Cover image for A secret life : the Polish officer, his covert mission, and the price he paid to save his country
A secret life : the Polish officer, his covert mission, and the price he paid to save his country
Weiser, Benjamin.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Public Affairs, [2004]

Physical Description:
xv, 383 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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UB271.U52 K858 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
UB271.U52 K858 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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For almost a decade, Col.Ryszard Kuklinski betrayed the Communist leadership of Poland, cooperating with the CIA in one of the most extraordinary human intelligence operations of the Cold War. Now that Poland is free, a riddle remains: Was Kuklinski a patriot or a traitor?. In August 1972, Ryszard Kuklinski, a highly respected colonel in the Polish Army, embarked on what would become one of the most extraordinary human intelligence operations of the Cold War. Despite the extreme risk to himself and his family, he contacted the American Embassy in Bonn, and arranged a secret meeting. From the very start, he made clear that he deplored the Soviet domination of Poland, and believed his country was on the wrong side of the Cold War.Over the next nine years, Kuklinski rose quickly in the Polish defense ministry, acting as a liaison to Moscow, and helping to prepare for a hot war with the West. But he also lived a life of subterfuge -of dead drops, messages written in invisible ink, miniature cameras, and secret transmitters. In 1981, he gave the CIA the secret plans to crush Solidarity. Then, about to be discovered, he made a dangerous escape with his family to the West. He still live

Author Notes

Benjamin Weiser has been a metropolitan reporter on the New York Times since 1997, where he has covered legal issues and terrorism. Before joining the Times, he spent eighteen years as a reporter for the Washington Post, where he served on the investigative staff. His journalism has received the George Polk and Livingston awards

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Highly placed in the military councils of the Warsaw Pact, Polish colonel Ryszard Kuklinski made himself the CIA's most important East Bloc intelligence asset in the 1970s, passing along invaluable information about Soviet weaponry, military plans and the brewing crackdown on Poland's dissident Solidarity movement. In this absorbing biography of an emblematic Cold War figure, journalist Weiser paints Kuklinski as a Polish patriot, his pro-American sentiments motivated by love of freedom, resentment of Soviet domination, and fear that a superpower confrontation would unleash a nuclear holocaust on Poland. At times Weiser goes overboard in establishing the point, reprinting at inordinate length Kuklinski's high-minded letters to his CIA handlers and their equally gushing tributes to his idealism and strength of character (the question of how much money the CIA paid Kuklinski is somewhat coyly skirted). But he gives a wonderful account of the daily routine of espionage, full of the theory and practice of counter-surveillance, dead drops, surreptitious hand-offs, suicide pills, invisible ink and (often balky) miniature transmitters, and moments of panic when Kuklinski narrowly escapes detection. Weiser also offers an unusually intimate portrait of the inner life of a spy and the intense emotional bond between agents and their handlers (after his case officer was transferred, the CIA continued to forge letters to Kuklinski over his signature to avoid upsetting their prize asset). Both a gripping spycraft procedural and a study of the moral tension of simultaneously collaborating with and undermining a system one detests, the book sheds light on a shadowy but evocative aspect of life under Communism. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Choice Review

US intelligence failures are legendary, while successes seldom are recognized. As a consequence, secrecy has kept scholars from discovering the valuable contribution of Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski in winning the Cold War. Kuklinski, a former Polish general staff officer, initially volunteered to work for the US in 1972 and continued until he was exposed nearly a decade later. During that period, the CIA received over 40,000 documents involving Soviet efforts to introduce atomic weapons to Poland and Moscow's clandestine plan to crush Solidarity. Investigative journalist Weiser (The New York Times) reconstructed Kuklinski's espionage activities in penetrating the Warsaw Pact from materials found in the previously closed CIA archives and rare interviews with retired CIA agents. Not only does Weiser chronicle Washington's infiltration of Moscow's high command, but he also describes the technological innovations used by Langley to communicate with their prized agent, code-named "Gull." Unlike other legendary spies, such as Oleg Penkovsky who betrayed the Soviet Union out of revenge, Kuklinski was motivated by Polish nationalism to approach Washington. This book is a significant achievement in Cold War scholarship involving the role of intelligence operations and the collapse of the Iron Curtain. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. C. C. Lovett Emporia State University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Prologuep. 1
1 Crossing the Linep. 5
2 "The Soil of Nobody"p. 29
3 A Double Lifep. 56
4 "Stabbing Back"p. 87
5 Near Missp. 121
6 "Standing on Ice"p. 140
7 Tremors of Changep. 166
8 "Out of the Shadows of Darkness"p. 186
9 Preparing to Crush Solidarityp. 229
10 "Everything Is Pointing to the End of My Mission"p. 266
11 Patriot or Traitor?p. 292
12 Returnp. 315
Author's Notesp. 343
Acknowledgmentsp. 367
Indexp. 371