Friday, March 9, 2012

Kim Philby in the US

In September 1949, Kim Philby arrived in the United States. Officially, his post was that of First Secretary to the British Embassy; in reality, he served as chief British intelligence representative in Washington, D.C.
His office oversaw a large amount of urgent and top-secret communications between the United States and London. Philby was, additionally, responsible for liaising with the newly-formed Central Intelligence Agency and promoting "more aggressive Anglo-American intelligence operations."

Following is an account of one of his least known encounters in the American Capital; a confrontation with a rogue spymaster.


His wrists were tied, so were his ankles. A gag wasn’t needed as the Colt ensured his silence.
His mouth, body, and spirit were restrained, but his mind was far away from inhibition. Of course, he was one of the few select people trained to maintain a clear focused mind in dire situations, even if the next few hours would be determining his fate. Putting away thoughts that predicted of a bleak future, he concentrated on his exiguous options. For the time being, he had to forget the plight that was befalling him: the acerbity of his recent defeat, the exhilarating journey on hand, and the prospect of upcoming hours of contempt, inquisition, perhaps torture, and eventually a scandal and an infamous trial of treason.

If all his expertise, knowledge, and resilience were ever put to test, this was the moment.
He was locked in the cargo compartment of a red Fordson E83W van, in the custody of two bulky black guards armed with guns. With a promise of generous pay, the two men daren’t betray the duty of keeping an eye on their prisoner. Enough warning was issued by their employer: “This is a devil in bonds. He can pull a trick on you the second you stray off,” said the Canadian.
A journalist by profession and an investigator by passion, the Canadian sleuth, the genius who set up the ambush, anxiously observed the conclusion of his mission. Apprehensive, but vigilant, he was sitting in the front passenger seat, periodically looking back on his prisoner, checking on the alertness of the guards.

Two hours onto Interstate -20, food and drink were offered to the prisoner, but he accepted nothing but water. He had to maintain a clear mind. He couldn’t afford losing his bodily resources to digestion. He sought a space of time and place from the restrains of captivity, by demanding access to a W.C. when they stopped at a gas station. His request was undoubtedly refused. He was offered instead to fulfill his humanity at the side of the deserted road, away from curious eyes.

Of course, they had to sleep in the car, with at least two of the captors always on watch; one driving and one guarding.

Their destination was “The British embassy in Washington D.C.”. That’s what the journalist announced, and he believed him all right. The Canadian, obsessive by nature, avoided shortcuts and allies, leaving no chance for mistakes or deceit, and befittingly resorted to the most orthodox of ways. The sleuth understood that the prisoner’s people, the Corporation, were well into the British system. He couldn’t risk collaboration with shoddy individuals, or running in paths that’d prove to be compromised or under surveillance by the Corporation.
“I will deliver you, a traitor, a mole inside the British intelligence, to the ultimate British authority on American soil: the embassy in D.C. I think I can rely confidently on British bureaucracy to restrain you. Going through the gates of the embassy, under sights of several witnesses, will ensure your conviction beyond doubt. No matter how influential your people, they can never exert control over all people in that place,” the Canadian sneered nervously at his captive.

The prisoner, the befallen serviceman, needn’t hear the words. After a meticulous, step-by-step analysis of his position, he knew he was doomed. Being a senior operative of the MI6 office in Berlin gave him no pretense for presence in Louisiana, thousands of miles away. Sure, he was on leave for three days, but he was presumably visiting his girl in Bonn, not lurking with a bunch of Confederate offshoots, some place on the outskirts of Shreveport in the American South.

He conceded with the reality that he could never vindicate himself. He was left with only one viable option.


But a simple, direct getaway wasn’t feasible at the moment, or in the near future. Even a man of his stature needed a big boost of luck. At least an aperture of light through which he could to exploit all his chances. He would have to play bold and rash; he had already lost everything. The question was, how much of his life could be gained back? He knew the Corporation would forsake him the minute they knew that he had fallen. They would deny knowing him at first, then they would relent and sell him for cheap to salvage their reputation. They could not afford the exposure, not even for the most valuable man they had. Their own existence lay in firm, unshakeable prestige. They are a flock who panics at the slimmest sights of contingency and would definitely sell him out without remorse.

He gripped his head in agony for a moment, exhaled on the mountains of stress that burdened his chest.

As the car finally parked in front of the British Embassy, at the northern end of the embassy row on Massachusetts Avenue, he pondered for the last time on his demise, and knew, beyond certainty that he had no chance.

But then, an aperture of light broke open.


It was well past midnight, when the white, Canadian journalist and his two black collaborators guided a tall, restrained middle-aged man – their prisoner – to the front door of the British embassy’s security gate. The security man rubbed his eyes in disbelief.

“We need to meet the officer on duty. We have a valuable commodity,” blurted the Canadian.
The security man made a quick phone call, gave his single line, and then listened for instructions. He searched the company, made the black escorts deliver their weapons to his custody. He then led them across the courtyard of the embassy, to a four-floor building. At the entrance, a blond robust youth, an assistant, met them with a serious look on his face. He didn’t extend a hand, only scrutinizing eyes. His gaze lingered on the prisoner, whom he seemed to recognize readily. He parted his lips to say something, but decided otherwise.

Upstairs, on the second floor, the young assistant ushered them into a vast, comfy office. Not ten minutes had passed when a somber-looking man, in his late thirties entered. He was scrubbing sleep from his eyes when he spotted the prisoner.

“Archibald. Is that you?”

The prisoner was still grimacing to his feet, when the voice struck his ears. He raised his eyes to recognize the man who called for him. The creases in the thoughtful face seemed to relax a little.

“May I know with whom I have the pleasure of this untimely appointment?” interrupted the journalist with an extended shaking hand.

“First Secretary to the British embassy.” In other words, the chief British intelligence representative in Washington.

The official received the extended hand in doubt, before turning back to the prisoner. “What is it, Archie? Who are these men? Why are your arms in bonds? What’s going on?”

The journalist broke in once again with authority, this time to tell of the most bizarre account, of one spy hunt adventure in Dixie.

The revelation was dense, abrupt, and unbelievable. This adventurer journalist told of the most incredible account. He had planned, on alliance with a deceased officer of MI6, on a grand scheme, through which they were enabled to unveil a secret spy ring inside the British secret intelligence service. Arthur Archibald, the prisoner, was presumably the foundational cornerstone of this spy ring.

The First Secretary looked astonished by the account told upon him. He failed to maintain his inherent serenity while taking glimpses of his fellow at service, now an alleged traitor. Meanwhile, Archibald, apparently detached from what was going on around him, was gradually assuming a much-relaxed composure.

Finally, the journalist and his company were ready to go, leaving the traitor in the hands of his betrayed people. The First Secretary was sure to record the whereabouts of the journalist to ensure future contact, especially for when inquisitors from London arrived in hope for a more detailed professional meeting. He also instructed the company to keep their information privy, and asked the journalist to practice, hoped-for, self-restraint and conscientiousness by avoiding publishing any account of his recent adventure.

The young, blond assistant accompanied the journalist and the two black escorts back to the security gate.

Alone, with the bonded traitor, the First Secretary fought with his thoughts.

“Why did you do it, Arthur? I, amongst others, always looked upon you as a model. Why did you do it?”

The trapped service man, to the surprise of his colleague, smiled with malice.
“I did it for money. But what did you do it for, Kim Philby?”

Finish reading about this extra-ordinary encounter in  "Spy Hunt in D.C.", a Cold war short story. For a limited time, for Free.

1 comment:

  1. The potential for storywriting from Philby alone is massive. Good stuff!