Further to last week’s Washington Times article about Seduced by Secrets, Harvard Magazine‘s own piece about Makcrakis and her research gives us a glimpse at the woman behind the research behind the book. Escape plans and all!
The Seduction of Snooping
A recording device hidden in an ashtray. A camera concealed inside a pen, an innocuous-looking deer statuette, or even a bra. A chair that captures your body scent when you sit on it, to facilitate tracking your movements later.
What sound like gadgets from a James Bond movie were real-life instruments of espionage used by the Stasi—communist East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (Staatssicherheit), the secret police. Kristie Macrakis, Ph.D. ’89, learned about these devices and much more in her exploration of the Stasi archives, which were gradually declassified and opened for public perusal starting in 1992, three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Macrakis wrote her dissertation on science in Nazi Germany, but a trip to conduct research in East Germany before the Wall fell blossomed into a fascination with the Cold War period and Stasi spying techniques. She spent eight years intermittently poking through thousands of files during short trips, summers, and a year-long Fulbright scholarship, focusing on two particular aspects of East German spy science: how the Stasi got access to top-secret intelligence and scientific knowledge from the West, and the spying techniques they used.