The Spying Game, Episode 3: From Russia with… Love?
JANOSH NEUMANN: For them, I'm a traitor. I am an enemy of the state.
RORY BREMNER: Today. I'm talking to two guests who know what it's like to be multiple things to multiple people. But what makes a spy? What motivates someone to live a double life involving many personal sacrifices and risks to yourself and your family? What happens when the cause you work for is compromised, corrupt, or even worse, abandons you? How do you sustain an existence where at any moment you could be exposed, betrayed, or even killed? I'm joined by an author, documentary maker, and broadcaster who's told some of the most amazing stories in modern history. The man behind Operation Mincemeat, A Spy Among Friends, The Spy And The Traitor, and his latest, the brilliant and compelling story of Agent Sonya. It's historian Ben Macintyre. We're also lucky enough to have a former Russian FSB officer-turned-whistleblower with us. Janosh Neumann, welcome to The Spying Game. And just to prove the point about multiple identities. Janosh, that's not your real name. When did that become your identity?
JANOSH NEUMANN: My name was changed officially, let's say unofficially, in 2008 here in the States by [the] US government, after they brought me and my wife to the United States. Also, a legend was created behind the name as well [saying] that I was born in Czechoslovakia, then my family moved to the Soviet Union. I grew up in Russia. That's why I speak Russian as well.
RORY BREMNER: Was there a Janosh in your family? Why did they choose that name?
JANOSH NEUMANN: They didn't. They asked us, “Can we pick up something?” The FBI took us from the CIA and the FBI [were going to] create some kind of a legend in documents for us as well. After some time, they came to us and asked if we could help them to create the legends for us. So my wife and I spent several days just digging and creating our own legends, which was kind of a part of the tradecraft. We built everything from the moment when we were born to which street, which school, kindergarten we've been going [to]. We mixed it with our real lives as well. In this case, it's easy for you to present it to people with whom you're talking. You're not going to make any stupid mistakes. And the devil is in the details. So every detail should be precise and real.
RORY BREMNER: As Ben has said in his book many times, I mean, it's easy to lie, but it's difficult when you put a whole panoply of lies and you've got to sustain and remember those. Ben, you're no stranger to unpicking the complex stories of spies with many identities. You investigated Eddie Chapman, who was such a successful double agent that he was awarded the Iron Cross, Agent Sonya, Oleg Gordievsky, among many others. Who holds the record for the most complex identity, I'd imagine it's Sonya, isn't it? Yes.
BEN MACINTYRE: Yes. She was extraordinary and she extended it probably over the longest time. She had identities in China and then Japanese- occupied Manchuria and then Poland and then Switzerland and obviously in Nazi Germany, then eventually in Britain. But the best liar of all of them is probably still Kim Philby. He's extraordinary because he was deep in the intelligence service while at the same time working for another intelligence service. So you not only have to remember in that case the lies you're telling your colleagues, you have to remember the legend you're feeding them, even though it's partly true. And Philby was uncanny in his ability to remember which lies he'd already told. And of course, he was in a very odd position as well, which was that he had to succeed sufficiently within MI6 to prosper, while at the same time feeding everything that he could feed to the other side, the KGB, without giving himself away. And that's a tremendously difficult balancing act. Of course, Philby wasn't alone. I mean, that's the thing that makes him so interesting and indeed so vulnerable in some ways, was that he was only one of the dozens that the KGB had recruited, any one of whom could have imperiled his double life. Absolutely.
JANOSH NEUMANN: When I was reading the book about Kim Philby, I was stuck in Lebanon, which I’m going to continue reading right after our broadcast. And I love it - Mr. Philby, I guess - he's the best. He's the greatest.
BEN MACINTYRE: Well, Janosh you're very kind. He's in The Spy Among Friends. ‘Friends’ was the old nickname for MI6. And he's referring to that extraordinary moment in Philby's life, which is really the pivotal moment when he was in Beirut officially working for The Observer and The Economist. He officially left the spying game. He left MI6, but he was still working for the KGB and his greatest friend, Nicholas Elliott, who had joined MI6 at the same time as he had, who'd risen up through the ranks with him and had been comprehensively betrayed by his closest friend for 30 years, Nicholas Elliott confronted Philby. It's absolutely the crux moment of both of their lives, actually, when two old friends appear to be having a polite cup of tea. It was recorded by MI6. They put microphones into the apartment in Beirut and it's recorded. It sounds, ostensibly, like two old friends having a charming cup of tea and remembering old times. In fact, a brutal ideological and personal fistfight is taking place.
RORY BREMNER: It's a brutal profession. I mean, Jan it must be interesting just on that Philby thing because there's a cultural thing here because your father was KGB, wasn't he? And you were so brought up to that at 16, you find yourself in the FSB. So were you aware of Philby when you were brought up because you would have seen him from the other side in your early existence?
JANOSH NEUMANN: I mean, we grew up on all the stories like that. Philby, [Rudolph] Abel, they are like national heroes. In my case, we were born and grew up in a Soviet system, and of course, we were raised in the Soviet ideology. And then from 1985, everything started to change. And more and more, you've got new information. And then it's like basically a wind of changes. And in the 90s, when the wall went down and the Soviet Union was dismissed, the whole world was turning up and down. And we started to think about guys like Philby and [George] Blake and others. It was already a more… let's say, neutral view on what they've been doing. And then when I was introduced to the service, it became more obvious what they were up to, what they've been doing, and how they've been used by the Soviet intelligence services as well. Because I was in a position of [a] person who's supposed to handle some foreign assets as well. And from that moment I started to realize and learn actually their motives, and why they decided to work for the Russian intelligence counterintelligence service.
RORY BREMNER: It's something that fascinates me. But what motivates somebody to become a spy? Is it ideology? I mean, Ben, in the case of Ursula Kuczynski, Agent Sonya, was very much, she was a German Jew in the early years of the Weimar Republic, the growth of fascism. So communism was a noble cause.
BEN MACINTYRE: Yes. I mean, I've never come across an important spy who didn't at some level claim ideological justification for what they were doing. It's almost essential to the territory. Equally, I've never come across a spy whose motives were not mixed. I don't think there's any such thing as a purely ideological spy. And Ursula's case is a very good example, as you say. Yes, she was brought up in the Weimar Republic. She was a German Jew. She'd seen the worst of fascism on the march. She saw herself as an anti-fascist. That was her position. She joined the Communist Party. She never left the Communist Party, and she spied for the Communist Party for her entire professional career. And yet, of course, history pivoted around her because what had been from the Western point of view, an entirely creditable position which was to oppose the rise of Hitler and do everything that she could do to stop it, including at one point, plotting his assassination. With the advent of the Cold War, she's suddenly on the other side of the fence from it. She would have said, she was being entirely ideologically consistent, that she remained true to her, to her original ideological convictions. But mixed in with that are a whole set of other elements. And Philby was like this and Oleg Gordievsky was like this as well. There is adventure. There is romance. There is that extraordinary pleasure that certain people get from belonging to a tiny elite of people. It was once described to me as the ruthless exercise of private power, and Philby is the best example of that. I mean, particularly when you look at the clubby world that he came from. I mean, Philby was a man of the upper-middle class, had been to Westminster, had been to Cambridge, had joined the right clubs, and joined the Atheneum, but he'd also secretly joined the KGB. So MI6 is a pretty elite club. The KGB is a pretty elite club. To be the only KGB agent within MI6 was a club of one. And Philby, in some ways, I think, saw himself as belonging to ever more exclusive groups. In some ways, it's a slightly British attitude. I think that knowing a little bit more than the person standing next to you in the bus queue and not being prepared to let on that you do know a bit more confers a certain pass. So yes, there's hubris in there and there is this kind of romance. I mean, it is extremely dangerous, this game, as I'm sure Janosh can attest. This is not something that you go into with an insouciant attitude. It's a matter of life and death. So there is a kind of love of recklessness. That is also true of all of them. They're all prepared, the ones I have written about, to take risks. And Eddie Chapman is the most extreme of all because he was an absolute risk addict. I mean, he was somebody who I think lived a life feeling that he was in a movie of his own devising, really. There was an invisible film camera going that entire time just next door to him. And he was performing a lot at the time for that invisible camera. And so I think there is, even though it's a deadly secret, there is a performative element to it.
RORY BREMNER: Sonya spans the whole history of communism. She was 10 at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, and she lived to see the Berlin Wall pulled down. And in the meantime, her career took her from Berlin to Shanghai to Switzerland to Poland. I mean, these extraordinary pictures that you paint: Shanghai around 1930, Switzerland, when war breaks out around 1939, and the DDR, of course, in the 60s and 70s where Ursula actually retires, unusually for a spy, is allowed to have a fairly quiet retirement.
BEN MACINTYRE: Had you been in the tiny Cotswold village of Great Rollright in 1943, you might have met Mrs. Len Burton, Ursula Burton, mother of three children. She baked particularly good cakes. She went to church every Sunday. She was completely, apparently, innocuous, rather boring, a normal refugee housewife. In fact, in the back garden, in the privy in the back garden, she built a very powerful radio transmitter with which she was passing the secrets of how to build the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. So she was not only very effective, she was extremely important. I mean, very few spies changed the course of history. She was one. But then if you spool back to her earliest life, she really became a spy by accident and through romance. She started off in Shanghai with her husband, who was not a communist. She was a member of the party, and she met a man called Richard Sorge, who will be known to Janosh and anyone else who's interested in this story. I mean, he's really - I mean, he was described by Ian Fleming, no less, as being the most formidable spy in history. And he recruited Ursula as an agent for Soviet military intelligence. He himself was an officer in the Red Army. Highly effective. I mean, really one of the great spies of all time. He recruited her and then he seduced her. And they became lovers, even though Ursula was obviously married and had just had her first baby. And he was really the love of her life. And I think the intertwining in her case of the romantic and the emotional with the ideological and the tradecraft of espionage is really the story. Because when she died, aged 93, the one picture she still had on her wall - and bear in mind, she'd been married twice by this point, and had also had three children by three different men - the one picture on her wall was of Richard Sorge. So she loved him, really, to her dying day. And he set her off on this extraordinary journey, really. I mean, she ended up spying in Japanese-occupied Manchuria, which really could not have been more dangerous. I mean, running secret agents, undercover, running the Partisans, using her radio. From there, she moved to Poland just on the eve of the Nazi invasion. Then she wound up in Switzerland where she ran the biggest spy ring within the Third Reich, run on behalf of the Soviet Union. But passing on information of the highest quality and then ending up in Britain, where her Jewish family had taken refuge from the Holocaust and began to live this extraordinary double life, where by day she was Mrs. Burton, and by night she was Colonel Ursula Kuczynski of the Red Army sending these extraordinary secrets back to Moscow and changing the course of history.
RORY BREMNER: As if it's not enough to be giving the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union to also be running - at one remove - an American operation to find information about the effects of the war in Nazi Germany. But doing that at one remove, but meanwhile reporting all that back to the Soviets so she was involved in two of the biggest operations in history there.
BEN MACINTYRE: While all the time, it has to be said, with a husband and three children and running a domestic life as well. I mean, if you talk about work-life balance, Ursula's work-life balance was absolutely extraordinary. The only difference was that her work was potentially lethal. Had she been caught in Japanese-occupied Manchuria, or indeed even worse in Switzerland, she would have been arrested and taken back to Germany where she would have been tortured and executed and her family would have been wiped out. She's the most effective woman spy I've ever come across. In a way, it really is a woman's story because she's always trying to balance these two parts of her life. And to the end of her life, she wondered whether she'd been a good spy but a bad mother.
RORY BREMNER: Yes, because she did have to sacrifice. She had to give up her youngest son.
BEN MACINTYRE: Her greatest camouflage, really, was that she was a woman. I mean, there were certain men in the 1940s and ‘50s who simply couldn't see past her gender. They could not believe that a woman with three children, baking cakes, could possibly be a superspy. It served her very well indeed.
RORY BREMNER: Jan, in your case, at what stage did your father set you on his knee and say, “Now, listen, Aleksey, I have to tell you, I am a spy?” When did you discover that and when were you recruited?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Well, he was not a KGB. He was in a military prosecutor's office. So he was basically controlling what the KGB was doing. My mom was in [the] KGB.
RORY BREMNER: But that’s quite a couple of parents there.
JANOSH NEUMANN: I mean, I figure out who they are. That was like, I guess four or five years old. The reason is that the KGB was a state inside the state. And they had their own, even like, vacation resorts where all the KGB officers with their families were going for a summer vacation because you can't travel outside the country, you have to stay within the Soviet Union. So spending several summer months with my family, it means we've been going to these types of vacation houses and resorts which were under the KGB umbrella as well. So all my father’s and mother’s friends are part of the system, part of the KGB or some other great organizations with three letters. So you can't stay out of it. You know what's going on. It was pretty obvious. I spent several summers in the KGB summer camp for the kids of the KGB as well. So it was impossible to hide who your parents are. So in my case, recruitment was just like [an] old boys club. So basically you had no choice. You don't need it even to look for future employment. You know where you're going. And the majority of the guys who joined the KGB with me, it was the same thing as well.
RORY BREMNER: And you joined the FSB?
JANOSH NEUMANN: That's correct.
RORY BREMNER: What are they teaching you to do when you're 17?
JANOSH NEUMANN: The majority of our guys would've been later on going into the first main directorate to where SVR is right now, the majority was starting from the submarine. It's supposed to be an academy because there's no way out. As long as you're in, you can't quit. Initially, I started as an investigator, specializing in investigating crimes in espionage, and I had practice and later on worked in Unit One of the FSB investigative department. It means espionage, all the spy cases. It's a high-end unit with top-notch professionals from whom I was learning from the beginning. The great part of it is that you are not only trained as an investigator, but you also have to learn how your counterparts, Western partners, are operating as well.
RORY BREMNER: Yes.
JANOSH NEUMANN: How they're recruiting sources, how they communicated, how they've been trained, what the mindset, what some intelligence, cultural aspects, everything. Because you need it during your work, future work. Then, later on, I was transferred to the operative unit in the Department of Economic Security, in the FSB headquarters, and my specialization was recruiting sources among Russian foreign businessmen in the line of work of precious stone, arts, including real radioactive materials as well.
RORY BREMNER: So this is what, money laundering?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Part of it.
RORY BREMNER: Yes.
JANOSH NEUMANN: So well, I mean, it's a financial business.
RORY BREMNER: You are looking into essentially financial corruption, organized crime, that kind of thing.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Counterintelligence support of Russian economics was the main support. So basically because you have to collect information about foreign companies' activities, foreign government, and financial activity on Russian soil as well. And this is a huge deal. It's a big part of this work. You are orienting or focusing your sources to bring you information related to counterintelligence or intelligence operations. And there are lots of spies who have been involved in financial activities. Spies who are using financial cover as a consultant, a businessman, company owner, stockholder, and so on. It was pretty entertaining. It's like a hybrid, you are dealing with the guys, sharks from the financial world. At the same time, you're looking for foreign spies working there. And of course, spies are supposed to finance their operations, too, right? So money, money talks in this case.
RORY BREMNER: This is at a time when the former Soviet Union, this is now the Yeltsin era.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah, Yeltsin was an absolute disaster. During this time I was in FSB Academy. I started my active service in the FSB after the recent guy took over the Kremlin.
RORY BREMNER: Putin we mean, we just don't say his name now.
JANOSH NEUMANN: You can. I don't. So, trust me.
RORY BREMNER: This is the interesting thing because your father was working for the Russian state. You come in and you're working for the Russian state at the time when that Russian state is disintegrating.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yes, I was born and raised inside the Soviet system with this ideological base as well. But you should understand that inside the KGB or any [of] the three-letter organizations, it was [a] pretty liberal situation. So people have been able to read books that had been prohibited for the majority of the population, and they had different perspectives of what's going on inside the country as well. So from 1996-97, it was already in the air of this. That country goes to the end. It's going to be, it's going to collapse sooner or later. Then the country disintegrated piece by piece.
RORY BREMNER: And a lot of people are getting very rich, very quickly.
JANOSH NEUMANN: During the collapse of the Soviet Union, lots of the guys who had been former government officials, high-rank or communal officials, became oligarchs or extremely rich people or went into business. The Russian financial market was [an] absolute disaster. So besides the internal crooks, there are a lot of guys from outside the country. They came just trying to make some money and ripping off what remains of the Soviet Union. So FSB had no control over what was going on. They were just basically observing and building the files and cases about what was going on. It was a huge competition on the market between different parties, including [the] Russian government, police, general procurer’s office, and the FSB, and others. And they've been basically fighting for who's going to control the financial streams on the Russian market. That's how corruption itself was involved. So FSB, as I understand, decided to apply the old-fashioned method instead of just trying to fight it. You just need to take it over.
RORY BREMNER: We have a saying in this country, if you can't beat them, join them.
JANOSH NEUMANN: It's not a join, ‘a join’ it doesn't mean you're going to control it. So here is a kind of more advanced, let's say, approach. Yeah. So let's give credit to my former organization. So Kreditimpeks Bank became a platform from which FSB decided just to take step by step the whole market. In this case. But there's going to be dual purposes to all this in Russia and [the] Soviet Union. So one thing you're going to collect information about all illegal activity, what's going on in Russia from the inside the market as well. And besides that, FSB already had a bunch of the guys implanted into other commercial banks all around the country. They had the FSB officers who [were] being placed in the banks undercover as consultants or people like operatives collecting information from these banks and being in touch with the bank owners as well. So Kreditimpeks became this platform where the whole operation was under the control of the FSB and banks were slightly pushed - so creating this kind of cooperation, team, between banks with the protection from the FSB and organized crime, guys who had been really active and strong on the market. Step by step they started to swallow and eat everyone else on the market. This whole operation was going from 2005 up to 2019 because the FSB, there was a big purge inside the FSB financial units in 2019.
RORY BREMNER: But 2008 you made a big decision. What are you doing in 2008 that means that you have to leave the country?
JANOSH NEUMANN: It became clear that just besides doing something for your country, this already turned into a money-making business for government officials, including the high-ranking FSB guys because everyone figured out that it's not just a way to gather some information and maybe finally beat all this illegal activity, but that's the way to make lots of money and become rich.
RORY BREMNER: Were you tempted to do that, too?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Well, I mean, I was paid by the bank. I was not paid by the state. In this case, I was an active reserve. So, yes, I mean, at some point we can say I was making some money out of it, but I can't say I was not the partner of the bank. I was the guy who knew a lot and I was the guy who was carrying money to FSB officials from the bank.
RORY BREMNER: And then it reaches a crisis.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah, I saw the guys in FSB hiring guys who had been, basically, daily telling us how we should love our country, how we should sacrifice everything for our country, and how we should be honest and modest. And then for lunch, I got to meet the same guys. I'm going to bring them piles of cash from the bank for the services they've been providing. So this is kind of a breaking point as well. You’re losing trust in the system at this moment. At some point, this became too much and I was complaining, which I was not supposed to do, I guess.
RORY BREMNER: Big mistake.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah. One of the main rules in espionage or counterintelligence is, “Listen more, say less.” In my case, I was kind of a bit mouthy about what was going on. And I got the choice, basically, to leave ‘as an officer’ or someone else is going to do it for me, or I just could leave - just leave everything.
RORY BREMNER: Are you familiar with that phrase? Be an officer?
BEN MACINTYRE: No, I'm not. I think it's a wonderful phrase, do the decent thing. It's kind of... “Here's a revolver.”
JANOSH NEUMANN: No revolver again, give you a chance for a mistake. In this case, it was PM or TT. It means, it's automatic so...
RORY BREMNER: But there it is. There is a choice for you: Be an officer. In other words, you're going to have to shoot yourself, or we'll do it for you or you have to get out.
JANOSH NEUMANN: But I guess three, just because I was part of the old boys’ club, just because that's why I've got the choice. But in this case, you're going to have all the blame, all the shame. You're going to, you're going to have all the responsibility on you.
RORY BREMNER: Not only were your mother and father spies - if I could put it like that - but your wife also. Is that correct, Victorya? And she was the one who came up with the plan to get you out of the country.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yes. But by the way, it's really great because in our family, no one was asking, “How was your day?” Which is great.
RORY BREMNER: So how did you get out?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Initially, I checked a few things with my mentor and my friend who was a hiring official inside the system. And I met him at night right after my chat with the bank official who was my father's friend and I asked him, “Can we figure out what's going on? Am I on a search list or something, like an official or unofficial?” So he made a few calls and he said my wife and I were ‘on the flag’. It means they are looking for us. If we're going to try to cross the country, something is going to happen. Like basically, it looked like they gave me this further opportunity, but at the same time, I need to find a way to use it because obviously if you have a flag on you, you can't go anywhere. It's just that you do it, you're done. So he helped me. He pulled some strings and they gave me the green corridor. So they use this thing from my past as an exchange student, and my wife already knowing this, so we have the potential exit point from Russia. She booked multiple tickets in different airports all around the Moscow area. And we have four or five different flights, different directions, all at the same time slot plus/minus 50, 40 minutes. And we used one of them and we left.
BEN MACINTYRE: Were you tempted at this point to contact a foreign intelligence agency? I mean, it's traditional at these moments, if you are - either for ideological or other reasons - estranged from the intelligence service that you work for, one of the fallbacks, and there are many stories that show this, is to go to the other side and say, “I'm in trouble. I've got great information,” which you clearly had. “Get me out of here.” Did you contact MI6? Did you try the CIA?
JANOSH NEUMANN: You have to look at the time frame, right? I had no idea about, [I didn’t have the] possibility to chat with any foreign intelligence service and ask for help. The reasons; first, we would be on Russian soil. Reason two, the only way to get in touch with them, you should know them in person, or, you have to approach them, which means you have to go for the embassy or some potential spy in this. And the moment - I had this lovely chat with the owner of the bank - and the moment I spoke with my FSB guy and the moment we left, that was within 72 hours.
BEN MACINTYRE: Okay, so it's very fast.
JANOSH NEUMANN: So even if, hypothetically, I can assure that I could establish contact with a foreign intelligence service, it would be highly likely we’d end up in a huge bureaucratic loop because they need some time to verify who we are, what we are. Second, they would have a lot of issues [on] how to hide us on Russian soil under the FSB surveillance and countersurveillance control. And then that would be the third problem. How are they going to evacuate us from Russia under pressure from the FSB surveillance teams?
BEN MACINTYRE: Difficult, but not impossible. It's happened. I mean, Gordievsky.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yes.
BEN MACINTYRE: Made his way out. You would have been very valuable to them.
JANOSH NEUMANN: It was a different time, guys. I mean, you have to understand that Gordievsky, I think it was ‘85, so not that much electronic surveillance applied. Not that many computer systems applied.
RORY BREMNER: Sure.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Having some forged documents and no one was basically chasing him. He had enough time to prepare and just do it.
RORY BREMNER: Ben, explain how Gordievsky got out.
BEN MACINTYRE: Well, Gordievsky, who is still living in a safe house in Britain, he was really the most important asset that Western intelligence had inside the Soviet intelligence service. He, for ideological reasons, had spied for MI6 for nearly a decade. He'd ended up in Britain, where he was appointed the head of the KGB in Britain. When he was betrayed, he was summoned back to Moscow. He didn't know why he was summoned back to Moscow. He thought he was being brought back to be anointed as head of the KGB resident bureau here in London. He got back. He realized immediately that he was in deep, deep trouble, and he had to activate his escape plan, which was called Operation Pimlico, which had been in preparation, well, in different forms for more than seven years by this point. And this was an exfiltration plan. And it was, it sounds like something that comes straight from a John le Carré novel. His signal for indicating to MI6 that he needed to be exfiltrated was that he had to be seen on a corner of a particular street, on a particular day, at a particular time holding, believe it or not, a plastic Safeway bag from the supermarket. And if that was spotted, the MI6 officer would acknowledge the receipt of the escape signal by walking past him and eating a Mars Bar or a KitKat. It had to be a western bar of chocolate. And that was the sign that Gordievsky could know that the escape plan was on. And he then had to make his way to a rendezvous near the Finnish border. He was under complete surveillance at this point. I mean, the KGB was onto him. They knew what he was up to and they were following his every movement. And at the same time, two MI6 officers with their wives as cover, and in one case with a baby, had to meet him at the rendezvous point. But that's really why I was asking, is that, yes, it would have been very difficult, I'm absolutely sure, but you would have been hugely valuable to any Western intelligence service and the cover you would have had would surely have been: “I'm an FSB officer. Of course, I have contact with foreigners.” And don't tell me that some of the foreigners you were dealing with were not themselves, potentially either CIA or MI6 plants. I mean...
JANOSH NEUMANN: Not for the record.
RORY BREMNER: Well, I can reveal Ben, I think, so what happened was the plan, Janosh, the plan got you through various means to the Dominican Republic where you were able to go because it was easier - you didn't need a visa to get to the Dominican Republic, lie low there for a little while. And then you walked into the American consulate in Santo Domingo.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah.
RORY BREMNER: That's where you revealed yourself. Your life, in a sense, is in your hands here because you've already fled Russia but you haven't actually said, ‘Right, I'm going to work for a foreign intelligence agency.’
JANOSH NEUMANN: No.
RORY BREMNER: So take us through you and your wife walking into the American consulate.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Honestly, when we landed in the Dominican Republic, it was a huge stress and we had no idea what would be next. We've been trying to collect some information. What's going on in Russia? I had a few burner phones with SIM cards from the Baltic States, which we've been using to connect with people whom I trusted and people who've been feeding us with information about what's going on. So when we understood that there are people on our tail and it's getting worse extremely fast we had to make a decision about what we were going to do. We had some possibilities - maybe to get some local documents, some settlers, and passports. But then what? Where can we go with that? How are we going to hide? How are we going to run? Because we need resources. You need connections and we need at least a back story. It's almost impossible. And it's not again, it's not the ‘70s, ‘60s, or ‘50s where there are no electronics, nothing, and you can just disappear. You have a new passport. You just can forge the picture and then [in that situation nobody could personally] look for you, no traces. Nowadays it is quite different. So it was absolutely a tough decision. We knew if we did it, that basically our past life was just over and we are in ‘walking dead’ mode. We have to cut ties with all our friends. If you're crossing this, it's over. So we made a decision and we went to the US Embassy. It was a pretty funny moment. Victorya and I, we've been dressed as tourists. I had a funny Panama hat on my head with some coins on it. I had a camera on my chest. I had shorts and flip flops. My wife was dressed in a really touristic way as well. We've been standing in this long line next to the wall because a lot of people from Venezuela, they'd been applying to get into the United States. Security guys, local guys, Dominican guys on the entrance, they've been not helpful at all. So my wife, she speaks Spanish and she explained to them that we need to talk with the security guys. They said, like, “We're security.” So listen to this conversation for about 15 minutes, I just, I went to be aggressive. I said, like, “We don't need you, we need the real security guys, the American people to talk.” So they brought in some local, local guys as well. But he was Head of Security. And I explain this to him again. He was thinking for a few minutes, just quiet. And he went inside and then he just came to us and he got us inside the Embassy. I just opened my backpack and without showing anything to the local guy, I just showed her my credential. So immediately I told the local Dominican guy just to disappear, basically, and he saw nothing. We had a quick, lovely chat with the security personnel from the American Embassy and then established a meeting with them. That's it. Pretty simple. So they knew what was going on and it was pretty quick and fast. The person was shocked, I guess for them in the Dominican Republic, nothing happening except people trying to get to the US.
BEN MACINTYRE: Well, as the intelligence person in a foreign country, it's the thing you pray for. I mean, you've been sitting there, as you say, slightly twiddling your thumbs in the Dominican Republic. And what you really want is a walk-in. But a walk-in is a very difficult thing because walk-ins are, by definition, dangerous. I mean, historically, the walk-ins, frequently a walk-in is a ‘dangle’ - to use another piece of intelligence jargon. A walk-in may be just an attempt to pull you into what is likely to be, or quite frequently is, a deception. Many walk-ins turn out to be that way. So I imagine that person that you had the lovely chat with in the Dominican Republic was probably internally having a small heart attack at this point, trying to work out whether you were for real or whether you were a dangle. I mean, it's a classic situation.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah. It's like you can look, but you can't bite. Within the next few days, we've been approached by the person who was in charge of the whole Dominican Republic head of station, with whom we spent several days just talking and the person was actually really, really excited.
RORY BREMNER: You made his day.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah, it was a completely game-changing thing, like from this boring club of life on the beach and the cocktails and just talking about some, about some drug trafficking, some other stuff. This immediately was something really happening here.
RORY BREMNER: Did they fix you up with a catamaran, the worst trip of your life, to Puerto Rico and then on to America?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah, I still don't like to go in boats. That was quite unpleasant because there was a storm going on for the past several days. You're going up and then almost like 85 degrees going down.
RORY BREMNER: You then offer yourself up with the information that you have on money laundering, on organized crime. And this, too. Now, was it the CIA or the FBI?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Initially, [the] idea was just not to go to the United States and we never asked about that. The goal was just to maybe give the US documents from the third country. We're going to help the US as a government and its allies to bust this international money laundering operation. They're going to help us. We're going to help them. We're done. So we would just disappear. We're going to have our quiet life. I might open some flower shop somewhere in Portugal and just disappear. So then, as I understand it, the Agency (CIA) shared the information with the FBI. The FBI looked at the information and it was [exactly what they needed] because they'd been running this global investigation about these illegal financial operations and they took us over from the Agency, and that was their initiative to bring us to the United States. So after this ocean trip, we ended up in Puerto Rico, for which the FBI flew us on their Gulfstream jet to the US.
RORY BREMNER: Well, that was more comfortable.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yes, except we've been soaked wet completely like, and it was really funny. The FBI guys brought on this posh Gulfstream jet, their Subway sandwiches. We ended up in Virginia, and then after some time, several months, we'll say [during an] ‘evaluation process’, and they'd be checking who we are. Then we spent some time in Philadelphia and then after that in Portland, Oregon. And the idea behind Portland, Oregon, it's a small, nice, lovely place. It's somewhere between San Francisco and Seattle. And everything is under government control. Everything could be done really quickly. No need to wait for anything. They're going to provide us with the documents within six months, up to a year. Eight years later, nothing happened.
RORY BREMNER: So you offer them the expertise, your knowledge of money laundering. And there's a little bit of a turf war, I sense, between the FBI and CIA, and they don't really know how to use you. And you find yourself in a restaurant and a couple of agents talk to you and a woman puts her purse down in front of you and tells you that they're not going to use you anymore - that your contract is terminated - and you realize it's not just a purse.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Well, I mean, I can figure out if you have a [gun] by the shape, if you have a gun on your purse or not. It's pretty obvious. And it's a purse, it is not a duffel bag. It's just a woman's purse. So it's pretty obvious what was in it.
RORY BREMNER: What do you think at that moment?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Well, my main, my kind of thought was it's completely unprofessional. That's just dumb to do so. And this seems like they've been running away from the problem instead of trying to fix it. That's what was on my mind. We also honestly, we had, we were in touch with other FBI guys from the headquarters and other offices as well. They'd been extremely supportive and they didn't understand what the hell just happened. Why is the local guy acting this way? And especially as it was not the person who was in touch with us for all these years.
RORY BREMNER: So you find yourself in a situation. So you offered them your services. You do various bits and pieces for them for those years between 2008 and 2013. And they pay you, but they don't take you in. They don't take responsibility. Say, “Right, you're working for us and you have citizenship.” They didn't give you that?
JANOSH NEUMANN: No.
RORY BREMNER: What's your status?
JANOSH NEUMANN: We are trying to convert our past into our future. That's the best explanation. That's why I'm writing some stories and trying to move forward without looking back. That's what we do.
RORY BREMNER: But are you in a kind of stateless limbo?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yeah. I mean, if I could have a United Nations’ passport, that would be fantastic.
BEN MACINTYRE: What a fascinating story.
RORY BREMNER: This is the thing, this is somebody who offers their services to the other side and the other side uses some of them and then says, “Do you know what? We're going to let you go.” It's something that, again, I read in your books, as people who make these sacrifices and then they're cut loose.
BEN MACINTYRE: Yes, absolutely. And that can be part of an ongoing play. I mean, ‘We're not interested in you. We're not, we don't care.” It can be a way of soliciting or eliciting more cooperation from someone. There are many ways of doing this. But, I mean, on a more general note, yes. I mean, these stories have a human cost. And I was going to ask, Janosh, stories of black and white. And in fact, we often think of history in this way, particularly in modern times. We tend to look back on the past as good or evil, right or wrong. And of course, that's not the way it goes. And it's certainly not the way that the espionage world works and people get chewed up by this. The more I write about it, the more I've come to the realization that secrecy is bad for everybody in the end. I mean, it may serve the state, it may be very useful. It may make us safer. It frequently does. Sometimes it changes the course of history - Gordievsky is a very good example - but the human beings involved in it are very often seriously damaged by it and the outcomes they imagine are not those that happen. I mean Philby's another very good example. He imagined that he would turn up in Moscow and that he would be feted as a KGB colonel and that he would be lauded and loved for the rest of his life. And it wasn't like that. His last years were miserable. And then, again, with the story of Ursula, I mean, her children really suffered from this story. They really did. The human cost of these stories is often very, very hard.
RORY BREMNER: Well, I was thinking in particular the character Rudolph Hamburger, who was her first husband, the father of her first child, and in a way, a reluctance because he resisted it for quite a while, and then they were in Shanghai. Then he becomes more involved, particularly as he sees what's happening in Germany and the Nazis and fascism. So he goes over, he becomes a spy, and he ends up in the gulag in the most desperate situation for years.
BEN MACINTYRE: He does, I mean, in a way, he became a spy in order to try to keep Ursula. I mean, part of his love for her was to demonstrate to her that he was also prepared to take the same sort of risks that she was. She had moved on in her life by that point. And poor old Rudy's problem was that he was initially reluctant, latterly very enthusiastic, but completely hopeless. I mean, he was a useless spy. And he was eventually caught by Western intelligence services in Iran working for the Soviet Union. And this was at the tail end of the war. So the Allies - the Soviet Union was allied with America and Britain - so he thought he was going to be absolutely fine. So he went back to Moscow again, expecting a hero's welcome, not unlike Kim Philby. And in the paranoid Stalinist state, they took one look at him and said, “You've been in touch with Western intelligence services. You're a suspect.” And he spent 10 years in the gulag. I mean, he's a very good example of the unintended consequences of these stories. It's not the world of James Bond.
JANOSH NEUMANN: It's constant psychological pressure. It doesn't matter [if] you defected to war. You were just working for your country or something else. You can't trust anyone, only trust you. It's like a bowl of lies. You're swimming inside this bowl of lies. And when you're drawn into the service, it doesn't mean it's counterintelligence or intelligence. You have to accept that this will be your new life. That's it. All the past is over and there is no way you can leave it. No, it’s going to be always chasing you. You have to stay in it. It's huge psychological and mental damage as well because you can see things differently from the moment you joined the service.
RORY BREMNER: And you're alone. You can't trust anyone.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Yes, you're alone. The only friends whom you're going to have, you're going to consider as friends, are people from the same organizations or from the same kind of, let's say, the same world as you are. But at the same time, you can't trust them completely. They can't trust you. So that's the absolutely horrifying situation at the same time as well. And there is no future. There's no like something like tomorrow, no matter what you do, you do it now.You can plan something in the future, but you will like one day here because you do not know what's going to happen tomorrow. It's like, what if my wife and I, we've been going for all these years. We had no tomorrow and no future at all. It was like, you're leaving now and you're trying to get as much as you can from today.
RORY BREMNER: It's the second time it's happened to you, hasn't it? Because when you were in the bank and you spoke out then, and instead of them saying, “Yes, we can fix this, we could do something about it,” they said, “Well, you have got a choice. You can either shoot yourself, be shot, or leave. So you leave and you go to America and you think, “I want to do some good.” Was there an ideological motive as well? You thought, “I can actually use my experience and I can fight evil, in some sense. I know that there are bad people doing bad things and I can do something about this.”
JANOSH NEUMANN: Of course.
RORY BREMNER: What was your motivation?
JANOSH NEUMANN: First of all, to protect my wife and I, to protect us as a family, as who we are, and do something good. And we got a lot of feedback and lots of thank you from the FBI guys and Agency guys and other organizations - from Britain as well - for what we've been doing and for the help we've been providing to them. At some point, I guess… we made the country where we're living right now in this world to be safer because people figure out what's going on and they can see things which they were not able to see before.
RORY BREMNER: You found out there were other things to do.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Well, actually, I want to say thank you to the US government, because they left us in this situation so I had enough free time to figure out what I can do.
RORY BREMNER: Okay.
JANOSH NEUMANN: And because we've been unemployable for a long period of time, because people - actually people have been more afraid that not because we've been, we are from Russia and trained by Russians, but that we've been working with the US government. That's actually what’s creating more, more complications to be employed. So yeah, we've got help from friends and guys from Agencies as well. They’ve kind of been motivating me to do some writing and start to get involved in show biz. I was resisting that. Then they explained to me that basically the entertainment industry and the show biz, no one cares who you are. They just were looking for cool stories and it's more forgiving than the government work. And actually it has less hypocrisy than working for a government.
RORY BREMNER: Fantastic.
BEN MACINTYRE: So you are writing fiction. Is that right?
RORY BREMNER: That is correct. Look at this.
BEN MACINTYRE: Read Atlantis, Janosh new book. There you go. A raw and brutal thriller ripped from tomorrow's headlines. That completes the circle because most spies that I've come across are also frustrated writers, because, of course, the work of a spy is not so different from that of a novelist. What you're doing is trying to create a false world, an artificial world, and persuade other people that it's true. And the better you are at that, the better you're going to be at this game. And it's no accident, I think that some of the greatest writers of the 20th century were themselves former intelligence officers; John le Carré, Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Ian Fleming, John Buchan. They'd all been in the intelligence game. What did Stella Remington do the moment she stepped down from being head of her MI5? She became a novelist. I think it's both splendid and also in some ways predictable that in your new life, Janosh, you've decided that the artificial world of fiction is one for you.
RORY BREMNER: Does that mean that you would have loved to have been a spy, Ben?
BEN MACINTYRE: I couldn't possibly say.
RORY BREMNER: Maybe you are. Who knows?
BEN MACINTYRE: It's going to be hopeless. No, no. I mean, I have absolutely. I mean, look, as I've just demonstrated, I find it extremely hard to keep a secret. I was approached when I first left university, but they spotted very quickly that I really wasn't cut out for it.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Now we are developing a few projects in cooperation with a few producers. Really, they’re kind of pretty well-known guys. Adam Davidson and Jonathan Stern are working on some really cool TV series concepts about financial crimes. It's going to be like a dark, dark comedy and a Guy Ritchie type of thing. And also, we are in touch with former spies. They have their own production companies and they are generating some new material and new content. For example, we're in touch with Spycraft Entertainment. It's John Sipher. He is a spy legend - Jay Rosen - and a friend of ours and it is great. Like, we [are] throwing these ideas. We are brainstorming some crazy stuff and I guess it is getting some traction. The main challenge for us is how to turn the boring spy stories into something which people are going to love and read and want to watch.
RORY BREMNER: Well it was Ben that said there’s no such thing as a boring spy story. We are drawn to them, Ben, aren't we? And you Janosh, what is it that you think attracts people? Is it that it's addictive and we love this alternative world? Do we love secrets?
BEN MACINTYRE: I think it's that. I think there's also something elementally attractive for everybody about the idea of a double life. That the me that you see on the outside is not the me that is there on the inside is kind of as old as human nature. And I think it's a fantasy that people entertain down the ages. But espionage in a way allows you to live it out. To be someone in one world and to be someone completely different in another is a very attractive thought, I think. And it's one that, every time anyone ever sees a James Bond film, a little part of them goes, “Gosh, I wonder if I could do that.” And also, I mean, espionage is important. Espionage matters. I suspect it matters more today than at any time in history. There is more. Admittedly, it is much more, it's less human intelligence these days than signals intelligence, the great cleavage within intelligence between humans and SIGINT. And, of course, it's all about texts and phones and the internet. But still, the human element is absolutely vital. And it still boils down to a very simple question, which is, you have to look someone in the eye and see if you can trust them. So there are human dramas at the heart of this that are, I think, just extraordinarily interesting. Who can you trust? And, and in a way, I love writing about it because true espionage or real-life espionage or factual espionage stories allow one to invade really, the area that is normally colonized by novelists. It's loyalty and love and betrayal and adventure and romance and jeopardy. And yet it's all true. The great pleasure of it is that spies are also tremendously unreliable narrators but spies also love talking about their pasts. So you get the right combination.
RORY BREMNER: Yes. Well, Janosh, you mentioned the big screen. And also we talked about Ian Fleming. Now those come together, don't they, in another project of yours, Ben, which is Operation Mincemeat?
BEN MACINTYRE: Well, in a way, it's certainly one of the most successful deception stories of all time. It was actually the brainchild of Ian Fleming, who was - long before he put pen to paper as a novelist - was assistant to the head of Naval Intelligence during the war. And one of the things that Fleming did was to draw up a list of kind of outlandish ideas that might be used to kind of baffle and bamboozle the Germans. It's a ridiculous document. It's full of the most bonkers ideas. But one of them was 'Let's get a dead body, let's equip it with false papers, and then let's float ashore somewhere where the Germans will find it'. And that is what they did. Montagu and Chumley are - wonderful names - played in the film by Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen. They got hold of a dead body. They gave him a completely new identity. He was a dead spy, effectively, and they floated him ashore with false papers, indicating that the great Anglo-American Armada preparing to set off from North Africa was actually aiming for Greece and not for Sicily. It was a classic bait and switch. They were trying to persuade the Germans that the attack was coming somewhere where it wasn't. And they floated the body ashore. And it's an extraordinary story because this kind of dead man who had actually been a poor Welsh tramp, who had poisoned himself with rat poison in a warehouse in Kings Cross, ended up as William Martin of the Royal Marines, someone that he'd never been. And thanks to the Bletchley Park intercepts, you can actually follow this lie as it is swallowed whole and goes down the gullet of German intelligence. And it changed the course of that campaign. It saved countless, innumerable lives. And it's a fascinating and rather poignant story of imagination, really. I mean, these were both frustrated novelists to go back to that point, and they just invented a character and invested him with a father and a lover and he was even carrying a photograph of the girl in his wallet. I mean, they went completely over the top, actually, to try and persuade the Germans who picked up this body and got hold of the false papers, that it was all true and it diverted many, many troops.
RORY BREMNER: Extraordinary. So that's your most current. And if you got another book, are you writing now? Do you find it easier to, to do it, go a little bit further back in the past? Or is this stuff that's very recent? Is there a statute of limitations? You have to wait a certain amount of time.
BEN MACINTYRE: Well, to get the material from British intelligence, MI5 releases its files these days. MI6 doesn't and probably never will, but MI5 does and it does so on a timely basis. After 50 years, they can start to release information. So that is a huge treasure trove of material. I mean, that's absolutely wonderful when they start producing that stuff. But no, I drop back and forth actually. I mean, the book about Gordievsky is probably the most modern one I did because in that one, all the MI6 officers involved in that, are still alive. And so I was able to interview them. So that was, in a way that was more of an investigative operation than a historical one. But actually, the moment I'm deep in Colditz. My next book is about the inside story of Colditz. So during lockdown I've practically grown a mustache and started tunneling out. But the real story of Colditz, again, is very different from the mythical one that we all inherited from the black-and-white TV series of our youth. I mean, the real story of Colditz is really a story about class and race, and sexuality, and all sorts of things that the stiff-upper-lip generation of the postwar years didn't really want to talk about. So the real story of Colditz is utterly fascinating.
RORY BREMNER: Can't wait for that. I did laugh because when you say that documents are released after a while, because I got caught up in it, myself. Some years ago, Janosh you won't know this, but some years ago in ‘93, when I was starting at Channel Four, we decided we pushed the envelope a little bit and I rang up some backbenchers pretending to be the Prime Minister and they fell for it. And, unfortunately it set a few alarm bells ringing at Westminster and so they had to find out who's making the call. And then they had to ring up the backbenchers, ring up the politicians, and tell them that it wasn't John Major that they had spoken to and one of them wouldn't believe him and said, “No, no, no, don't be so silly. I mean, that call has saved his bacon.” And what I didn't know, this is the extraordinary thing about no matter how satirical you think you're being, real life has a habit of being even more interesting that the people I was ringing were actually plotting a revolt against the Prime Minister. And because they'd had a phone call from the Prime Minister himself, or so they thought, they called it off. As the man said, that call has saved his bacon. And so they called off the rebellion. And so I didn't stop Brexit, but I think I slowed it down by about 27 years. Jan, I mean, it's a remarkable story, as we said, there you go. You make it over to America, they use you a little bit and then they kind of spit you out a little bit. But do you feel safe now? Do you have to look over your shoulder? Can you relax in any sense? Can a spy ever relax?
JANOSH NEUMANN: No, it doesn't matter what happened to you. You just retire. You left the service or they left you in the cold. You can't relax. There's going to be all this tension. You're going to have this pressure and some thoughts, and you're always going to look over your shoulder, that's for sure. In my case, the best advice is just pay your life insurance on time. That's going to be fine. So that's the best advice I can give you. Like, I mean, the rest won't work as well if they're going to sense someone's going to be well-trained people and everything is going to happen fairly quick. It's not a movie with a 45-minute shootout.
BEN MACINTYRE: And what of your parents? They were both in the intelligence service. Have their lives been affected? They must have been radically affected. But how do they feel about what you've done?
JANOSH NEUMANN: For them I'm a traitor. I am an enemy of the state. We are not in touch by all means. And my chat with the bank owner basically was authorized by my dad.
BEN MACINTYRE: Wow.
JANOSH NEUMANN: So that was kind of… That's it. That's over.
BEN MACINTYRE: I think that illustrates, really movingly, the human cost point I was making earlier that there is a cost to these stories.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Of course. What I found really fascinating was Ben in your book and my friend's book Brian Denson - The Spy’s Son - you guys were able to unlock this human part of the story. What I was reading before, it was more basically like reading the intelligence report with some pluses and minuses, but you guys were able to bring this human part of the story.
BEN MACINTYRE: Well, it's the human part that always fascinates me. The tradecraft is fascinating, but it's the human part. And I'm delighted you've managed to find a new life. In a way, the only other person I can compare you to is earlier Gordievsky, who was exfiltrated in 1985. And he lives in a safe house in suburban Britain, under an assumed name, under 24-hour surveillance. He has a permanent guard at his house now, particularly since the Skripal poisoning. He is not a friend of Russia. He is not a friend of Putin. He is a marked man in many ways. He can't go to the pub. He can't go shopping. His whole life. He's a prisoner. He's a prisoner of history. And, but… he's made of some incredible Russian granite that never seems to deteriorate or break down.
RORY BREMNER: Now, Ben mentioned Skripal poisoning. What was your reaction? What did you think? And indeed, the one before that, the [Alexander] Litvinenko [case]?
JANOSH NEUMANN: Well, Litvinenko… I can't say it was, like I said, what it was like for them. For the other guys, it was a successful operation. On the Skripal [case], it was a failure. And then they had, I guess [used] it for several more attempts, whether using the same type of poison.
RORY BREMNER: Do you think the state has gone rogue? Do you think that this is Putin himself, or do you think this is rogue agents trying to please him?
JANOSH NEUMANN: I don't know. That's a really great question. I'm not sure [if] it was the killing attempt or it was sending them a message. That's the big difference. They know how to kill, that's for sure. And they had several really successful operations behind their belt, even recent ones, even the initiation of the poison with Amir Khattab. But I don't know what that was. It was a message of warning that, “We're always looking for you guys. You can't relax. You can't live just a normal life. You have to look over your shoulder.” A message for others. Maybe it was not even for the West. The message was maybe for internal use to prevent others from doing what Skripal [had] done and what I've done and other guys. So, we don't know.
RORY BREMNER: Well, that's another story. I was just thinking. So maybe one day Janosh, Ben will write your story. I'll give you a title because if we know about The Spy Who Came in From The Cold, maybe you're the spy who was sent out into the cold.
JANOSH NEUMANN: Came from cold. Left in the cold.
RORY BREMNER: Left in the cold. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us. Ben, thank you again. We talked about Agent Sonya, but of course, you have many, many books and Operation Mincemeat [the movie]. All of it is fascinating. And for the reason that you said, because underneath all the fascinating stories of spycraft and all the interconnection of these worlds it is the human story underneath it. And that's what you tell so well. And what, Jan, you have lived, as illustrated, with your life. So thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me on The Spying Game.
JODHI MAY: Next time on SPYSCAPE, The Spying Game, Rory is joined by former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox and the 355 director and Mr. and Mrs. Smith screenwriter Simon Kinberg.
AMARYLLIS FOX: It's a very lonely job. You have circle upon circle upon circle of people who are kind of farther and farther away from your truth. There you are in the central prison circle, and there's no one in there with you.
SIMON KINBER: I do feel like part of the appeal of playing a spy for actors is that it feels so second nature to them, that they do feel a kinship with spies.
AMARYLLIS FOX: That's one of the things we forget is how incredibly young the people who do this work are and always have been. And in part, that's because the most challenging operations are often given to the youngest officers because they haven't been out in the field long enough for anybody to suspect what they do for a living. The scariest part of the work that I did is wading into the worldview of the person that you perhaps hate and fear most in the world and actually giving it the time of day.
SPYEX Consultant Janosh Neumann (pictured) is a former Russian FSB agent, money laundering specialist, and bag man for a Moscow bank. When he entered a US embassy in the Caribbean, he had a plan: offer intelligence about the FSB and organized crime, name Russian names, and live happily ever after with his wife and the reward money. But 'Neumann', as he is now known, changed identities several times as the fairytale turned into a nightmare.
Ben Macintyre is the author of numerous spy books including The Spy and the Traitor, which tells the story of double KGB agent Oleg Gordievsky, and Agent Sonya: Lover, Mother, Soldier, Spy, the story of Ursula Kuczynski - codename Sonya - the greatest female spy of the 20th Century.