New Light on Old Spies - A Review of Recent Soviet Intelligence Revelations - part 3 - Dagger and Cloak

Sunday, 15 July 2007

New Light on Old Spies - A Review of Recent Soviet Intelligence Revelations - part 3

Part 1

Part 2

State Security: Abel

The admission to the Soviet people that the state security service, long portrayed as a defensive, counterintelligence arm of the state, does in fact engage in peacetime espionage abroad is equally dramatic. By virtue of its internal, repressive activity, the security service is only too well known to the Soviet population. Few Soviet citizens can have avoided some brush with the heavy hand of the security component, but equally few of them have known until recently what every literate Westerner has long known, that the state security service is also a principal arm of Soviet espionage abroad. In keeping with the dogma that only aggressive imperialist states engage in espionage, the existence of the First Chief Directorate of the security service, the foreign arm, was never admitted. The surfacing of its espionage in foreign countries, therefore, represents a major shift in Soviet intelligence policy.

This policy shift was signaled by an article on the career of Col. Rudolf Abel that appeared in Nedelya (The Week) during May 1965. According to its author, Abel was born in a city near the Volga, entered the state security service about 1927, and worked before and during World War II as an intelligence agent against Germany, being covered as a member of the German minority in Latvia. It is significant that Abel's espionage activity after the war is shown as motivated by a personal desire to neutralize the activity of "fascist criminals" who had taken refuge in the West. The theme of working against Nazi criminals presumably would be popular with the Soviet people and fits the time-honored portrayal of state security as a defensive organization.

Colonel Abel is also the hero of a novel by Vadim Kozhevnikov now being serialized in Znamya, the organ of the Union of Writers. Kozhevnikov's novel has not yet appeared in book form in the USSR. It is also being serialized in the Yugoslav newspaper Borba.

According to the author, Abel's true name is Aleksandr Ivanovich Belov. Since the work is frankly fiction, however, none of the data it contains can be accepted without verification. The significant fact is that the Soviet government has thus belatedly chosen to portray Abel as a hero Chekist employed in espionage abroad.

The theme of work against postwar Nazis, it is interesting to note, also appears in the purported memoirs of Gordon Lonsdale (Conon Molody), the state security officer who was convicted of espionage in the United Kingdom and later exchanged for Greville Wynne, a British subject involved in the Penkovskiy trial. Lonsdale claims that he wished to operate against former Nazis who were employed in the United Kingdom. The Lonsdale "memoirs," which have been serialized in the British press but not published in the USSR are clearly designed as a deception operation. Their accounts of his Canadian birth, a childhood spent in Poland, and intelligence work with Colonel Abel in the United States before going to the United Kingdom are, from evidence on hand, complete fabrications. They are designed to confuse Western intelligence services, sow dissension between the British and American governments, and denigrate both British security and British justice. Any truth they may contain is merely incidental to these purposes.

Continue reading - Dzerzhinskiy

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