The Spy and His Master
IN LIKENING SECRET OPERATIONS TO AN OCTOPUS, IT IS CLEAR that the tentacles are made up of the chain of human relationships linking the direction of the operations to even the most remote agent. The muscles guiding each tentacle are, in turn, made up of the responsiveness, the discipline, which characterize each of the relationships in the chain. Of all these relationships which include, of course, auxiliary services, such as logistics, communications and administration - there is one which is at the very heart of secret operations. It is the critical relationship, dictating in many cases the success or failure of the operation. It is that between what are called - in American terminology - the agent and the case officer.
It is the agent who acts, and who is directly in touch with the enemy, the "opposition." The agent is exposed, and visible; he operates "outside." The case officer directs the agent. He is invisible, and works only "inside." The relationship between these two is the bedrock of all secret operations. Most human and organizational connections in secret operations can, in fact, be defined basically in terms of this one fundamental relationship. It is possible, for example, to visualize the entire "inside" establishment of the C.I.A. as constituting a collective case officer, and all those working "outside" as making up a collective agent. Such an image, while accurate, is meaningless, however, because it does not convey any idea of the variety, complexity and individual elements which govern the relationship.
What is involved here is the ability of the case officer to insure that the agent's actions advance the objectives of the operation, that none of the agent's actions hinder the attainment of those objectives, and that the agent exerts his best efforts. This clearly requires domination of the agent by the case officer. The possibilities of this domination are reinforced at the outset by the fact that the case officer represents the authority which defines the objectives of the operation, and he controls the resources which make the operation possible. But woe to the case officer who relies only on these two elements to achieve his mastery. In doing so he immediately forfeits the confidence of the agent as well as his essential willingness. These two elements are implicit in the relationship, and if the relationship is properly developed in human terms, their explicit use should not be necessary, or can be kept to a minimum.
It is just here that an American weakness occurs. Time and again I have seen American case officers resort to cutting off funds to enforce discipline over an agent. One effect of this manoeuvre, if successful, is ultimately to reduce the agent to the status of a mere pensioner. In espionage operations this can, and often does, result in highly unreliable information; in a political operation it can be fatal. As one disgusted Cuban exile said of the C.I.A. after the Cuban affair, "They have no idea how to work with political allies. They think in pennies."
Often this matter of funds is permitted to become an irritant in the relations between the case officer and agent simply because of American suspicion about money, and fear of being victimized. Whatever may be the public impression of what the C.I.A. does with its vast unvouchered funds, the fact of the matter is that behind every case officer is a squadron of book-keepers and accountants, sniffing hungrily for a wrongfully diverted penny.
One highly qualified agent not many years ago worked out with the Americans a complex political operation which included considerable mailing, for which he was given a specified budget. His headquarters were in an American cover organization and, early in the operation, before he had actually received the promised funds, he had to absent himself for ten days. He told his secretary to continue the mailings, using the organization's postage-meter and keeping a record of postage as obtained. In his absence a bookkeeper complained of his unauthorized use of the postage-meter and immediately, without any opportunity for explanation on the agent's part, the case officer was required to cancel the operation.
Funds were never even granted for expenses, fairly considerable, already authorized and incurred. When the agent told me this story, almost a year later, he was still paying off the debts with which this episode had saddled him. He was not enthusiastic about working with Americans: as he put it to me, "In your system every book-keeper is a comptroller, and every agent is required to be a book-keeper."
Often also the American difficulty with the agent and case officer relationship is simply a reflection of the bureaucratic approach to problems, and the disproportionate influence of the fetish for administration in American operations. I was once charged with the planning and direction of the American part of a combined Anglo-American operation, similar in nature to the Cuban operation, but smaller and more tentative in scope. (It also failed, with some loss of life, but at least the failure was not public.) While I was still casting about for the most qualified personnel - the area was fairly exotic, and very few Americans were at all acquainted with it - I was summoned to a conference in Washington. On entering the room, I remarked an intricate organizational chart on the wall. One of my colleagues - I didn't know he was even interested in the operation - rose, and then started his discourse by pointing to the chart and saying. "I have now worked this all out, and, as you will see, you need 457 bodies for this operation." He then spoke for forty minutes, without ever once even mentioning the country with which we were concerned. I confined myself to remarking that I didn't think we could find 457 "bodies," and that I would happily settle for six brains.
By way of contrast, I went to London a week later, and observed the British approach to the same problem. After sitting around a table in desultory fashion for an hour or two, one Englishman finally said, "I say, why don't we get old Henry up here. He knows about this." A day or two later old Henry showed up from down in Sussex, and when the problem was put to him, finally agreed to undertake the task, although, as he said, 'This will wreak havoc with the garden, you know. Just getting it into trim. He then added that he would do it only on condition that he master and the agent servant. The case officer would define the objectives, and the agent would obey unquestioningly, his skill completely - and successfully - at the disposition of the case officer. Obviously, no human relationship attains such barren simplicity. The military system is an attempt to approach such a relationship, but every new officer in a military service soon learns that it is not sufficient merely to give an order for leadership to be real and effective. How much more so is that true in secret operations, which exist in an unrecognized sphere, a sort of tacitly unobserved shadow world which is none the less starkly real, and in which the generally accepted constraints and values of conventional relationships do not apply. And how even more true is it in the case officer-agent relationship, in which the unavoidable fact is that it is the agent who acts. To this extent every agent is a free agent. The case officer can neither be present at the action, partake of it, nor supervise it on the spot. A man thus dependent upon another is not in an intrinsically good position to dominate their relationship.
This basic problem is intensified by the fact that communications between the case officer and agent are frequently highly tenuous: there may be long intervals between meetings, or communication may consist of no more than occasional radio signals. In a great many cases even where liaison is more immediate than by radio, personal contact between case officer and agent is rare or non-existent. Where it is non-existent, contact is maintained by "cut-outs."
A cut-out is a person, also an agent, who acts as intermediary between the case officer and his agent. Cut-outs serve one or both of two valuable functions. They permit oral contact between a case officer and an agent when actual physical meeting would be excessively dangerous, and written communication undesirable. They are also used in situations where it is desired that the agent not know the true identity, or even appearance, of the case officer, or principal agent. It not infrequently happens that even the cutout does not know the true identity of either agent or case officer. In one case in my own experience I was saved great embarrassment by the fact that the agent had no knowledge of either myself - as case officer - or of the cut-out. Some months after giving him some money and a mission-via the cut-out-this agent defected to the Soviets. Thanks to the cut-out device, all he could inform the Soviets was that a man he knew only as "Mike" gave him money and instructions on behalf of a man named "Ray," whom he had never seen. No great loss.
When conditions permit, the cut-out may be a device such as a "drop," a person or place by means of which written communications can be safely exchanged without personal contact. Drops are an opportunity for real ingenuity: a classic device involves sending a theatre ticket to the agent; his neighbour, sometimes the case officer, more usually a cut-out, then exchanges documents with him in the darkened theatre, often without a word passing between them.
Where personal contact is dangerous or impolitic, but none the less imperative, resort is had to the "safe house." The safe house is a place where personal contact can be made under circumstances and precautions which minimize risk. Brothels were at one time traditionally favoured as safe houses; nowadays, however, they are professionally regarded as booby traps, the inmates usually having been corrupted by the police into becoming informers.
A further difficulty in the relationship stems from the recruiting process. The fact is that as often as not the initiative comes from the agent. He proposes a course of action which he is, or claims to be, equipped to carry out. In effect, he is offering a special skill, This gives him some bargaining power; he can negotiate, even if only within small limits, In the operation in Hungary which is described in Part II of this book, the entire escape chain worked through one agent who proposed to me its organization - at a time when he could well guess that I must have been casting about for such a mechanism. He could accordingly negotiate with me the conditions under which we would work together; my sole initial card in playing out our relationship was my ability to turn down his proposition - certainly not in my own interests. The agent's ability, in the case of his own initiative, to bargain, rather than defer to commands, rests on his uniqueness, real or alleged.
If, on the other hand, the initiative comes from the case officer, who has presumably made a choice of the best available and possible person for the mission, the agent's uniqueness is immediately conceded and underscored. He has even more leverage than the agent who takes the initiative. If the case officer permits himself to feel uneasy about these basic facts, if he handles them awkwardly in an attempt to suppress them, the relationship can be over-burdened with duplicity from the outset. In place of the confidence which should characterize it, both case officer and agent are in danger of behaving like a pair of irascible spouses, each trying to impress the other with his greater indispensability to the relationship - to the detriment of its true purposes.
There are ways, of course, of overcoming some of these initial advantages of the agent. American practice has achieved a certain sophistication over the years in this respect. Faced with a specific task, the C.I.A. will usually make a considerable effort to determine who is the best qualified man. They will then study the man's chain of friendships, and more often than not it is possible to reach one of the man's friends, in such a manner that, if he does not do the recruiting himself, at least the official who does so approaches the prospective agent with the benefit of the friend-ship. Another tactic is to overwhelm the prospective agent with rank; an approach by a "high official" is not only flattering to the vanity, but is an implicit mark of confidence.
Unfortunately, American practice may be well-conceived, but often falls down badly in the execution-in this as in so many related fields where what matters is not so much what you do but how you do it. A friend told me he had finally refused to arrange any more contacts for the C.I.A. because, in too many cases, having been importuned by the agency to speak on their behalf to some important friend, the C.I.A. either never followed through, or spoke once with the man, and left him awaiting a further word which never came. Another friend, whom we shall call Frank, recounted to me his own experiences in this regard. He had worked in the C.I.A. for several years, and had left-in a far from satisfied frame of mind. Nevertheless, about three years later, he was approached and asked to act as agent in an operation which would have meant completely altering some urgent and, to him, vitally important plans. He explained his difficulty, but said that he would be willing to undertake the operation, anyway, in view of the importance they seemed to attach to his participation, adding only that he must know definitely about it within two weeks. He heard nothing further, ever. But about two years later he was at a cocktail party in Washington, talking with a Cabinet officer, when Allen Dulles, Director of the C.I.A., walked up. The Cabinet officer turned to Mr. Dulles, and said, "Allen, you know Frank, don't you?" Mr. Dulles responded heartily. "Why, of course I do," he said. "I've been trying to get Frank back into our work for the past five years." As Frank, later explaining to me his stupefaction, said, "I guess the explanation is simply that it's a very big organization." He added moodily, "At least, I hope it's no worse than that."
A further basic difficulty in the case officer-agent relationship is the question of objectives. The case officer has usually received his objectives from above; they are expressions of national policy or interest. As such, they are also subject to change. The agent, on the other hand, has generally defined his own objectives; his service is for the purpose of accomplishing certain aims which are. of personal merit to him, and his objectives are less flexible. An agent is chosen for a particular operation because of his abilities to achieve the case officer's objectives. But it is a rare occasion when the purposes of the agent who possesses the necessary abilities are identical with those of the case officer. Some coincidence there may well be, but in that case the case officer has to reflect carefully on whether the agent's purposes other than those which coincide with his own might not be the source of conflict at a future crucial moment. A community of interest may also exist, but the very phrase requires that the case officer weigh the possibility of achieving his objective against the fact that in a community of interest specific objectives and means must usually be negotiated. Negotiation there must be, and most often is, but it is never without some cost to the case officer's ability to dominate the relationship and the operation. What the wise case officer seeks is an agreed reconciliation of purposes.
To accomplish this, however, he must know as much as possible about the agent and all of the agent's aims, but people do not often go about openly proclaiming all of their purposes - particularly not if they understand them clearly themselves. Nevertheless, the motives of agents-and, it should be added, of case officers as well - fall into identifiable categories. The most accurate assessment and fullest understanding of which of these motives or combination of several of them moves the agent must supplement the case officer's greater knowledge of the field of operations, and detailed knowledge of the agent's history and talents, in order for him to establish and maintain maximum control of the agent. In ascending order of desirability and dependability, these categories of motives are money, compulsion, personal gain, ambition, political support, and duty.
The agent who operates only for money certainly exists: cities like Vienna, Beirut, Hong Kong, Zurich, trading-places of information and centres of manoeuvre for both sides in the secret war, are full of men attempting to glean a living from selling their services, without regard for nationality, as agents. Obviously, however, the provider of secret services for money is all too prone to the temptation to overstate his accomplishments, if not deliberately to falsify them, both in advance of any arrangement and in practice. More importantly, he must always be assumed to be available to the highest bidder; and it is always obligatory to assume that the highest bidder will be the opposition. In periods of great confusion and violent transition, such as existed in Europe immediately following the Second World War, agents operating for money are frequently able to make a success of their work. Networks are disrupted, former relationships are altered, patterns of movement and communication are in chaos; in such circumstances a secret service, for lack of anything better, will buy an agent. Likewise, in cases of very limited actions requiring special skills or local knowledge - a guide in the mountains or jungles, a clandestine boat trip, a difficult border crossing, a particular document sought from the confidential files of a bank a hired agent may be used. But generally a competent secret service avoids, as much as possible, the agent working for money. There has seldom been a Western trial of a Soviet agent which revealed anything more than relatively trifling sums to have been involved. (The Vassall Case is an exception in this respect.) It is not that the Soviets are penurious in these matters; they simply observe the classic principle that a hired agent is the least desirable.
Compulsion to force an individual to act as a secret agent takes many forms, and is not infrequent. Blackmail is one form of such compulsion, and it is a favourite Soviet technique. It is by no means limited to sexual matters. But it is a regrettable fact - accurately understood and utilized by the Soviets-that Americans, and to a lesser extent the English, are particularly subject to blackmail in this sphere, profusely decorated as it is by a rich welter of complexes among so many Anglo-Saxons. (In this respect the Vassall Case is not an exception.) However, at least one of my American colleagues in time past gave the right answer when confronted with the problem. Shown a series of highly compromising photographs of himself with a lady riot his wife, he was threatened with transmission of the photographs to his wife and-notable Soviet deduction from American sociology - to his mother and father. His answer was brief. "Superb photography," he cried. "I'll take a dozen copies." He at least understood that if you're going to go out, it may as well be laughing; the tears are for later. In his case, interestingly enough, they weren't; neither he nor his family ever heard of the matter again.
In the period immediately following the Second World War the Soviets were able to recruit a number of agents in Europe among former Fascists, or collaborators, against either threats of revelation or promises of immunity from prosecution - depending on the individual circumstances and the extent of Communist power in the given country. Another favourite Soviet device is the holding of hostages, usually family, in order to compel service as an agent. One of the strange elements in Soviet behaviour in this connection is the fact that almost uniformly they hold to promises made about members of a family held as hostages - release from imprisonment, special privileges, or even release from Soviet territory - although they are notorious for not honouring promises to the victim of compulsion himself.
It is also a fact that compulsion is not limited to the Soviets. In many Western European countries it is made perfectly clear to resident foreigners, particularly refugees in difficulties, that the necessary permits and facilities for work and residence are dependent upon their reporting regularly and fully to the intelligence authorities. And American officials are far from immune to the temptations which are offered by the possibility of having a hold over a man. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that the recruitment of an agent by compulsion is a very limited technique. An agent moved only by fear of punishment is certainly lacking in initiative - perhaps one reason the Soviets favour the technique-and is in no frame of mind to exploit his own skills or possibilities to the fullest. The most important limitation on such an agent is his lack of reliability: hidden betrayal is a constant possibility, even when the hold over the agent still exists, and it is pretty much of a certainty when the hold is relinquished. It is also fairly certain that if the agent is uncovered by the opposition he will cooperate fully with them.
The agent who is moved by prospects of personal gain is a more subtle and sophisticated variant of the agent who seeks only money. He is similar to the latter in that personal enrichment is his ultimate goal. He is dissimilar, however, in that his scope is wider, since he knows and acts on the principle that secret information is power. His intent is to turn that power to personal profit. It is extremely rare that an operator of this type is so crude as to hope to extract profit from the blackmailing possibilities which secret operations may give him. He usually counts on his participation in a secret operation either to give him access to information otherwise unobtainable, or to put him in a geographical location or social position, any or all of which he can turn to good account. The good account is usually expressed in money, but it may also be influence or position or merely opportunities. His intent is seldom to profit from the operation itself; on the contrary, he generally renders reasonably good service up to a point. His personal gain comes more or less as a sideline to the operation, a calculated windfall, a sort of fringe benefit. The limitations of such an agent in terms of control and dependability are obvious: since the fringe benefit - never acknowledged by him to be paramount - is to him the important part of the arrangement, his participation in the operation has an element of falsity which, if not recognized and compensated for by the case officer, can lead to serious errors. Furthermore, his mobility is affected, since he is in fact tied to objectives which are not those of the operation: most importantly, the extent of his reliability - though not necessarily of his loyalty - is questionable for the same reason.
At first glance ambition seems like a strange motive to associate with secret operations. It is not readily clear what ambition can be satisfied by work in a field hidden from the public gaze, and without philosophical or aesthetic rewards. It nevertheless does play a valid role, largely because of developments in the past twenty years. Prior to the Second World War the secret war was limited in scope and intensity. Its professionals were men who performed valuable services for their governments, but their influence was by and large limited. A particularly capable official might be respected, and his counsel sought on a variety of problems, but in general the professional of secret operations remained a technician playing no role in the process of decision. Today, all over the world, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, that has changed. The real power which is now wielded by the upper echelons of secret operations is no less considerable for being unadvertised to the public.
In Communist countries the men who control the secret operations apparatus are high party functionaries, and participate in major decisions. It is noteworthy that as time goes on more and more of these men achieve their high party rank via advancement in the secret operations apparatus and not the reverse. Secret operations have tended to become a career, an accepted path to governmental power. The infamous Gabor Peter, Chief of the Hungarian State Security Authority, the A.V.O., and master of a reign of terror engulfing tens of thousands of victims, was a major power in the Hungarian Government until his fall; he had spent his whole adult life in the Soviet secret operations apparatus; only ten years before his fall from power he had been a Soviet line-crosser - that is, an agent maintaining continuous clandestine liaison between case officers in Soviet-controlled territory and Communist agents in enemy-controlled territory. The ultimate achievement of power is by no means limited to the control of secret operations themselves. Two British former secret operations officials with whom I collaborated in postwar operations are now increasingly influential Members of Parliament. One of President Kennedy's ambassadorial appointments was a man who made his mark in Washington through some years of outstanding work in the C.I.A. No one familiar with Washington in the decade of the 'fifties discounts the heavy weight of the C.I.A. complex in the important American foreign policy decisions of the period. No one familiar with the realities of what C. Wright Mills has styled "the power élite" or what Richard Rovere has more lightly but as penetratingly dubbed "the American Establishment" discounts the pressures and influence the C.I.A. can bring to bear in the private sectors of the American scene. In the United States the possibilities are formally recognized in a system whereby "outside" agents are brought into inside" posts in the C.I.A. Washington hierarchy, and vice versa, all the while advancing in their careers.
Ambition, therefore, has become a real motive for entering into secret operations. It is obviously a reliable motive for an agent - or for a case officer. Its drawback is that of all bureaucracies: the desire for advancement tends to cloud the judgment, impair initiative, and stifle the willingness to risk controversy in favour of conformity and the path of least resistance.
Political support is a highly reliable but varied and complex motive. It transcends limitations of nationality and is a prime mover in the secret war. For it to constitute a motive, however, there must be a political conviction, consciously and independently arrived at. This makes it differ markedly from patriotism-although patriotism may be an element in arriving at a political conviction. The agent or case officer moved by patriotism is not acting on the basis of an independent political conviction. He is a product of the system in which he has been raised; he accepts, in greater or lesser part, and without doubt or challenge, the tenets of that system; and he is prepared to act on them. A man moved by the desire to give or obtain political support, on the other hand, is acting on the basis of a political conviction he has arrived at personally and independently; his objective is political, but defined by himself.
In 1961 the British discovered that a Foreign Office official, formerly British Consul in Seoul at the time of the North Korean invasion of South Korea, had for ten years been acting as a Soviet agent. His motive was solely political support, arising from his conviction, arrived at while interned in North Korea, that the Soviet system deserved to win. But an outright defector is far from being the sole example of an agent so moved. It was an earnest - but unfulfilled - hope of the dissident French Army generals and colonels in Algeria, long before the attempted putsch of April, 1961, to enter into working relations with the American C.I.A. Their motive was to gain secret American political support, and indeed they tried hard to press their viewpoint that any solution of the Algerian problem other than their own was dangerous to the interests of the United States as well as to those of France. But even the judges at the trial of General Challe and his collaborators publicly recognized that these were patriotic Frenchmen.
For the secret services of all the great powers, the most frequent opportunities for the establishment of effective espionage nets in a foreign country come from citizens of that country who seek in exchange support for their particular domestic political objectives. Most of the agents in a network I directed in Hungary immediately following the Second World War were moved solely by their hope that they could thus help to bring about effective American support against the Hungarian Communists and their Soviet backers.
But political support as a motive does not necessarily mean full collaboration. On the contrary, a case officer using agents whose motive is political support must have the clearest possible understanding of precisely what is being offered and demanded. The Polish anti-Communist emigration, for example, is composed of a variety of political groups holding widely divergent views on Polish domestic affairs, Some consider American support detrimental to their own Polish interests, and therefore withhold co-operation in American secret operations. Others take an opposing view, but in differing degrees. Not even those most eager for American support, however, will collaborate in any American enterprise which involves so much as a tacit acceptance of American policy towards certain German problems, in particular that of the Polish-German boundary, On this point, all Polish exile groups are one with the Warsaw Communists in insisting on full recognition of the Oder-Neisse frontier - a problem in which the United States, by its public position in favour of postponing this question for decision in a peace treaty, appears to all Poles to be supporting, in fact, the West German claim for boundary revision.
Notwithstanding such limitations and complexities, which result in a certain independence in the agent, an agent whose motive is political support is among the most dependable. He is often the most competent as well, since the process of personally defining his own objectives produces both self-reliance and clearheadedness. It is particularly valuable when it is the motive of an agent operating in his own country's secret service; he then has what the Soviets term-and lay great stress upon-political consciousness.
In the international conflicts of our times nationalism is the great wellspring of a sense of duty. As a motive for an agent, a sense of duty ranks high. It insures his reliability, and it eliminates any necessity for bargaining about objectives. Since the fulfilment of a sense of duty provides its own rewards, the agent thus moved is devoid of any falsity in his position; anonymity, lifelong if necessary, is acceptable. The sense of duty is the single great advantage of military intelligence services. In the period prior to the Second World War the American intelligence organization was limited to the Army and Navy and a few officers in the Foreign Service. These men are by and large unknown and unsung today; in almost all cases their devotion to secret operations meant a sacrifice of their careers as military, naval or diplomatic officers - the concept of the "well-rounded" officer as being the only one meriting the posts of highest responsibility is no new invention.
But these officers none the less performed highly valuable services for their country, and the fulfilment of their sense of duty in doing so left them, with few exceptions, personally content. An agent moved solely by a sense of duty suffers only one potential impairment. Since he accepts unquestioningly the objectives he is to serve, it is possible, and does happen, that he has no genuine understanding of these objectives. To this extent he is sometimes lacking in imagination in technique, and in the fullest and best comprehension of the circumstances in which he finds himself.
Nobody enters into the world of secret operations as a lark. The demands are too rigorous, the issues too weighty and complex, for a mere adventurer. Some men in secret operations have indeed a strong sense of adventure; some relish the feeling of being privy to secrets; some experience personal satisfaction at being thus able to operate outside the framework of normal order and society - but these are attributes of the life; and as reasons for adopting it they are insufficient. Some men and women even become involved in secret operations unconsciously, so to speak; a chain of circumstances ensnares them without a clear or definite realization or decision on their part. But sooner or later understanding of the nature of their work comes to them. At this point, if they go on, it is with awareness, and it is in response to the motives described above.
It is rare, however, that an agent - or case officer - is moved by only one of these motives. Such purity of motive does not correspond to the complexity of most human beings. When it does occur, it is usually for special reasons, generally of short duration, and often results in fanaticism - not a desirable quality in a field where cool-headedness and breadth of view are prime qualities. In the vast majority of cases motives are mixed, and, if properly understood by the case officer the mixture can contribute to the usefulness of the agent. The value of one highly useful American agent in Latin America, for example, for years depended upon his ability to move freely among the very wealthy. The fact was that he was a social snob, and addicted to a form and level of living for which he would otherwise have needed vast personal resources which he did not have. His functioning as an agent was, therefore, to some extent an example of the agent working for personal gain, in this case the connections and standard of living which his cover required. However, he had also a strong sense of duty - perhaps it compensated him for what would otherwise have been a parasitic existence - and his reliability was therefore not at all in question. Similarly, his very interest in the kind of life he led contributed to his usefulness and success in his circumstances, to an extent that could probably not have been matched by an agent moved by duty alone.
In the matter of mixed motives the Soviets do not hesitate even to attempt seemingly impossible mixtures, as, for example, the effort to inculcate, in a prospective agent whose basic motives would be compulsion, some motive of political support. In 1945 the Soviets promised safe-conducts to sixteen leaders of the non-Communist Polish Resistance for purposes of negotiation, but when the men arrived they were arrested, taken to Lubianka Prison in Moscow, and ultimately tried for alleged anti-Soviet activities. Before the ultimate decision was made to stage trials, however, there were the usual long interrogations. Zgygniew Stypulkowski, one of the sixteen, shows in the following extract from his account of his interrogation the mixture of motives suggested by his interrogator (italics are mine):
"The [interrogator] had, in my opinion, in the first stage of investigation, three tasks. The first was to get from me all the details of my life, and of the life of my family; to judge my intelligence and find out my weaknesses, my ambitions and my will-power. The second task he had to perform was to put into my mind the idea that the most important task for me was to defend myself; to be free at any price-that was my duty for myself and also for my family and for my country. My country, he said, badly needed my support, my work. Finally, he had to destroy my mental balance by throwing me constantly from optimism :o deep despair. . . . He expressed regrets about my family, but he insisted on knowing where my son was. I said I did not know. He tried to convince me that it was my duty as a good father to find him, and that he would help me. . . . At 4 a.m. one day. . . we talked about books . . . he tried to soothe me, and succeeded.... Then he took my arm, looked in my eyes and said, 'I am sorry for you. I regret very much that you are in such a bad state, and sitting here in this Lubianka Prison. But I am very happy to be able to tell you that my Government is not interested in having your head or in putting you in one of the labour camps in Siberia. On the contrary, we need you because Russia's historical task is to rule over Europe.' " Pretty crude, one might say. In Mr. Stypulkowski's case, the method definitely didn't work - he is today a distinguished Polish exile leader. It has, nevertheless, worked in an astounding number of cases.
The agent's motives are not only important in establishing and maintaining the case officer - agent relationship; they also play a role in terminating that relationship, a process and problem referred to in American parlance as - the word never failed to strike me as unnecessarily macabre - "disposal." There is a popular belief that once a secret agent, always a secret agent. This is not true. There are always men who are called upon from time to time for special services - the C.I.A. maintains a regular, formal list of such personnel, whose clearances are always kept up to date - but there are equally those whose usefulness is ended with a particular operation. This sometimes poses an economic problem for the agent; it always at least poses a security question for the case officer. In estimating the degree of risk involved in disposing of an agent, his motives and personality will obviously play a role. As importantly, however, this is another one of those questions where it matters more how you do it than what you do. In brief, insight and tact are of the essence. This is especially true of political operations, where the consequences of termination may seem to an agent to involve vital questions of policy as well as purely personal question of his living. However, even in these cases, most people don't mind a "No," but much depends upon how it is put. About the worst way to put it is not to put it at all.
As in the matter of recruitment, bureaucracy impedes American practice in this sphere as well. Often arrangements are cancelled without notice or explanation, as in the case of the man who fell foul of the postage-meter and the book-keeper. Even less justifiable is the tendency, all too often indulged, to frame an agent, or publicly to besmirch his reputation, as a means of disposing of him. A ludicrous case of this sort occurred some years ago when an American agent who was also the beneficiary of one of the great American fortunes was charged with diverting funds to purchase an automobile for himself - an unprovable assertion in the particular circumstances of his work and ridiculous on its face - and was hastily dismissed in disgrace. As a colleague remarked at the time, "At least the Russians wait until a man defects to our side before they falsely accuse him of embezzlement." Slander and smear are too often used by the C.I.A. in these matters, and all too many American agents have left its service dangerously embittered.
While these techniques of "disposal" may be the expected responses of moral people who, when faced with an amoral problem, cannot understand the category, and therefore behave immorally, this is no justification for ineptitude. And not all of the ineptitude is accompanied by immorality. One of the most violent and influential critics of the C.I.A. in print in the United States today is a man who worked for almost three years for the. Agency on highly important matters. The case officer handling him-himself a senior official-had great difficulty doing so, and finally decided to abandon the operation. Instead of talking it over with the agent, he sent a minor functionary to inform him brusquely that he was fired. The official - and the C.I.A. - have paid needlessly and many times over in the years since in blood-inked editorials, and in jeopardy to the security of some of their operations. None of this excuses the agent's petulance - but the responsibility to dispose of him smoothly was not his, it was the case officer's.
Sir Francis Walsingham's secretary over-simplified things considerably; there is much more to it than simply going out and hiring "a base fellow."