A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country

Overview

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...

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1st Edition, Fine/Fine- Stated "First Edition". Clean, bright and tight. No ink names, tears, chips, foxing, etc. Price unclipped. Ryszard Kuklinski. ISBN 1891620541

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Overview

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 lives in hiding in America.

Kuklinski's story is a harrowing personal drama about one man 's decision to betray the Communist leadership in order to save the country he loves, and the intense debate it spurred over whether he was a traitor or a patriot. Through extensive interviews and access to the CIA's secret archive on the case, Benjamin Weiser offers an unprecedented and richly detailed look at this secret history of the Cold War.


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

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
Books about espionage, fiction or not, can be cliché flypaper—encrusted with tired plot twists and morbid atmosphere. Exceptions, like John le Carré’s novels and Thomas Powers’s histories, are rare. But Weiser’s tale of how a high-ranking Polish officer, Ryszard Kuklinski, betrayed the communist leadership for almost a decade, starting in 1972, and fed the Americans thousands of pages of top-secret documents, including the plans for martial law, is in that elevated company. “A Secret Life” is thrilling not only in its chronicle of an honorable betrayal during the Cold War’s endgame but also in its portrait of the strangely loving epistolary relationship between the spy and his American handlers. There are scenes here that are as tense as any in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” and the access that Weiser gained—his sources include both Kuklinski and the Poles he fooled—is a feat of patient and intelligent reporting.
The Washington Post
A Secret Life is a real-life spy thriller that reveals the passions and tensions faced by Polish leaders under the thumb of Moscow during the 1970s and '80s. Weiser has produced a fascinating portrayal of Kuklinski, who decided that the best way to serve Polish nationalism was to become a spy for the West. — Peter Eisner
Wall Street Journal
Reported expertly and sympathetically by Benjamin Weiser, the book captures perhaps the most amicable spying run of Cold War History.
Publishers Weekly
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 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781891620546
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 1/18/2004
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction ix
Prologue 1
1 Crossing the Line 5
2 "The Soil of Nobody" 29
3 A Double Life 56
4 "Stabbing Back" 87
5 Near Miss 121
6 "Standing on Ice" 140
7 Tremors of Change 166
8 "Out of the Shadows of Darkness" 186
9 Preparing to Crush Solidarity 229
10 "Everything Is Pointing to the End of My Mission" 266
11 Patriot or Traitor? 292
12 Return 315
Author's Notes 343
Acknowledgments 367
Index 371
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