Hollywood has dedicated millions, if not billions, of dollars to depicting hot leading men and women gallivant across the globe, blowing up locals and thwarting evil people’s plans to destroy society as we know it. Although the paradigms of Jason Bourne, Bond, James Bond, Jack Reacher, and the Black Widow are heavily fictionalized, these spies surprisingly do have a real world equivalent. Obviously, we don’t have long lists of spies as their primary job is not to be found, but some have been revealed and these are their stories. Let’s yoga our way through deadly lasers, sexily shimmy our way under closing bomb bay doors, and suavely punch this topic in the face. These are real world intelligence agents. For your eyes only (I know, I’m incorrigible).
The Illegals Program
If you had any doubt that spy rings were things exclusively of the Cold War era, then you must have been living under a rock during the first decade of the 2000s. In a very public affair, the F.B.I. arrested a spy ring made up of tenindividuals. Of these ten individuals, one has become the real world answer to the Black Widow. Kind of. But you’re going to have to read further to find out.
Anna Chapman (Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko)
One of the notorious ten spies working in the United States was Anna Chapman, daughter of the ex-KGB senior official Vasily Kushchyenko (allegedly). Her notoriety obviously didn’t come from her superior spying techniques, since the FBI tricked her into thinking they were the KGB, to which Chapman responded “OK” but from her superior physique. Coined by the media as ‘Femme Fatale’, Anna Chapman was a perfect fit for her moniker. Tall, lithe, fair, cat-like green eyes and attention-demanding bright red hair made her the media’s darling during the arrests. Upon her return to the Motherland, she was hailed as a local celebrity, and she created a show, a fashion line and even posed less-than-dressed in the Russian version of Maxim. Although she is a Russian celebrity, she does have her fair share of haters that consider her trashy, of low morals and tastes. In recent Chapman news, she flat-out proposed to Edward Snowden on Twitter that maybe her reputation as being a bit trashy isn’t unwarranted. Did I mention that she also has an action figure? And that it comes dressed or topless, but with a gun? Check it out here (scroll down to about the middle of the page).
Jack Barsky, or Albrecht Dittrich, was a spy for the KGB on American soil during the last few years of the Cold War. After things chilled out (huh? huh?), he was trained by the KGB and sent on his merry little way. Actually, he moved to the United States with a fake passport. To make his story even more convincing, Barsky adopted the identity of a ten-year-old boy that had passed away, a discovery made by a Soviet Diplomat in a cemetery outside of Washington, D.C. From there, he got a birth certificate and was officially Jack Barsky.
The mission was to get a real American passport, pass himself off as a businessman, and report Intel on the U.S. National Security Advisor after they became buddy-buddy. The plan seemed solid until the passport part; when Dittrich was asked about specifics regarding his ‘life’ to which he had no details about (considering he was a dead 10-year-old), he got up and walked out. Hey! Don’t look at me like the article’s title is ‘the 10 most successful spies!’ Left in a foreign land, with only $6,000 dollars in his pocket, he became a bicycle messenger. Because that makes sense, right? He then faked his way into a Social Security number by – get this – posing as a farmer’s son and dirtying up his face… and then graduated in Computer Systems (it’s significant. Just keep reading, Impatient Anne). He started working as a programmer at Met Life Insurance shortly after. In this position, he managed to get his spy on (finally, this story reads like a high school dropout’s dream to become an astronaut) and managed to steal a valuable piece of industrial software that is still in use today.
After getting married in both his native East Germany and having a kid, he did the same in the States. I think this guy took ‘leading a double life’ way too literally. He ignored the call to return to his native Germany, which if he had chosen to do would do so using (get this spy sh*t) a container by the side of the road next to a fallen tree on his drive home. The container contained cash and a fake passport. He decided not to return due to his American family, and was approached one day by a walking, talking spy stereotype: a man wearing a dark trench coat and a hat, sat next to him on the train, and whispered in his ear “Come home or die” with a heavy Russian accent. Come on! This reads more Monty Python than a James Bond film. It gets better, though: he wrote a letter to the Russians saying he got AIDS, because – according to him – the only three things Russians are afraid of are AIDS, Jews and Ronald Reagan…really?
One faithful day, an ex-KGB whistleblower decided to run to the FBI with stacks and stacks of files regarding KGB agents including the less than successful spy-friend Barsky (even his fake name sounds like someone that has the propensity to botch spy operations. Couldn’t they have given him a cool last name like Locke, Bradley, Rattlesnake-Punches Cobraston the Third?). Long story short, the FBI watched him for a while, nabbed him and bagged him, but then let him go because he was a valuable asset of KGB counter-intelligence, and he had long left his (very unsuccessful) spying days behind him. He later went on to reveal to everyone that he was an ex-spy and repeatedly got fired from various jobs.
Fritz Joubert Duquesne
I feel that South Africans are grossly under-represented in the realm of bad-assery. They live on a continent full of dangerous, deadly animals (oh, look at the cute little hippo…OH MY GOD, IT’S DISEMBOWELING MEEE!!! Because that’s exactly what you would say if any one of God’s creatures was relieving you of your digestive system), a place that is famous for its brave warriors and for making hyenas their pets (Oh, Nigeria isn’t part of South Africa? My bad). OK, maybe they don’t keep hyenas as pets, but I’m pretty sure that South African children ride cheetahs to elementary school. Why do I assume this? Let me introduce you to Mr. Duquesne, who not only has a remarkably badass name (pft, Bond is so 1960s. It’s all about diversity), he is also a sexy man of espionage.
After fighting against the British during the Second Boer War, he was captured but he managed to escape… and I cannot begin to express my awe of this through simple words, so here is a nude interpretive dance… by seducing a guard’s daughter. His sexual prowess was so strong that he got it on with someone’s daughter, and the experience was so powerful it jumped a generation to the father that released him. Did I also mention that he was arrested three times by the British and once by the Portuguese? And this is just the beginning of the story.
He then went to England and joined their army. Yes, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s the same army he was murdering five minutes ago by throwing cheetahs at, and the same exact army that he seduced later on to release him. And he did so under his own initiative. He was stationed in South Africa but upon returning he realized that the British Army had killed his sister and sent his mother to a concentration camp (the British had those, too?). Much like a samurai without a master, he vowed revenge on the ones that wronged him which happen to be the entire British Empire.
He intended to burn Cape Town to the ground, which is where the man that killed and imprisoned his family lived, Lord Kitchener. He was arrested again but was freed with the completion of the war. He hunted down Kitchener to Scotland and sabotaged his boat, resulting in the Lord’s watery death. Oh, he did that with a German U-Boat, testament to how pissed he was: “I’m going to kill you with a submarine, you pompous Brit!” Now a wanted man (again), he wrote his obituary in The New York Times that referenced cause of death as ‘attack by Amazonians attempting to take his treasure’, and then completely disappeared.
He was arrested again in the U.S., this time, faking his identity and being paralyzed for two years (so he could be put in a hospital wing), and then cut the bars of his cell and enacted a harrowing escape including climbing a two-meter tall wall and an eight-foot spiked fence. Fuelled by his hatred for the Crown, he created and headed the largest spy ring in modern history called the Duquesne Spy Ring. The thing is that Britain’s enemy during WWII was Germany; not the innocuous luxury car-making one, the more genocidal one. Throughout his life he assumed many different identities, fabricated many different stories regarding his personal history, and even became the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s Personal Big Game advisor between wars.
Do you know of any other fascinating real life spies you would like to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below.