THE KANSAS CITY TIMES, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1965, p.45
Sifting the True From False in Spy Accounts
By C. L. Sulzberger
(© 1965. New York Times News Service)
PARIS — “Any fiction spy story you have ever read pales in comparison with Oleg Penkovsky’s dramatic account of his extraordinary personal adventure,” says the advertisement of an American best seller.
Simultaneously, English readers are offered memoirs called “Spy” by a Soviet agent known in London as Gordon Lonsdale until his arrest for espionage and really named Konon Trofimovitch Molody. Molody-Lonsdale was subsequently exchanged for Greville Wynne, a British associate of Penkovsky imprisoned in the U. S. S. R. Wynne has not yet published a book.
Victor Zorza, the Manchester Guardian’s Kremlinologist, believes “The Penkovsky Papers“ are not “wholly genuine.” He contends no Russian text has been produced and the English version is “peppered with words and phrases no man with Penkovsky’s Soviet background would use.” Zorza adduces errors in dates and “facts,” asserting much of Penkovsky’s memoir must have been written “by a Western pen.” He concludes:
“The book can have been compiled only by the Central Intelligence agency.”
THE GENESIS of Pen¬ kovsky’s quoted papers seems valid but whether part of the work is fake cannot be judged. Whatever its origin, the work provides juicy reading and embarrasses Moscow just as Lonsdale’s possibly spurious work embarrasses Washington. Penkovsky was undoubtedly an efficient Western agent in the Soviet hierarchy where his boss was Kosygin’s son-in-law. After Penkovsky’s arrest in 1962, almost 300 Soviet intelligence officers were recalled as intelligence networks were overhauled.
The period since World War II has been gaudy with spies, forgeries and fakes. Indeed some spies have been widely- publicized—like Col. Rudolf Abel, traded for U-2 pilot Gary Powers; Lonsdale; Ivan Egorov, a Soviet official in the U. N. ; Giuseppe Martelli, an Italian who spied for Moscow in hollow-heeled shoes; Burgess, Maclean and Philby, who skipped to Russia when their cover wore thin.
YET INTELLIGENCE services don’t limit themselves to ferreting out secrets; they calumniate each other whenever possible. Moscow’s K. G. R. has its “dis-information” section with a subsidiary branch in East Germany that disseminates false papers. Some of these have included crude “documents” bearing IL S. cabinet or CIA “signatures.”
Four years ago the CIA as¬ serted it had uncovered 32 such forgeries in four years. British counterintelligence is equally alert. Some “documents” are sold and others merely given to naive newspapers.
The befuddled public derives particular entertainment from the cold war’s fake literary productions. Among these Prof. Paul W. Blackstock of the University of South Carolina lists; The purported diary of Maxim Litvinov, late Soviet foreign minister; the strategic thesis of Marshal Bulganin; “memoirs” of General Viassov, who organized an army of Russian prisoners for Hitler and was later hanged, and two volumes of fascinating recollections by a nonexistent nephew of Stalin, Budu Svanidze.
EXCELLENT works in this category—including those of Litvinov and “Svanidze”—were apparently manufactured in Paris by the literary “artel” of a refugee Soviet diplomat named Grigori Bcssedovsky. In 1929 Bessedovsky, then counselor at the Russian embassy in Paris, sought political asylum.
According to Blackstock, Bessedovsky, gentleman of talent and imagination, once wrote a fellow emigre from Poland:
“Sir, I write books for idiots. Do you imagine that anyone in the West would read what you call my apocryphal works if, in quoting Kaganovich, Zhukov, Mikoyan, or Bulganin, I tried to be faithful to the manner, sense and form of their speeches?...
“But when I portray Stalin or Molotov in pajamas, when I tell the dirtiest possible stories about them—never mind whether they are true or invented—rest assured that not only all intellectuals will read me. but also the most important capitalist statesman, on his wav to a peace conference, will pick up mv book before going to sleep in his Pullman ... j Allah has given money to the stupid in order that the intelli-1 gent can live easily.”
FACTS, fiction, half-truths j and distortions are mixed together in the strange game played by competing intelligence services and ambitious: entrepreneurs. When an American military attache in Moscow lost his diary, Russian security officials published it with falsified inserts such as: “War! As soon as possible. Now!”
Among amateur factories, Bessedovsky’s ranks high. He fooled some of the most preten-1 tious Kremlinologists. Even Gen. Bedell Smith, former U. S. ambassador to Moscow and CIA bass, was persuaded to write an introductory note for the highly suspect Litvinov memoirs.
Penkovsky and Molody may be genuine authors but, at any rate, the late Ian Fleming had many unannounced anonymous cold war competitors. Like Fleming’s works, they are pleasant bedside reading.