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Saturday, 21 July 2007

Intrigue, Espionage, Murder, It's All in There

My Life as a Spy

By Richard Carreno

(The following article was written, in a slightly different form, in March, 1976, and being published here for the first time).

The FBI says that during the past 10 years it has cut back on its efforts to ID foreign undercover agents.

Opps, I got nailed.

On the fall day in 1969, when I was still an undergraduate at New York University, the FBI came calling, wondering whether I had been recruited as an East German intelligence agent. Huh?

Was this harassment because I was then the editor of the Washington Square Journal, the NYU daily and anti-Vietnam War flamer? Right, sure it was just a coincidence that the FBI was pissing about, just a day after the 15 October 1969 Vietnam Moratorium protest, a rally in Washington Square that ended in violence.

Anyway, how did the FBI know where to find me. (I was bopping between apartments in Waverly Place and in Cordelia Street at the time). The phone call came to my -- actually, my girlfriend's -- flat in Waverly Place. Veddy interesting....

It was easy to set these measly details aside when I met, a few days later, two special agents in cellar bar near my place -- and where these agents unfolded a fantastic tale of espionage, murder, and intrigue that, yes, I happened to be, albeit unknowingly, a part of two years earlier when I lived in Paris. Me, a spy?

What the agents really wanted to know was the extent of my contacts with a fellow student -- we were both then undergraduates at the American College in Paris -- who had been recently identified as an East German spy. My Parisian friend was fully cooperating with the investigation; his body was found floating in the Seine the week before.

Well, then, had Eric -- I'll call him that for simplicity's sake -- made any attempt to draw into his web? No, I replied. But I did tell the agents how I thought it odd that Eric -- who had already told me about a recent visit of his to East Berlin -- was so enthusiastic about life behind the bars in that Communist bit of Germany. Well, live and let live, I thought at the time.

Eric was the kind of person I was drawn to then. He was someone with a 'past.' He as hardly a typical American -- I mean by that someone just off the boat from Altoona -- having lived, most recently, in Turkey, purportedly with his parents. He also constantly jangled steel worry balls in his right hand. That got on my nerves.

The agents and I were sitting a booth facing each other. Over their heads, I saw a rear-view shot of a friend's head. I had asked Peter Frishauf along for the ride. Well, you know, just in case.

The agents produced a slip of paper, on which were scrawled a series of numbers. The blurred numbers focused into sense: It was my Paris telephone number. 'It was found on his body,' one of agents said.

Some photographs followed. They were snapshots of men standing alone or in groups, all sited at various scenic spots. Did I recognise any these men? Yes, there was Eric in front of the Eiffel Tower. The Louvre. Eric, again. And so on.

The agents handed me another paper. This one was blank. One of the agents scribbled a number. 'If you remember anything else, call,' he said.