The Affair in Retrospect
Cicero's daring feats made him the most successful spy of World War II. He managed to photograph a substantial number of valuable British documents during some four months of espionage, a critical period in the mid-winter of 1943-1944 when the military showdown was drawing near. His information gave the enemy insights to Allied conferences on strategic planning and also to important local negotiations. Without question, the spying represented an extraordinary breach of security that carried the possibility of wreaking immeasurable harm. But despite the impressive quantity and nature of their losses the British sustained little actual damage, because German leaders failed to use their secret knowledge more widely and effectively. Nor did the spy himself get to enjoy his gains for long.
It is hardly surprising that such a remarkable story has given rise to varied reactions and conflicting views. Popularizers have exaggerated the facts and made sensational claims; embarrassed officials have obscured and minimized events and losses. The true character and dimensions of the espionage have become generally clear, however, and an objective profile of the operation's important features is long overdue. Few issues remain concerning the spy and his working methods, the processing of the data, the duration of the spying, or the number and kinds of papers that were copied. Several other questions -- how the spy managed to escape discovery, what he was paid, and why his efforts had minimal impact -- still present difficulties. In view of the available evidence, however, many misconceptions can be resolved or narrowed.
★ ★ ★