Part 5: A Date at the Hotel Devín
Late in 2021, I discovered – to my surprise – the Czechoslovak secret police, the StB, spied on me without my knowledge during the 1980s when I worked as a Western journalist in Vienna and traveled for my job to Prague and other cities. Indeed, I have an extensive surveillance file at the state archives. Of course, I had always suspected as much, but over the decades since 1989, I’d periodically submitted requests to the authorities in Prague to view my file only to be told each time I didn’t have one. What makes the whole thing even more galling is that after having finally found and read my file, I discovered that the secret police weren’t just monitoring me, they were planning to recruit me.
The StB activated their plan to bring me onboard, something they called “Operation INTER” after the code name they gave me, in the early days of November 1989. It was a classic “honeypot” scheme, timed to coincide with a reporting trip of mine to Prague and Bratislava. The StB’s timing couldn’t have been more dramatic (though I don’t think they noticed or cared). The trap, planned for a Bratislava hotel room, coincidentally, was set to play out precisely on the evening of November 9, just hours before the Berlin Wall fell. The events in Berlin that night would very soon precipitate the collapse of Czechoslovakia’s own communist regime. In this last installment of stories on my long-hidden surveillance file, I’ll lay out in more detail what the StB had cooked up for me, how it went down, and what I think about it now, more than three decades later. (If you are new to the series, click here to start at Part 1.)