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Curator's Corner - Dead Doubles with Trevor Barnes

Jun 08, 2021
Hello, welcome to the




. Dead


with Trevor Barnes. I'm Amanda Ulke, director of adult education at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. Thanks for joining us on a cold, gloomy day in DC, historian and


of the Spy Museum, Dr. Andrew Hammond. In a moment we will talk to Mr. Barnes about the case behind Trevor's book Dead Doubles, the extraordinary global search for one of the most notorious dismissals of the Cold War, but first a word about Trevor, he studied espionage and the early history of He studied at the University of Cambridge and was a Kennedy Fellow at Harvard.
curator s corner   dead doubles with trevor barnes
He has worked as a radio and television journalist for the BBC and as a legal consultant. He is the author of three detective novels. He also researched and wrote Trial in Tehran. He plays about the trial in Poland of a secret service murder case. He is a very fascinating person and you will be able to ask him your own questions after Andrew and Trevor talk. So thank you for being here. Thanks Andrew and Trevor. I'm gonna disappear. for a few minutes and let them take us, thanks Amanda, so I was really looking forward to seeing this Trevor, especially after we had such a great talk last week, um and in the museum business, we're in the artifact business. and I know you have a cool gadget or accessory and I was wondering if we could use it to set the scene a little bit for your book, so I mean later on you'll be sure that this is the gadget that Andrew was referring to is a lighter of vintage Ronson cigarettes from 1960 and, of course, this is not the one that was involved in the case, but I think it helps us a lot to establish the prologue and the whole story of the amazing, frankly amazing, targeted counterespionage investigation. by Great Britain's MI5, which is the national security service of the United Kingdom or why this artifact is interesting.
curator s corner   dead doubles with trevor barnes

More Interesting Facts About,

curator s corner dead doubles with trevor barnes...

Well, it really was the key to the MI5 case and it emerged in September 1960 because at that stage they had started the case and had identified a Canadian businessman. I thought he was living under the name Gordon Lonsdale and Gordon Longsdale had been followed after he was first identified in London and at the end of August 1960 he went to the Midland Bank in central London, quite close to where I used to work first. nothing for the BBC in a new broadcasting house and he went to the bank with three articles, three cases and came out with nothing, so there was a hurried phone call to my HQ in Mayfair saying something had happened in Lonsdale, you know? disappeared into the bank with this stuff and came out with nothing so mi5 said wow you know we have to think about what we do about this and at the same time, Lonsdale had literally disappeared, his phones at the time were being tapped and I heard that He said he was going away for a few weeks to Canada, so my5 decided to take the rather irregular step of going to the bank safe deposit box where he had left these items and among the items they took back to the top of mi5. secret laboratory near st paul's cathedral at the end of their search they came across this and the man who was the chief investigator of mi5 was a man called charles elwell fascinating man and he said why on earth would lonsdale keep the lighter along with other quite a few articles sensitive on the bench, so we asked them to put it under an X-ray machine and they did, and it was discovered that there was a shadow, so they decided to open it and the inside was hollow.
curator s corner   dead doubles with trevor barnes
This is not the original one you saw. They took it out of a patch of green bays and underneath the eureka moment were three standard KGB single-use notepads, that is, the miniaturized coding pads that CIA agents abroad used to take down their messages that They were written in plain text in normal script, yes how to encode them and then send them by message back to Moscow and at that moment kuching mi5 knew that the man they were chasing, gordon lonsdale, was actually a secret and undercover illegal agent of the kgb which was the one who shot, since they say that was the moment that the Penny fell, yes, after that moment, since the case had started, I mean, it started at the beginning of the year when, um, it was moving forward at the beginning, but Then there was a surprising breakthrough in late April 1960 that came from the CIA because one of the other interesting features of the case is the fact that its tentacles really do extend all over the world and are a wonderful illustration of how important the five eyes intelligence cooperation between the main intelligence services of those five eyes powers and it was the Americans who played a key role and the CIA at the end of April 1960 had for a couple of years had an agent somewhere working in Eastern Europe or Russia, they were not sure exactly where the person codenamed Sniper worked and by the end of April, the sniper had produced top secret CIA intelligence passed to MI5, which said that in early 1950s in 1951 in Warsaw in the Polish capital in the office of the British naval attaché someone was recruited and that person began to provide information to the Polish intelligence service this person He was then sent back to Britain and is now actively working for the INC.
curator s corner   dead doubles with trevor barnes
I feel sorry for the kgb at the british admiralty i.e. in effect the uk navy and this person's name starts with an h something like there was only one main suspect when mi5 They looked through the files and found out there was a man called Harry Houghton who had been in the navy in the Second World War, got out and then went to Warsaw and worked in the British navy, in their office and then came back to the UK. He worked at a place called Underwater Detection Establishment in Portland, which is located on the southwest coast of England.
Those viewers interested in English literature and familiar with the novels of Thomas Hardy will no doubt know that Dorset is where Hardy set his greatest novels. and it is on the dorset coast that Portland is located and it is a Portland there of course that gave Portland Spyrin its name, so My5 had put Halton under observation. Howton had a girlfriend. The relationships arose from looking at the files and the searches that were done and the phone calls that were tapped, but either way, they were surveilled and that was really what led Mi5 to Lonsdale and the lighter that we spoke to because through the wiretapping of Houston's phone.
They discovered that Halton was coming to London to meet someone they didn't know, how, why, when in early July 1960, MI5 followed Halton with his team of people they called the observers in John Le Carré's novels, so called. The Lamplighters and Howton were seen meeting this mysterious Canadian businessman outside the famous Old Vic theater and there was an exchange of something, they were too far away to see what it was and that was what put Lonsdale on MI5's radar screen. We'll explore the cast of characters a little more in a moment, but before we get there, here in the United States, Larry King sadly recently passed away and was famous in his interviews for never having read the book. of the person he was in order to put himself in the place of the spectators and listeners.
I've read your book, but I'm going to pretend I haven't, so tell us a little more about why this case is important. it was the undersea defense establishment why did the cia care why did this have global tentacles so help us understand what's at stake and what was involved well we have to think back to the cold war and the fact that The intelligence war between the Soviet bloc and the West were in effect a substitute for the hot war, fortunately during the cold war the only really widespread hot war was in Korea in the early 1950s, but Russia was hermetically sealed off to the union. soviet, i mean, putin's russia has nothing to do with what the soviet union was like and that's why the west was quite paranoid because of course they already knew at this stage in the 1950s that russia had nuclear weapons, so it was crucial that they knew everything about Russia and it was equally crucial that Russia learned everything it could about the West.
Now Russia, since the mid-1950s and particularly in 1956, when Khrushchev assumed power at the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, wanted to build its navy, it wanted, Khrushchev was obsessed with submarines and, of course, with cheapest way to get them. Developing his navy in particular, building his first nuclear submarine and making sure it had the best sonar was spying on the West. They had learned this lesson from Los Alamos and stealing the secrets of the first atomic bomb that Britain and NATO had based. much of the most important part of all his underwater research on submarines and torpedoes in Portland, Britain at that time was a world leader in this area, along with the United States, Britain was building its first nuclear submarine called Drytnort and Britain had developed a world-leading nuclear system. submarine sonar called type 2001 but, of course, also in Portland there were other really important secrets of interest to the Russians.
The British were sending their submarines on very, very sensitive missions to try to breach the Soviet Union's submarine defenses to gather information. Incredibly dangerous, highly secret missions and of course the Russians wanted to know what was going on with them, so Portland was a really important target for the KGB in the 1950s, but I'm also Britain in general, so I What the KGB decided to do was establish a network of spies and, as some of the viewers of this event know, Russia has always run two groups of spies: the legal ones who work in the embassies and the illegal ones who lived under deep cover, the most recent, of course, exposed in the states because they still continue with ghost story operations and that is why this case is important because it is a wonderful miniature of the way the kgb wanted, whenever possible, to establish illegal spy networks in the west to be able to really, really steal. important secrets that would save immense amounts of rubles and time for the Russian defense system and, very briefly, could you tell us in 1960 what Britain's nuclear deterrent was, based exclusively on submarines, or also an aircraft, or was there a variety from different platforms, well, in general terms it was in airplanes, but also in the beginnings of submarines.
You should keep in mind that the United States had the world's first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, and the United States shared the engine technology with Great Britain, although it was far from it. simple as shown in Peter Hennessey's wonderful book on the development of Britain's submarine fleet after the Second World War, but that was shared with Britain, so there was still no British nuclear deterrent in that stage, so it was on planes, there were suggestions that Britain would develop some rockets, some medium-range nuclear weapons that could be deployed in Europe, but this was a very sensitive issue.
The new president of the United States, JF Kennedy, was in talks with his administration to see what could happen, but it was a very, very sensitive area. As some documents just released by the US national security archive show, we were very, very close to starting nuclear submarine deterrence, but in the case of Britain, everything was in the plane at that time, it is well, thank you, I think the next thing that would be useful would be to just tell us that the dramatus personae, who are the main characters involved, who were in Portland Spiring, I think there were several different nationalities and different and quite interesting characters involved, I mean.
One of the fun things about researching and then writing the novel or rather writing the story was that it felt like a novel that was trying to discover and then portray the different characters of the five spies and their motivations. In fact there were five spies, so I've already talked about Gordon Lonsdale, the Canadian businessman, as he seemed to be the one posing as a jukebox salesman, then there were the two Brits, at this stage there was Harry Halton , about 50 years old, and had his girlfriend ethel g, who was about 40 years old. she was not married, she lived with her elderly mother, surprisingly I discovered in the archives that she even shared a bedroom with her mother, which must have been quite difficult for a woman in her forties and also for two other elderly relatives who were leading a life very restricted, so when halton had separated from his wife and by the way there is a story there about the relationship between harry halter and his wife as the wife provides useful information to mi5 about harry halter and then directed his attention to ethel g, she obviously had it.
The head turned relatively easily, but the last two characters in the ring um only emerged towards the end of 1960 because when Gordon Lonsdalereturned from his trip abroad, this was after the lighter had been discovered and MI5 had investigated further into Lonsdale. Lonsdale returned to Very, very well equipped, I mean it was close to Regent's Park in London, but it was a small apartment, but he didn't stay there every night. He used to travel west from London and watchers followed him more and more until one night he disappeared into um. a small road in the north-west London suburb of Ricelip that had nothing extraordinary about it apart from the fact that it was unremarkable, a quiet bedroom area in a central London suburb and MI5 had no idea where He had gone and they could not follow him.
He threw it on the road because the people following Longsdale were afraid of being seen, so mi5 set up a lookout and a few days later they spotted lookout signs at a neighbor's house. They saw Lonsdale emerge from the front door of a bungalow. In front of number 45 Cranley Drive and this was where a man named Peter Kroger lived and his wife Helen Kroger and Peter Kroger at the time seemed to be an antique bookseller so this was where Lonsdale was disappearing and that makes up the five spies . When MI5 did their initial investigations, neighbors told them the Krogers were Canadian, but in reality it turned out they had new ones. passports from Zealand, so again you can see how we have Canada, we have New Zealand, we have the United States, um and that without you knowing what was happening in Europe as well and the cooperation of the European intelligence agencies, so those It's the five spies and one of those five spies is on the cover of your book I'm sorry, I missed it, it's one of those five spies that's on the cover of your book yes, I'm sorry, yes, on the cover from the book there is um gordon lonsdale and you can see that in front of the houses of parliament um in this case this is a photo of lonsdale after he was sent to prison in britain talk about that in a moment if you want the trial and he was subjected of a spy exchange and that particular photograph, if it wasn't taken in London, it was taken in Russia or East Germany after his liberation, so that's him looking typically Russian with one of those wonderful Russian hats and part of the research for our conversation.
I went to the MI5 website and I'm going to quote it here. They say this marked one of the most important post-war spy services, but some other people think he was a bit more key police, how do you see MI5? uh counterintelligence operation against aspirants, I don't think it's fair to describe it as a key police operation from my point of view, I think it was taking into account the limited technologies that were available at the time and the fact that a successful counterintelligence operation It is based on careful detective work by counter-intelligence agents as well as good cooperation with police services, certainly in the UK when people need to be arrested it all worked incredibly well and keep in mind what It is difficult to locate kgb. illegals the end result was, I think it's fair to say, a resounding success.
That's not to say that everything was absolutely perfect because there were several flies in the ointment. There was some absolutely fascinating top secret research into what lessons could be learned from this. The subsequent case and transcripts of the evidence given in that top secret investigation controlled by a retired former judge called the Rome Inquiry are in fact in the British archives and it is fascinating to read word for word the evidence of MI5 boss Sir Roger Hollis. of a senior figure in the british equivalent of the nsa, a man called arthur bill bonsall in organizations called gchq, they played a key role that was not known at all until the files came out and i described it in my book to a great anyway, because gchq was involved in intercepting and then deciphering gordon lonsdale's radio messages from his apartment in regents park, um, which was no easy task, but what was the main catch in the ointment, but the main catch in the ointment was which turned out that mi5, in theory, at least could have arrested harry halton years earlier because i talked before about harry houston's ex-wife in 1956, when their marriage was in ruins and they were not happy together, the ex-mrs. hounton had gone to the admiralty police and reported the The fact that Halton had a habit of taking a number of secret documents out of Portland without permission from the research center and then disappearing into London and then returning with pods of pound notes and then getting drunk and this was reported to the Admiralty police.
In Portland, they in turn had a fairly weak investigation into Houston, but this is the main point for MI5. They sent the documents to MI5 asking if MI5 had any records of Halton, but they said they felt these allegations were from the Admiralty. captured in terms of saying we believe these allegations are those of a woman scorned and the request for verification on the mi5 record reached the junior officer, the most unfortunate as it turned out, and mi5 had no source record, so that this uh, the young officer responded by saying that we have no record, this is something really stupid and completely inappropriate. um, we tend to agree with you that these are the accusations of a woman scorned and that she had no basis for writing. that and uh, there were a considerable number of red faces in MI5 when this came up, but as none other than MI5's number two said in a memo at the time, yes, in theory we could have caught him in 1956, but of course , if we had done it. would not have caught the other members of the ring, particularly the krogers, who once caught turned out to be much bigger fish than mi5 knew at the time they were arrested on January 7, 1961.
So just to stop goes deeper into each of those characters a little more


for harry houghton what was his motivation then for the espionage in the museum we talked about the mice uh ideology of money uh coercion or um ego which of them was harry houghton involved or was it something else , I think it was the m and it was the e uh Andrew, it was definitely money um and you know he was, you know, motivated, I think by the desire to get some money from the Soviet secret service, uh, but he also had this huge chip on his shoulder resulted from documents published by the kgb in the 1990s during the short, very short period in which several documents from the end of the kgb archives were published and were available in the west, he himself had offered his services to the Polish intelligence service and this was because he felt that in Warsaw he was treated badly compared to people of a higher social class who received better accommodation, better subsidies and so on.
There is also a record in the kgb archives that says he at one point expressed some resentment against American influence in Europe and Britain, but he certainly wasn't interested in ideology. He was not like George Blake, for example, who died on Boxing Day in Moscow, or Kim Philby and the other members of the group. the so called magnificent spies of the five kgb, but I think ego and at the end of the microphone also played a role, he had an ego and I think he felt that his superiors did not treat him properly and he liked to show off to the people around him they show themselves to As an example at the trial when he started telling stories about why he said he started spying, in other words the alleged coercion and you felt like he was almost standing at the bar of his local tavern enjoying people with stories of his time in the navy and trying to impress them and that is a symbol.
I think of someone with an ego who would like to have flattered and we simply turned our attention to gordon lonsdale colin molody recently uh re-read yuri modern, the controller of the cambridge five. I recently reread his memoirs and it seems to me that you know that in the first chapters of your book you talk about how the portland spiring was rolled, but it seems to me that Gordon Lonsdale's craft was not as refined or was not as careful as, for example , someone like Yuri Modern, so in the book you talk about how you know mi5 has people in a cafe listening to a phone call between Lonsdale and Hari and what their opinion is on that, well, I think uh and just to be clear, for true, Gordon Lonsdale's real name was conon via Fema, whose melody is the one Andrew said was not actually identified until after the trial in March 1961. and the FBI in particular had carried out detective work very, very impressive in California, precisely, and this identified that Molody had gone to California in his adolescence to stay with an aunt and that was how he learned fluent English, but upon returning On the subject of his profession, I think it is always easy to criticize to an agent who gets caught, but we must keep in mind that several things could have gone wrong.
My impression from reading it all was that, overall, uh Molody was a very, very good illegal agent and, in fact, regularly in the MI5 files you will read praise for him from people who follow him, saying how careful he is. looking behind him to make sure he isn't followed. You know, taking the appropriate precautions that he would have taken. They taught him when he went to the kgb academy to learn the trade from him. He was very, very charming. He created and ran a fairly effective network that certainly, in my opinion, based on all the research I've done, extended beyond Harry Houghton. and slg to include other spies whose real names have not yet emerged and I believe that valuable intelligence was obtained, for example, moving the chemical and biological center that Great Britain administers for an example of the cs gas secrecy that has recently been synthesized and even quite Possibly I think some of the first nerve agents that were developed in the early '50s in Port and Down, which in turn led to navi choc um, but of course, I mean, like I said, they caught it um, it's possible that, like uh gordon. lonsdale colin molody told mi5 when he was talking to them while he was in prison he said well I knew someone had been messing with the items in my safe deposit box who's to say all we know is that he stayed in London , I did.
I heard some stories from Soviet sources that Molody had alerted central Moscow to the fact that he rebelled, was under observation, and was possibly even on the brink, so one source told me he had been exfiltrated, but luckily I put more trust into it. at the meeting. I had with a former high ranking kgb man called mikhail ubimoth who was a contemporary of solo gordiewski and I met him in Moscow and when I told these stories to ubimoth I found him to be quite convincing, I must say he just said look, you know, first nothing, uh mogadi.
He wouldn't have gone to that final meeting at all, to meet two of his agents in Howton, for example, and if he had the slightest idea that he was being followed and that those people might be compromised, he said that would be a total violation. of everyone. the rules those people were taught at the Red Flag training school, he said you just don't do that kind of thing. I think it's most likely that he had some suspicions that he was being watched and that he was drinking more. and more attention to what was happening, but mi5 in those last weeks also took a step back.
You could see in those last few weeks and months how they were very nervous about alerting him and of course the Krogers about what was going on, so I think it's a little unfair to come down hard on him for saying that, like I said. , if you get caught, it's always possible to say that person would benefit from hindsight, they should realize what was going on and I mean, it comes at a pretty interesting time, so sooner. the 1950s uh burgess and mclean defected to the soviet union there are rumors of a third man not long after the portland spy ring who is revealed to be kim philby what was the opinion within the british intelligence establishment when they found out that all this was going on?
Oh my goodness, were we going to have some difficult phone calls with our American counterparts? Now tell us a little bit more about that Anglo-American relationship in that time period or was it made more acceptable by the fact that a couple of Americans were involved in aspiring, well, I think it's all of those factors, actually, I mean, the Ties between the CIA and the FBI were always very good, but clearly, I think it's fair to say, as the CIA and the FBI became more and more. more powerful with more and more resources uh the British servants have gone out of their way to reach out and offer all the help they can to, frankly, the more powerful and better resourced intelligence agencies, but in fact there was great praise from the United States, um, for um. the intelligence services and britain after the revelation of the inspirational portal and in a matter of weeks the very embarrassing revelation about george blake, you should note that he confessed only a few weeks after the end of the successful portland spirit trial and you see, Americans were no less gratefulwith the British intelligence services for discovering the Portland Spiring because I said that the identities of the Krogers were not known and when they were arrested, and in fact that was the case, the Krogers refused to give their fingerprints. to mi5, so a court order had to be sought to obtain those fingerprints, which were duly taken a couple of days after the arrest, those prints were taken to Scotland Yard and there was another really eureka moment in the print department fingerprints when it was discovered that there was a perfect match between those of Peter and Helen Kroger and Prince of two long-term KGB spies, Morris and Lona Cohen, who the FBI had circulated around the world in early 1958 because they had been searching. them since 1953, so here were two spies caught in the net totally unexpectedly that the Americans wouldn't have known about or seen and hoped they would have had access to if the British hadn't handled this case so effectively, but having said that, there was um after. because there were a series of spy scandals in the early 1950s after the generous approach Americans took to the arrest of the Portland spy ring and the confession of George Blake.
There was this wonderful quote from um. Even uh john j inca hoover, who wasn't always and liked to help the british like some of his other intelligence colleagues saying something like that even jesus had um if judas had had a traitor in his circle of disciples and you have to forgive him, It was a generous approach at the time, but within a couple of years rumors began to develop and flow about a high-level penetration of British intelligence that was encouraged by a small group of renegade officers, particularly the head of MI5. . Among them was a man named Peter Wright whose book Spy Catcher was eventually published.
And by the way, that book contains an account of the Portland Spyrin because Wright had a relatively minor role in it, confirmed in the archives, but if you read Spycatcher, he introduces himself. as a key luminary in this successful spy council, um investigation, um and and also another accomplice of um peter wright was a man called arthur martin who was convinced that there was a high level of mi5 penetration martin was a very intelligent and capable man who was aware of the winona decryptions these were the remarkable series of intercepts that were made and then decrypted after world war ii by american authorities, which gave insight into kgb espionage during world war ii and before in the United States, so Martin was more aware than most of the Soviet penetration and, in any case, this group of officers first accused MI5 number two Graham.
Mitchell and then other people and a sort of paranoia developed within MI5 and this then spread to the United States, no doubt, that was what set up and undermined relationships and also had James Jesus Angleton within the CIA, he too It was, you know, known as seeing reds. under every possible bed and he was also a little paranoid and then he sided with this group of officers in the UK, so if you like Portland wannabes, George Blake, um successors from a certain point of view, particularly the Portland wannabe, who was a um, really successful. council espionage operation, but it also revealed disadvantages and vulnerabilities in British institutions and intelligence services 1961 62 the period when the Americans were still on board with it, but very soon things became quite sour, which helps a lot to be quite introspective, but I think thank you, that's really helpful. and tell us a little more about how this all plays out


tell us a little more about the judgment about colin holiday's future gordon lonsdale howton the krogers give us the part beyond your book how does this all work together?
One of the fascinating things about writing the book was the fact that you have this wonderful narrative arc that starts from the first clue and takes you through the investigation to the arrests that are talked about and then you have the trial in March of 1961. . they made headlines around the world the five spies were curiously accused the um cohen were accused under their false names clearly the british authorities were very worried that the jury would be biased if they knew who these two spies were actually. morris and the loner cohen and the fbi i have been looking for them for years, they were all convicted and sentenced to what at the time seemed like very, very long prison terms.
Lord Lordsdale received 25 years, the Krogers received 20 each and Halton and G received 15. They were all sent to An interesting and fascinating interlude followed in which MI5 began negotiations with Lonsdale, identified within months as a commodity, to see if they could convert him or get him to do so in exchange for a reduction in his sentence so that he would pass over secrets, but in the end the British could not offer a large enough reduction in his sentence quickly enough for the common tune took effect and then those negotiations were exhausted and the next important stage was the spice walk.
Now you have to keep in mind that the first Cold War spike exchange that the model for this, if you will, was the famous one involving Fox's Gary Powers and Rudolf Arbel in 1962, but by 1964, the Russians had managed to arrest a man called Greville Wynn, who was an MI6 courier and they had a big trial, they sent him to prison. his health started to deteriorate and the russians finally had a decent peace on the international spy chess board so there was a spice walk that happened in berlin in april 1964. um launchdale uh real name connor mode was even changed to the Greville's victory, but the Krogers had to wait another five years before there was a spy exchange that would allow them to get out of jail and this was quite brazenly engineered by the Russians.
Clearly I think they were running out of patience. They wanted to free the Cohens who were very valuable. his agents and of course there is always a strong message that the kgb wanted to send, which is that we will do everything possible to get you out of jail, of course, in blake, in the case of george blake, he got out thanks to a series of completely strange facts. appalling circumstances and security failures that one would take to prison, so he escaped himself with the help of other inmates, but that was the complete exception, so the Russians basically created a trap for an innocent or quite innocent British man named joel brook and there was a spy exchange was organized in 1969 and the Cohens returned, but once they all returned, the process of turning them into spy icons began and, certainly, under Vladimir Putin, this process of uplifting and praising spies as in one way or another heroes of modern Russia, um.
He has found great heroes in the Cohens and, indeed, in Molody. Only a year ago I went to Moscow and I didn't see it myself, but there was an exhibition of golden spies from the Soviet Union that was not opened. less one person than the head of the modern um uh foreign part of the kgb called sbr called um, wrote that is a photograph and the introduction he wrote to this spy exhibition and when people went to it they found photos no less proud of the place of um morris and lona cohen, for which they and also colonel mollardy, who has been described as a legend by vladimir putin, are praised.
Modern Russian authorities put them on a pedestal and I think on one of their trips to Russia, they got You've got a bag of goodies, you've got some loot. I thought I'd give it a try and see if I could get anything useful in terms of files from the modern Russian intelligence service, so I approached the svr. In fact, the head of the service gave it to me. this this bag of gifts that building is the SVR press office which is next to the cultural park metro station and they told me that as charming as it is I have to say the head of the press office and the place of honor was this This bottle of vodka and svr vodka with the svr logo on one side and on the back.
You have a photo of his headquarters outside Moscow. You'll probably see it there. Yes, the navy, so needless to say I have something. cooperation, but it was very, very limited, in fact it was limited to some fascinating conversations and some photographs, including a photograph of the main forger pavel grashkin, who forged the cohens' documents when they fled the US in 1950. One such a fascinating visit and very instructive in some aspects along the way. in which, as I said, the sbr and the fsb and the modern intelligence operators in russia are being used as a way to tell and have the modern historical story of russia told as vladimir putin and the kremlin would like it to be told. viera and I think another thing that I found quite interesting was that you mentioned that you know that the Russian spy services and like modern Russia play a really interesting role and play sort of a central part of that developing historical picture and I think I was just wondering if you could develop that a little bit more for us.
I know you shared with me that you've thought about this quite a bit, including in terms of a document that you showed me that was delivered. for you from the second world war, in fact, this was given to me and I found it as a real surprise, in the gift bag because I expected what I expected because mi6 does not have a press office and certainly does not distribute bottles. of scotch to the journalists who were asking, as far as I know, but in the bag was a top secret document from World War II, I'll show you it's called operation unthinkable and it turned out to be a genuine document when I first received it and I thought that It could have been an active measure implemented by the Soviet Union and what it is was a document as part of a series that was commissioned by Winston Churchill just as the war in Europe dates back to May 1945, so it is called the operation unthinkable and What it was was what Prime Minister Churchill wanted, in a very typical Churchillian way, to get his team to think the unthinkable about the options with the end of the Second World War because Churchill was usually already thinking about the horizon in one of The Documents that were copied to me and given to me by the head of the SVR press office said that one option would be for the British armed forces to join the Americans in Europe and the remnants of the German army and invade Russia because it was obviously felt that it would There is a threat now, the notable thing about this is that these documents date back to 1945, but anyone who knows modern Russia well and talks to people is aware of the fact that there is still this paranoia in certain circles in Russia about Western tensions and This recently made me understand the translation of an interview with the former head of the KGB's illegals department called your drozdov, who was actually close to Putin and spent time in Germany when Putin was there. based in Dresden and in this interview in the driver's office, what you have to realize is that Russia has no friends.
People can pretend to be friends with Russia, but in reality they always have a hidden agenda and this document, um, you'll find what I'm saying, I found it interesting. for me, um, by the head of the SVR press office as a symbol really of the way that even in modern Russia today they think the worst of Western tensions and this document I also learned in the secret museum of intelligence Soviet military in their new headquarters in Moscow, they have a secret museum in the same way that the SVR has, you know, great feats of espionage and I saw in a Russian documentary that this same document is there, so it is obviously used as part of the indoctrination of new Intelligence officers who enter the giu about the West's perfidy are always alert, always thinking of the worst of Western tensions.
Well, I really enjoyed our discussion, but I want to turn it over to the listeners and viewers to ask questions. you buy the book, it's really a great read and it's available in our bookstore, so to Amanda, well, we have a lot of questions, including some of our own, like I had a copy of the book, but I actually gave it away as a gift. prize for our spy trivia the night before reading it, so I can't look up the spelling of spy hound and I want to know if he is a relative of our former historian vince houghton andrew.
Do you have any ideas about it? Is it written differently? I think it's the same writing. I'm not sure if they are related but I am 100% convinced that Vince is not related to Harry Hart. Okay, I just had to ask. I want to applaud you for all the glorious accessories. which you surprised us with, you told me about it and it was very fun to see, so thank you very much and we have a question about the Cohens who arrived last week, someone who was very excited to understand that they were you. Be canonized and you know, put on a pedestal, but what happened to them in their everyday lives?
If they trusted them, was there a feeling that they had been on the verge of being turned into mi5 or how did they fare in their actual day-to-day life? LifeEveryday life as non-spy icons goes well, life for them was actually quite difficult because the reclusive Cohen tried to learn Russian but never really mastered the language. Her husband Morris Cohen never got very far so they lived quite isolated lives and the KGB was very interested in this emerging in a wonderful book called the Matrokin Archive which brings together material taken from the KGB archives by their former archivist Vasily Matrokin and the KGB were monitoring them all the time and very interested in ensuring that they did not meet other Westerners. spies who had been repatriated to Moscow and therefore spent most of their time in his department, but were used very actively after a couple of years, no doubt the kgb checked them to make sure that, From what they could gather, the Cohens had not at some point compromised, which in fact they had not done, if you accepted the MI5 files when they were in prison and MI5 had some potentially quite compromising conversations with the common mode, but Morris Cohen in particular was a staunch and ideologically committed communist.
I didn't have any clue how to talk to Western intelligence services, so once they checked them out, they helped the kgb a lot with training, honing people's knowledge of English before they were sent as illegals to live in secret. . Um, and in fact, Jack Barski in his recent book gives a fascinating account in which you know that he met and spent some time with Morris Cohen, but in the end, as his health deteriorated, they became increasingly more isolated. A touching moment for me in the book. While I had no sympathy, of course, for Cohen's betrayal of the West was the fact that Lona Cohen had not seen any of her relatives for decades and had not seen her sister for many decades in particular and just as was. about to die in 1991, the kgb pulled some strings and his only sister was taken to Moscow and they met in the room where lona cohen was dying and looked at some photographs together, while morris cohen survived for a few years but was devastated by his death the Soviet source told me he even kept his wife's slippers under the bed um you just know they were I think this was encouraged by their secret life they were intimately connected as friends and also as a married couple they were inseparable um what you mentioned uh the exchange um for gravel win Wolfgang Vogels heartily at work in his spy exchanges uh one of our guests had asked about the comments that greville made about lonsdale or this case and I I don't know what that means, so I'm conveying the message.
I'm afraid I raise my hand and am ignorant. I'm afraid I'm not sure what and when because I never met him at any point and so I don't really know I mean win with lucky wind health was deteriorating quite rapidly and the kgb and the Russian authorities were very skilled at using of active measures to manipulate British opinion through the newspapers in terms of giving publicity to alleviate Gravel Wind's wife's understandable concerns that he might die in prison, but I'm afraid I cannot comment on what I said to unless someone can tell me. Well, I'll check the chat and see if it comes out or if it comes out later.
I'm also intrigued by the cover of Lonsdale as a jukebox salesman and that really caught my attention um and I wonder how deep he went if he actually sold jukeboxes. We have a favorite spy at the leotov museum bistro who actually lived his cover if you sold herring. You smelled like herring, huh? Did Lonsdale know his jukeboxes well? I think he was pretty good. In reality, he was not the big successful businessman he portrayed himself to be. When he returned to Moscow, by all accounts, he was a great storyteller. He had plenty too. an ego on par with harry halton's he was a lovely individual who, as an example, after being arrested refused to say anything to the police who arrested him um and um sat there stoned, confronted but then said um , is there? any chance of me spending my time finding someone I can play chess with and um, the chief superintendent or the superintendent had arrested him he was so delighted with him that he went and found one of the other police officers in Scotland who played chess with Um Gordon Lonsdale, so in terms of his facade, when he first came to Britain, he posed as a student to study Chinese and there are a couple of reasons for this: he already knew Chinese because he had studied it in Moscow later .
Second World War and had even co-authored a standard textbook on the Chinese language, so of course that meant that when he arrived in London to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies, he would absolutely pass every exam. that he could. He spent his time developing his network, but he also knew that this course would be where various Western intelligence agencies would send people who were trainees and who could, for example, learn Chinese to focus on what was happening in China and, of course, In fact, this was the case and it led Molody to take a series of photographs at parties and other things where these guys had gone and it even led to an absolutely amazing historical example, probably the only one in history in which a person who is a KGB spy is being chased by a counterintelligence officer and he takes a photograph of the counterintelligence officer without him knowing and this happened in this case because when he was a Chinese student Lonsdale was invited to a party by one of uh Canadian who I was in the same Chinese course and this Canadian was renting an apartment in the back of the house where the man named Charles Elwell lived in at the time, who was the lead investigator for the Portland spy ring and when he found himself this photo actually with the lighter that I already showed you that this led to the welfare being called to the office of number two of the mi5 that it is a bad day at work they thought let's go because nothing we have a mole in the mi5 but in reality There was an innocent explanation. which uh came about quickly and so it was at the end of that, but um um, but having finished his Chinese studies, then he turned around and then started his jukebox business and by all accounts he was very good, well, one of theirs.
To be interesting for American viewers, one of the jukeboxes was called Trump and its special feature was that it dispensed. This probably fits Trump too. He dispensed gum while playing a jukebox record. But he was. He wasn't very successful, that business went bankrupt and then he joined a company that was making one of the first security devices for cars to prevent them from being robbed and there was a photograph in the Molody archives that he was going to Brussels because this security device security was given a special. inventors prize, so he lived his cover, but he also took advantage of it, he had a good time, he had several girlfriends, but again, he was not the great successful seducer of Casanova, who totaled his friends from the kgb when he return. to Moscow, well, and one of our guests, um man, mentioned a 1960's James Mason movie from the '60s about the case, if anyone needs to watch it, is he familiar with that movie?
I'm not familiar with that one. I am familiar. with a couple of pieces of audiovisual material, he says, as a former regulator of the British television and media regulator, one is a wonderful period piece called Ring of Spies that was made in 1963 and released on film, which tells the story. of the Portland spy network quite well and a historical curiosity is that the man who plays Harry Houser is a little miscast is a great actor named Bernard Lee, so here in the spy network he is playing a bad guy, a KGB spy, Bernard Lee was no less the actor. who played the head of the British secret service in all the early James Bond films so people who like old film history might find it interesting and also the other thing I found in the American archives at DC was this wonderful film also made in 1963. by the US department of defense, which is very historically accurate with some fantastic reconstructions of the arrest, for example, certain incidents in the investigation, and is also of interest to the espionage historian because it was filmed in various locations, pretty well in the places where an investigation was carried out, but shows what they were like at the time, so really unique footage.
Well, we could go on and I'm sorry we can't, but we can certainly recommend that people not give away your book to people who win trivia. and on the spot I bought his book and read it from him and I can't thank Trevor enough for being with us and Andrew for asking such great, juicy questions. It's really a pleasure and we'll share the questions we have with Trevor at In case you want to reach out to us if you have time and I want to invite everyone who's watching, we have a show at 12:00 ET on Wednesday and we'll have a real exploration of Adolf Tolkichev Burton Gerber, who is It was a real pleasure, he was station chief in Moscow and David Hoffman, who wrote the billion dollar spy on Tolkichev, so we're really seeing some serious spies this week and Trevor, thanks for starting off that week with this wild Portland spy ring you really have.
It was a pleasure and your accessories were incredible. I will definitely participate in that event. What is my diary? Thank you all so much for watching and to Andrew for asking such interesting questions and to the spy museum and to you, Amanda, for saying goodbye from London. One question I wanted to ask but never got around to asking was: Do you have any secrets in the background of your later book? But we can return to it another time. I would love to know. Thank you very much to all. Be well, take care, goodbye. you

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