The true story…………
Many books have included Marti’s story. The list is long and spans nearly forty years, extending long after the Cold War ended. Why does this story find its way into so many books? And why has she decided to tell it herself, now?
She was one of a small group of women who found themselves in the CIA in the early seventies, being trained to be operations officers or case officers, recruiting and managing foreign agents all around the world. The difficulties they encountered were similar to women in business: it was a man’s world. Men set up the organizations and made the rules, keeping themselves in power. Women efficiently took care of the details, the behind-the-scenes work. However, the idea that a woman could recruit a foreign agent was not acceptable to the organization. The general consensus among men was that, first, a potential foreign agent (usually men) would not take a female operations officer seriously. Second, men thought that women would have a hard time convincing a man she had targeted for recruitment that she was not there to be seduced.
Eventually, the women, who were trained and accomplished in the craft of recruiting agents and collecting intelligence, found a few men in the organization who were willing to provide these women opportunities to perform as operations officers in the foreign field. Although tough at first being accepted by their male peers and the old boys club, women eventually demonstrated that they were highly skilled and productive intelligence operators. It mattered not where they were assigned; women recruited people of all nationalities. They produced critical intelligence reports, and took risks, demonstrating fierce courage and determination.
Marti’s story is representative of the exciting careers so many women have had in CIA as they came together to form a cadre of professional operations officers, fully accepted and equal. The Widow Spy includes the story of TRIGON. It has been told in many books, including the Soviet suspense novel, TASS is Authorized to Announce, by a Soviet spy thriller writer who apparently was given the TRIGON case file by the KGB chief. This book was then turned into a popular weekly TV series, compared to Dallas in the US, to replace air time reserved for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles that the Soviets boycotted.
Although The Widow Spy is not about US/Soviet relations, it reveals the impact a well-placed agent can have in international power struggles. The book also adds to the public’s understanding of covert operations, how difficult it is to operate in closed societies, and the value of running covert operations worldwide.
The International Spy Museum hosts a Spycast. You can listen to Marti describe the lead up to her arrest, briefly talking about what it was like working covertly in Moscow. (listen to the pod cast here.)
Other websites which might be of interest:
starnewsonline.com/article/20120310/articles/20309686 a review by Ben Steelman
Other books, articles and websites contain versions of these operations. Among them are:
Spycraft – The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda
by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton
The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez
Spy Dust by Antonio and Jonna Mendez
The Sword and the Shield; The Mitrokhin Archive – Christopher Andrew
The Confessions of a Spy: The Story of Aldrich Ames by Peter Early
The Main Enemy by Milt Bearden and James Risen
Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition by Stansfield Turner
The Book of Honor – Ted Gup
The C.I. Desk by Christopher Lynch