Member Profile | FocusFeatures.com
Beyond Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Other Moles, Double Agents and Traitors
Posted November 29, 2011 to photo album "Beyond Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Other Moles, Double Agents and Traitors"
In TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDER, SPY, no one is what they appear, especially with a suspected Soviet mole at the very center of the Circus. But turncoats, traitors, moles, double agents, and sleeper cells are nothing new in the world of espionage.
Kim Philby and the Cambridge Spies
Philby in his heyday; Philby commemorated on a Soviet stamp
Undoubtedly the most notorious post-war British double agent was Kim Philby, a mole at the top of British intelligence. Many see Philby as the inspiration for the double agent in John le Carré’s novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Kim Philby, the son of a British colonial civil servant, flirted with communism while at Cambridge, but joined the Soviets later when he was living in Austria. It was also there that he met Litzi Friedman, a member of the Austrian Communist Party, who would become his wife. To cover his tracks, Philby would often align himself with opposing political forces. During the 30s in Spain as a reporter for London Times, for example, he wrote many pro-Franco articles. In fact, Philby was an agent for both the British and the Soviets. In 1939, his Soviet handler in Spain, Walter Krivitsky, defected to the West, claiming knowledge of British agents working for the Soviets. MI5 never followed up, and Philby continued unnoticed. Indeed, Philby’s wartime efforts as part of the intelligence branch called Special Operations Executive (SOE) were so praised that after the war he was put in charge of Section IX, the Soviet section of MI6. From there, he reported on several Soviets, either preparing to defect or who were working for British Intelligence, causing their arrest by the KGB and, in several cases, execution. More importantly he was able to hide other Soviet agents, including his Cambridge friends (aka “The Cambridge Spies”) –– Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and Donald Maclean –– who all were also spying for the Soviets. After a position in Istanbul, and then in Washington DC, Philby was eased out of MI6 in 1953, especially as more and more questions about his loyalty started being asked. Yet, for the next decade, the British government stood behind him. In 1955, British Foreign Secretary Harold McMillan told the New York Sunday News, “I have no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country.” While he was no longer a central figure for MI6, he remained an agent at large for years. In 1963, when MI6 finally confronted him with hard evidence in Beirut, Philby defected to the USSR, where he lived the rest of his life. In 2011, his Polish-born wife, Rufina Pukhova, told a Russian newspaper that Philby turned to drink to drown his sorrow, particularly at the plight of the aged in the Soviet Union. “His habit was fuelled by his sorrow over what he saw around him,” she said. “Kim believed in a just society and devoted his whole life to communism. And here he was struck by disappointment, brought to tears. He said, 'Why do old people live so badly here? After all, they won the war.’ ”