Espionage & Intelligence

What Maisky Knew

250x330-85cec9540aa87f851da69eeedaf64f06

In the November 21 issue of The Weekly Standard, I have reviewed The Maisky Diaries, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky. This fine volume covers the personal writings of Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to the United Kingdom during the critical period of 1932 to 1943. Here’s a bit of my judgment of the man:

In the 1930s, British foreign policy was still a matter of balancing the continental powers, particularly France and Germany; and if we avoid the arrogance that hindsight can bring, we should also remember that Neville Chamberlain genuinely thought he was securing a course for peace in Europe. Britain knew how weak its armed forces were—its army, especially—and this knowledge, as Lloyd George told Maisky, was doubtless a factor in Chamberlain’s “deal” with Hitler at Munich.

Maisky, however, had nothing but contempt for such calculations, coming across at certain times here as a kind of thirties neoconservative. Indeed, it’s hard at times to discern that Maisky was a Communist at all, or that he represented a brutal, totalitarian government. His comportment in these pages is measured; his language free of cant. Even his looks—the well-fed, portly body, the kindly eyes, the authentic smile—will strike the reader as very different from the dour, self-defensive faces of that era’s most prominent Soviets.

Read the whole thing here.

Why Have So Many C.I.A. Directors Been Roman Catholics?

Screen-Shot-2016-05-05-at-11.16.00

In the May 6 issue of The Catholic Herald, I analyze the history of Roman Catholics in the Central Intelligence Agency:

The United States is a country in which – with the recent exception of the Supreme Court – Catholics have never dominated the highest offices. Only one out of 44 US Presidents has been Catholic. The first and only Catholic Vice President is the current one, Joe Biden. Before John Kerry, the last Catholic Secretary of State was Alexander Haig, who left the post in 1982. Catholics are a rarity in other top positions such as Secretary of Defence.

By contrast, three out of the last five CIA directors have been Catholic: Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, and the current director, John Brennan. Looking back, a number of Catholics led the agency in critical periods during the Cold War. (There were no Catholic directors in the 1990s.)

I have a few theories about why this turned out so. One is that the CIA’s predecessor agency, the Office of Strategic Services, was founded by the devout Catholic William J. Donovan and may have been something of a haven for anti-Communist Catholics:

Catholic anti-communism in the 1940s and 1950s was at its zenith. Major Catholic organisations such as the Knights of Columbus supported Senator Joseph McCarthy (himself a Catholic) in his quest to purge the US of communist influence. Were young Catholics inspired to take a more activist role in fighting the godless Soviets?

Near the middle of the 20th century, establishment Protestants still treated Catholics with suspicion. Donovan would have been attorney general in Herbert Hoover’s administration had anti-Catholic sentiment not kept him from it. Catholics were more likely to be trusted and accepted within Donovan’s OSS than in other government agencies.

The online version of the article is truncated. To read it in full, subscribe to the magazine or try out its new app.

Just as I suspected, the conspiracy theorists are already starting to appear; they are drawn to such articles like so many dogs to their own feces. Check out the comments section below my piece. One dim soul called Hugh O’Neill has wandered out of his catacomb to lecture me, “the oddly named Mr. Wargas,” on his version of events, which includes the CIA’s assassinating John F. Kennedy. I must call the Department of Justice to get them on this at once!

The Other War on Terror

In The Weekly Standard, I review Adam Zamoyski’s Phantom Terror, a study of European monarchs’ paranoia regarding the threat of subversion and terrorism after the French Revolution:

Time and again, rulers construed uprisings not as expressions of discontent—the stimulus for action was more likely to be a bad grain harvest than a radical pamphlet—but as grand conspiracies hatched by shadowy maestros. The locus of Europe’s subversion was thought to be a body called the comité directeur. From its perch in Paris, this imagined group was the alleged central committee of European discontent, the heirs of Robespierre and Saint-Just.

Like all fantastical masterminds, the comité was everywhere and nowhere. Utterly convinced of its existence, European authorities whiffed its influence in every protest and every disturbance.

Read the whole thing here.

Is Your Neighbor an ex-Stasi Agent?

At PJ Media, I investigate what happened to all those agents of the Stasi, the brutal East German secret-police force, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of Communism:

Though the post-Communist German government shied away from hiring too many ex-Stasi officers for state positions, pilfered documents from Wikileaks show that the German government does employ them in (of all places) the federally administered archive of Stasi records—a revelation that caused some dismay in German society. Many other ex-Stasi personnel eventually went on to careers in the private sector. After the Wall fell, it was, oddly enough, the newly reunified German government that urged corporations to absorb former Communist encryption experts, fearing they would otherwise be driven to aid Western enemies with their skills. One German company, Rohde & Schwarz SIT GmbH, a supplier of encryption and communications technology to NATO, employs plenty of former Stasi codebreakers.

Enjoy the rest of it here.