December 17, 2008

THE LIVES WOULD HAVE BEEN SAVED HAD THEY ENCOURAGED THE REVOLT:

Declassified: the Secret Soviet Documents of a Leading CIA Spy: Polish Col. Ryszard Kuklinski passed thousands of pages of Soviet military documents to the West (Alex Kingsbury, December 16, 2008, US News)

Polish Army Col. Ryszard Kuklinski was one of the most successful CIA spies of the Cold War, and his exploits read like a manual for clandestine tradecraft.

He and his CIA handlers walked Warsaw's cobbled streets searching for rendezvous spots while dodging the secret police. He used a secret CIA-designed camera disguised as a cigarette lighter to photograph precious military secrets. And after nearly a decade of spying, Kuklinski and his family fled, ducking under the Iron Curtain while hidden beneath blankets in the back seat of a car with a CIA officer at the wheel.

On the anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Poland, which marked the end of his spying career, the CIA declassified 82 documents related to his work, totaling some 1,000 pages. Kuklinski, who died in 2004, never asked for money in exchange for the work he'd done, although he was relocated to Florida under government protection and an assumed name after fleeing Warsaw.

"His reports provided a deep understanding of the principal national security challenge we faced, and reduced the chance for miscalculation. In that sense, he clearly saved lives," CIA Director Michael Hayden told an intelligence symposium coinciding with the release of the documents. "We often compare intelligence analysis to putting together a jigsaw puzzle without a picture to go by, and with a lot of pieces missing. Colonel Kuklinski didn't just give us a piece or two—he gave us the picture itself." [...]

[T]he record shows that the colonel believed the only way to avoid Armageddon was to create a stalemate, even if that meant compromising his own government. Not that this was his initial choice. The CIA officers who initially met Kuklinski found a man offering to lead his fellow officers in a revolt, should a situation demand it. Instead, Langley convinced Kuklinski that information-sharing was the most effective means of avoiding war.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2008 1:18 PM
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