Aileen Furse was born in India in 1910. Her father had been killed in the early states of the First World War. The Furse family were well-connected and several members had important jobs. One was the private secretary to Winston Churchill as colonial minister. Another had been director of the Women's Royal Naval Service and then of the World Bureau of Girl Guides. (1)
Aileen had an unhappy childhood and had left home and taken a job on the advice of her family doctor. Phillip Knightley, the author of Philby: KGB Masterspy, has pointed out: "She had shown signs of a self-destructive streak - her family said she sometimes deliberately injured herself to gain attention when she felt she had been neglected." (2)
Aileen Furse found work as a store detective in the Marble Arch branch of Marks and Spencer. It was here that she became friends with Flora Solomon, the daughter of a Jewish-Russian gold tycoon. Solomon later recalled: "Aileen belonged to that class, now out of fashion, called county. She was typically English, slim and attractive, fiercely patriotic, but awkward in her gestures and unsure of herself in company." (3)
Solomon was a good friend of Kim Philby and she introduced him to Aileen at her home on 3rd September 1939. It was the day that Neville Chamberlain declared war on Nazi Germany. Philby later recalled: "So it was a date well remembered, because it was disastrous for the world and to myself." It has been argued that, "Philby found that she had an open manner, an easy laugh, and was a good companion. He treated her with sentimental affection, talking to her about his adventures, listening to her stories about her work... They were obviously in love." (4) Solomon commented that "Philby found an avid listener in Aileen and the next I heard they were sharing a flat." (5)
Anthony Cave Brown has suggested that Aileen was the ideal woman for Philby: "She knew little of politics, she was not well read, but she was intelligent, practical, and incapable of disloyalty, either personal or political... Aileen herself had association in the Somerset world of horses and point-to-points. She was just the mate for a progressive conservative, which was the political coloration Kim had assumed at The Times - but not convincingly enough for Aileen's mother; who disapproved of Kim on the grounds that she knew him to have been a communist." (6)
Aileen gave birth to Josephine (1941), John (1943) and Tom (1944). Kim Philby divorced Litzi Friedmann on 17th September 1946. He married Aileen Furse a week later. He was thirty-four; she was thirty-five and seven months pregnant with their fourth child, Miranda. The witnesses were Tomás Harris and Flora Solomon. It is claimed by Phillip Knightley that "Aileen had got over her suspicions at his long absences from the house, which he never explained except to say that they had to do with his work. She was ignorant even of the exact nature of his job; only that he it had something to do with the Foreign Office and the war effort. Her contribution to the marriage was to provide a relaxed domestic atmosphere, to bear Philby's children, and to accept his dictum that they should not receive any sort of religious education." (7)
Over the next few years her mental health deteriorated. Aileen Philby suffered from a psychiatric disorder, later known as Münchausen syndrome, that manifested itself in episodes of self-harm and bouts of pyromania in order to attract sympathy and attention. Aileen was described as "awkward in her gestures and unsure of herself in company". (8) Ben Macintyre has suggested that "perhaps Aileen's distress reflected the first stirrings of doubt; she may already have begun to wonder whether her husband was really the charming, uxorious, popular, straight-batting bureaucrat that he seemed." (9)
In 1949 Kim Philby became SIS representative in Washington, as top British Secret Service officer working in liaison with the CIA and FBI. Aileen and the children also moved to America and the Philby's took a spacious, ramshackle two-storeyed place at 4100 Nebraska Avenue. They gave a lot of parties. As Phillip Knightley pointed out: "As the months passed the drinking - not only Philby's but Aileen's too - seemed to get heavier, and the birth of a fifth child, Harry, who suffered from convulsions, produced tensions in the family that Aileen seemed to have difficulty in handling." (10)
In 1950 Stewart Menzies and John Sinclair discussed the possibility of Philby becoming the next Director General of the MI6. Dick White was asked to produce a report on Philby. He asked Arthur Martin and Jane Archer to carry out an investigation into his past. They became concerned about how quickly he changed from a communist sympathizer to a supporter of pro-fascist organizations. They also discovered that the description of the mole provided by Walter Krivitsky and Igor Gouzenko was close to that of Philby's time in Spain as a journalist. It was now decided that Philby could in fact be a double-agent. (11)
When Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean defected in 1951 Philby became the chief suspect as the man who had tipped them off that they were being investigated. Under pressure from Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison, Stewart Menzies agreed that Philby should be interrogated by MI6. However, they cleared him of being part of a spy ring. However, the CIA insisted that he should be recalled to London. In September 1951 Philby officially resigned from MI6 but continued to work for the organization on a part-time basis. He was also paid £4,000 to compensate him for losing his job. (12)
Ben Macintyre, the author of A Spy Among Friends (2014), points out that by 1952 Aileen Philby was convinced that her husband was a Soviet spy: "Aileen knew that her husband had lied to her, consistently and coldly, from the moment they first met, and throughout their marriage. The knowledge of his duplicity tipped her into a psychological abyss from which she would never fully emerge. She confronted Kim, who denied everything. The ensuing row, far from dissipating her fears, merely confirmed her conviction that he was lying." (13)
In 1956 Nicholas Elliott arranged for Kim Philby to work for MI6 in Beirut. His cover was as a journalist being employed by the Observer and the Economist: "The Observer and Economist would share Philby's services, and pay him £3,000 a year plus travel and expenses. At the same time, Elliott arranged that Philby would resume working for MI6, no longer as an officer, but as an agent, gathering information for British intelligence in one of the world's most sensitive areas. He would be paid a retainer through Godfrey Paulson, chief of the Beirut MI6 station." (14)
Aileen did not go with her husband to Beirut. Her friend, Flora Solomon, became increasingly concerned about her mental state and claimed that she had been "abandoned by her husband." (15) Solomon wrote to Philby complaining about the treatment of his wife. Philby replied that Aileen's claims were "hooey" and "that I had made a clear arrangement with her that she should pay the household bills and forward me the receipts, whereupon I would refund her." So far, he had not had a single receipt. "So, no receipts, no money." Philby added that if she could afford "the luxuries of risking her neck at point-to-points, she can damn well send me the receipts." He finished his attack on his wife with the comment that he was "fed up with her idleness". (16)
Kim Philby had become involved with Eleanor Brewer, the wife of Sam Pope Brewer, a journalist working for the New York Times. She later recalled: "What touched me first about Kim was his loneliness. A certain old-fashioned reserve set him apart from the easy familiarity of the other journalists. He was then forty-four, of medium height, very lean, with a handsome heavily-lined face. His eyes were an intense blue... He had a gift for creating an atmosphere of such intimacy that I found myself talking freely to him. I was very impressed by his beautiful manners. We took him under our wing. Kim soon became one of our closest friends." (17)
Anthony Cave Brown, the author of Treason of Blood (1995) has argued that within two weeks of meeting they became lovers, meeting secretly at little cafes, in the mountains, at the beaches, anywhere they would not be seen" by friends. "He showered her with little love notes written on paper from cigarette packages... Brewer had long since ceased to concern himself with his wife's fidelity and kept the marriage in place only for the sake of their daughter, Annie." Brown believes that there is evidence that Wilbur Crane Eveland, the CIA station chief in Beirut, had asked Eleanor to spy on Philby. "Certain letters shoe Eveland advising a CIA officer about the relationship, suggesting that she was his controlled informant in the Philby case." (18)
On 12th December 1957, Aileen Philby was discovered dead in the bedroom of her house in Crowborough by her eldest daughter. Her friends believed she had killed herself, with drink and pills. However, her psychiatrist suspected, that she "might have been murdered" by Kim Philby because she knew too much. "The coroner ruled she had died from heart failure, myocardial degeneration, tuberculosis, and a respiratory infection having contracted influenza. Her alcoholism undoubtedly accelerated her death." (19) Flora Solomon blamed Philby for the death of Aileen. She wrote: "I endeavoured to strike him from my memory." (20)
Richard Beeston and his wife, Moyra, were shopping in Bierut's Bab Idriss, when they met Philby: "I have wonderful news darlings, I want you to come and celebrate." In a bar he produced a telegram from England informing him of Aileen's death. It was, he said, a "wonderful escape", as he was now free to marry "a wonderful girl." (21) However, Philby complained to another friend, that he was annoyed that she had died in a way that raised questions about his involvement: "She can't even die in an uncomplicated way, it has to be all crumbled up with problems." (22)
Another colleague with whom I was on terms of close friendship, Neil Furse, an accountant, approached me with the request that I find a position in my department for his cousin Aileen. Though not short of money, and highly intelligent, she was subject to depressions. Her doctors thought she should have a job. Aileen was appointed to our Marble Arch store as a staff manageress, and I undertook to keep an eye on her wellbeing.
Aileen Furse soon established herself as one of my principal assistants, all of whom dropped in at my home for the occasional drink. She was there one day when Kim Philby arrived, now separated but not divorced from his Litzi. Kim plonked himself in an easy chair and began talking about Spain. He found an avid listener in Aileen, and the two left together. The next I knew they were sharing a flat.
Kim appeared to me to be concentrating on making a reputation for himself in journalism. Aileen belonged to the class, now out of fashion, called 'county'. She was typically English, slim and attractive, fiercely patriotic, but awkward in her gestures and unsure of herself in company. I was pleased for her. As they left a party in my home - this must have been some time in 1938, just before Munich - Kim took me to one side, looking morose. "I want to tell you," he said, "I'm in great danger." It dawned on me then that he was still associated with the Communist Party, the cause he had espoused at Cambridge. The statement was extraordinary, perhaps, but the intimation of his affiliation provoked no suspicion. What was dangerous in Britain about being a Communist? In some circles of the intelligentsia it was the done thing.
Keeping with his new image of a responsible peacetime professional SIS officer, Philby set about tidying up his private life. The problem was that he was still married to Litzi, and although Eileen had changed her name by deed poll to Philby, their three children had all been born out of wedlock. This was not a handicap for a young SIS officer in the relaxed moral atmosphere of wartime, but for a permanent civil servant who wanted to make his way to the top it could count against him. By now Litzi was living in East Berlin with her wartime lover, Georg Honigmann, a known communist. Philby was certain that she would agree to a divorce, but if he contacted her to arrange it all, and somehow or other M15 later got to hear of the contact, it could be made to look very suspicious: why had Philby, a British counter-intelligence officer in charge of the anti-Soviet desk, been in touch with a communist living in a communist bloc country? If he then told the reason, he could well be asked why he had not mentioned before that he had been married to a communist.
Philby took the bold way out. He asked Vivian for permission to contact Litzi so as to arrange a divorce that would enable him to marry Aileen. And he got in first by describing how he met Litzi during a youthful escapade in Vienna and had married her to save her from imprisonment or death at the hands of the fascists. Vivian listened sympathetically and instantly gave his permission. Nevertheless he got M15 to make a routine check of its records for anything it had on Litzi and must have been rather surprised to read the reply that Alice (Litzi) Kohlman... was a confirmed Soviet agent. Although Vivian must have pondered over this, he did nothing about it. To begin with, he was Philby's patron in the service and to make a fuss about Philby's marriage would end up reflecting badly on Vivian as well. It would not have been hard to convince himself that the M15 trace added little to what Philby had already told him. As well, the marriage had really ended ten years earlier, before Philby had joined SIS, so there appeared little point in resurrecting a brief indiscretion that might stain the career of such a promising and much-liked officer.
So Philby got in touch with Litzi, and it was agreed that she should petition for a divorce on the grounds of Philby's adultery with Aileen. The decree was made absolute on 17 September 1946 and Philby and Aileen were married a week later. The witnesses were Tommy Harris and Flora Solomon, Aileen's former boss and a longtime friend of the Philby family. The reception, a noisy, hard-drinking affair, was held in the Philby house in Carlyle Square.
(1) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 208
(2) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) page 75
(3) Flora Solomon, Baku to Baker Street (1984) page 172
(4) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) page 75
(5) Flora Solomon, Baku to Baker Street (1984) page 172
(6) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 208
(7) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) page 120
(8) Flora Solomon, Baku to Baker Street (1984) page 172
(9) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) pages 94-95
(10) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) page 164
(11) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) pages 161
(12) Phillip Knightley, Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) page 175
(13) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 171
(14) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) pages 457-458
(15) Flora Solomon, Baku to Baker Street (1984) page 210
(16) Kim Philby, letter to Flora Solomon (2nd May, 1957)
(17) Eleanor Philby, Kim Philby: The Spy I Loved (1968) pages 31-33
(18) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 481
(19) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 212
(20) Flora Solomon, Baku to Baker Street (1984) page 211
(21) Richard Beeston, Looking for Trouble: The Life and Times of a Foreign Correspondent (2006) page 29
(22) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 482
The Hick From Indiana Who Nailed Master Spy Kim Philby
Ex-FBI agent Bill Harvey was nothing like his Ivy League colleagues in the CIA. He didn’t even own a trenchcoat. But he knew a spy when he saw one, even when no one else did.
Courtesy HarperCollins Publishers
On the surface, it seemed strange that Bill Harvey had been chosen to take over the Berlin Operations Base, one of the CIA’s most important and prestigious installations. He spoke no German, or any other foreign language, and he had no service overseas—he had never even been overseas. Unlike so many of his CIA colleagues, Harvey had not served with the OSS during the war, and had no dashing stories of time behind enemy lines.
Harvey did not look the type either. The former FBI G-man from Indiana was nothing like his more refined colleagues, with their boarding school pedigrees, Ivy League connections, and easy grace. Some were amused and more than a few appalled by Harvey, a blue-collar gumshoe who did not even own a trench coat. In a CIA then dominated by the blue-blooded eastern establishment, Harvey was defiantly, almost gleefully midwestern.
Just under six feet, with a bullet-shaped head and bulbous, pear-shaped body that was big and getting bigger, Harvey looked like a flatfoot from a Raymond Chandler novel. His eyes bulged from his head owing to a toxic thyroid nodule, giving him a perpetually manic look. Yet the lips beneath his pencil-thin mustache were strangely delicate—“a glamour-girl’s mouth in a toad’s face,” wrote Norman Mailer, who used Harvey as a character in his novel about the CIA. Harvey had a voice like an acetylene torch emanating from somewhere deep inside his gut. With little prompting, he could erupt with strings of obscenities that were as terrifying as they were creative.
Some suspected that his crude speech and “deliberately countrified manner” were calculated to shock his more genteel colleagues indeed, the politer the company, the more he seemed to swear. Stories circulated of his rampant womanizing, though they were likely untrue and probably planted by Harvey himself to add to his persona.
What was not exaggerated was his drinking, which even by the prodigious CIA standards of the day was in a league of its own. Waiters at his favored lunch spots on Connecticut Avenue knew to have a pitcher of martinis waiting the moment they spotted his distinctive figure at the door, blocking light. Two generously poured martinis would be gulped down before the food even arrived, and another pair downed by the time Harvey ambled back to work with his distinctive “duck-like strut that was part waddle and part swagger.” Back at the office, it was not unusual to see him snoring at his desk by early afternoon.
Generally, Harvey was enshrouded in clouds of smoke from the three-plus packs of Camels or Chesterfields he inhaled every day. He sat at meetings paring his nails with a hunting knife, or repeatedly flipping the lid of his Zippo lighter, or, even more disconcertingly, spinning the cylinder of his snub-nosed revolver. No one else at the CIA regularly carried weapons, but Harvey always did, with one gun in a shoulder holster and often a second tucked in the back of his pants. “If you ever know as many secrets as I do, then you’ll know why I carry a gun,” he growled at anyone who asked.
Harvey was having lunch in Georgetown with Bill Hood, a CIA officer who had served in the OSS, when they noticed another officer at a nearby table. “Fucking namby-pamby,” Harvey growled. “Not worth shit.”
Hood stopped him short. “Listen, Bill, that man was a radio operator who jumped into France with less protection on him than you’re wearing right now.”
Beyond what he carried on his person, Harvey kept a virtual armory in his office, usually including a gun sitting in plain view atop his desk, as if he were awaiting an ambush. When visitors dropped in, he would fiddle with the weapon, loading it and gently letting the hammer down. Some theorized that his fascination with guns reflected a subconscious need to compensate for his lack of military service in World War II others ascribed it to a frontier mentality. “Maybe, amateur psychoanalysis aside, he just liked firearms,” theorized David Murphy, a longtime colleague.
Regardless, there were good and obvious reasons to be sending Harvey to the world’s hottest intelligence battleground. He was a warrior, for whom “the Cold War was as real as . . . hand-to-hand combat,” one contemporary said. Harvey, it was said, had a nose for a spy. It had been Bill Harvey who had laid out the case in June 1951 that Kim Philby, the smooth and popular SIS liaison in Washington, was actually a KGB spy who had been draining Western intelligence of precious secrets for years. “He turned out to be right on Kim Philby and that counted for a lot,” said Tom Polgar, a CIA colleague.
The Philby episode was more proof of what even his detractors had to concede was true: No one in the young CIA knew more about Soviet intelligence than Harvey.
Some CIA officers attributed Harvey’s attitude to a sense of inferiority to the East Coast elite and envy that he was not part of the establishment. Others concluded that he simply did not like the “Yale boys,” as he often called them. What is clear is that Harvey never tried to fit into the prevailing East Coast ethos, not that it would have been remotely possible.
William King Harvey believed he was smarter than the Ivy Leaguers, and he was usually right. He was born in 1915 in Danville, Indiana, where his father, an attorney, died ten months after his birth. His mother, Sara King Harvey, who had studied at Oxford and held a PhD in Elizabethan literature, taught at Indiana State University at a time when females in academia were unusual. Bill, an only child, had a close bond with his mother, an elegant woman who spoke perfectly inflected English without a trace of the local Hoosier twang the two engaged in Shakespeare quotation duels throughout her life. An Eagle Scout who finished high school early, Bill went to work at age fifteen as a reporter and printer at the newspaper owned by his grandfather.
In 1933, he entered Indiana State, where he excelled, completing the coursework at such a fast pace that he was admitted to the law school after only two years and graduated with a law degree in 1937. He also left Indiana a married man, having wed a fellow student, Libby McIntire. In March 1938, he opened a law practice in her hometown of Maysville, Kentucky, southeast of Cincinnati on the Ohio River. But his heart was never in it, nor did Harvey have anything close to the glad-handing demeanor helpful for a small-town lawyer.
Not long after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Harvey applied to the FBI, eager for some kind of action. A bureau special agent sent to investigate him found him to be self-confident and “very level-headed,” as well as possessing a “good vocabulary.” The applicant, he noted, “admits taking a social drink.” Harvey was offered a job in November 1940.
Harvey was assigned to the prestigious New York field office and was soon in the thick of FBI attempts to penetrate German espionage rings in the United States. He was part of a team that recruited an agent inside the German consulate in New York, leading to the arrest of thirty-seven reputed spies working for German military intelligence, known as the Abwehr. After Pearl Harbor, he pleaded for an assignment overseas, but his superiors wanted to keep his skills close to home. He was sent to the German desk at FBI headquarters in Washington, where his enthusiasm and expertise in combatting the Abwehr throughout the war were rated as “particularly outstanding.”
But Harvey had a streak of independence that drew the ire of the one person who mattered at the FBI—its powerful director, J. Edgar Hoover. In October 1945, shortly after the war’s end, Harvey approved a bugging operation in New York City without higher approval. Hoover was irate, telling him that he had “exercised extremely bad judgment.”
Despite this misstep, Harvey was soon thereafter among a trio of FBI agents who made up the first U.S. counterespionage team aimed at the Soviets. He was in the thick of a case that became one of the biggest spy stories of the time when it was made public several years later. In the fall of 1945, a woman named Elizabeth Bentley approached the FBI to confess that she had worked for years as a courier for a Soviet spy ring, exposing a shocking penetration of the U.S. government by Soviet intelligence. Eventually, she gave the names of more than a hundred people in the United States and Canada who were working for the Soviets, including twenty-seven people in government agencies, among them Alger Hiss, a senior State Department official.
For the next two years, Harvey was consumed with the investigation, working leads and gathering evidence, and in the process becoming an authority on Soviet espionage operations in the United States. Despite the tremendous volume of material collected, the FBI was unable to build enough of a case to prosecute anyone for espionage, although Hiss was later convicted of perjury. Harvey again drew high marks for his “vigorous, forceful and aggressive” work, and he was rated one of the best FBI supervisors in Washington in a 1947 efficiency report. “His grasp of the details of Russian espionage operations in this country was a revelation to most agents,” according to an FBI evaluation.
But his FBI career came to a sudden end when he again displeased Hoover. On the night of July 11, 1947, Harvey played poker and drank some beers at a farewell party in Arlington for an FBI agent who was being transferred. He was driving through Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington on his way home when his car stalled in a heavy downpour. Unable to get the engine restarted, he dozed off in the car. By the time he awoke, it was 10 a.m., and when he made his way home, he found that his worried wife had contacted his office. He immediately called to report that he was fine, but it was too late—an investigation had started. The FBI’s head of domestic security, Mickey Ladd—who had been at the party—reported “no indication that Harvey was drinking any more or any less than anyone else.” But beyond driving intoxicated, Harvey had violated one of Hoover’s strict rules: Agents were required to either telephone the office every two hours or leave a phone number where they could be reached.
Harvey’s supervisors recommended leniency, considering his talent and the long hours he put in on the job. Hoover saw it differently, directing that Harvey be transferred to the Indianapolis office, a humiliation for someone of his experience. Within weeks, Harvey resigned from the bureau.
The CIA was only too happy to have Harvey. Several weeks after his resignation, he was hired by the Central Intelligence Group, which soon thereafter became the CIA. The fledgling agency had almost no counterintelligence expertise. Harvey arrived with high prestige as an expert on Soviet espionage, which was exactly what the CIA needed. “No one cared that Harvey had run afoul of J. Edgar Hoover’s chickenshit regulations,” recalled Tom Polgar.
Harvey was soon assigned to be chief of the CIA’s counterintelligence staff. He made waves from the start, gaining notice with his intense focus, hard work, and air of self-assurance. “He was a full speed ahead type of guy,” Polgar said. Beyond that, Harvey had what colleagues called an “extraordinary counterintelligence mind.” They were astonished by the encyclopedic recall he had of every detail of every case from every file he had ever looked at in his years studying Soviet intelligence at the FBI. “Here was a guy from Indiana, who had no foreign background and spoke no foreign languages,” said Murphy. “It was strange to find a guy who was as well informed as he was on Soviet activity with no background on Soviet affairs.”
Hoover was infuriated at Harvey’s hire, particularly as he realized how much the CIA valued him. In July 1950, Hoover sent an emissary to Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, the CIA director, to complain that Harvey was being “hostile” to the FBI in his liaison work with the bureau on counterintelligence issues. Hillenkoetter replied that “Harvey’s sarcasm was merely the result of a forceful and ambitious personality,” but he nonetheless ordered Harvey to “tone down” his language.
In January 1951, Kim Philby hosted the most ill-fated dinner party in the history of the nation’s capital, or at least since the British captured Washington in 1814, found the White House dining room table set for dinner, and torched the building after eating the meal.
Philby, serving as the SIS liaison in Washington, invited all his FBI and CIA contacts and their wives to his home on Nebraska Avenue in Northwest Washington. The two dozen guests included the FBI mole hunter Robert Lamphere and the cadaver-like James Angleton, a rising force in the CIA who had been unwittingly spilling secrets to Philby for years during long, alcohol-infused lunches.
Also present were the Harveys. Bill Harvey was Philby’s closest contact in the CIA, other than Angleton. Though Harvey had “a dim view of almost everything British,” Helms recalled, he had been impressed when Philby arrived in Washington in 1949. “At last the Limeys have sent someone over here that I can talk business with,” he told a colleague.
Philby, for his part, was privately dismissive of Harvey, considering him a hick and a drunk. The first time Bill and Libby attended a dinner party at his home, Philby later wrote, Bill Harvey “fell asleep over the coffee and sat snoring gently until midnight when his wife took him away, saying: ‘Come now, Daddy, it’s time you were in bed.’”
At the party on January 19, 1951, it was Libby Harvey—herself a heavy drinker, often ill at ease in the Washington social swirl, and unhappy in her marriage—who was in her cups even before arriving. “She’d already had a lot to drink and wanted to share her disgust at the entire array of dinner guests and the party itself with anyone who’d listen,” recalled Lamphere. “Somehow she became my dinner partner, and I spent most of the meal attempting to quiet her.” The tenseness at the dinner was not eased by the awkward discomfort of CIA and FBI guests who by and large did not like each other.
Into this combustible scene walked a drunken Guy Burgess, one of Philby’s Cambridge classmates who had been recruited into the spy ring in the 1930s. Burgess’s wildly excessive drinking and notorious ill behavior had hampered his usefulness as a Soviet spy. He had recently been assigned to the British embassy in Washington as a second secretary and was staying as a houseguest at Philby’s home.
Burgess, a skilled sketch artist, began an inebriated conversation with Libby Harvey. “How extraordinary to see the face I’ve been doodling all my life,” he slurred. Libby invited him to sketch her portrait. Burgess responded with a lewd sketch portraying Libby with her dress hiked above her waist. When Burgess showed the finished work to party guests, Libby burst into tears. Outraged, Bill Harvey took a wild swing at Burgess, missed, and then jumped on the British diplomat, throttling him with both hands around his neck. Philby and two guests managed to pull Harvey off. Angleton took Harvey on a walk around the block to cool him down. The Harveys departed in a huff, and the party wound down without further violence.
A distraught Philby sat in his kitchen afterwards with his head in his hands. Harvey was a bad enemy to have. “How could you?” Philby moaned repeatedly to the unabashed Burgess. He took Harvey to lunch the next day trying to make amends for the incident. “I had apologized handsomely for [Burgess’s] behavior, and the apology had apparently been accepted,” he later said.
But if Harvey forgave, he certainly did not forget.
On May 25, 1951, a rented Austin pulled up in a hurry shortly before midnight on a dock in Southampton, England. Out popped Guy Burgess, accompanied by Donald Maclean, another member of the Cambridge spy ring. Abandoning the car at the dock, the two scrambled up a gangplank and boarded a cross-Channel ferry bound for Saint-Malo, France, the start of a journey that would take them in short order to Switzerland, Prague, and then Moscow. They would never return.
Maclean had escaped in the nick of time. For a while, VENONA intercepts had raised suspicion that the Soviets had a highly placed spy, code-named Homer, in the British embassy in Washington. Not long after Philby’s dinner party, an intercept decoded at Arlington Hall pointed to the likelihood that Homer was Maclean, who had been stationed in Washington from 1944 to 1948.
Getting wind that Maclean was in danger, Philby had sent Burgess to Britain with an urgent warning for Maclean that he needed to escape to Russia. But Philby had not expected that Burgess would run too—a development that left Philby dangerously exposed.
Maclean’s disappearance raised grave alarms in London and Washington. It was not very long before Burgess’s involvement with the escape led to curiosity about Philby’s role in all this, particularly in the mind of Harvey. The dinner party incident earlier that year had “fixed the relationship of Philby and Burgess with outraged clarity in his mind,” author David Martin wrote in Wilderness of Mirrors.
Harvey’s opinion of Philby “had thoroughly eroded” by now, Helms said. Harvey pored over everything that was known about Philby’s life and career, working through the facts in his analytic mind. As he sat stuck in traffic one morning on the way to work, the pieces suddenly clicked: Philby’s embrace of left-wing ideology as a young student a cryptic warning in 1940 from a Soviet defector about a British spy who matched Philby’s biography an aborted defection in Istanbul in 1945 of a KGB officer, whom Philby had been in a position to betray and now the flight of Maclean and Burgess. Not only was Philby one of the few people in a position to know the suspicions about Maclean, but he was a close friend of Burgess. On June 13, 1951, Harvey sent his findings to the CIA director, Walter Bedell Smith. Harvey’s memo was a tour de force laying out the case that Philby was a Soviet spy. Angleton submitted his own memo a few days later, with far more equivocation. Smith was persuaded, and soon afterwards sent a chilly letter to Stewart Menzies, or “C,” as the head of SIS was known, presenting the memos and insisting that Philby be removed as liaison in Washington.
Philby had already been summoned back to London for questioning by MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency roughly equivalent to the FBI, which had its own growing suspicions. Given the case against him, Philby had little choice but to resign. But the evidence was not clear-cut enough to arrest him without a confession, leaving him on the periphery of SIS with a cloud of suspicion over his head.
Philby later learned that Smith’s demand had been based largely on Harvey’s memo, which, he fumed, was a “cheap trick” and a “retrospective exercise in spite” for the dinner party debacle. What annoyed Philby the most was the realization that his treachery, which had fooled the best minds of Western intelligence for more than a decade, had been discovered by Bill Harvey, “of all people!”
Now Bill Harvey, of all people, was headed to Berlin. Even at the highest levels of the CIA, very few people knew the real reason for the assignment: Harvey would oversee the development, construction, and operation of a long tunnel into East Berlin to tap into Soviet military communication lines.
Courtesy HarperCollins Publishers
From the book BETRAYAL IN BERLIN: The True Story of the Cold War’s Most Audacious Espionage Operation by Steve Vogel. Copyright © 2019 by Steve Vogel. From Custom House, a line of books from William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.
The spy who loved me: Charlotte Philby returns to Moscow in search of her grandfather Kim Philby
The shiny black 4x4 rumbles slowly through the graveyard. Heavy blankets of snow have settled across the plains of Moscow, and either side of our track, the ground is a brilliant white. The two men in the front seat – my guards of honour – peer out in silence, squinting their eyes against the sunlight as it pours in through the canopy of trees above.
Finally the car grinds to a halt, and the driver, catching my eye in his rear-view mirror, gives a nod. Without a word, he steps out in his long dark trench coat and buffed-leather shoes, opening the back door for me to follow. As the icy breeze hits our cheeks, he points towards a raised tomb set forward slightly from the rest: "Yeltsin's mama," he explains. We walk on in silence the others hold back, bowing their heads, as I take my place in front of another plot a few feet away.
This is the first time I've ever stood at the foot of my grandfather's grave, but I know it instantly. Many times I've pored over images of the tall, polished tombstone with the Cyrillic script, and the image of his face etched on its surface, in newspaper cuttings and family photos. So, too, have I seen images of his cold body – decorated with medals – in an open coffin, armed guards at either side, as the lavish funeral procession made its way through Kuntsevo Cemetery to this very spot.
It was seeing those photos as a six-year-old child which helped first alert me to the fact that there was something a bit different about grandpa Kimsky. Today, standing at last at his final resting place, surrounded by ex-prime ministers and national heroes in an isolated cemetery on the outskirts of Moscow, with two perfect strangers looming behind me, I'm once again reminded of quite how different he was.
As well as being my grandfather – whom I remember from childhood trips to Russia as a funny old man with a beaming smile, who dressed almost exclusively in white vests and braces – Kim Philby, to this day, remains one of the most significant double agents in modern history. In 1963, having been exposed in Britain as the notorious "Third Man" in the Cambridge Spy Ring, Kim fled to Moscow, never again to set foot from behind the Iron Curtain.
In the intervening years, there have been endless attempts to understand how this gregarious, public-school educated English chap and his fellow Cambridge spies – Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross – could have been persuaded to betray their country, and dupe their family and their friends. And at every turn, the story is slightly different, the answer ever less clear: the more his character has come under scrutiny, the more elusive he has become.
Now, in an attempt to impose some order on my own understanding of my grandfather, to clarify the kaleidoscopic image of him which has formed in my mind, I have returned for the first time as an adult to the country where, in political exile, he lived out the last 25 years of his life.
it's my third day in Russia. Mid-morning, wrapped against the cold in Kim's old bear hat and a matching coat (it's too cold here for animal rights), I set off from my hotel with a map and enough money for the metro and taxi I'll need to take me from the station to the cemetery off the Mozhaisk highway.
Two hours later, wind-battered and almost frozen solid, I finally arrive at the gates of the busy cemetery, where, hoping the guard might be able to point me in the right direction, I scrawl down my grandfather's name and the word "Communist" on an old tissue, and flash my driving licence.
When it's finally made clear that I've come from England to visit the grave of my grandfather, Kim Philby, a Soviet agent who was given a hero's burial somewhere on this land in the late 1980s, the old security man at the gate starts shouting, and shoos me through a private door, into the office where he regales the story to a tall man in a dark trench coat – referred to as "boss" – who in turn ushers me outside towards a brand new Range Rover with blackened windows.
Seconds later, we're hurtling at break-neck speed out of the cemetery, along the motorway, the driver making various calls en route, each consisting of just a few short sentences, before turning into a different burial ground up the road, manned with armed guards. At the sight of our car, the men leap from their posts, saluting and buzzing the electric gates one jumps into the front seat and calls out instructions as we roll off again.
Five minutes later, I'm watching the shadow of a tall, leafless tree falling against the snow on the path in front of my grandfather's tombstone, wondering who it was who'd been here in the past few hours and placed a bunch of brightly coloured flowers at the foot of his grave.
there are things I know for certain about my grandfather. The basic facts, after all, are well-documented. Kim was won over by the Communist cause while a student at Cambridge University, and upon graduation in 1933, travelled to Vienna to serve the international Communist organisation Comintern – which was illegal in Austria – with £100 in his pocket given to him by his father, St John, who was also a Cambridge graduate.
St John, who had joined the British Foreign Service in 1917, when his only son was five years old, was also a non-conformist. An Indian Civil Service officer turned Arabist and explorer, he spent 20 years travelling across the desert on camelback charting Saudi's unexplored Empty Quarter, crossing paths with Lawrence of Arabia, and eventually marrying a slave-girl given to him by his friend King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, to whom he spent many years as personal advisor. Feeling a strong dissatisfaction with British policy in the Middle East, Kim's father resigned from the Foreign Service in 1930, converting to Islam and taking the name Hajj Abdullah.
It was a few years after this, in 1933, that Kim went to Vienna. There, he volunteered for the refugee committee, fundraising, secretly writing and disseminating propaganda, raising funds and distributing clothes and money to those who'd escaped Fascist Germany. He married Litzi Friedman, a fellow activist and an Austrian Jew, to help her escape persecution. The pair returned to England in May and, by this point already an appointed Soviet agent, Kim found work as a foreign correspondent. He travelled extensively, while also making his way up the ranks of the British intelligence services – by 1944, Kim was appointed head of a newly formed anti-Soviet section, and was later sent to Washington where, as the top Secret Intelligence Service representative, he worked for several years in liaison with the CIA and FBI. And all along he was handing information straight back into the hands of the Russians.
Kim went to great efforts upon his return to England to cover the traces of his Communist background – joining the Anglo-German fellowship in 1934, and editing its pro-Hitler magazine making repeated visits to Berlin for talks with the German propaganda ministry even being personally presented with the Red Cross of Military Merit award by Franco in 1938. Slowly but surely, he was turning himself into one of the most cunning and treacherous double agents of all time.
Agent "Stanley", as he was known, was ruthless without doubt. According to a recent piece in the Daily Telegraph: "For years Philby had sabotaged Allied missions behind the Iron Curtain and had calculatedly sent dozens of agents to their deaths." Most famously, he was almost certainly responsible for the tip-off which led to the deaths of the first British-sponsored Albanians who parachuted in to remove Enver Hoxha's Communist regime. Understandably, as a consequence, he is loathed by many. Next to articles about him online, readers routinely describe him as "evil" and "a cancer on society". Just five years ago, my mum and I were refused service in a shop in Arizona on account of the name on our credit cards.
But as the author Graham Greene – my grandfather's close friend and a fellow British intelligence officer, who worked under him at MI6 – wrote in the introduction to Kim's autobiography, My Silent War: "The end, of course, in his eyes is held to justify the means, but this is a view taken, perhaps less openly, by most men involved in politics, if we are to judge them by their actions, whether the politician be a Disraeli or a Wilson.
"'He betrayed his country' – yes, perhaps he did," Greene continues, "but who among us has not committed treason to something or someone more important than a country? In Philby's own eyes he was working for the shape of things to come from which his country would benefit."
In his lifetime, Kim married four times, and had five children by his second wife Aileen Furse. His eldest son was my father, John – who was himself a 19-year-old art student in 1963 when he first learnt of Kim's espionage stepping off a ferry on the Isle of Wight, he was met by a billboard stating that Kim was a wanted man. It had been a long time coming. In 1951, Kim tipped off his fellow Cambridge spy Donald Maclean that Britain had caught wind of Maclean's spying activities and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. When Burgess and Maclean fled to Moscow, avoiding capture, Kim was the chief suspect for having given them the heads-up. But at the famous "Secret Trial" in 1952, he convinced his MI5 interrogator Buster Milmo that he was not a Soviet agent. He achieved the deception by employing his occasional stutter, so as to buy himself time to think before telling another bare-faced lie. In 1955, Harold Macmillan, then Foreign Secretary, issued a statement confirming that there was no evidence that Kim Philby was a Soviet agent. Macmillan was, of course, Prime Minister by 1962, when the Soviet double agent George Blake was caught, and Kim could no longer hide the truth.
those are the facts – but there are plenty of question marks too. And it is to these that my mind turns as I make my way from my hotel, across Red Square, the following day towards Kim's flat, following the route marked out in pencil on a rather vague map drawn up from the combined memories of various family members, none of whom has been here in more than 20 years.
Despite the number of times we visited Kim in Moscow, no one in the family was ever allowed to have his address. In those days, correspondence had to be sent to a PO Box and in his reply, Kim would sign off under a special code name, "Panina" (a combination of Pa and Nina, the alias used for Kim's wife). And whenever we went to stay, we'd be picked up from the airport and driven to his flat via a purposefully circuitous route in a KGB car so that no one could quite remember how we got there.
It was, in fact, those journeys to Kim's flat which form some of my strongest early memories: flying down the third lane of the motorway in an unmarked car. Occasionally, the driver would draw a curtain around the inside of the windows, and attach a flashing blue light to the roof before setting off. If we were really lucky, sometimes – and this was still the 1980s – there'd be a distant ringing, and from a compartment near the gear stick, our escort would pull out a telephone attached to a spiral cord, which he'd talk into in a low voice, repeating the same two words, "horosho" and "da", again and again before hanging up.
In any case, even if an address had been known for grandpa, it may not have been much use in 2010. Many of the street names have changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But no matter allowing myself plenty of time to get lost, I'm soon heading towards the apartment where my grandfather lived out the final 25 years of his life under the watchful eye of Moscow – and where his widow Rufa is currently preparing an enormous spread for our afternoon tea.
En route, I pass some of Kim's old haunts, and heeding his advice to visitors – "If you can no longer feel your nose, go inside" – stop off briefly for coffee at that famous Soviet hangout the Hotel Metropole. Entering through the front doors and under a rickety, freestanding metal detector, it's like walking through a time-warp.
In a secluded area next to the domed restaurant (one of Kim's favourites), the dimly lit bar is serviced by grey-skinned waiters faux-marble columns run between clusters of heavy red and gold chairs, frequented by groups of men in out-dated suits, briefcases and thick-rimmed glasses, knocking back glasses of vodka, under a thick circle of cigarette smoke. Everything has seen better days.
Today, Moscow's main strip, Tverskaya Ryad – which I remember from childhood holidays as a drab grey stretch clotted with queues of people who looked like they didn't know what they were waiting for (though it was usually oranges or ice cream) – is barely recognisable: a knot of designer stores and mobile-phone shops, interspersed with garish billboards hanging between the buildings above the busy main road.
The central post office, where Kim would come every morning to pick up his mail and a stack of British and American newspapers, stands halfway up on the left. Inside, the atrium leading to the main sorting office and collection point is now dotted with stalls selling electronic goods, pricey mobile-phone accessories and flowers at £3 a stem. There are two more mobile-phone shops inside the post-office building, and on the steps, a babushka swathed in heavy furs and surrounded by plastic bags counts out a handful of pennies.
I'm reminded of a brief phone conversation I had earlier this morning with one of Kim's old KGB comrades, whom I'd been in contact with during the course of my research for this article, who told me that a gang of five or six of Kim's former colleagues still meet up every month and raise a toast in his honour. "No doubt your grandfather would have disapproved of the sharp contrasts in present-day Russia," he said.
The extent of these contrasts can be seen by comparing two articles appearing on consecutive days in the Moscow Times. The first reports that Russia ranks 143rd in a list of the world's freest economies, "just one spot higher than countries with 'repressed' economies like Vietnam, Ecuador, Belarus and Ukraine", while the next tells how oligarch Roman Abramovich, whose wealth is valued at £7 billion, has just snapped up 35 notable artworks to decorate his 560ft private yacht.
Just beyond the crossroads which dominates Pushkin Square – the spot where it's said dissidents would meet, acknowledging each other by removing their hats – is the former site of the Hotel Minsk (like much of the city, now under a lengthy reconstruction process), where Kim first met the journalist Murray Sayle in 1967. Having secured Kim's first meeting with the Western press since his arrival in Moscow, Sayle says he finds him "a courteous man [who] smiles a great deal, and his well-cut grey hair and ruddy complexion suggests vitality and enjoyment of life".
The reporter adds that Kim demonstrated an "iron head" for drink during the course of their subsequent meetings, which took place over a series of long, boozy meals: "I could detect no change in his alertness or joviality as the waiter arrived with relays of 300 grams of vodka or 600 grams of Armenian brandy." Like my father, Kim had amazing stamina for drink the pair of them would knock it back over games of chess at the flat in Moscow (while I ran around wreaking havoc in the living room) and on the long trips to Siberia and Bulgaria they took together. But neither was entirely impervious. On one occasion, when dropping us off at the airport, Kim and my dad were so sloshed they were shoved into a cupboard under the stairs with a bottle of vodka by staff to keep them quiet, while the British ambassador ambled around the main terminal building waiting for the same flight to London.
When I asked my dad, shortly before he died late last year, how he'd felt about his own father's betrayal, he told me exactly what Kim had told Sayle during that interview in 1963: "To betray, you must first belong." And as Kim said himself: "I never belonged." My dad always had great respect for my grandfather he told me that even when he was a child, he always knew he was up to something – he just didn't know what. The pair got on well in those later years – they were very similar in many ways – and my father said he never felt any resentment, not even when he unfairly came under fire by virtue of his name.
At one stage, in the programme for his play Single Spies, the writer Alan Bennett printed a claim that my dad – John – had turned up late to his own father's funeral, straight from the airport, and stood swaying behind a gravestone clutching bags of booze. In fact, he had arrived in Moscow days earlier, and can be seen on film standing just back from his father's coffin. When Bennett was pulled up on the matter, he wrote my father a note explaining that he stood by what he'd said as the information had come from a reliable source – a BBC journalist. After reading it briefly, my dad had simply shrugged and tossed the note in the bin. He wasn't one to care what others thought: "Never be boring, and don't be afraid of offending people" was one of the last things he told me before he died.
While I was researching this article, Bennett – also the author of An Englishman Abroad, in which he imagines Guy Burgess's final years in Moscow: lonely, pathetic and wholly unfulfilled – responded to a shorter opinion piece I wrote for this paper last July in which I defended my grandfather's decision not to apologise publicly for his actions. In his diary for the London Review of Books, Bennett wrote: "Philby does seem to have been responsible for the betrayal and presumed torture and death of a network of agents in a way that's never been proved of Blunt. What counted though against Blunt, and Burgess too, was that they weren't journo-friendly. Journalists look after their own and Philby masqueraded as a devil-may-care drunken newspaperman and so was treated more indulgently by those in his profession."
Bennett concludes: "Charlotte Philby thinks her grandfather was more honest, but it's a saloon-bar honesty. Philby was a chap. 'Let's have another drink on it, old man.' Good old Kim." I would like to have drawn Bennett further on his comments, but unfortunately, when I contacted his agent to request a meeting, my invitation was declined.
i turn left, according to my map, away from Kim's local grocery, where – a creature of habit – he'd collect his daily supply of bread and whatever fruit and vegetables were available. He liked the fact that you could only buy seasonal goods in Moscow, but asked family members to bring out the non-perishables he loved and couldn't get there – marmalade, Marmite and Worcestershire sauce.
To the very end, as I find out when I set foot into his flat, Kim surrounded himself with things pertaining to British culture and life on the other side of the Iron Curtain: from PG Wodehouse novels to the Indian spices he used for his legendary curries.
For some, details like this have fuelled the question of whether – arriving for the first time ever in the country for which he'd sacrificed everything, which was supposed to represent everything he'd fought for, and where he would live out the rest of his days in exile – he became disillusioned and embittered, and longed instead for the land he'd betrayed.
But I don't think my grandfather ever questioned a single decision he made. For one thing, like all the men in the Philby family, he was bloody-minded. But more importantly, every decision he made was done consciously. Kim sacrificed everything he had: he risked his life and the lives of others, he betrayed his colleagues and duped his family and friends (even spying on his own father at one stage, as will be explained shortly) because he genuinely believed – from the point when he joined the movement and set his sights against the seemingly irrepressible rise of Fascism – that Communism was a cause worth holding dear above all else.
Of course, he made bold and hugely controversial decisions, some of which had fatal consequences, but he didn't do so lightly. As Kim told my mother when she asked him if he felt any remorse, he believed he was a soldier, fighting a bloody war in the bloodiest century in history. And if a soldier is fighting for a cause he believes in, which he believes is worth sacrificing single human lives for, but then in the end his side loses the war, does that mean that he was wrong to have stood up and fought in the first place?
Kim even duped his own children, and left them behind when he fled to Moscow. Was that a selfish decision? Perhaps. But again, it was justifiable in his mind. In his own words: "I am really two people. I am a private person and a political person. Of course, if there is a conflict, the political person comes first."
in 1983, a month or so after my parents took me as a baby to meet him for the first time, Kim sent a copy of Lenin's On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, with a long, beautifully written letter to my maternal grandfather, whom he was unlikely ever to meet. Inside he wrote: "Herewith a few extracts from our bible. Like your own Holy Writ, it is open to many different (and often conflicting) interpretations, according to the tastes and prejudices of the reader."
In the accompanying letter, he adds: "The difficulty is that [Lenin] was always writing at white-heat on burning questions of the day (or even hour) and naturally his strategy and tactics changed to meet changing circumstances . My Russian edition has 55 large volumes, so there is ample room for selective quotation and even spurious interpolation. Who is going to check 55 volumes for the odd sentence? Doubtless Jeremiah faced similar problems."
Kim was not naïve he knew that his ideal, like any other, was susceptible to corruption. But that didn't mean the ideal itself was corrupt or not worth pursuing. Perhaps he hadn't always been right. As Kim's former KGB colleague also reiterated on the phone: "Kim was a Communist idealist. He believed in freedom of speech and thought that Stalinism and all that were temporary" – and obviously, the outcome proved otherwise.
So, perhaps, by the time he died, a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall – and knowing what he must have known by then – he did feel disappointed. But even then, having made calculated decisions based on deeply-felt political ideals, I still don't think he would have done things any differently.
kim's flat is several floors up, in an apartment block not far from Pushkin Square, marked out from the rest by a tiny balcony. Today, this pedestrianised street is only accessible by a coded gate, and the façade of the building has been tarted up almost beyond recognition. Inside, however, the lift is as temperamental as it ever was, so I make the journey to his flat by foot, instantly recognising the strange studded-leather front door as I emerge from the stairwell.
The last time I arrived at this flat, aged six, it was just a few days after Kim's death, and my parents and I were met by a sea of swollen eyes. During our stay, more mourners piled in, their cries and moans ricocheting off the walls. Today, as Kim's widow greets me at the door, offering me a pair of woollen slippers, the atmosphere is quiet and calm.
Grandpa's flat is almost exactly as he left it: "After Kim left, I didn't want to change anything," Rufa says. "It is an old-fashioned home, not like the homes of new Russia, where everything is modern and imported." She cannot imagine what Kim would have made of this new world, where a minority have benefited so enormously while many – outside the capital, the vast majority – live in abject poverty with little support from the state.
In the living room, the same furs hang above the sofa, alongside a pair of Afghan guns – a gift from the KGB colleague whom I spoke to earlier. Kim's chair, on which no one else, under any circumstances, was ever allowed to sit while he was alive – and for many years thereafter, Rufa adds – remains just where it was, at the head of a low table.
The gramophone, in front of which Kim would take a seat to listen to the World Service at 7pm every evening with a cup of coffee, makes a tremendous groan as it comes to life, but it's still very much in working nick. The kitchen where he would ritualistically make his daily breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast (another English habit he never broke), and spent hours cooking every evening, is now rich with the smell of the savoury pancakes Rufa is preparing for our five-hour feast.
But the place where Kim's presence looms largest from every corner is in his study. Here, surrounded by an extensive library, he would sit for hours. The only change I can note is a computer on his desk where an old type-writer once stood. The view from one of the windows is notably different, too. Standing on the balcony, you can see the same school playground, where children in heavy ski jackets are involved in a timeless game – launching themselves from the top of a flight of concrete stairs to the ground below, cushioned with thick blankets of snow. But out of a smaller window, in front of the door, the view of Moscow is interrupted by a throbbing neon Samsung advert. Later, I notice the same sign above a statue of Lenin near the former KGB headquarters.
Kim's library, which he had shipped over soon after he emerged in the Soviet Union, is testimony to his complexities and to his contradictions: across four walls of bookshelves, Russian classics and key Communist texts stand side by side with Raymond Chandler and PG Wodehouse novels there are 19 volumes of Cambridge Modern History and a Sherlock Holmes scrapbook. One can hardly overlook the irony of a man who so resolutely betrayed his country, surrounding himself in his Soviet apartment with British condiments, newspapers and light-hearted English classics.
As previously noted, this has been taken as a sign – along with his heavy drinking – that in the end, Kim was left a broken man, disillusioned and dejected, having arrived in Moscow expecting to be given important assignments and a high-ranking role in the KGB, only to be left with very little to do, and plied with booze to keep him compliant. Indeed, when the leading Russian writer Genrikh Borovik was given access to Kim's unseen KGB file in 1994 – six years after his death – the extent to which the Russians mistrusted him became clear.
Philby was recruited, it reveals, because it was mistakenly believed that his father, St John, was a British intelligence officer. One of the first tasks he was given was to spy on his own father, which he did, without question – digging up very little, because, though the Russians failed to believe it, there was nothing to dig up.
Over the years he did everything that was asked of him: he gave everything he had to the cause, and yet still Moscow was deeply suspicious of a man who has been described as their finest and most loyal servant.
Discussing the reasons for this in the introduction to Borovik's book, The Philby Files, the journalist and biographer Phillip Knightley – who interviewed my grandfather at length during his final years in Moscow – writes: "Could the British intelligence service really be run by such fools that no one had noticed that precious information was leaking to Moscow? . that Philby, with his Communist views in Vienna and his Austrian Communist wife, had been recruited for SIS and had sailed through its vetting procedures?"
Kim's case was not helped by the fact that several of his Soviet controllers – including "Mar", the man who recruited him – had later been executed as "enemies of the people". But above all, the problem was that Kim's intelligence was too good, and – to their detriment – intelligence services are geared to believe that the better information is, the more it should be questioned.
But so it was. In the end – despite having been what Allen Dulles (de facto head of the CIA from 1953 to 1961) once reluctantly described as "the best spy Russia ever had" – Kim was watched over as much as looked after by his masters, and he was not used to his full potential. And perhaps he felt that – he certainly resented having to be escorted pretty much wherever he went for his first years in Moscow, as Rufa attests. But whether that came with any sense of self-pity is something else entirely.
For one thing, Kim's life behind the Iron Curtain wasn't bad. He had friends, a wife he indulged himself in a culture he loved – the concerts, the ballet, the galleries he travelled to Cuba, East Berlin, around the Soviet Union, and spent weekends at his beloved dacha.
For another, he'd made his bed. He always knew what he was risking – his family, his friends, his reputation – and he made his choices accordingly. He did all he could do for a cause he believed in: what was there to regret? As for the drinking, Kim never needed an excuse to crack open a bottle he was a drinker in good times and in bad.
Looking around Kim's study now, past the proud photo of him with the local ice-hockey team, below one of his father and another of various key Soviet politicians shaking hands, my eye is drawn to a large black-and-white print of Che Guevara, which looks out from above one of the bookshelves in the far right-hand corner, like an all-seeing eye. I remember Kim's words: "I have followed exactly the same line the whole of my adult life. The fight against Fascism and the fight against imperialism were fundamentally the same fight."
Was he wrong to have continued on the Communist path once so many others had stepped off? To see through to the end what he started? Was he lamentable for still believing that a Communist state could ultimately exist, free from the corruption which plagues all systems, to the benefit of a fair, just society? Whatever you believe, Kim felt history would prove him right: "I'll be remembered as a good man," he told my mum just two years before his death. Perhaps it's too early to judge after all, Communism, according to its followers, is the final epoch, inevitable only once all other systems have eaten themselves – which, of course, they will.
As I step in from the balcony, my eyes settle on a single point. In the middle of the bookcase behind his desk, above his empty chair, just where Kim's head would have rested, a single book looms out, cover first. As I walk towards it, the title of the Anthony Trollope novel jumps out at me: He Knew He Was Right.
Kim Philby: A timeline
1912 Harold Adrian Russell 'Kim' Philby is born on 1 January in Amballa, India, the son of Dora and St John.
1925 Attends Westminster School in London.
1929 Enters Trinity College, Cambridge. Joins Cambridge University Socialist Society. Meets Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross.
1933 Leaves Cambridge a convinced Communist. Heads to Vienna to serve the movement there.
1934 Marries Communist Jew Litzi Friedman. Back in England, begins to cover up his past, joining the Anglo-German Fellowship, editing its pro-Hitler magazine.
1937 Joins The Times as foreign correspondent. In Spain, reports the Civil War from General Franco's side, and is awarded the Red Cross of Military Merit by Franco.
1940 Recruited by British Secret Services and attached to the Secret Intelligence Services (SIS) under Guy Burgess.
1941 Transferred to SIS Iberian sub-section. Takes charge of British intelligence in Spain and Portugal.
1942 Marries Aileen Furse, with whom he has two daughters and three sons. Area of responsibility extended to include North African and Italian espionage.
1944 Appointed head of Section IX, newly formed to operate against Communism and the Soviet Union.
1946 Moves to Turkey, working as head of SIS there.
1949 Made SIS representative in Washington.
1951 Tips off fellow 'Cambridge Spy' Donald Maclean that a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Maclean and Burgess escape to Russia. Philby is summoned for interrogation and asked to resign from Foreign Service.
1955 Government white paper on Burgess-Maclean affair. Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan states in Parliament that there is no evidence of Philby having betrayed the interests of Britain. Philby still dismissed from Foreign Service for his association with Burgess.
1957 Aileen Furse, Philby's second wife, dies.
1958 Marries Eleanor Brewer, an American.
1962 George Blake is caught. Philby exposed.
1963 Disappears in Beirut on 23 January. Later arrives in Russia. Britain declares that Philby is the 'Third Man'.
1965 Awarded the Order of the Red Banner, one of the Soviet Union's highest military honours.
1971 Marries Ruffina Ivanova in Moscow.
1988 Dies 11 May at the age of 76. Given a hero's burial in Moscow's Kuntsevo Cemetery.
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby HotU OL ODN (1 January 1912 – 11 May 1988)  was a British intelligence officer and a double agent for the Soviet Union. In 1963 he was revealed to be a member of the Cambridge Five, a spy ring which passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II and in the early stages of the Cold War. Of the five, Philby is believed to have been most successful in providing secret information to the Soviets. 
Born in British India, Philby was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1934. After leaving Cambridge, Philby worked as a journalist and covered the Spanish Civil War and the Battle of France. In 1940 he began working for the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6). By the end of the Second World War he had become a high-ranking member. In 1949 Philby was appointed first secretary to the British Embassy in Washington and served as chief British liaison with American intelligence agencies. During his career as an intelligence officer, he passed large amounts of intelligence to the Soviet Union, including a plot to subvert the communist rule of Albania.
He was also responsible for tipping off two other spies under suspicion of espionage, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, both of whom subsequently fled to Moscow in May 1951. The defections of Maclean and Burgess cast suspicion over Philby, resulting in his resignation from MI6 in July 1951. He was publicly exonerated in 1955, after which he resumed his career as both a journalist and a spy for SIS in Beirut. In January 1963, having finally been unmasked as a Soviet agent, Philby defected to Moscow, where he lived until his death in 1988.
Kim Philby and the Age of Paranoia
The presence of the Philby papers in London was still a closely guarded secret when I stumbled on them through an inadvertent slip by Graham Greene's nephew. Iɽ found him, the nephew, in the cluttered basement of his Gloucester Road Bookshop, where heɽ been preparing for the imminent sale of the late novelist's personal library.
Iɽ come to see him about one volume from that library in particular, Greene's copy of "My Silent War," the memoirs of Kim Philby, the spy of the century. It had been reported that Greene had made some cryptic annotations in the margins of the Philby book, and I hoped they might provide a clue to the strange story I was pursuing. A story about a possible deathbed revelation Graham Greene had had about Philby. A story that epitomized the maddening, elusiveness of the man: the way those who felt they knew Philby, who thought theyɽ finally penetrated to the truth beneath the masks, may never really have known him at all.
Greene had first come to know Philby when the two were working for the British Secret Intelligence Service during World War II and Philby was the brilliant, charming counterintelligence specialist who disguised his intellectual arrogance with a disarming stammer.
Later, Greene would learn that Philby was disguising a lot more than that: that heɽ been Stalin's secret agent, burrowing his way into the upper reaches of the British establishment since the 1930's. And still later -- after Philby had been exposed as a long-term Soviet mole, indeed the ur-mole, the legendary Third Man, the most devastatingly effective known double agent in history, after Philby had surfaced in Moscow in 1963, a hero of the K.G.B. -- Greene and Philby had struck up a peculiar and controversial friendship.
Theyɽ become correspondents, confidants and -- after perestroika had permitted them face-to-face reunions in Russia -- something like soul mates. Greene seemed to pride himself on being the one Westerner who truly understood the endlessly enigmatic Philby knew him with all the masks off.
But then, in 1991, as Greene lay dying of a blood disease in a Swiss hospital, a letter reached him throwing all that into question. It suggested Philby had a wild card up his sleeve heɽ never disclosed.
The provocative new take on the ambiguity-riddled Philby question came in the form of a letter from Greene's biographer Norman Sherry, whoɽ been researching Greene's Secret Service connections. Pursuant to that, Sherry had been conferring in Washington with Anthony Cave Brown, the espionage historian then researching a forthcoming Kim Philby biography. Cave Brown was the intrepid spy sleuth whoɽ first revealed (in "Bodyguard of Lies") the details of the elaborate D-Day deception strategy -- the way the Allies used the "double cross system" to blind Hitler to the truth about the Normandy landing.
Cave Brown had put forth a startling proposition to Greene's biographer: that Kim Philby might have been part of an even more complex deception operation than anyone had imagined -- a double double-cross.
It had been whispered about before in the West it had been debated (we now know) in the inner sanctums of the K.G.B. itself. But the theory the two biographers were weighing was deeply shocking: Kim Philby, famous for deceiving the British by posing as a loyal agent of the Crown while really working for the K.G.B., might actually have been deceiving the Soviets by posing as their agent on behalf of the Brits. Could it be, Sherry wrote Greene, that Philby, regarded as the most destructive and demoralizing Soviet penetration of the West, was actually a Western agent penetrating the K.G.B.'s Moscow Center?
It's a notion that I suspect might have been extremely galling to Greene. After all, he had risked his reputation as a judge of human character (a matter of pride to most novelists), as a man able to see into "the heart of the matter," by writing an extraordinarily sympathetic introduction to Philby's 1968 K.G.B.-blessed memoir, "My Silent War," an introduction that touched off a bitter row in Britain about the meaning of loyalty and treason.
Greene's introduction portrayed Philby not as a cold and ruthless traitor with the blood of betrayed colleagues on his hands (as most in Britain saw him) but as an idealist who sacrificed his friendships to a higher loyalty. A man whose belief in Communism Greene memorably -- and maddeningly to many -- compared to the faith of persecuted Catholics in Elizabethan England, who clandestinely worked for the victory of Catholic Spain. Greene portrayed Philby as someone who served the Stalin regime the way "many a kindly Catholic must have endured the long bad days of the Inquisition with this hope . . . that one day there would be a John XXIII."
Many in Britain have never forgiven Greene his defense of Philby, still an unhealed wound in England. Some speculate his pro-Philby stand cost Greene a knighthood, and a Nobel Prize.
Imagine Greene's distress, then, at the possibility that Philby had been not a Soviet double agent but a British triple agent. Greene had gone out on a limb to portray Philby as a passionate pilgrim, a sincere devotee of the Marxist faith -- radically innocent rather than radically evil. But if, in fact, his friend had all along been an agent of the Empire, a hireling of Colonel Blimp, it would mean that Philby had been laughing at Greene. Not merely laughing at him, but using him, using him as cover. Graham Greene would turn out to be Kim Philby's final fool.
"As a matter of urgency," Cave Brown told me, "Greene summoned up enough energy to send for his papers, for all his literature relating to Kim and certain letters from him."
Cave Brown believes that Greene spent those last hours playing detective, sifting the literature and his memories of Philby for clues to the hidden truth about the role the ultimate secret agent played in the secret history of our century. And that Greene was preparing to respond to Sherry's query with his last word on the Philby case. It would have been Greene's summa, his ultimate espionage thriller. With little time left to live, Graham Greene was in a race against the clock. THE ORIGINAL DISINFORMATION VIRUS
Why does Kim Philby continue to cast such a dark spell over the imagination? Why is Philby such a magnetic specter to novelists like Greene and John le Carre (whose "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" enshrined the Philbian mole Bill Haydon at the dark heart of cold war literature), to playwrights like Alan Bennett and poets like Joseph Brodsky (the Russian exile laureate, whose rage at the sight of Philby's face on a Soviet postage stamp inspired a magnificently vicious 10,000-word tirade in The New Republic)? In part, it's the same sort of horrified fascination that fueled the sensation over Philby's mercenary successor mole, Aldrich Ames of the C.I.A.: a fascination with the primal act of betrayal itself. Dante reserved the Ninth Circle of Hell for the Betrayer. Even in an age jaded by serial killers, the crime of treason still has a primitive power to shock, treachery a still-compelling ability to mesmerize.
The mole, the penetration agent in particular, does not merely betray he stays. He doesn't just commit a single treacherous act and run his entire being, every smile, every word he exchanges, is an intimate violation (an almost sexual penetration) of all those around him. All his friendships, his relationships, his marriages become elaborate lies requiring unceasing vigilance to maintain, lies in a play-within-a-play only he can follow. He is not merely the supreme spy he is above all the supreme actor. If, as le Carre once wrote, "Espionage is the secret theater of our society," Kim Philby is its Olivier.
And, like only the very best actors, Philby didn't merely hold up a mirror to human nature. He revealed dark shapes beneath the surface only dimly glimpsed before, if at all -- depths of duplicity, subzero degrees of cold-bloodedness that may not even have been there until Philby plumbed them. Once in an interview on another subject, the essayist George Steiner made the provocative suggestion to me that the nightmare world of the death camps might not have been realizable had not Kafka's imagination first embodied their possibility in his fiction. I have a similar feeling that the Age of Paranoia we've lived in for the last half century -- the plague of suspicion, distrust, disinformation, conspiracy consciousness that has emanated like gamma radiation from intelligence agencies East and West, the pervasive feeling of unfathomable deceit that has destabilized our confidence in the knowability of history -- is the true legacy of Kim Philby.
Philby pushed the permutations of doubleness -- double identities, double meanings and double crosses -- into triply complex territory, into the bewilderment of mirrors we're still lost within. He's the high priest of the Age of Paranoia, the original disinformation virus, and we're still only beginning to learn how much of the secret history of the century bears Philbian fingerprints.
Unlike the spy scandals of the 40's and 50's, the Philby case has been a slow-motion series of revelatory detonations stretched out over decades. One reason the truth has been so slow in emerging is that it's just so embarrassing. Even before James Bond, the spymasters of the British Secret Service enjoyed a worldwide reputation for infinite subtlety, invincibility and aristocratic elan. Philby made them seem like bumbling fools who were so blinded by class prejudice they couldn't imagine that a man from all the right schools and all the right clubs could betray his blue-blood legacy.
Indeed, the deeply chagrined British Government clamped such a tight lid on the Philby case that it took nearly five years after he defected to Moscow in 1963 for the most embarrassing truth to come out (in a ground-breaking Sunday Times of London investigative series): that Philby was no ordinary midlevel spy that, in fact, heɽ been one small step away from being named to one of the most powerful posts in the Western world at the height of the cold war -- Chief of the British Secret Service. (Although British officialdom pooh-poohed this assertion at the time, it was confirmed to me in London this spring by Sir Patrick Reilly, the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, the board of spy mandarins that oversees the selection of "C," the chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service.)
Philby was no less a nemesis of the American spy establishment. In the final act of his active duty career in the West, before the spotlight of suspicion fell on him in 1951, Philby was stationed in Washington, where, as chief British liaison with American intelligence agencies, he charmed the C.I.A.'s deepest secrets out of his principal contact, James Jesus Angleton, the man who would go on to become legendary as the C.I.A.'s chief mole hunter. This shattering betrayal left behind a destructive legacy of distrust and paranoia in Washington -- principally in Angleton's mind -- reverberations of which would come to plunge the C.I.A. into civil war for decades afterward. And in an incredible final act that closed the circle of deceit, in what may have been his last operational mission, Philby indirectly collaborated with Aldrich Ames in solving a high-level mole case for the K.G.B.
But these spy dramas only begin to capture the extent of Philby's role in the secret history of our century, the extent to which he was far more than a cold war spy -- he was a secret shaper of the very landscape of the cold war.
We know, for instance, that Philby was, in effect, talking to Stalin throughout World War II. Stalin considered reports from Philby "particularly reliable," writes the intelligence historian John Costello, the first Westerner to get access to Philby's operational files.
What is less well known is that Philby was, in effect, talking to Hitler, too. Cave Brown recalls a memorable conversation he had with Sir Ronald Wingate, a key member of the secret Churchill Cabinet department that formulated elaborate strategic deceptions like the one that kept Hitler guessing wrong about the D-Day landing.
"You were talking directly to the Devil himself weren't you?" Cave Brown asked Sir Ronald while they were out on a pheasant shoot.
"We could have a message on Hitler's desk within a half hour," Wingate replied. "Sometimes 15 minutes at the right time of day."
Then Cave Brown learned the name of the man who was one of the chief conduits in these conversations with the Devil: Kim Philby.
As head of the Iberian section of M.I.6 counterintelligence, Philby was running agents in Madrid and Lisbon who were so highly trusted by the Nazis that the words he fed to them for transmission to the Abwehr would be whispered to Hitler almost at once.
In "Catch-22," Joseph Heller memorably envisioned all the mighty forces of World War II, Allied and Axis, manipulated by a single low-level communications specialist, ex-Pfc. Wintergreen, an all-knowing, wise-guy proto-hacker of the war's information flow. In fact, Kim Philby was the real ex-Pfc. Wintergreen -- talking to Stalin, talking to Hitler, listening to Hitler through his command of the Ultra Secret, the code-breaking material produced by the famous "enigma machine" that read the ciphers of German military intelligence. And just to complete the circle, Philby was also influencing Churchill. Every day the Prime Minister would eagerly await his briefings by Philby's M.I.6 boss, Stewart Menzies, who would bring Churchill a digest of Hitler's secrets, some of the choicest bits prepared by Kim Philby. Similarly, Philby could manipulate F.D.R., as well, through whatever he chose to pass on to his junior partners in United States intelligence.
Without a doubt, the mind of Philby was a key junction box, a node, a filter through which some of the most secret messages of the war were routed. But the question remains: Was Philby merely a courier or was he a creator?
That question, I believe, is at the heart of the continuing fascination with Philby: we're still not sure whose game he was playing, or what his own game really was. He remains a one-man enigma machine whose true aims and motivations have yet to be fully decrypted. THE NOTIONAL PHILBY
Iɽ first written about Philby some 10 years ago in the context of his complex duel with C.I.A. mole-hunter Angleton and the espionage equivalent of three-dimensional chess that the two men seemed to be playing with phantom moles, false defectors and putative penetrations. Iɽ advanced a kind of Philbian solution to the still-unresolved mole hunt controversy -- the "notional mole" gambit. Angleton had turned the C.I.A. inside out looking for the American Philby. I suggested the possibility that there never was a real mole, not of the stature of Philby, not while Angleton was there anyway. But that Philby had deliberately planted the false suspicion in Angleton's mind that the K.G.B. had a mole within the C.I.A. (thus the phrase "notional mole" coined by Philby's Double Cross colleagues of World War II) in order to provoke the disruptive and destructive mole hunt that followed -- one that paralyzed the agency with paranoia and ultimately claimed Angleton himself as a suspect and victim.
What struck me in looking back on it, in reviewing the vast Philbian literature and mole war chronicles, was that, like many writers on the subject, like James Angleton himself, I had been seduced on the basis of fragmentary evidence by the image of a Notional Philby: an image of Philby in his post-1963 Moscow period that Philby himself had assiduously cultivated in his memoirs and correspondence with Westerners. An image of Philby as the peerless mastermind, the Ultimate Player in the East-West intelligence game, always operating one level deeper than anyone else. It was a romanticized, almost cinematic image: Philby still the unflappable Brit aristo waiting for the cricket scores to arrive at the Moscow post office, then returning to the K.G.B.'s Moscow Center to run a few more rings around the best intelligence minds of the West.
How much truth was there in it? In the aftermath of the collapse of the system he sold his soul for, with the opening of the K.G.B. archives and the loosening of the tongues of the former K.G.B. men who were his colleagues, we suddenly have a wealth of new information about Philby's career since 1963, when he first reached Moscow. We have more information, but do we have more answers? In the hopes of sorting out the new clues to the mind of Kim Philby, I undertook an odyssey into the infamous "wilderness of mirrors" heɽ bequeathed us, talking with spooks and spymasters in Washington, London and Moscow, with some of Philby's victims and bewildered successors trading theories with mole war chroniclers like Cave Brown, Nigel West of Britain and Cleveland Cram of the C.I.A. It was an odyssey that led me eventually to the bookshop basement in South Kensington and the tip-off about the hush-hush cache of Philby papers in London.
Iɽ asked Greene's nephew about the cryptic marginal annotations in Greene's copy of Philby's memoirs, thinking they might contain a clue to Greene's deathbed detective work. The nephew, a friendly, intelligent fellow named Nicholas Dennys, confirmed that the annotations consisted of passages that had been suppressed in the British edition of the book by the British Official Secrets bureaucracy but had survived in the American edition. And that theyɽ most likely been made long before Greene's final days.
A false trail perhaps, but then Dennys let slip a clue to a real one.
Why, he asked, had I chosen this time to come to London to pursue a Philby story. Was it because of the papers?
The Sotheby's consignment, he replied offhandedly. It seemed that Philby's Russian widow, Rufina (his fourth wife), had gathered up all the manuscripts, books and memorabilia he had left behind in his Moscow apartment after his death and had engaged Sotheby's to put them all on the block.
But when I called Sotheby's to inquire about the Philby papers, there was nothing offhanded about their reaction. How did I find out? Who had I talked to?
It seems that theyɽ promised a world exclusive to a British journalist whose wrath they feared. In addition, they were nervous about reception of the news of the Philby sale -- scheduled in London for July 19 -- about charges of profiting from the fruits of treachery. (And, in fact, when word of the sale did become public, the heat from the Tory press was so great the auction house decided to withdraw some of the more frivolous Philby items, among them his pipes, Homburg and martini shaker.) But confronted with a fait accompli, the Sotheby's people agreed to let me study the Philby documents, provided I didn't break the embargo.
What I found, when I got to see the consignment from Moscow, was a strange mixture. There were letters, diaries, memoranda, a secret speech to K.G.B. spy luminaries. There were tributes and tacky trophies from K.G.B. and Eastern European spy fraternities posthumous tributes to Philby's father, the famed Arabian explorer St. John Philby. There were photographs of Philby on safaris to Siberia and Cuba Philby with the East German spymaster Markus Wolf, the crafty intriguer often identified as the model for George Smiley's arch-nemisis Karla in the le Carre novels. There was correspondence between Philby and Graham Greene, filled with catty comments about Brit Lit contemporaries like Malcolm Muggeridge and grandiose geopolitical pipe dreams the two old spies cooked up, most notably a Greene scheme for a joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. commando raid to free the Ayatollah's hostages in Iran. And a detailed request to a K.G.B. protege in London for special English brands of coarse-cut orange marmalade and lime pickle.
And then there was the unfinished autobiography. Five chapters in manuscript pages whose publication the K.G.B. had apparently prohibited.
A fairly safe general rule when reading Philby's prose is to assume he's lying or distorting -- and then try to divine the truth the lies are attempting to conceal. It's a tricky game, but there were some moments, particularly in the childhood memories he recounted in this autobiographical fragment, when I felt the real Philby, or perhaps more accurately, the original Philby, seemed closer to the surface.
One moment, one childhood memory in particular, stood out from the rest. A moment I came to think of as a kind of metaphysical Rosebud of the Philby psyche. A moment of communion between Philby and his colorful, eccentric explorer father. One that probably leapt out at me because fresh in my mind was a remarkable vision of Philby and his father in the flesh that had been vouchsafed me shortly before I left for London. THE TWO PHILBYS
Beirut, 1959. Dawn outside the Kit-Kat Klub. Anthony Cave Brown, then a correspondent for The Daily Mail, is gazing out from his hotel balcony.
"I'll never forget that morning," Cave Brown told me, "because at that hour of dawn the entire sky was suffused with a dramatic ocher color --threatening, ominous, mystical. It was the shamal, the wind from the Arabian desert."
Then he heard voices filtering up from the Avenue des Francais, home of the Kit-Kat Klub and other seedy belly-dance lairs. And out of the ocher mists of dawn, staggering up the street came the two Philbys, arm in arm, singing an obscene song.
There was Philby the Elder, Harry St. John Bridger Philby, then near 70, "potbellied and satanic looking," Cave Brown recalls. Soon to die but still a living legend, St. John was one of the great Arabian explorers and intriguers, a rival to Lawrence of Arabia and the first Westerner to have traversed and mapped the vast, forbidding and forbidden Empty Quarter of the Saudi interior. Adventurer, scoundrel, convert to Islam, St. John (pronounced sin-jin) had turned against the Empire during World War I, when the Brits backed the puppets of his rival Lawrence against Philby's patron Ibn Saud bitter over this loss, heɽ then avenged himself on the Crown by helping to spirit the Saudi oil concession out of its clutches and into the hands of American oil companies. At the time of the Kit-Kat Klub sighting, St. John, known then as Hajj Abdullah, was living in a villa in a mountain village with his Saudi harem-girl, still up to his neck in Mideast intrigue.
As was his son. Nicknamed Kim by his father (after Kipling's boy-spy who played a part in the Great Game of intrigues between the Brits and Russians in 19th-century Central Asia), Harold Adrian Russell Philby had gone on to play an even greater game of his own. Heɽ followed in his father's footsteps onto the imperial playing fields of Westminster public school and Trinity College, Cambridge, and then into the Imperial Secret Service, which he would, like his father, betray.
At that point in Beirut, Kim Philby was living in the strange shadowy limbo heɽ been condemned to since 1951, when heɽ come under suspicion of being the Third Man in the great Burgess and Maclean spy scandal. (Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, two highly placed British diplomats who were Cambridge classmates of Philby and recruits to his Cambridge "Ring of Five" spies, defected just before Maclean was to be arrested on suspicion of espionage. Part of the subsequent sensation over these "spies who betrayed a generation" was that a mysterious, unidentified Third Man had tipped them off.)
Forced to resign in 1951, heɽ been subjected to repeated interrogations without cracking. Publicly cleared in 1955 but still suspected privately by Western security services, Philby had been sent to Beirut by the Brits in 1956 to pose as a journalist -- in part to spy for them, in part to see if heɽ continue to spy for the Russians. Of course, he did both, playing and being played in a doubly complicated game in which he served as a two-way conduit for disinformation.
It's hard to imagine a father-son team causing the Crown more trouble. That eerie ocher dawn in Beirut, the two Philbys were walking, staggering arm in arm, but were they working hand in glove?
They were, in any case, harmonizing together that morning on an old R.A.F. dirty ditty, one that lamented the passing of a lady of the night named Lulu. "What shall we do," the song asks, for -- well -- carnal delight, "when Lulu's dead and gone?"
I suspect it was an emblematic moment for Cave Brown, this vision of the two Philbys. He calls his forthcoming Philby biography "Treason in the Blood," and what distinguishes it from previous works on Kim Philby is the extent to which it's a father-son story. Cave Brown sees a factual, even genetic link in their taste for treachery. Reading Cave Brown's manuscript, one comes away with an impression of the two of them as a kind of family firm of global troublemakers whose self-aggrandizing game playing transcends any loyalties they might have had to lesser entities East or West. But there's something primal, indelible about that image of father and son in the Levantine dawn. The empire, like Lulu, might be dead and gone, but the two Philbys survive, two successful predators sending out an obscene howl of triumph and defiance before setting off in search of fresh treacherous pleasures. SPY GLASS HILL
Where does the Philby story really begin? Previous Philby literature has focused almost microscopically on the cloistered quadrangles of Cambridge in the 1930's, on the hothouse Marxist cells that flourished amidst the sherry parties and secret societies, on the overlapping erotic and political relationships amongst the privileged upper-class youth who were seduced by each other and by canny Russian case officers into what became known as "The Ring of Five," the single most deadly spy ring in history.
Cave Brown's biography differs from Cambridge-centered Philby studies in that he finds the true locus of origin of the Philby mystery in the Middle East, in the father's formative ventures into espionage, which, he says, set the pattern for the son. Indeed, he goes further, asserting in his book (due out from Houghton Mifflin this fall) that Philby the Elder, regarded by most until now as far right politically, may have been recruited by Soviet intelligence in the Red Sea port of Jidda shortly before his son was approached in England. Cave Brown says he was told by a former K.G.B. official, Oleg Tsarev, that St. John Philby was a "Soviet asset." Cave Brown also raised the possibility with me that the father's contacts with the K.G.B. in the Mideast may have led to the son's being targeted for recruitment. He almost goes so far as to suggest the father was running the son, that Kim was his agent.
I've come to believe that, in a sense, St. John Philby did recruit his son into the Great Game. But it was more a metaphysical than literal recruitment, and Iɽ put it much farther back in time and place, not in the Middle East itself but in a map of the Middle East.
In the opening pages of his unpublished memoir, Philby depicts himself as a wistful loner of a child -- collecting butterflies, spending long hours drawing imaginary maps. Map making was his only real passion. Not ordinary Atlas-type maps, but "maps that could be invented," Philby writes. "This discovery resulted in [ my drawing ] a long series of imaginary countries with complicated promontories and inlets and improbably situated hills. My grandmother criticized me for calling all of them Spy Glass Hill."
Perhaps, in some sense, the young Kim Philby was drawing maps of his own lonely island psyche. But the true apotheosis of his map-making obsession, the moment that blissfully, sublimely united him with his long absent father, came on the occasion of St. John's return from one of his fabulous Arabian expeditions. This, Kim says, was his first conscious memory of his father:
"I remember he took me through Kensington Gardens to the Royal Geographical Society. There, in an upper room he sat me on a stool beside a huge table covered with large sheets of blank paper, ink bottles, pens and a lot of pencils sharpened to the finest point imaginable. My father was drawing a map, and, as far as I could see, an imaginary map at that because he had no Atlas to copy from."
He was, most probably, filling in the blank spaces in the notorious Empty Quarter, giving reality to what was until them a largely imaginary landscape. Kim admits to two feelings about this spectacle: first "admiration" and then "wonder" that this was his father's work. To Kim, it was the supreme form of play.
A fierce debate has long raged in Philby literature over the question of his true motivation: Was he driven solely by sincere dedication to the cause of the oppressed proletariat, as he claimed to be? Later on in the autobiographical manuscript, Philby gives us this pious version, perhaps designed for the eyes of his ultimate editors, the K.G.B.
From the earliest age, he says, he felt "a sympathy for the weak" and the underdog. The plight of the poor lepers. "Why," he says he wondered at an early age, "did Jesus cure only one leper when he could have cured them all?" Skepticism of this sort led him to question other established notions -- of nationhood and empire -- and, he declares, he "became a godless little anti-imperialist by the age of 8."
Perhaps this is true. But reading the yellowing typescript of the unpublished autobiography in Sotheby's London offices, I became convinced that the map-making imperative is the telltale heart of the matter. That, for Kim Philby, espionage, on the grand geopolitical scale he came to practice it, was a kind of map making, or map remaking, a way of creating the conceptual landscape of the world, the contour lines of desire and hostility, trust and distrust, power and weakness.
In a sense, then, Philby was not an anti-imperialist, but a personal imperialist, an imperialist of the self, who used his power to impose his own vision on the globe, to make the Great Powers navigate by his charts. To make his own mischief on a grand scale. To make his own map. THE BLACK BERTHA FILE
Consider, for instance, the new information about Philby's role in the Hess case. It's hard for those of us born afterward to recapture the kind of worldwide sensation made back in May 1941 by the news that Hitler's faithful No. 2, Rudolf Hess, had parachuted into the Scottish countryside on some kind of peace mission. Imagine, for comparison, the headlines Dan Quayle might have made if, at the height of the gulf war hostilities, heɽ parachuted into Baghdad on a self-proclaimed mission to talk peace with Saddam.
Many questions about the Hess flight have yet to be answered with assurance, because, as espionage historian John Costello puts it, "the British Government seems more determined than ever to keep the final truth of the Hess affair locked in the closet of official secrecy." Another historian I spoke to claimed that the Royal Family itself ("I suspect it's the Queen Mum") had been the real source of objection to releasing what's left, perhaps because embarrassing evidence of the Windsor family's sub rosa contacts with the Third Reich over a separate peace might be disclosed.
Whatever the case, the 1941 Hess flight came at a pivotal moment in the war and a pivotal moment in Philby's career as a spy. Seven years earlier, Philby had left Cambridge to go to Vienna, where, with other Oxbridge leftists like Stephen Spender, heɽ participated in the doomed struggle of the Socialist workers against the proto-Fascist Dollfuss regime. It was there in Vienna he first found the heady thrill of being in the white-hot crucible of history in the making, of fighting the advance guard of Hitlerism, if only as a fringe player. He became a courier in a Communist underground network and lost his virginity in the snows of the Vienna woods, to an Austrian Communist Jew whom he then hastily married to help escape the police.
When he arrived back in London, he was ready. A Soviet intelligence officer made an approach on June 1, 1934, in Regent's Park. His name was Arnold Deutsch and, 50 years later, in his autobiography, Philby seems still under the spell of Deutsch's magnetism, an almost sexual seductiveness. Not surprising perhaps, because Deutsch was a charismatic former sexologist, originally a follower of Wilhelm Reich, the Freudian Marxist schismatic who made healthy orgasms the key to personal as well as societal revolution. (The lingering influence of this doctrine on Philby may be glimpsed in a not entirely facetious inscription in a book that turned up in the Sotheby's consignment. The book was a gift to Melinda Maclean, the wife of his fellow spy, Donald Philby betrayed his own wife to woo her away from his friend. The inscription to Melinda reads: "An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away.")
Deutsch painted a romantic picture for Philby: the struggle for the future was being waged all over the world. The Soviet Union was alone in resisting Hitler the British Secret Service was forever scheming to destroy the world's only Socialist state the Soviets needed someone sympathetic within the citadel of these incessant schemers. That would be Philby's long-range penetration mission: do anything he could to get inside the British Secret Service. In fact, he came close to becoming head of it.
But it was slow going at first Philby publicly ditched his left-wing politics, and soon his left-wing Austrian wife. For several years, he posed as a pro-German sympathizer, then used his right-wing contacts to make his way to Franco headquarters in Spain in the midst of the Civil War. Originally sent there as an advance man for a possible Soviet-sponsored assassination attempt on Franco, he bootstrapped his way into a position as London Times war correspondent, eventually receiving a prestigious decoration, the Red Cross of Military Merit, from the dictator heɽ originally been sent to kill.
Finally, in 1940, shortly after the fall of France (which he covered for The Times), he got the invitation heɽ been hoping for, an invitation to join the British Secret Service. Heɽ begun in guerrilla training operations and was just about to transfer to the true brains of the outfit, the foreign counterintelligence department of M.I.6, when Rudolf Hess fell out of the sky.
At that moment, huge forces in the world were on the verge of momentous shifts. Hitler was about to make apparent his fateful choice between an invasion of England in the West and an attack on his then-ally in the East, the Soviet Union. There were factions in both Britain and Germany hoping to arrange a peace between the two "Aryan" powers to free Hitler's hand for an attack on the Bolsheviks. Stalin suspected a deal was being made behind his back, and Hess's flight seemed to confirm his suspicion. He lashed his intelligence chiefs into finding out what was really going on, who was betraying whom.
After 50 years, we still don't really know for sure, but what we do know now is what Philby told Stalin was going on. This came to light three years ago when the successors to the K.G.B. released the contents of its "Black Bertha" file on Hess ("Black Bertha" was reportedly Hess's nickname in the homosexual underground of Weimar Germany), a file containing the texts of Philby's reports to Stalin on the Hess Affair.
How reliable were they? On the basis of Philby's reports, Stalin came to believe the most paranoid interpretation of the Hess flight that (as John Costello describes it) "Hess had been lured by an M.I.6 deception to fly to Scotland. He apparently had not only done so with Hitler's knowledge but with a genuine offer of a final peace deal before the impending attack on the Soviet Union."
There are some who believe there really was a plot by M.I.6 to lure Hess to England for one reason or another. Most, however, take the position of the Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew and his co-author, former K.G.B. Col. Oleg Gordievsky: that Philby was innocently in error in his reports to Stalin, "that he jumped to the erroneous conclusion that [ Hess's flight ] was evidence of a deep laid plot between appeasers in high places and the Nazi leadership."
But was it just a mistake? There is another, more sinister interpretation to be made of Philby's reports to Stalin. An interpretation that suggested itself to me after a conversation with Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, the son of the Scottish peer Hess had come to England to see and the author of a respected book on the case based on his father's private papers.
Douglas-Hamilton, now an M.P. for Edinburgh, told me that, from his study of the Black Bertha file, heɽ concluded that Philby hadn't made an innocent error but rather "he lied."
He lied, Douglas-Hamilton says, "by claiming that he was present at a dinner in Berlin when my father supposedly met Hess -- which never happened. My father never met Hess." Douglas-Hamilton believes Philby lied about that detail and others in his report to exaggerate his knowledge of the affair, to bolster the credibility of his conclusion that the Hess flight was part of a plot by the Bolshevik haters in the British Secret Intelligence Service to unleash Hitler on the Soviets.
We know the effect of Philby's reports: Andrew and Gordievsky conclude that "contributing to Moscow's distrust of British intentions was to be one of Philby's main achievements as a wartime Soviet agent."
Stalin's paranoia over the Hess case never diminished he berated Churchill about it as late as 1944. And Philby's interpretation of the Hess affair planted bitter seeds of suspicion and distrust that would bear fruit in the swift shattering of the wartime alliance after 1945 and in the Iron Curtain landscape of postwar Europe.
Of course, there were real enough reasons for distrust between Moscow and London, but what Philby did was not report but deliberately distort.
To what end? Later, in his Moscow years, Philby liked to portray himself as a faithful servant of the Soviet people and the cause of proletarian internationalism. But, in fact, here in the Hess case at least, he was using the immense leverage of his pivotal position to serve his own interests, play his own game -- make his own map. An agent of neither West nor East but, more than anything, an agent of chaos.
By the end of the war, Philby would take the game to an even more dizzying level of complexity and power. By 1945, he had engineered a spectacular coup within M.I.6 that got himself promoted to head of the newly created Russian section. He was then the man simultaneously responsible for telling the Brits what Stalin thought and telling Stalin what the Brits thought. In this unique Janus-faced position at this critical moment, he was perhaps the ultimate intelligence player, a key conceptual map maker of the postwar world, perfectly placed to make the colossi of East and West dance to his tune.
This is not the only interpretation of the Philby enigma, of course. There are still those who come forward to say that Kim Philby was really dancing to their tune -- that Philby was "as much pawn as player."
Some die-hard supporters of James Angleton, for instance, claim he was playing a "deep game" with Philby all along, deliberately feeding him disinformation -- a proposition vigorously denied to me by the mole war historian of the C.I.A., Cleveland Cram, one of the few men who've read every single secret C.I.A. file on Philby, even those the agency denies exist.
And Cave Brown's forthcoming biography entertains a provocative variant on the Philby-as-pawn hypothesis, that Philby was used by "C" -- Sir Stewart Menzies, the legendary head of the wartime Secret Intelligence Service -- to play disinformation games with the Soviets during the war (a fact reported by none other than the former C.I.A. head Allen Dulles). And that "C," knowing of Philby's early Communist background, may have known about, and used, Philby's relation with the Russian intelligence services for his own "deep game," a game that may have been played out even after Philby arrived in Moscow.
Support for this seemingly far-fetched triple-agent hypothesis, the one that triggered Graham Greene's deathbed summons for his Philby papers, comes from an unexpected source. The newly opened K.G.B. files on Philby reveal that at least some elements in the K.G.B. were as paranoid about Philby's all-powerful, unfathomable deceptiveness as James Angleton was.
Cave Brown's manuscript quotes at length one senior K.G.B. colleague of Philby's, Mikhail Petrovich Lyubimov, formerly of the K.G.B.'s British section:
"When I read Kim's files to prepare myself for work as the deputy chief of the British Section, I found a big document, about 25 typewritten pages, dated about 1948, signed by the head of the British Department, Madame Modrjkskaj, who analysed the work of Philby, Maclean and Burgess. And she came to the conclusion that Kim was a plant of the M.I.6 working very actively and in a very subtle British way. The deputy chief of Smersh, General Leonid Reichman, a friend of mine and of my father, told me only four years ago: 'I am sure that [ Philby, Burgess and Maclean ] were British spies.' "
Just how subtle was Kim Philby? Could he have been a British spy when he arrived in Moscow? Those who argue the case -- on both sides -- focus on one of the single most mystery-shrouded episodes in the whole Philby saga: the moment in Beirut when he was literally between two worlds. The moment in 1963 when one of his closest Secret Service colleagues confronted him with evidence that he was a Soviet agent in a dramatic, face-to-face showdown. The showdown that resulted in Philby first confessing and then double-crossing his confessor by slipping out of Beirut to the safety of Moscow. WINDOWS INTO THE SOUL
London, 1994. The old spy was dying fast. His breath was coming in gasps over the phone. In three days he would be dead. This was, I believe, the last interview he gave. He couldn't talk for long, he told me, but there were still some things he wanted to say about Kim Philby, some myths he wanted to put to rest. He was still haunted by Philby. Still plagued by the rumors and whispers about his showdown with Philby that night in Beirut in 1963.
The dying spy was not the only one haunted. The events of that night in Beirut have plagued and disrupted the spy establishments of the United Kingdom for the past quarter century -- Kim Philby's parting black valentine to those he betrayed. The belief that Philby was tipped off to the coming confrontation, that the "confession" he gave was an artful sham, disinformation designed to buy time to execute his escape plan -- a belief still held by many in the spy business -- was directly responsible for the 20-year-long mole hunt in Britain that culminated in the famous "Spycatcher" controversy.
"It's nonsense," the dying spy insisted to me. Philby was not tipped off he was about to be confronted. Philby walked into it unawares. "He wasn't ready at all. He was simply asked to come to an apartment by his [ M.I.6 ] contact in Beirut. He didn't know who he was going to meet. Instead of finding our man in Beirut, he found me."
The man Philby found, the spy speaking to me, was Nicholas Elliott, the perfect embodiment of the blue-blood, playing-fields-of-Eton establishment Philby arose from and betrayed. After serving in a number of top M.I.6 posts, he eventually became Margaret Thatcher's personal intelligence adviser on Soviet affairs. A cultivated bon vivant who also reportedly possessed an inexhaustible store of filthy jokes, Elliott had become close to Philby during their wartime service in M.I.6. So close, in fact, that at one time Philby disclosed something to Elliott heɽ disclosed to no one else -- the shattering secret of his marital life. A secret that (Elliott argues in his memoirs) revealed that "the arch-deceiver had himself been deceived, the arch-liar had been tricked for so many years."
It wasn't sexual infidelity. Rather it was his wife's failure to confide the nature of the secret life she was living -- and Philby's 10-year failure to penetrate her deception.
In 1948, Aileen (second of his four wives) came down with the latest in a succession of mysterious illnesses. Philby begged his friend Nicholas Elliott, then M.I.6 station chief in Bern, to find a Swiss doctor who could get to the bottom of Aileen's problem. After flying Aileen to Bern for treatment, Philby was devastated to learn from a psychologist there that ever since her teens, Aileen had been afflicted with a severe compulsive disorder that caused her to cut and mutilate herself and to inject herself with her own urine.
"It was an intense affront to Philby's pride," Elliott writes, that his wife had been able to hide a secret self from him.
Perhaps the fact that Elliott had that glimpse of the deceiver deceived explains Philby's peculiar conduct toward him in that Beirut showdown in 1963.
In describing that moment in Beirut to me, Elliott was at great pains to insist that he was in command. In the last year of his life, controversy over the Philby confession had broken out anew in The London Times's letters column Elliott had been accused of "bungling" the job.
Elliott insisted to me he had taken Philby by surprise and that Philby was "shaken."
"Very simply, I told him, 'I know you're a traitor and youɽ better admit it, if you're as intelligent as I think you are.' " Elliott said. " ɺnd we'll both try to work something out.' "
Elliott offered Philby full immunity from prosecution, if heɽ return to England and provide the intelligence services with a complete damage assessment -- a deal similar to the one that would later be accepted by Philby's fellow "Ring of Five" mole, Anthony Blunt. "That was the point of it all -- the damage assessment," Elliott told me.
Philby later told Phillip Knightley, his most famous biographer, that the deal had been unacceptable to him. Because it would have involved naming names -- other K.G.B. moles -- "that was no deal at all." But Elliott contended to me that Philby had, in fact, accepted the deal. Elliott believed then, and continued to believe till the end of his life, that Philby had been ready to give up and go home.
Of course, it didn't happen that way. Philby returned with a typewritten confession and then asked for more time to arrange his affairs. Elliott returned to London with the confession, apparently trusting Philby to keep his word about coming home. Philby instead chose another home. Within a week, heɽ disappeared from Beirut and, before long, showed up in Moscow, mocking the men heɽ betrayed.
From out of the murk of this exceedingly murky episode have emerged several conflicting theories of what was really going on:
1. Philby had cracked: Tired and shamed by Elliott, he wanted to accept the deal and go back to Britain. But, Elliott told me, when the K.G.B. learned of what had gone on between him and Philby, "it caused consternation" and Philby practically had to be kidnapped at gunpoint and shanghaied off to Moscow.
2. Then there are those, like the author of "Spycatcher," Peter Wright, and the espionage historian Nigel West, who think Philby was tipped off by a highly placed British mole and his "confession" was all an artful con, Elliott a gull for believing him. (Former Secret Service mole hunter Wright's obsessive search for the man who tipped off Philby spread the same kind of suspicion and paranoia that Angleton's mole hunt did in the C.I.A -- which might have been Philby's objective in hinting to Elliott that he had been warned.)
3. A third school argues that Elliott's real mission was not to persuade Philby to come back home to England at all but to pointedly hint Philby would be better off if he repaired to Moscow, sparing his old colleagues the embarrassing prospect of Philby at large in the United Kingdom, free to broadcast humiliating details of his successes in conning everyone.
4. Finally, there is an even more conspiratorial school that believes it was at this point that Elliott "turned" Philby from Soviet double to British triple agent and that the whole confrontation had been nothing but a charade to convince the K.G.B. that Philby had to be brought back to Moscow, where he could serve as a British penetration of Moscow Center.
In the course of my odyssey through the Philbian cosmos, I came upon two extraordinary documents that throw new light on this mysterious episode.
The first is a memo that contains a purported account of a confession about Philby's confession. A purported account of Nicholas Elliott's deathbed confession about that Beirut encounter -- the notional shrive.
It contends that sometime in the 72 hours between the time I spoke to him and his death, Nicholas Elliott was "shriven" -- his confession was taken according to the rites of the Anglican church. What is said in a shrive is meant to be between the dying man, his confessor and his God.
The memo on the alleged shrive was sent to me by E. J. Applewhite, the C.I.A. station chief in Beirut during Philby's last days there. It records Applewhite's conversation with a spook in London whose name Applewhite has blotted out in the copy he sent to me.
The memo, entitled "Elliott and Philby Confrontation," begins as follows:
" [ Name blotted out ] says he has learned from several old hands from his tour in the U.K. that, shortly before Nicholas Elliott died in London of cancer of the liver, Elliott was 'shriven' by one Canon Pilkington. The canon was on the point of telling [ the ] informant the nature of Elliott's final confession, but he was interrupted. The informant said no matter: I know what Nick's confession would have been -- that in that final climactic confrontation with Philby in Beirut,the dictates of patriotism and duty were strained to the breaking point by bonds of friendship and class loyalty to Philby, and that in the event it was Elliott's great lapse that he had tipped Philby off and had 'permitted him to fly the coop.' That was what was weighing on the Elliott conscience."
Applewhite, distancing himself from the informant's story, calls it "an oversimplification." But I think it's more than that. It sounds to me like a sophisticated disinformation operation on the part of the informant, one worthy of Kim Philby himself.
Note that the "informant" tries to give the impression that Canon Pilkington betrayed the sanctity of the confession, when in fact the informant only conjectures what the Canon might have told him, had he not been "interrupted." And, in fact, when I reached Canon Pilkington, he denounced the story colorfully as "a load of codswallop." Pilkington said he and Elliott had had "a few words" on the subject of Philby, but that there was no formal shrive and no deathbed remorse about Philby.
Who might have been the source of the disinformation? Iɽ suggest it's a manifestation of the undying bitterness over the Philby affair between the gumshoes of M.I.5 (the British equivalent of our F.B.I.) and the old-school-tie aristocrats of M.I.6, who were thought to have protected Philby as one of their own.
What's shocking here is the lengths to which the partisans in the never-ending Philby wars will go: a notional version of a dying man's final rites is used to accuse him of collaborating in the escape of a traitor.
Still, there was something about that confession drama in Beirut that tormented Elliott until the end. And if it did weigh on Elliott's conscience, might it also have weighed on Philby's? Did Kim Philby have a conscience?
Here the second revealing document to surface has particular relevance -- a memorandum in Philby's own handwriting that I found myself fixated on while going through the Philby papers in Sotheby's London offices. If espionage, as defined by Sir Francis Walsingham, the 16th-century founder of the British Secret Service, is the effort to "find windows into men's souls," I found this document to be, if not a window into Philby's soul, then a glimpse of his own chilling soullessness.
It's a nine-page memorandum in Philby's tiny, precise handwriting, a memo that seems to have escaped the K.G.B. sweep of his apartment after his death. (His wife, Rufina, claims it only recently turned up, perhaps stuck in the back of a file drawer.) As such, it may be the only manuscript from Philby's Moscow years not read, pored over and vetted by his suspicious spymasters. All we have of the uncensored Philby.
The subject of the memo is one that was obviously close to Philby's heart: the psychology of interrogation and confession how a spy should behave when he's confronted and accused of treason. The memo seems to have been drafted for a K.G.B. training course for agent handlers. But it also may have been Philby's indirect way of confronting K.G.B. suspicions about his behavior in Beirut.
Philby opens the memo with a "syllogism" on confessions:
1. "Giving information to the enemy is always wrong.
2. "Confession is giving information to the enemy.
3. "Therefore, confession is wrong."
This is a pretty audacious ploy. After all, Philby himself had supposedly confessed -- he certainly gave some kind of information to the enemy, his friend Nicholas Elliott. Was it all disinformation and black valentines? Could the K.G.B. be sure? It seems possible Philby is attempting to counter suspicion of him with this syllogism:
-- Philby says all confession is wrong.
-- Therefore, Philby could not have (really) confessed.
Whatever the ulterior purpose of Philby's syllogism on confession, something else emerges in the remainder of the nine-page memo, the painstaking analysis he devotes to the interrogation-confession dramas of two K.G.B. atom spies of the late 40's, Klaus Fuchs and Alan Nunn May, who faced the same kind of tense inquisitions Philby had but who cracked under pressure.
With the eye of a expert who's seen such battles of will, both as interrogator and suspect, Philby takes us inside the give-and-take of the atom spy confrontations and concludes that in both cases the seemingly confident interrogators were actually in a desperately weak position. They knew that the sort of evidence they had was either too vague or too explosively secret to be used in court.
The interrogators were therefore "bluffing desperately," Philby says, and the suspects were in a far stronger position than they knew: if they had held out and refused to confess, "theyɽ have remained free men."
Free men! His use of the term is doubly ironic. Heɽ just enumerated all the obstacles the interrogators faced from the due-process, civil-liberties protections afforded by Western democracies -- the right to a public trial, to confront accusers, to the protection against self-incrimination that shielded the suspected spies from the tortured "confessions" and summary executions the Soviet system routinely used for those suspected of treachery.
I found something particularly repellent about Philby's smug dissection of the weaknesses of Western interrogators, inhibited by the protections afforded the weak and the underdog -- something almost willfully unconscious. Why, one wants to ask him, dedicate oneself to destroying this system, for the sake of one that he knew had arbitrarily murdered its most naively idealistic operatives on the basis of mere suspicion?
Philby writers often cite the doggerel verse from Kipling's "Kim" about the qualifications of a successful spy, as a way of explaining this kind of moral schizophrenia: Something I owe to the soil that grew --
More to the life that fed --
But most to Allah, Who gave me two
Separate sides to my head.
But schizophrenia doesn't really explain Philby so much as excuse him. The disease metaphor suggests he was a victim and not responsible for his thought processes and the acts that grew out of them. Unfortunately -- in some cases, unforgivably -- he was. THE GREAT PRETENDER
The former spy was talking about Kim Philby's love letters. His courtship style. He was attempting to counter a tale told by another spy suggesting that Philby was bisexual.
No, this spy said, that wasn't Philby. Heɽ never thought Philby was homosexual, he insisted, but there was something peculiar about the nature of his heterosexuality, something that revealed itself in his love talk.
"What I never understood is the way he used language," the former spy said. "He would describe himself as deeply, utterly devoted from almost the first moment, as if the last woman had never existed, even though heɽ professed himself deeply, eternally devoted to her. Those letters to Eleanor. . . ."
Eleanor Brewer was the married woman Philby wooed away from her husband, a New York Times correspondent in Beirut. In "The Master Spy," his book on Philby, Phillip Knightley describes the "tiny love letters written on paper taken from cigarette boxes," which Philby would send to Eleanor several times a day:
"Deeper in love than ever, my darling. . . ."
To be followed later the same day by
"Deeper and deeper my darling. . . ."
Of course, it was more than just little love notes that won Philby the affection -- and, amazingly, the enduring loyalty -- of his women. In "The Spy I Loved," Eleanor's memoir of their affair, their marriage and her brief sojourn in Moscow with Philby (before he left her to take up with Melinda Maclean), Eleanor describes her first impressions of Philby in Beirut:
"His eyes were an intense blue. I thought that here was a man who had seen a lot of the world, who was experienced, and yet who seemed to have suffered. . . . He had a gift for creating an atmosphere of such intimacy that I found myself talking freely to him. I was very impressed by his beautiful manners."
Many men, as well, found themselves "talking freely to him," much to their regret. For Philby, intimacy was his special espionage talent.
When the former spy finished his disquisition on Philby's all-or-nothing-at-all love rhetoric, I asked him if he thought there was an analogy between the kind of near-religious conversion experiences Philby underwent in his romantic life and the blind romanticism of his ideological conversion.
He smiled and asked me, "What do you think?"
It may strain the analogy a bit, but after a lifelong romantic affair with the image, the fantasy of Soviet Communism, Moscow was still a mail-order bride for Philby until he came face to face with her in 1963.
Up until then, heɽ enjoyed the best of both worlds. He could wallow in decadent bourgeois freedoms while maintaining a surreptitious self-righteous superiority over others who did, keeping pure his devotion to the promised bride. Then, in 1963, after his flight from Beirut, he arrived in Moscow and saw with his own eyes the ugly reality of the love object heɽ worshipped from afar.
Not just the grim, disillusioning reality of Soviet life, but the shocking truth about his own status in the organization heɽ dedicated his life to, the K.G.B.
"They destroyed him," the former K.G.B. man told me over the phone from Moscow. The man speaking, Mikhail Lyubimov, was among Philby's closest K.G.B. colleagues, the one who perhaps knew him best, the one with whom Philby shared the depths of disenchantment and doubt heɽ successfully concealed from journalists and friends in the West up until the moment of his death.
Before speaking to Lyubimov, Iɽ listened to some 20 hours of tapes made in Moscow by Cave Brown. Tapes, for the most part, of interviews with key figures in the K.G.B. orbit around Philby's apartment on Patriarch's Pond in Moscow, men whoɽ shared his hospitality, his secrets and his doubts.
It's astonishing at first to hear these men, once possessors of the most closely guarded secrets of the century -- the secrets of the inner sanctum of the K.G.B., secrets men were murdered for knowing or seeking to know -- discussing them so freely, so offhandedly with a journalist. Astonishing to hear these men casually dissecting the Philby personna.
One can hear in their voices different degrees of affection, admiration, sadness and anger at the treatment of this man, who had come to be such a highly charged symbol. But the common thread running through all their memories and reflections about Philby was deception.
Not deception in the sense of the grand game of global psych-out that Philby's enemies envisioned him playing. "This is rubbish!" Lyubimov told me. It's a judgment former K.G.B Gen. Oleg Kalugin (Philby's boss in Moscow from 1970 to 1980) concurs in on Cave Brown's tapes. It's also one that the writings of Oleg Gordievsky, the British mole within the K.G.B., reflect: Philby wasn't running deception operations in Moscow. He was the victim of one, of a Soviet deception about the kind of life heɽ be leading once he came in from the cold.
According to Lyubimov, this deception began in Beirut just before his escape to Moscow. While Philby was weaving a web of deceit around Nicholas Elliott, he was unaware of the one being woven for him. "When he was leaving Beirut, he was told he would be in Lubyanka," Lyubimov told me, referring to the Lubyanka headquarters building of the K.G.B., not the infamous prison in the basement known also by that name.
Others have reported that Philby expected to be made a K.G.B. general, that he expected to be named head of the K.G.B.'s England division. But, in fact, when he arrived, he found heɽ been deceived in several ways: he was told that he was not and never would be a K.G.B. officer of any kind rather he was an "agent," a hireling -- a lack of respect that never ceased to rankle him.
Not only didn't Philby get a rank, even more humiliating, he didn't even get an office.
"Any normal man whoɽ accomplished the feats Philby had would think heɽ get his own study, his own telephone, a desk," Lyubimov told me. "It never happened. Nothing happened. He became a sort of a little beggar somewhere in a little apartment. It was three rooms but very small."
In fact, Philby's first seven years in the Soviet Union were almost a form of house arrest. Again a victim of deception: "The K.G.B. told him they were afraid the British M.I.6 was going to try to assassinate him, so he had to have guards all the time, close surveillance," Lyubimov said.
But the real reason was the Soviets didn't completely trust him not to bolt for home. "They were afraid something would happen. And he would end up back in Britain or even America."
"Did he know they didn't trust him?"
But it didn't take long after he arrived in the Soviet Union for Philby to realize heɽ been the victim of another kind of deception, an even more profound one.
From the first, he felt "a complete disillusionment from Soviet reality," Lyubimov says. "He saw all the defects, the people who are afraid of everything. That had nothing to do with any Communism or Marxism which he had a perception of."
The Marxism that Philby "had a perception of" before his arrival was a variety Lyubimov characterizes as "the romantic Marxism of the Comintern agents of the 1930's." Of the daring "illegals," like the sexologist Deutsch, who thought of themselves as fighting Fascism for the sake of the future but rarely had to endure the reality of the future as it was embodied in Stalinist rule -- until Stalin brought them back to be murdered in the Purges.
The reality of Brezhnev's Russia, with its slow-motion Stalinism, was deeply demoralizing to Philby. According to several of the K.G.B. men Cave Brown interviewed, Philby was often dangerously outspoken in his open contempt for the Brezhnev regime. But was this because Philby was morally outraged by the system or because he wasn't given the place in it he thought he deserved?
Lyubimov, who tends to romanticize Philby, believes his distress was genuine. "The idea of the absence of freedom -- he couldn't understand it," Lyubimov told me. "He began to see it with how they treated Solzhenitsyn -- which he called disgusting. That was the beginning of his dissidency. Once we had a quarrel about the treatment of writers. Kim was shouting, 'Who is responsible?' And I was saying: 'Well it's not my department [ of the K.G.B. ] . I'm not responsible.' And he said: 'No! You are responsible! We are all responsible.' "
Kim Philby dissident? Cave Brown tends to believe, based on his conversations with the former K.G.B. men around Philby, that he may have played a role with other liberal elements of the K.G.B. in making Gorbachev's success possible. He suggests that Margaret Thatcher's early embrace of Gorbachev in 1984 ("We can do business together") might even have been prompted by information about Gorbachev's intentions passed to her Soviet affairs adviser, Nicholas Elliott, by Philby -- through Graham Greene's British intelligence contacts. Cave Brown advances the argument that, toward the end of his life, Philby was seeking "redemption" -- that fostering a Thatcher-Gorbachev rapprochement might have been the means for a reconciliation with the England he betrayed.
Cave Brown hedges his bets on whether Philby was doing so on behalf of his homeland, as an actual British triple agent, on behalf of reformist factions in the Soviet Union or on behalf of himself. The perennial Philby mystery again.
My belief is that while Philby may have hedged his bets in some ways, it's unlikely he was a triple agent. Indeed, he was extremely sensitive about being called even a double agent. Hated it, in fact. The way he saw it, a double agent betrays one master for another, while he, Philby, had only one master all along: the Soviet Union. He had no loyalty to the Brits to betray.
But I also believe Philby was engaged in an elaborate and desperate deception operation during his Moscow years, his last great intelligence operation. This was his campaign to conceal from those in the West just how badly heɽ been deceived about the Soviet system.
One thing we learn from a study of Philby's Moscow years is that for all his contempt for the capitalist world, he had a pronounced, even unseemly, eagerness to be respected by the West, particularly by his fellow Brits. One thing he was not going to do was give them the satisfaction of seeing how badly the betrayer had been betrayed. Not while he was alive.
"He had a natural desire to have a pretense, to have a facade," Lyubimov told me.
The counterdeception-disinformation operation began with Philby's book "My Silent War," a masterpiece of overstatement through deceptive understatement. In it, Philby created a picture of himself as a cool, daring, nerveless, unflappable operator, who used only the driest deadpan understatement to describe his hairbreadth escapes, ingenious stratagems and clandestine coups. The conspicuous absence of boasting accomplished what boasting itself could not. And along with casually dropped references to "my comrades," his unfailingly brilliant and loyal K.G.B. collaborators, he painted a portrait of espionage superheroes, a team that had accomplished far more than he could ever speak about.
The truth was, he really wasn't on the team at all any more. Occasionally, the K.G.B. took pity on him, because it looked as though he was drinking himself to death in his despair, and gave him some quasi-operational tasks. For a few years, he taught an informal seminar on England to fledgling K.G.B. officers about to depart for Albion to try to recruit the next generation of Philbys.
Still, there was at least one instance when Philby's talents were brought into play. In the late 70's, Philby, who never lost his nose for sniffing out a mole, was called in to assess a K.G.B. intelligence disaster in Norway, a key agent blown. Given a sanitized version of the files to analyze, Philby contended he knew what went wrong: the Brits must have a mole in the K.G.B. who blew the cover of the Norway agent. In fact, he turned out to be right. There really was a high-level mole in the K.G.B., Oleg Gordievsky, although the Soviets were unable to pinpoint him until years later when, Gordievsky believes, Aldrich Ames provided information that clinched the case. Gordievsky barely escaped with his life.
But for the most part, Philby was frozen out, his suggestions ignored. "The K.G.B. was too stupid and impotent to make use of him," Lyubimov reiterated to me. "This destroyed him. This ruined his life."
And, in fact, the book "My Silent War," which had been one of the chief vehicles of Philby's deception of the West, became one of the chief instruments of torture the K.G.B. used against him. Philby desperately wanted the book, which came out in 1968 in the West, to be published in the Soviet Union -- to give him the heroic status with the Soviet public his vanity thought heɽ earned.
"All this time, he wanted to be a hero of this country," Lyubimov says. "But they did everything to prevent him from this."
It took 12 years of delays, of brutal editing, of bad translations for Philby to get a mutilated version of "My Silent War" into print in Russian.
And even then, Lyubimov says, "It wasn't really published. A little edition, just distributed to the Central Committee, the military." It was, adds Lyubimov, "almost a confidential publication. He was killed by this."
And yet you wouldn't know it from the way Philby bragged about his book to Phillip Knightley in 1988: "It was an enormous success and sold more than 200,000 copies. The trouble was that I hadn't foreseen that it would sell so well. It was only in the bookshops a few days and then it was gone. So I didn't get enough copies for myself."
This is fairly pathetic, but at times Philby's desperation to be thought of as a success by his British peers reaches comedic levels. To Knightley, he described his Order of Lenin decoration as comparable to "one of the better K's" (degrees of knighthood), sounding like a pseud out of Evelyn Waugh.
And there was one point at which Philby's image-building campaign seemed to go beyond deception to an astonishing level of self-deception. The former C.I.A chief Richard Helms is fond of telling a story about an exchange between Philby and an American reporter in Moscow. The reporter told of a projected film about his life. Philby asked who was going to play him.
"Michael York," replied the reporter.
Philby recoiled, as if slapped. "But he's not a gentleman," he said.
Perhaps the single most telling instance of Philby's last great disinformation operation can be found in correspondence between him and Graham Greene over Greene's novel "The Human Factor." It was a book Greene wrote in the 60's but didn't publish until the late 70's because it came so close to the Philby affair.
Many found resemblances to Philby and his predicament in Greene's protagonist, a mid-level mole named Castle. Apparently, Philby did too. Greene had sent him a copy of the manuscript before publication, and Philby had made particular objection to one passage, at the very close of the book, when Castle, like Philby, has escaped to Moscow and is trying to adjust to his ambiguous position there.
The passage Philby objected to depicts Castle in a tiny, depressing apartment, amid stained, secondhand furniture, insisting over his malfunctioning telephone to his wife in London, that he's quite content: "Oh, everyone is very kind. They have given me a sort of job. They are grateful to me. . . . "
Philby wrote to Greene urging him to change this impression. It was misleading, melancholy. And, by implication, not at all like his circumstances in Moscow. Greene wrote back thanking Philby for the helpful suggestion, but he would not change the bleak mood.
Greene must have had the novelist's sixth sense from this exchange that the melancholy portrait of the lonely mole in his Moscow apartment, vainly boasting how "grateful" everyone was, had struck home with Philby. That there was a truth to it Philby recognized, a truth about himself that all the tacky ribbons and trophies he gathered from his "grateful" fraternal K.G.B. comrades could not obscure.
Shortly after Graham Greene's funeral, his biographer, Norman Sherry, visited the room where Greene had died. On a table next to the empty bed, he found the letter heɽ written to Greene, the one asking for his final thoughts on Philby. Members of Greene's family said that they had found no reply.
If Greene took a Philby secret to his grave, it might have had nothing to do with whether Kim was a double or triple agent. It might have had everything to do with the lonely man in the Moscow apartment.
Perhaps Greene saw through Philby's last great lie, but -- unlike Kim -- he wouldn't blow a friend's cover.
In February 1934, Philby married Alice (Litzi) Friedmann, an Austrian communist whom he had met in Vienna. They subsequently moved to England however, as Philby assumed the role of a fascist sympathiser, they separated. Litzi lived in Paris before returning to London for the duration of the Second World War she ultimately settled in East Germany.
While working as a correspondent in Spain, Philby began an affair with Frances Doble, Lady Lindsay-Hogg, an actress and aristocratic divorcée who was an admirer of Francisco Franco and Adolf Hitler. They travelled together in Spain through August 1939.
In 1940 he began living with Aileen Furse in London. Their first three children, Josephine, John, and Dudley Thomas, were born between 1941 and 1943. In 1946, Philby finally arranged a formal divorce from Litzi he and Aileen were married on 25 September 1946, while Aileen was pregnant with their fourth child, Miranda. Their fifth child, Harry George, was born in 1950. Aileen suffered from psychiatric problems, which grew more severe during the period of poverty and suspicion following the flight of Burgess and Maclean. She lived separately from Philby, settling with their children in Crowborough while he lived first in London and later in Beirut. Weakened by alcoholism and frequent sickness, she died of influenza in December 1957.
In 1956, Philby began an affair with Eleanor Brewer, the wife of New York Times correspondent Sam Pope Brewer. Following Eleanor's divorce, the two married in January 1959. After Philby defected to the Soviet Union in 1963, Eleanor visited him in Moscow in November 1964, following a visit to America, she returned, intending to settle permanently. However, in her absence, Philby had begun an affair with Donald Maclean's wife, Melinda. He and Eleanor divorced, and she departed Moscow in May 1965.
Melinda left Maclean, and briefly lived with Philby in Moscow in 1968 she returned to Maclean.
In 1971, Philby married Rufina Ivanovna Pukhova, a Russo-Polish woman twenty years his junior, with whom he lived until his death in 1988.
Last Days of Kim Philby: His Russian Widow's Sad Story
The fourth and last wife of the British master spy Kim Philby has written her memoirs of life with the most famous mole in the history of espionage.
And his life in Russia, at least initially, was grim. Philby's loneliness, depression and heavy drinking after his defection are well documented. His Russian widow, Rufina Philby, has added one startling new detail. According to her book, ''I Went My Own Way,'' which was released today, Philby attempted suicide in the 1960's.
She once felt deep scars on his wrist, and asked him about them. She said that Philby, well on his third whisky, refused to discuss it then or ever. She wrote, ''He answered in high style, unnatural to him: 'We Communists should be patient, strong and not give in to weakness.' ''
Charming and gifted, Kim Philby was the shining star of the so-called Cambridge spies, a group of privileged young Englishmen who were recruited to spy for the Soviet Union in the 1930's, and who over the decades wormed their way into the highest echelons of British intelligence.
The sheer breadth of their betrayal -- of colleagues, class and country -- inspired an entire generation of spy fiction, most notably the novels of John le Carre.
Mrs. Philby, 65, still lives in the comfortable apartment that Philby was assigned after his defection. She sold off many of his papers, books and mementos like a silver cocktail shaker at Sotheby's in 1994 for about $200,000 (her pension today is $82 a month), but the rooms are a well-polished shrine to a hero of the Soviet Union.
His vast collection of Russian classics line the living room shelf. His study is crammed with books by his good friend Graham Greene, detective novels, the spy novels of le Carre, as well as dozens of books about his betrayal.
Long after the Soviet Union they spied for collapsed in 1991, Philby remains a hero in Russia.
When Philby died in Moscow in 1988 at the age of 76, he was buried with full military honors. His face was put on a stamp in 1990.
Kim Philby ran the entire counterespionage service of M.I.6., the British Secret Intelligence Service, and set up the section that spied on the Soviet Union. He was assigned to Washington in 1949, and put in charge of liaison between British intelligence and the C.I.A. and F.B.I.
It was there that Philby learned that two of his fellow spies, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, were under suspicion, and tipped them off. Recalled to London, the two men fled and defected to Moscow in 1951.
Philby was suspected of being ''the third man'' in a ring of spies that eventually widened to five, including Anthony Blunt, the curator of the Queen's art collection, who was publicly unmasked in 1979. Philby managed to dodge the charges until 1963, when he was posted in Beirut. When an old friend from M.I.6 confronted Philby with incontrovertible evidence of his treachery, Philby escaped his surveillance and emerged in Moscow.
Asked by a journalist shortly before his death whether he would do it all again, Philby replied, '➫solutely.'' But his widow said he privately felt disillusioned and guilty.
Aileen Philby - History
Born Harold A. R. Philby in 1912 in Albama, India.
His family was very well off, his father being St. John Philby, a famous explorer and adventurer who was assigned to India as an assistant commissioner for the Punjab. The best man at St. John’s wedding in 1910 was Bernard Montgomery who would ultimately become the most famous British general of World War II. Harold was given the nickname Kim by his father, after the spy hero of a Rudyard Kipling novel.
Graduated from Westminster before entering Trinity College at Cambridge in 1929 where he studied history, While in school he was recruited by Soviet intelligence, as were his friends Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. He worked as an NKVD agent, traveling on vacations to France, Austria, Germany and other areas of Europe that he thought were ready for revolution. He related his evaluation to his Soviet handler. While in Germany, he took part in open hostilities against Nazi Brown shirts, working alongside of the Communists. He later helped set up a front organization, the World Peace Congress. Graduated from Trinity in 1933.
Traveled to Vienna, Austria in 1934 and married Alice Friedman, also a communist. Was sent to Spain where he worked as a correspondent for the London General Press new agency, covering the Spanish Civil War. He worked under the guise of being a supporter of Generalissimo Francisco Franco and as well as being against the communist cause. He became associated with the ring wing Anglo-German Fellowship organization, which was sympathetic to Nazi causes. As such, because of his pro-Fascist persona, he was welcomed into Franco party headquarters and followed Franco from city to city as he moved. Philby obtained information from Falangist officers and reported this back to his Soviet contacts. Left Spain in 1939 and separated from Friedman, in part to disassociate from her known pro-communist stance.
Was hired by the London Times to serve as a German correspondent. Because of his pro-Fascist persona, Philby was able to obtain information on the Nazis and passed it along to his Soviet contacts. He was invited to formal and private dinner with prominent Nazi officials and military figures, so his information was particularly valuable.
At the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany Philby was working with the British Expedentiary Force in France. British military officials recognized him as a noted war correspondent and were therefore comfortable with sharing information with him. Philby immediately passed this information on to Moscow.
After Germany defeated France, Philby returned to Britain. Despite his previous membership in the pro-Fascist Anglo-German Fellowship as well as his wife’s communist past, Philby was brought into the British Secret Intelligence Service in 1941 (he was aided by is father, who contacted Sir Stewart Menzies, the head of SIS, directly. As part of the counterespionage division of SIS, he he coordinated information exchanges between MI6 agents and Sandor Rado Soviet spy ring in Switzerland, obtaining valuable military information for Britain. Also was aligned closely with the Special Operations Executive, an espionage network which worked with underground resistance forces fighting against Germany. His success in these areas gained him high praise within the British intelligence community.
At the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany Philby was working with the British Expedentiary Force in France. British military officials recognized him as a noted war correspondent and were therefore comfortable with sharing information with him. Philby immediately passed this information on to Moscow.
After Germany defeated France, Philby returned to Britain. Despite his previous membership in the pro-Fascist Anglo-German Fellowship as well as his wife’s communist past, Philby was brought into the British Secret Intelligence Service in 1941 (he was aided by is father, who contacted Sir Stewart Menzies, the head of SIS, directly. As part of the counterespionage division of SIS, he he coordinated information exchanges between MI6 agents and Sandor Rado Soviet spy ring in Switzerland, obtaining valuable military information for Britain. Also was aligned closely with the Special Operations Executive, an espionage network which worked with underground resistance forces fighting against Germany. His success in these areas gained him high praise within the British intelligence community.
Was assigned, in October 1944, to Section IX of SIS, establishing an anti-communist desk. He was in charge of a movement to seek out communists in the British government, particularly those who had infiltrated British intelligence agencies. The basis for placing Philby in this position was his familiarity and friendliness with high-ranking Russian military and diplomatic officials. Philby’s new Soviet handler was Anatoli Lebedev. Philby grew the section from a one man shop to a 30 person department in only 18 months. Worked hand in hand with William J. Donovan and Allen Dulles of the United States Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Barely escaped exposure in August 1945 when Konstantin Volkov, vice consul at the Soviet consulate in Istanbul, defected. Volkov, an NKVD intelligence officer, warned of several moles in the British intelligence community, including one who was the head of a counterintelligence unit. Volkov warned against sending the information to Britain. via cable because of security concerns.
The information was therefore delivered via diplomatic pouch and ended up on the desk of Kim Philby. An astonished Philby recognized that he was one of the moles Volkov was about to uncover. Philby insisted in interviewing Volkov himself, instead of leaving that task to an agent in Istanbul. By the time Philby arrived there, however, Volkov had disappeared, presumably executed after Philby notified to the Soviets about the impending defection.
When Igor Gouzenko, a Soviet cipher clerk in Ottawa, Canada defected in September 1945, Philby managed the information so that although a number of Soviet agents were exposed (including Allan Nunn May), he (Philby) was not.
Was awarded the Order of the British Empire in late 1945 for his work in wartime intelligence work, after being nominated by Sir Stewart Menzies.
Divorced Alice Friedman and in 1946 married Aileen Furse with whom he had three children. Was sent during this period of time to Istanbul, Turkey, a hotbed for espionage activity in post-war Europe, serving as acting first Secretary of the Foreign Office In this position, he identified to his Soviet handler, several Albanian nationalists planning to overthrow the communist government in place. The operatives were summarily captured and murdered. Also, worked to foil and British and American invasion of Albania, while at the same time passing along information about Soviet plans for the region. He was commended for his information which was ultimately useless due to its untimeliness.
Was sent to the United States in 1949 to serve as the First Secretary to the British Ambassador in Washington, D.C., acting as a liaison officer between British Intelligence and the CIA and FBI. This placed him in the position of working amongst the elite of the Western intelligence committee. Guy Burgess was also assigned to Washington, D.C. and they two worked together to channel information to Moscow. Met every week with James Angleton, sharing information and coordinating counterespionage efforts.
Received reports that Donald MacLean, another member of the Cambridge Five and alleged to have been Burgess’ lover, was suspected of being a Soviet mole and warned the KGB of the matter. Learned that MacLean and Burgess might soon be arrested. Philby warned Burgess but also warned SIS that MacLEan might be the person identified by Soviet defectors as being Soviet agent from a “good family” who served as a high-Ranking Foreign Office official. Philby hoped that once MacLean escaped, any evidence that could point to him (Philby) would disappear also. In May 1951, Burgess and MacLean, defected, fleeing to Moscow.
Came under immediate suspicion from British authorities because of his friendship with Burgess and MacLean. Further damaged by a report given to the CIA by a defector, Ismail Akhmedov-Ege, which identified Philby as a Soviet mole. Philby flatly denied the allegations and was interrogated intensely. Stewart Menzies rose to his defense, but Philby angrily resigned his position with the Foreign Office. He was further supported by future British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan who deemed Philby and “”upstanding citizen” and a “hero.” Based on this type of support, Philby was brought back into SIS.
Worked in Beirut under the guise of a correspondent. His wife Aileen died in December 1957 and he married Eleanor Brewer (former wife of Sam Pope Brewer in 1959. Was clearly believed to be a Soviet spy after Soviet defector Anatoli Golytsin named him. Was confronted with the mounting evidence by friend Nicholas Elliott, a British agent then working in Beirut, Lebanon. Elliott offered immunity from prosecution if Philby cooperated and Philby filed a two page confession the next day and submitted to three days of oral confessions. Fearing a long prison sentence like that given to George Blake, Philby fled to the Soviet Union, by way of a Polish cargo ship bound for the Russian port of Odessa. Became of Soviet citizen on July 3, 1963.
Was awarded the Order of Lenin and worked at the KGB headquarters where he was given the title of General. Was joined by his wife and children in 1963 but began having an affair with Don MacLean’s wife Melinda, prompting Eleanor to move to the United States. Was introduced to Rufina Ivanova by defector George Blake and married her in December 1971. Died on May 11, 1988 and was buried in Moscow with full military honors as a KGB General. Was honored with depiction on a Soviet postage stamp in 1990.
Comrade Philby (KGB Spy Documentary) | Timeline
Kim Philby’s last straw
Here’s a great story about the cultural/political influence of Zionists in the west, showing that Zionism and anti-Zionism are ancient ideological rivals, pitted historically like Communists and anti-Communists.
You all know the name Kim Philby. He was the “third man” in the legendary Soviet spying ring inside England’s intelligence service that was discovered in the 50s and 60s. Philby met Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean when they were all young Communists at Cambridge University, but Philby was able to maintain his cover longer than the other two. He was the last of the group to flee, in 1962, to Moscow, the city where all three men died.
A recent book on the case explains that Philby was done in in the end by… his criticism of Israel as a journalist, which angered an English supporter of Israel who informed authorities that he was a spy. So Philby is in a tradition of writers hurt by taking on Zionism. And, surprise, American reviews of the book by leading writers leave out the Zionist angle entirely.
Pat, a regular reader, lately picked up a copy of that book, Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, by Ben Macintyre, and he relates the story.
Philby (1912-1988), Burgess (1911-1963), and Maclean (1913-1983) were all from the best English background, had high-status government jobs, and were secretly Communists. Pat writes:
In the spring of 1951, Philby is 39 and working for MI6 in Washington, DC, when he learns that the Americans have discovered that Maclean, 38, who also works for the British intelligence, is a Soviet spy. Philby alerts Burgess.
Philby only wanted Maclean to flee. But Burgess joined Maclean in flight to Russia. This cast a huge shadow on Philby because Burgess and he were tight Burgess stayed with Philby in his DC house for months while Burgess was stationed in DC. Maclean was Philby’s friend from college, but they were not that close later.
Philby resigned from MI6 during July of 1951. He was interrogated many times but was able to defend himself with his wit and his Eton and Cambridge connections.
He was given severance pay worth today’s $34k and he went to work as a journalist.
Philby was not named publicly as the “Third man” until October of 1955, when the story came out in the United States. This was world-wide headlines, but the story was not aired in England because of libel laws. Philby gave a presser at that time and denied all allegations once again and the matter was settled.
Philby went to Beirut for the “Observer” and Economist” during August of 1956.
Now here comes the Zionist angle. It seems that back in 1935 Kim Philby had tried to recruit a leftwing heiress who had been born in Russia: Flora Solomon (1895-1984).
Here is an excerpt of Macintyre’s A Spy Among Friends, Chapter 17, pages 244 and 245:
Flora Solomon had lived a life that stretched rather bizarrely, from the Russian Revolution to the British high street: after an early affair with a Bolshevik revolutionary and marriage to a British soldier, she had been widowed young, raised her son Peter alone (who in 1961 founded Amnesty International), and then created the welfare department at Marks & Spencer. A pillar of Anglo-Jewish society, she continued to hold regular salons in her Mayfair home, just as she had in the 1930’s. Solomon remained Russian in accent, British in manner, and a committed Zionist in her politics. “Russian soul, Jewish heart, British passport” was how she described herself. By 1962 her main passion in life was the State of Israel, which she supported in word, deed, and funds at every opportunity. It was Flora Solomon’s commitment to Israel that brought Kim Philby back into her life. Every week she read the “Observer”, paying particular attention to coverage of the Middle East, and found herself becoming increasingly irritated by Philby’s articles. “To anyone with eyes to see they were permeated with anti-Israel bias. They accepted the Soviet view of Middle East politics,” she wrote. In the simplistic divisions imposed by the cold war, while Israel was supported by Washington, Moscow curried favor among the Arab states, and in Solomon’s subjective opinion Philby was churning out Soviet propaganda designed to weaken her beloved Israel. (This was not exactly true: Philby was instinctively pro-Arab, but he was far to canny to reveal any overt pro-Soviet bias in his journalism.) During the 1950’s, she had assumed the accusations against Philby were merely McCarthyite smears. Now she was not so sure. She remembered his remarks about “the cause” back in 1935 and the rather clumsy attempt to recruit her. “The thought occurred to me that Philby had, after all, remained a communist, notwithstanding his clearance by MI5 of possible complicity in the Burgess-Maclean scandal.”
In August 1962 Flora Solomon visited Israel, as she had done many times before, to attend a conference at the Chaim Weitzmann Institute, the science research center in Rehovot founded by Israel’s first president and endowed by Baron Sieff, the chairman of Marks & Spencer. At a party in Weitzmann home she encountered Victor, Lord Rothschild, another patron of the institute. A distinguished scientist himself, Rothschild had headed MI5’s sabotoge and explosives section during the war and won the George Medal for “dangerous work in hazardous circumstances.” A regular at the Harris soirees and a Cambridge contemporary of Burgess and Blunt, Rothschild himself would later be accused, quite unfairly, of being a Soviet spy himself.. In fact, although a left-winger in his youth, like Flora Solomon he had no truck with communism and retained close links with MI5. Rothschild and Solomon had known each other since the 1930’s, and their conversation naturally drifted to their mutual acquaintance Kim Philby.
“How is it the “Observer” uses a man like Kim? Don’t they know he is a communist? observed Solomon.
Rothschild was startled by the certainty in her voice. Solomon went on to describe how, back in 1935, Philby had told her with pride that he was doing a “very dangerous job for peace” and attempted to enlist her as a Soviet spy. Rothschild was now listening intently. He had followed the Philby case closely and knew that despite an array of circumstantial evidence against a man who had once been his friend, no one had come forward to link Philby directly with Soviet intelligence. He began to quiz her about Philby and the wartime circle of friends they had shared. She replied that she always suspected Tommy Harris might be a Soviet spy, based on an “intuitive feeling that Harris was more than just a friend” to Kim Philby.
Flora Solomon later maintained that her motives in exposing Philby were strictly political: he was writing anti-Israel articles and she wanted him sacked from the “Observer”. But her reasons were also personal …
It seems that Solomon detested Philby’s treatment of his second wife Aileen, who was a friend of Solomon’s. Mcintyre:
“You must do something,” Solomon told Rothschild in her imperious way. “I will think about it,” he told her.
Victor Rothschild was a veteran string puller. He did more than think. On his return to London, he repeated the conversation to MI5, sparking jubilation among the small group of officers still determined to bring Philby to justice. Here at last was a “major breakthrough”. With difficulty, Flora Solomon was persuaded to come to an interview with MI5 officers in Rothschild’s flat, which was bugged for the occasion. There she repeated her account of the conversation with Philby from three decades earlier. The investigators found her “a strange, rather untrustworthy woman” and suspected she had been more deeply implicated in left-wing radicalism than she was admitting. The interview was recorded by MI5 investigator Peter Wright. Writing many years later in his explosive book “Spycatcher”, Wright wondered if she and Philby had been lovers and whether her belated revelation was motivated by spite: “She clearly had a grudge against him.”
Flora Solomon was getting cold feet, alarmed is she testified against Philby she might invite the attentions of a KGB assassination squad. “I will never give public evidence,” she told MI5.
There was finally a witness in Solomon. A new investigation was started, and Philby confessed in Beirut to his friend and fellow MI6 man Nick Elliot. The interrogation went on in Beirut for a few days and Philby was allowed to go back to his house to sleep every night.
Philby fled to Russia January, 1963. Many believe that the Brits preferred Philby in Moscow than a long public trial in London. The escape was pretty easy.
And here’s the bottom line: Flora Solomon may well have known about the Philby suspicions in 1951, and certainly could have gone to the authorities after Philby’s public outing in October 1955. She didn’t. No, Kim Philby’s last straw was criticizing Israel.
Macintyre has written that Flora Solomon is a hero to him. As she changed British history.
I mentioned the American reviews that have nothing to say about the Zionism.
Walter Isaacson’s review of Macintyre in the New York Times is all about the tribal loyalties of the inbred social class, on the fraying fringe of Britain’s aristocracy, whose members held, Macintyre writes, “a shared set of assumptions about the world and their privileged place in it.” Here’s how Isaacson describes Philby’s discovery:
Philby’s mooring began to slip after his father’s death and, inevitably, his past caught up with him again. By 1962, enough evidence had accumulated that even Elliott became convinced his friend was a mole. He insisted that he be the one allowed to confront Philby and try to extract a confession. “Inside he was crushed,” Macintyre writes. “He wanted to look Philby in the eye one last time. He wanted to understand.”
Macintyre’s book climaxes with a psychological duel over tea, cloaked by a veneer of gentility, which led to some subsequent meetings and a partial confession from Philby. But instead of arranging an arrest or abduction or assassination, Elliott told his erstwhile friend that he was going to Africa for a few days before the process of interrogation resumed. On his own in Beirut, Philby immediately contacted his Russian handlers, who whisked him on a freighter to Moscow, where he lived the rest of his life in exile.
Cold war exiles
The gang of British spies who ended up in Moscow in the 1950s and 1960s were employed in KGB training schools and international research institutes. They met each other socially but soon fell out. Kim Philby drank while Guy Burgess, who was gay, missed his friends in London, including Anthony Blunt whose spying activities, though known to the government, were kept under wraps until they were exposed much later, in 1979. Donald Maclean, although arrogant and someone who liked a drink too, was regarded as more convivial. George Blake, who is still alive, got on well with him than with Philby. Maclean bequeathed Blake his library of books, including Trollope, Macaulay's History of England, Morley's Life of Gladstone, and the Macmillan and Eden memoirs.
In contrast to Blake, Philby and Burgess – and to a less extent Maclean – suffered from nostalgia for Britain. Philby's less attractive personal qualities were matched by a charm to which many of his MI6 colleagues succumbed. Some could never quite come to terms that he was a traitor.