- - Thursday, July 30, 2015

Joseph C. Goulden’s review of David Hoffman’s “The Billion Dollar Spy” (BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal,” Web, July 5) gives a riveting account of how the CIA recruited a Soviet agent named Adolf Tolkachev.

KGB Gen. Rem Krasilnikov told the other side of the story in a 1999 memoir, “The Ghosts of Tchaikovsky Street.” Krasilnikov was responsible for “dangling” agents under his control to spoof the agency. Krasilnikov probably had a good laugh as the CIA tried to figure out who “lost” Tolkachev. His answer: It’s impossible to find a black cat in a dark room, especially when there’s no black cat. Tolkachev was the non-existent black cat; he was a figment of the KGB’s creation and the CIA’s imagination.

The wily Russian tweaked the CIA by giving his double agent the improbable first name Adolf. When the KGB exposed its hoax in 1990 it noted that the first thing Tolkachev asked the CIA for was a copy of “Mein Kampf” because he “greatly wished to be at least a little like his namesake of infamous memory.” The message for the Soviet reader was serious: The CIA employs Nazi sympathizers, and the reviled traitor admired the most hated figure in Russian history. But who can say that the KGB didn’t have a sense of humor?


Former chief historian, CIA


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