Presenting: The Jordan Harbinger Show featuring Jack Barsky former KGB Spy
Hey It's Jack hosted the show. I'm busy this week working on the next episode. But while you're waiting I'd like to play for you another podcast. I think he'd really like it's called the Jordan Harbinger show actually had Jordan on this podcast. Which was episode fifty-six because he has a great stories himself and his podcast is an interview show and the guest. He has on our incredible. I'm just GONNA go ahead and play for you one of my favorite episodes where he interviews a KGB spy and if you like it should go subscribe to show so he go check it out Jordan. Harbinger show is one of the most popular interview. Podcasts in the world on the show your host Jordan Harbinger. That's me by the way deconstructs. The playbook of the most interesting people on Earth shares their strategies perspectives and practical insights with you. You're going to hear amazing stories from people that have lived them from spies to CEO's athletes. Art Forgers an FBI hostage negotiator and conman who can seemingly program our minds basically anything that will help you upgrade your brain so you can become a high performer. Both at home and at work. You're about to hear a preview of a very abridged version of my episode with Jack Barsky former KGB spy on the Jordan Harbinger show. Jack learned to pretend to be American for the purpose of stealing our national secrets and he loved it here so much. He never went home to the Soviet Union it also took the FBI decades to catch him. In the meantime Jack had all sorts of adventures on the right side of the Iron Curtain. And while you're listening to this preview go subscribe to the Jordan Harbinger. Show on Apple podcasts. Or wherever you're listening now there's also a link in the episodes that'll take you there. It's a really fun show that I think you're gonNA love the only advice I can give young people. There's the following it always takes longer and it always costs more so much for trying to be funny. That's great though. I love that as a former undercover agent for the KGB. You've got plenty of ideas on using your feelings to your advantage. Also probably ignoring emotions. Can you tell us about your childhood because I think it does inform some of the things that happened later in your life where the harm was was a lack of emotional love? That was just done. I can't remember any didn't manage to even Say I love you? That this was completely not part of much not having had that. You don't know you don't know what you're missing. You don't know what you should have had. There's story in the book where your stomach hurt and your mom made you take the bus to the hospital. Which turned out to be an emergency appendectomy so it seems like early on you. Learn to ignore your emotions. You learn to ignore pain. What normal parent in this day and age would make their fifteen year? Old Teenager walked to the bus. I could walk straight anymore. The pain that bad as as what you go to the hospital. So they erected the Berlin Wall to protect you over there from the West German Fascists Cetera. And at that point in your childhood you saw a bright future ahead compared to capitalism right. You're thinking wow. We have the socialist paradise going on. What's the dialogue in your head? Is Young Man incredibly appealing to young minds? And since we didn't get any counter argument that stock by the stock with the cokes. For a long time it is I contemporaries of mine. Even though they got royally screwed by the communist state are still deep down inside the communists once he joined the Communist Party as a brilliant chemist. You got the knock on your door from the mystery guy who we still don't know who the heck that is of course they're looking for people like you right. Oh absolutely at the time. They recruited me. I added spotless record and I fathered a child out of wedlock which by the way in those days. The party didn't like a lot in the normally they would have called me and read me the riot act. Nothing happened so I was already out. Removed from the masters had joined. Delete not necessarily knowing Nightside I was untouchable. I was above the law because I broke laws and tunnel as well. As in other countries I was encouraged to do things that you want supposed to do. Like what Western television when I crossed the border between East Germany and the Soviet Union? I was always bypassing customs and Pasco control so I was really unprecedented. Really feels good because I never liked rules but when I got the official imprimature to break rules in support of a good. 'cause you know it's having your cake and eat it too. Which in real life doesn't happen but for a while I added. What was your first impression of West Berlin when you finally were able to go and see it firsthand. My first impression was. Oh wow they got caller. The West was a movie shot in Colin in the east the only black and white because with immediately issue was that contrast between the Brown and the gray and all kinds of collison were visible once. You stepped out of the subway. End appeared on Western territory. So it's kind of like going out of a black and white movie and into a technicolor. Yeah indeed all right so they ship you off to Moscow and they tell you all right you've got to adopt an American mindset. How do they instruct you how to do this for two years? I studied by. I studying as hard. I learned a hundred new words every day. I can state that with confidence because I always counted it my entire life so I became quite fluent in American English but my preparation with regard to American culture was almost non existent. It reminds me of the movie. Die Hard I don't know if you'll remember this but those German terrorist taken over the building. And the way that Bruce Willis knows they're the bad guys says yeah. It's raining like dogs and cats instead of cats and dogs and that that's how he knows there the foreign guys because he gets that idiom wrong. There's a lot of things that contribute to the united aware of what they told me back and make sure that you never eat with knife in the right hand. Focus the left cut. You'll need than take the fork and then just eat with four. That's of is out the window nowadays but that was the extent to which I learned American culture. There's a great story in the book as well about your mother coming to visit. You've got put on this facade. Would you mind telling us that story? When she came to visit we panicked because she wasn't supposed to meet me anywhere so she went as part of a tourist group and she had two days of Moscow so they put me up in a hotel onto the cover that my apartment was being renovated and then we decided that one of my handlers would come as a friend and we would just like inundate them with sites and things to see and make sure that they couldn't even get their head up and ask questions before you know what they were gone so that went really well. The only thing that became a problem is when mom said. Why don't we take a picture with you and set a gay? Who was my friend right? But he was a handler. Oh my God I looked at the corner of my eyes. I saw Sergei wince because KGB employees weren't supposed to have their picture taken he couldn't say no so. This is the only picture that I have and I think it up in the book. A me Sergei will have. The picture was taken by her husband somewhere in. Soviet Russia. Someone's going holy crap. There's a picture of my dad with this guy says he's the KGB's by my dad worked at a shoe factory. What's this doing in there? That's a possibility? Love the guy. I wish I could meet them again. I wonder what happened to him? He was a genuinely nice person. The Fella should still be alive. I'm wondering what happened to him. I wonder if any of the sort of spy espionage geeks listening to this have any idea. It's very very possible. The guy's still around. I mean he's probably just your age is my age. A secret ended anonymous. Maybe they exist when you're learning to be a spy when you're learning to be an espionage undercover agent. Here your had a lot of counter surveillance training and drills. Tell us about how you were trained. It seems like they were chasing me through town and things like that super interesting. What PEOPLE THINK ABOUT ESPIONAGE? What is like to work on the cover this is as close to? It's portrayed in the media as possible and I guarantee you would even nowadays if somebody wants to know whether they're being observed being followed. They need to do what I did. It took phenomenal amount of time for me just to find the right places to visit the right route through Moscow to determine whether I was being followed so leave my apartment and I go on a we our trip for town you know. Visit all kinds of public places shops possibly a museum by a ticket at a theater. New do all kinds of things that one could do. Even though nobody in their right mind would do all this. But at least there's no proof that you're doing something that intelligence officers would be doing and the whole idea was to then get to spots where somebody has to get close enough so you can see him so my to recognize faces was very important because if they don't get close enough than they lose you and I typically had between eight and ten people on my tail and when got to a point where I saw him face again and I know that I was being followed. One Guy Got Soda caught. T know that he was too close. I saw him and he did something. That is the ultimate diversionary tactic. He came up to me and asked me for light. I never thought that he was one of the surveillance group so well a compliment. These professional were the teams would be deployed to follow American diplomats or high level visitors from the West the guy who was in charge of these groups I worked with him. Individually was a master of disguise disguises. Not What people think. He was a mess of misdirection. The mess of like you know you look over here and do something over there. These surveillance teams sometimes used at least accessories. They might change even jackets or put on a scarf for you. Know put on a different hat for me. To put on a wig wasn't absolute no no nonsense. They do look ridiculous wearing the wigs. And you're thinking of course you look like the same person you just have another bad eighties air. Do What are you doing? Do you have any tips for learning faces? You mentioned your facial. Recognition skills had to be on point one thing that may help. When I look at people I usually speculate. Who are they what they come from whether here? And so now your brain operates already at a different level and I think it may make visual stick better you mention in the book deep undercover that caution. A best friend and paranoia is his enemy. What does that mean at any point in time in my career so to speak. I could have come up with fifty to a hundred reasons why I shouldn't be doing this by. There's danger lurking around every corner. And if you can put this out of your mind then you will freeze. Don't be afraid to be scared but be scared to a point where you can't operate any more than you might as well just. I couldn't go home when you allow you. Emotions to take over that question Very quickly turned into fear. That cannot be managed. Can you tell us how you tried to get the birth certificate and become essentially American or at that point by what you're doing there? There was a failure. Actually besides this being a practice trip I was also instructed to get a copy of a birth certificate of a young person who had passed at an early age. I sat down. I wrote a letter. Says I'm Henry Ben Randall. Which is the real name that this person had and this is. My father's name is my mother's name was born on this date in this place. I'd like to have a copy of my birth certificate encloses. The amount of ood was a fee attached to it and I mailed a letter and then I waited and I waited and I waited instead of taking the week or two weeks as we had thought after like five or six weeks. I decided I got to do something about it. I'm actually called the registrar's Office of the county and I sort of pretended to be angry. I yelled at them as as. Hey listen what happened to my birth certificate? You got my money so can I please have what I paid for the lady at the other end said okay? We'll take care of it and within a week's time I get a letter in. The Mail is addressed to Henry Man Randall and it was from California Zoo in. I collect as downstairs. I go to my room and in anticipation of this raid success. I opened the letter and pull this thing out and I was one of the biggest disappointments in my entire life. I mean a- drags only second to being dumped by my girlfriend. There was a bold red letters stamped across from bottom left to top right deceased. Oh Shit because you know immediately you understand. That here is a person who has send me a copy of my birth certificate but the person died something is wrong so you know. I packed up. I left Montreal in a went on the rest of my trip. Go from town to town until I wound up Windsor and later on I found out that actually law enforcement was on my tail but they never really caught up with made the FBI. The debriefing process. They showed me a police. Sketch of me. Wow that was taken based on the folks who were running the hotel giving them a description of what I looked like that. Coin Certainly. I was off the market for an undercover career. How did you become Jack Barsky? Ed realized this in the book is quite the Saga but how did you become Jack Barsky? Who was this person because it's easier for us to say? Oh it's the person you're talking to you now but that wasn't always the case. Well after this failure to acquire the certificate of Mr Van. Randall the Soviets sent me back to Berlin for awhile with the instructions to learn Portuguese idea that somehow Brazil was in the picture but after about six months. I got a call from my handlers Listen pack bags OCTA Moscow. We got a birth certificate for you. Some diplomatic and Washington DC was wandering around in cemeteries and he found the gravestone that was engraved with the name of Jack. Barsky born in one thousand nine hundred forty four passed away in nineteen fifty four. He posed as the father of the deceased. I acquired a certificate and would that actually was able to get a copy of the original bread certificate and send it to Moscow and it was added to me and that's how it became Jack Barsky then was caught by sixty minutes. And before you know it you know I now have a brand named it says Jack Barsky and continue to function in the way functioning now as an author a public speaker and all that I can't get out of it. Tell us about your arrival in the United States. Now you're finally ready for Primetime. The Russians didn't have anybody in Chicago so they couldn't prepare me for what to look out for Chicago in what areas to avoid so when I arrived late in the evening and when I got through customs of fresh things I need a place to sleep so I look up the pages look up the I called him up a matter of Asian. I got an cap and I said well this address in the cab driver looked at me funny and I had no idea why you looking at me. Funny when we get there. I had an inkling because it was a rundown place and the people who were not of the same Colorado is I was so boldly into the hotel and then I got an idea that this may not be the place where I wanna be because the receptionist was protected by a wall of Plexiglas. But I have to funny way. This is probably a guy thing we don't like to turn around. We don't like to make you fi- walk out of the after I've maker reservation. I don't know maybe I tip my hand. Maybe somebody figures out. Something's wrong with this guy so I went through with this. I stated that hotel but I ran out of the next morning. After I managed to destroy passport I traveled under an pulled out the American birth certificate from a secret compartment at that point I was Dak Barsky and then I checked into hotel further uptown. That was a lot more amenable lot safer under the name. Jack Barsky and that's how my life in the United States as tech Barsky began. He had had his incredible. I know that you've got scammed looking for that apartment. You said. He learned a valuable lesson about capitalism. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I want to know is it not also applicable to communism in fact to me sounds like the motto for Communism? It's too good to be true. So it's not true. Under communism opportunities to be taken for a fool you were taken for full as far as your entire way of life was concerned but there weren't any shady operators. That could come up to you and sell you something. That was so special. Not As many there were some. What were some of the initial differences you saw between living and capitalism in New York versus under communism to be honest anything that would be more of a WHO who I missed was friends not so much family friends Mike German wife but as far as way of life there was nothing to miss. I didn't even miss. Being a chemistry. Professor is one Word Supermarket. The variety of food. That you could bet there was astounding. Now you got a job as a bike messenger and you're making deliveries all over the city. You once made a delivery from Russian tea room to Dustin Hoffman. Does doesn't often know that he came face to face with KGB spy course not by the way he was not highly regarded by us. He didn't tip was very cheap. That's incredible that's so funny. Dustin Hoffman multimillionaire. Doesn't tip got his food delivered by the KGB. In you get married in nineteen eighty actually and you have a kid with girl. Linda disaster. Not 'cause you just ridiculous. Amounts of stress nowadays can say with some confidence that I had manufactured a dual personality to some degree. So every two years I would go back and spend time with Lyndon at that point my son. It was great to be home with great to meet. My wife is still loved very much. My son have German food. Drink a lot of good beer. So this is what happened when I went back to the United States. Let's say I would touch down in Washington. Dc or on? Boston a get off the plane I he American English will be home because I already had the start of good life. I started a career as a program on that work for Metlife. I love my team. I loved what I was doing a become so accustomed to the American way of life. Tell us about the process of Americanization. He started working at metlife. You make friends with this guy. Patrick Year Insurance Job essentially starts to change your ideology. Can you walk us through that how that happened as I'd say? The book is one of the most evil entities that of capitalism to us as we were told in. East Germany in those days. What the insurance companies these worlds of. Capitals Evil Greedy Money Hoarders and people who exploit others. I got my first job in an insurance company. I liked the work. I mean programming for the first time in many years migraine got engaged again and then I met so many smart people and they were all really good people. They became friends. They didn't pay that. Well but they treated you really well. The Untold Compact was. When you find employment there you have a job for life now. You started to feel at some point like spying was actually getting in the way of your job which I thought was funny. My focus shifted towards doing a good job for mid life rather than the KGB and it became a nuisance the communication as well as surveillance detection. All this kind of stuff takes phenomenal amount of time. So what we're doing you talking back and forth the information that I just give you for me to actually hand that amount of information to the Russians. I would have had to write it down. Take a picture. Put an undeveloped film into a container ask for a debt drop operation. Make sure that I'm not being followed. Drop thing some place you the whole operation. End-to-end would take a week to and with all kinds of activity in between self funny. You're just sitting there doing insurance thing programming. Something that he thought would be a aside cover and now they're saying. Hey we need a full report into thinking these guys. What a pain. It's so funny they're communicating with you. On the shortwave. By the way they're communicating with you. On the shortwave radio. How is it done? What are they saying? Because they're obviously not saying. Hey come in Jack. Barsky spy for the Soviet Union. What are you listening for on this radio? I would get groups of Fives Bokan digits. Five six four eight transmitted and I know the frequency to tune into but there was a call signal that three letters or digits that indicated Transmission was for me and then the whole thing started and sometimes it took a good hour to actually listen to the whole thing and write it down and then it took another three to four hours to decrypt this thing. Obviously anyone can hear that but it's encrypted and I'm wondering random letters and numbers because when I was a kid I would go up north and be stuck in this dumb cottage so we had a short wave. Radio was old is probably from the sixties or seventies and so. I'm a kid in the eighties and I'm listening to this and I'm here in other languages. I'm just wondering. Is there any chance at all? I heard something that was intended for us. Five is a very good chance that you heard something. That was encrypted. No doubt even as we speak I guarantee you traverse the short waves. You will hear digits being transmitted that are meant for somebody that is doing something that is not entirely legal in the place. Where he's doing it with shortwave. It's broadcasted you can never pinpoint the receiver. Which is the point right? You don't know the general direction guarantee you the NSA new. There's a Guy. You're someplace in northeast. Who's getting this every week? But that's all they knew there was no way that they could trace it back. To be you know shortwave still does break down the problems. So at least as a fallback shortwave. I guarantee you still being used interesting. How did you flip to eventually essentially becoming full America? I know they tried to call you home. Can you take us through that something happened and neither the FBI? Nor I have a clue why the Soviets at that point saw that might cover was about to be blown in I N. Absolutely convinced that they were in the belief they called me back and they called me back as an emergency departure. They've done this in the past quote back an agent and as soon as stage step on Soviet soil they are jailed or even executed now that the execution thing was in the past but Stalin did a lot of that even after Stalin. Some of that happened when they would call back ages eight. Listen YOU DANGER. They go back and boom. That's what the danger was. I was now in that moral dilemma and the moral dilemma was. Can I leave this? Eighteen month. Old Girl to fend for herself with the mother who didn't have much of an education. She came from a very poor country in South America. So I decided I would defy them that. I'm not returning I had money saved on. My county was a lot of money. You know those days. Sixty thousand dollars on the other side of the curtain was a fortune. The Russians had promised me a house and I was going back a hero and rejoined my family. You put this on one side of the scale on the other side. You have three things you got the FBI possibly chasing has to meet the KGB. Not being very happy with me not going back and then there was Chelsea. Wow and it was a chance that the KGB the FBI would come after me and that the KGB would not be very happy with me defying the orders to return and the only counter to all that reasoning was my love for Chelsea. This is a line. That's used very often very often unthinkingly but true. Love conquers all. How did you get away with that? I mean you had an encounter with the KGB at one point before you're blowing off right. Can you tell us about that? I was stalling the Soviets like pretending that I didn't get their message so I bought myself time for several weeks in one day. Put an end to that. And that they send one of their resident agents to actually tell me what the orders were and he said to me. You gotta come home or else you're dead and was up to me to interpret what that meant but could have meant your cover's blown and he didn't use the right word or was a threat you had to take the threat seriously because the KGB in those days did kill. And I knew that I wrote them. This led I understand. You want me to come back. And I'm not coming because I have contracted aids and this is the only place in the world. Where could treatment sorry? I will not defect. I will not betray any secrets and please give the money on my account to my family. Wow so it work. You've gained your American family extensively. You've gained your freedom. Finally I was out of the spy. Game I was off the stage of the international scene and I was just going to dedicate my life to my family and so when my American wife suggested that maybe we should look into buying a home. I got serious and I discussed with my wife to have another child. We move to a northern suburb of New York and within the bird four five months my son was born and so he had the perfect American family husband with a good job. Pretty Lengthy Commute Nice House. Two children career opportunities career was going well and that is why I was until the FBI caught up with me. I had to face my best. And Billy figure out WHO AM I. And how do I relate to this country that I'm living? Tell us how you got caught because the story is just not complete until you like you said had to face your past one day. I was stopped the other side of toll gate crossing the Delaware River. It was initially. It was a state trooper routine stop. We would just like to check your license in vegetation and could you step out of the car. I step out of the car. Still not having a clue what was going on and then I see out of the corner of my eye somebody approaching me from the back. There was another vehicle parked there before I could put two and two together fellow introduce themselves as Joe Riley. Fbi and he showed me. This badge would like to talk with you. What are you thinking at that point? Let's go through your head right then. I knew I wasn't big trouble at no idea. How big it was. But according to WHO is my friend to Riley handled this pretty well so once. They had me in their car. We drove for about a minute First Question I asked my under arrest and the answer was no than within another minute or so. I said so what took you so long. This was my intrinsic instinct to break the ice. I always do that I think. They chuckled a little bit and I think helped break the ice. How they found me was there was a defector that used to work in the KGB archives who defected to Emmett five thirty British version of the FBI and brought with him Ole Bunch of handwritten notes add amongst. Those notes was a blurb that says Jack Barsky on New York region. Oh man that's all. They had the Russian agent had found a gravestone with the name of Joe Smith. They wouldn't have found me but they're not too many Barsky from this country. Why aren't you in jail right now? That's what people WANNA know. Okay you get caught by the FBI. What are you doing here? I've done a couple of public appearances with Joe Riley who was deleted aged on this case and his answer was Mr Barsky was a whole lot. More valuable to US cooperating. Than in jail he would cost US money and we wouldn't have gotten out of him would be got in. That was valuable to us. Incredible they probably looked at the crimes that you have done in thought okay so he reported on how insurance companies work in the United States. I think we can get over that in exchange for looking at your crypto technology the frequencies where they talked to you other people. You might know who live here with those people. Look like that information seems much more valuable. You mentioned that you've spoken in public with the FBI agent. Who caught you? What's that relationship like at one point? I said to him I said you know more about me. I remember because the debriefing process was extremely meticulous. I mean it was six weeks intense. We got to know each other. We played a little golf together. We played a lot of golf together. And he's now the Godfather for my last child. This is incredible because this is a man who if things hadn't gone so smoothly would gladly put you in jail for the rest of your life or traded you back to Moscow which would have been death sentence and now he's your daughter's Godfather and you play golf the things I'd like to tell people. Don't lose your sense of cells as part of a group. Don't ever forget who you are interesting advice coming from. Somebody who's been many people was probably one of the most stupid comments I've given. That made me laugh. You right but so what else is new? You don't my life has been a set of contradictions is another one. You caught me if you're interested in the full expanded version of this story and more like it. Check out the full interview on the Jordan Harbinger. Show on Apple podcasts. Spotify or wherever you're listening now.