My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy
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In the annals of espionage, one name towers above all others: that of H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, the ringleader of the legendary Cambridge spies. A member of the British establishment, Philby joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1940, rose to the head of Soviet counterintelligence, and, as MI6’s liaison with the CIA and the FBI, betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians, fatally compromising covert actions to roll back the Iron Curtain in the early years of the Cold War.
Written from Moscow in 1967, My Silent War shook the world and introduced a new archetype in fiction: the unrepentant spy. It inspired John le Carré’s Smiley novels and the later espionage novels of Graham Greene. Kim Philby was history’s most successful spy. He was also an exceptional writer who gave us the great iconic story of the Cold War and revolutionized, in the process, the art of espionage writing.
them”—a remarkable case of telepathic judgement.‡ My own feeling is that after being mucked around for a year or so by the British Government, they would cheerfully have killed anyone in the uniform of a British officer. But they exercised restraint. It is only with sadness that one can recall the party of Dutchmen who attended our first course. Too many of them, owing to an operational disaster, were soon to be sent to certain death. Herr Giskes,§ a former Abwehr officer, has written of the
Volkov; and he, presumably to enhance his value to us, had framed his shopping list in such vague terms that it offered no leads for immediate investigation. Still, I had much food for thought. From the first, it seemed to me that the time factor was vital. Owing to Volkov’s veto on telegraphic communications, the case had taken ten days to reach me. Personally, I thought that his fears were exaggerated. Our cyphers were based on the one-time pad system, which is supposed to be foolproof, if
resignation had nothing to do with my appointment to succeed him. For personal reasons, he had long wanted to settle in Canada, where a congenial government post was awaiting him. The news of my posting to Washington had simply determined the timing of his northward move to Ottawa. So we started on a pleasant footing. Nothing could exceed the care and astuteness with which he inducted me into Washington politics. It is not easy to make a coherent picture of my tour of duty in the United States.
of surveillance was to trap him in company with a Soviet contact; yet without a Soviet contact, his chances of escape would be greatly diminished. While he was still meditating this problem, the Act of God occurred. Burgess walked into his room—his old comrade. (I could produce no evidence that there had been an old association between Burgess and Maclean, but the fact that they had gone together made it a wholly reasonable assumption.) The arrival of Burgess, of course, would solve Maclean’s
made a great deal of political capital out of it, both on Capitol Hill and in subsequent dealings with MI5. Hoover may have got few winners on his own account; but he was not the man to look a gift-horse in the mouth. The position with regard to CIA was more indefinite. It was an FBI case, and I could not discuss its intricacies with CIA without running the risk of irritating Hoover and Boyd, both of whom I was anxious to soothe. So I confined my talks with CIA officials to the overt details of