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The Great Game

The Myths and Reality of Espionage

The Great Game by Frederick P. Hitz
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In this riveting insider’s account, a former inspector general of the CIA compares actual espionage cases and practices with classic and popular spy fiction, showing that the real world of espionage is nearly always stranger and more complicated than even the best spy fiction.Exploring everything from tradecraft and recruitment to bureaucracy and betrayal, The Great Game contrasts fictional spies created by such authors as John Le Carr?, Tom Clancy and Joseph Conrad with their real-life counterparts from Kim Philby to Aldrich Ames. Drawing on his thirty year career with the CIA, Frederick P. Hitz shows that even the most imaginative authors fail to capture the profound human dilemmas raised by real-life cases. Engaging and insightful, The Great Game shines a fascinating light on the veiled history of intelligence.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group; December 2007
224 pages; ISBN 9780307428707
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: The Great Game
Author: Frederick P. Hitz
Chapter One


To be blunt, leadership is the ability to dominate and get your way. To do that requires the ability to inspire and provide trust, self-confidence, recognizable professional skills, caring, and many other qualities.

I submit you need these same skills when recruiting an agent, whose cooperation with you, if exposed, holds risk of death, imprisonment, or at a minimum dishonor. As you move into the recruitment "pitch" and the full dimensions of what you are asking dawns on the prospective agent, he or she looks at you with consummate disbelief, even when he or she more or less expects something is coming. Although perhaps not articulated, their eyes scream that what you want is the most ludicrous thing ever requested of them. In the end you succeed through leadership, for through the development of the agent you have brought yourself into a position of dominance and trust.

This excerpt from Duane "Dewey" Clarridge's autobiography is an experienced spy runner's take on the qualities needed to effect recruitment of an agent. In order to collect secret information from foreign countries, which is the essence of spying, one must recruit human sources to gain access to that information. Clarridge has described the straight-up recruitment approach, at which he was adept, but that approach is obviously not the only way to acquire the keys to the secret kingdom. There are as many possibilities as there are human foibles and motivations to exploit. In the textbook case, recruitment occurs only after the potential spy has been identified as having access to the information being sought, has been assessed as vulnerable to a recruitment approach, and has been cultivated to bring him into a state of mind where he might consider a recruitment pitch without denouncing the recruiter to the authorities. The object of the recruitment pitch is to acquire control over the prospective spy so that he will accept direction from the spy runner.

Seldom does the saga unfold in the manner prescribed in the Sarratt (the British Secret Intelligence Service, known as SIS or MI6) or CIA training manuals. A good fictional illustration of this is contained in David Ignatius's account of agent operations in the Middle East, Agents of Innocence. The central character, CIA case officer Tom Rogers (who is loosely modeled on a real CIA officer killed in the Beirut embassy bombing in 1983), cultivates the deputy chief of Fatah intelligence as a secret informant on terrorist threats to U.S. citizens traveling and working in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Rogers is an experienced Arabist with good Arabic-language skills who painstakingly establishes rapport with PECOCK, as the Fatah official is encrypted. (A recruited or potential spy is given a cryptonym in order to protect his identity in normal correspondence between the field and Headquarters.) Rogers's recruitment philosophy is remarkably uncomplicated. It is based on the simple observation that people like to talk: old politicians want to tell war stories and young revolutionaries want to explain how they plan to change the world. Rogers observes that they should not be telling him these things but they always do. All of them, all over the world, seek the ear of an interested American, he believes, and with his open, straightforward approach, just listening beats all the gadgets and formal contractual procedures for obtaining useful secret information.

Recruiting someone is about getting him to do what you want, rather than just forcing him to do what he doesn't want. I learned a long time ago that it's easy to manipulate people-if you know what you want from them and don't tell them why you're being so friendly.

Rogers's superiors do not share his philosophy. In order to secure PECOCK's cooperation as a penetration of Fatah, they want a more businesslike arrangement in which control is exchanged for money. When Rogers is unsuccessful in getting PECOCK to plant a bug in the conference room of a rival Palestinian terrorist organization, the recruitment issue comes to a head:

In the world of recruiting agents, playing by the book meant contracts that were clearly understood by both sides, ones that imposed on the slippery and deceitful world of espionage, some of the order of the legal world. Marsh liked relationships that were clear and straightforward. I buy your services for an agreed-upon price; you agree to deliver certain material in exchange; we both profit by the relationship. He understood that sort of arrangement, and he believed in it. Each side knew the risks and rewards. It was a transaction between adults. What troubled Marsh were relationships that were more complicated, where subtler and less orderly moti-vations prevailed. Those relationships-based on frail human emotions like friendship, respect, and loyalty-were the dangerous ones. And perhaps also less moral.

Marsh, of course, acts on his philosophy, and in a showdown meeting with PECOCK in Rome tries to put the harness on him, at which point, in an outburst of rage, PECOCK bolts from the meeting site in disgust. It turns out that PECOCK's relationship with Rogers had been sanctioned by the political head of Fatah from the beginning. It was never a unilateral recruitment into a clandestine relationship, but it had worked because there had been a useful exchange of undertakings by both sides. The United States had not joined the Israeli effort to eliminate Fatah, and PECOCK had kept the U.S. informed of terrorist plots against Americans-a beneficial bargain. When Rogers is able to reestablish the relationship on that basis with PECOCK, the two collaborate until they are both killed, in separate bombing incidents.

Sometimes intelligence services attempt a more coercive approach. In Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios, Karol Bulic, a Serbian employee of the Yugoslav Defense Ministry, is suborned by appealing to his self-conceit, greed, and zest for gambling. After the spymaster has established Bulic's access to Yugoslav plans to mine the Adriatic against incursions by the Italian fleet, Bulic is invited to a gambling den by an "international businessman" who implies a promise of future employment. Bulic is then lent some capital with which to gamble and maintain his pose as a worldly figure. He proceeds to lose badly, and the "businessman" pulls the string, forcing Bulic to steal the plans in order to satisfy his debt. The scheme eventually disintegrates into a farcical double cross by an operative named Dimitrios Makropoulos, but the point is established. In this espionage-for-hire caper, blackmail is the tool chosen to mount the recruitment. A Coffin for Dimitrios represents one of the better spy novels of the 1930s, after the epoch of the spy as protagonist and before the beginnings of World War II and Cold War spy fiction.

In real life, the British and American intelligence services have seldom banked on coercive recruitments because such recruitments contravene Anglo-Saxon legal and cultural norms and have been found, by and large, to produce unsatisfactory results. Whether that is because we are simply inept at blackmail, one can only conjecture. By contrast, the Soviet and

Eastern European intelligence services have used women operatives to entrap Western businessmen and government officials in sexual liaisons in order to secure their cooperation in intelligence tasks. This technique, in spy vernacular a "honey trap," was particularly prevalent in Berlin and Vienna from 1946 on, but it was utilized most effectively in Moscow in the 1980s to ensnare U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Clayton J. Lonetree. After he was confronted with photographs of his sexual dalliance with a female Soviet intelligence officer, Sergeant Lonetree was induced by the Soviet intelligence service to open the vaulted area of the U.S. embassy in Moscow to the Soviets for espionage purposes.

In addition to the traditional fee-for-service espionage recruitment, coerced or voluntary, there are some specialized versions. For example, Clarridge talks about "false flag" recruitments. While serving in India in 1963, he targeted a minor weekly newspaper which was espousing a strong pro-Chinese line in the ideological struggle between Soviet and Chinese Communism then taking place in southern India. He proposed to push the paper further and further to the left with the hope of prompting government intervention to suppress it. The publisher was Tamil, so to get in touch with him, Clarridge "borrowed" a support agent named Petros from outside India.

Petros didn't look Chinese, but on the other hand, he didn't look Indian either. "Eurasian" might fit. I brought him to Madras and gave him specific instructions: "Go see the pro-Chinese publisher. Tell him you have come from Beijing, or "the Center," as they call it. Offer him this stipend that he can't refuse, and recruit him on behalf of Beijing."

This would be a "false flag" recruitment-when an intelligence service recruits a target while pretending to represent another nation-a common piece of tradecraft. When you finally recruit the target, he believes he is providing information to some other nation. The Israelis have often used this technique by impersonating CIA officers when trying to recruit Arabs.

In the event, the scheme worked brilliantly. The pro-Chinese publisher took the bait and was proud that his work had come to Beijing's attention. Again, the Soviets made abundant use of this technique during the Cold War. They succeeded in getting Soviet Bloc intelligence services to make recruitments on their behalf-West Germans were recruited by their East German brethren, for example. It permitted the sponsoring service to insulate itself from blowback if the recruitment attempt failed, and achieve greater success as well.

Some recruitment approaches stand very little chance of success but are mounted anyway, because the downside risk is dwarfed by the potential gain if the pitch is accepted. These are pitches where the case officer has had little or no opportunity to become acquainted with the target, to develop him to see if he might be amenable to such an approach. They are thus styled "cold pitches" or "gangplank" recruitment attempts. Clarridge describes a pitch to a Mongolian diplomat posted to India in 1961, who was about to be rotated home to Ulan Bator. The United States had no diplomatic relations with Mongolia at the time but was anxious to establish contacts with Mongolian officials, in order to prepare the way for formal ties. Clarridge made the pitch, without success, but confessed that although he had been called upon to make such cold approaches later, from a vantage point at the end of his career, he did not know of one that had succeeded.

In the world of spy fiction, who can forget the attempt by George Smiley in India in 1955 to recruit his career nemesis, Karla, in John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy? Karla was being summoned home to Moscow to face the music after the failure of an illegal's radio-connected espionage scheme in San Francisco. Smiley had a go at trying to get Karla to defect, from a stifling jail cell in Delhi, where the Indian intelligence service was holding him temporarily at the request of the British. Fruitlessly, he tried to appeal to Karla's humanity:

"To sum it up, Karla was the proverbial cold-war orphan. He had left home to do a job abroad. The job had blown up in his face, but he couldn't go back: home was more hostile than abroad. We had no powers of permanent arrest, so it was up to Karla to ask us for protection. I don't think I had come across a clearer case for defection. I had only to convince him of the arrest of the San Francisco network-wave the press photographs and cuttings from my briefcase at him-talk to him a little about the unfriendly conspiracies of Brother Rudnev in Moscow, and cable the somewhat overworked inquisitors in Sarratt, and with any luck I'd make London by the weekend."

Karla, of course, made no response to Smiley's offer, beyond walking off with Smiley's gold cigarette lighter and a pack of Camels. In answer to a question as to whether Karla had ever really thought of coming over:

"I'm sure it never crossed his mind," said Smiley with disgust. "I behaved like a soft fool. The very archetype of a flabby Western liberal. But I would rather be my kind of fool than his, for all that. I am sure," he repeated vigorously, "that neither my arguments nor his own predicament at Moscow Centre would ultimately have swayed him in the least."

Having established the traditional parameters of the recruitment game, do we find that recruitment pitches play out according to these precepts? In the search for direction and control of a reporting agent, the understandings reached between recruiter and spy are as varied as human nature and the diverse cultures of the principal players. Dewey Clarridge pursued a Polish trade official posted in Istanbul for years before patience and a lucky opening permitted him to reel him in. By sheer persistence, Clarridge was able to get the ball rolling. He was able to persuade Mr. and Mrs. Adamski (fictitious names used in Clarridge's autobiography to protect the official and his wife because they are still alive) to come to dinner at the Clarridge apartment and to maintain social contact for a time. Even in the West, and in a benign environment such as existed in Turkey in 1968, merely maintaining contact with a Soviet or Soviet Bloc official was a chore. An American official had to assume that if the Communist official continued to accept invitations, it probably meant that he was an intelligence officer deputed to try to recruit the American. Clarridge looked for indications that Adamski was simply what he appeared to be, a senior Polish trade official without an intelligence brief, and he found one when he encountered Adamski "unexpectedly" on a fishing expedition and Adamski clearly recognized him but concealed that fact from his embassy companions. Subsequently, Clarridge prevailed upon Adamski to meet with him alone over a bottle of scotch (the mother's milk of spy recruitments, but more on that later), only to discover that the Adamskis had completed their tour in Istanbul and were returning to Poland in several months' time. By this time, Clarridge was fairly certain that Adamski was what he appeared to be, a trade official, but it made no sense to pursue a recruitment attempt in May 1969 when the Adamskis were due to return home so soon. Years passed, and, as luck would have it, the Adamskis were assigned to Ankara in August 1971 at the same time as Clarridge became the CIA chief there. Despite several attempts, it took Clarridge more than a year to reestablish contact with his target, and in the event, the telephone call came from Adamski. He asked for an urgent meeting, and during the meeting he revealed to Clarridge that his wife, Irina, was pregnant. The significance of this revelation was not lost on Clarridge. If Irina was pregnant, the Adamskis would be required to return to Poland, which they emphatically did not want to do. Adamski asked Clarridge for help in obtaining an abortion. That was the hook. Over the objections of CIA headquarters, Clarridge sought and obtained abortion pills from the Agency's regional medical officer and passed them to Adamski.

From the Hardcover edition.
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