the consequences. I never look ahead. I just do what I want. (Earley, ch. 2, p. 34)

Perhaps this is why Ames spied: it made his life easier in the short run, by putting money in his pocket, and he didn’t concern himself with the long run. He owed money to his first wife, from whom he was getting divorced, and he had credit-card debts. The money from the KGB would allow him to pay off his debts, start a new life with his second wife, Rosario, have a child with Rosario, etc. One might say that Ames stumbled into spying, it was the path of least resistance; for Ames, spying wasn’t a lifelong ambition, as it was for Hanssen.

While the Hanssen mole hunt, conducted by the FBI, was hyper-rational, and pointed to an innocent man, the Ames mole hunt, conducted by the CIA, was non-rational, was based on feelings and hunches. The leader of the CIA mole-hunting team, Jeanne Vertefeuille, asked team members to list co-workers who bothered them, and rank their list, putting the person who bothered them most at the top.

If the Hanssen mole hunt, which took place about ten years later, had used the same approach as the Ames mole hunt, it would have pointed to Hanssen as the mole, because Hanssen bothered co-workers. He bothered them so much that they agreed among themselves that, if they encountered Hanssen in the hallway, they’d walk the other way! They didn’t think Hanssen was a double-agent, but he certainly bothered them, and I think that justifies Vertefeuille’s approach (listing which co-workers bother you). Vertefeuille’s approach was non-rational, unscientific, and controversial, but it was a stroke of genius, it swiftly pointed to Ames, and it would have swiftly pointed to Hanssen. Isn’t it surprising that the FBI mole hunters didn’t learn from Vertefeuille, didn’t use her approach? Instead of using her approach, they used a completely different approach, and pursued an innocent man.

One member of Vertefeuille’s team, Sandy Grimes, placed Ames at the top of her list. Later Grimes noticed that Ames repeatedly made large cash deposits into his bank after meeting with a Soviet official (he deposited less than $10,000 since banks were required to report deposits of more than $10,000 in cash). So Grimes and Vertefeuille became convinced that Ames was the mole, but the FBI wasn’t convinced, and didn’t focus on Ames (apparently the actual arrest had to be made by the FBI). Grimes and Vertefeuille were deeply frustrated; it seemed to them that the FBI had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Finally some other information pointed to Ames, and the FBI began to focus on him.

Vertefeuille’s team was looking for a mole in their own organization (CIA), while the FBI mole-hunting team had ruled out an FBI agent, and was looking for a mole in the CIA — wrongly, since Hanssen was an FBI agent. Vertefeuille’s team could look at personal factors, such as clothing, since they knew CIA people personally, while the FBI team was looking at strangers — people in a different organization. Grimes and Vertefeuille felt that they couldn’t hunt for a mole in a different organization.

Grimes car-pooled with Ames, and knew him well. She said he was likable, but a slob — always late, always messy, hair un-combed, shoes un-tied, etc. She describes him as “an absent-minded professor.” Ames’ supervisors often criticized him for procrastinating, and for being inattentive to detail. He certainly didn’t have a strict super-ego. Did he have any super-ego? Discussing the narcissistic personality, Freud says, “There is no tension between ego and super-ego — indeed, starting from this type one would hardly have arrived at the notion of a super-ego.”12

Grimes says that later in his career, when he returned from a stint in Rome, Ames was a changed man — fancy clothes, fancy car, a colder personality. These changes aroused her suspicions. Some of her colleagues felt that Ames’ second wife, Rosario, had considerable influence over him, and they attributed his transformation to “witchcraft.” One is reminded of Lady Macbeth’s influence over her husband. Ames himself told the Soviets that his wife knew about his spying, and was completely “supportive.”

Like Hanssen, Ames was a contradictory character. Some remember him as an angry loner, others remember him as a convivial colleague, fond of long lunches. Rosario was also a contradictory character: a serious student “whose only real passion was literature,” who taught Greek and wrote a thesis on Hegel, but also a wild spender who encouraged her husband’s espionage.

Vertefeuille said that the money Ames received from the Soviets was “blood money.” Ames was selling human lives. One of his motives was to eliminate everyone who could expose him, to prevent any Soviet double-agents from telling the CIA, “Aldrich Ames is a mole.” As Ames put it, “It will help protect me in the future if these guys go away.”13

When Ames was interviewed, after being caught, he tried to justify his actions by saying

Ames thought that he could judge American national interests. Other agents might pride themselves on obtaining information that would help NATO in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. According to Ames, though, the chances of a Soviet invasion were “vanishingly small,” and therefore this prized information had little value.15 Ames said that the intelligence wars are “mostly a silly game.” Ames justified his actions by arguing that the information obtained from double-agents didn’t really matter much to national security.

Ames seemed to think that the entire CIA was on the wrong track, was pursuing the wrong goals.16 In fact, many Americans thought that the entire CIA was on the wrong track; in the wake of the Vietnam War, the entire military-intelligence establishment was being roundly criticized. And it was at this time, in the 1970s, that Ames became close to several Soviets on a personal level, and began thinking about selling information. Ames was like a baseball player on the Yankees who has some team spirit, then goes over to the RedSox, and switches his team spirit to the RedSox.17 Perhaps Ames felt that, if he were arrested, he would receive some sympathy from the American Left, and he could defend himself with cogent arguments. As I argued above, it’s true that much information obtained by the CIA doesn’t matter, but occasionally there’s a nugget of information that matters a great deal; you need to keep playing the game, keep batting, in order to hit the occasional home run.

One of Hanssen’s justifications was, “In the broad sweep of history, a little espionage doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.” Of course, this could justify anything.

Moles like Ames and Hanssen do a lot of damage, beyond the lives lost and the technical secrets lost. They turn an intelligence agency against itself, they make agents suspicious of other agents. One might liken a mole to an autoimmune disease that turns the body against itself.

[Update 2018: A former CIA agent, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was arrested for passing secrets to the Chinese. Between 2010 and 2012, 15-20 American informants inside China were arrested or killed due to information passed by Lee.]

During the period 1955-1975, James Jesus Angleton was the head of CounterIntelligence at the CIA. His search for moles turned the CIA against itself, and damaged morale at the agency. Perhaps it was the information passed by Philby that convinced Angleton that a mole existed, and started Angleton on his long, fruitless, damaging mole hunt. Anthony Cave Brown says that Philby ruined Angleton.

After Ames became a double-agent, he passed two lie-detector tests. He said later that the trick is to relax, and to bond with the test-taker; perhaps bonding makes the test-taker more gentle, helping you to remain relaxed. Did his penchant for acting help Ames to pass the lie-detector tests? Perhaps the same weak super-ego that enabled Ames to commit crimes also enabled him to pass lie-detector tests.18

Kim Philby took a different kind of test: as I mentioned earlier, Philby went on TV to proclaim his innocence. If a guilty person proclaims his innocence on TV, will his facial expression reveal anything? Is facial expression a kind of lie-detector test — perhaps more reliable than the usual kind? In an earlier issue, I discussed an expert on facial expression who studied the Philby tape:

Ekman rewound the tape and replayed it in slow motion. “Look at this,” he said, pointing to the screen. “Twice, after being asked serious questions about whether he’s committed treason, [Philby is] going to smirk. He looks like the cat who ate the canary.” The expression came and went in no more than a few milliseconds. But at quarter speed it was painted on his face: the lips pressed together in a look of pure smugness. “He’s enjoying himself, isn’t he?” Ekman went on. “I call this ‘duping delight,’ the thrill you get from fooling other people.”

Perhaps Hanssen and Ames both experienced “duping delight.”

Philby at his press conference in 1955

E. Spy Literature

In addition to Treason in the Blood, Anthony Cave Brown has written several other books about espionage. His first book, Bodyguard of Lies, deals with World War II espionage; the title comes from a Churchill epigram: “In war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Anthony Cave Brown began his career as a journalist, and his books are somewhat unscholarly and somewhat long-winded.

Phillip Knightley, an Australian, wrote a biography of Philby, and a book called The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century. Like Anthony Cave Brown, Knightley is a journalist, not a scholar (espionage doesn’t seem to attract scholars). Knightley has a prominent role in an excellent BBC documentary called Kim Philby: The Spy Who Went Into the Cold (2013). Click here for a documentary about The Cambridge Five, part of a series called Secrets of War.

A younger journalist, Ben Macintyre, published a Philby biography in 2014. Macintyre’s biography is about 375 pages, half the length of Anthony Cave Brown’s. Macintyre also wrote Operation Mincemeat and Double Cross, both of which deal with World War II espionage.

Rupert Allason has written extensively about espionage, publishing under his pen name “Nigel West.” He has lectured to both the CIA and the KGB. One of his books is Mortal Crimes: The Greatest Theft in History: Soviet Penetration of the Manhattan Project. He also wrote Operation Garbo: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Double Agent of World War II. “Garbo” was the code name for a German agent who was actually a double-agent working for the British. Garbo was thought to have died in 1949, but in 1984, Allason tracked him down in Venezuela, and they collaborated on a book about his spying career. Garbo was a Spaniard, his real name was Joan Pujol Garcia, he died in 1988 at the age of 76.

Ladislas Farago has written several books about espionage. As a young man in the 1930s, Farago wrote books about the Middle East, such as Palestine on the Eve. Then he worked as a journalist for about twenty years. In 1963, he published a well-known biography of Patton, which was the basis for a well-known movie. Later he wrote a popular book called The Game of the Foxes: The Untold Story of German Espionage in the United States and Great Britain During World War II.

One of the most scholarly writers about intelligence is Christopher Andrew, a Cambridge historian. Andrew published books based on KGB archives, archives that were taken from the KGB by defector Vasili Mitrokhin. He also collaborated with double-agent Oleg Gordievsky on a book called KGB: The Inside Story. One of Andrew’s most popular books is For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush. A popular book from recent years is George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution.

As I mentioned above, James Jesus Angleton was, for many years, the head of CounterIntelligence at the CIA. Angleton was interested in literature, especially poetry. As a Yale undergrad, he corresponded with T. S. Eliot, E. E. Cummings, etc. Tom Mangold wrote a biography of Angleton, Frontline devoted a documentary to him, and a film called The Good Shepherd deals with his career.

One of the most popular novels about ColdWar spying is The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, by John le Carré. Le Carré published his first novel in 1961, when he was 30, and working for MI6. Since he wasn’t allowed to publish under his own name, he used a pen name; his real name is David Cornwell. In 1964, le Carré left MI6 because Philby had revealed to the Soviets that le Carré was a spy, not a diplomat, as he pretended to be. Le Carré depicts Philby as the mole Bill Haydon (code name “Gerald”) in his novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Le Carré’s most recent book, published in 2013, is A Delicate Truth.

Len Deighton is a very popular spy novelist from the same generation as John le Carré. Deighton also wrote several non-fiction historical works, including Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain.

Tom Clancy wrote several bestselling novels about espionage and war. His novel Debt of Honor, published seven years before the 9/11 attacks, deals with a pilot who intentionally crashes a plane into the U.S. Capitol. Did this novel inspire the 9/11 attacks? Is this another case of life imitating literature?

2. Graham Greene

The novelist Graham Greene wrote an introduction to Philby’s memoir, and he was sympathetic, even respectful toward Philby. Greene once worked for British intelligence, and his supervisor was Philby; Greene was on friendly terms with Philby. After Philby defected to the U.S.S.R., Greene visited him there. Greene’s anti-American views earned him a warm welcome from the Soviet government. Greene traveled widely, and apparently his travel expenses were often paid by British intelligence, in return for information about the countries he visited.

I saw a one-hour documentary called Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene (2013). I recommend it, it does a good job of showing how Greene’s fiction draws on his life — more specifically, on his extra-marital affairs. For example, The Heart of the Matter deals with a man who’s torn between his wife and his mistress, as Greene himself was. The End of the Affair deals with his passionate, ten-year relationship with Catherine Walston. Faulkner said that The End of the Affair was “one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody’s language.”

Graham Greene and Catherine Walston around 1950

Greene had a keen interest in film, and wrote many film reviews. It has been said that his fiction has a visual character, that his scenes are suited for film. Greene wrote several screenplays, including Our Man in Havana and The Third Man, which is “considered one of the greatest films of all time.”19 A character in The Third Man, Harry Lime, is based on Philby.

Greene was born into a family that was large, talented, and affluent. In his youth, Greene was in the shadow of his older brother Raymond, and his mother focused on her two daughters. Perhaps this is why Graham seemed to have a weak sense of self-worth, seemed to need frequent stimulation (traveling, etc.), and had a penchant for philandering. He often experienced depression, which he termed “boredom,” and as a young man, he attempted suicide, and played dangerous games such as Russian Roulette.

Greene’s place in the family hierarchy may have also influenced his politics, which might be called “younger brother politics.” He looked askance at power, and always thought that justice lay with the weaker party. For example, if the U.S. had an argument with Panama, Greene was sure to side with Panama.

3. The Play Call

The recent Super Bowl ended with a controversial play call: the Seahawks chose to pass instead of run, the Patriots intercepted the pass and won the game. The interception was made by Malcolm Butler, who said after the game, “I just had a vision that I was going to make a big play.” In an earlier issue, I mentioned a soccer player who dreamed of scoring a game-winning goal, and then did so. Butler said he anticipated the pass because of the Seahawks’ formation, and because the quarterback was looking that way.

The Seahawk coaches thought they had three downs in which to score, and enough time-outs. The Patriots defense was stacked against a run. The Seahawk coaches thought, “Why not pass when the defense expects a run, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll run when they expect a pass.” So they weren’t opting against a run with their star running back, they were just opting against a run on that particular down.

An article in the New York Times uses game theory to argue that the Seahawk play call wasn’t a bad call. It looks like a bad call because it had a bad outcome, but should we judge a decision by its outcome? If I decide to travel to Japan and my plane crashes, does that mean travelling was a bad decision? According to the Times,

The logic is that if you always choose to run in this situation, then you make the opposing coach’s job too easy, as he will set a defensive formation aimed at stopping your running back.... As great as Lynch is, even he would find it difficult to run over a stacked defense that was waiting for him.... Instead, you need to keep your opponents guessing, and the only way to do this is to be unpredictable. The only way to be unpredictable is to be a little bit random.

If the pass had worked, would anyone have said, “That was a bad call”?

© L. James Hammond 2015
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1. The biologist J.B.S. Haldane exemplifies the popularity of Communism among British intellectuals. Haldane’s admiration for Stalin lasted until at least 1962, when he described Stalin as “a very great man who did a very good job.” It has been alleged that Haldane spied for the Soviets. back
2. Wikipedia back
3. Wikipedia back
4. In his interview with Brian Lamb, Anthony Cave Brown says that Philby may have been working for the British at the end of his life. I regard this as a wild speculation. back
5. New York Times back
5B. Perhaps George Russell was thinking about the connection between upbringing and crime when he wrote, “In the lost boyhood of Judas, Christ was betray’d.” back
6. Crime Library. The author of this web-page, Pete Earley, wrote a book called Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring (Earley also wrote a book about Aldrich Ames).

In earlier issues, I discussed other criminals who were traumatized as children—the Unabomber, Hitler, Stalin, etc. back

7. Hanssen was inspired by a memoir, not a fictional work, so his case is somewhat different from the cases of mimetic syndrome mentioned above. Perhaps we should use the term “copycat crime,” instead of “mimetic syndrome.” Hanssen’s remark to Robert Lauren is from the televised talk by Adrian Havill. back
8. Wikipedia back
8b. Confessions of a Spy, by Pete Earley, p. 26 back
9. Los Angeles Times back
10. New York Times back
11. See Freud’s essay “Libidinal Types” (1931). I discussed crime and narcissism in an earlier issue. back
12. “Libidinal Types” (1931) back
13. New York Times back
14. I’m paraphrasing, these aren’t verbatim quotes. back
15. New York Times. Next quote from Pete Earley, p. 17 back
16. Ames’ interviewer said, “There’s been quite a bit of debate inside and outside the C.I.A. — what’s the agency’s mission now that the cold war is over and the Soviets are gone?” Ames’ response: “Everyone is pretending things haven’t changed. And by God, the scales have to drop from our eyes at some point.... We have been deluding ourselves politically and convincing ourselves that we have a special mission.” Ames thinks that the CIA is on the wrong track, and that he knows better. back
17. On the whole, Ames enjoyed working for the CIA, and he felt a “team spirit” for the agency: “It’s really hard to talk to an outsider about it [Ames said].... There is a mystique... there is an old tradition in the agency.... I was a strong believer in the kind of bond... you also had a kind of professional, personal, obligation.” New York Times back
18. Youtube has videos on all these spies. Click here for a Hanssen video, it’s from a show on Court TV called “Mugshots.” Another Hanssen video is here; it’s from the Discovery Channel, and it’s called “Robert Hanssen: Double Agent Revealed.” Click here for a 2-hour discussion of the Hanssen case; the discussion took place at the International Spy Museum, and is called “Witness To History: The Investigation of Robert Hanssen.”

Click here for a short but very good video about Aldrich Ames; it’s by ABC News and Ted Koppel. Click here for a talk by Sandy Grimes about how Ames was caught. There’s a TV movie about Ames called Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within (1998), and there’s a TV miniseries about Ames called The Assets (2014).

As for movies, I recommend The Third Man (1949), though it’s an old movie, and the audio is unclear at times. The Good Shepherd (2006) is intelligent and tasteful, but too long and too hard to follow. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) is about a mole hunt in the British secret service; it, too, is hard to follow.

Books on Hanssen:

  • The Bureau and the Mole, by David Vise
  • Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI’s Robert Hanssen Betrayed America, by David Wise
  • The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold: The Secret Life of FBI Double Agent Robert Hanssen, by Adrian Havill
  • The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Damaging FBI Agent in U.S. History, by Elaine Shannon and Ann Blackman
Books on Ames:
  • Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed, by Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille (Grimes and Vertefeuille worked with Ames at the CIA, and later played key roles in catching him)
  • Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames, by Pete Earley (Earley wrote about recent espionage in Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War.)
  • Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, by three New York Times writers
A former KGB agent, Oleg Kalugin, wrote two books about the KGB: The First Directorate and Spymaster (though a critic of the KGB, Kalugin wasn’t a double-agent). Another KGB agent, Victor Cherkashin, wrote Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer: the True Story of the Man Who Recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames. A recent book about the CIA is Henry Crumpton’s The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service.

David Kahn is an expert on code-breaking and the author of The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing (1996), Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939-1943, and other works. F. W. Winterbotham wrote about World War II espionage, in which he was personally involved. Perhaps his best-known book is The Ultra Secret, which deals with code-breaking. Andrew Hodges wrote Alan Turing: The Enigma, which was made into a popular movie called The Imitation Game.

Frederick Forsyth wrote The Deceiver, a novel in which The Cambridge Five play a role. back

19. Wikipedia back