Targeted killings. Wet jobs. Assassinations. Eliminations. Thrillers feature deadly plots in which governments eliminate spies, operatives, dissidents, or enemies of the state. But when a questionable death occurs in real life, it can be hard to discover what really happened. In this series, intelligence experts and historians explore the true stories of four real cases of successful, failed, or possible cases of targeted killing.
Feb. 1 Lights Out for Litvinenko
When Alexander Litvinenko died of polonium poisoning in London in November 2006, critics of Putin’s Russia saw the hidden hand of the KGB. Eight years earlier, the former KGB and Russian Federal Security Service officer had accused his superiors of ordering him to assassinate a Russian tycoon. For a country whose historical tradition is to eliminate spies and dissidents in exile, was his death just business as usual or an unlucky accident? Award-winning journalist James Rosen, a former Moscow correspondent for UPI and author of the new spy novel High Hand, brings you up to date on the case and current thinking about Litvinenko’s fate.
Feb. 8 (Not) Killing Castro
Exploding cigars, poisoned wetsuits, and Mob hitmen are just some of the ways that Castro didn’t die. When the dictator came to power in 1959, the United States plotted his overthrow. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the government got more creative and decided the best way to get the country in line was to get rid of Castro. According to Cuban government officials, the CIA tried to kill Fidel Castro at least 600 times. What’s the real story? Spy Museum historian Vince Houghton traces the sometimes comical—and always creative—aspects of the long and unsuccessful American campaign to kill Castro.
Feb. 15 Murder in Mexico
The attack against Leon Trotsky with an ice-climbing axe on August 20, 1940 became known as “the crime of the century.” A leader of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky was out-maneuvered by Joseph Stalin after Lenin’s death in 1924 and exiled from Russia in 1929. In 1937, Trotsky sought refuge in Mexico to escape Stalin’s agents, but fell victim in 1940 to a well-planned Soviet intelligence operation. Intelligence historian H. Keith Melton, who has investigated the case for more than 40 years, reveals the unknown secrets of the case. The original ice-axe used by assassin Ramon Mercade is on display following the presentation.
Feb. 22 Walter Krivitsky Checks Out
In the late 1930s, Walter Krivitsky did the unthinkable: He broke with the cold-blooded leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin. As the former head of Soviet military intelligence for all of Western Europe, Krivitsky was a man who knew too much—and he shared it with British Intelligence. He was a haunted and hunted man when he checked into D.C.’s Hotel Bellevue one February night in 1941. FBI historian John Fox reveals the path that led Krivitsky to Room 524 and the top theories about what occurred there that night.