A famous spy’s first steps toward betrayal. Jul 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 43 • By DAVID AIKMAN
It will probably never be known how many people died because they were betrayed by Kim Philby to the NKVD, or its successor, the KGB. Konstantin Volkov, a KGB agent working under diplomatic cover as a consular officer in Istanbul in 1945, is just one standout example. For the sum of £5,000, Volkov offered to defect to the British with a treasure trove of intelligence information: the names of 314 KGB agents in Turkey and 250 in Britain. He also claimed to have the names of senior British intelligence officers who were working as double agents for the Soviet Union. He quite possibly knew about Philby’s longtime work for Moscow.
Philby, then heading the Section IX counterintelligence section of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), was ordered to Istanbul by the head of SIS in order to arrange for Volkov to be expatriated safely to England. He dragged his feet in getting there, meanwhile passing along to Moscow all the information Volkov claimed to have available. By the time Philby made it to Istanbul, Volkov had been kidnapped by the Russians, swathed in bandages, and then shipped back to Moscow on a Soviet military plane. There he was interrogated and summarily executed.
Philby was the most prominent—and certainly the most dangerous—of a group of British traitors who came to be known as the Cambridge Five. They included diplomats Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who defected to Moscow in 1951, and the art historian Anthony Blunt, revealed publicly in 1979 to have been a spy for Moscow since shortly after graduating from Cambridge.
Why and how did Harold Adrian Russell Philby come into a life as an intelligence officer and then a double life as a KGB informant within British intelligence? The usual motives of people who become spies and then traitors to their own country are described by analysts of intelligence as falling into the acronym MICE: Money, Ideology, Compromise/Control by another country’s spy agency, and Ego. Since Philby defected to Moscow from Beirut in 1963, and then wrote a memoir of his double life, My Silent War (1968), it has come to be generally accepted that he was a heart-and-soul convert, almost in a religious sense, to Moscow’s global Marxist-Leninist agenda.
This basic reckoning of the Philby phenomenon is probably true and is affirmed by Edward Harrison. The consensus view, however, fails to deal with other important questions: Was Philby living out his own version of the colorful antics of his father, the convert-to-Islam Arabist and sometime intelligence officer St. John Philby? At what point did Philby’s attraction to communism become the core of a danger-prone life providing intelligence to the enemy and going against everything his country stood for?
This remarkable, intriguing, and highly detailed study of Philby in his early years answers many of these questions. Harrison has done the historical record a favor by going through recently declassified SIS records and matching what they tell about Philby with Russian academic research into those parts of the NKVD archives that became available to scholars after 1991.
Philby was drawn to the ideals of international socialism while still a scholar at Westminster School, which his father had also attended. Westminster’s assistant head-master was an idealistic clergyman who preached that there was a fundamental flaw in capitalism and that young people should serve the world less selfishly. He was a great enthusiast for the League of Nations. But it was at Cambridge that Philby was first attracted to communism, becoming an enthusiastic member of the Cambridge University Socialist Society (CUSS). A Cambridge lecturer, Maurice Dobb, was doing his best to persuade CUSS members to go for the heady brew of revolutionary communism rather than the less violent alternative of, say, Fabian socialism.
It was through a connection of Dobb’s that Philby set off after Cambridge for Vienna, where he worked to protect German and Austrian refugees from the Nazis. There he married Litzi Friedmann, an older divorcée who had spent time in an Austrian prison for her Communist activities. It was through his wife’s connections that Philby was first introduced to an NKVD control officer in London.
Before Audubon, there was Alexander Wilson. Jul 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 43 • By CHRISTOPH IRMSCHER
For years now, I have been showing the gorgeous four volumes of Audubon’s Birds of America to visitors and students at Indiana University’s Lilly Library. Each time, I take pleasure in the sumptuous colors of Audubon’s plates, still luminous after almost two centuries, and the dramatic stories of avian life the plates tell, with their fancy botanical backgrounds.
Every souvenir tells a story worth hearing. Jul 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 43 • By EDWARD ACHORN
A few years ago, I found the scorecard my grandfather had kept of a September 16, 1904, doubleheader he attended at Boston’s Huntington Grounds. He saw Cy Young pitch in the opener for the Boston Americans (now Red Sox) and Jack Chesbro pitch in the second game for the New York Highlanders (now Yankees). A newspaper clipping noted that George Wright, a member of the first openly professional baseball team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, had watched the action that day from the front row.
7:02 AM, Jul 16, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Despite an admission by the Department of Transportation (DOT) that the Federal-aid Highway Programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are "susceptible to significant improper payments," the DOT Inspector General (IG) has terminated an audit initiated in April "due to other higher priority work demands."
The Ballets Russes and the dawn of modernity.Jun 17, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 38 • By EVE TUSHNET
“There was a definite puppet-like quality about [Vaslav] Nijinsky’s Petrouchka. He seemed to have limbs of wood and a face made of plaster, in which his eyes resembled nothing so much as two boot buttons.
The Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its centennial. Jun 17, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 38 • By SARA LODGE
In his short story “The Occasional Garden,” Saki pinpoints a subject dear to the British heart, but also key to its social anxieties. Elinor Rapsley is about to receive a lunch visit from a woman whom she detests, Gwenda Pottingdon. Gwenda’s garden is the envy of the neighborhood; Elinor’s is a barren wasteland. Gwenda is coming on purpose to crow over Elinor’s pathetic pansies while describing her own rare and sumptuous roses.
The collected versatility of a ‘really good’ critic. May 20, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 34 • By JOHN SIMON
Drama critics come in all kinds, besides, of course, good and bad. There are those who regurgitate the plot and those who gallop off on hobby-horses. There are those with sound ideas but no style; those with impressive styles but no taste. Some tergiversate, even without a Janus face; others ride one point into the ground. Then there are the really good ones, like Britain’s Benedict Nightingale, whose song should be heard far beyond Berkeley Square.
The rebirth of the national pastime after World War II.May 6, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 32 • By COLIN FLEMING
In an American sports world where football is king, the notion of baseball as our country’s national pastime is a quaint one, a sort of nostalgic throwback to a bygone era, like westerns in the 1940s or heroic literature in the century after the Crusades.
Familiar premise (art heist) meets tired device (amnesia).Apr 22, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 30 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
Trance has to be judged one of the great disappointments in recent cinema, given that it is only the second movie Danny Boyle has made since Slumdog Millionaire. That Oscar-winning worldwide smash may have been the best film of the past decade.
They’re people, too, and often based in Paris. Jan 21, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 18 • By JUDY BACHRACH
I’m burning with envy. Here I’ve been plugging away of late in places like Oklahoma City and Scottsdale. Meanwhile, both Susan Mary Alsop and Kati Marton, heroines of two ostensibly different books, had a much better idea.
7:48 PM, Dec 10, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Republican National Committee announced the formation of a committee set to examine what the party did wrong in the last election.
"Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus today launched an initiative to grow the Republican Party and improve future Republican campaigns," the RNC announced today.
10:08 AM, Nov 23, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
I happened to read Michael Connelly's first mystery, The Black Echo, when it was published twenty years ago. I've been a fan every since. His books are now bestsellers, but it's always a nice feeling to have discovered someone (or something) before everyone else did—even if one deserves no particular credit for it.
‘Because I wanted to be pretty again.’Aug 29, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 46 • By JUDY BACHRACH
The main reason I wanted to read Prime Time, which is Jane Fonda’s latest book—there have been others—about Jane Fonda, is because of its cover. On the right-hand side, next to a large color photograph of the actress, her lips painted the precise color of her sweater (tangerine) and her hair abundantly streaked, ’70s-style, are the following words, punched out, perhaps, in order of their importance to her:
Montaigne’s persistent search for meaning.Aug 15, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 45 • By LAWRENCE KLEPP
Reading an essay by Montaigne is like strolling through a labyrinthine flea market. You are likely to find all sorts of things there, except maybe logic, and you are likely to get, like the author, a bit lost. His essays, ruled only by curiosity, wander, wonder, sidestep, and circle, accumulate anecdotes, quotations, and conjectures as they go, but never arrive at a definite conclusion or offer an argument that might drop you off at one.