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A Stone for Willy Fisher

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biography,
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Fisher/Abel
Fisher was demonstrably a man of many talents and adaptable to many situations. While detained in the Federal Detention Facility in New York, he noted many deficiencies in the prison and drew up a set of plans for rehabilitation of the facility by which better use could be made of space and cost savings could be realized. The warden, impressed by the drawings, sent them to the Federal Prisons Bureau in Washington where they were well received and approved. Unfortunately, there was no money to do the work.6
When Abel learned that Donovan was on the Board of an art museum in New York, he wrote an essay on modern art for him. On a more professional note, Abel read in the newspapers that Donovan, on a committee supporting the organization of the Central Intelligence Agency, had testified before Congress, made speeches to civic groups, and had written articles on the subject. Abel gave Donovan a critique of one of the speeches:
I think you did a good job considering space limitations; I might quibble that some aspects were emphasized more than they need have been (i.e., Soviet lead in rocketry being due to overt intelligence ... ).
The aspect that seems to me to be least developed relative to the others is that of evaluation. As a lawyer you know how difficult it is to obtain a true picture from evidence given by eyewitnesses to an occurrence. How much more difficult must it be to evaluate political situations when the sources are human beings, with their own political opinions coloring their statements. One of the dangers in the assessment of information lies in the possibility that the men responsible will themselves slant the evaluation in response to their own opinions and prejudices. This demand for objectiveness in evaluation, i.e., restraining the evaluation to the question of the factual correctness of the information, is paramount.
The determination of policy is not the function of intelligence, although some-particularly the Germans during World Wars I and II-may try to influence policymaking by biasing their information. This is one of the greatest mistakes an intelligence organization can make.
Not long before his release from prison and the exchange, Fisher remarked to Donovan, "I am no longer of much use to my service. I can never again be used outside my country." This comment shows that Fisher had a realistic view of his future employment. Even so, he did expect to be received as befitted an officer with long and honorable service. (Trusting a returned spy is something that has never been a hallmark of the KGB.) In the case of Fisher, the treatment was downright shabby. When he returned to Moscow, he found that his family
6On another occasion, the warden received a complaint from the attorney of another prisoner who had been assigned to Abel's cell. The lawyer said, "It's cruel and unusual punishment, and downright unAmerican to compel my client to share a cell with a convicted Russian spy. People might say my client is a Commie." The client was Vincent J. Squillante, a Mafia king of the garbage hauling racket in New York. Abel calmed Squillante down by getting him to scrub the cell and clean it up. In return, Abel gave Squillante French lessons. Later, Abel was put out because Squillante was moved to another prison before he progressed beyond the regular verbs. When Squillante was released from prison in 1963, he was murdered in Connecticut by a rival gang.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 03:03 PM