A DAY after the Russians released muttnik, the poodle-bearing space satellite in November, 1957, the Associated Press released an almost equally bizarre piece of news. It was an interview with a bald, mousy, little British physicist with a dry sense of humour, named Dr. Alan Nunn May.
In Cambridge, England, where he was working on private but non-secret scientific research, the forty-six-year-old Dr. May confided to reporters, "I would have gladly gone up in sputnik in place of the dog. I would have done it for science. I would really have enjoyed it!"
Dr. May's voice was a curious echo from out of the past. It linked cloak-and-dagger intrigue over the atom bomb with the even more cloak-and-daggerish intrigue over streamlined passage to the moon. Whatever hanky-panky explodes up in the air, Dr. May seems determined to be in the thick of it.
For, in 1945, Dr. May was the first major atom bomb spy of the Western World to be trapped. He was arrested, thanks to one hundred and nine incendiary documents hugged inside the shirt of Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, a disillusioned Russian cipher clerk, fleeing the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa.
One of Gouzenko's documents proved that Dr. May— known by the spy code alias of "Alek"—handed over to Soviet agents in Montreal samples of uranium 233 and 235, which he'd stolen from Chicago atomic laboratories. In exchange, the British traitor got seven hundred dollars and two bottles of whisky. As an extra cloak-and-dagger touch, his pay-off included a two hundred dollar bill, furtively tucked inside a bottle of Canadian rye.
Another Gouzenko document was a directive from spy headquarters in Moscow; it urged Dr. May to pick up atomic secrets in the uranium plant in Petawawa, Ontario, then take up his science teaching again at King's College in London. Dr. May was to transmit these secrets to a Red Ottawa spy —on a dark October evening at eight o'clock—in front of the British Museum on London's Great Russell Street.
"Alek will have under his left arm the newspaper, Times," the Gouzenko directive read picturesquely. "The contact man will have in his left hand the magazine, Picture Post. The Password:
"The contact man: 'What is the shortest way to the Strand?'
"Alek: 'Well, come along. I am going that way.'
"In the beginning of the business conversation, Alek says: 'Best regards from Mikel.' "
Dr. May confessed his guilt, and served six years of his ten-year prison sentence. Released in 1952, the shy, black-moustached little physicist insisted, "I still think I did rightly. Many others think so, too."
What Dr. May seemed to have missed most of all was the romantic cloak-and-dagger atmosphere that pervaded his career as a spy. He was in love with "thespionage".
Indeed, the entire Gouzenko revelations—and their expo-sure of at least twenty-five separate spy rings hatching Red plots in Canada, England, and the U.S.—were positively thick with a pall of conspiratorial atmosphere. With their penchant for secret passwords and coded nicknames, the Soviet spies appear to have dipped freely into the scripts of Alfred Hitchcock and Eric Ambler. At times, in fact, the true-life melodrama seemed so hoked-up and shmalzy, it would have outraged the credibility of a caped villain in East Lynne, or even a moustachioed heavy, leering at the ingenue in a road company comic opera.
It is little wonder that Gouzenko himself ultimately took to confecting best-selling novels, on the order of The Fall Of A Titan. The ex-cipher clerk obviously figured that, after enduring his unbelievable but true adventures as a spy, writ-ing mere fiction must be a cinch.
Fantastic melodrama reared its head on the curtain-raising evening of September 5, 1945. That was when the defecting Gouzenko walked out of the steel-armoured secret cipher room in the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, loaded with in-criminating documents.
Gouzenko had not foreseen that he would have to persuade the circumspect Canadian authorities to take him into cus-tody; in Russia, that would have been no problem. For more than twenty-four hours, he haunted the offices of Ottawa officialdom, pleading in vain to be picked up. Even an Ottawa newspaper sent him packing as a possible crackpot, thus losing the scoop of its life.
It was not until a strong-arm squad from the Russian Embassy began breaking into his apartment next evening with a crowbar to kidnap him—which, of course, constituted a breach of the peace frowned upon in genteel, law-abiding
Ottawa—that Gouzenko was able to lodge himself in the arms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was a rare case (certainly not acceptable in a piece of fiction) where it was the man who got the Mounties.
When Gouzenko blew the whistle, he also blew the top off the colossal scale of Russian plotting in the Western World, revealing for the first time its hidden international tentacles. At least a dozen major espionage convictions resulted from his disclosures.
In Canada, the two biggest fish netted in were a pair of Moscow-schooled spies. One was Sam Carr (cover nickname, "Frank"), national organizer of Canada's Communist Labour Progressive Party; he was flushed out of hiding in 1949 by the F.B.I, after a three-year search, and sentenced to six years in Kingston Penitentiary. The other was Fred Rose, (spy nickname, "Debouz") Communist Member of Parliament for Jacques Cartier riding, Montreal; he was sentenced to six years in Quebec's St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary— whereafter he scurried off behind the Iron Curtain.
Smaller fry among Canadian spies convicted were: Mrs. Emma Woikin (spy nickname, "Nora"), twenty-four-year-old cipher clerk in the External Affairs Department, sentenced to two years and six months in Kingston Penitentiary; Kathleen Wilsher (spy nickname, "Ellie"), forty-one-year-old deputy registrar at the United Kingdom High Commissioner's Office, sentenced to three years; Edward Mazerall (spy nick-name, "Bagley"), National Research Council engineer, sentenced to four years; Capt. Gordon Lunan (spy nickname, "Back"), Canadian Information Service official, sentenced to five years; and Durnford Smith (spy nickname, "Badeau"), National Research Council engineer, sentenced to five years.
In England, of course, Gouzenko's documents netted in the shy little whisky-swigging physicist, Dr. Alan Nunn May, who was awarded ten years in the sneezer. But an even bigger catch was Dr. Klaus Emil Fuchs, the British-naturalized atomic scientist, whose name was one of the four hundred and thirty-six scribbled in Gouzenko's pocket address book: "Klaus Fuchs, 84 George Lane, University of Edinburgh, Scotland." When seized by British constables in February, 1950, for passing atom bomb secrets to Soviet agents, Fuchs displayed himself as a strangely immature oddball. He began by giving the officers the date of his birth thirty-six years ago, as the son of a German preacher, and assuring the bobbies, "I had a very happy childhood". The judge at the Old Bailey tagged him a silly Communist fanatic, and awarded him fourteen years in prison.
In the United States, the repercussions of Gouzenko's walk-out were even more spectacular. Dr. Fuchs, foiled by Gou-zenko's notebook, confessed that, on ten occasions, he'd given atomic bomb secrets to a courier in the U.S. working for the Russians—a dark, chunky man he knew only as "Raymond". This clue led the F.B.I, to Harry Gold, a chemist at the Philadelphia General Hospital, who denied all. Then one of the F.B.I, men asked, "Were you ever near the atomic project in Santa Fe, New Mexico?"
"No," said Gold. "In fact, I've never been west of the Mississippi River!"
With Gold's consent, the F.B.I, agents searched his home. They found a long-forgotten map of the city of Santa Fe. Faced with this evidence, Gold collapsed in his chair, and confessed he was the elusive "Raymond", to whom Fuchs had passed atomic secrets. More important, Gold admitted he'd been a courier for a Soviet spy ring for fourteen years—and exposed the leading arteries of the U.S. spy network.
As a consequence, Gold was sentenced to thirty years in Alcatraz. His fellow conspirator, Morton Sobell, is now also serving thirty-year residence in Alcatraz. David Greenglass, a New York soldier-technician who passed secrets from the Los Alamos Atomic Project, is serving fifteen years. And Greenglass's sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed in the electric chair of the Death House at Sing Sing Prison, on Friday, June 19, 1953—thus touching off leftist riots in Washington, Paris and Rome—and still remain an infamous cause celebre to Communists everywhere around the world.
The evidence given by Harry Gold—about his cloak-and-dagger meetings with the U.S. spy ring—typified the general air of theatrical intrigue that characterized all the cast of characters performing in what might be titled, The Gouzenko Melodrama. The way Gold told the story, though, the Red staging seemed more like a scene out of Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel, played by a cast of comic-strip characters.
On the last Saturday in May, 1945, according to Gold, he had a clandestine meeting in a New York City chop-suey restaurant with a spy he knew only as "John". This Red lover of chicken chow mein, egg foo yung, and bird's nest soup was later identified as Soviet Vice Consul Anatoli Yakovlev.
Over his chop sticks, Yakovlev, who looked rather like a plump, gold-toothed mandarin, whispered, "I wish you to travel to Santa Fe—to receive atomic data from agent K. Fuchs on June 2nd. We trust you enough now. So I want you to take on an additional assignment on your trip. In Albuquerque. A very important mission."
Under the restaurant table, Yakovlev passed to Gold a sheet of onion-skin paper. On it was typed the name, "Green-glass", and an Albuquerque address, "209 North High Street". Below the name and address were the secret contact words, "Recognition Signal: 'I come from Julius.' "
Incredibly enough, Yakovlev also passed over to Gold a section of a cardboard Jello box, cut in an odd shape.
"This is for purposes of positive identification," Yakovlev whispered. "Your contact, agent D. Greenglass, will give you a matching section of the Jello box. It must fit exactly the irregular edges of your cut-out. Is that clear, comrade?"
Gold, a round-faced, high-domed fellow in a pin-stripe suit, who had majored in chemistry at Cincinnati's Xavier University, seldom went to the movies to watch spy pictures. But he didn't even do a double-take, as he whispered back, "Very clear, Comrade John."
After keeping his rendezvous with Fuchs, Gold proceeded by bus to Albuquerque. He spent the night at the Hilton Hotel, and at 8:30 next morning, June 3, knocked on the door at the High Street address.
His knock was answered by David Greenglass, a bushy, brown-haired engineer of twenty-three, from Brooklyn, who had worked at the Manhattan Atomic Project, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Los Alamos, New Mexico.
"Mr. Greenglass?" asked Gold.
"Yes," said Greenglass.
"I come from Julius," said Gold.
Greenglass was suspicious. The F.B.L had once questioned him, after he'd stolen a piece of uranium as a souvenir; but he'd become frightened about having it in his possession and tossed it into the East River. "Do you have another sign?" Greenglass asked.
"Yes," said Gold, and he whipped out his section of Jello box.
"Oh, Ruthie!" Greenglass called out to his wife. "We have that certain visitor."
His wife, Ruth, a fairly pretty, red-cheeked brunette, after eyeing the morning guest, fished the other part of the Jello box out of her purse. Solemnly, she fitted this childish sort of jigsaw puzzle together.
Greenglass invited Gold inside, and said, "I'll have the material on the big bomb ready for you later this afternoon. Meanwhile, have a drink. Make yourself at home."
Gold gave Greenglass a tidy gift—an envelope containing five hundred dollars.
Later that week, on Tuesday evening at the New York chop-suey restaurant, Gold handed Yakovlev under the table two envelopes. One was marked, "Doctor", containing the information Gold had received from Fuchs; the other, labelled, "Other", contained the Greenglass atomic secrets.
After examining the data, Yakovlev flashed a gold-toothed smile. "Excellent material, comrade!" he said, slapping his back. They both had two helpings of chicken chow-mein that evening.
Another bizarre scene was painted in the evidence later given by David Greenglass.
In late May, 1950, Greenglass, then a machinist in New York, had a hurried visit, in his Rivington Street apartment, from his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, whom he worshipped as a brilliant intellectual. Rosenberg, a bespectacled, black-moustached, scholarly-looking electrical engineer of thirty-two—a Red fanatic ever since he'd joined the Young Communist League at the College of the City of New York —clutched in his hand a newspaper. It detailed the arrest of Harry Gold and Klaus Fuchs.
"You must leave the country!" Rosenberg exclaimed.
He pressed a thousand dollars upon Greenglass, urged him to flee to Mexico, and provided him with a Hitchcock-like scenario so dear to the hearts of Red spies.
"When you reach Mexico," Rosenberg said, "write a letter to the Soviet Ambassador. Say something favourable about the Soviet role in the U.N. Sign your letter, 'I. Jackson'. Three days later, stand in front of the statue of Columbus in the Plaza Colon at 5 p.m., carrying a guide to Mexico City, with your little finger inserted into its pages. You will then wait until a man comes up close to you."
"How will I identify him?" asked Greenglass.
Rosenberg explained patiently, "You will say to the stranger, That is a magnificent statue. I am from Oklahoma, and have never seen a statue like it before.' He will say, 'Oh, there are much more beautiful statues in Paris.' He will then give you more money and passports to Sweden. In Stockholm, repeat the same procedure at the statue of Linnaeus. You will then be taken to asylum in Czechoslovakia."
As it turned out, Greenglass didn't make use of this mumbo-jumbo, due to a homey event. His wife, Ruth, expecting her second child, was in a hospital, badly burned after upsetting a gas stove. He used Rosenberg's thousand dollars to pay the bills, and stood waiting in his apartment, ready to pay for the consequences, when the F.B.I, on June 15 swooped down on the U.S. spy ring.
If the American espionage agents at times acted like stock characters out of a spy meller, the Canadian spies frequently embellished their performance with touches of low farce. Their pratt-falls are described with grave, dead-pan humour in a 733-page, blue-covered Report Of The Royal Commission, which investigated espionage in Canada after Gouzenko's revelations. Twelve thousand copies, at a dollar each, were immediately snapped up by embassies around the world, and the rare copies of this best-seller are now regarded as a Spy's Handbook, conveniently replete with do's and don'ts for every would-be spy.
This is not to suggest that the Royal Commissioners, Mr. Justice Robert Taschereau and Mr. Justice R. L. Kellock, intentionally set out to write Joe Miller's Joke Book On The Art Of Spying. Indeed, they must have been rather numbed, after sitting every week day for five months in 1946, dog-gedly poring through a thousand exhibits, and listening to a hundred and sixteen witnesses give testimony running to over six thousand pages. Moreover, the Commissioners were genuinely shocked to learn that nine separate intelligence networks were functioning in Canada in direct contact with Moscow.
Nevertheless, one can detect between the lines dry, legal-istic amusement, as the Commissioners reported how the spy networks got into each other's hair. Each used codes and agents unknown to the others; squabbled and stole each other's assignments; and joyfully told tattle-tales about rival networks' blunders to "The Director" in Moscow.
The Commissioners also appeared to raise amused eyebrows at the clandestine meetings held by the spies, from Halifax to Vancouver, and north to Chalk River, Ontario. It was as though the agents were Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns, exchanging passwords to enter rival little boys' clubs.
In an Ottawa dentist's office, secret information was left tucked under the lid of the lavatory water tank. The office of a Toronto optometrist on College Street—and a park bench near Toronto's General Hospital—were favourite message-passing centres. Separate communication lines to Moscow were established in Halifax's Soviet Consulate, as well as in a Vancouver office, masquerading as a Canadian Mutual Aid organization for the poor in Russia. Indeed, one spy, Lieut. Guseev—who pretended to be the doorman under the cover-name, "Henry", at the Russian Embassy—once made an inspection tour of the Vancouver front organization; "Henry," the cad, then sent a critical report to Moscow which was, in effect, the Red raspberry. It was a case of one masquerader berating the inept masquerade of another masquer ader.
But the Commissioners seemed to be most titillated by the cloak-and-dagger furtiveness maintained at the thirty-room Soviet Embassy in Ottawa by Colonel Nikolai Zabotin, Soviet Military Attaché, (cover-name, "Grant"), who was headquarters boss of the lowly cipher clerk, Igor Gouzenko, (cover-name, "Klark"). Under the heading of "Secrecy", this is how the Commissioners outlined the hush-hush lowjinks that prevailed in Ottawa:
"Gouzenko has described to us the extreme secrecy in which the espionage operations were conducted ... He lived with his family at 511 Somerset Street, Ottawa, but he had his own office in the secret cipher department, which is located on the second floor at the Embassy, No. 285 Charlotte Street. He worked in room 12, one of the eight rooms on the second floor of a wing of the building, the entrance of which is closed by a double steel door, and the windows of which have iron bars and steel shutters, which are closed at night for the purpose of complete secrecy.
"In this room is a steel safe, which contains many of the important documents of the Military Intelligence. The cipher books which Gouzenko used to encipher and decipher telegrams, were kept in a sealed bag, which was handed every night to one Aleksashkin. In the same bag were also placed the telegrams that came from Moscow and the telegrams sent to Moscow. In the safe were kept the agents' records, Colonel Zabotin's secret diary, and other documents of the Military Intelligence Service. From time to time, some of these documents were destroyed in an incinerator located in room 14.
"In rooms of this secret wing, the cipher clerks of the various branches of the Soviet Mission in Ottawa were located. They numbered five in all: The N.K.V.D., the Embassy proper, the Political Section, the Commercial Section, and the Military. The N.K.V.D. Section sent its messages to the N.K.V.D. Headquarters in Moscow; the Embassy, the messages of the Ambassador and his staff to the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs; the Political Section, which was under Goussarov, communicated directly with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; the Commercial Section, headed by the Commercial Counsellor Ivan I. Krotov (cover-name, The Economist'), sent its messages to the Commissariat for Foreign Trade; and the Military Section, headed by Colonel Zabotin, communicated with the Director of Military Intelligence in Moscow.
"All these cipher clerks operated independently, and each one used a different cipher which was unknown to the others.
"Gouzenko has also revealed to us that, in Colonel Zabotin's house, 14 Range Road, Ottawa, complete photographic equipment was installed for the purpose of photographing documents for Moscow.
"This extreme secrecy, with which acts of the espionage branches of the Mission were clothed at the Embassy, was also exercised with great care by the Russians in their relations with their agents, and by the agents themselves in their mutual contacts. 'After reading, burn' were standard instructions on written assignments of tasks given by Colonel Zabotin and his associates to the agents. The meetings of agents at night on street corners and in automobiles, and the use of 'cover-names' and 'go-betweens', indicate the secrecy with which operations were conducted.
" 'Cover-names' were used by the Russian leaders of the espionage system, not only for themselves, their Russian assistants, and their agents, but also refer to places, organizations, and things. Thus, Canada was sometimes referred to as 'Lesovia'; the Soviet Embassy as 'metro'; the N.K.V.D., or ussian secret police, as The Neighbour'; passports as 'shoes'; the Communist Party of Canada or other countries except the U.S.S.R. as The Corporation' and its members as 'corporants' or 'corporators'; any hiding place as a 'dubok'; a legal 'front' for illegal activities as a 'roof; and the military espionage organization itself as 'Giselle'."
So far as the Royal Commission was concerned, the star performers in the non-ballet 'Giselle' were Colonel Nikolai Zabotin and Igor Gouzenko.
Zabotin was a blustery military figure, with curly, iron-grey hair, a square head, and blue eyes that had a curious way of remaining icy cold whenever his mouth of dazzling white teeth laughed. He loved to wear his military uniform buttoned precisely under his chin, and doted on telling war stories of his experiences as an artillery officer.
After referring to a commander in an anecdote, Zabotin would pause deliberately. "Later, in the purge, of course," Zabotin would say, "the poor fellow was shot!"
Bellowing with laughter, Zabotin would then roar, "Come to think of it—why wasn't I shot, too?"
Nevertheless, Zabotin escaped execution, and rose so high in Moscow circles, that in June, 1943, the Politburo decided to send him to Canada, ostensibly as the Russian Military Attache. Georgi Malenkov himself, premier-to-be, took time out from wartime affairs to brief Zabotin personally on how to mastermind spy operations in Canada.
The trusted, $200-a-month cipher clerk that Zabotin brought with him, Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, was schooled in the art of military espionage and keeping his mouth shut. Gouzenko, then twenty-four, was broad-shouldered, blond, blue-eyed, stocky, with high cheekbones, and somewhat humourless. He was described by a reporter as "looking not unlike the bobby-soxers' movie ideal, Van Johnson."
Gouzenko was bora in Rogochova near Moscow, but lived as a boy at Rostov-On-Don, the scene of his later novel, The Fall Of A Titan. When his mother, a school teacher, obtained a post in Moscow, Igor and his sister lived there with her in one tenement room of a Ninotchka-like crowded house, shared with four other comrades. He was a grimly dedicated scholar. He graduated with a Golden Attestat from secondary school; did brilliantly at the Moscow Architectural Institute; and graduated as a Red Army lieutenant from the Kuibishev Military Engineering Academy. He married an attractive Ukrainian brunette, Svetlana, who, like him, belonged to Komsomol, the Young Communists, and who flew as a pilot on bomber missions over Germany.
Gouzenko had been working in the cipher division of Military Intelligence Headquarters in Moscow, learning how to handle secret codes, when he was tapped to go to Canada. He was sent to the Embassy in Ottawa by air, while Svetlana, who was pregnant, followed by ship. They were both overwhelmed to live in a country where you could vote for whom you pleased, shoot off your mouth if you didn't like the prime minister, and actually go out and buy a pair of shoes when you wanted.
Before bolting from Giselle, though, Gouzenko kept his mouth shut and continued to help Zabotin in his espionage activities. On the surface, Zabotin's undercover organization seemed to be coming along smoothly. His private spy ring came to number some twenty agents and sub-agents, funnelling to Ottawa, and then to Moscow, inside information on the atom bomb, the layout of Halifax Harbour, and design drawings for radar devices.
Zabotin's best recruits as agents were intellectual members of Canada's Communist Labour Progressive Party. They functioned as secret "cells", holding literary tea parties on university campuses, conducting discussion groups on Marxism, cribbing their current ideology from the Canadian Tribune, and obviously feeling wickedly virtuous.
"The attitude of members of the Soviet Embassy staff toward 'developed' members of the Canadian Communist Party," the Royal Commission reported, "is well summed up in the Russian word, 'Nash.' This is occasionally used as a sentence by itself, with reference to members of that Party in Colonel Zabotin's notebooks. 'Nash', literally translated, means 'ours' or 'he is ours'."
In an interesting section of the Royal Commission Report, titled, "Motivation Of Agents", it's noted that money played no important role in the original inducement to recruit dupes as espionage agents.
Indeed, Edward Mazerall (cover name, "Bagley") was indignant, when asked at the spy trials if Capt. Gordon Lunan (cover-name, "Back") had ever offered him crass money.
"I am positive, knowing myself," exclaimed Mazerall, "that the slightest suggestion of it would have discouraged it, as far as I am concerned, entirely."
"What do you mean," he was asked, "by saying that, if you had been offered money, you would not be here?"
"I would not have accepted money!" Mazerall repeated. "If it had been offered to me, I would have said 'no' at the moment. And I know I would have told him to get out of the car, and I would have driven away."
Capt. Lunan was equally disdainful in telling how he rebuffed expense money from his spy contact, known as "Jan":
"Jan was always bringing up the question of expenses, and he did mention this question of taxi rides. But it was always, from our point of view, a preposterous suggestion. And I simply ignored it."
Perhaps the most fuzzy-headed answer came from Durnford Smith (cover-name, "Badeau"), when he was asked, "What was it that attracted you to the Communist movement?"
"The logic of it," replied Smith.
Dr. Raymond Boyer, chemist on the staff of McGill University, (cover-name, "The Professor"), claimed ideals. He was convicted for giving Russia a secret formula developed in Canada for manufacture of the super-explosive known as RDX. According to the Report, Prof. Boyer said he gave this secret information to Fred Rose, M.P.—despite the oath of secrecy he had taken—believing his step would further "international scientific collaboration."
The Royal Commissioners had their own explanation:
"In some cases, a desire for companionship and intellectual discussion may have played its part. With certain persons, there is, apparently, an emotional appeal and glamour, as it were, a sense of adventure, inherent in the conspiratorial methods and purposive activities of the groups. With more sophisticated persons, fascination by what may appear to them to be the efficiency of the unusual and essentially totalitarian system of the Party organization, through pyramiding cells, may offer an attractive appeal."
Whatever the appeals, as it were, Zabotin was able to magnetize a tidy number of dupes into doing dirty spy work.
His espionage network was so successful that, in August, 1945, Moscow decorated him with the Order of the Red Star and Order of the Red Banner for his "organizational activities."
The Chief of General Intelligence in Moscow personally wired Zabotin his congratulations. The straight-faced message read: "I wish you further success in your honourable work." Zabotin swaggered in front of his Embassy associates, and bragged, "I have nothing to be afraid now to go back to Moscow."
Despite this facade of success, the Embassy in Ottawa actually seethed with feuds, back-biting, and red tape that was frequently comical. The overlapping of spy networks was irritatingly expensive. Officially, no spy was supposed to know that any other spy at the Embassy was a spy. Yet every petty spy decision had to be coded and cabled to Moscow.
Thus, Zabotin (as head of the Canadian military spy net-work) might want to warn his hated rival, Vitali Pavlov, Second Secretary of the Ottawa Embassy (and Canadian head of the N.K.V.D. spy network), about a mutual agent's weakening loyalty. Zabotin would go to the Embassy secret cipher room, perhaps greeting Pavlov with a big "hello", as they passed in the Embassy hall.
Zabotin would have his cipher clerk, Gouzenko, code a cabled message for Pavlov to Moscow. Moscow would receive it, de-code it, re-code it, and send it back to Ottawa.
Pavlov's own cipher clerk in the Embassy's secret cipher wing would receive the message, de-code it, and Pavlov would come and get it—perhaps passing Zabotin in the hall. It was, certainly, a rather costly way of exchanging desk memoes.
The Embassy was so overcrowded with spies getting their network wires crossed that the agents were, officially, listed as doormen, chauffeurs, and other servants. Once, Gouzenko returned to the cipher wing late at night to find the Embassy cook, Borovkov, busily ciphering away.
Zabotin's Assistant Military Attache, Lieut.-Col. Motinov (who used the cover-name, "Lamont"), came in and glared at the industrious cook, who was obviously not frying fish. Motinov asked Gouzenko in a low voice, "What's Borovkov doing here?"
"Everybody's writing around here now—even the chef!" growled Motinov, as he stamped out in a huff.
The sniping between Zabotin and Pavlov often assumed the proportions of a Hatfield-McCoy vendetta. Once, two of Pavlov's Russian-speaking agents went to the Canadian Patent Office in Ottawa, and, in blundering naivete, requested, "Please, gentlemens, sirs, we would like to see all information about your secretest invention of radar."
Appalled by their accent, which they thought was German, the Patent Office civil servants promptly called for the police. The agents were released from jail, but Zabotin sent a gloating telegram to "The Director" in Moscow: "The Neighbour's people, Pavlov's people, should not work with such hooligan methods."
On his part, Pavlov sent a petulant telegram to "The Director", complaining, "Grant—and I do mean Zabotin— is trying to steal my best spies. Why do we have to develop the same agents?"
Zabotin's assistant, Lieut.-Col. Motinov, when his direct boss wasn't looking, got in his own little knife stab by wiring "The Director" in Moscow. The blabber tattle-taled:
"I here report disorderly conduct by Major Romanov. He has already been in five fights. He fought with Major Rogov on the streets in front of the Military Attache's house. Several times, he has become so drunk at receptions, he had to be carried out. At all receptions and social functions, he behaves in a provocative manner. At a TASS reception, he fought with First Secretary of the Embassy Belokhvostikov. Instead of reprimanding Romanov, Zabotin defends him.
"Three days ago, at a reception in his own apartment, Romanov fought with a Czechoslovak officer and, in the ensuing scuffle, tore the trousers off the Czechoslovak Military Attache.
"Colonel Zabotin was present at the reception with his wife and Gorshkov. Next day, Romanov did not appear at work. Zabotin explained his illness by sickness. I consider that urgent measures should be taken. Lamont"
The ladies at the Embassy, as wives will, bickered incessantly, too. The wife of Col. Zabotin constantly picked flaws in the wife of Russian Ambassador Georgei Zaroubin. Their acrimonious war of tongues was initiated when Mrs. Zabotin incurred the First Lady's displeasure, by turning up at a vodka party of Embassy wives, clad in a crudely peasant-like babushka and short socks.
The wife of Major Sokolov, Assistant Commercial Counsellor (cover-name, "Davie"), really drew the wrath of all Embassy wives. She had the nerve to use the mighty espionage network's agents to get herself the newest-fashion dresses from Montreal stores that she couldn't buy in Ottawa shops. The various Red ladies were forever occupied in disseminating shrewish gossip—all of it assiduously picked up by the other Embassy wives, to find its way ultimately into coded messages home.
The squabbling became too much for the weary "Director." "One result of the irritation," reports the Royal Commission Report with droll humour, "was the receipt of simultaneous instructions by Zabotin and Pavlov from Military Intelligence Headquarters and N.K.V.D. Headquarters, respectively . . . All disputes must be settled . . . There should be no more quarrelling between the various systems operating in Canada."
Besides ferreting out state secrets, the spy networks had other official chores to do. One agent's assignment was to order fifty children's bicycles for immediate shipment to Moscow, for the children of the Kremlin's top bureaucrats.
But bureaucracy is the same everywhere. "Of course," the agent later chuckled to Gouzenko, over a glass of beer, in the Chateau Laurier Hotel beverage room, "I ordered fifty-three bicycles. One extra bike for each of the three men in my department."
"The Director" in Moscow rarely balked at handing out huge sums for bribes—except in one case. Sam Carr was assigned to get a false Canadian passport for a Soviet spy who had sneaked into Los Angeles, where he was taking courses in political science at University of Southern California. The spy (who, incidentally, graduated with a brilliant record of thirty-one A's, a cum laude degree, and a Phi Beta Kappa key), was masquerading under the bogus name of "Ignacy Samuel Witczak." During the proceedings, Carr was tabbed with the equally picturesque name of "Shoemaker"—namely, a maker of false passports.
Carr's go-between was an optometrist on College Street in Toronto. An elaborate system of passwords was devised for their clandestine meetings, at which the optometrist passed along passport information, and in exchange got a bottle of whisky. If Carr said on the phone, "I want to say Hollow to Frank", it meant the meeting was to "take place in the hospital area, behind the Baton's Store, on the corner of Yonge-College Street." Other whisky-passing meetings were held in Montreal "at the corner of Sherbrooke and Guy, near the Medical Arts Building."
In one dossier filched by Gouzenko, the telephone exchange was outlined in this intriguing way:
"Brent says: 'Hallo, Doctor. How are you? How is your wife?'
"The Doctor answers: 'Very well. I shall see you later.' This means that the meeting shall take place at the corner of Lowther and Admiral Road at 21.00.
"Should, however, the doctor answer: 'I am glad to see you again'—it means that the meeting shall take place at the above-mentioned place, and at the same time, but on the next day."
Still another quixotic password posed the question: "How's Elsie?" It demanded the far from exotic reply: "She's fine."
Carr received "at least eight hundred and fifty dollars" for passing out bottles of whisky during the course of these surreptitious tete-a-tetes, a rather exorbitant price for licit booze exchanged illicitly. "The Director" didn't quibble. But he did scream when Carr reported that a capitalistically-inclined clerk in the Canadian Passport Office in Ottawa demanded a five thousand dollar bribe for faking a passport.
"This is a fantastic sum," the Moscow bureaucrat bristled indignantly. "The maximum we are prepared to go is three thousand dollars."
Like a decent and honourable chap, the faker in the Passport Office swallowed his pride, and a few beakers of extra-bribed schnapps, and did the job for a picayune three thousand dollars. At this price the chap didn't exactly feel disgruntled, but he didn't feel gruntled either. A physician on Bathurst Street in Toronto, who signed the spurious application for the passport—and claimed he knew the bogus "Ignacy Samuel Witczak" for three years like a buddy—was ultimately fined five hundred dollars for not being more choosy about his intimate chums.
By late August, 1945, business was prospering so handsomely in the espionage line that "The Director" in Moscow decided it was time for a big post-war expansion in Canada. He wired Zabotin that Moscow was actively training more agents, and promised Zabotin to double his staff.
Moreover, Moscow began hectoring the Canadian Government for permission to establish a large Soviet trade centre in Montreal—with, of course, diplomatic immunities. The Embassy's Commercial Counsellor's staff, increased from fifty to ninety-seven, would be expected to do their spying from this neat little "front."
As an after-thought, "The Director" remembered that Zabotin's quiet, bashful-seeming cipher clerk, Igor Gouzenko, had been stationed at the Embassy for two years. The short, stocky little chap of twenty-six was certainly efficient enough —his salary had been increased to two hundred and sixty dollars a month. Nor was there any doubt about his loyalty— the N.K.V.D. had devoted six months to probing that before he was dispatched to Ottawa.
Still, "The Director" mused, you never know. Capitalist countries were notorious for their "contaminating" effect, and two years were plenty long enough for any comrade to be exposed to absurd imperialistic luxuries, like food and freedom. "The Director" decided it was time Gouzenko came home.
Regrettably, when Zabotin informed his cipher clerk that space had been reserved for his boat trip back to Moscow, Gouzenko was already "contaminated." Gouzenko went to his Somerset Street apartment to talk things over with his wife, Lana, who was then six months pregnant, having had their two-year-old son, Andrei.
Lana was afraid even to discuss it in bed in their own apart-ment. She reminded him that the living quarters of some of the Embassy staff had been "tapped" with wires. So they went to a nearby park to weigh their plans.
Although Gouzenko reminded her they might be signing their own death warrant, and would be branded traitors, Lana was all for renouncing political enslavement in their country. "But you must get documents as evidence," Lana said. "Accusations alone are not enough. Canada is not like Russia. They do not shoot people here just on a charge."
Gouzenko jutted out his jaw determinedly. "You are right," he said. "It is time now to make the break."