AMERICAN SPIES FOR THE SOVIETS AND RUSSIANS IN THE 1970S, 80s AND 90s

AMERICAN SPIES FOR THE SOVIETS AND RUSSIANS IN THE 1980s

The late 1980s was the golden age of KGB counterintelligence. Under the leadership of the famed KGB spy hunter Rem Krassilnikov Soviet and Russian intelligence was able to enlist the services of well-placed CIA and FBI agents and use their information to “roll up” one U.S. spy in the Soviet Union and Russia after another.

Christopher John Boyce provided spy satellite data to the KGB. He escaped and was recaptured in 1981. Richard Miller was the first FBI agent to be convicted of espionage. He was sentenced to life but freed in 1994.

Stanislabe Borsiovich Gusev was arrested in 1999 for listening to a signal transmitted from an ultra sensitive bug placed in the molding of a room in the State Department reportedly used from time to time by the U.S. Secretary of State and top State Department officials. Gusev worked at the Russian Embassy in Washington. He was arrested after being observed frequently parking his car around the State Department.

Harold James Nicholson was caught in 1996 carrying top secret files to his handlers in Europe. Veteran FBI agent Earl Pitts was arrested in 1997 for turning counter intelligence secrets to Moscow from 1987 to 1992. He was turned in by a Russian defector and sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Book: The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with KGB by Milt Bearden and James Risen (Random House, 2003) with insights from operatives in the CIA and the KGB about the “mole wars” in the 1980s.

John Walker

John Walker, a retired Navy officer, gave the Soviet some of the Navy's most closely-guarded codes and information which enabled the Soviets to locate American submarines and the procedures the United States would follow in the event of a nuclear attack. He began spying after visiting the Soviet Embassy in Washington in 1967. He told his handlers that his motive was “purely financial.” He earned more than $1 million before he was arrested in 1985. His brothers Michael and Arthur were also in the scheme.

U.S. News & World Report reported: “On Dec. 18, 1967, a fresh-faced Navy communications officer slipped through the wrought-iron gates of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., and asked to see security. Escorted into a small side room, the 30-year-old didn't mince words. "I want to sell you top secrets," he told Yanis Lukashevich, an official he assumed to be KGB. The budding spy promptly handed over settings for the KL-47 cipher machine, which handled the sensitive personal messages of the Navy brass. He said he could provide the KGB with full data on four other principal military communications systems, essentially the keys to the American cryptographic kingdom. Asked his motivation, the officer replied: "Purely financial." [Source: U.S. News & World Report, May 22, 2003 /=\]

“John Anthony Walker Jr. left that day with a stack of $50 bills, 20 in all, the first installment in a 17-year traitorship that would ultimately yield him more than $1 million. For the Soviets, Walker proved quite a bargain. He gave them the locations of American nuclear submarines and the procedures the United States would follow to launch nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union should there be a war. The Soviets were also alerted to the locations of secret underwater microphones used by the United States to track Soviet nuclear submarines. What's more, KGB agents learned each and every American troop and air movement to Vietnam from 1971 to 1973, and they passed on to their allies the times and planned sites for U.S. airstrikes against North Vietnam. "It was the greatest case in KGB history," Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB officer who defected for a brief time in 1985, told American intelligence officers. "We deciphered millions of your messages. If there had been a war, we would have won it." /=\

Edward Lee Howard

Edward Lee Howard was a former CIA agent who exchanged the names of U.S. agents in Moscow for cash, beginning in 1984. The only known CIA officer to defect to the KBG, he was angry because he was fired from the CIA after he failed a polygraph test just as he was about to be stationed in Moscow.

Eluding the FBI, he escaped to Russia in 1986 with the help of his wife who propped up a dummy—made from a broomstick, wig and Calvin Klein jacket—in the family car while he was making his way to Moscow. Howard led a lonely life in Russia, at one point running a life insurance company. In July 2002, he died at the age of 50 from a broken neck sustained in fall at his dacha outside Moscow.

When asked by writer David Wise why he spied for the Soviets, he said: “They called me. It was an international phone call. They found me. They had gone through phonebooks. I was so scared.They said: ‘Come to us.’” Howard is believed to be the one who betrayed Adolf Tolkachev, a Soviet scientist who provide the CIA with thousands of pages of secret documents on Soviet military aircraft designs, which in turn enabled the U.S. Air Force to design planes that could defeat the best Soviet planes. Tolkachev was arrested in 1985 and later executed.

Aldrich Ames

CIA employee Aldrich Ames provided information to the KGB that led to the execution of 10 Russian and Soviet spies working for the CIA including Valery Martynov, a lieutenant colonel in the KGB who worked at the Soviet Embassy in Washington and Sergei Moroon, a KGB major at the embassy. He was paid $2.7 million for his secrets and promised $1.9 million more.

Ames began working for the KGB in the fall of 1985 after walking into the Soviet Embassy in Washington and offering his services a spy. He had a drinking problem and bought a $540,000 home and new $40,000 Jaguar with cash, wore expensive Italian suits and racked up credit card bills of $30,000 a month, despite the fact he earned only $62,000 a year. His conspicuous consumption unbelievablely didn't raise any flags until 1992 when the FBI began tapping his phone and computer and bugging his house.

The CIA claims that Ames was caught using good police work. The Russians think he was betrayed by a Russian source. In 1992 Ames was observed contacting a Russian agent in Columbia. It was also noticed that his banks suddenly spiked after he met with a Russian official he was supposed to be recruiting. To gather evidence on Ames, the FBI exchanged his Jaguar for a duplicate one with the same license plates and electronic transmitter that allowed the car to be followed and monitored 24 hours a day.

Ames was arrested in February 1994 and given a life sentence for spying for the KGB He pleaded guilty after he was caught. By confessing and cooperating he escaped the death penalty.

Book: Nightmover by David Wise

Robert Hanssen

Robert Hanssen—an employee of the FBI, a devout family man and regular church goer—was arrested for spying for the KGB in February, 2001. He was arrested at the park near his Northern Virginia home where he dropped off information and received cash payments. He was caught after an informer turned over a piece of a plastic bag used in his drops. The piece had his fingerprints.

Hanssen was known by the code name "B" and "Ramon." He carefully guarded his identity. At no time did his handlers know who he was or where he worked. He never knew his handlers. He tried to throw off the KGB and the FBI by selling information that seemed to have come from the CIA.

Hanssen worked for the KGB for 12 of the 15 years he worked for the FBI. He regularly turned over information to his handlers and received regular payments in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He had no contact with his handlers for seven years in the 1990s and resumed contact in 1999. He was paid $600,000 in cash and diamonds and had $800,000 put in bank accounts in Moscow and was promised a job as a lecturer in Moscow when he retired and further payments of $1.9 million. The money he received went to pay the education of his six children and remodeling of his house. He also spent $80,000 on a stripper and let his best friend watch him have sex with his wife.

Book: Spy by David Wise

Secrets Stolen by Robert Hanssen

Hanssen made more than 20 drops. He turned over 26 computers with 6,000 pages of information. Some of the most damaging information compromised Russian double agents working for the United States, two of whom were executed in Russia and one who was sentenced to life in prison and released in an exchange of political prisoners. He also reveled the existence of a multimillion dollar eavesdropping tunnel under the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C.; the location of the secret spot that American leaders would hide in the event of crisis; top secret codes and ciphers; and U.S. estimates of Soviet troop strength.

Hanssen and Ames had the same KGB handler. The information they offered often overlapped. The handler did his job so well the two spies never knew of each other. Hanssen was a computer wiz and an expert in counterintelligence with access to a wide range of FBI, CIA and NSA files. Much of the information he turned over to the KGB is believed to have been taken from these files.

Hanssen was caught with the help of a former KGB agent who was paid millions. The agent didn’t identify Hanssen bit turned over the dossier on him, which included corespondents, taped conversations and a plastic bag used in the dead drops that had fingerprints on it. He pleaded guilty after he was caught and sentenced to life in prison. By confessing and cooperating he escaped the death penalty. Around the time the Hanssen case broke, 50 Russian diplomats were ordered to leave the United States and an equal number of Americans were ordered to leave Russia.

Dimitri Yakushin

Dimitri Yakushin was head of Group North, the main spy operation in the United States. Known as the Gray Cardinal, he was a legendary figure who oversaw Ames's compromise of the CIA, Ronald Pelton's penetration of the National Security Agency and the Walker family's theft of Navy secrets.

Yakushin worked in both New York and Washington under the cover of various United Nations and diplomatic positions. Born into family of blue-blooded revolutionaries, he was a member of a tank regiment in World War II and worked in the Soviet Agricultural Ministry, specializing in pig husbandry, before taking up espionage. He was an urbane man who collected rare books and loved literature and enjoyed spending quiet evenings at home with his wife, a professional translator.

Concerned that the Soviet Union was falling too far behind the United States in technology, Andropov gave Yakushin orders to concentrate his efforts on scientific and technology secrets. He was told to seek information at the Navy, NATO, the CIA, United States Information Agency, Hughes Aircraft Co, Congress, the State Department and the Defense Department.

Yakushin was regarded as a new kind of spy. One FBI agent told the U.S. News and World Report, the KGB "used to be a bunch of real thugs. After Yakushkin, you could begin to see a change." He retired in 1986 at the age of 70, and died a year later, before the Berlin Wall came down.

Soviets Who Spied for the West

In 1976, a pilot defected to Japan in a MiG-25—the most advanced Soviet plane at that time. In 1971, Oleg Lyalin, a minor Russian trade official, defected to the British and supplied them with a complete list of Soviet espionage activities. A total of 105 Soviet officials—20 percent of the 550 Soviets in the United Kingdom at time—were expelled.

Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB colonel, was involved in the "comic-opera” defection and "redefication." In 1985 a few months after he defected he slipped away from his handlers at a Georgetown restaurant and made his way back to the Soviet Union. The CIA claimed he had been drugged and kidnapped and exploited for propaganda purposes. The relocation expenses of a defector to U.S. taxpayers is around $1 million.

In the 1980s, Vasili Mitrokhin arrived in Britain with a vast archive of KGB secrets. Alexander Zaporozhsky was a SVR colonel that defected to the United States. He is believed to have been the one who gave up information that allowed Hanssen to be caught, In 2001 he was lured back to Russia and promptly arrested and sentence to 18 years in prison.

Americans Accused of Spying Against Russia

Edmond Pope, an American businessman and retried Navy intelligence officer, was convicted of espionage in Moscow and sentenced to 20 years in a labor camp and then was pardoned by Putin. He had purchased military technology from a Russian researchers but insisted that material was unclassified. Even though he was suffering from bone cancer he was denied access to Western doctors while he was in a Moscow prison.

Richard Bliss, a telephone technician, was imprisoned in November, 1997 for espionage related to installing a cellular phone system.

In 2001, John Tobin, a hard-partying Fullbright scholar, was arrested for possession of two tenths of an ounce of marijuana and sentenced to 37 months in prison in trial in the Red Belt city of Voronezh in an incident widely shown on Russian television. Tobin claimed the marijuana was planted on him. The night he was arrested he had rebuffed an attempt by the FSB to provide information about his intelligence training. In his trial he was charged with trafficking and running a criminal enterprise but these charges didn't stick. He was released from prison after six months with the help of influential politicians in the United States.

Some theorized Tobin was set up because he had undergone intelligence and Russian-language training as part if his military training (which he said he did to earn scholarship money for college). Tobin's arrest took place around the time of Hanssen’s arrest and Putin's strengthening of Russia's intelligence services.

Russian Scientists Accused of Being Spies

In April 2004, Igor Sutyagin, a Russian scientist working at the U.S.A.-Canada Institute in Moscow was sentenced to 15 years in prison for treason for selling information to a British company that was described by prosecutors as a CIA front. The Russian Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Sutyagin insists that he did nothing wrong; that he was simply doing legitimate research and the information he turned over was not classified.

In November 2004, a senior scientists at Krasnoyarsk State Technical University in Siberia was convicted of selling aerospace technology to a Chinese company. He said the information he sold was not top secret and the had government approval. He was denied the right to explain to a jury what exactly the information was that he sold.

In March 2005, a highly-respected scientist at the Institute of Metals Superplasticty Problems was arrested for selling “dual use technology” to South Korea. The arrest was considered part of what one human rights group called “spy mania.” In February 2003, Anatoly Babkon, a university professor, was convicted of treason for providing torpedo technology to an American company. He was given a suspended eight-year sentence.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2016

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