Letter: Scornful assault on authors' integrity

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The Independent Online
Sir: Donald Cameron Watt does your readers a disservice in what purports to be a review of my and Oleg Tsarev's book Deadly Illusions (19 July). His assault on our integrity is so scornful that he neglects even to mention the name of Alexander Orlov, whose career as Stalin's spymaster was the subject of our book.

In his haste to discredit Deadly Illusions, Professor Watt blunders into unhistorical error. For example, he asserts that General Kryuchkov played a part in 'the abortive coup against Yeltsin'. It was Gorbachev who was Soviet president in August 1991. Professor Watt is also wrong in claiming that my co-author was 'expelled from Britain'. He was not.

Most importantly, our book cannot bear 'the imprimatur of a disgraced KGB boss' because General Kryuchkov did no more than authorise the start of my collaboration with Mr Tsarev. Deadly Illusions is an uncensored work that takes account of advice received from a number of scholars of intelligence history, as well as members of the American and British intelligence community. And while Professor Watt may decry selected access to classified documents as anathema to real history, this begs the question of what government does not engage in selective release of its archives.

Finally, may I point out to Professor Watt that ad hominem scorn does not constitute a review.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN COSTELLO

New York City

19 July

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