I thought that usually the movies are inspired from real life facts, but it seems that sometimes things go the other way around. The latest Snowden incident gave me the chance to think a little about the past
In 1974 Avco Embassy Picturesreleased “the Tamarind Seed” a spy thriller based on the 1971 novel with the same title by Evelyn Anthony.
The action was very fast and very well constructed, and the viewer is kept guessing, until the last minute of the movie of what really happened. The action was not the only good quality of the movie, the cast was in a class by itself.
Unfortunately, at the time the book was published I did not have the chance to read it, because I was still in the Old Country. I did not have the chance to see the movie either, because of the same reason. However, it just so happened that after our arrival in the States, we watched a late movie channel in Milwaukee and they played the movie. We loved it very much, and useless to say, as soon as it was replayed we taped it, a few years later. And we even bought it on a VHS tape when it was released and the price was within range for normal mortals...
I am not going to speak about the plot too much, because those who did not see the movie should rent it or watch it on Netflix. It may be forty years old, however the action is very fast paced, the actors were so darn young and basically the subject is as actual today as it was back then. The only things that changed are probably the participants.
Basically it is about the defection to the Free World of a Russian high level diplomat, who caught in the intrigue of the internal KGB hierarchy, buys his future life with a vital piece of information, badly needed in the West.
I am not sure if at the time I saw the movie in the early eighties I made the connection with something that happened to us, but sometime later I did.
We had our papers to emigrate filed with the officials in Romania. It just so happened, speak about coincidences, that we applied to leave the country in 1974 at the time the movie was released. We had to wait for five long years to get the approval. Not only that the process was very long and time-consuming, but a number of events that just happened during that period gave us a lot of sweat and more waiting.
General Pacepa was at the time the chief of the Romanian intelligence, one of the “right hands” Ceausescu had. I am not really sure what was his motivation to leave, however the explanation that he gave in the book he published at the beginning of the nineties, after Ceausecu's removal, is for the birds, and can be trusted as much as a Tea Party members swears in his or her patriotism and love for America!
The simple fact was that one day he went abroad and he did not return any longer. No one said anything officially about his defection, however radio Free Europe had a field day with the events for about a month or so. Everything they were reporting was Pacepa.
In the country though, although no one spoke anything about it, all of a sudden the passport office was shut down. They did not talk to anyone, they did not let anyone in, as if a big plague took over their office and they had to live in the dark. Actually if I remember right, for a little while, it seemed that no one was showing up for work. I don't think that was the case, but it seemed that way. They probably were accessing the building through secret, underground, walk ways connecting to a different part of town. When Ceausecu died, the whole world was surprised to find out that the city had duplicate access ways dug at different depths underground, and build like fall out shelters.
A couple of weeks later the place opened up, however the processing of the applications was stopped for some administrative reasons...
The normal activity restarted a few weeks later again, however a month of delay translated in a couple of real-time months. They had a ton of old applications and two tons of old ones. And it seemed that everyone was new at that address. I spent there enough time to become familiar with some of the people working there. They were dressed up in civilian clothes, but they were part of the Romanian KGB. They did not really need to wear uniforms. Their manners were obvious for a man in uniform.
We did not really understand what happened, and we did not care too much, we were happy to be back on track.
However “The Tamarind Seed” shad light on what happened.
During the negotiations between the Russian diplomat and the English Intelligence people, there was an exchange of words that gave me the clue of what happened.
The English guy is asking the Russian what is he going to bring over to be worth while the eventual diplomatic chill that will follow. The Russian replays that he has one piece of information. The Brit grins at him surprised, “one piece of information?” are your serious? So the Russian answers: “What do you expect Mr Loader? A list of agents all over the world, codes, safe houses, meeting places, that will be changed or eliminated within twenty-four hours of my defection? Yes, one piece of information. I give you Red, the person who is delivering high sensitive secrets of the West, and forced you to travel overtime for the last month”
Ha, ha, ha, that was the reason for the shut down at the passport office and the mad rush in the Romanian intelligence community. That is why there were new faces who did not know anything about the procedures to file papers and needed time to learn and understand them.
I don't know how much that guy was worth when he was working for Ceausescu, but for sure he cost a small fortune of changes when he left.
1977 or around that time, I don't remember now. I wonder what piece of information could he bring over to be worth the diplomatic chaos that followed. Romania was not a big player, and the secrets that he could bring, I suppose were already known to the NSA guys.
Arriving at Mr. Snowden, although he was not a high level diplomat, he had access to quite sensitive information which cost the tax payers in America and the Western world a lot of money to replace the “disposable people”.
Besides, Feodor Svertlov, the Russian diplomat decided to defect not because he was upset by the Russian authorities breaking the Russian citizens privacy, he had to stay alive, and that was the only way to do it.
I can't speak for Pacepa, and as I mentioned I don't buy his explanations in his book “The Red Horizons”. More than likely he ran his course of usefulness with Ceausescu and after so many years he got the drift the end was close. Ceausescu had this bad habit of changing the people around him very often if they were not family. He could not trust anyone for too long.
Isn't it funny how life writes its fiction novels!