RUSSIAN SPIES TARGETED & USED CLINTON OFFICIAL
By Cliff Kincaid
How should the media handle sensational allegations that one of the most esteemed members of their profession, former Time magazine journalist and top Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott, was a dupe of the Russian intelligence service? How should they deal with hard evidence that one of their sacred cows, the United Nations, is penetrated by Russian spies?
The answer is that most of them will ignore it.
This is the fate they’re giving to Comrade J, a blockbuster book about Russian espionage written by former Washington Post reporter and author Pete Earley.
Comrade J is about a Russian master spy, Sergei Tretyakov, who defected to the United States because he was disgusted with the Russian/Soviet system and wanted to start a new and better life with his family in America. He identifies former Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott, a current adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as having been a trusted contact of the Russian intelligence service.
Back in 2000, when Talbott was named head of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, he was described as “a key architect of U.S. foreign policy” during the Clinton years. He now heads the Brookings Institution, a liberal Washington, D.C. think tank.
But Tretyakov has some impressive credentials of his own. He wasn’t just a low-level official. He is described as the highest ranking Russian intelligence official ever to defect while stationed in the U.S. and handled all Russian intelligence operations against the U.S. He served under cover from 1995-2000 at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations but was secretly working for the FBI for at least three years.
Talbott denies the charges, calling them “erroneous and/or misleading,” and his denials are featured on page 184 of the book. He says that he always promoted U.S. foreign policy goals and that the close relationship that he had with a top Russian official by the name of Georgi Mamedov did not involve any manipulation or deception.
This is not the first time that Talbott has come under scrutiny for his alleged contacts with agents of a foreign intelligence service. In 1994, when he was being considered for his State Department post in the Clinton Administration, he was grilled by Senator Jesse Helms, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about his relationship with Victor Louis, a Soviet “journalist” who was actually a Soviet KGB intelligence agent. Talbott had been a young correspondent for Time magazine in Moscow.
As reported by Herbert Romerstein in Human Events newspaper, Talbott admitted knowing Louis from 1969 until his death in 1992 but that he was not aware of his “organizational affiliations.” Pressed further, Talbott acknowledged that he was aware of assertions or speculation to that effect about Louis. Helms then confronted Talbott with a 1986 State Department publication revealing that Louis had been identified as a KGB agent by KGB defectors and had been used by the Soviets to spread disinformation. Talbott said he still didn’t know for sure that Louis was a KGB agent.
Romerstein’s Human Events article accused Talbott of writing articles following the Soviet line. However, Talbott had powerful friends, including Senator and fellow Rhodes Scholar Richard Lugar, who supported his nomination. Lugar continues to call Talbott a “good friend” and “source of sound counsel” who “continues to provide outstanding national and international leadership.”
Romerstein, a retired government expert on anti-American and communist propaganda activities, said the Earley book is valuable because it documents that the Russian intelligence service picked up where the KGB left off, and that operations against the U.S. continued after the end of the Cold War.
But he said the information about Talbott needs further explanation from Talbott himself. “Talbott really has to explain more than he did to Pete Earley what his relationship was to Mamedov, and he should tell us about his relationship with Victor Louis,” Romerstein told AIM.
While the accusations against Talbott are sensational and raise serious questions about security and procedures at the Department of State, Tretyakov also aims heavy fire at the institution where he was based?the U.N. He calls the world body “a nest of spies and scoundrels,” says a major figure in the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency is a Russian spy, names several U.N. ambassadors as Russian spies, and describes how a Russian spy infiltrated the U.N.’s oil-for-food program for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in order to help loot it.
Earley tells Accuracy in Media that while the timing of the release of the book could have been better, coming during a time of frenetic presidential campaign activity, the information deserves more attention than it is getting. He says the three major broadcasting networks, as well as the New York Times and the Washington Post, have shown no interest in treating the information in the book as a major news story. He says he is also disappointed that conservative talk radio has failed to cover the book.
Unfortunately, Tretyakov is concluding his interviews about the book on Wednesday, January 30, and will be going into hiding, fearing retaliation from the Russian government.
The book, however, speaks for itself. And the allegations about Strobe Talbott could prove damaging to the Clinton machine and the Democratic Party in general.
A close personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Talbott is described in the book as having been “a special unofficial contact” of the Russian intelligence agency, the SVR, when he was Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration. Talbott had been in charge of Russian affairs.
“Inside the SVR, that term was used only to identify a top-level intelligence source who had high social and/or political status and whose identity needed to be carefully guarded,” the book says. On the same level of interest was Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, a communist “recruited by the KGB during the Khrushchev era” who continued to work for the Russians after the Soviet collapse, the book says. He, too, was a “special unofficial contact.”
Talbott’s Russian Friend
Talbott was allegedly manipulated and deceived by Russia’s then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georgi Mamedov, who was “secretly working” for Russian intelligence, the book alleges. The book, however, does not make the specific charge that Talbott was recruited as a Russian spy or was a conscious agent of the Russian regime.
The book cites Talbott as an “example of how a skilled intelligence agency could manipulate a situation and a diplomatic source to its advantage without the target realizing he was being used for intelligence-gathering purposes.” It says Mamedov was “instructed” by the SVR to ask specific questions to get information about certain matters.
“The point is that there are many ways to get intelligence,” Earley explained. “And one of the best ways is not by stealing secrets but by becoming friends, getting people to let their guard down, massaging egos, and getting them to tell you helpful information.”
However, the book says that Talbott was so compromised by his relationship with Mamedov that the FBI asked Secretary of State Madeleine Albright not to share information with Talbott about an espionage investigation at the State Department because Mamedov might learn about it and tip off Russian intelligence. Earley says he confirmed this account but that Albright has refused to discuss the incident.
The book cites a House of Representatives report, released in September 2000, which found that the Clinton Administration and Talbott in particular had excused the actions of the Russian government and had failed to promote democracy and free enterprise there.
Earley’s book itself discusses how, during the mid 1990s, Talbott, State Department spokesman Mike McCurry, and President Clinton himself echoed Russian propaganda that justified Russian attacks on Chechnya. This “delighted the propagandists inside the SVR,” which “claimed credit” for what the U.S. officials had said, the book says.
It seems that Talbott has a tendency, which continues to the present day, of whitewashing the Russian regime.
In congressional testimony just last October on U.S.-Russian relations, Talbott attacked the Bush Administration for withdrawing from the ABM treaty, urged Russian membership in the World Trade Organization, and advocated more negotiations and agreements with Russia over nuclear arms. The U.S. has “set a bad example” for the Russians in foreign affairs, Talbott said.
Talbott Promotes the U.N.
Ironically, Talbott has been about town promoting his own book, The Great Experiment, about the need for “global governance” and expanding the power of the U.N. in foreign affairs. His book ignores the role of Soviet spy Alger Hiss in founding the U.N. but thanks George Soros and Walter Isaacson, formerly of Time but now with the Aspen Institute, for their input on his manuscript.
Talbott also gives thanks to convicted document thief Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser who now advises Hillary’s presidential campaign; Soros associate Morton Halperin, formerly of the ACLU; Javier Solana of the European Union; and Bill Clinton, “for helping me better to understand several aspects of his view of the world and America’s role in it.”
With all of these high-powered connections, the story about Talbott being used by the Russians seems to be a story worth reporting or commenting on. However, if the media examine the charges against Talbott, they might have to deal with other evidence and information in the book about how spies for the Soviet intelligence service manipulated the U.S. media.
The book, for instance, explains how the Soviet KGB peddled charges that deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to Europe in the 1980s might lead to their use and a “nuclear winter” or climate crisis for the world. The book says the story was cooked up by the KGB and fed to the Western world by anti-nuclear activists such as Carl Sagan, who penned an article on the topic for the Council on Foreign Relations journal Foreign Affairs. The book notes that Sagan later appeared on the ABC television network to talk about the subject.
Tretyakov says he discovered “dozens of case studies” of the KGB using “propaganda and disinformation to influence public opinion” in the West.
His Time at Time
A prominent journalist himself at one time, Talbott achieved notoriety for writing a July 20, 1992, Time column, “The Birth of the Global Nation,” saying that in the next century “nationhood as we know it will be obsolete,” that we will all some day become world citizens, and that wars and human rights violations in the 20th century had clinched “the case for world government.” This reflects the views of the pro-world government World Federalist movement.
Talbott was identified as a World Federalist when he took over the Brookings Institution. He has acknowledged that his parents were members of the World Federalist movement, which collaborated with Soviet front groups such as the Soviet Peace Committee during the Cold War and tried to avoid scrutiny from anti-communist congressional committees after World War II. Talbott even says he had a dog growing up known as “Freddie,” which was short for World Federalists.
Other prominent World Federalists have been Senator Alan Cranston and Rep. John B. Anderson.
As we noted in a 2003 AIM Report, Talbott’s global left-wing vision was endorsed personally by President Clinton, who had sent a June 22, 1993, letter to the World Federalist Association (WFA) when it gave Talbott its Norman Cousins Global Governance Award. In the letter, Clinton noted that Cousins, the WFA founder, had “worked for world peace and world government” and that Talbott was a “worthy recipient” of the award. Talbott and Bill Clinton became friends when they were both Rhodes Scholars.
Hillary Clinton, who has been friends with Talbott since their days together at Yale University, gave a videotaped address to the WFA in 1999 on the occasion of the group giving former anchorman of the CBS Evening News Walter Cronkite its global governance award. She praised Cronkite’s work. For his part, Cronkite declared that “we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government” and America must “yield up some of our sovereignty.”
The WFA, which renamed itself Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), lobbies for more power and authority for the U.N., including passage of the Law of the Sea Treaty. It pours money into Congressional races for the House and Senate and receives funding from major liberal foundations. One of their favorite politicians has been Senator Richard Lugar, perhaps the most prominent Senate proponent of the Law of the Sea Treaty, who joined Talbott at the Brookings Institution last October 8 to discuss U.S.-Russian relations. Lugar has accepted campaign cash from the CGS political action committee.
Will the story about Talbott grow or die?
Earley tells AIM that he and Tretyakov have been giving interviews, many to the foreign media, as well as to the wire services that provide information in the U.S. and abroad. However, an Associated Press story and a Reuters story ignored the information about Talbott. “They were told it,” Earley said. “They saw it. I don’t know why they chose to ignore that.”
However, Earley said journalists may be reluctant to report this kind of information because of Talbott’s “high reputation” in the business.
Jeff Stein of Congressional Quarterly covered the book, noting the charges against Talbott as well as his denials, while Joseph Goulden mentioned the brewing Talbott controversy in a Washington Times review.
The Washington Post has ignored the book as a news story but published a quick review by David Wise trying to play down the charges against Talbott. “All defectors tend to exaggerate their own importance, or at least the importance of their information, especially if they worry that when they run out of secrets to reveal they may be cast aside,” Wise says. He describes the Talbott charges as “a case in point” from a “name-dropper” who wants to sell a book. He says that Tretyakov’s charges about Talbott, which stop short of calling him a spy, are “Nixonian.”
But Earley, who investigated the allegations before reporting them, is a well-respected reporter who himself worked for the Post for many years and has written other books on espionage cases. A quotation on Earley’s website from the Post itself describes him as a “fair-minded” journalist interested in providing the facts to his readers.
facts include why Tretyakov, who had access to wealth and status as
a top Russian official and spy, defected to the U.S. It may sound
cornball, Earley says, but Tretyakov “really is a believer in the
U.S. system. He decided he wanted a better life for his family and
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Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic, Cliff concentrated in journalism and communications at the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Cliff has written or co-authored nine books on media and cultural affairs and foreign policy issues.
Cliff has appeared on Hannity & Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire and has been published in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Chronicles, Human Events and Insight.
This is not the first time that Talbott has come under scrutiny for his alleged contacts with agents of a foreign intelligence service.