Sunday, August 24, 2014


Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence

Summer 1995

On July 1st, I decamped to Stone Harbor, New Jersey for a lengthy summer vacation by the beach. 

John H phoned on the 17th to report excellent progress with the Justice Department.  We honed our target capitals.   

Then John H got summoned to Washington to present a final plan to the Big Cheese Family. 

He told them this:  Choose from three destinations (Warsaw, Bucharest, Sofia) and we can nail Howard in six weeks.   

We already knew the techniques and mind-set Howard maintained for low-profile foreign travel. 


Because Howard had penned a blueprint for me, a detailed chapter on tradecraft for the traveling spy!


Plan where you're going.  Know the area... check out the establishment you want to meet somebody ahead of time--find the exits, learn the operating hours, and always think about how your opposition would approach you if he found you were there. 


Make your travel reservations from a public phone, with a travel alias, use smaller foreign airlines (KGB officers always prefer using Mavel, the national Hungarian airline), pay cash for your tickets, change planes.  Spend a day or two in another city checking for shadows before going to your target area, make hotel reservations at the last possible moment.  And once in a hotel, always approach it as if someone may be waiting for you. 


Combine a different hairstyle with a pair of glasses and you'd be surprised how much your appearance changes. 


You just can't trust anyone.  No one said it would be easy to be a spy and this is one of the reasons why.

John H phoned me from Washington on July 26th.  

Headquarters had trashed our list; they wanted Milan or Rome. 

"What's your immediate thought on that?"  

"Bollocks," I said.  "The Author may never visit Italy, and if he does, it wouldn't be for many months." 

John H told me a new agent had been assigned the case at Headquarters, replacing John Q.  He said we should all meet, and we agreed to rendezvous in Pennsville, New Jersey, my side of the Wilmington Bridge. 

John H put his new supervisor, Chris H, on the phone for directions.  I had no idea where exactly we'd meet, so I planned to arrive first, stake out a decent site, call Chris H's cell phone. 

I arrived at 2:55 p.m. and settled on Chukkers, a tavern.  It just sounded right.  And desolate of other customers at this hour.  

The G-men arrived about 45 minutes later:  John H, Chris H, and Jim S.  Chris H was sturdy, thick mustache, almost bald, with intense eyes and serious demeanor. John H got right down to it:  Bucharest and Sofia had been ruled out by the Department of Justice.  Warsaw, a maybe.  It was down to the Bureau's legat at the U.S. embassy in Warsaw to deal with the Polish government, gain their acquiescence.  Chris H expected an update on his cell phone any minute. 

"We'd need to know Howard's flight arrival plans," said Jim S. 

"No problem," I said.  "I'll tell Howard I'll meet his flight."

I had a new idea.  "If Poland won't work, how about Istanbul?" 

Chris H perked up from his frosted mug of Coors Lite.  "Istanbul might work." 

"I could fit it into the context of Spy’s Guide," I said.

"Spy’s Guide?" said Chris H.  "What's that?" 

I put my hand over my eyes, shook my head in dismay. 

When we finished, about 5 p.m. we walked into the 100-degree sauna outside, shook hands, said goodbye.

"Bring me the witch's broomstick."
As I drove back to Stone Harbor through Salem, Bridgeton, and Millville, I felt only sadness in my soul.

It struck me that every time I and the FBI team came up with a new solution, the Justice Department threw up two new hurdles; their threshold for approval, forever on the rise. 

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