Signing with the KGB
'All intelligence agencies, no matter what controls they appear to work under,' Phillip Knightley once wrote in the LRB, 'are a danger to democracy.' Knightley, who died yesterday, wrote a handful of excellent pieces for the paper in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including a withering assessment of James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counter-intelligence, and a first-hand account of how the KGB monetised its archive when the Cold War ended:
In 1990 I had a telephone call from a London TV producer who said he was about to fly to Moscow to sign with the KGB. Would I consider being a consultant? I urged caution but he assured me that in his contract he would insist on complete editorial control. He announced his deal in the Western press a few weeks later. Soon afterwards, an Italian documentary company revealed that it, too, had signed to make a TV series based on the KGB files. This was followed by a Japanese company and then, finally, Hollywood. All believed that they had exclusive rights.