More outrageous espionage scandal, but this time the CIA and FBI look good.
From 1995 to 2000, Sergei Tretyakov ran Russia’s day-to-day intelligence operations in New York and personally directed every covert operation launched in the city against the United States. At the end of 2000 he defected, then later sat down with investigative journalist and novelist Earley (The Apocalypse Stone, 2006, etc.) to tell this story. Recruited in the 1980s, Tretyakov reveals intriguing behind-the-scenes mechanics of KGB politics, personalities and nuts-and-bolts operation techniques. The foreign-intelligence section did not persecute dissidents inside the USSR, so readers will identify with Tretyakov as he works hard, rises through the ranks and is rewarded with plum assignments in Canada and the United States. Most engrossing are the details of intelligence gathering which he describes, even naming names. Spies were essential, but so were “informational contacts,” academics and bureaucrats who enjoyed chatting and could be manipulated to reveal more than they should. More disturbing is the fact that America’s increasing unpopularity persuaded many foreign officials who don’t consider themselves traitors to pass on damaging secrets simply because they disliked the United States. Earley presents a vivid picture of the shambles that followed the USSR’s 1991 collapse. Tretyakov portrays the leaders as wildly corrupt kleptocrats who were looting the nation to enrich their cronies. An elite force, the intelligence service escaped the general impoverishment but suffered a massive exodus of talent anxious to share the booty. Disgusted at his government and the increasing venality of superiors, Tretyakov began considering his options, but readers will learn few details of his defection, which he was forbidden to discuss.
Earley reminds us that Tretyakov is no objective observer—he leans over backward to say nasty things about Russia while flattering America and himself. Keeping this in mind, readers will encounter plenty of juicy details about Russian intelligence, which still considers America the enemy.