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, 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 the Czechoslovak secret police in the 1980s had tried to recruit me 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 at the time.
This caper is laid out in minute detail in a sprawling surveillance file the Czechoslovak secret police, the StB, collected on me when I traveled to the country on reporting trips. I only learned of its existence after a researcher with the Prague Institute of Military History, Dr Prokop Tomek, read my book and searched the police archives on my behalf.
I was stunned – and not just by the unbelievable story, which ends in a Bratislava hotel on the same night the Berlin Wall fell, but also by the fact 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 I did not.
I’ve spent the past several months sorting through the dusty pages in order to better understand and reconstruct the strange 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 the first of five weekly installments in which I 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 that the secret police expended in quenching an insatiable thirst for information. It will demonstrate, without a shadow of a doubt, the StB’s 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.