Friday, August 29, 2014

33. I SPY

Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence

Autumn 1997

By autumn, Vladimir Kryuchkov was growing anxious.  

Why had I not yet found a publisher for his book? 

In fact, with the Bureau's knowledge, I had genuinely submitted a manuscript entitled The Kryuchkov Konfessions to senior editors at several publishing houses in the United States and Britain.  (The Bureau had no interest in whether or not Kryuchkov’s book was published in the United States; only that I do whatever felt natural to further the double-ruse: keeping tabs on Howard while de-briefing the former KGB chairman.) 

The various editors unanimously assessed the former KGB chairman's tome for what it was: dull and uninteresting.

To placate Kryuchkov and keep the ruse going, I created a dummy publishing contract through an imprint (my own creation):  Enigma Books. Kryuchkov's modest advance on royalties came from FBI coffers. 

On November 13th, Kryuchkov sealed the agreement with his signature. 

Two months after that, I returned to Russia with my designated editor, Rick K, a trusted publishing colleague whom I recruited as a witting FBI asset.  Rick had played roles in some of my private sector intelligence operations; had proven invaluable as an insertion agent and second set of eyes.   

"Don't bring your address book to Moscow," I preached to Rick what I myself practiced.  "Get an index card, scramble whatever numbers you might possibly need on it, carry it in your wallet." 

I assumed, as a matter of caution, that the FSB, Russia's security service, perused my possessions while I was away from my hotel room. 

"And bring a copy of Publisher’s Weekly," I added.  "Maybe a New York Review of Books." 

By this time, the FBI had become accustomed to my flying habits.  Their accountants squawked about my Delta Business-elite fares and $400-a-night hotel rooms.  But it was the price they had to pay for this stagehand production (stagehand being the Bureau's jargon for sting-undercover operations). 

So Rick and I flew from New York's JFK to Moscow in style and toasted our partnership-in-espionage with champagne.  

Many hours later, Moscow welcomed us. 

Rick, who met Edward Howard for the first time in the arrival area, was struck by the deep sadness he detected in this traitor's eyes.   

Howard led us to his brand new Volvo sedan, dark blue with black leather interior.  He finally got the new car promised him by Kryuchkov for publishing Safe House.   

I was lagging, so I let Rick do most of the yakking, break him into the spy game, Moscow in January.  It was cold.  Bright sunshine reflected off a fresh snowfall and bestowed upon the Russian capital a clean, fresh radiance. 

Rick commented on the construction going on everywhere. 

"That's democracy for you," said Howard, sardonically.

He dropped us at the Baltschug Kempinski.  Rick and I checked in, and hoofed in slush to Red Square, stopping at GUM department store for a beer. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon, and evening, goofing off, drinking bottles of SchneiderWeiss, first at the Beltschug Bar, then in the lobby, chuckling over whoever might be deployed to keep tabs on us. 

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