INT: You must have seen the film of the trial, Joe. What do you think when you see that film?
JB: Well, the trial is not surprising, it's typical of other Soviet trials. I'm sure they gave both Penkovsky and Greville Wynne a hard time and probably made some promises to Greville Wynne to get him to talk, but... it would have been much more difficult to get Penkovsky to tell everything. And as I've said before, he kept information from them, I know he did.
INT: Was he a brave man, do you think? How do you rate him in those terms?
JB: Penkovsky was a soldier and he'd been through an awful lot of military... wars, during World War Two of military expeditions and he faced death many times, that's not... Let me start all over again, that hasn't come out good.... the first and foremost, Penkovsky was a soldier. He'd been through World War Two on many fronts, he was wounded and he faced death many times. That he faced death once more at the hands of the KGB didn't surprise him and he probably... Russians tend to resign themselves and he resigned himself to the same, but he's going to try one more thing. Try to take the Soviet Union down with him.
INT: Tell us about that.
JB: Well, we had a particular form of communication with Oleg. Besides the human meetings with Greville Wynne and Janet Chisholm, and beside the radio messages to him and his Minox deliveries to us, we had to have a contingency plan that if he were unable to get to anybody, and the biggest worry that the US military had was that if the Soviets planned a pre-emptive attack upon the United States by way of missiles, to give us a certain signal. Well, that signal came. And in my own mind, we knew the case was over, and we knew that, at least I did in my own mind, that Penkovsky gave the KGB a different meaning for that signal, as if the embassy was to do something, to send somebody out whom else they could capture and interrogate. He never told them that possibly this could mean that the United States would really take the first steps and have a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet Union, take down Moscow and Penkovsky with hit. Is that better?
INT: But that sounds... it's a crazy... it's a mad, bad, crazy plan, isn't it?
JB: Yeah, but it's good. Sure it is. I... yeah. It's...
INT: Did you think he was crazy when...
JB: Oh no, no, he's not crazy, but of course he was not a crazy man, absolutely not. He is a very realistic and pragmatic man. And that shows in that plan of his to destroy the Soviet Union, that he was realistic and pragmatic.
INT: That would have ended the Cold War.
JB: Yeah, that would have ended it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think the Cold War would have been ended for sure!
INT: It's a tough call for you, but when you look back on Penkovsky, and the Cuban Missile Crisis yourself, we're doing a history of intelligence in the Cold War and some people think oh, human spies, they're a side-show, the real business is in the sort of satellites. But other people say, well, every now and again there is a spy that comes along who makes a difference. How do you evaluate that sort of question? How do you see that one?
JB: It is my view that in the field of intelligence you need both technical and human sources, you shouldn't bank on the one or the other, you need both. our satellites are doing a tremendous job world-wide, or have certainly during the Cold War they did a tremendous job, but if you can get into the mind of the Khrushchev's of the world, then you've got a weapon that no technical amount of information can give you and this is what Penkovsky was able to give us, by his access to Marshal Vorensov and the Supreme Military Council. You need both.
INT: You had a funny meeting with Jim Angleton, I want you to talk to me about that.
JB: My last meeting with Jim Angleton, I'm convinced Jim Angleton was paranoid at the time, but I went to this office and he told me that every case I ever worked on over the seven years in the Soviet Union was controlled by the KGB. This shocked me, to the point that I couldn't open my mouth, I didn't say a word, I just walked out. What can you say to a man like that?
INT: So tell me about it.
JB: The last time I ever saw Jim Angleton, who was chief of counter-intelligence...
JB: Jim Angleton was chief of counter-intelligence at the CIA. I had many meetings with him over the years and when I last saw him, he said that every case I ever worked on inside the Soviet Union over the past seven years was controlled by the KGB, including the Penkovsky case. And then at one point, Angleton thought the Penkovsky case was great, but something caused him to change his mind. I think it was his paranoia. I just... closed my mouth and never responded to him, just turned around and walked out. And that's the last I ever wanted to see of Jim Angleton.
INT: Did he caused damage to the agency, do you reckon? Tell me about it.
JB: I'm not too familiar with that. See...
INT: Um, Joe, I want you to talk to me and explain this question which was that there seems to be an inevitability, this is a guy who's been caught and is going to get executed. Now, could anything have been done? Tell me about how you see all that.
JB: Well, during the course of the trial, there's no question either at the beginning of the trial or the middle of the trial or the end of the trial, there was no question in my mind that Oleg would be executed. And the first thought in my mind was, can I save his life? Can I save him from being executed? So I proposed a plan, a copy of which I still have today, I brought it with me, I stole something from the CIA, although they have copies of it. This is a plan that was to go to four KGB residencies in the world and four GRU residencies in the world and the reason I did that was to have the KGB and the GRU officers throughout the world know that the Americans were trying to save Oleg Penkovsky's life. And the idea was that we had enough information that was very embarrassing, not only to the KGB, but to the Soviet government, tremendously embarrassing to them, that if they executed him, that we would publish that information in the western press. And while there may have been a fifty-fifty chance of saving his life, I'll take that chance. But the lack of guts in our leadership in CIA, they would not let that plan go through. My original memo, which is the reason I have it today, came back to me as if nobody ever saw it. I know damn well that the chief of SR division and Helms saw it. When I talked to Jim Angleton about this particular plan, he merely remarked that we in CIA do not deal directly with the KGB and if that isn't stupid, I don't know what is. Did I do it?
INT: Joe, there's one other question about Penkovsky I wanted to ask you, which was there are these photographs of him in military uniform and we have also a letter, this letter in the Imperial War Museum in London, a letter you must know, the one where he swears his allegiance to the Queen.
JB: No, no I don't know this...
INT: But we have one that says, you know, to my Queen, he says, and to my President and maybe you don't know that piece of paper, it's maybe one you gave to Shergold. It's in the Imperial War Museum now, in Russian, with an English translation...
JB: He might have given it to Shergold, but I'm not aware of it.
INT: OK, let's not worry too much about the letter. The question for you is, his perception of himself seems to be that he is a soldier working for the US President and the Queen of England. Tell us about that and about the photographs, the uniforms.
JB: This is... During the second meetings with Oleg Penkovsky in London in the fall of 1961,... Oleg told us that he wanted to have military rank in both the British and American armies. So we went about and I'd gotten the uniform about his size from the US military attaché, whom I happened to know, in London and we took photographs of him, first in the British uniform, then in the American uniform. He was very proud and he felt that he was a symbol, that he was with us. And another story I must tell you. When the Soviet cosmonaut, Gagarin, was there, Oleg said Gagarin met the Queen, why can't I meet the Queen? And this was where Shergold really sweated crocodile drops. There was no way he could really satisfy Penkovsky on this part, but he said he would get somebody. He could have gotten Lord Mountbatten, which would have done the trick, instead he sent Sir Dick White, who was head of MI6, for a meeting with Penkovsky and Penkovsky was clearly not impressed. And then, at one point, he took me aside and said, if I came to America, could I meet your royalty, meaning the Kennedy's. I said, no problem. And as a matter of fact, when at one point when we thought that he might be coming to the United States, we talked to Bobby Kennedy about meeting him and Bobby said, I'd be delighted to meet him. Of course, it never came to pass.
INT: OK, thanks very much. Cut.