In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, new research reveals the story of a cold war double agent who feels abandoned after 22 years of service.
As soon as Eleni Braat and Ben de Jong met the man they now call “M”, they knew they wanted to interview him. Braat, a historian at Utrecht University, and De Jong, an intelligence expert at Leiden University, both in the Netherlands, are fascinated by the relationships spies had with their secret service handlers.
What particularly intrigued them about M, a Dutchman, was that he’d worked for three different secret service agencies during more than two decades as a spy. First recruited into the Dutch secret service as a young man in the 1960s, he’d then been approached by the East German Stasi, and began work as a double agent still loyal to the west. In 1981, his Dutch handlers transferred him over to the CIA and he continued to work for the Americans until the dying days of the cold war.
In his interviews with the researchers, M reflected back on his life as a spy and the important work he feels that he did. “He was in a sense a convinced cold warrior, on the western side against communism,” says de Jong. “But at the same time he felt that he has been treated rather badly by two of the services that he worked for, namely the Dutch security service and the CIA.”
At times, M felt his life was in real danger – and that he’d been betrayed. Braat says M’s account provides insights into the loneliness of life as a spy, but also “the importance of aftercare” for secret agents, once their spying work ends.
This episode was produced by Gemma Ware and Mend Mariwany, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here.