New York, 1962
The operation described in the preceding chapters contains a number of illustrations of the reality of secret operations. For one thing, it shows the complexity of these operations and their close interrelationships. What started as a straight secret intelligence operation became, under the pressure of events, a political operation, and then concluded as an escape chain. Similarly, it shows the intricate hut unbreakable web of human relation-ships in the secret war: the real and vital impact on the lives of persons in a distant land of an official statement in Washington, the effect on the people and future of an entire nation of the arrest of a single man, the chain of events by which an argument in a political party can lead to the final disruption of an intelligence network.
For another thing, it demonstrates the constant compromise with the ideal which is an unavoidable characteristic of secret operations in practice. Bargaining with Guy, improvising in the escape of the scientist's wife, or of Paul - all involved necessary compromises with the classical principles and ideals of secret operations.
The reader may also have noted that this particular operation was characterized by a certain undesirable rashness. To cite a few instances: I twice exposed Mark to considerable risk, It was he, for example, who passed the money to Majoros without my having checked as to whether the man was in fact Majoros or merely an agent provocateur. Again, I urged him to claim knowledge to the Interior Ministry of the identity of "Mr. and Mrs. Tompkins, of Detroit," without considering the possibility that this might be a trap set by the A.V.O. The escapes of both the scientist's wife and of Paul certainly involved grave risk, the clandestine elements far outweighing the improvised covert elements. Lila also represented a considerable danger: I was banking - correctly, as it turned out - on her innate decency, but she could have been an attempted A.V.O. penetration. And, with the advantage of hindsight, I could, let us face it, have not allowed Csornoly into my apartment when the American correspondent was present.
It is quite true that in each of these individual instances, the operation was successful, or at least unharmed. (In the case of the American correspondent, it was the President's decision, more than the correspondent's violation of his word, which obstructed the operation.) Nevertheless, taking all these instances together, they form a pattern of rashness which is just the sort of thing bound ultimately to bring about the downfall of an agent. In emergency circumstances - which I believe these were - it may be necessary to entertain such risks - but neither the agent nor his case officer should be under any illusion, because of individual successes, that he is pursuing anything but a dangerous course.
In the intervening years I have sometimes reflected on the possibility that the seventy-five escapes, or a considerable number of them, may have represented a condonation, a tacit concurrence, by the Soviets and Hungarian Communists. For this to be so, however, it is necessary to assume that the Communists desired to avoid the opprobrium of the arrest and prosecution of these various persons. Nothing in their reactions at the time nor in their subsequent behaviour towards those 'who did not escape even remotely suggests that this was the case. Furthermore, they would have had to have achieved a successful penetration of the operation, and nothing has ever come to light indicating that this occurred. (I still come across traces of the operation: twelve years after the fact, I found myself at a dinner in Mexico City seated next to a delightful lady who conversation disclosed to be none other than "Mrs. Tompkins, of Detroit." It was only then that I also learned that a man I had known in Europe for some five years was one of her arrested travelling companions.)
As for my having exceeded my instructions, I can only repeat what I said at the beginning of this book: the secret agent's objectives are to him, necessarily, of paramount and highly personal importance. In this case, the rapidly deteriorating circumstances - and the absence of any subsequent reprimand - can only be presumed to indicate that the case officer, on due reflection, decided the agent's actions accorded with his own objectives. A happy outcome which is definitely the exception and not the rule.
It is quite possible that this book has posed more questions than it has answered. If that is the case, the reader may wish to pursue the subject at his leisure in the daily newspapers. In so doing, it is my hope that he will be aided in his understanding by the various criticisms - particularly of American practice - which have appeared herein. At the same time, these criticisms cannot be a source of comfort to any possible Soviet reader, In spite of their early advantages in the field of political operations, the Soviets are labouring under a severe handicap in the secret war. It is simply that their basic policy and objectives are false. The human condition does not support a single nation's rule of the world. No single set of ideas, no single catechism of beliefs, no single doctrine, nor purpose, nor scale of values, can uniformly animate all men everywhere. Man's unity lies in his diversity.
Ironically, as through all of human history, we shall have to continue to fight for the right of diversity. That is what the secret war - international or individual - is about.