Understanding that the FBI was clearly out of its depth on the potential of playing former KGB Chairman Kryuchkov, I kept Clair George apprised of this development.
At some point, he met the CIA Eurasia Division Chief for a drink to lay it out. Then he phoned me.
"I can sum this up in one word," said Clair. "He was astounded."
"Did you explain how all this came about?"
"Sure. He was astounded. He'd never heard any of it."
"Is that what astounded him?"
"The whole thing astounded him. He was astounded that he knew nothing about this. And he was astounded by having a key player like Kryuchkov in this position. He can't believe the Bureau hasn't told CIA about it."
John H phoned me. "Chris has been busy," he said. "He's gotten a positive response on Warsaw."
We were on course to rendition Howard.
As the momentum built, a six-week countdown began.
Then John H was again summoned to Washington.
He phoned me from Headquarters (Wednesday, August 30th) and asked that I make a dinner reservation at O'Donnell's in Bethesda. He was waiting there with Chris H and Jim S when I arrived just before seven o'clock.
A pall had been cast over the assembled G-men.
John H and Jim S explained that a "related conflict" had suddenly arisen at Headquarters.
Consequently, there was no longer a big hurry to rendition Edward Lee Howard.
Consequently, the operation to nail him in Warsaw had been scrubbed at the eleventh hour and indefinitely postponed.
“We've been put in a holding pattern,” said Jim S. "Maybe as long as six months."
Somehow, I wasn't surprised that our operation had evolved into a most extraordinary non-rendition. It seemed that the notoriously politicized Justice Department, from the beginning, never really had the gumption to go through with it.
We had met every demand they’d made to legally justify a rendition, but they scrapped it at the eleventh hour anyway, worried about embarrassing the Russian government even while corrupt Russian leaders were laundering billions of dollars, and the Russian intelligence services were taking advantage of eased tensions with the West by teaming with organized crime groups and doubling its espionage efforts worldwide.
Edward Howard did, indeed, travel to Warsaw to research Spy’s Guide, arriving November 5th, departing two days later.
(I still possess his expense receipts.)
Given the go-ahead, we would have apprehended Howard, an American traitor who prided himself on being the only spy to have been taught tradecraft by both the CIA and the KGB.
The boys from the Bureau asked me to "hang in there" i.e. keep Howard greased until such time that their "related conflict" could be resolved.
Meantime, we would plod on with Spy’s Guide and Kryuchkov's book, and I would be given scope to cultivate PI (positive intelligence), as suggested in November by the Bureau's counter-terrorism chief, Bob B.
I knew then, in my bones, that it was over; that the Justice Department would never green-light the renditioning of Edward Howard. More time would pass, making it more difficult to prosecute Howard for espionage, always a tough charge without an admission, and Howard's mantra on this point was an unwavering (and smartly reasoned) Deny everything, admit nothing, make counter-allegations.
I went home demoralized.
But I awoke next morning with an appreciation for the silver lining beneath this dark cloud:
At least I'd get a crack at Kryuchkov, the former KGB chairman.