The Price Is Bright - 020
From the transcript:
–Should I start now? Or perhaps I should start by saying this is completely unnecessary—what? Oh, yes, start with my name. I am Zachary George Filmore and I am the director of.. what now? Oh, yes, of course, sorry, I’m feeling a bit lightheaded and forgot. I was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency until about twelve hours ago. I have been removed however and detained for treasonous acts, and this confession is my attempt to set records straight and is part of the deal we have agreed to… By the way, are those plea deal papers ready for signature yet? I do feel it not somewhat proper to make a statement against my interests before we sign an agreement of our mutual understanding. Yes, I am aware that this confession is supposed to be included as a part of the agreement. Very well. Where should I start? To begin at the beginning is so predictable, but very well. It is your tape. I was first recruited or actually sought out recruitment by the Russian intelligence services during a trip abroad in 1972, when I was a junior at college. Through friends I arranged a meeting with a certain Andropisov attached to USSR embassy delegation at the Hague. We met at Joost van der Vondel statue in Vondelpark in Amsterdam. The USSR had just opened a consulate in the city and he was assigned there. I shared with him my concerns about America’s foreign policy and in particular my disagreement with the war in Vietnam and our involvement with deposing or destabilizing democratically elected governments within our own hemisphere due to their having a leftist bent. Social democracy was so frightening to the American Cold Warrior, was it not? What? Well you did ask for me to start at the beginning. I can hardly be held accountable for how long it takes me to tell it. Andropisov, let’s just call him A from now on, confided in me that what they really needed was help with trying to counter Western attempts at regime change in those countries which were searching for a way into the communist brotherhood. He said if they had foreknowledge of where the US in particular planned to focus its efforts, they would be able to offer stabilizing assistance to the countries under capitalist siege. I told him I was just starting in my senior year at Yale and would be looking for a job once I graduated, and that if I could be of use, perhaps a job at the CIA would be to their benefit. I assured him I was not seeking remuneration other than a position in Russian intelligence and a rank and pay grade commensurate with my work, such salary they would hold for me until I retired to Mother Russian. We departed each other’s company with nothing decided, save to meet again. We met again along the bike highway from Amsterdam to Caastrichtum Au Zee. It was relatively deserted as the season was early. I was told my offer had been accepted and I was given a commission as a lieutenant junior grade in Russian military intelligence. I was told that my files would be kept segregated and remain at the consulate in Amsterdam as they suspected someone in Moscow had been turned by the Americans and was relaying to them information on their agents almost as soon as they were recruited. I was instructed to make no further contact, save marking a location at Yale should I be able to secure employment within the CIA, whereupon further details would be worked out. As you know I returned to Yale and in the spring of my senior year was hired to start training at Langley after graduation.
I was not contacted again despite my signal of success until after completion of my training, I was sent a ticket to the Harvard-Yale football game. I of course went but sat between two families. Only when I went to the restroom during the second quarter was I approached. He gave the standard greeting I’d been told to expect and we conversed at the urinals. I had not received my posting yet but was told when I did I should post an advert in the New York Times Help Wanted section asking for a butler for a trip to my posting. I did not ever see the man again, and still to this day do not know his name or position.
Two months later after being at a desk analyzing intercepts for Latin America, I was told as you know I would be posted to Belgrade, I placed my ad and went. Is all this recitation truly necessary? You have my file. I see. I cannot truly recall everything I passed along. My meetings mainly took place in parks or occasionally if I had come across something extraordinary after the park I would be directed to a safe house where I would meet with a more senior officer, usually one in charge of the section my information pertained to. Most of what I had to offer was routine, though several times I was able to direct them to individuals who had penetrated the USSR or those that had approached the CIA with offers of intelligence. I was always very pleased to have been able to stop such traitors. No, I never considered myself one. I wasn’t. I was an officer in Russian intelligence under deep cover. I considered myself a patriot, a useful member of the communist brotherhood, helping to stop a raging imperialist beast.
After many year in the field, moving from Yugoslavia to Poland to West Germany to Hungary to Czechoslovakia, with periodic recalls to the US, I was offered, or I guess more assigned to come to Langley to assume command of the Eastern European desk for counterintelligence operations. This represented a great challenge, as I could not have every operation fail or be ineffective but at the same time, I did not wish to have any operation succeed which could inflict true damage to the Soviet cause. So I spent the 80s walking a fine line, then the Soviet Union dissolved. I was truly afraid at that point. Who knew what some individuals would disclose for profit? I retained my outward calm demeanor but inside I was in panic. But really what could I do—I had no contacts anymore. Then in the mid-90s I was walking along the train in Potomac Park as was my habit every Saturday when Andropisov approached me coming from the other direction. I was relieved to discover he was still in intelligence for Russian and that he was part of a group though no longer outwardly a part of the communist party, working for the same goals as previous, attempts to halt the US from interfering with countries’ rights of self-determination. He assured me my cover was still intact. My dossier had always remained in the consulate in Amsterdam given the access was so limited and compartmentalized they could be assured my status would not be jeopardized, or if it was, the number of individuals who could have been responsible extremely concentrated. I agreed to be of what use I could, though my duties had altered somewhat, having more emphasis on industrial espionage and the like. Then September 11thhappened and in the aftermath, after a clean out of senior officers, I found myself named deputy director. And a fortunate clogged artery had me placed as acting director and then director. No, the heart attack was all nature and diet, I did not set it in motion. Well no, I cannot vouch for or offer any guarantees that my fellow Russian operatives did nothing to cause it. Yes, they were quite happy at my rise. Luckily the work against Islamic jihadists was one area that I could be utmost effective without any regrets. Occasionally, yes I did have to put a halt to some activities of the CIA in Russia and its border states by clandestine means. I suppose it was these activities which drew Selen’s interest. Must I truly go through all of this? I did not want any harm to befall Selen. I always thought very highly of him and found him to be among the most honorable of men. The whole affair has left a bad taste in my mouth and this regurgitation is not in any way pleasant.
Yes, yes, I know the terms of my deal. Where to start on this one. Selen came to me one day. He had concerns about the integrity of our communications networks as we’d had several operations end rather badly, either in complete silence from the assets or by known termination. I believe it was four, no five, operations in succession which had failed in a manner which suggested that they had not only been caught but that they were internally compromised. This was truly bad luck for me. I had in fact only played a part in the first and in a very minor way, the last. But as Selen was in charge of our internal security, I could hardly dismiss his concerns without allowing him some sort of action to investigate or counter it. I did, at the first, attempt to instill limits, suggesting that no matter how he chose to proceed with the agency’s full operational support, the true intent of the mission and details of the search for the leak should remain something only he and I were fully briefed on, as to aims and goals. As Project Arnaut came into existence, I became more relaxed about his hunt, since it appeared the query was targeted toward and external source or an operative outside the command structure, but the more I reflected on this the more unlikely it seemed as the operations that Selen had first identified as possibly compromised by a leak or mole would have had no operations intersections, that is no one involved with any of the failed missions would have had access to communications regarding the others. Such intelligence would only have been available at the management level, and given the geographical spread of the failed ops and their briefs, that is targets or missions as some were counterintelligence, some intelligence gathering, some were industrial espionage, it was not middle management. Such limitations on those who could access the details of the ops made it apparent to me that Selen was hunting something else, not a breach of communications on the operational level. And then after China, when Troubadour was sent back to Europe or to Russian. I realized Selen had altered the destinations for this little author tour. He could hardly refuse my request for an updated list of cities and when I saw the next three—Moscow, St. Petersburg and Amsterdam—I knew. Those cities were, in reverse order, the postings Andropisov had taken.
I tried to stop it in Moscow. But the plan to terminate Troubadour failed to materialize, given what they thought was an even greater coup, linking a plot to blow up a major train station with US intelligence, which they believed would in any event lead to the extinction of any threat Troubadour posed to me. But as we all know that did not quite play out as my Russian friends had anticipated.
What? No, there was no opportunity to stop them from getting to Amsterdam. Selen did not file even a report about considering an extraction or search operation until they were actually on the ground in Amsterdam. But by then, when I knew they were there, I knew what his game must have been. I sent a four-man team there to terminate with extreme prejudice all involved. They were not an agency wet team. I knew any operatives in the agency would not have taken my word for it when it came to Selen. No this team was ex-KGB, now privately employed but on retainer for a certain friendly former Russian military intelligence office, He had a while ago let me know that their expertise was available to me should I ever have need of it. Knowing how things have turned out it does seem their involvement was not so much a necessity as I might have thought at the time. But at the time, it seemed stopping Selen was my only option.
Unfortunately I was unsure of the target area. As I said Selen did not check in and they did not use any of the known safe houses. I sent them to the reading. When I learned the message in the reading list code, I began to have second thoughts as it was the same sort of innocuous meeting instructions as before. But just before the reading began, literally on his way to the podium, Selen provided an alternate reading list. The main poems of interest were two never before used. I would have never known but for my last second instructions to the team to inform me of the first and third poems read as soon as they were read because I had a feeling about Selen and this operation, and well that feeling is what has allowed me to survive almost forty years as an agent in foreign territory, thriving I might add. It is not like I was some sleeper just living a normal life, waiting, no I was active, in close quarters combat if you like, and my only recourse was my feeling, a strong swelling just before the intestines, which I learned to trust. Once in lust ignored, my ignorance almost had me killed or worse exposed. West Berlin it was, a grimy night club near the Wall and a very seductive woman given to working both sides of the wall both literal and figurative, invited me to watch her explore both sides of the wall and my lust had me kneeling naked beside a bed where Ingrid’s lesbian lover shoved a Walther PPK into my mouth while Ingrid riffled my clothes and wallet thinking a posting to the consulate at West Berlin meant my family had connections or money. There was little joy in fellating a firearm while being burgled, and littler in being kicked in teased genitals by a dissatisfied dyke thief and her psychotic partner, who before dressing actually defecated on my head as I writhed in pain from their kicks. So I learned not to ignore my feeling ever again. I gave strict instructions to my men in Amsterdam to relay to me as soon as possible the first and third poem read. The first poem was different so I had an idea things were as I had feared. But then no third poem title came. I waited and then they came back with only the first line of the poem. Apparently Troubadour had neglected to give a title for the third poem. I managed to finally locate a copy of the book, which luckily I had at home. It is, by the way, some of the finest poetry I’ve ever read. Maybe he can use that as a blurb for his next book. Anyway there are 40 poems in that book so it took some time before I could locate the poem by its first line, ‘submerged by acer palatium, along the thin line, your wedged smile’ but as I already knew the poem to not be the planned third poem, I instructed the team to, well here was my big mistake, I said.
–Stay with them, but stay back. Observe and report.
Ah, pronouns of plurality, how thy sting commences with ambiguity should the plurality divide up and fly to separate seeming corners.
–Them, I said, and they, my team, understood that as the poet and the Russian girl. So they followed them as they went to a coffee shop where my team perhaps grew slightly lightheaded, and I meanwhile had to reconstruct the intricacies of the code and then decipher to find and confirm my worst fears. Ciphers have never been a strong area for me, but luckily this one was conceived not to be unbreakable only just complex enough to make it seem like we tried without negating the benefits we were hoping to derive by it being broken by them we wished to surprise…except all a ruse, wasn’t it? Too bad for Selen it was not just a bit more complex as had it taken me much longer he might have made it clean away. I’m not sure what he planned once he had the file but I suppose that is irrelevant. After I had the text I reestablished contact with the team and asked them to give me their position, which they responded was inside the Haute Puffer. I was a bit surprised and inquired as to what Selen was presently doing at the Haute Puffer, which was when I learned “them” was a cursed word. Immediately I said leave the poet and girl and get to and find Selen. If he is in there with anyone else, hang back and report.
It must have been some time after my men left that Troubadour and his Russian artist deciphered the text as well and went to watch the goings-on at the Magere Brug. Imagine it was a bit slower for them to decode it, that’s presuming they broke it and that Selen had not overtly recruited them to this mission. Absurd, really, to even say that. Selen a man who likes his compartments, sealed off, each section of his life. You know I never heard him once talk of family. Did he have one? I…well…I guess I never cared enough to find out…or else…Selen is…was….more an annoyance best kept close but not engaged…I suppose there might have been points at which knowing more personal details would have made sense though he was so highly compartmentalized I’m not sure a threat to his family would have registered as I suspect he’d have sealed off and gotten his job done…not that I mean he had not an empathetic bone in his body. I’m sure he did but like the best in our line he learned to turn that instinct into an instrument of his craft. He focused his compassion into a powerful tool which he could use to shape situations or individuals to further the goals as they pertained to the mission. Do you think his daily subway rides and chats with Troubadour were any more than a ploy for recruitment and an observation and research into how best to exploit the asset?
Selen was the consummate company man in that the company, our company, was a job that he did not do out of political favor or allegiance so much as loyalty to the job. Selen was willing to do what was needed, to focus on the job at hand, and to turn all resources, inner and exterior, available to him to the successful completion of the job. His devotion was to making sure the job was done right, that the aims set forth as success for a particular mission or task were reached. such men are far more dangerous than the politically ambitious or the ideological fanatic because those types have stopping points: points at which the achievement of the mission goal is at too high a cost…and attainment does not serve their ambition or ideology, because the personal cost is so extreme as to conflict with their real goals…the ultimate goal of personal or ideological dominance…Whereas Selen and his type are ruthless in so far as the mission in hand is all that matters, unless it is only the smaller and not completely substantial component of the larger or dominant job. These minor component tasks, if they do not compromise the full mission’s success, then failure is tolerated. Selen would be a very dangerous…uh, yes, would have been…would have been a very dangerous man in any other profession. Such men drop atomic bombs or create them…such men orchestrate the vast commercial industrial conglomerates where the company is the state and growing it, the manifest destiny if you will of its holdings has no boundary outside what is best for the conglomerate itself.
But Selen was a spy, not just a spy but a spy master, il miglior fabbro. Even in death he completed the mission…that is drive, that is the strength of will, the determination to get the job done I was talking of….
See I had nothing against him, I admired him more than you could ever know. That it ended this way was unfortunate. By the time my team reached the bridge Selen had already made the exchange. I guess cash, but who knows. Selen was making his way back to the end of the bridge where Maclow was waiting when they opened fire…my team was not the most exceptional group in thinking on the fly, lacking subtlety and wisdom, certainly force over intellect. Selen I learned went into the water but whatever he tossed to Maclow it was not what my team was supposed to recover. My team went after Maclow unfortunately, not scanning the bridge for anything before engaging in a futile pursuit. He led them away from the bridge and it was after he took flight that Troubadour and the Russian artist arrived. From what I understand Selen breathed still…made it to a dock on the river where Troubadour found him…and told him…I don’t know…Where what I now know was a flash drive was…What was on the flash drive…What he did with it…It’s a conversation I’ve imagined many times over the past few hours…I see Selen bloodied and wet…
–The bridge, on the side midway, said Selen.
–What, no. You were shot, fell into the water.
–No, no. On the bridge. A flash drive.
–Hold on, Mark, hold on. Olivia, he said on the bridge, there’s a flash drive.
–Okay. I’ll look.
–We’ll find it, Mark.
–Get it to a newspaper, very important, said Selen.
–Yes. This whole…everything to catch the director, a Russian agent, deep cover.
–That’s a little crazy, Olivia said.
–Flash drive is a copy of his file, been stored in Russian consulate here. Why after communism collapsed when archives sold or broke open we didn’t know…
–Who’s going to believe us…
–The file will say plenty, said Selen. Get it to the New York Times and then hide until he’s caught.
See, I have a movie of it in my thoughts…brave Selen and his band of irregulars bring down the longest serving deep cover intelligence officer ever…What a sweet tale for silver screens. I don’t suppose Ian McKellan will be able to play me…so yes…the rest of the story…shall it be a montage…a crazy capsule of music and images…poet and painter hold the expiring spy hunter…and then go into hiding in an Amsterdam brothel…I have to send another team to search them all out…Selen’s body is found by Amsterdam police…And I sit in my office for two months trying to search for Selen’s killer and keep things together until yesterday…Did you know the New York Timesdidn’t even call seeking comment or to give me a chance to…well I guess given the chance I might have added an editor and a few writers to the body count…Funniest thing was my relief, totally shocked me, I’d always been expecting a crushing blow would dent my skull when I was found out, but no…relief…I can finally be a general in Russian military intelligence even in my conscious thought…Too much comforted by layers of disguise, now the sharpened heel has punctured it and I am plain…no bluffs, no ugly fears driving my sleep off into dark hurricane waters…I suppose they will surface soon…I mean Maclow already did, before I was even in custody…guess he forgot Paris papers are published a bit sooner and that even the most astute of attorney generals or directors of the FBI need to attempt to be awake or to be woken to effect an arrest…But Maclow is either very good or lucky because right before…I mean the phone call I was on when you came in to get me was the last of my wet team dying slowly as he bled out from being disemboweled by Maclow…But the poet and painter…you’re wondering if I…no…not that I was not looking…but somehow they faded from view, blended as it were into Europe…I know they must have made it to Paris to deliver to the Times office there the package…Selen’s gift…That it took the Times more than three days to finally publish what was conclusive evidence of my activities…Unfortunately I was not a devoted reader of the Times or I’d have known, had some inkling, but as the mission was to a most complete degree sealed off from almost everyone but Selen and me, no one in our operations monitoring the news would have put together anything from the teasers the Times published over the two days before they felt they could go live with their biggest story in decades…I understand a former colleague of Andropisov from cold war Amsterdam verified the files they had as authentic…He’ll now be looking for a book deal I imagine…Perhaps the Times writer and he will collaborate though I’m guessing I’ll not be given the chance to author mine own account…Does Leavenworth have an extension course in jailhouse memoirs? You see, I still have my sense of humor…Is that strange…as Shakespeare said somewhere, it all turns to laughter…perhaps not for Duncan, McDuff of Macbeth…but for me, I feel lightened, a crinoline layer of laughter covering this whole mess…despite the bodies…despite the bleakness of whatever future I face, I am free and can laugh that the most covert, deepest infiltration in Western intelligence services was undone by an almost delusional poet, a janitor elevated by us…no doubt there is great quality in his work…but still the man left messages for a nonexistent family and was prone to convulsive blackout fits…and he’s the one who finally did my long run in…not that I don’t feel certain bits of gratitude…I am, how would one say it, conflicted…I know I should be angry…but all I can produce is a giggling inside…a laughter of freedom in captivity if you will…but it is a dark humor I suppose…how could it not be…if the poet and painter ever do surface will I be given a chance to confront them in court…it would appear that such a day might never occur but I suppose they will surface, both being artists in their prime…one does not just shut such things off, close down the impulse to give voice to those creative ideas…I had always thought that artists and writers would make good assets, given the solitary nature of their art they could cope with the mental isolation of our craft well, and well making those things up is what they do…but I suppose you would require those that are less given to a need for revision in order for them to be productive as intelligence operatives since it is more than likely that our lives do not allow us the opportunity to revise…if an operation goes wrong there is not the chance to redraft and work for a more satisfactory conclusion…Perhaps that is something you might suggest to my replacement…consider it my gift to you…no need to place any credit for the idea with me…such attribution might not help instill confidence in the idea in any event…Is that it, am I done…oh one final thing, yes…I suppose you do need that to finalize things, yes…so yes, I was at my desk, the late evening folding the day behind the trees outside my window, I sat, yes, sat, did not pace, sat, yes, hunched over, disinclined to look at and see the moon begin its ascendance, my hand, the left, holding the phone to my ear while my right covered my eyes, somewhere between the man in thought and blind justice, self blinded, yes, a pain of seeing trying yes to forget my surroundings as I waited and they waited, asking as I pressed my eyes hard with my fingers and heel of my palm pressing harder for clarity yes, as they waited and asked now, should we now, I pressed my eyes harder and saw their fingers like caterpillars stuck on their triggers, curled and suctioned to them by sweat, yes, I pressed my eyes harder, wishing for what, the blindness of Tiresius but instead felt the Oedipal blindness as yes they waited for my words, shall we, pull the trigger, and eyes I pressed my eyes, saw nothing but said when they asked again for the third time, yes, I said kill Selen, yes…