More Cloak Than Dagger

Title:                      More Cloak Than Dagger

Author:                  Molly J. Sasson

Sasson, Molly J. (2015). More Cloak Than Dagger: One Woman’s Career in Secret Intelligence. Ballarat, Vic., Australia: Connor Court Publishing

LCCN:    2015464005

JQ4029.I6 S27 2015

Subjects

Date Posted:      April 11, 2017

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

It took more than 60 years after the end of World War II for the role of senior women intelligence officers to be acknowledged with biographies. The first three were SOE officer Vera Atkins (OSS and SOE), CIA officer Virginia Hall, and MI6 officer Dame Daphne Park.[2] Now Molly Sasson, at 92, has contributed a fourth. Her autobiography, More Cloak than Dagger, adds to the recording of the wide range of intelligence duties these pathbreaking women accomplished.

Molly Sasson grew up in England, was educated in Holland, studied music in London, and joined the Royal Air Force during WWII. Fluent in French, German, and Dutch, she was assigned to intelligence duties. After the war, while stationed in Germany, she was called to London for a meeting with MI6 that changed her life. Grigori Tokaev, a Soviet aeronautical scientist co-opted by the GRU to work in Germany, had defected with his family. Sasson was asked to help MI6 and assist with his settlement in London, a task she performed well for two years.

Sasson’s RAF service ended in 1954, after she became pregnant— a condition not allowed women in active service at the time—and she went to the Netherlands where her by then retired RAF officer husband had found work. It was there because of her fluency in Dutch, that she was recruited by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). Among other duties, she soon began liaison counterespionage work with the Dutch domestic security service (BVD), mainly against the KGB, a relationship that would continue for 14 years.

When the head of ASIO, Brigadier Sir Charles Spry, visited Holland in 1959, he briefed Sasson on the VENONA program and other ASIO operations, including his concerns that MI5 and the CIA were withholding important intelligence from his service. (He was right, since VENONA had revealed poor security in ASIO.) The situation improved somewhat in 1954, thanks to the defection to ASIO of KGB officer Vladimir Petrov, who also suspected ASIO had been penetrated by the KGB. Trusting Sasson, Spry offered her an appointment to ASIO to work in counterintelligence. She accepted and in 1960 moved to Australia.

For the rest of her career, Sasson would work on ASIO CI operations. She describes the many bureaucratic and political obstacles she encountered and adds vignettes on the Soviet penetration, investigations she conducted, most of which were resolved by quiet retirement—as opposed to prosecution—to her great frustration. By way of background, More Cloak than Dagger includes her assessment of the two principal sources Sasson used in her work—Oleg Gordievsky and Vasili Mitrokhin—and some of the precedent-setting controversies that influenced the development of ASIO. The latter include chapters on the Cambridge spies and Roger Hollis, the director general of MI5 and suspected Soviet agent.

Sasson retired in 1983 and became an international cat show judge—a longtime hobby—and later Consul-General of the Republic of San Marino. But she will be remembered more by her former colleagues for her precedent-setting work as an intelligence officer.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 133).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at  www.cia.gov.

[2] Helm, Sarah (2005). A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins And The Lost Agents of SOE. London : Little, Brown; Pearson, Judith(2005, 2008). Wolves At The Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy. Guildford, CT: The Lyons Press; Hayes, Paddy (2015). Queen of Spies: Daphne Park, Britain’s Cold War Spy Master. New York; London: Overlook Duckworth

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