From: H B Laes
Date: 16 Aug 1999
Dear Mr. Fodor:
We frame our position on Sudoplatov in the following manner. There is no question that we find some of his writing credible; he is clearly in error on some details (the spy school run by Orlov in Spain was in Barcelona not Madrid, for instance); we agree with other reasoned people that the bulk of the Atomic Spies chapter remains TBD, to be determined. However, as kibitzing is the game here, we go back to our Set L contention that all of Sudoplatov should be examined and factored, not just the low hanging fruit.
For example, your quote from Rhodes' Dark Sun: "Sudoplatov's department 'had no direct contact with the agents network' and Sudoplatov himself 'had access to atomic problems during a relatively brief period of time, a mere twelve months [i.e. from September 1945 to September 1946]." This is a point that has been made by others as well: Sudplatov's atomic involvement was brief and late, limited to the referenced Department S stint. Our view is that this seems to be very selective treatment in the face of extensive material. Thus one Sudoplatov memory that we find unambiguous and compelling is found at page 182 of Special Tasks. There he claims that circa February 1943 on Beria's authority he hosted Kurchatov, Ioffe, and Kikoin in his Lubyanka office to "show them the scientific materials gathered by our agents..." You might find the rich detail of this anecdote personally interesting. The time frame is early on 1943, pre-Los Alamos at all accounts. So, did Sudoplatov possess such intelligence reports and host such a meeting, or didn't he? If he did, wouldn't it belie the 'brief and late' assessment? Should such an alleged but definitive occurrence be totally ignored in learned commentary?
A second point going back to your original post is your comment that Sudoplatov was ignorant about events [atomic research?] in wartime Germany. We do not follow your argument on this, that his Department S responsibility "would explain why [he] did not know." The one country that Russia could not allow to develop a purported/rumored 'super bomb' was Germany. More than once, Sudoplatov indicates that wartime operations against the Germans were his primary mission and moreover that it was precisely this responsibility that put him in the loop, early and fully, on atomic intelligence. If you grant his German assignment the following quotes hardly reflect paranoia or "illusions of grandeur."
"As director of Special Tasks, my main work was to organize guerrilla warfare and intelligence operations against the Germans and the Japanese. The reports on atomic developments were sent to me with an order to investigate whether the Germans were engaged in such research." Page 177, Special Tasks
"A major shift in our intelligence priorities occurred just as Vassili Zarubin was posted to Washington as our new NKVD rezident [October 1941].....Over the next year and a half intelligence reports from Britain, America, Scandinavia, and Germany concerning the development of nuclear weapons would drastically alter our priorities once again." Page 173, Special Tasks
You say that we find Sudoplatov trustworthy because he was a spymaster. Well, not exactly. If anything, we hold a contrarian view that he did not tell everything he knew, but reverted to form, adjusting some coloration and observing some "spymaster" proprieties: Morris Cohen was still alive, agents (such as Ted Hall) or immediate family of agents were still alive, some state secrets were still to be respected. You can see these habits and mind set at work in a book by Markus Wolf, Man Without a Face, The Autobiography of Communism's Greatest Spymaster (to quote from the book's cover). One's eyebrow curvature deforms slightly when one reads from Wolf, "The agents recruited [before and during WWII] were the best, giving the Soviet Union the chance to catch up in the nuclear race, and many have remained undiscovered…."
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