Espionage in the Spotlight
by Dorothy Rabinowitz | The Wall Street Journal | March 19, 2020
Smithsonian Channel’s series tells shockingly true stories of the clandestine variety. In 1968, a loyal officer of the KGB is so shaken by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that he becomes an operative for British and American intelligence—one, “Spy Wars” reveals (begins Sunday, 8 p.m., Smithsonian Channel), destined to be of historic importance. This is the saga of Oleg Gordievsky—subject of the first episode of this eight-part weekly series, and a rich portrait it is. When his role of many years as a spy for the British and Americans finally becomes known to the Kremlin, quick exfiltration becomes an urgent necessity. His 1985 getaway in the trunk of a car driven by unflappable MI6 agents, who get him safely to Finland despite suspicious Russian border guards—and the howls of their alert dogs, who quiet down when the car’s driver throws them a treat—is an escape sequence to cherish.
In 2001, Robert Hanssen—one of the FBI’s most trusted agents—is unmasked as the mole who had, for 20 years, betrayed the identities of American assets in the Soviet Union and then Russia, thus ensuring their deaths at the hands of execution squads.