by Rodney Barker ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 1996
One of the more esoteric pleasures of the end of the Cold War is the ability to get nearer the truth on espionage cases, and Barker has made the most of it in a deft, fastpaced, and balanced account of the US Marine guards scandal of 1987. Sgt. Clayton Lonetree was a Marine guard in the Moscow embassy with problems of character, intelligence, and behavior such that he in fact ""should never have been admitted to [Marine Security Guard] School. . ., and certainly should not have been sent to the most sensitive U.S. outpost in the world."" The scandal erupted when Lonetree confessed to espionage activities. He had fallen in love with a Russian employee at the embassy, Violetta Seina, had passed on information, but felt the need to confess before he got in too deep. Another guard confessed to similar activities, two others corroborated the information, and for awhile it appeared that Soviet agents had been allowed to roam the embassy, causing ""irreparable damage"" to Western security. Suddenly, however, most of the case seemed to fall apart. The confessions of the other guards were retracted or otherwise discounted, and the main result of the assistance of high-profile lawyer William Kunstler was to get Lonetree, a Native American, a 30-year sentence, later reduced to 15 years (though with good behavior, he'll be released this spring). Everybody, it seems, wanted the story to go away: the Marines, for obvious reasons; the CIA, whose security lapses had contributed to the debacle; and the State Department, which had covered up 579 reassignments based on such security lapses over a seven-year period. Barker (The Broken Circle, 1992) interviewed everyone, including KGB officers and Violetta Seina's family, and does an excellent investigative job, even if he leaves some tantalizing themes unexplored, including CIA traitor Aldrich Ames's admitted request to his Soviet handlers, two months before Lonetree turned himself in, to divert attention from himself. This will be an indispensable source when Lonetree emerges from jail this year.
Pub Date: March 1, 1996
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996
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