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Re: Sudoplatov in Russian

From: Laes
Date: 07 Sep 1999


Contrarians (apologetic) that we are, we are influenced by a rule of thumb (ours) that says, the greater the time between the interlude of Glasnost and later Russian publishing on espionage matters, the greater the dubiosity (Webster's). Unless the Russian edition also effectively expunged the repeated assertions of the Atomic Spies chapter, we feel that the chapter, not an omitted prologue sentence, should receive precedence as the definitive account of what Sudoplatov meant to say. Having said that, we have no idea how the 96 Russian-language Atomic Spies chapter stacks up with the 94 English-language version.

The footnote on page 364 of Bombshell mentions that Sudoplatov's Russian edition repeated the statement that wartime Soviet Intelligence used internal code-names to refer to certain major American scientists such as Oppenhiemer. However, writers have taken Sudoplatov to task for getting code-names wrong; for example, Venona's 'Star' was clearly Saville Sax not Oppenheimer. We think more than one disconnect on this subject can be explained by an appreciation of the autonomy of the Administration of Special Tasks Department from the Foreign Intelligence Department within the NKVD.

Immediately before the Prologue in Special Tasks there is a short précis, Evolution of the Soviet Security and Intelligence Service. It's worth a revisit: "...there were within the NKVD parallel intelligence services...the Foreign Department was responsible for running the residenturas abroad...the Administration of Special Tasks...[a] separate intelligence center [going back to Dzerzhinsky]... responsible for deep illegal penetration in the West." In addition to this dichotomy it is generally recognized that each major source/agent is an operation unto itself with its own case file, and that Soviet Intelligence practiced strict compartmentalization. When we consider the total picture - the autonomy, the file categorization, the compartmentalization - we are led to conclude that there was more than one set of books on code-nams for atomic espionage. Maybe the jury should return to deliberations on the General's memory of code-names.

The Prologue quote from the English-language edition of Special Tasks begins, " I set up a network of illegals who convinced Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi..." If our interpretation in the previous paragraph is basically correct Sudoplatov's "network of illegals" would have been out of the ken of folks like Yatskov, Feklisov, Kvasnikov, etc. Also, the autonomy of the Special Tasks Department raises questions about its archives and whether they were ever acquired/transferred to the Foreign Intelligence Department. If not, the Enormous file is not the complete picture.

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