From spying for the CIA and dodging the KGB, to rallying Afghan warlords, Bill Warden’s life was an adventure
(CBCNews – Canada) They don’t make careers like this anymore.
Dodging the secret police in Cold War Berlin. Cranking up the music to deafen the KGB bugs in Moscow. Spying for the CIA in Havana. Rallying Afghan warlords to thrash the Russians. Wrangling former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s meditation session with Indira Gandhi. Faking documents to spirit a hostage out of Tehran.
Diplomacy is not designed to be a wild ride, but Bill Warden’s lasted three decades. He died in 2011, before his vivid journals were collected and published this fall by his daughter, Lisa, under the title, Diplomat, Dissident, Spook.
A sometime spy and eventual peacenik, Warden is little known to Canadians but well known to the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev, who writes a glowing forward to the book.
Roaming, off the radar, from Havana to Hong Kong, Warden relished the halcyon days of diplomacy when real spies wore fedoras and before, he says, ambassadors became trade commissioners. He watched the “Great Game” of the superpowers from the front row and didn’t mind jumping into the ring.
To all appearances, the polite Niagara Falls, Ont., kid was a dutiful member of the striped-pants set, patiently enduring the rants of Iranian mullahs or Fidel Castro.
But behind the scenes, his life was intrigue and adventure.
A typical chapter begins like this:
“Berlin, 1961. As I rounded the corner onto Unter den Linden and headed for the café, the black Wartburg sedan slid to a halt and four men in the black uniforms of the East German Security Service emerged looking as if they meant business. My back was drenched in instant perspiration.”
That’s where Bill Warden got his start, as a student in the world’s spy capital — ambling with fake nonchalance from the West to the Communist East, before the Berlin Wall was built. He rebuffed the CIA’s bid to recruit him and soon, RCMP officers back in Niagara Falls came to grill his father about why young Bill was spending so much time in the East.
Cockroaches and the KGB
His interest in fighting the Cold War was the reason — and he got his wish in his first Foreign Service posting: Moscow, in the tense aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Warden was constantly tailed by KGB goons, partly because he spoke Russian — so there was a danger he might learn something.
Article continues here: Canadian Spy in Cuba