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Review: The Billion Dollar Spy – by David E. Hoffman

the billion dollar spy

This espionage thriller tells the true life story of one of the Cold War’s most valuable assets, a Russian spy working for the CIA in the heart of the Soviet military aerospace sector. Adolf Tolkachev made the first tentative moves to reach out to the Americans in January 1977, in the heart of Moscow. At first, due to a faltering lack of human resources in the spy game for the Americans, it was seen with suspicion and Tolkachev was viewed as a KGB dupe. After he started to produce information from his workplace, the Scientific Research Institute for Radio Engineering, it was seen as a genuine defection and his material would prove absolutely vital in the arms race for the USA over a critical decade during the last years of the Cold War. Tolkachev became a billion dollar spy and his work would reach the Oval Office directly. In Moscow, the spying game is so difficult as it was seen as the hardest place on earth to work as an agent. Yet through cat and mouse cutting edge deception, the CIA were able to clandestinely successfully run their asset for a long time. It was only a crude defection from within that disrupted the operation and led to the arrest and execution of a Russian man who is a true hero for the West during this dark period. The story dovetails through risk and amazement and surprise yet is balanced out by the simple needs of a hardworking quiet family man that Tolkachev was. It is a well researched, gripping tale of a bygone era when Cold War espionage was at its critical heights.

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Review: The Big Breach – From Top Secret To Maximum Security – by Richard Tomlinson

the big breach

Richard Tomlinson was a controversial MI6 whistleblower that made international headlines during his messy fallout with Britain’s foreign intelligence service. Initially after a first class degree from Cambridge he was approached for recruitment by SIS but he postponed this work, beginning a career in the city and in his spare time qualifying for the SAS regiment in the Territorial Army. eventually he decided to follow up the MI6 interest and embarked upon a career with the secret service. He was a high flyer in qualification and the interview and was given top jobs following his employment. He was trusted to head out to Moscow and had a rough and ready role in Sarajevo during the Balkan conflict where he got into trouble for not wearing a tie during a diplomatic meet with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadic. His early years looked promising and then suddenly, mid operation whilst dealing with Iranian terrorists, Tomlinson found his security clearance at the spanking new MI6 headquarters revoked and his unpleasant personnel management announced that he had been fired. An angry ex agent, Tomlinson wanted justice and tried to appeal his sacking and to take his employers to an industrial tribunal. Using national security as a barrier to any court action MI6 frustrated Tomlinson’s attempts to overturn the firing. An angry Tomlinson felt he had no recourse but to write a book and tell his story to the world. A manuscript was seized from an Australian publisher and in breach of the Official Secrets Act, Tomlinson was arrested and banged up in the high security Belmarsh prison. On his release Tomlinson had an international cat and mouse game with MI6. Funded by large amounts of taxpayers money they disrupted his life internationally leading to his arrest in various countries where he tried to rebuild his life. His revelations about his work led him to the Princess Diana death tribunal where he revealed an almost identical audacious MI6 plot to assassinate Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic using high powered strobes to disrupt a car whilst travelling through a road tunnel. Eventually Tomlinson had his bitter memoirs published and this book offers a fascinating insight into the murky world of espionage. Ultimately this former spy’s campaign for justice led to MI6 employees getting union rights and employment statuses within the UK as they would working for any other company. This is a fascinating read and a must…

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Review: MI6 – Fifty Years of Special Operations – by Stephen Dorril

mi6

This detailed 800 page book covers fifty years of MI6, the UK’s foreign espionage service. From relatively humble beginnings during the second world war, MI6 grew to become a leading foe of Soviet Russia and its notorious KGB. The book documents in detail issues that affected the service from the beginning and I especially was enamoured by the division of early chapters covering each of the spheres of influence where MI6 were working in the aftermath of World War 2. The book amalgamates knowledge I have of this service from other reading and often due to its sheer volume, will analyse in depth details that were previously unknown. It often is critical of the service’s failures and sometimes questionable morality in its operations. The obvious exposure of the country by moles within MI6 such as Kim Philby were very damaging to our nation. It is clear that there was much frustration during the Cold War with a failure to penetrate the Soviet system properly. Also, as the years have moved on, the critical importance of US intelligence – the CIA and NSA – to UK intelligence services – becomes paramount. Our declining empire has meant that MI6 has had to do all it can to keep our position as a global power propped up in the world. There is a very good section on the often blunderous years of operations in the Middle East, culminating in the Suez crisis which was a clear debacle. Moving into the modern era (Book concludes just before second Gulf War) the author successfully identifies future directions for the service and there is interesting coverage of MI6 whistleblower Richard Tomlinson, who has revealed his life as an operative in a controversial book. I enjoyed this large book and feel that it will be useful for reference in any further research I may do on intelligence services.  

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