Spy Counterspy

Title:                      Spy Counterspy

Author:                 Dusko Popov

Popov, Dusko (1974). Spy/Counterspy: The Autobiography of Dusko Popov. New York: Grosset & Dunlap

LCCN:    73014131

D810.S8 P6 1974


Date Updated:  January 30, 2017

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Popov, code-named Tricycle, was a British double agent against the Germans in World War II. Masterman in The Double-Cross System[2] first publicized his work and described him as one of the chief figures in the entire double agent system controlled by the XX Committee. With the appearance of Masterman’s work, Popov no longer felt constrained in telling his own story, which is an elaboration of what Masterman had to say of him-his contribution to the deception of the Germans and his acquisition of German intelligence requirements and counterintelligence data on them. Among the many incidents and anecdotes associated with him is the famous Pearl Harbor questionnaire given him by the Germans prior to his 1941 visit to the United States. Masterman includes the story in an appendix and acknowledges that his group might have stressed the significance of this occurrence to the Americans. Popov’s account fills in his details of J. Edgar Hoover’s handling of the matter. The chapters on his treatment in the United States could only have been written by someone with intimate experience of Hoover’s attitudes. Popov’s treatment is reminiscent of Compton Mackenzie’s story in Greek Memories[3] of the horrified reaction of British authorities in Egypt in World War I to a double agent sent there for deception purposes. The book’s main strength is the lessons it gives about case officer-agent relationships. Popov’s is a rare first-hand account of double agent operations and deception of the XX Committee from the agent’s vantage point. The author’s theatrical and sybaritic qualities shine through; Michael Howard in his review in the Times Literary Supplement of another book said Popov was one of the great double agents of the war but his autobiography contained “an entertaining quantity of straightforward fiction,” which Howard did not pinpoint. Mure in Master of Deception[4] discusses the case at length and criticizes London’s handling of the Pearl Harbor questionnaire and its general handling of the case, which he believes jeopardized the Overlord deception plan. See also Montagu’s Beyond Top Secret Ultra[5] for another first-hand view and for comparisons of the versions of the Washington phase. Attention is also called to Popov’s claim that there are secrets that he does not reveal. There is, incidentally, no proof that Popov ever met personally with Hoover.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[6]

Popov, while ostensibly working for the German Abwehr during World War II, was actually one of the best agents for the British in the Double-Cross system (see Masterman[7]). He is agent “Tricycle” in the Masterman book, and his autobiography makes pleasant and informative reading about the life of an unusual double agent in that dangerous work.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[8]

In this autobiography Dusko Popov, describes his double agent activities as “Ivan” for German intelligence and “Tricycle” for the British Double-Cross System. As the son of a wealthy Yugoslav family, educated in France and Germany, he was recruited by German intelligence at the insistence of a former classmate who was himself an anti-Nazi who had joined German intelligence to undermine the war effort. Upon arrival in England Popov went to the British and began work as a double agent for M.I.5 (counterespionage)—but worked for M.I.6 (espionage) as well, and made numerous trips to German intelligence headquarters in Lisbon and Madrid. He also operated in the United States for German intelligence. An appendix in Masterman’s book[9] contains the intelligence requirements on America which the Germans had furnished Popov in microdot form.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 377-378

[2] Masterson, J. C. (2012). The Double-Cross System: The Incredible True Story of How Nazi Spies Were Turned into Double Agents. Guilford, DE: The Lyons Press

[3] Mackenzie, Compton, Sir (1987). Greek Memories. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America

[4] Mure, David (1980). Master of Deception: Tangled Webs In London And The Middle East. London: William Kimber

[5] Montagu, Ewen (1977, 1978). Beyond Top Secret Ultra. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan

[6] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence School, p. 52

[7] Masterson, J. C. (2012). The Double-Cross System: The Incredible True Story of How Nazi Spies Were Turned into Double Agents. Guilford, DE: The Lyons Press

[8] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 187

[9] Masterson, J. C. (2012). The Double-Cross System: The Incredible True Story of How Nazi Spies Were Turned into Double Agents. Guilford, DE: The Lyons Press.


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One Response to Spy Counterspy

  1. Pingback: Counterespionage, Chapter 15 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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