A retired spy-service veteran reflects on the life of an espionage specialist.
In the Cold War era of the 1960s, Bagley was a CIA counterintelligence chief and the first to have interrogation privileges with renowned Ukrainian KGB defector Yuri Nosenko. This book is a suitable follow-up to his revealing memoir about his work as chief handler on that case (Spy Wars, 2007); here, he focuses on senior KGB Soviet spymaster Sergey Kondrashev. Bagley befriended his former adversary after numerous informal chats at Cold War reunion functions, ushering in years of unencumbered “affinity, cordiality, mutual respect and growing confidence between two old professionals.” In 1999, five years into their ripening friendship, Kondrashev decided to pen an autobiography. Bagley ably assisted, reveling in the informational “stroke of fortune” from this expert insider. Nearly a decade into the project, Russian foreign intelligence apparatchiks learned of the sensitive project and swiftly embargoed its Russian publication. Bagley skillfully condenses the bulk of Kondrashev’s interviews and stories, chronicling his brisk, incremental rise through the ranks of the Soviet spy system with unexaggerated brio. The author portrays in riveting detail the spy’s considerable ascent from managing successful counterintelligence decoding operations to dexterously handling traitorous high-level moles like double agent George Blake. Equally fascinating are sections detailing Stalin’s nightmarish postwar personnel purges, Kondrashev’s involvement in the final arrangements for Hitler’s and his wife’s remains, and an operation during which subversive KGB operatives posed as defectors, a scheme that, at one time, involved both men as rivals. Kondrashev died in 2007, and with his family’s blessing, Bagley grasps the unique opportunity to not only spill classified spy secrets and disinformation schemes, but also to posthumously venerate a world-class spymaster.
A respectful, introspective exposé of a great emissary who became a friend.