Highest Placed Spy August 2, 2012Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
And so it begins… Mrs B woke up at 5.00 am this morning and took darling daughters and aupair to the sea for at least a week. Beach is going to relax today and then from tomorrow do some serious MANLY writing. (He will only really relax when he learns that Italian motorways have not chewed family up).
In the meantime… Spies and success. Spies need to be judged in terms of the information that they can bring to their masters. The greatest spy it follows would be the spy who brought the best information: whether the best information here means the most information or the crucial tidbits that allow the survival of a nation is a nice question. But, with great respect to Cicero and Richard Sorge, we are going to approach this from a different though obviously related angle: what spy attained highest office in his or her respective mission? After all, Cicero was a butler, Sorge was a journalist: have countries ever managed to infiltrate enemy political systems?
The answer is, of course, yes. The Lucy Ring in Switzerland in World War Two very possibly relied upon information from someone high up in the Third Reich: or was it a front for the enigma code-breakers? There have even been, unconvincing allegations, that Martin Bormann was a Russian sleeper, perhaps the legendary Sasha, the (alleged) Russian spy in Hitler’s bunker.
But all of this is hearsay. One factual and impressive character is Eli Cohen, whose name tells you the most important thing about him. Cohen was a Mossad sleeper in Syria in the 1960s, perhaps Israel’s second most dangerous foe in those years. His time undercover began in 1961 when this Egypt-born Jew travelled to Argentina to create a life as a wealthy business man there. His new name was Kamel Amin Thaabet.
Kamel (as we will now call him) moved to Damascus in 1962 and quickly made friends with the Syrian establishment. Kamel became, in fact, a member of the Syrian government. He is credited – rightly or wrongly? – with having convinced the Syrians to plant trees outside their bunkers: a fact used by the Israeli airforce when war came. If true, this must be one of the rare cases of a spy not just providing information but influencing enemy policy.
Certainly, he was powerful. His brother, in a remarkable article, has written that
At the time of his arrest [in 1965], Kamel Amin Sa’bet AKA Eliahu Cohen was third in the line of succession to become president of Syria.
The Syrians broke his cover with Soviet help and the use of radio silence and he was executed in the same year. There are many unpleasant pictures of his body on the gallows that we are not going to help diffuse.
A proud brother may understandably have exaggerated Eli Cohen’s importance: EC has become in Israel that rare thing, an espionage hero. But Beachcombing wonders if anyone else can come close to this achievement. There seems to be someone else hiding in the shadows of Beach’s temporal lobe but the name won’t drop: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com BTW grubby little ‘representatives’ bought with rubles or dollars or reichmarks or pounds do not count: we have to have an infiltratee.
2 August 2012: LTM writes ‘I believe Reinhard Gehlen was the first to suggest Martin Bormann was working for Stalin. But the proof will most likely never be known and even then debated, as with Alger Hiss when the archives opened a bit.’ LTM also suggests with Andy the intriguing Canaris. In Andy’s words ‘A gentleman who is very difficult to define is Admiral Canaris – he led the German spy network, but there is evidence that he delivered details of all of Hitler’s research and special projects like Radar, V1 and V2 systems etc to the allies on two occasions during the war.’ Thanks Andy and LTM!