2015 Archives

“Bridge of Spies” and the real-life case of a Russian spy

Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies’ and the real-life case of a Cold War spy: SMU Law Professor on the role of lawyers in national security cases then and now

October 13, 2015

SMU Associate Law Professor Jeffrey Kahn
Jeffrey Kahn

SMU Law Professor Jeffrey Kahn — an expert in American constitutional law, Russian law and counterterrorism — talked with June Grasso and Michael Best of Bloomberg Law, a radio show, about the new movie "Bridge of Spies" and the case of Russian KGB Col. Rudolf Abel. 

The U.S. tried to turn Abel, a spy, into an agent for America's side in the Cold War, but he refused. Kahn recently wrote about the Abel case for the peer-reviewed Journal of National Security Law and Policy.

Rudolf Abel
Rudolf Abel

"Bridge of Spies," a thriller directed by Steven Spielberg and staring Tom Hanks, is based on these historical events. The movie opens in theaters across the country Friday, Oct. 16.

In the interview, Kahn describes who KGB Col. Rudolf Abel was and how he was arrested.  He also talks about Abel’s lawyer, N.Y. lawyer James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks).  He also discusses some of the legal arguments Donovan made, how they fared at the Supreme Court, and what the case means for today's world.

Kahn also discussed why there seems to be a recurring theme of exceeding constitutional limits in times of crisis.

Listen to the interview. audio icon 


Bridge of Spies


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