British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Full Version)

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BarkellWH -> British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Dec. 28 2020 22:14:19)

Some of you may have noted that the British traitor and Soviet spy George Blake died a couple of days ago in Moscow at the age of 98. He was involved in one of the biggest episodes of spying against the West during the Cold War. I mention this because there is a relatively new book out entitled “Betrayal in Berlin,” by the author Steve Vogel, that recounts the story of the Berlin Tunnel.

In the early 1950s, the CIA and MI6 devised a plan to tunnel under the border of East Berlin and tap into the massive Soviet military, classified phone system. It was audacious, and they did it without being caught, except for one thing: The MI6 officer George Blake gave the plan away to the Soviets. The Soviets, however, couldn’t stop it or expose it because to do so would expose their chief asset, George Blake in MI6.

The tunnel was built and taps put on the wiring. The Soviets fed disinformation through the classified lines, but they couldn’t make it all disinformation or we would catch on quickly that someone had tipped them off, thus, again, endangering their asset Blake. So we actually obtained some useful intelligence, but nowhere near the kind we would have obtained had Blake not tipped off the Soviets.

I read Vogel’s book a couple of months ago, which is a bit ironic in that Blake just died. He, like Philby and others, went to Moscow, although he did so by escaping from a British prison after a trial found him guilty of espionage. He was set up with an apartment, a dacha, and a Zil limousine.

I have a personal interest in this story, as I have known for decades about the Berlin Tunnel episode, and in the early 1980s I was assigned to the State Department’s Bureau for Intelligence and Research (INR). The Assistant Secretary for INR at the time was a gentleman named Hugh Montgomery who was seconded to INR by the CIA. Montgomery holds a prominent role in the Berlin Tunnel episode, as he was a young CIA officer working on the issue at the time.

I highly recommend "Betrayal in Berlin" if you have any interest in the Cold War and one of its most interesting and audacious episodes.

Bill




RobF -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Dec. 28 2020 23:10:06)

Thanks for the recommendation, Bill.

The book is very highly rated, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one made it into film at some point.

*edit* something I was going to post a couple of weeks ago, John le Carré passed earlier this month. I think he was 89. Although the cause of death has been listed as pneumonia, the news reports stated it was not related to the current pandemic.




Richard Jernigan -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Dec. 30 2020 12:08:33)

Hi Bill--

I just came across this post, and ordered the book. Thanks for the recommendation.

I hadn't realized you worked for INR. About a third of my time was spent on intel for about 20 years, though it was almost all collected by technical means: signal intelligence, satellite imagery, monitoring of Soviet ICBM and ICMB interceptor flight tests, and the like.

I did meet a few very interesting people. During the Carter administration it was decided it would be more polite to call them "emigrants" rather than "defectors."

One of my good friends led the analysis of data we collected observing French nuclear weapons tests in the Marquesas. We learned a lot about nuclear weapons effects on radar, communications, and so on, which were important in my non-intel work.

However it was our own Starfish series of exo-atmospheric nuclear tests launched from Johnston Island which managed to knock out the power grid in Hawaii. "EMP" (electromagnetic pulse) effects became public knowledge kind of suddenly.

RobF I was saddened to hear of LeCarre's demise. I agree with the critics who said he was not only a great spy novelist, but was simply one of the great novelists of the twentieth century.

His last opus, written in his eighties, showed no weakening of his powers whatsoever. It is one of his cheekiest critiques of the murky ethics of the spook business. Each successive work explored a new instance, often even a new form of betrayal.

RNJ




estebanana -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 1 2021 9:07:22)

On Le Carre’

Russia House was a great novel and movie. The latest his novel to make it as a film was The Night Manager with Hugh Laurie as an arms dealer villain. It was quite good. Le Carre’ did stay relevant his whole career, and got better and better.
My dissatisfaction however was with the movie version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Benedict Cumbersome made brooding mess out of a snoozy screen adaptation.




RobF -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 1 2021 14:35:23)

quote:

Benedict Cumbersome made brooding mess out of a snoozy screen adaptation.

Now, now, no need to make fun of someone’s surname, they can’t help what was thrust upon them. Benedict Cumberbund did a good job as Sherlock...




Richard Jernigan -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 2 2021 1:49:42)

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana
On Le Carre’
My dissatisfaction however was with the movie version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.


You probably know about the BBC mini-series. Alec Guiness is simply magnificent as Smiley. Some critics complained about the complex plot. I was surprised they had trouble following it.

It's on https://www.britbox.co.uk/programme/Tinker_Tailor_Soldier_Spy_39261

RNJ




estebanana -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 2 2021 4:41:38)

The plot wasn’t the problem, but the development was excruciating visually. I just didn’t like the visual aesthetic of the film. That was a big part for me.




estebanana -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 2 2021 4:43:36)

Point taken Rib, I mean Rob. Besides with a last name like mine I shouldn’t temp people.


Teachers in school would even on purpose goof up my name to ridicule me. Poor me!




Ricardo -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 2 2021 16:04:57)

You gotta be faulking kidding?




Richard Jernigan -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 2 2021 21:24:24)

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

The plot wasn’t the problem, but the development was excruciating visually. I just didn’t like the visual aesthetic of the film. That was a big part for me.


Sounds to me like we may still be talking about two different things. I haven't seen the recent movie. I really liked the BBC mini-series from 40 years ago.

RNJ




estebanana -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 3 2021 0:33:00)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinker_Tailor_Soldier_Spy_(miniseries)


Yes there are two screen versions. I was speaking of the 2011 adaptation as a 2 hour motion picture

But I see the 1979 mini series is on DVD, or maybe streaming on Netflix.




El Burdo -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 3 2021 13:27:35)

The 1979 TV series was head and shoulders the more superior version. The joke at the time about its complexity was really only a Radio DJ (Terry Wogan) who had a short item on the day after the TV showing of each episode about what was going on. A very knowing demonstration of faux-confusion. The whole thing was epitomised in the brilliant music - poor young men, 'raised to Empire' only to find disappointment.

The boy who befriends Jim Prideaux in the school episodes is Zowie Bowie by the way - though he appears with a different (actor's) name.

The film was a complete disappointment. Every era has to have its stars to sell anything but the thing was almost totally miscast. The adopted posture by Gary Oldman's Smiley, of a deeply intelligent and conflicted man was not credible, though he reeked a little of internal moral conflict. As you say Benedict Kumquat was not believable. The gratuitous gay relationship was just that. I felt there was no subtlety or historical contemporaneity - by which I mean the attitude and vibe of the time was absent. I liked the secure meeting pod though.

Regarding George Blake, he was Dutch. He also said in order to betray one must belong and he didn't. He did it out of political commitment which is more dangerous to the status quo than money, the usual Western enticement. Again, as TTSS portrays, the Cambridge 5 came out of the War(s) where there was still hope in a Communist system. We were pleased enough to have Gordievsky, coming the other way.




mark indigo -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 3 2021 14:33:30)

quote:

Now, now, no need to make fun of someone’s surname, they can’t help what was thrust upon them. Benedict Cumberbund


except in the case of Bendiback Cumberditch, where it has virtually become a national pastime to come up with yet more absurd versions of his original name, which was Bendidick Cumberbitch...[:D]




mark indigo -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 3 2021 14:35:06)

quote:

Benedict Kumquat


see?![:D][:D]




estebanana -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 3 2021 17:42:03)

I thought his name was properly- Kumbersquatch




estebanana -> RE: British Spy George Blake Dies, Book Recommendation (Jan. 3 2021 17:47:53)

Last night we watched A Most Wanted Man starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a German spy master. Not bad.




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