Sunday, July 27, 2014


Moscow 1997:  Edward Howard, Eringer, Igor Prelin, former KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov


JULY 2002

I phoned George Blake, a British intelligence officer who admitted spying for the communists. escaped from Wormwood Scrubs Prison in England, and beelined to Moscow in 1966.  Howard counted Blake among his few friends and looked up to him as a mentor; they shared birthday celebrations and holiday occasions.  Yet Blake sounded neither concerned nor saddened by Howard's passing.

George Blake
"Ed never really adjusted to life here," he told me with the matter-of-factness of someone discussing the weather.  "And he was drinking heavily again the last few months."

By early August, the Russians' story changed a third time.  "He was walking at sunset at the territory of his dacha, and the terrain is very steep there," a former KGB officer, Viktor Andrianov, told the Russian newspaper Pravda.  "It's likely Edward slipped and when he was falling hit his head very hard on  stone.  He was found only in the morning when everything was over."

A former CIA operations officer who had "called in a chit" from a special source  in Moscow later recounted a fourth version to me:  Howard had meant to take the stairs from his bedroom loft, but, being very drunk, he missed and flipped over the balcony's low rail.

The problem I had with this story was the rail was not low, but high, and had been installed to prevent such an accident.

It was, at a minimum, an embarrassment to the Russians that the only CIA spy to evade capture and reach Moscow did not enjoy a long, happy life.

Howard, at the market near his dacha
As Howard once told me, "KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov wants me to be a good example that he could use as positive propaganda.  He wants to be able to say, 'Here's a man who came to our side and he's happy, healthy, and successful.'" 

 If nothing else, Howard's untimely and freakish death at age fifty debunked such nonsense.

Howard may well have suffered a drunken accident, although he tried to confine his drinking to New Year's Eve and his birthday, October 27.

It is also possible that some old Russian general coveted the government-owned dacha in which Howard lived, and all that stood between him and it was Howard.

But most probably, Howard died at the hands of Russia's internal Federal Security Service (FSB).

Howard had long outlived any usefulness to his hosts; furthermore, drunk or sober, toward the end of his life, he regularly bad-mouthed Russia and Russians to all who would listen.

Robert Hanssen
Even more significant, as Howard secretly laid plans in the autumn of 2001 to relocate to Phuket, Thailand, FSB investigators might have concluded that Howard was at least partly responsible for the unmasking of their prized FBI informant, Robert Philip Hanssen.

Aleksandre "Sasha" Zhomov, chief of the FSB's American Department, was said to be obsessed with nailing those responsible.

As one cagey Polish operative told me in reference to Howard's death:  "Stairs, real or contrived, are a hallmark of the Russian intelligence services, their silencing signature."

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