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Monday, September 1, 2014

36. CUBAN INTEREST





Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence

January-February 1998


One week after leaving Moscow, I zapped this e-mail to Edward Howard: 

The publisher does not accept that Prelin's answers can be used to fill gaps in Kryuchkov's book.  They feel that if Kryuchkov cannot open up, we don't have a book.  So what now?  You might put this question to Kryuchkov. 

Howard responded the following day, February 4th: Kryuchkov had a heart attack 3 days ago and is in the hospital.  He's out of the picture for many months.

Had I upset him? 

John H was in Washington, awaiting my return, for a full briefing from Rick K and myself. 

We conducted this over libations and crab cakes at Clyde's, Chevy Chase.   

John H was pleased to hear I still had the command to draw Howard out of Russia, but since a rendition remained on hold, what really excited him, as I expected, was Igor Batamirov's willingness to pen a book and visit the USA. 

The requirement was not terribly complicated:  Lure the former counterintelligence chief to Washington so FBI special agents could make a pass at him. 

But first, Batamirov had to follow my format directions and draft a book proposal.  He was slowed down (said Howard, playing intermediary) by tending to his terminally ill mother. 

In September, Batamirov confirmed to me in a telephone call that he had written a book proposal and passed it to the "censorship office" of the SVR (foreign intelligence successor to the KGB). 

They had apparently objected to "some paragraphs." 

I asked Batamirov how he was surviving Russia's financial crisis. 

"It's bad," he said. However bad it was for Batamirov, it was worse for Howard, who had greedily invested almost all his money into the stock market, and watched it disappear, along with his five-year plan for homes in Havana and Lake Baikal. 

(The collapse of a five-year plan is another Russian tradition.) 

Batamirov had just seen Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin on TV, in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Commented the veteran KGB chief, "Clinton looks like he's had his balls cut off and Yeltsin looks retarded."

Come October 27th, I phoned Howard like I did every passing year on this day, to wish him a happy birthday.

A few weeks later, Howard met with the Cuban Intelligence station chief in Moscow for lunch and a discussion about me. 

The result was positive and Howard asked that I send him a packet of material about myself for dispatch to Havana. 

I obliged him. 

A month after that, Howard confirmed to me that my presence would be welcomed by the Cubans in mid-March; that I should make reservations at Hotel Nacional. 

On February 9th, 1999, this instruction arrived by e-mail from Howard:  

I should arrive 11 March and must work 1 day with them.  You should arrive evening 11 March, then I will work with you and them 12-14 March. 


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