Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Steele

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

“I want to put a thesis to you…. A notion about what’s going on. May I? There’s no risk to listening, is there?” “Maybe.” –John LeCarré, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Fans of espionage fiction will at once recognize the title as a play on John LeCarré’s wonderful novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (also a film and a television mini-series)[1]. GoodReads summarizes the storyline of Tinker Tailor, although not characters or plot twists, and with no spoilers:

A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy begins George Smiley’s chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.

It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

I’ve helpfully underlined the concepts to keep in mind for this post: mole, blown, double agent[1]. (“Moscow Centre” is obviously the KGB, though identifying Karla with Putin would be a stretch.) Tinker Tailor is also a novel of imperial decline, as described in The Atlantic, and so doubly applicable to the present day:

Intricate, creepingly paced, almost violently understated, and set in an England sunk to Eastern Bloc levels of shabbiness and rainy suspicion, the 1979 BBC dramatization of John le Carré’s novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is neither heartwarming nor especially reassuring about men and women…. Somewhere in MI6, somewhere near the very top, there is a traitor—a mole, in the argot of le Carré’s spyworld. He’s been there for years, decades even; the damage is profound; the damage is already done; and only by going backwards, into the files, into the circuits of memory, only by reversing appearances and turning suppositions inside out, can le Carré’s anti- or un-hero, George Smiley, find his way to the truth…. Under the veneer of one country, another country altogether.

(LeCarré is especially good at set pieces[2], most especially interrogations, one of which produces the central reveal: The identity of the mole.) I’m not going to go through the LeCarré’s plot looking for parallels to the current day. Rather, in this brief jeu d’esprit, I will use LeCarré’s concepts as a lens through which to look at a contemporary event.

The contemporary event I have in mind is the current iteration of RussiaGate, involving the FBI “raid” at Mar-a-Lago. Speculating freely: RussiaGate 2.0 is designed to keep Trump from running for President in 2024, instead of crippling him after he won the office, as in RussiaGate 1.0[3]. (Of course, either version of RussiaGate could only exist if hegemonic factions of the intelligence community, the press, and the Democrat Party were all (a) networked into the secret world, and (b) completely corrupt, including intellectually corrupt. But that doesn’t seem like such an unreasonable assumption, now does it?)

With that, I’ll summarize the current version — the “storyline,” one might say — of RussiaGate 2.0, and remark on a few of the weak points. (Naturally, there will be many more plot twists and reveals; we’ve only just begun!) After that, I’ll look at that storyline through the lens of Tinker Tailor which, as lenses will do, will flip the image — “reversing appearances and turning suppositions inside out” — and perhaps what you see.

* * *

Some “arithmetic” on RussiaGate 2.0, salient points that I will number for convenience. (I’m leaving out the wilder parts, like torture apologist and perjurer Michael Hayden’s call for Trump to be executed.)

#1: From the New York Times, “Captured, Killed or Compromised: C.I.A. Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants“:

The message, in an unusual top secret cable, said that the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence mission center had looked at dozens of cases in the last several years involving foreign informants who had been killed, arrested or most likely compromised. Although brief, the cable laid out the specific number of agents executed by rival intelligence agencies — a closely held detail that counterintelligence officials typically do not share in such cables.

In recent years, adversarial intelligence services in countries such as Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan have been hunting down the C.I.A.’s sources and in some cases turning them into double agents…. [I]mproving intelligence collection on adversarial powers, both great and small, is once again a centerpiece of the C.I.A.’s agenda, particularly as policymakers demand more insight into China and Russia.

While the memo identified specific numbers of informants that were arrested or killed, it said the number turned against the United States was not fully known. Sometimes, informants who are discovered by adversarial intelligence services are not arrested, but instead are turned into double agents who feed disinformation to the C.I.A., which can have devastating effects on intelligence collection and analysis.

#2: From the Telegraph: “Donald Trump had ‘incredibly sensitive’ material from active spies in his basement

US secrets that may have come from human spies in the field were discovered in the basement at Mar-a-Lago.

The disclosure came as a court released a redacted version of the 32-page FBI affidavit which led to a raid on Donald Trump’s Florida home on Aug 8.

It showed that 14 of the 15 boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago by the National Archives in January contained classified documents, including some marked “HCS”.

In the affidavit, an FBI Special Agent wrote: “HUMINT Control System, or ‘HCS’, is an SCI [Sensitive Compartmented Information] control system designed to protect intelligence information derived from clandestine human sources, commonly referred to as ‘human intelligence’.

“The HCS control system protects human intelligence-derived information, and information relating to human intelligence activities, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures.”

Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations, said: “That’s basically information from human spies. ‘HCS’ stuff, basically, means there’s information in those boxes in the basement in Mar-a-Lago that pertain to, or potentially came from, human sources, human spies.

#3: From Newsweek, “Russia ‘Absolutely’ Tried to Infiltrate Mar-a-Lago: Former FBI Official“:

Former FBI official Peter Strzok said in an interview Sunday that foreign intelligence services in countries, including Russia, have been “absolutely” interested in gaining access to former President Donald Trump’s Florida property, Mar-a-Lago.

During his interview, Strzok said that “regardless of the knowledge that classified documents were there,” foreign intelligence services are “going to have been trying to gain access” to Mar-a-Lago during and after Trump’s presidential administration.

#4: From Politico, “Intel officials to assess national security fallout from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents“:

The U.S. intelligence community will evaluate the potential national security risks stemming from former President Donald Trump’s possession of top-secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told top lawmakers.

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are working together to facilitate a classification review of relevant materials, including those recovered during the search,” Haines wrote, adding that the review will be conducted in a way that “does not unduly interfere with DOJ’s ongoing criminal investigation.”

#5(a): From FOX: “Fox News host wonders aloud whether Trump could have tried to sell highly classified material to the Russians or Saudis“:

Speaking during a live broadcast on Fox News Sunday, Eric Shawn raised one possibility about what Trump could have done with the classified documents the FBI found during its search of Trump’s Florida residence.

“And more questions are being raised this morning. Did former President Trump try to sell or share the highly classified material to the Russians or to the Saudis or others?” Shawn asked.

“Or were the documents innocently mishandled and stored because he thought he had a legal right to have them?” he added.

#5(b): Some Democrat loyalists agree:

(Note that we have no particular reason to believe anything whatever about the documents stored at and taken from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence; that’s why a “special master” is under consideration, after it transpired that the FBI may have appropriated documents protected by attorney-client privilege. Note also that the same cast of characters who is RussiaGate 1.0 are running RussiaGate 2.0.)

So, without committing ourselves to the truth of any of the numbered points, we can see a narrative emerging, presumably after Labor Day, when people start paying attention again, but before the House Select Committee returns to work:

• Trump either sold (strong form) or enabled (weak form) documents that would identify one or more of our intelligence agents to Russia (skipping the Saudis, we’re not chaning the narrative mid-stream here), ideally getting somebody killed (or at least putting the in fear of their live.

Since a narrative is what we have, let’s look at it through the lens of Tinker Tailor:

On #1: Here Smiley is putting the “thesis” of the epigraph to one Toby Esterhase, an intelligence operative. He’s describing how a Russian mole (“Gerald”) approached an intelligence community higher-up (“Alleline”). The “Circus” is the key institution of the UK’s intelligence community:

I think you”ll agree that the passage marked “A)” matches the situation descibed in the Times story (“CIA Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants”). You may also agree that it’s curious that the thesis presented in “B”) — “there’s a traitor inside the Circus who’s blowing all the operations” — goes unmentioned by the Times (and, presumably, its sources). Note that any such traitor must precede Trump, and certainly Trump at Mar-a-Lago, because the killings and compromises began before he took office; for example, the “covcom” breach, if breach it was, in China.

As for #3, Russia hardly needed to “infiltrate” Mar-a-Lago if Trump was already selling them documents.

Skipping to #5: I think Trump selling documents makes no sense at all. For one thing, he doesn’t’ need the money (then or now). For another, “never steal what you can’t fence.” Trump is no dummy. He must know that whatever intermediaries he would use to send the documents and accept the money would own him.

Speculating freely, let me put an alternative thesis: Trump kept documents — some of them, at least — that implicated the operatives of RussiaGate 1.0. Now that, as Smiley might put it, is a theory that sits up and works. First, it would enable Trump to take revenge on the “Deep State” factions who attempted to destroy his first presidency. Second, it provides a natural issue to campaign on if and when he runs for his second.

Back to #2: If in fact Trump did squirrel away RussiaGate 1.0 documents, the material was indeed about “active spies”.

Back to #4: If in fact Trump did squirrel away RussiaGate 1.0 documents, you can see why “intel officials” — especially the ones who, as we have seen, ran the operation — would be extremelly anxious to “assess” them, particularly because it’s merely national security at stake, but their own careers.

* * *

Continuing to speculate extremely freely: Working on the assumption that Trump stashed away RussiaGate documents, what might those documents reveal? Let’s look at the architecture of the Circus “mole.” Smiley continues to interrogate Toby Esterhase. (“Chicken feed” is plausible but false information. “Gerald,” again, is the mole. Karla, of Moscow Centre, is his handler. Polyakov — this gets complicated — is a Russian double agent, notionally run by the Circus, actually run by Moscow Centre. The Circus

Passage A) describes the dataflow: Polyakov (informant) gives Toby (handler) good intel; Toby gives Polykov “chickenfeed,” given to him by Gerald.

Passage B) describes the trick: Because Gerald is a mole, the chickenfeed he gives Toby to pass on to Polyakov is instead “the crown jewels”; good intel Russia would want. And the good intel that Polyakov gives Toby is in fact chickenfeed.

Now, can we think of an example in RussiaGate 1.0 where chickenFeed might be involved? I think we can. Let’s quote one more time from Tinker Tailor. (“Guillam” is Smiley’s ally; “Alleline” is the head of British intelligence; the one, in other words, who is responsible for allowing the Russian mole to “turn the Circus inside out”).

Alleline’s certainty is curious. Why is he so sure that the information is correct? Because he got it from Polyakov, supposed agent (but actual double agent).

Alleline’s certainty reminds me very much of the episode of the Steele dossier, intel that the official consensus deemed solid, and which turned out to be garbage (for example, the pee tape. To be fair to Strozok et al., the dossier was solid enough to get a FISA warrant to plant a spy in Trump’s camp).

Now, as the Steele dossier story faded from sight, the official consensus agreed that Steele just made everything up. But suppose Steele did not. What if instead of being a work of fiction, the Steele dossier was KGB chickenfeed?

One more absurdly speculative step: If the Steele dossier was KGB chickenfeed, then Steele was fed it someone in the KGB that Steele considered his agent, but was in fact a double agent, controlled by the Kremlin.

So, in this distinctly alternative, definitely far-fetched, and LeCarré-inflected thesis about what’s going on:

1) Trump retained documents at Mar-a-Lago that implicated those who ran RussiaGate 1.0;

2) Those documents would show that the Steele dossier was KGB chickenfeed;

3) KGB chickenfeed can be fed to our intelligence community if “we” think we are running a KGB agent and the intel is good, but that agent is in fact a double-agent, and the intel is bad (just like the architecture described above. Toby, by the way, flips, and becomes a Smiley ally; he’s one of the more charming characters). Therefore–

4) A KGB agent (“Polyakov”) implies a CIA/FBI handler (“Toby”). Is there a “Gerald”? Somebody who’s “blowing all the operations”? As described in #1?

Needless to say, if I were a RussiaGate 1.0 operative, I would be very, very anxious that no document that supported any part of this thesis ever saw the light of day.

* * *

Just remember: All these people are as twisty as corkscrews!


[1] I highly recommend the entire “Karla Trilogy”: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974); The Honourable Schoolboy (1977); Smiley’s People (1979); terrific reading for the coming fall and winter, by the fireside, if you have one. Oh, and the IMDB storyline for the Tinker, Tailor film has a horrific error: One of the plot points takes place not in Budapest, Hungary, but in then Czechslovakia, in Prague and Brno. Tsk.

[2] I cannot forbear from quoting Webster’s definition of “set piece”: A composition (as in literature, art, or music) executed in a fixed or ideal form often with studied artistry and brilliant effect.” Again, I highly recommend the entire “Karla Trilogy,” which IMNSHO is LeCarré at his finest. His earlier work doesn’t have the same scale or complexity, and the fall of the Soviet Union (1991) removed “Moscow Centre” as an antagonist, not Hamlet without the Prince, but the Lord of the Rings without Sauron.

[3] “My gawd, that lunatic wanted to pull us out of NATO before we could foment war in Ukraine!!!”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ambrit

    Substitute Kagan and Neuland for Toby Esterhazy and the plot starts to make sense. Toby really was all about the money. Any dedicated neo-liberal will tell you the same about their allegiances.
    I could really imagine Victoria Neuland wanting to be Gauleiter of Galicia.

    1. hk

      Just to nitpick, Gauleiters were for German (as opposed to occupied) territories. We can, presumably, now call her Reichskommissar Erika Koch, though.

      1. ambrit

        Ah, I have learned something new, thanks.
        Looking up Heydrich, I find him called the Reichsprotektor. But he “ruled” in ‘German’ areas, Moravia and Bohemia.
        Frank governed in the German half of conquered Poland. He was a Governor-General.
        You are absolutely right to suggest Vikky as Reichskommissar. That was the title of the manager of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine. However, I am a bit skeptical about the present day Koch brothers being involved in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine. Maybe the IBM subsidary that ran the ‘computers’ that effectuated the Final solution. Their recent actions would lend credence to such musings being accurate. Oh well….
        The Circle of Jerks is being completed. Defeated Nazis and Crypto-nazis were bought to America under Operation Paperclip as well as various ‘rat lines’ operating just after the war. Now their byblows are returning to their spawning grounds to institute the Final Solution to the European Problem: “Operation Seppuku.”
        ‘History’ may not repeat, but it most definitely “hums along.”
        Stay safe. Keep the “potassium iodide” handy.

        1. wilroncanada

          They were also brought to Canada, where, mixed with genuine refugees and immigrants, they became a fifth column of Americranians.

          1. ambrit

            Yes. The Eastern European ‘refugee’ hordes must have had a hard time of it. Many self identified as Ukrainians no doubt. Then there were the shadowy Themkranians. Always the “Other.” I wonder if we will soon see a “new” grouping; the Eukranians. Could they gain NATO status with just the “Rump Governorate” centred on Lvov?
            It just might end up with Polish Administered Galicia (The Protectorate) and the “Ukrainia Irredenta.”
            This is all entering the Tragedy phase of socio-political development theory.

      2. berit

        Reichskommissar of occupied Norway 1940-1945 was Josef Terboven, Vidkun Quisling served Ministerpresident of the Nazi-occupier’s unelected “civilian administration” called Reichskommissariat. Terboven committed suicide May 7th 1945. The German army capitulated May 8th. Quisling was tried, sentenced, shot as a quisling at Akershus castle october 24th 1945. Sic transit …

        1. ambrit

          What a fate; to be the origin of a pejorative. Up there with “Boycott.”
          And yet, Petain gets away with it. After the War, the French wisely hid him away at a prison site on an island in the Atlantic, the Ile dYeu. As an example of the ‘curiously’ schizophrenic nature of the Western Elite’s attitudes to former fascists, “notables” from Truman to Franco petitioned for Petain’s release. (Truman offered to give Petain asylum in America, Franco in Spain!)
          So, let us all prepare for the lavish expenditure of funds for the protection and maintenance of our Ukrainian “puppets” after the Russians complete whatever their program for the Ukraine is. Zelensky can star in a reboot of “Miami Vice.” The Kagans are my odds on favourites for a ‘reimagining’ of “Murder she Wrote,” but this time set in ‘The Village,’ a sweet, thoroughly upper middle class burg situated anywhere in “America.” The Prisoner it ain’t.

          1. Art_DogCT

            Ah, yes. No doubt Mme. Clinton’s deeply beloved “Village”. A magical place, where one needs to wield it’s nebulous yet transformative power to do, well, anything. So she told us, mi abuela imperialista Hillary.

          2. Late Introvert

            Buncombe got a county and a pejorative named after him! I had to look up the spelling.

            My local jazz station uses “All That Jazz” as a tag line.

  2. lyman alpha blob

    Lots of speculation as to what was in the recovered documents, and given the leakiness of DC, if they were looking for anything specific and actually serious, you’d think we would have heard about it by now. The only specific thing I’ve heard so far was today on Krystal and Saager were they mentioned there were some letters from Kim Jong Un that Trump was particularly fond of. It’s at about the 5:00 mark- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwtc7AbjhJA According to them at least, these letters were more momentos than anything that would compromise national security.

    With Clinton, the authorities knew for a fact that she was running state business on a private [family blog]ing server, and if I remember right they knew info was missing there, info that has never been recovered. If that doesn’t compromise national security, I really don’t know what does, and yet they declined to make a big deal of that even knowing those facts. With Trump, it sure seems like a witch hunt, which contrary to your Le Carre example, these clowns decidedly did want to have. Sure feels to me like they figured they could find something to blame him for after the fact, and may wind up doing so.

    What I’d really like to know is where are the copies Trump made of all this stuff? If there were something he really wanted to use for example in his suit against Clinton, surely he must have a copy somewhere.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Lots of speculation as to what was in the recovered documents, and given the leakiness of DC, if they were looking for anything specific and actually serious, you’d think we would have heard about it by now.

      Neither Trump nor “The Blob” has any incentive for that reveal, however.

      > What I’d really like to know is where are the copies Trump made of all this stuff?

      I’ve asked myself that question, too. It would be very like Trump to have a carefully organized and small collection of documents + copies, all wrapped up in the chaos and confusion.

  3. Carolinian

    I’d have to dig it up but I believe the notion that Trump is hoarding Russiagate documents is current on the web and may have been mentioned by Larry Johnson. What lends credence is that if Trump wanted to offer up such proof to the public he’d need authentic and original documents whereas if he wanted to sell secrets to the Russians then the real spies had these little Minox microfilm cameras as all movie buffs know and the originals not needed.

    But then plausibility has never been a strong point of Russiagate and Hillary is a Little Rock Machiavelli if not the more alliterative Mayberry version. Meanwhile Trump is crass and rude enough to fit the central casting villain part and that works for the “elevator pitch” that is the Dem’s only pitch these days. Lindsey Graham is quoted today saying Repubs will riot in the streets if Trump really is indicted. And while he’s a lame fabulist himself here’s suggesting such a move would be yet another own goal by the hapless Dems. Therefore they might do it.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I believe the notion that Trump is hoarding Russiagate documents is current on the web

      Hasn’t crossed my Twitter timeline and I do try to keep track. However, if there are other laborers in the same vineyard, it’s all to the good!

      1. t

        Has come up in my real life – at least in terms of docs his people at least suspect might be useful for pointing fingers at Russsiagaters.

        What people are saying online, I’m less plugged into.

      2. Skip Intro

        If Russiagate is really involved, then one of the characters should probably be Ukraine with players like Crowdstrike, and supporters in the DNC of the newly installed Ukraine gov’t, which reasonably saw the election of a not Clinton as an existential threat (not wrong; witness Zelensky being elected) and a devastating blow to their plans for the war.

  4. Dan S

    Le Carre’s last, “Silverview,” is a scathing indictment of the whole of post-WWII UK spy craft and its inability to exert any of its intended influence on world affairs. The failing upwards of elites (not unique to the UK) in the system that have no real talent other than how to hold a fork correctly at a posh dinner. Failed ops, home agents way out of their depth, burned foreign agents, bad intelligence whitewashed up to sell Iraq War II, etc. The book is deceptively breezy and a light read, but as one digests all that is not said and intimated in between the lines, you can see why Le Carre did not want the book released while he was alive. Loved it. MI-6 exhibits the Indiana Jones effect – all results of world events would have happened just about as they did if MI-6 did not exist at all. That’s even more damning than the CIA’s legacy of ashes. At least the CIA kills most of their targets eventually (not applicable to Fidel Castro).

    1. LifelongLib

      For a while I had a theory that outfits like the CIA and KGB were just dumping grounds for wackos, where they’d be occupied chasing each others tails while more sensible people got on with the governance and diplomacy. But when people like George H W Bush and (yes) Putin went from those places to positions of real power I had to toss that theory out. They’re not dumping grounds…

      1. Daniil Adamov

        There have been some intelligent people in the KGB (Shebarshin). However, its overall competence has been historically vastly overestimated, as proven by its actions when the regime it was meant to protect was finally placed in actual danger. Putin was pretty low-ranking, his subsequent FSB career and connections with the emerging liberal elite were much more important. (Of course FSB has a lot of institutional continuity with KGB, but it is still a much smaller, leaner, hungrier beast with somewhat less room for stupidity.)

      2. digi_owl

        My thinking is more that at least CIA is the playpen of the idle sons of the rich.

        That said, you description reminds me of the British SAS. Supposedly created during WW2 to distract Churchill so the generals could get on with waging war.

        I suspect a big lamentation on the German side was not providing Hitler a similar toy, as his meddling became increasingly unhinged as the war progressed.

      3. Art_DogCT

        “They’re not dumping grounds…”

        There is no contradiction in the CIA, et. al. being grooming stations for future, perhaps greater power, and it also being a dumping ground for (frequently well-connected) wackos, socio- and psychopaths. Because who can’t use vicious, expendable personnel? So handy to have at beck and call. As they say, ‘¿Porque no los dos?’

    2. Lee

      From Le Carre one can pass seamlessly into present times with Mick Herron’s jaundiced view of the UK espionage apparatus where the principals are so absorbed in internecine skullduggery and rat phkery that their crossing swords with foreign foes is something of a sideshow. I have just finished the entire Slow Horses series listening to audiobooks. I so enjoyed the experience that I now intend to read the books in printed form. He’s the kind of writer that invites rereading.

        1. Edgar, not Edmund

          Oh, Lambert, didn’t realize Jackson Lamb et al. hadn’t crossed your radar. I’m halfway through the books. You have a treat in store!

    3. montanamaven

      “Legacy of Ahses” by Tim Weiner is a good read for all the failures of the early C.I.A. and the James Bond wannabees. The spooks were upper class hoity toity “fork correctly held”.
      Failure of Intelligence by Melvin Goodman is about the analytic side of the C.I.A. Goodman doesn’t have much admiration for the spook side.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Le Carre’s last “Silverview”

      I liked it very much, though I could have wished it longer.

      SIlverview was published only after LeCarré’s death. I bought the last book published while he was alive, “Agent Running in the Field,” and was unable to finish it, because the prospect of the denoumente filled me with such dread. Quite a writer, LeCarré.

      1. Edgar, not Edmund

        Do finish them both, Lambert. As I’m sure you’re aware, the beauty of Le Carré blossoms forth in the rereading.

    5. Questa Nota

      Another useful Le Carré book is The Tailor of Panama.
      Over-reliance on sole-sourced non-vetted intel, which in real life could start a Middle East war or something. Who knew Colin Powell and the team were fans, or played them at the UN, and then struck out on a Curveball! /s

  5. Festoonic

    This was an insightful and beautifully-written piece. Now I’m off to the tip jar to put my money where my mouth is.

  6. David

    Simple point. If you look at any published human intelligence reports online or in archives, you will find that the reports themselves (by which we mean specific records of one or more conversations with a source) are carefully written so as to obscure the identity of the person who spoke. In general, codenames are used and all personal details removed. Now, if you were the enemy intelligence service and you had access to such documents, then you could probably come up with a short list of those who had access to the information, and start investigating there. As far as I can remember, that’s what happened with TTSS: Bill Haydon was the No2, and saw a great many reports of agent contacts. By telling the KGB what he had seen, and therefore what material SIS had been able to get hold of, he was able to get them looking in the right places, so that agents were quickly caught.

    Now these are not what most people think of as “intelligence reports”, which are put together by analysts from different sources, with their own commentary and analysis. They are “raw” intelligence, somewhat akin to a tape-recording of a telephone conversation or the intercept of an email. The norm seems to be a very brief report saying something like “An Air Force source told us that General X will Replace General Y as Head of the Air Force next year, but the announcement will not be made for several months. This source has been reliable in the past and General X is a popular officer?.” And that’s about it.

    Now obviously you don’t leave these things lying around. If Trump’s office was in the least bit competent they would have (1) very carefully selected reports which were actually worth showing him (2) had these reports briefed to him with context attached and (3) collected them afterwards and stored them securely away. Frankly, if Trump had any significant number of raw intelligence reports of this kind at his house, then it’s a massive scandal, less about him than those who were incompetent enough to allow it to happen. There is, of course, no evidence that anyone, still less the Russians, knew the documents were there, nobody knows which countries or subjects they related to, and, so far at least, no evidence that anyone saw them who should not have.

    Or of course the story could be something else entirely ….

    1. Yves Smith

      One thing that is always overlooked: virtually every account act as if “Trump” took the records. The packing up of the White House is done by dweebs.

      Trump likely did specify certain records to have been taken. He would not have packed them. And given Trump’s famed lack of attentiveness to detail, it’s hard to imagine (per Russiagate) they’d amount to more than 3-4 boxes. The rest is likely to amount to overcollecting, error (it’s routine for ex Presidents to wind up with records they should not have had and for the National Archives to ask for them to be returned) and possibly even, as the paranoid Right likes to suggest, planted material. After the Steele dossier, the latter line of thought it not completely nuts.

      Trump being Trump, of course, once he has something he won’t give it up easily out of general cussedness.

  7. KD

    I am not a Republican operative, but if I was, I would strongly prefer Donald Trump as a martyr in the cause of those who truly support the Constitution and the Republic, crushed by the Deep State and the Evil Empire, rather than as a candidate or an elected official. Whatever they do to Trump, and whatever the facts are, people are going to be mad, and the process is not going to be viewed as legitimate. If someone can harness that anger and lead in the name of Trump, that is actually scarier than Trump.

  8. Skip Intro

    Fortuitous timing, I just ran across a line in the The Honourable Schoolboy that recalled UKs reported eager role in operations in Ukraine and Crimea, among others:

    In times of travail, Britain’s tendency was to rely more, not less, on spies. Her entire Empire history urged her to do so. The thinner her trade routes, the more elaborate her clandestine efforts to protect them. The more feeble her colonial grip, the more desperate her subversion of those who sought to loosen it. No: Britain might be on the breadline, but the spies would be the last of her luxuries to go.

  9. Carolinian

    More on this. Turley and others have been saying the same thing. So if a Trump indictment would bring on the krazytown how about a Trump trial where he is found innocent? Surely even the Dems and Biden administration can’t be sincerely planning to indict. Just more distraction?


    The three laws mentioned in the Mar-a-Lago search warrant all specifically require proving intent—Trump’s mental objective in taking a classified document—or its equivalent:

    The first law cited, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793, titled “Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,” says (emphasis added), that “Whoever, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation… copies, takes, makes, or obtains… anything connected with the national defense” has violated federal law. Intent is mentioned repeatedly throughout the law, sometimes restated as purpose, reason, and the like. This law is part of the infamous Espionage Act of 1917, parts of which also include a gross-negligence standard, meaning a prosecutor does not have to prove specific intent in all cases.

    The second law, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2071, titled “Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally” says that the act must be (emphasis added) “willful and unlawful.” This statute also states anyone who violates it should be disqualified from holding public office, but while that issue would likely get litigated in court, legal scholars broadly believe it couldn’t be used to stop Trump from running for president again in 2024. Article II of the Constitution alone prescribes the requirements to run for president.

    The third law, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1519, the “anti-shredding provision,” imposes criminal penalties on anyone who (emphasis added) “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede or obstruct an investigation.”

    Intent as far as we (and Trump) are concerned, almost always means specific intent, as opposed to general intent. General intent means the prosecution must prove only that the accused meant to do an act prohibited by law. Whether the defendant intended the act’s result is irrelevant. Specific intent means the accused intentionally committed an act and intended to cause a particular result, a wrongful purpose, when committing that act (see U.S. v. Blair). Merely knowing that a particular result is likely isn’t the same as specifically intending to bring it about (see Thornton v. State). Note that none of the laws mentioned above require that the documents in question be classified, though it would be hard to imagine prosecutors proving that unclassified documents rise to the level of “injuring the United States.”

  10. fresno dan

    To me, Russiagate provided documentary evidence of the mind set of the upper echelons of the US government behavior and how the tail wags the dog.

    “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

    When one considers how imbecilic, how preposterous, how ridiculous the Russiagate allegations were, – how easily refuted, how contrary to common sense – yet the MSM (and democratic party) either fell for them, or in fact advanced them, it really is easy to see how a small cabal runs this country for the interests of the few.
    Now we are seeing the sequel – aren’t people tired of this movie?

    1. IACyclone

      Among other cases, I will never not be baffled at how anyone could look at the way that the Internet Research Agency’s ad buy on Facebook was claimed to be a plot to sap and impurify our precious elections as anything other than proof that those who were pushing Russiagate had to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Beyond the absurdity of arguing that our precious elections can be sapped an impurified for $48,000 of Facebook advertising, surely if this was part of a grand Russian plot to Destroy America ™, one would imagine the Russians would have spent more money prior to the election, rather than spending the remaining $52,000 of Facebook advertising after the election.

      And yet people who, I would have presumed should have known better by dint of hopefully having two brain cells to rub together, spent years pushing this with a straight face. For the gerontocracy at the top of the Democratic Party, I imagine ‘cyber’ to them has much the same connotations in their minds as ‘nuclear’ or ‘atomic’ did in their youth, as akin to magic. But for the younger people who pushed this, who should have some reference about the bare bones about how Facebook advertising actually works, what possibly could be their excuse?

      Again, this is one specific example of what was mentioned above that exacerbates me to no end, but to me it just goes to show how utterly preposterous the whole of Russiagate was, and how apparently gullible or duplicitous any number of people who, again, should have known better have been throughout the whole affair.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        “But for the younger people who pushed this, who should have some reference about the bare bones about how Facebook advertising actually works, what possibly could be their excuse?”

        “It works”. That is to say, clearly it worked on enough people and helped build team cohesion, so why not?

  11. MichaelSF

    Is it necessary to concoct disinformation to feed to intelligence services that often seem inclined to believe their own fantasies/propaganda?

  12. Tom Stone

    The Carter page FISA warrant was granted at least as much on the altered Email and other exculpatory information which was deliberately kept from the FISA Court.
    Now retired former Presiding Justice of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had something to say about that Warrant application on her Wiki Page.
    FISA warrants are different, they allow “Two Hops” or effectively the ability to spy on the Trump Campaign.
    The inclusion of Brian Auten (And others) who are still under investigation by OPR and Justice in the Mar A Lago “Raid” is enough for me to discount anything that they claim to have found at the Trump residence.
    The smell is so rancid I wonder if this isn’t partially a signal to the other @ 700 US Billionaires…If we can do this to an Ex Prez and Billionaire we can do it to you.
    Play Ball, or else.

  13. ChrisRUEcon

    #OMG Lambert!

    I am having a squeeeeeee moment!

    Only damper is that I have not read the book, only seen the flick … #toDoList

    But love this! Thanks so much!

  14. Skip Intro

    It is subtle to use KGB, to distinguish the menace from the ‘new’ FSB, which is not nearly devious enough to do Russiagate, not to mention Robby Mook. Their greatest trick was convincing the world they didn’t exist!

  15. marym

    Trump as self-centered and a horder is sufficient explanation of why he took home boxes full of of government property, imo.

    If he had/has information detrimental to his political adversaries, he’s had all the time from whenever he acquired it during his presidency, through several government efforts to get it back to do something about it beyond saying “Lock her up” at rallies.

    If Deep State ops are now doing a LeCarré-esque op to cover up an op, it was probably avoidable by the simple act of not taking all those boxes in the first place, or giving them back when asked.

    1. ambrit

      I would think that what really scares the Establishment is that Trump might have some actually competent henchbeings who would have already made multiple copies of the “incriminating” evidence and squirreled them away at different Dead Man Switch mediated repositories.
      If the Feds can extend the “secrecy” phase of some of the JFK shooting materials an extra quarter of a century past the usual fifty year mark, then they can definitely try to ‘disappear’ incriminating materials relating to the Russiagate Hoax.
      Trump cannot be stupid enough to trust any assurances he gets from the ‘Deep State.’ He has to be taking precautions.

      1. marym

        He took a bunch of stuff that didn’t belong to him. My guess is it was just stuff that appealed to him in the moment – made him look good, made him look bad, made someone he doesn’t like look bad, etc. I don’t think he’s selling secrets or destroying Our Democracy™; but I don’t see him likely having any purpose in all this beyond his own sense of entitlement.

        1. ambrit

          Yes as far as Trump individually goes. However, Trump is not a “One Man Show.” He has helpers and henchbeings to carry out his wishes and, generally, run the government at the nuts and bolts level. These people would have strong incentive to protect themselves under the concept of ‘collateral damage,’ and ‘guilt by association.’ Many of them would want some “material” to bargain away in exchange for immunity if it does come to legal proceedings. Remember that a time honoured legal tactic is to go after lower level functionaries associated with the ultimate target. Get them in a bind and then turn them against the ‘top dog.’ Thus are “criminal organizations” often ‘legally’ taken apart.
          I seem the remember recent discussion about exactly that subject regarding J Edgar Hoover and his famous “Secret Files” on politicos and others. This is generally considered the source of his continued power and longevity in the cesspit of American National Governance.
          When it comes to American national politics, cynicism is a survival characteristic.

  16. cgregory

    Trump does not have the discipline to construct for himself a Russiagate 1.0 argument; he does not have the analytical sense to make links among disparate documents; nor would he have had a reason to take over two dozen boxes of often wildly unrelated (to Russiagate) materials. As he thinks only of his own advantage and that in the short term, personal profit is the most likely reason. It only depends on whether he would be selling them or using them for blackmail.

    1. ambrit

      Accepting your characterization of Trump for a moment, he could also be holding on to such “compromising” documents for personal protection. For example, why do you think that Ghislane Maxwell is still alive? I would be willing to wager that Epstein died because he was sold out by his “backers.” Perhaps sold out to protect other “sources.” I would not put it past a certain Middle Eastern Theocracy to have ‘moles’ in high places in the American government.

    2. tegnost

      If I had a dime for every one of these psychoanalytic prognostications regarding what trump can or can’t do, always ending with some crime (sell or blackmail, it’s one or the other…this time). There is also no memory of what he was accused of last week, and this week it’s a different crime. Trump lives rent free in the minds of those who can’t think about anything else. It’s sad. It’s pathetic. I suppose the only possible thing I agree with is that he thinks only of his own advantage, but that only makes him exactly like MBA’s , hedge funders, VC’s, Bezos, the weird meta guy and an almost endless list of grifting scoundrels…. And thats why trump will never go to jail, it would set a bad precedent and believe you me trump is not the only self aggrandized scoundrel in NYC or DC.
      And he axed the TPP, and the big guy owes me $600 bucks. Of course, if I could collect all those dimes I wouldn’t need it, still probably wouldn’t be able to buy a waterfront house on marthas vineyard…what would you say to the fbi scrounging around the obama palace? And in the meantime the country can’t do anything but bail out and deregulate to make already rich people richer.
      Democracy! (/s)

      1. Eclair

        “Trump lives rent free in the minds of those who can’t think about anything else.”

        Beautiful, tegnost! The imagery ….. it’s unbearable!

    3. Yves Smith

      If Trump is such a moron, how did he beat Hillary who spent 2x as much money as he did, and had the extra benefit of being the closest of insiders on two successful campaigns? Campaign spending post Citizens United (and even well before if you believe political scientist Tom Ferguson) heretofore has dictated Presidential election outcomes.

      1. nippersdad

        “If Trump is such a moron, how did he beat Hillary who spent 2x as much money as he did,…”

        I would suggest that his deep dive into the Republican psyche (long term consumption of right wing media) had more to do with his winning than the money he spent on the campaign. He is a salesman, and he had real insight into the product he was selling. Hillary, on the other hand, is so totally insular that she had no clue what her electorate wanted to hear; she was trying to sell knock-off Louis Vuitton shoes at a Sears which had reduced its’ floor staff to three managers and a janitor on Black Friday.

  17. witters

    “If Deep State ops are now doing a LeCarré-esque op to cover up an op, it was probably avoidable by the simple act of not taking all those boxes in the first place, or giving them back when asked.” (marym)

    If there is wrong-doing, then the fault is TRUMP!

    (It’s so simple I sort of see its charm for some.)

  18. griffen

    Those who despise Trump and his MAGA followers will see what they wish. Those who follow Trump and despise the mass media stacked against him and his one term Presidency since 2016 will continue to see him as they wish. Trump accomplished nothing of substance? Low levels of unemployment and real wage growth for many.

    Those left in the middle will eat a s*it sandwich trying to figure out the key existential question. How do I get the flock off of this damn island. Inflation at 8% and Democrats continue to believe they are somehow winning. Covid is not solved and now it is onto monkeypox, and the Democrats believe they are winning.

    If Trump broke a legitimate law in this process, he deserves what he has coming. I have doubts.

    1. ambrit

      I am now of the belief that if Trump did not break some extant law, one would be created out of whole cloth and applied in an ex post facto manner.

      1. griffen

        Well it is reassuring in one respect. We don’t need the Two Minutes Hate every day to understand who we should be hating today.

  19. Tom Stone

    Trump did a better job for the American People than Biden has.
    Not just the TPP, foreclosure and eviction moratoria, actual cash money for those who desperately needed it, the warpspeed vaccine program…and he was crude, vulgar, obese, loud, thinskinned, a constant bullshitter with a voice that grated on every decent persons soul like fingernails on a blackboard.

    I wonder how many members of the PMC realize that “The Donald” is a showman who delights in trolling them?
    He’d show them a full moon on National TV given the opportunity.
    “A Cheeto faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon” is the best summation of Trump I have encountered.

      1. Art_DogCT

        I was living in NYC in the short-fingered vulgarian period, I loved the phrase and have continued to use it since, except for the past several years. As unpleasant as it can be being regularly called a Trump/Putin supporter/apologist for asking germane questions or offering inconvenient facts, it’s worse being mistaken for a Resistance™ partisan. Then you get harassed to get on mailing lists, make donations, become a volunteer, etc. When disabused, the person reverts to Trump/Putin supporter/apologist mode, the circle thus being complete.

  20. Hickory

    I may be missing something about the analogy with the book. Why does the possibility of Russian chicken feed imply that there may be a high level mole in the us intel services? Couldn’t the burned agents be an unrelated matter?

    I think I’m missing a link between Gerald and Toby and polyakov. Their relationship, where supposedly or actually meaningful info flows in both directions instead of just agent-> handler isn’t clear to me. Any clarification would be welcomed!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Their relationship, where supposedly or actually meaningful info flows in both directions instead of just agent-> handler isn’t clear to me.

      It’s ridiculously complicated and no wonder it took Smiley so long to figure out how to look at the problem right side-up. I tried to condense it for those who hadn’t read the book, but perhaps not so successfully…

      Illusion: Polyakov (mole) Toby (handler) <-- this is what the Circus thinks, and the KGB knows what they think Reality: Polyakov (handler) Toby (mole*) <-- this is what the KGB knows, but the Circus does not. NOTE * It's actually more complicated than this. Toby is more like a straw of the real mmole

  21. IACyclone

    The main issue with the hypothesis that the documents that Trump had at Mar A Lago relate to Russiagate is that Kash Patel, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense at the end of the Trump Administration and one of the people banging the drum on Russiagate on that side of the aisle after Trump left office, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that that’s not the case. That furthermore, Trump did have classified documents that related to Russiagate that Trump did declassify, but there was some screwup that made it so that instead of becoming public, they were turned over to the National Archives after Trump left office and remain secret. Which is why a few weeks back Patel was talking about being a one man, right wing Citizen’s Committee to Investigate the FBI and using access to the National Archives provided by Trump to publicly reveal these documents to the world. Ultimately, given Patel’s statements, it doesn’t seem likely to me that the documents Trump had at Mar A Lago were related, at least directly, to Russiagate.

    Additionally, as to the hypothesis on the other side of things that Trump has been selling out American assets abroad, the main weakness of this is that it ignores that we’ve been having issues with other countries counter-intelligence services since the Obama Administration at least. There was a good piece Scott Ritter did a few years back in Consortium News where he traced some of this back, starting with the Russians throwing multiple CIA officials out of their country in response to us refusing to refrain from recruiting FSB agents as assets while we were working with them to fight ISIS. And then, of course, there was the fact that the software we used to communicate with assets abroad ended up being compromised as well. In short, if that comes to be the line that gets pushed by Dems, there are at least a couple of major leaps of logic to get from point a to point b in that.

  22. Hibike!

    Unmentioned in the speculations above is the fact that the Steele dossier was linked via MI6 agent Pablo Miller (who worked with Steele at Orbis Business Intelligence) to the Skripal affair (Pablo recruited Sergei). So there is certainly a double (triple?) agent involved.

    1. begob

      Not only that – Steele was Miller’s boss when Miller recruited Skripal, and Miller was actively involved with both men at the time of the Salisbury circus show in 2018. But nobody has posited a chain of spookiness running through those relationships to produce material that isn’t already accounted for by the known dossier sources.

  23. Pavel

    To be fair to Strozok et al., the dossier was solid enough to get a FISA warrant to plant a spy in Trump’s camp).

    There is no reason “to be fair” to Strzok and his colleagues. He was blatantly biased against Trump from the start and the FBI lied on the FISA court applications.

    Separately, there shouldn’t even be such an anti-democratic and non-transparent “court” as FISA, but that is another topic.

  24. LawnDart

    Lambert & Yves, Larry Johnson posted this (in case you haven’t seen it):


    …Well guess what? The head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Tim Thibault, was removed forcibly from his office by other FBI agents last Friday. That news just broke today. It comes in tandem with other news that some of the documents taken from President Trump’s residence were covered by Attorney/Client privilege. The FBI violated Mr. Trump’s Constitutional Rights. Or, to be specific, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office, Tim Thibault, violated Mr. Trump’s rights….


  25. Robert West

    I handled classified materials off and on for 30.years. I have seen people go to jail over selling such material and just for leaving it out. I listened as the FBI listed the laws and violations of Clinton, then let her off the hook for thousands of violations, each of which was also a conspiracy charge. This raid was political, of course they briefed Biden beforehand. Presidents can declassify anything, there is no mechanism for stopping them. Welcome to post constitutional America. Double standard is now the rule, not the exception.

  26. Les Swift

    One of the fundamental principles of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution is that our government will be administered by representatives elected by the people. Contrast that concept with the attitudes expressed by Sen. Schumer and LTC Vindman. If the unelected CIA can punish the elected President for bucking it, then can it not also punish Senators like Schumer? Is he not admitting subservience to unelected powers? Vindman complained to Congress that the elected President was not following the “interagency consensus,” a “consensus” determined by unelected officials. Both men were, in effect at least, taking the side of the unelected over the highest elected official in the land. I find this quite telling.

    1. Questa Nota

      It isn’t much of a stretch to think that Schumer, et al are being manipulated, maybe even six ways to Sunday, by malign forces. Some, like Schiff, seem a lot more obvious as they doth protest way too much and look like they’re on the verge of bursting a blood vessel from all the stress.

      1. Les Swift

        I suspect that politicians are far more “managers” on behalf of interests behind the scenes, than they are “policymakers” running their shows. Our government more and more reminds me of a corporate entity, run for the benefit of the “stakeholders,” rather than for the benefit of the citizenry. So much of the political turmoil reminds me of a play upon the stage, to distract the citizenry from the way in which our nation is being transformed from being a republic into what we once broke away from, a world of Lords and Peasants. Welcome to the New and Improved! feudalism.

  27. David

    The difficulty I have with Lambert’s theses is that I can’t visualise what these documents would actually be. If they relate to the conspiracy itself (assuming that the conspirators were stupid enough to commit things to writing) then they can’t be “intelligence” material, they can’t affect national security, and at the most you can say is that they could represent incriminating evidence against individuals; But even that seems unlikely unless those involved were totally stupid. And how would Trump or his staff acquired them? And why were they not used?

    But if the TTTS analogy is pursued, then the conspiracy was based on material at least some of which was believed to be true, and to have come from Russia. But if the material was false, and came from Russia, then it would contain nothing which would actually harm Russian interests, or identify (non-existent) Russian sources. So no harm could be done by revealing it. And again, how did Trump or his staff get access to such material?

    It is, of course, possible to construct elaborate double and triple-cross scenarios for fun, based on ideas found in spy-novels: indeed, there’s no limit to the complexity you can get into. And as much as I have admired Le Carré since his first books, I’m told that real intelligence officers think his books show their organisations as much more capable and devious than they really are.

  28. John Beech

    I’ve got a Xerox document scanner that will do a box of documents about as fast as you could load the hopper (double side about 100 pages at a time). If the organization knows the Feds are looking at what he has, and if he wants to retain the dirty laundry of the players who did him wrong at President Obama and HRC’s behest for just in case (maybe Mar-A-Lago burns down), then it doesn’t make me a genius to think of backing up the proof. Would it be legal? Strikes me as unlikely. But on the campaign trail, would this matter? Also unlikely.

    Politics is a dirty business. Life in general is. I don’t blame HRC for using whatever tools she had at hand. Don’t like her but don’t blame her because the glass ceiling is as real as driving while black. But it’s given rise to President Trump, for whom I voted twice, and I’d rather have had pretty much anyone else. So I lay the blame at her feet. And the President’s. And all the bit players in the intelligence services who forgot their oath.

    What do we do about it now? Dunno. Kind of wish Washington had accepted the job as king as then we could hold a revolt and practice our French while sharpening the blades of modern incarnations of Dr. Guillotine’s device (modern only insofar as being brand new purpose made).

    As is, I’m not fond of President Biden (already mentioned I didn’t vote for him), but he’s my President. I just wish he’d act like it and root out the corruption of our domestic enemies with the alacrity he’d use for run-of-the-mill foreign types. Don’t know why he doesn’t. Color me sad.

  29. ewmayer

    Casting tidbit w.r.to the Alex-Guinness-led miniseries: in the interrogation-by-Smiley (really more Smiley having a conversation with, and proferring Western blandishments as inducements to turn double-agent) scene, Karla is played by none other than a young(er) and bearded Patrick Stewart, in a wonderful, dark-miened wordless performance.

    (Of course Stewart has a wonderful voice, so in that sense a bit of a waste.)

    [And yes, I *am* very late to this – DLed the article to a browser tab when it first appeared, alas no chance to read it until today.]

  30. Jorge

    About the “Gerald” character- he existed. Code name: “Fedora”. Real name: I kid you not, Kulak.

    In the early 1950s he convinced the FBI that it had a mole. The FBI code-named the mole “UNSUB DICK”, “unsubstantiated” something or other. The FBI bought it, turned itself upside down, destroyed careers, the whole nine yards. What’s more, Kulak did this with only a couple of conversations and did not get paid by the FBI.



    1. Daniil Adamov

      Interesting. Also interesting difference between English and Russian Wikipedia. The latter goes into more detail on his biography. Among other things, it mentions that he was buried with full honours in 1984, but that in 1985 he was outed by Aldrich Ames as an American spy and in 1990 all his awards were posthumously taken away. And this year his gravestone was vandalised with a message calling him “Judas” and citing his punishment for spying in favour of America.

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