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Professor Kelley at work: A personal recollection

I knew Professor Brian Kelley for some time. We talked from time to time at IWP; we swapped stories. Always very kind, unassuming, self-effacing, and welcoming, he told me some about his childhood. After Professor Brian Kelley officially retired, he could finally indulge his historical hobby. That is when our interaction took on a more serious dimension.

We chatted about a number of possibilities, including penetrating the post-Soviet archives. We fantasized that it should be a comprehensive project on the secrets of the Cold War from within the enemy gates.

Below, I will reproduce tidbits of Professor Kelley’s e-mail correspondence with me, while only paraphrasing my responses for clarification purposes. I have selected just a few items to show Brian as a scholar, researcher, colleague, and friend. Often we ping ponged on email simultaneously, almost like in a chat room.

First of all, Brain Kelley was a serene man of faith, always kind and at peace with himself and the world. He grew up in a Catholic neighborhood full of Irish and Poles, and he often would offer a vignette of the past. He told me stories about priests and Catholic nuns and his upbringing. He loved his Catholic religion: “there is only one true faith,” Brian wrote me once. And he added: “I’m Irish don’t forget. Poles had it a lot easier. Besides you had a Pope who was one of my heroes along with a tiny Albanian woman [Mother Theresa].”

The love of truth derived from his beliefs propelled him on his scholarly search (as well inspired his stellar counterintelligence performance, of course). With a major research project in mind, we decided to offer the CIA and others a dangler first. To whet everyone’s appetite, we resolved to publish the findings of an exciting case study: a comparison between Michael Goleniewski and Robert Hanssen. The latter was an American traitor; the former was a Western mole in Soviet and Polish Communist secret services.

Professor Kelley focused on the American; I concentrated on the Pole. Then we were going to compare notes. I would deal with the historical context, and Professor Kelley would zero in on counterintelligence and intelligence details. We had access to pertinent US documents, and some Communist sources. We secured the crucial cooperation on a third scholar, Dr. Wojciech Jerzy Muszyński at the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland. Dr. Muszyński located over 1,400 pages on Goleniewski from the Communist secret police archives. We were set to process the mother lode.

Here is Professor Kelley the scholar on the Goleniewski aka “Sniper” project:


Good news is that I have been in contact with the folks at CIA who run the Studies in Intelligence Journal about the proposed article.  They are very supportive and strongly urge we send it to them for consideration. I know these folks well enough and take the very positive response as almost a guarantee that it will be published by arguably the top intel journal.  I don’t know if you are aware but four years ago, Studies published an article of mine and it was a prize winner that year. Very big personal honor for me. They publish both a classified and unclassified edition. Clearly our article would be targeting the latter.

Here is the kicker and why they are interested: we would market ‘Sniper’ as the CIA’s first ‘virtual volunteer.’  That designation will get a lot of play in the cyber world where CIA is getting more and more virtual volunteers.

I have been in touch with one of Goleniewski’s CIA case officers and he has provided some insights, although at 85 he has a hard time recalling too many of the specifics from an event which is now a half century old but useful as it is primary material.

I am not sure if I mentioned to you previously that there are remarkable parallels to the Hanssen case and I would like to weave part of the Hanssen story into the article.  I have been concentrating on collecting information relating to Goleniewski’s trade craft and the counterintelligence material which he provided leading to the arrests of a record number of Soviet spies in the west to include some illegals. I am reasonably sure that he caused more Soviet recruited spies to be arrested than any other source. Moreover the spies were very high profile.

There are many parts of the story so suggest we dialogue as to what we would like to cover using our respective skill sets. I can do the spook stuff and wonder if the material you have will help tell the human side of the story and the damage assessment which must have taken place in the aftermath of his defection.  Looking at what the [Communist] Poles believed was his motivation to become a spy and what their post mortem of the case unearthed. Ramifications to the Polish-Soviet relationships. Things like that.  The archive material would be a gold mine for us as I am sure that none of it has made its way into academic journals.

Let me know your thoughts as to what, from your perspective, would be of value and whether you think that Studies would be the best vehicle to target for publication.

Look forward to your comments.



A few days later, Professor Kelley stated:


I got the disc [with secret police records]. Just wish I could read Polish as there appears to be a great many usable documents. Some very good photos also which will be useful for the article.

You have a lot of reading ahead of you.

As you plow into the material, let me know what kinds of topics are covered and I can give you some directions as to what to look for.


In a follow up e-mail he added, self-effacing as always, that reading was his hobby but not in Polish. “You are the main man on that regard. I just pick up the scraps off the table.” I responded: “He, he, he. We shall swap talents. Wojtek has found the stuff, I’ll arrange it, and you’ll separate the chaff.” Brian shot back: “Give me a crash course in Polish first. And yes, I am pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff. All my life, I have been a basic chaff man. City garbage collector, dish washer, street sweeper, lawn maintenance guy, urinal cleaner. Been there and done that.”

Professor Kelley also knew how to make his partner in crime relax. Since we were able to indulge this project only late at night and early in the morning, often we would change the subject and talk about something funny and irrelevant or recall a childhood story. Once, reacting to my family’s World War II history, Brian referred to an old Polish joke about whom to fight first, Germans or Russians? The former – business before pleasure. And then he mused: “Nazis and communists? Hard to chose which one to shoot first.”

And we would swap college stories. Reacting to his laundry list of jobs, I rattled off mine, equally exotic, and trumped his with a story of having to pick up a cadaver from the city morgue as a student assistant at College of San Mateo in California after union workers had refused to do so. Brian cracked up: “Ya got me on ‘cadaver delivery boy.’  Did a lot of lousy work but never hauling corpses.” But then he chided me for making too much money as a student assistant:

You got $3.25 an hour?  You must have been semi-unionized. Most of my youthful career was spent working for minimum wage which was at that time $1.25 although when I was in hospital maintenance, I was raised to $1.35 after three years. Thought I was a rich man because that translated out to an additional $4.40 a week based on my five and a half day work week.

My low point was the first two years in college where we made 75 cents per hour as dish washers and “line assistants.” 

I was the first person up in my dorm and went to mass at 07:00. Priests were pretty quick and we were out by 7:15 and I was at work at 7:20 when we opened the doors for the hungry. Doors remained open until 8:30 and our shift was over at 8:45.  Credit was 90 minutes or translated into compensation, $1.10 for the morning work.

Since we had mandatory Saturday classes,that allowed me to make $6.60 per week for working breakfasts.

We went on strike midway through my third year and got a raise to a dollar an hour.  Made all the difference since I was never paid as my hours went directly to reducing the money I owed for my tuition. It was called a “work scholarship” which meant that there were no deductions for taxes or social security.

But at least I was not hauling cadavers in 50 gallon drums.

My city garbage job started at the city dump at 04:15 and usually finished around 11:00. There were five on each crew.  On mine were two Puerto Ricans called “Cisco” and “Pancho;” two blacks, Tyrone and Lamont; and the driver named Tony who was the union guy and besides the summer hire, the only white guy on the crew.

Good news was that we were paid by the route. We hustled our asses off to get done in circa seven hours but of course got paid for eight. Compensation was $1.75 and hour and “all you can eat.”

Best summer job there was…

What sadly turned out to be the last joke we played was not on email. It was at IWP either at a function or before class in early September, really a few days ago. I was with some visitors from out of town. We came in and Brian greeted me: “Hello, Mr. Goleniewski.” “Why, hello Mr. Hanssen,” I replied. The visitors were really confused, perhaps even freaked out. Or they were spooked by a spook. Professor Brian Kelley, may he rest in peace. RIP.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 20 September 2011