Monday, January 27, 2020

Cold War Spying In The Spy Capitol Of The World: My Washington Times Review Of 'Betrayal In Berlin'

The Washington Times ran published my review of Betrayal in Berlin:

As a teenager in the 1960s, I was a devoted reader of spy thrillers by Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, Donald Hamilton, John le Carre and others. The spy thrillers led me to read about the Cold War and true espionage stories. 

Later, while serving in the U.S. Navy in Scotland in the mid-1970s, I went on leave and visited Berlin. As a student of espionage, I was drawn to Berlin, as the German city was the spy capital of the world at the time. I visited the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the bars where criminals and spies gathered to drink, eat and swap secrets.

Steve Vogel’s “Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War’s Most Audacious Espionage Operation” took me back to Berlin, although the historical events of this story take place in 1955-56.

Mr. Vogel opens his book with what was known in intelligence lore as “Black Friday,” when the Soviets changed their cryptographic systems in 1948.

Since 1943, Mr. Vogel explains, the U.S. had been intercepting and decrypting secret Soviet radio communications, which gave American officials a comprehensive understanding of the Soviet military and intelligence agencies.

The U.S. Army Security Agency was producing valuable intelligence in a program call VENONA. VENONA exposed Soviet spies such as Klaus Fuchs, who gave up atomic secrets to the Soviets, and Donald Maclean, the first of the British Cambridge spy ring to be suspected. But then the Soviets stopped using UHF radio and began to communicate with Moscow via landlines.

American investigators believed it was a routine systems upgrade, but they later learned that VENONA had been betrayed by two Soviet spies. One was William Weisland, a Russian linguist working for the Army Security Agency. The second spy was Harold “Kim” Philby, a British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officer who was the liaison to the CIA and FBI in Washington.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: 

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