The Man Behind the Rosenbergs

the-man-behindThis is a fascinating book written by retired KGB agent Alexander Feklisov with Sergei Kostin. The book begins with an interesting description of Feklisov’s life in the Soviet Union as a youngster and his eventual acceptance into the INO, or Soviet Foreign Intelligence. He is sent to the United States early in World War II and spends four years sending and receiving messages without being involved in espionage. He is a capable and loyal employee and he eventually enters the world of the “illegals” with the assignment of recruiting spies from the many Americans who sympathized with the Communism and the Soviet cause. I found it interesting that Feklisov ardently defended his contacts as being “anti-fascist activists” and not Communist spies.

Feklisov’s advancement in Soviet intelligence was enhanced by the remarkable fact there were few older agents when he began his training. Feklisov was surprised there “…was only one older officer in our section…” He “…later learned that the Stalinist purges had not spared the intelligence services. The leadership of the INO had been decimated as much as the Red Army by the end of the 1930s.” It is difficult to understand Feklisov’s dedicated loyalty to the Stalinist system after such a revelation.

Feklisov was almost prohibited from receiving a foreign assignment because he wasn’t married. He was told, “How can you recruit any agents if you can’t even recruit a wife?” His immediate supervisor praised his abilities and recommended him for an overseas assignment. He even complimented him with the comment, “If you want my opinion, it’s rather good that he didn’t get married on command. It goes to prove he’s a serious sort of fellow.” That and the fact the NKVD was short of people in the United States led to his assignment in New York as a communication specialist.

He became Alexander Fomin with the code name “Kalistrat” and was assigned to establish a clandestine radio link. The announcement of the Nazi attack on the USSR revealed some attitudes that disturbed Feklisov, or Fomin. Senator Harry Truman announced that Russia should be helped if the Germans were winning or the Germans should be helped if the Russians were winning. “The first prize for bluntness would go to the New York Daily News, which published a cartoon depicting the USSR and Germany as two snakes fighting each other. The caption read, ‘Let’s let them eat each other!’” Feklisov felt Roosevelt was fairer in his assessment. “His attitude toward the USSR in general, now that it was bearing the brunt of the war effort was favorable.” (My reading of history says that FDR’s attitude went far beyond “favorable.) Continue reading

Rocky Flats Then and Now: 25 Years After the Raid

There will be a series of presentations June 6-8 at the Arvada Center to discuss various aspects of the raid, and I was scheduled to be a panelist. The original schedule was for me to appear with Wes McKinley, the foreman of the Grand Jury that investigated Rocky Flats. I reluctantly agreed to participate when I was reminded I had mentioned in my book, “An Insider’s View of Rocky Flats, Urban Myths Debunked,” that I hoped to have a polite discussion with Mr. McKinley some day. I was disappointed when Mr. McKinley had a scheduling conflict that caused him to withdraw. I became concerned when I was told the final make-up of the panel (titled Secrecy and its Fallout). I expressed my concerns to the organizers and offered that they could replace me. They took me up on my offer.

Secrecy was a constant part of my professional life when I was working in the production areas of Rocky Flats. It had practically nothing to do with my work in the environmental organizations. We were required to have environmental reports reviewed by an “authorized classifier,” but I have not one single memory of an environmental report requiring even the smallest modification before receiving the “unclassified” stamp before distribution on and off-site to anyone interested. Continue reading

Alex & Me

Reviewed by Kathy London

alex&meThis book by Irene M. Pepperberg is recommended to anyone who thinks science is dull. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote “science must be understood as a social phenomenon, a gutsy human enterprise, not the work of robots.” Irene Pepperberg’s book is subtitled “How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence – and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process.”

It describes a passionate researcher producing ground-breaking science against considerable odds.

While she has published many scientific papers, this short book is personal, an autobiography centered on her work with the Grey Parrot Alex. Pepperberg writes in an easily-read style.

I have one quibble: the first chapter of the book deals with the aftermath of Alex’s death. This may not make sense until you’ve read the rest of the book. I suggest you start at Chapter 2. Continue reading