The Magazine

Traveling Fellow

If I.F. Stone wasn't a spy, he was the next best thing.

Nov 13, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 09 • By JUDY BACHRACH
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As it turns out, maybe Izzy did feel that need just then to honor Stalin, and maybe we need to explore why. Three years later he would be far tougher on Nikita Khrushchev ("more crude and vulgar than Stalin") and also on Russia. And the question is, why? Why this flip-flopping? Was there an element of subterfuge in Stone's life? Could some of the old suspicions be true?

The problem here, and the difficulty MacPherson shrilly and desperately tries to shout down, is this: There is no reason for Stone's main accuser, the guy who knows, to lie. He is neither a rabid rightist nor a neoconservative. And he did not dislike Izzy Stone. To the contrary.

Thanks to a trusted mutual friend, I spoke extensively on two occasions (one very recent) to Oleg Kalugin, whom MacPherson describes in enchantingly minimalist fashion as a "former Soviet agent." Actually, after his stint in the Soviet Union's Washington embassy, Kalugin went on to become a KGB major-general and its chief of foreign counterintelligence--from which perch, of course, he had access to even more extensive information concerning agents abroad.

While he was posted in Washington, his cover was press attaché, and it was in this capacity, Kalugin tells me, that he accepted one of his early American assignments. In 1966, a cable arrived from Moscow ordering him to re-recruit, if possible, the journalist Stone, "WHO USED TO BE OUR SOURCE FOR MANY YEARS," read the instructions.

Stone, said Kalugin, had begun cooperating with the Soviet Union in 1936, but stopped, furious, after the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. This, the former spy added, despite the fact that, until then, Izzy had been paid for his work by the Soviets. In our conversations, Kalugin was very specific about the limits of his knowledge: "I do not know how much money he took. But he took some money, I know that for sure," he said.

However, when Kalugin made it his business to charm Stone back into the fold three decades ago, there was no need for money to change hands. The KGB agent was deft and seductive in his methods, his pitch a striking combination of passion and disenchantment, tempered by optimism for the future (Kalugin, too, had been disgusted by the invasion of Hungary).

"I represent the new generation of Soviets," Kalugin told the journalist. "There have been changes in my country since Khrushchev's reforms, since Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin, since Hungary, and there's a desire on the part of many Soviets to move forward." Let's have lunch, said Kalugin, and according to his account, Stone readily assented. Regular lunches were enjoyed at Harvey's, now defunct but then in the Mayflower Hotel. (It was only later that the Soviet agent learned J. Edgar Hoover shared a fondness for the restaurant, a coincidence that tickled him.)

There was one vital communication made by Kalugin at his first lunch with Stone--by way of introduction, Kalugin tells me these days: "I told Stone, 'My good friends in Moscow send you their best regards.' Absolutely, he understood what I meant."

Moreover, says Kalugin, Stone wasn't simply some ordinary reporter exchanging items with a good source: "He was a Soviet agent, his code name was BLIN, which in English is pancake," Kalugin says.

And the results? "It was a fruitful relationship," is the oblique reply. (Even now, long after the fall of communism and his arrival in this country, Kalugin retreats into ambiguity whenever it suits him.) "I paid for lunches; he was happy to share with me what he had learned on Capitol Hill or the White House. He had a wide range of friends, and that was good because he would provide us with some tips or information."

These tips were not, however, randomly selected. "Oh, there was no classified information--but look, the Soviet intelligence network cared about information that would serve the political purpose of influencing operations," he explains. "Of manipulating public opinion, of misleading, weakening this country. Injuring it. We had a whole bunch of big names helping us."

Nor was that the end of Stone's compliance. "Look, his column would also be used for placing some disinformation, don't forget that," says Kalugin. "I would tell him something which I would like him to use, and he would oblige. That was normal procedure." Once again, no details are forthcoming. (I thought of that remark as I read Izzy on the subject of lazy mainstream reporters and their penchant for snuggling up to pols: "You can't just sit on their lap and ask them to feed you secrets--then they'll just give you a lot of crap," he said.)