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Stirlitz had a thought. He liked it, so he had another one.

A Soviet take on Rambo (brief clip; Rutube) is "unique in its violence and anti-Americanism." A Russian point of view on James Bond remarks that "so widespread was the interest in Bond that an official Soviet spy serial ... was released." But the spy novel / miniseries Seventeen Moments of Spring (somewhat digestible in 17 highlights with commentary: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17) is for interesting reasons not a Soviet counterpart to James Bond or Rambo. See also Seventeen Moments fanfic, two pages of jokes about its hero, and how he figures in the present. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Aug 16, 2014 - 9 comments

"He alone was real."

Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."
Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth.
posted by Kattullus on Jul 28, 2014 - 25 comments

The Pond: an early US spy agency you've never heard of

Before the CIA, there was the Pond -- a highly secret, unacknowledged, and semi-autonomous intelligence agency created by the US military in 1942 as an alternative to the OSS. According the Associated Press, "The organization counted among its exploits an attempt to negotiate the surrender of Germany with Hermann Goering, one of Adolf Hitler's top military leaders, more than six months before the war ended; an effort to enlist mobster Charles 'Lucky' Luciano in a plot to assassinate Italian dictator Benito Mussolini; identifying the location of the German heavy water plants doing atomic research in Norway; and providing advance information on Russia's first atomic bomb explosion." But the CIA says that its record was "largely one of failure and impermanence."
posted by twirlip on Aug 3, 2010 - 6 comments

Someone forgot to tell 'em the Cold War ended....

The US Department of Justice has announced arrests in four states of ten alleged members of a “deep-cover” Russian spy ring whose ultimate goal was apparently to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles. So much for burger diplomacy? [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jun 28, 2010 - 70 comments

"a real-life James Bond. His boozy amours, his tough postures, his intelligence expertise..."

In 1948, when John was five, Guy Burgess came to stay for a holiday. John's mother resented Burgess and his close relationship with her husband, and began staging accidents to claim attention; she once reported being mugged in her car, and on another occasion set fire to the living room, suffering serious burns. She was later sent to a Swiss clinic for treatment. Philby was posted to the United States the following year. The strange life of John Philby, the son of "the most hated man in England", Kim Philby, a member of the notorious Cambridge Five spying ring. (via)
posted by The Whelk on Aug 23, 2009 - 16 comments

Background to Danger

For Graham Greene he was "unquestionably our best thriller writer". John le Carré once called him "the source on which we all draw". With the six novels he wrote in the years leading up to the second world war - five of which have just been reissued by Penguin Modern Classics - Eric Ambler revitalised the British thriller, rescuing the genre from the jingoistic clutches of third-rate imitators of John Buchan, and recasting it in a more realist, nuanced and leftishly intelligent - not to mention exciting - mould. - The writing of Eric Ambler
posted by Artw on Jun 6, 2009 - 14 comments

hatchink fiendish plan to catch moose and squirrel

Interested in Soviet era spying by the KGB in the United States? Bummed that you cant get into the KGB archives? Well it turns out that someone copied all the good stuff already, and you can take a peek. [more inside]
posted by shothotbot on Apr 23, 2009 - 6 comments

A Tale of Two Airplanes

"Once Upon A Time... there were two very special airplanes that lived.... far.... far.... away on a tiny island in the Bering Sea. One was named Rivet Ball and the other was named Rivet Amber. Very few people knew anything about these two planes or the men that flew them. Even family members knew very little. That's because their mission was... TOP SECRET." (some photos and language within are NSFW) [more inside]
posted by kurmbox on Aug 7, 2008 - 18 comments

The Mystery of Ales

The Mystery of Ales :: a new take on the Alger Hiss problem
posted by anastasiav on Jul 19, 2007 - 11 comments

50 year anniversary of the Rosenberg's execution

Robert Meeropol, the younger son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, writes about his parents. I'm suprised nobody else posted about this yesterday--June 19th was the 50th anniversary of their execution for espionage.
The executions at Sing Sing on June 19, 1953, ended a sensational Cold War case that still symbolizes the years when McCarthyism held sway and the government's word was accepted more readily than today. It was the first execution of civilians for espionage in U.S. history and it reverberated into the issues of dissent, anti-Semitism and capital punishment.
Pete Seeger and others comment here; the Guardian here. The Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Trial (which features representations of the couple by Picasso, among others) notes that:
In August of 1993, members of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation re-enacted the 1951 trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. A moot trial was conducted with expertise and meticulous concern for accuracy. The unanimous verdict of the twelve jurors was "Not Guilty." This "trial" and its dramatic outcome was widely reported by the media - for one day only.
posted by jokeefe on Jun 20, 2003 - 20 comments

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