Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘CIA’

The Spy and the Traitor *****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 3rd November, 2018

76D19536-DA19-40CB-A8F0-5A9F4FED3297When I first started working for the BBC World Service in the early 1980s, the name Oleg Gordievskh resonated round Bush House. He was the senior KGB operative who became disenchanted with the brutal reality of the Soviet Union, as well as of his own organisation, so became a mole for British intelligence. It would be an exaggeration to say that he brought down the old USSR, but he certainly mortally wounded the KGB. Particularly when he was based at the Soviet Embassy in London, he fed his handlers at MI6 a mountain of material about the KGB and its operatives and even briefed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on how she should behave at the funeral of former KGB Head and Soviet Leader, Yuri Andropov, as well as how to relate to the up-and-coming Mikhail Gorbachev. Gordievsky was such a valuable resource that the British didn’t even fully inform the American CIA about the man who was handing over so much information. But little did they know that within the CIA there was a traitor working for the Russians: Aldrich Ames. Whereas Gordievsky betrayed his country because he felt that it had a rotten system that needed to be overthrown, to become more like the West, Ames was in it purely for the money, earning over four million dollars from the Russians until he was finally rumbled. By then, thanks to Ames’s deductions the Russians had also worked out that Gordievsky was working for the enemy. Back in Moscow, his very life was at risk, but the British had long before worked out a complicated rescue plan to smuggle him out of the country via Finland if ever the need should rise. That is exactly what happened, though he had to leave his wife and children behind, leaving him guilt-ridden for years. The actual escape plan was worthy of a John Le Carre novel, but it is a central thread in Ben Macintyre’s superb book, The Spy and the Traitor, (Penguin Viking, £25). The cover does not lie when it trumpets this as the greatest espionage story of the Cold War and the tremendous amount of research the author has put in, along with an absolute mastery of pace, makes this a stunning achievement, not least as a portrait of a man who was driven by his conscience to betray his fatherland. Highly recommended.


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Secrets & Lies

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 14th October, 2008

¬† Winston Churchill once spoke of a world ‘made darker by the dark lights of perverted sceince’, in response to details of the horrific experiments carried out by Nazi doctors in¬†concentration camps. But as the writer and broadcaster Gordon Thomas chillingly portrays in a book published in Britain this month, Secrets & Lies (JR Books, ¬£20), experiments in mind control and germ warfare were carried out by American and British doctors after the War, sometimes using so-called expendables — prisoners who might die in the experiments, or who afterwards would be killed — or¬†in other cases patients suffering from conditions such as chronic depression or schizophrenia, who were subjected to massive drug doses or sustained electrochoc treatment that¬†turned many of them into zombies.

The most appalling abuse of psychiatric patients took place in Montreal, under the direction of a Scottish doctor called Ewen Cameron, one of several monsters portrayed in the book. Some of his work was funded by the American CIA, in the hope that it would help them develop counter-measures to Soviet and Chinese brainwashing techniques. Another medical villain, Dr William Sargant, employed similar methods at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London. At various times, the CIA also handled research into biological weapons, trawling the jungles of South America and elsewhere for poisons, and experimenting with vector-borne diseases and infected rodents.

Gordon Thomas spent years researching this deeply disturbing study, in which a number of different threads are interwoven. Skilfully he leads the reader to symathise with various victims, including some CIA operatives who got caught up in things over which they had no control or, as in the case of William Buckley, were kidnapped (in Beirut, in Buckley’s case) and were subjected to ultimately fatal medical torture themselves.

There is more than enough material here for at least two feature films that would leave cinema audiences shaken. It is a pity, though, that there are a number of small, careless errors and slips in the text, which¬†need correcting. Gonville and Caius College, where the distinguished sinologist¬†and scientific historian Joseph Needham was based, is in Cambridge, not Oxford; William Buckley was photographed by his captors, not his captives; the KGB blasted unexpected messages to their prisoners¬†through hidden loudspeakers, not microphones. But despite such quibbles this is a¬†powerful book that will leave no reader in doubt that we live in a bitter, cruel world in which even the ‘good guys’ are sometimes very bad.¬†


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Why Should the US Know All about Us?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 7th August, 2008

It won’t only be the ‘usual suspects’ such as the civil liberties group Liberty who will likely baulk at new proposals outlined in today’s ‘Guardian’, based on a confidential report¬†from the Future Group of interior and justice ministers from six EU members states: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden.¬†While some of the measures suggested — such as improving crisis management at the European level and developing common European immigration policies — make a lot of sense, the one thing that really sticks in my craw is the notion that the EU should enter into a ‘Euro-Atlantic area of freedom, security and justice’ with the United States. That would mean national and Europe-wide security bodies handing over vast amounts of data on European citizens to the Americans.

All this, of course, is in the name of the War against Terror. But already we are seeing that pretext being used to infringe civil liberties¬†and privacy in this country, let alone internationally. Why should the US government or the¬†CIA or the FBI¬†know everything about me or you, without our permission? I accept that there is room for enhanced security cooperation with Washington, but not to the degree that is being mooted. It is a fallacy to imagine that the United States and Europe have identical values and goals. Think Guantanamo Bay. Think water-boarding. Think the US refusal to¬†sign up to¬†the International Criminal Court. Some people might hope that all of these contentious things¬†will change after George W Bush leaves power, but don’t bank on it.

European citizens need to learn to say ‘no’ more often. If the Labour government gets its way, we’ll have ID cards in this country and a massive data bank, which would theoretically be available to all sorts of government agencies. Do we really want it all to be available to Washington too? I certainly don’t. And I would say the same in the unlikely event that such a proposal was made vis-a-vis Russia or China as well!

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