Circling the Lion's Den

A man from CIA at "Agentura"

David Murphy, ex-chief of CIA's Soviet Operations:

What are you doing after retired? Do you consult (advise) now yours ex collegues from CIA?

After I retired from CIA in the 70s, I worked as a senior analyst on Soviet affairs for a private company providing analysis for the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Soviet wartime military and civilian command and control system with its network of deep underground command posts. Iretired a second time at the end of the 80s and bought a house in Florida. Just as we were getting ready to enjoy ourselves, I was asked to co-author the book Battleground Berlin(Pole Bitvy Berlin).  I had been deputy chief and later chief of the CIA Berlin unit from 1954 to 1961. Thenext several years from early 1993 to 1997 were completely taken up by research in CIA archives, trips to Moscow and Berlin for meetings with my co-authors, KGB Lt Gen Sergei Aleksandrovich Kondrashev (ret'd) and George Bailey of Munich, Germany, and the actual writing of the book.  In between these activities my wife and I still found time to enjoy our Florida house, swimming pool and boat.  I no longer do any work at CIA and find retirement life wonderful. 

When you worked at CIA, you probably did and saw more analitical forecasts about USSR. Can you tell now, what is the percent of accuracy of these forecasts? 

As for the accuracy of CIA "analytical forecasts," in Pole Bitvy Berlin we discuss how the young CIA dealt with the Berlin Blockade, the West's reaction to the North Korean invasion of South Korea and the manner in which the new East German state, the "German Democratic Republic," would imitate practices of the Stalinist economy, party leadership and state organization. I thinkwe came off rather well.  Also, we predicted that the East Germans would have no choice but to stop the flow of refugees through West Berlin. This they did in August 1961 without disclosing the actual day and hour I (even the KGB's Karlshorst apparat was taken by surprise as was Markus Wolf and his HVA).

Concerning CIA's later analytical performance, there was considerable debate about this in the U.S. after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.  Many circles (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.) believed, for example,  that CIA "continued to endorse the myth that the communists had transformed an agricultural backwater into a mighty industrial power capable of ever higher levels of development."   If, however, one examines the record from the 1970's to 1990, most serious students of that period would argue that CIA consistently noted the steady decline in the Soviet growth rate and the structural problems in this strangely organized economy that suggested it would continue to worsen. CIA's appraisal of the Brezhnev regime emphasized the economic "stagnation" that existed and the unwillingness of those in power (even Yury Andropov) to take the politically hard decisions which might have changed the situation (particularly in the pathetic agricultural sector). When Gorbachev began his "perestroika" CIA predicted  that he would be unable to control the forces he had turned loose.  A major aspect of the criticism directed at CIA dealt with CIA's apparent inability to comprehend with greater precision the amount of the Gross National Product (GNP) devoted to military requirements. I remember in the 1980's how the then Chief of the General Staff Marshal Ogarkov kept insisting on even more of the GNP for the military , recognizing as he did that modern warfare demanded this.  CIA made clear there was no way this could be done given the deplorable state of the Soviet economy.

Long time you concerned with USSR. How is changed the level of soviet secret services? How they were change for 60s,70s, 80s?

The book Battleground Berlin/Pole Bitvy Berlin provides much detail about the KGB and GRU in East Germany during the period 1945-1961. After praising these services, particularly KGB, for the high level of their sources and the quantity of intelligence they provided, much of it based on solid documentation, we pointed out that to a great extent this material was wasted because the top Soviet leadership often chose to ignore it. Stalin was best known for his disdain for any intelligence information which conflicted with his personal obsessions, but this tendency continued throughout the Khrushchev and later periods. I find it impossible to believe, for example, that no one in KGB would have been capable of arguing against project Anadyr, the clandestine introduction of intermediate range missiles into Cuba. KGB officers with experience in the U.S. surely knew that keeping this action secret from the Americans in country like Cuba which leaked like a sieve would have been impossible.

Those sources which were recruited in the 1930s on ideological grounds continued to provide valuable intelligence throughout the war against Hitler and into the early years of the Cold War as we noted in our Berlin experience. Recruitments were more difficult in later years until the Soviet services realized the power of money in motivating Western officials. Aldrich Ames is an outstanding example of this. Unfortunately for SVR, he might have been still at work today if he had not turned over the names of so many well placed CIA agents in the USSR in one single package in May 1985 rather than passing them one or two at a time (but then he was never adept at serious counterintelligence) . Even worse was the insistence of the Soviet leadership that these sources be arrested immediately, thus alerting CIA to the leak. 

How you estimate modern level of russian secret services?

During work on Battleground Berlin and later in launching the Russian edition, I found the Public Affairs Bureau of SVR, first under Gen. Yuri Kobaladze and then Col. Boris Labusov, to be extremely courteous and helpful.  As a retired officer, I have no way of judging the work of the present Russian services. 

Some people thinks that books about intelligence are actions of special services. For example, in Russia all are sure that book of Mitrohin is action of britain intelligence. You are author of spy book - what do you think about it?How to distinguish the really history study from book -action of secret services?

I have no information on the operational background of the case of Vasiliy Mitrokhin.  From my own knowledge of several of the KGB cases

mentioned in the book by Christopher Andrew and Mitrokhin, such as "Sasha"(Aleksandr Grigoryevich Kopatski), I believe the material which

Mitrokhin claims he took from KI/MGB/KGB archives is accurate.  As for Christopher Andrew, who is also the author of KGB: The Inside Story (which I believe has been published in the Russian language), he is a professor at Cambridge University who has become one of the leading specialists in intelligence literature. Nevertheless, I know from own experience, that unless a book can be expected to return a profit, there is no way it would be taken on by a respectable publishing house even though a Western service might like to see this happen.  In other words, the content of the book has to appeal to a wide readership or it will

not sell and I am afraid that Cold War "spy stories" are losing their allure.

In 70-s in Hollywood released some anti-CIA movies - " Principle of domino" et cetera. It was accident or, for example struggle of rivals? And where is the verge between conspiracy theory and action of secret services?

I can't answer your questions about anti-CIA movies from the 70s because I honestly don't remember them.  You should know that at that time, right after the Vietnam War and resignation of President Nixon, it was fashionable to attack the government. You can be sure that movies of this type were not the result of a "struggle between rivals" in the CIA! 

When you write your book, do you forecast the resonance?

If by "forecast the resonance" you mean could I predict the reaction by reviewers and the public, the answer is "no."  All an author can do is hope. I never thought that Battleground Berlin would be a big best seller but I expected that it would be of interest to students of the early Cold War period.

What about problem of secrecy? Did you have censorship or control of CIA?

As a retired CIA officer it was necessary that I submit  the manuscript to the CIA Publications Review Board before the book could be published..