Sex for information
One of the most scandalous failures of the Western secret services is related to Czechoslovakia. It concerns Agent Karel Köcher and his wife Hana. In 1958, Köcher became a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and from 1962 he collaborated with the StB, which first tested him in his work among Prague intellectuals. In 1965, the couple pretended to flee to Austria, and in December of that year they flew to New York. In the fall of 1972, after obtaining a doctorate in political science, Köcher applied for employment with the CIA. He had a reputation as a brilliant Soviet scientist with militant anti-communist leanings and already had American citizenship. He and his wife also enjoyed attending sex clubs. It was considered a first-class cover, because no one would look for communist spies among these people, and on the contrary, they got to know the employees of the government and security apparatus who went there (and then did not want to talk about it). “The Köchers were probably the most sexually powerful spies in the history of pro-Soviet espionage,” said Vasily Mitrochin, a former head of the Soviet KGB intelligence service.
Köcher was the only spy from the Soviet bloc who really managed to open the door to the US secret services. However, he was a contract employee whose contract expired in July 1975. In November 1984, the US FBI arrested the couple. They were probably betrayed by their Czech agent Jan Fila, who also worked in the USA. In February 1986, the Americans and Soviets exchanged prisoners in Berlin. Under Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky, two West German spies operating in the GDR and a Czech captured in Bulgaria while attempting to illegally transport their girlfriend to the West, they brought home spies Karel and Hana Köcherova, plus three East European spies from Federal prisons. Among other things, the Soviets explicitly asked for this Czechoslovak agent as their dissident.
Attack on Pearl Harbor
At dawn on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and previously pushed America into a relatively reluctant entry into World War II. The naval base was badly damaged and the Washington government was in shock. At the same time, the US authorities had information about a possible attack a week before, but did not work with them in any way. U.S. government agencies did not share enough data, and Americans mistakenly believed that the Japanese would never commit to such a brazen attack. After the war, by the way, the CIA (founded in September 1947) stated that it was Pearl Harbor that showed the need to separate the various noises that suggest anything from relevant information, and therefore the need arose to create a centralized intelligence organization.
Fiasco in the Bay of Pigs
A completely unsuccessful military operation by Cuban exiles who, with the support and under the leadership of the American CIA, landed in April 1961 in the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón) on the southwest coast of Cuba. The event was funded directly by the US government and aimed to overthrow Cuban left-wing leader Fidel Castro. However, due to the complete underestimation of the preparations, the Cuban army defeated the fighters sent by the CIA in three days. As a result, Castro established even closer cooperation with the communist Soviet Union, and a year later the so-called Caribbean crisis also broke out (Moscow then deployed medium-range missiles in Cuba), which even threatened to escalate into a nuclear conflict by superpowers.
Vietnam Tet Offensive
During Tet (Vietnamese New Year) on January 31, 1968, North Vietnamese communist forces and South Vietnamese guerrillas launched an unexpected, coordinated, and very strong offensive in South Vietnam against US military positions. The Americans were completely taken by surprise, and the Tet Offensive was one of the decisive battles of the war, according to military historians. A government investigation in Washington shortly after the offensive found that US and South Vietnamese military officers and intelligence analysts could not fully predict the “intensity, coordination and timing of the enemy attack,” despite several warnings. The then secret service debacle was attributed to ignoring intelligence gathering, the language barrier, and a complete misunderstanding of hostile strategy.
Afghanistan without agents
When the radical Islamist Taliban movement, backed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization, conquered the Afghan capital and took control of most of the country in 1996, the CIA reportedly had no agent in Afghanistan. The reason was the extremely difficult infiltration into the environment of local Islamist groups and the completely naive reliance on information from the Pakistani secret service ISI. But in the case of Afghanistan, it cooperated with both the Americans and the Taliban. The lack of information and the inability to anticipate developments in Afghanistan, however, has caused both America and other states the enormous problems we face today. Bin Laden was preparing his terrorist attacks around the world from Afghanistan, which eventually led to the invasion of the United States and its allies into the country in 2001. The war is running here in various intensities to this day, even with the participation of Czech soldiers.
Worst or best agent?
Heinrich Albert is said to have been either the worst or best spy in history. Depending on which side we evaluate it. In 1914 he worked as a German diplomat in New York. At the time, the Germans were buying influence and space in American newspapers (something similar is being done by China and Russia in the media around the world today, including the Czech Republic), because American society was divided over Germany’s plans for World War I. Some even supported them, others did not. Albert left suitcases in subway cars, which were then examined by the police and always found information about the war and Germany’s positive motive for maintaining the conflict. This information subsequently reached the American press and could strengthen the influence of Germany. It was clear that it was a relatively stupid method, but it worked well for a while. But then, on the contrary, it evoked anti-German sentiment in the United States. After the war, Albert founded a law firm that represented American interests in Germany. At the same time, before the war, he represented German interests in America. Which still raises questions in connection with his work in New York: Who did he actually work for? And was he a fool with a briefcase, or was he already a great double agent?
Omyl in the Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was the code name for the covert American development of the atomic bomb from 1942 to 1946. The project was commanded by US General Leslie Richard Groves, who also ordered strict screening and monitoring of all participants in the operation. But the Allies in Britain complained loudly about their scientists, and Groves eventually backed down. And the British sent their scientist Klaus Fuchs to the Manhattan Project. But as it turned out later, Fuchs had been working as a Soviet agent for six years. He was arrested after the war in England, sentenced to 10 years, his British citizenship was revoked and then he left for communist East Germany. He then even consulted with Chinese scientists about nuclear bombs.
The Dreyfus affair
Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was a French officer, falsely accused and convicted of high treason. His affair lasted over 10 years and deeply polarized and destabilized French society in the late 19th century. Dreyfus was imprisoned in October 1894 for treason in favor of Germany. The main evidence in the trial was a manuscript of a letter delivered to the German embassy, attributed to Dreyfus, and the oath of one conspiracy witness. Dreyfus was sentenced to life in prison in the Devil Islands in French Guiana (a place known from the movie The Butterfly in the lead role with the famous Steve McQueen). When, after several years, the true author of the letter was identified and a perjury was revealed, writer Émile Zola published an open pamphlet in which he appealed for the release of Dreyfus. A great dispute erupted, which deeply divided French society. It turned out that the army, the conservative right, the nationalist parties, the royalists, the financial and clerical circles were behind Dreyfus’s accusations. All of them used the accusations of a Jewish officer to ostentatiously demonstrate their patriotism, glorification of the army, anti-Semitic phobias, slander of the republican system, etc. In 1899, however, Dreyfus was pardoned by the president’s amnesty. It was not until 1906 that it was rehabilitated. Since the Dreyfus affair, the French army has been under greater public control.
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