A little over a year ago, I learned the startling details of a Cold War spy plot that had been buried in the archives for more than 30 years. Even more surprising than that, I learned that I was to play a central role in it.
Through a series of highly unlikely coincidences — including me publishing a book, “Čas proměn,” in July 2021 — I discovered that the Czechoslovak secret police, in the 1980s, had tried (and failed) to actively recruit me to work as a Czechoslovak agent. My alter-ego, a prospective operative code-named “INTER,” was to have spied for them in Vienna, where I was living and working as a journalist at the time.
This incredible caper is laid out in minute detail in a sprawling surveillance file that the Czechoslovak secret police, the StB, collected on me when I traveled to the country on my reporting trips. I only learned of the existence of this file after a researcher with the Prague Institute of Military History, Dr Prokop Tomek, had read my book and decided to search on my behalf in the secret police archives.
I was stunned – and not just by the unbelievable story, which ends in a Bratislava hotel on the same night that the Berlin Wall fell, but also by the fact that I had a file in the first place. While files like these weren't all that unusual (the secret police surveilled many journalists as well as many thousands of other people), over the years I had made several inquiries with the authorities in Prague to ask if I had a file. Each time I was told that I did not.
I’ve spent the past several months sorting through dusty, yellowing pages in order to better understand and reconstruct the insane plans they had for me. I thought long and hard about what to do with the information. I’m now ready to share what I found. Beginning next week, I will publish on this blog the first of five weekly installments in which I will fully lay out the story of “Operation INTER.”
My aim with publishing these posts is not simply to entertain, but also to inform. My story will show the dizzying scope of surveillance and waste of resources – in my case and in many others as well – that the secret police expended in quenching an insatiable thirst for information. It will demonstrate, without a shadow of a doubt, the StB’s extreme cynicism and hubris.
Watch this space. I’m sure you’ll find the story as strange, shocking and fascinating as I did.
Click here to go directly to the first part of the story.
Is there an english-text version of Cas Promen?
Not yet. Although the series of stories that I will publish next week will be in English and will concern the book.
Patiently waiting for the English text to come out as well. However , I’ll be looking forward to this. Thank you Mr. Baker!
Believe me, you will be the first person to know when I finally actually finish that project!
very interesting. A teacher of mine shared his story yearly of how he escaped Czechoslovakia way back when. The details were quite disturbing on how much paranoia took place in what should have been normal and relaxed environments.
Very true. I will start laying out the whole story in future posts next week.