Espionage in the Cold War

views updated

Espionage in the Cold War

"E spionage is a very serious matter for some, a deadly se-rious business. It violates international law and normal codes of civilized conduct, and yet it is virtually universal [everywhere] because it is considered a matter of vital national importance to states [countries]. Espionage generates its own rules." This is how Soviet affairs expert and former U.S. State Department official Raymond L. Garthoff describes the espionage game in his book A Journey through the Cold War.

Espionage, or more simply, spying, is the gathering and analyzing of information about enemies or potential enemies. The acquired information is called intelligence. Hence, agencies that gather such information are called intelligence-gathering agencies. Counterintelligence or counterespionage involves protecting a country and its agencies from spy activities carried out by enemies. The counterintelligence departments of intelligence agencies are always on the lookout for moles. Moles are double agents who betray the agency they work for. Quietly they funnel top-secret information to the enemy. For example, if an agent employed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was also secretly stealing U.S. military documents and passing them to Soviet intelligence agents, he or she would be considered a mole.

Spying is considered one of the oldest professions, dating to biblical times. Historically it involved daring, adventure-seeking individuals who spied on nearby enemies, then informed their leaders of enemy activity. Large spy operations did not exist. In the United States, intelligence-gathering occurred as early as the American Revolution (1775–83) and during the Civil War (1861–65). Yet even by the beginning of the twentieth century, the only important intelligence operations were located on the European continent. There, as few as a thousand spies collected military intelligence on neighboring countries. With the advent of World War I (1914–18), intelligence-gathering grew in importance. Code breaking, spy rings (a group of spies working together to achieve their goal), and espionage organizations supported by various governments became essential in guiding policies and strategies during the 1930s and during World War II (1939–45).

At the end of World War II, intelligence and counterintelligence organizations expanded rapidly. This expansion coincided with the beginning of the Cold War. The Cold War was a prolonged conflict for world dominance from 1945 to 1991 between the two superpowers, the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. The weapons of conflict were commonly words of propaganda and threats. In the two world wars, armies fought on battle fields and oceans and in the sky, in plain sight of one another. In the Cold War, there was no established war zone, only regional flare-ups. Governments used spies who operated in the shadows to intercept enemy communications and learn about weapons strength, military movements, and potential targets. Putting all the information together, intelligence agencies attempted to determine immediate and future threats.

The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from World War II as the world's superpowers. Behind their suspicion of each other lay unreconcilable differences in political and economic philosophy. The United States operates under a democratic form of government and has a capitalist economy. In a democratic government, leaders are elected by a vote of the general population. In a capitalist economy, property and businesses are privately owned and are operated with relatively little government interference. U.S. citizens are guaranteed personal liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom to worship. The Soviet Union operated under a communist government. In a communist government, a single political party, the Communist Party, controls nearly all aspects of society. Leaders are selected by top party members. Private ownership of property and business is not allowed. Instead the government directs all economic production. The goods produced and wealth accumulated are, in theory, shared equally by all. Citizens are not guaranteed personal liberties, and religious practices are not tolerated.

The United States and its Western European allies greatly feared the spread of communism. They assumed that without

constant alertness, their democracies might give in to communist rule. Likewise, the Soviet Union feared that the capitalist nations wanted nothing more than to bring about the downfall of communism. Leaders from each nation deemed it necessary to know ahead of time what the other nation was plotting against them. Fear heightened in the United States during the late 1940s when Soviet espionage activities were discovered within the United States and Great Britain's borders. All around the world, espionage agencies were created to protect their respective nations through intelligence-gathering.

Espionage agencies

United States

In the United States, responsibility for gathering intelligence and carrying out spy operations, often called covert operations, in foreign countries fell to the CIA. President

Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53) disbanded the U.S. wartime military intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the end of World War II. In July 1947, Congress passed the National Security Act, creating the CIA. The CIA reported national security information to the National Security Council (NSC), a newly created group in the executive branch of government. The NSC consisted of the president and the secretaries of state, defense, army, navy, and air force. In 1961, the CIA moved into its new headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) originated as the Bureau of Investigation under the Department of Justice in 1908. J. Edgar Hoover (1895–1972) took over the Bureau of Investigation in 1924 and created a force of rigorously trained agents. The bureau adopted its current name on July 1, 1932. After World War II, Hoover's FBI concentrated on protecting the United States from Soviet espionage within America's borders. The FBI dogged the American Communist Party and kept files on any American believed to have ties to the Communist Party or believed to be subversive, or have rebellious tendencies, toward the U.S. government.

The National Security Agency (NSA) was established in 1952 by a presidential directive. The forerunner of the NSA was the U.S. Army Signals Intelligence Service, which broke the Japanese military codes in World War II and thereby shortened the war. The NSA's role was to protect U.S. communications by creating code systems called ciphers or cryptosystems; it also broke enemy cryptosystems. NSA employees were known as the codemakers and codebreakers of the intelligence community.

In addition to the CIA, FBI, and NSA, the United States has an intelligence-gathering organization within each of the military services. Army Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, and Marine Corps Intelligence all are part of the U.S. intelligence community.

Great Britain

The Military Intelligence, Department 5 (MI-5) is Britain's counterintelligence agency. Established in 1909, MI-5 is responsible for national security within Great Britain's borders. Throughout the Cold War, it concentrated on Soviet spy networks operating inside Britain.

The Military Intelligence, Department 6 (MI-6) is the British equivalent of America's CIA. MI-6 gathers intelligence worldwide and is involved in all types of espionage against foreign enemies. The MI-6 grew out of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) established in 1911.

Soviet Union

From 1917 to 2000, the Soviet Union had two intelligence agencies: the KGB and the GRU. The KGB (the initials for the Russian translation of the Committee for State Security) was formed in December 1917 during the Bolshevik Revolution; it was originally called Cheka (see Chapter 1, Origins of the Cold War).

Cheka underwent numerous name changes until March 1954, when it took its final name, the KGB. Because of the many name changes, the term "KGB" is used generically to refer to the Soviet state security organization since its formation in 1917. The most dreaded of all intelligence organizations, the KGB carried out thousands of ruthless murders under Soviet premier Joseph Stalin (1879–1953). The KGB was the most powerful Soviet intelligence agency. It handled all espionage operations, both foreign and domestic. In 2000, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, replaced the KGB.

The Soviet military intelligence agency was the GRU (the initials for the Russian translation of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army). The GRU was formed in 1920. At times during the twentieth century, the Soviet military spies created their own espionage network apart from the KGB; at other times, the GRU found itself subordinate to the KGB. The GRU remained relatively intact in 2000.


In 1995, four years after the end of the Cold War, the NSA broke a fifty-year silence on the VENONA project. VENONA documents were released for the general public to study. VENONA is the code name for a program conducted by the U.S. Army's Signals Intelligence Service in 1943 to collect and break the cipher-coded messages of the Soviet KGB and GRU. Cipher is a type of code system in which different letters or symbols replace the ordinary letters used to spell a word. Codebreakers who attempted to figure out the cipher were called cryptanalysts. (The prefix crypt- means hidden.) The VENONA documents revealed that by 1946 cryptanalysts had begun to succeed in deciphering the KGB and GRU messages

intercepted by the Signals Intelligence Service in 1944 and 1945. Two communist defectors greatly aided this effort. (A defector is someone who renounces and leaves his or her native country.)

On September 5, 1945, Igor Gouzenko (1922–1985), a Russian GRU cipher clerk working at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, defected to Canada. He left the embassy with over one hundred documents stuffed in his shirt. Gouzenko's documents and his debriefing (interviews with him) yielded intelligence on Soviet cipher systems. Gouzenko also revealed names of individuals spying for the Soviets, in Canada and in the United States. Then, on November 7, Elizabeth Terrill Bentley (1908–1963), an American communist, defected to the FBI. Bentley had joined the Communist Party USA in 1938 and fallen in love with Jacob Golos, who was involved with Soviet intelligence. Golos trained her in the tricks and techniques of espionage. She then operated as a courier, or messenger, in various Soviet espionage networks in the United States. Bentley had become disenchanted with communism, and upon defection she implicated over one hundred people as spies for the Soviet Union. Many were employed in the U.S. government.

In 1946, with clues provided by Gouzenko and Bentley, Meredith Gardner (1913–2002), a brilliant cryptanalyst, began to crack a few Soviet cipher messages, including one that mentioned the atomic bomb. In October 1948, Gardner, who was employed by the U.S. Army Security Agency, began working with FBI special agent and Soviet expert Robert Lamphere (1918–2002). With continued help from Gouzenko, Gardner and Lamphere began to uncover a large number of Soviet espionage cases. The successes of VENONA alerted American, British, and Canadian leaders that Soviet espionage activities were being carried out within their borders. Between 1948 and 1951, a number of KGB agents were exposed. Intelligence gleaned from the messages unmasked the "Atomic Spies" and the "Cambridge Spies" and cast suspicion on the loyalties of Alger Hiss (1904–1996), who had left his position in the U.S. State Department in 1946 and subsequently been named as a communist sympathizer (see Chapter 5, Homeland Insecurities).

Atomic bombs and the Atomic Spies

The United States developed the world's first atomic bombs by mid-1945 through a concentrated top-secret project known as the Manhattan Project. The project brought together scientists from all around the nation. Also included were British and Canadian scientists, and German scientists who had escaped to the United States from Germany during World War II. They came to Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1943 with the goal of making an atomic bomb. The two atomic bombs put together at Los Alamos were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.

Experts estimated that the Soviet Union was years behind the United States in atomic weapons development, and they predicted that the Soviets would not have the bomb until 1953 or 1954. Ominously, on September 3, 1949, a U.S. Air Force WB-29 weather reconnaissance aircraft flying a mission from Japan to Alaska detected high amounts of radiation in the atmosphere. The radiation was from an atomic bomb that the Soviet Union had successfully tested only a few days before, on August 29. Curiously, further study showed it was precisely the type of bomb that the United States had tested in New Mexico in mid-1945. With the Cold War raging, the implications were enormous: Now both the United States and the Soviet Union had an atomic bomb; either country could devastate the other, but in doing so would risk an equally devastating retaliation. American scientists and the U.S. military quickly revised their predictions, stating that the Soviets would have several hundred atomic weapons by 1954. Yet they were puzzled by how fast the Soviet Union had developed its first bomb.

In August 1949, Lamphere alerted the British government and MI-6 that a British scientist had most likely passed information about the development of the atomic bomb to the Soviets. Later, around the same time that the United States was investigating the suspicious radiation in the atmosphere, Lamphere was deciphering VENONA messages and uncovering information about Klaus Fuchs (1911–1988). Soon, Lamphere discovered that Fuchs was the suspected British scientist acting as a spy.

Born in Germany in 1911, Fuchs left his homeland in the mid-1930s for England. There, he found he could freely express his communist views. Communism appeared to him to be the answer to the world's problems. Fuchs finished a doctoral degree in physics and became a British citizen. By spring 1941, he was working on the "Tube Alloys" program, the British atomic bomb research project. In 1943, along with several other British scientists, he was transferred to Columbia University in New York City to work on the Manhattan Project. Soon, Fuchs was on his way to Los Alamos. A serious, intense researcher, Fuchs was never suspected to be passing detailed notes to a courier for the Soviets, Harry Gold (c. 1911–1972). Fuchs's notes answered specific questions from Soviet scientists on the methods of processing uranium and plutonium, the elements used in atomic bomb production. By the time the FBI confronted Fuchs with proof of his espionage activities, he was back in England. Fuchs confessed in January 1950 and was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. The Fuchs case revealed that the Soviets had penetrated deep into the Manhattan Project. The information the Soviets got from Fuchs and other "atomic spies" speeded up the development of the Soviet bomb by a few years.

From a photograph, Fuchs identified Gold as his courier. Gold, an American, was the son of poor Russian Jewish immigrants and was interested in the communist movement. Gold began espionage activities for the Soviets in 1935. Trained as a chemist, he began stealing industrial secrets from the Pennsylvania Sugar Company, where he worked. Arrested in 1950, Gold provided information to the FBI about other "atomic spies."

More intelligence from newly deciphered VENONA intercepts, combined with Gold's information, led to David

Greenglass (1922–). Greenglass was a highly skilled U.S. Army machinist, a type of tradesman much in demand at Los Alamos. Greenglass was sent to Los Alamos in 1943; apparently the fact that he and his wife, Ruth Greenglass (1925–), had joined the Young Communist League earlier in 1943 had not come forth. Until Ruth visited Los Alamos and informed him, Green-glass had no idea that the goal of the Manhattan Project was to develop an atomic bomb. His lack of knowledge was not unusual; very few of the thousands of workers involved in the project knew its ultimate objective. Ruth had received the information through David's sister, Ethel Rosenberg (1915–1953), and Ethel's husband, Julius Rosenberg (1918–1953).

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, both natives of New York City, shared an active interest in politics. By 1942, they were full members of the American Communist Party. Julius soon pursued espionage activities. As David Greenglass confirmed in his June 1950 confession, the espionage soon became a family affair: Julius recruited David to supply information from Los Alamos. Besides atomic secrets, David provided scientific and technical information about the aircraft that would carry the bombs and about early work on spy satellites. Apparently Ethel typed many of the notes received from David before Julius passed the notes on to the KGB. For his part in the spy ring, David Greenglass was given a light sentence—ten years—because he provided the FBI with information about the Rosenbergs, his sister and brother-in-law. Also in exchange for his confession, Ruth was given immunity from prosecution.

The Rosenbergs were arrested in the summer of 1950, and in 1951 they were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage. Julius and Ethel staunchly proclaimed their innocence. They were both sentenced to die in the electric chair, a sentence carried out in 1953 at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Many Americans believed that the Rosenbergs did not get a fair trial and that the sentence was much too harsh. Public protests against the executions sprang up around the country. However, information declassified, or made public, by the Russians in the 1990s confirmed that Julius had indeed passed Manhattan Project secrets to the Soviets.

The Cambridge Spies

In 1949, VENONA intercepts also uncovered the possibility that information had been transferred to the Soviets in 1944 and 1945 by a source in the British embassy in Washington, D.C. The spy's code name was Homer. Eventually Homer was identified as Donald Maclean (1913–1983), one of the four Cambridge Spies. The Cambridge Spies affected the course of World War II, aided Stalin's postwar dealings with British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965) and American presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) and Harry S. Truman, and influenced the preparation of Soviet military strategies (including nuclear strategies) in the early years of the Cold War. There has probably never been a more successful spy ring in the history of espionage. Eventually they were all unmasked, but not one was caught. They were lucky, smart, determined idealists, those who put perfect ideas ahead of practical considerations. Except for Kim Philby (1911–1988), who accepted one payment from the Soviets in the mid-1950s when he was in dire financial straits, none of the Cambridge Spies received money for their services. The espionage work of the Cambridge Spies spanned half a century.

The saga of the Cambridge Spies began when the KGB formed a plan in the early 1930s to penetrate the British intelligence community. For the plan, the KGB looked to recruit bright young men in universities who hoped to have careers in the British government as diplomats or in the intelligence services. The KGB recruited four students from Trinity College at Cambridge University. All four knew each other at Trinity. They were Maclean, Philby, Anthony F. Blunt (1907–1983), and Guy Burgess (1910–1963).

The charming yet formal Blunt had developed a passion for communist ideology as a student. A discreet homosexual, he would eventually become the British royal family's art adviser; ironically, he was even knighted in 1956. Burgess, also a homosexual, led a rather outrageous lifestyle. Strikingly handsome, he could be charming too, but he was an alcoholic and unpredictable and frequently had to be bailed out of various indiscretions, or delicate situations. Maclean, serious and always tense, was a hard worker, but like Burgess, he drank heavily. Philby was the classic "cloak" spy—smooth, witty, self-assured. (See box.) Philby could always play the role necessary for the moment. He would serve the KGB for over fifty years.

The KGB brought the four young men along slowly in the 1930s, content to let them carry out small tasks to prove their usefulness to the Soviets. Blunt expanded his art history expertise. Maclean entered the British Foreign Service. Philby took a job as a reporter for the London Times.

During World War II, the Cambridge Spies began their intelligence work in earnest. Burgess and Philby served as agents in MI-6, Blunt served in MI-5, and Maclean worked in foreign British embassies, including the British embassy in Washington, D.C., beginning in 1944. Philby became an expert cryptanalyst at Britain's decoding center, Bletchley Park. All perfected their skills in passing secret documents to the Soviets. Most of the documents described military strategies of the World War II allies Great Britain and the United States. Maclean became a direct source to Stalin, informing him of communications between British prime minister Churchill and U.S. presidents Roosevelt and Truman.

At the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, the Cambridge Spies continued their espionage activities for the Soviets. Maclean, still at the British embassy in Washington, D.C., kept Stalin informed on how the United States and Britain planned to unite Germany. Before the Yalta, Potsdam, and Tehran conferences, in which the leaders of Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union met to design a postwar world (see Chapter 1, Origins of the Cold War), Maclean told Stalin of the Western allies' plans. From February 1947 to September 1948, Maclean sat on the American-British-Canadian Combined Policy Committee (CPC) and on the Combined Development Trust (CDT). The purpose of the CPC and CDT was to share secrets on the development of atomic weapons. Never missing a meeting, Maclean was able to keep the Soviets up to date on British and American plans for military development of nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, Philby, an MI-6 agent, was sent to the Washington, D.C., British Foreign Office to serve as a link between MI-6 and the CIA. In this position, Philby had access to any FBI reports shared with the British. He was able to let Stalin know key U.S. strategies for the Korean War (1950–53), including the U.S. decision not to use nuclear weapons in Korea. Philby also became involved in the VENONA project. Burgess worked briefly as a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio broadcaster and in that post met many British politicians. He then served as secretary to the deputy British foreign minister, Hector McNeil, and was able to transmit top-secret British Foreign Office documents almost daily. He would later join Philby in Washington, D.C., as a secretary in the British Foreign Office. Blunt remained in Britain. In addition to advising the royal family on art, he recruited future Soviet agents and passed information from Philby and Burgess to the Soviets.

Burgess and Maclean gathered most of their material for the Soviets between 1939 and 1951; in 1951, they defected to the Soviet Union. Maclean may have provided the most valuable information of the four. His information covered Western foreign policy and military plans and capabilities. Philby, who became known as the "Master Spy" or the "Spy of the Century," produced intelligence for the longest period of time, from 1940 to 1963. In 1963, he defected to the Soviet Union. There, he spent the rest of his life as a KGB adviser, a trainer of spies, and a lecturer on espionage. At his death in 1988, he had given almost fifty years to the Soviet Union. In Philby's honor, the Soviet government issued a stamp with his picture on it.

Blunt, ever the English gentleman, remained in Great Britain. He was unmasked as a Soviet spy by a determined and suspicious MI-5 officer, Arthur Martin. The only way to obtain a confession was to offer Blunt immunity from prosecution. When confessing to Martin in 1964, Blunt revealed little information; all of it concerned other British moles who were dead or already known to British intelligence. He slyly managed to offer no new information. His undercover profession was not revealed to the public until 1979 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925–), who stripped him of his knighthood. Blunt died quietly in England in 1983. Because of the Cambridge Spies' long-undetected activities, the U.S. intelligence community lost faith in British intelligence for several decades.

Ground-listening stations

Soviet premier and dictator Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953, but the Cold War did not come to an end. The United States and the Soviet Union were in a race for military superiority. Buildup of nuclear weapons and aircraft to carry those weapons was proceeding at full throttle in both countries; missiles were in the early stages of development. Each country was also intent on keeping track of the military activities of the other. Hence, the two superpowers intensified their espionage efforts.

The United States had allies geographically close to the Soviet Union, so U.S. intelligence was able to establish a series of ground-listening stations to monitor Soviet communications, radar signals, and Morse code messages. In May 1952, a listening station was set up in the village of Kirknewton, Scotland, near the capital city of Edinburgh. The U.S. ground stations intercepted communications dealing with the construction of Soviet radar systems and with Soviet aircraft movement. The stations were called SIGINT (short for signals intelligence) stations. Another station was established in Great Britain at a site known as Chicksands Priory. By the mid-1950s, several sites were operational in Turkey. These sites followed Soviet naval and air activity, including early missile testing. One of the most famous listening stations was in Berlin, Germany.

The Berlin tunnel

After World War II, Berlin had been divided into four sectors. The American, British, and French sectors were known as West Berlin, and the Soviet sector was known as East Berlin. There were no actual physical barriers between the sectors. Beneath East Berlin lay an underground junction of three major communication cables that connected the Soviet Union and East Germany. The British MI-6 came up with the bold idea of digging a tunnel from West Berlin to East Berlin for the purpose of tapping into the communication junction. America's CIA enthusiastically agreed at a London meeting. U.S. Army engineers began tunneling to a depth of 15 feet (4.6 meters) in early summer 1954. The project had to be carried out literally under the feet of East German guards and Soviet troops. The construction entrance to the tunnel had to be small so as not to attract attention, yet tons of earth had to be brought out. All the work had to be done as quietly as possible. Because the tunnel was packed with recording equipment, air-conditioning was installed to keep the ground above the tunnel from heating up. The tunnel was 300 yards (274 meters) long and 6 feet (1.8 meters) high. It was operational on February 25,1955. Approximately six hundred tape recorders were used to record eight hundred reels of tape each day. Listening to the tapes back in Washington, D.C., were fifty CIA employees fluent in Russian and German. They eavesdropped on conversations and messages flowing between Moscow, the Soviet embassy in East Berlin, and the Soviet military headquarters near Berlin.

Unfortunately for the Western powers and unknown to the MI-6 and CIA, there had been a mole in the works

from the beginning. George Blake (1922–), supposedly an MI-6 agent, was in fact spying for the KGB and had been at the London meeting when the decision to build the tunnel was made. He told the Soviets about the tunnel, so they knew about it from the very start. On April 15, 1956, the East German police staged a discovery of the tunnel, pretending it was an accidental discovery so the CIA would still think information recorded over the last year was accurate. Much of what was on the tapes was disinformation—bogus, staged information. The CIA did not realize this until Blake was discovered and arrested in 1961. Blake had not only betrayed the tunnel operation but had identified many British agents spying in the Soviet Union. He was sentenced to forty-two years in prison, one year for each of the forty-two British agents doomed by his information. Blake managed to escape from prison in 1966 and defected to Moscow. Despite the Soviets' knowledge of the tunnel, declassified CIA documents made available in 1999 indicate that the CIA did obtain more than just disinformation from the tunnel tapes.

U-2 aircraft

Another variety of intelligence-gathering went on over-head, in the skies; it was called reconnaissance. Reconnaissance is the act of surveying an area to gain information. As early as 1948 and continuing in the 1950s, U.S. aircraft conducted photographic and electronic surveillance missions, flying as close as they could to the Soviet Union, along its borders, and occasionally venturing into Soviet airspace. On July 4, 1956, only a few months after the exposure of the Berlin tunnel, the United States began yet another daring espionage mission: development of the U-2 aircraft. It was a joint effort of the U.S. Air Force, the CIA, and the Lockheed Corporation. The U-2 had a wingspan of 80 feet (24.4 meters) and a length of 50 feet (15.2 meters); it cruised at 460 miles (740 kilometers) per hour, could fly 2,600 miles (4,183 kilometers) carrying a normal load without refueling, and carried cameras capable of photographing a 120-mile-wide (193 kilometer) area. The cockpit accommodated only one pilot. Taking espionage activities to new heights, the U-2 cruised at 68,000 to 75,000 feet (20,726 to 22,860 meters).

By the early 1950s, U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) understood how productive intelligence gathered by aircraft would be. In late 1955, he was presented with pictures taken by a U-2 flying over San Diego and pictures of one of his favorite golf courses there. They were amazingly detailed and clear. Although U.S. radar operators had been prewarned of the San Diego flight, they were unable to successfully track the aircraft. Impressed by this information, Eisenhower ordered reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union. If the flights were detected, U-2 pilots would claim to be conducting high-altitude meteorologic studies. In truth, however, their mission was to photograph Soviet military bases, weapons stockpiles, missile launch test sites under construction, and Soviet industries. U-2s also flew reconnaissance missions over China, the Middle East, Indonesia, and other areas of interest to U.S. Cold War strategists.

The U-2 flights over the Soviet Union did not go undetected. The Soviets soon knew the U-2's speed, altitude, and range, but they did not know about the superb photographic abilities of the plane. The Soviets protested, but with their air defense missile systems reaching only 60,000 feet (18,288 meters), they could do little. The U-2 flights revealed Soviet missile capacity, information that helped Eisenhower in planning U.S. military strategy.

On May 1, 1960, pilot Francis Gary Powers (1929–1977) took off from Pakistan on a U-2 Soviet overflight. Tracked immediately by radar, the U-2 came over the Ural Mountains near Sverdlovsk. With their new S-75 antiaircraft defenses, the Soviets shot down the U-2. Powers was recovered alive, along with U-2 cameras. At first, Eisenhower used the preplanned excuse—that the pilot was conducting weather studies for the United States. But presented with clear evidence to the contrary, Eisenhower admitted that it was an espionage flight. However, he refused to apologize or say there would be no further spy flights. Outraged, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) did not participate in an upcoming U.S.-Soviet summit. Relations between the two Cold War adversaries plummeted to new lows. Powers was sentenced to ten years in prison but was released in 1962 in exchange for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (c. 1902–1971).

The U-2 remained an important tool in U.S. intelligence-gathering. It was a U-2 that took vitally important pictures of Soviet nuclear missiles being placed in Cuba, an island 90 miles (145 kilometers) off Florida's coast. The photographs led to a chilling encounter between the United States and the Soviet Union, a standoff that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Without the photos, however, the United States would have been unaware of a potential danger very close to home. (See Chapter 9, Cuban Missile Crisis.)

Human elements

By the end of the 1960s, new satellite reconnaissance systems in space would take photographs of military activity worldwide. Technological advances were rapid and produced astounding results. The U.S. CORONA project operated under the CIA and the U.S. Air Force. It was America's first imaging reconnaissance satellite program. The highly classified project spanned from 1959 to 1972, directed 145 satellite launches, and provided important intelligence for the U.S. government. Nevertheless, the human element, the human spy, remained invaluable to intelligence activities. It was the spy, the fearless mole deep within the enemy's territory, who brought back documents, made judgment calls, offered predictions, and advised leaders on foreign policy.

Why might a person become a spy?

Espionage is rarely a career choice made in high school or college. Spies are motivated by different factors, including patriotism, staunch political beliefs, ego, money, and failure to rise sufficiently in an intelligence agency position. Interestingly, most spies are volunteers, what the CIA calls "walk-ins." For whatever reason, someone with access to relatively high-level information walks into the offices of the CIA, FBI, MI-5, MI-6, KGB, or GRU and offers to obtain secret information. Sometimes spies become double agents, that is, they spy not only for their home country but for the enemy as well.

Oleg Penkovsky

Frequently, for any of the reasons that first motivated them to begin an espionage career, Soviet intelligence personnel working abroad suddenly "crossed over" or "turned" and began spying for the United States. One of the most valuable and prolific Soviet spies who volunteered to turn over information to the West was Oleg Penkovsky (1919–1963). Born in the Russian town of Ordzhonikidze, Penkovsky received his intelligence education at the France Military Academy from 1945 to 1948 and at the GRU's Military Diplomatic Academy from 1949 to 1953. He had attained the rank of colonel by 1950, and from 1955 to 1956 he served admirably as a GRU agent in Ankara, Turkey, his first foreign espionage assignment. He was preparing for a new GRU assignment in India when the KGB found out his father had fought against the Bolsheviks (Communists) and for the tsar in the Russian Revolution. Penkovsky's career still looked promising when he was designated head of the incoming class at the Military Diplomatic Academy. The head instructor job usually meant further promotion, but the KGB stepped in, and Penkovsky's career stalled. At the same time, he had become disillusioned with the brash Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, especially Khrushchev's crude threats to dominate the world. Penkovsky decided to volunteer to the West.

After several unsuccessful attempts to indicate his willingness and ability to pass important Soviet information to the West, Penkovsky succeeded in establishing contact with Greville Wynne (1919–1990). Wynne was a representative of several British corporate industries and frequently traveled to Moscow on business. On April 6, 1961, in Moscow, Penkovsky passed his first package of information to Wynne. Two weeks later, Penkovsky headed a trade delegation to London, where CIA and MI-6 agents were waiting to meet with him. From that time until October 12, 1962, Penkovsky provided thousands of documents and rolls of film from top-secret Soviet files. He took quantities of information out of KGB and GRU headquarters at night, photographed it at his small Moscow apartment, and then returned it the next day. He passed the material to Wynne on trips to London and Paris and in Moscow, sometimes handing over handfuls of film rolls.

Penkovsky also met clandestinely with Janet Chisholm, the wife of an MI-6 agent in Moscow. However, she was known to the KGB because of information George Blake, a Berlin mole, had provided. Penkovsky would hand boxes of candy to Chisholm, for her children, but under the candy was microfilm. Surveillance of Chisholm led to Penkovsky. By fall 1961, Penkovsky's trips out of Moscow ended, and by January 1962, he knew the KGB had him under surveillance. Nevertheless, he continued to place material in "dead drops," agreed-upon locations where his contacts could pick up the material later. On October 12, 1962, the KGB arrested Penkovsky, and he was ultimately sentenced to death.

Penkovsky's information helped Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy understand that much of Khrushchev's threatening speech was no more than bluffing. The CIA credited Penkovsky for turning over a massive amount of top-secret technical material concerning missiles, launch installations, and Soviet military theories and approaches. Penkovsky identified hundreds of KGB and GRU officers, including people stationed in Ceylon, India, Egypt, France, and Britain.

William Henry Whalen

William Henry Whalen, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, served in the army's Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence (OACSI) after World War II. Next, he was assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Intelligence Objective Agency (JIOA) and worked there from July 2, 1959, until July 5, 1960. In March 1959, Colonel Sergei A. Edemski, a Soviet military official, recruited Whalen. Whalen agreed to provide Edemski with sensitive U.S. military documents in exchange for cash, and he faithfully provided the material once a month in late 1959 and early 1960. Whalen met Edemski in an Alexandria, Virginia, shopping center parking lot for the handoffs. However, Edemski left the United States in the spring of 1960. In July 1960, Whalen suffered a heart attack and never returned to active army duty. He did, however, continue to wander through the Pentagon (he was still a recognizable face and security was more lax in those days), trying to access information, until 1963, when it became obvious he was under suspicion.

Whalen was indicted in July 1966, found guilty, and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. He had provided the Soviets with an impressive array of U.S. military manuals, as well as bulletins on the army's nuclear weapons and on air defense weapons. He also provided thousands of documents related to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A U.S. Army deputy chief of staff concluded that Whalen had considerably compromised U.S. military capabilities in the event of a war with the Soviet Union.

"The game"

With the unmasking of famous moles such as the Cambridge Spies, George Blake, Oleg Penkovsky, and William Whalen, the U.S., British, Soviet, and French intelligence communities became convinced that more moles must be lurking within their agencies' counterintelligence divisions. Rampant suspicions and distrust gradually shifted the priorities of the intelligence agencies away from uncovering useful military and political intelligence. By the mid-1960s and well into the 1970s, intelligence agencies concentrated on "the game," which involved spies spying on each other (more than they spied on foreign enemy governments). This was well illustrated within the CIA: Allen Dulles (1893–1969), director of the CIA, appointed James Jesús Angleton (1917–1987) as head of the CIA's counterintelligence staff in 1954. Under Angleton's leadership, CIA human intelligence-gathering efforts against the Soviet Union came almost to a standstill by the mid-1960s. Just as Oleg Penkovsky had done in the early 1960s, other Soviet intelligence agents attempted to volunteer as CIA informers. However, Angleton was deeply—and unreasonably—suspicious that these potential informers were actually attempting to spy further for the Soviets. These suspicions prevented the CIA from taking advantage of the Soviet spies' knowledge. The tangled espionage-counterespionage web did not begin to straighten out until Angleton's departure from the CIA in 1974.

By the mid-1970s, the CIA again focused on extracting military and government information about U.S. enemies. For example, the CIA worked with "turned" GRU agents Colonel Anatoli Nikolaevich Filatov and Aleksandr Dmitrievich Ogorodnik, both of whom provided a variety of Soviet military secrets and Soviet diplomatic reports.

Unlikely pair of spies

Through the later 1960s and 1970s, the CIA, KGB, and GRU received an abundant amount of intelligence from U.S. and Soviet satellites orbiting Earth. From April 1975 until their arrest in January 1977, Christopher Boyce (1953–) and Andrew Daulton Lee (1952–) provided the Soviets with secrets about America's most advanced satellite programs. Boyce, a twenty-two-year-old college dropout, worked for the space technology corporation TRW in a low-paying, low-level job. However, he worked inside TRW's so-called Black Vault, monitoring top-secret communications from CIA-TRW satellites. His buddy Lee was most interested in procuring enough marijuana to satisfy his cravings. The two teamed up to make extra cash.

Beginning in mid-1975, Boyce transferred detailed information on three satellite systems, code-named Rhyolite, Argus, and Pyramider, to the KGB. Serving as courier for Boyce, Lee delivered the technical information, primarily to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City, Mexico. Pyramider provided a means of communication for CIA agents abroad; agents relayed messages to each other on this system. The agents' names and all their communications were exposed by Boyce's deception. KGB officials were so impressed with Boyce that they offered to pay for his undergraduate and graduate school tuition so he could eventually work for the CIA or within the U.S. State Department. He could then become a KGB mole. But before Boyce could attend his first class at the University of California, Riverside, the unpredictable and careless Lee ruined their spy career by attracting the attention of the Mexican police as he dropped off a package of information. Both were arrested, tried, and convicted. Lee received life imprisonment, but was paroled in 1998; Boyce received forty years in prison, but was released in 2003. Boyce claimed that his actions stemmed from his opposition to the Vietnam War (1954–75).

1985: Year of the spy

The U.S. press labeled 1985 the "year of the spy." Arrest by the FBI during that year terminated many prolific espionage careers. The first arrest came in May. Subsequently, November proved facinating as the activities of spy after spy came to an end.

The Walker spy ring

In the 1960s, the U.S. Navy encrypted (coded) all of their radio communications (see box). The NSA supplied the codes. Each month, the navy sent its fleet the codes for use that month. The codes were in codebooks called "keylists." To encrypt and decipher (decode) messages, cryptographic machines had to have their dials set each month according to the keylist of the month. The keylists told the navy communication specialists how to set the dials.

John A. Walker Jr. (1938–) was a watch officer for the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet submarine command based in Norfolk, Virginia. His duties included monitoring encrypted messages for the fleet's submarines. Those submarines were stationed in various locations, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean. One day in April 1968, Walker, who was experiencing family difficulties and financial problems, put a keylist in his pocket and walked out of the communications room. He drove four hours to the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., then burst into the embassy and demanded to see the officer in charge of security. The KGB officer paid Walker between $1,000 and $2,000 for that keylist and informed him they could do business again in the future. At that point, Walker asked for a regular salary—an unusual request for someone planning to work an undercover job. Though he was surprised, the KGB officer agreed to pay Walker $500 to $1,000 a week for the keylists. Until his retirement in August 1976, Walker continuously supplied the KGB with the keylists to a wide variety of cryptographic machines onboard the Atlantic Fleet. He then recruited a fellow navy radioman, Jerry A. Whitworth (1939–). Whitworth served between 1975 and 1983 in naval communications on the West Coast and on three different ships. All the while, he provided Walker with cryptographic materials. Walker also recruited his brother Arthur around 1980 and his own son, Michael, in late 1982. Michael had already joined the navy, and by 1984 he was stationed on the USS Nimitz. On the Nimitz, Michael had access to "burnbags," garbage bags that contained classified messages. Michael carried the bags to the furnace and had plenty of time to rummage through them. When his father was arrested by the FBI on the night of May 19, 1985, Michael had just made a dead drop of a grocery bag full of documents from the Nimitz. The Walkers—John, Arthur, and Michael—and Whitworth all received prison sentences for their espionage activities. They were betrayed by John's ex-wife Barbara, who at the time had no idea her son Michael was involved.

Soviet KGB general Boris Aleksandrovich Solomatin (1924–) was the KGB head of Anti-American operations during the Walker period of activity. According to the Court TV's Crime Library Web site, Solomatin called Walker the "most important" spy. He said that Walker was "the equivalent of a seat inside your Pentagon where we could read your most vital secrets." If the United States and the Soviet Union had gone to war during the Walkers' activity, the encryption materials would have allowed the Soviets access to all U.S. naval communications and movements.

Oleg Gordievsky

Oleg Gordievsky (1938–), son of a KGB officer, was groomed from an early age for KGB service. He received his first foreign assignment in 1966. A bright and trusted KGB agent, Gordievsky was placed in charge of KGB operations in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Scandinavia in 1972. The KGB did not know that Gordievsky had become highly disillusioned with the Soviets over their treatment of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

From 1972 until 1985, Gordievsky served the KGB in both London and Moscow, but during that time, he was one of the most daring types of spies, a double agent. While working as a top spy for the KGB, he also kept the British intelligence services informed of all KGB activities in Great Britain. In 1985, CIA mole Aldrich Ames (1941–) tipped the KGB about Gordievsky. Gordievsky was brought back to Moscow, but the British were able to rescue him, secretly whisking him out of Moscow and back to safety in Britain.

Gordievsky greatly aided the United States in 1985 by helping the presidential administration understand the new Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–). Gordievsky told President Ronald Reagan (1911–; served 1981–89) and Reagan's advisers that the Soviets had become very paranoid, fearing the United States might indeed start a nuclear war. He suggested they back off and moderate their language toward the Soviets. Since taking office in 1981, Reagan had consistently used brash and harsh language concerning the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Reagan was shocked that the Soviets thought he might really start a nuclear war. Reagan called for a face-to-face summit in November 1985 to establish better relations with Gorbachev.

Vitaly Yurchenko

One of the strangest spy stories of 1985 began in early August when KGB officer Vitaly Yurchenko defected to the CIA at the American embassy in Rome, Italy. The defection lasted only three months. On November 2 in Washington, D.C., while dining with a CIA official, Yurchenko bolted away through the restaurant's kitchen and disappeared onto the crowded streets. (As of December 2002, the restaurant where Yurchenko bolted still served a platter of pigs' feet with a "Yurchenko Shooter," a shot of Russian vodka.) After leaving the restaurant, Yurchenko walked to the Soviet embassy on Wisconsin Avenue about a mile away. There he claimed that he had been drugged and kidnapped by the CIA and held in Fredericksburg, Virginia. On November 6, he was flown back to Moscow.

Yurchenko's strange tale about being drugged by the CIA may have saved his life; otherwise he most likely would have been executed for defecting to the United States. In reality, during his three months with the CIA, Yurchenko answered many perplexing questions and helped settle controversies concerning various persons suspected of selling information to the Soviets; he also confirmed CIA suspicions about moles located in Canada and Germany. Yurchenko's information brought about several arrests, including the arrest of Ronald Pelton, a disgruntled former NSA employee. Pelton had sold Soviet agents his recollections of classified information dating from 1980 to 1985. He was arrested on November 24, 1985.

Larry Wu-Tai Chin

On November 22, 1985, another spy career came to an end when the FBI arrested Larry Wu-Tai Chin (1923–1986), a Chinese American mole who spied for China for decades. Chin had uncovered intelligence for the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) for at least thirty years. Chin began employment with the U.S. Army Liaison Mission in China in 1943. He transferred to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) in Okinawa in 1952, to Santa Rosa, California, in 1961, and to northern Virginia in 1970. He retired from the FBIS in 1981. Reportedly, he was paid several hundred thousand dollars for his many years of funneling information to the PRC. In February 1986, Chin was convicted of espionage crimes, but he committed suicide in his prison cell before he was sentenced.

Jonathan Pollard

Another November arrest was that of Jonathan Jay Pollard (1954–), who carried out intelligence activities for Israel's Defense Ministry, in its Office of Scientific Liaison (code name Lakam). This office was not just concerned with the sharing of scientific studies; it was also involved in intelligence operations.

In 1983, U.S. president Reagan had signed an agreement with Israel, a strong U.S. ally, to hand over to Israel all information the United States acquired regarding Israel's national security. However, there were limits to what the United States would share. Israel had from time to time requested information the United States refused to provide. Pollard, a civilian naval intelligence employee, provided a way for Israel to acquire documents that the United States did not want Israel to have. Although he was paid for the documents he provided, Pollard apparently was also genuinely motivated to provide the Israelis with information he believed they needed for their national security.

Between July 1984 and his arrest on November 21, 1985, he provided a large amount of raw intelligence material from the Anti-Terrorist Alert Center (ATAC) Threat Analysis Division, Naval Investigation Service, where he was a watch officer. A sampling included information on air defense systems and chemical warfare production related to Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, and Syria; Soviet shipments of arms to Arab states; and detailed information on the way the United States collects its intelligence information. Never before in U.S. intelligence history had someone stolen so much top-secret information in such a short time. U.S. officials considered all the information to be highly damaging to the U.S. intelligence community, especially the information on how the United States collects intelligence.

Pollard's arrest proved extremely embarrassing to the Israeli government, which quickly labeled Pollard's activities as a "rogue operation" that Israel had not controlled. In a U.S. court, Pollard received the harshest sentence possible: life in prison. By the late 1990s, there was considerable pressure from many mainstream Jewish organizations in the United States and Israel to free Pollard. The groups believed Pollard's actions had provided much-needed information to Israel. The Israeli government, supporting this point of view, officially acknowledged that Pollard was an Israeli agent and then attempted to have him released to Israel. Yet because of the highly sensitive and damaging intelligence Pollard disclosed, the United States had not acted to alter his sentence as of 2003.

1990 to 2001

A Russian coup on a statue

On August 20, 1991, as the Cold War came to an end (see Chapter 15, End of the Cold War), tens of thousands of Moscow residents gathered around a massive 12-ton (11-metric ton) bronze statue of Feliks Dzerzhinski (1877–1926), which had stood for many, many years outside KGB headquarters. Dzerzhinski was the brutal chief of the early KGB (or Cheka, as it was then called). Shouting "Iron Felix" and "Down with the KGB," the crowd watched as two huge construction cranes removed the statue. The removal of the statue symbolically marked the end of the old KGB. By the end of 1991, reorganization of the KGB would be complete. With Soviet premier Boris Yeltsin (1931–) now in charge, the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI) and the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) were established, replacing various divisions of the KGB. FAPSI was in charge of cryptographic analysis and SIGINT communications. SVR was in charge of fighting terrorism; gathering political, economic, and scientific intelligence; and preventing drug trafficking. Russia's SVR and the United States' CIA agreed to possible cooperation in several of these areas. The GRU remained basically intact but was under new leadership.

Three mole arrests: Sombolay, Ames, and Hanssen

In the United States, the intelligence community would face three highly publicized mole arrests: Albert Sombolay in March 1991, Aldrich Ames on February 23, 1994, and Robert Hanssen on February 18, 2001. Sombolay, a specialist 4th class with the Army Artillery, was stationed in Baumholden, Germany, at the start of the Persian Gulf War (1991). The U.S. goal in the Gulf War was to liberate the tiny oil-rich nation of Kuwait, which had been invaded by Iraq. Born in Zaire, Africa, Sombolay had become a U.S. citizen in 1978 and joined the U.S. Army in 1985. He was sent to Germany in December 1990. From Germany, Sombolay provided to the Jordanian embassy in nearby Brussels, Belgium, information on U.S. troop deployment, military identification cards, and information on chemical warfare. The U.S. Army Military Intelligence arrested Sombolay in March 1991. His only motive for the espionage was money.

Aldrich Ames, known as Rick, was a CIA agent whose chief purpose over the years was to penetrate Soviet intelligence by recruiting foreigners to be moles for the CIA inside the Soviet Union. Instead, Ames was the most damaging mole the CIA ever suffered. In the mid-1980s, using his intimate knowledge of those spying for the United States inside the Soviet Union, he single-handedly destroyed CIA covert operations in that country. He sold to the KGB the names of twenty-four men and one woman, all Russians spying for the United States. All of them were arrested, and many of them were executed. Ames put dozens of other CIA officers in the Soviet Union at risk. For this, he was paid $2 million, and another $2 million was kept in Moscow for him.

Not until the early 1990s did the CIA seriously suspect and look for a mole. Assuming he would never be caught, Ames carried on with his espionage activities. By October 1992, Ames had come under increased CIA surveillance. It was not until February 1994 that the CIA felt it had enough evidence to arrest Ames and his wife, Maria del Rosario Casas. Offering full cooperation, Ames kept bargaining until his wife got only a five-year sentence and he got a life sentence without parole, rather than death. Moscow intelligence officials publicly lamented the arrest of Ames and their loss of a key information source. Ames remains a huge embarrassment to the CIA.

Robert Philip Hanssen

Robert Philip Hanssen (1944–) was sworn into the FBI on January 12, 1976, and remained an FBI agent for twenty-five years. Apparently Hanssen was the exception to the rule that spies do not grow up planning to be spies. It seems Hanssen had decided to become a spy in his teen years or even earlier. From childhood through college, he subscribed to MAD magazine and devoured the "Spy vs. Spy" feature. Unsettled during his college years, Hanssen attended dental school for a short while before switching to Northwestern University and graduating with a master's degree in business administration (MBA).

Hanssen married Bonnie Wauck in August 1968, and they had six children together. They were devoted Roman Catholics and belonged to a very conservative Catholic group, Opus Dei. By the late 1970s, Hanssen was assigned to the elite New York City FBI office. Money was very tight for the family. It was at this time that Hanssen made contact with Russian agents in New York. He purportedly gave them worthless information but was paid $20,000, perhaps to encourage his activities. Bonnie discovered him counting the cash in the basement. She marched Hanssen to their Opus Dei priest, who told Hanssen to give the money to charity and be done with such activity. Bonnie, too, demanded that he stop his espionage activities.

At the FBI, Hanssen was recognized for his brilliant mind, but he had few interpersonal skills. He was seen as a loner and an arrogant person. Nevertheless, he continued to receive important assignments. In 1983, he was assigned to the Soviet Analytical Unit in Washington, D.C., and his personnel classification was somewhere above Top-Secret. Yet his salary failed to provide a decent living for his family. On October 4, 1985, Hanssen "turned." He revealed to the KGB the names of three of its officers who were working for the United States as double agents. Over the next five years, he delivered to the KGB thousands of secret documents, including some that contained information on nuclear weapons placement and satellite positions. In return, he received hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hanssen continued funneling information right up until his arrest by FBI agents at a drop site on February 18, 2001. Hanssen was sentenced to life in prison without parole, but an annual $38,000 widow's pension was arranged for his wife.

Vasili Mitrokhin—KGB archivist

Vasili Mitrokhin (1922–), a longtime archivist for the KGB, compiled his own private record of the KGB's foreign operations. In 1956, Mitrokhin was assigned to check and seal three hundred thousand files in the KGB archive. For almost thirty years, Mitrokhin copied KGB documents by hand. At first, he wrote notes on scraps of paper, threw them in the wastebasket, then retrieved them later. After a while, he put his notes on regular paper and stuffed his trouser pockets. KGB guards never stopped Mitrokhin. On the weekends, he and his family would travel to a family home in the country. There, Mitrokhin hid much of his material under the floorboards.

Mitrokhin retired from the KGB in 1984 after thirty years of work in the KGB archives. In 1992, he defected to Britain with his family. Mitrokhin brought with him his KGB files, which he believed were a part of Soviet history that needed to be preserved and shared. His files covered the entire Cold War and went back as far as 1918. In a book published in 1999 by Christopher Andrew and Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, the FBI called the Mitrokhin files the "most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source."

For More Information


Aldrich, Richard J. The Hidden Hand: Britain, America, and Cold War Secret Intelligence. London: John Murray, 2001.

Andrew, Christopher, and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.

Andrew, Christopher, and Vasili Mitrokhin. The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Earley, Pete. Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames. New York: Berkley Books, 1997.

Earley, Pete, and Gerald Shur. WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program. New York: Bantam, 2002.

Garthoff, Raymond L. A Journey through the Cold War: A Memoir of Containment and Coexistence. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2001.

Gates, Robert M. From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

Havill, Adrian. The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold: The Secret Life of FBI Double Agent Robert Hanssen. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.

Isaacs, Jeremy, and Taylor Downing. Cold War: An Illustrated History, 1945–1991. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998.

Mahoney, M. H. Women in Espionage: A Biographical Dictionary. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1993.

Oberdorfer, Don. From the Cold War to a New Era: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1983–1991. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Philby, Kim. My Silent War: The Soviet Master Agent Tells His Own Story. New York: Grove Press, 1968.

Platt, Richard. Spy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Web Sites

Central Intelligence Agency. (accessed on August 11, 2003).

Court TV's Crime Library. (accessed on August 11, 2003).

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (accessed on August 11, 2003).

International Spy Museum. (accessed on August 11, 2003).

National Security Agency. (accessed on August 11, 2003).

"Secret, Lies, and Atomic Spies." Nova Online. (accessed on August 11, 2003).

"The VENONA Home Page." National Security Agency. (accessed on August 11, 2003).

Words to Know

Capitalism: An economic system in which property and businesses are privately owned. Prices, production, and distribution of goods are determined by competition in a market relatively free of government intervention.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): A U.S. agency that gathers and interprets the meaning of information on foreign activities; it also carries out secret foreign operations.

Cold War: A prolonged conflict for world dominance from 1945 to 1991 between the two superpowers, the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. The weapons of conflict were commonly words of propaganda and threats.

Communism: A system of government in which the nation's leaders are selected by a single political party that controls all aspects of society. Private ownership of property is eliminated and government directs all economic production. The goods produced and accumulated wealth are, in theory, shared relatively equally by all. All religious practices are banned.

Counterintelligence: Protection of a country and its agencies from spy activities carried out by enemies.

Espionage: Spying; the gathering and analyzing of information about enemies or potential enemies.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): The law enforcement agency of the U.S. Justice Department.

GRU: The Soviet military intelligence agency.

Intelligence: Information gathered through espionage activities.

KGB: The Soviet state security organization, 1917–2000. The KGB carried out thousands of murders under Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and was the most powerful Soviet intelligence agency. It handled all espionage operations, both foreign and domestic.

Military Intelligence, Department 5 (MI-5): Great Britain's counterintelligence agency; responsible for national security within that country's borders. Throughout the Cold War, it concentrated on Soviet spy networks operating inside Britain.

Military Intelligence, Department 6 (MI-6): Agency in Great Britain responsible for gathering intelligence worldwide; the British equivalent of the United States' CIA.

Moles: Double agents who betray the agency for whom they work.

National Security Agency (NSA): The United States' prime intelligence organization that listens to and analyzes foreign communications.

Reconnaissance: The act of surveying an area to gain information.

U-2: A U.S. espionage aircraft with a wingspan of 80 feet and a length of 50 feet that carried cameras capable of photographing a 120-mile-wide area.

VENONA: The code name for a program conducted by the U.S. Army's Signals Intelligence Service in 1943 to collect and break the cipher-coded messages of the Soviet KGB and GRU.

People to Know

Anthony F. Blunt (1907–1983): One of the KGB's famed Cambridge Spies.

Guy Burgess (1910–1963): One of the KGB's famed Cambridge Spies.

Winston Churchill (1874–1965): British prime minister, 1940–45, 1951–55.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969): Thirty-fourth U.S. president, 1953–61.

Klaus Fuchs (1911–1988): British scientist who worked on the U.S. Manhattan Project and began passing detailed notes to the Soviets about the work being done on the development of a nuclear bomb.

Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894–1971): Soviet premier, 1958–64.

Donald Maclean (1913–1983): One of the KGB's famed Cambridge Spies.

Kim Philby (1911–1988): One of the KGB's famed Cambridge Spies.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945): Thirty-second U.S. president, 1933–45.

Joseph Stalin (1879–1953): Dictatorial Russian/Soviet leader, 1924–53.

Harry S. Truman (1884–1972): Thirty-third U.S. president, 1945–53.

Decipher a Message

A cipher message is written with letters or symbols that replace only one letter of a word at a time. For example, "bab" might stand for the letter s; "tzy" might be the letter a. Hundreds of thousands of combinations are possible. An encrypted message is written in cipher rather than in plain text in order to conceal its meaning. (The prefix crypt- means hidden.) In World War II, the Germans used an electronic cipher machine called an Enigma to send messages. The Enigma looked like a typewriter, but when a letter key was hit, the machine automatically printed a cipher for the regular letter. During the war, U.S. intelligence agencies encrypted their messages to agents. A codebreaker was someone who used cryptanalysis to decode such messages.

Cold War spies carried tiny code-books or "keylists" for deciphering messages. The books could be quickly disposed of in an emergency, even if it meant swallowing each tiny page. Below is an encrypted message and the key. Figure out the message.

Message: "cdexyzabcrstfghxyz, lmnzabijkopquvwyab rstfghxyz fghrstfghxyzmstqub rstyab lmnzabxyzqub yabxyzxyztoo."

Keylist: a = rst; b = cde; e = xyz; g = uvw; h = zab; i = ijk; l = mst; m = too; n = opq; r = fgh; s = yab; t = lmn; w = abc; y = qub.

Answer: "Beware, things are rarely as they seem."


Tradecraft is the word spies use to refer to the tricks and techniques they use in their covert, or secret, operations. Although the advanced technology of satellites plays an integral part in espionage, human spies must still provide documents and samplings and use their judgment while conducting on-site sleuthing and when interpreting information.

Tradecraft remains just as important as it was in the twentieth century. Tricks and techniques are often handed down from one generation of spies to the next. For example, the "dead drop" used throughout Cold War spy operations was still in use in the twenty-first century. An inconspicuous signal, such as a piece of masking tape on a telephone pole or a certain type of soft drink can sitting on a rock, signaled that materials could be dropped for quick pickup or that a payment was waiting to be retrieved. Spies always received specific instructions about the dead drop site and a map with the most efficient way in and out of an area.

Tradecraft tools

  • Lock picks: in the hands of an expert, a key ring holding several lock picks provided a swift entry through any door.
  • Cameras: located in cigarette cases, purses, buttons, and watches. Spies in the 1990s sometimes wore a pair of ordinary-looking sunglasses with a tiny camera on the rim. The camera could be activated by a certain eye blink sequence.
  • Radio transmitters: located in shoe heels, a false tooth, or a watch.
  • Message carriers: hollow coins, shoe heels, shaving cans, hollow nails and bolts, umbrella handles, cuff links.
  • Hidden weapons: knives and bullet-firing devices, located in lipstick holders, pipes, cigarettes, rings, umbrellas, or flashlights. When activated, a knife concealed in a shoe sole could pop out and make a spy's kick extremely dangerous.
  • Messages: could be written in code, invisible ink (made visible with ultraviolet flashlights), or tiny microdots no bigger than a period at the end of a sentence.
  • Listening devices: a "bug" in telephones, an audio surveillance device to allow eavesdropping on telephone conversations, tiny microphones placed in walls to eavesdrop on conversations.
  • For the spy on the run: disguise kit with sunglasses, cigar, nose, wig, makeup; escape kits with compass, maps, flashlight, candles, a lighter (for warmth), escape knives, rubber gloves, chisels, and lock picks.
  • The ultimate tradecraft tool: the "James Bond" spy car from the 1964 movie Goldfinger. The car, an Aston Martin, was fully loaded with machine guns, tire shredders, armor plating, and rotating tires. Although specifics are top-secret, the official vehicle for the U.S. president reportedly has some Bond-type protective features.

Learn more about tools of the trade at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., or visit the Web site at

Shadow, Ninja, Cloak, and Dagger

Espionage, or spying, involves gathering, analyzing, and communicating secret information, or as it is called in spy jargon, intelligence. The profession of spying has long recognized four spy types: shadow, ninja, cloak, and dagger. The shadow spy quietly collects information, generally at a distance from the action. Eavesdropping, tape recording, photography, film developing, and deciphering coded messages are part of shadow spying. Patience and perseverance are required. Shadow spies fit pieces of information together to understand and predict the plans and activities of foreign governments, intelligence agencies, and specific individuals.

Ninjas know no barriers. Seemingly invisible, with the slyness of a cat, ninjas move in and out of buildings without keys, find entrances into forbidden places, or slip in and out of personal relationships. Once they have collected the information they need, they move on. Vanishing into thin air is their specialty.

The cloak spy operates with an air of sophistication. The cloak spy is a smooth talker, self-assured, witty, and charming.

Never one to stay in the shadows, this extrovert communicates easily and often is the most likable person in a group. He or she can glean information from a conversation without ever drawing suspicion. The cloak spy is sometimes in disguise. Simple sunglasses might be adequate, but cloak spies on the run can drastically change their physical appearance with makeup, false noses, false eyebrows, wigs, and clothes. A cloak spy always uses state-ofthe-art communications tools, such as tiny cameras, recorders, transmitters, radios, and cipher keylists.

Once the sleuthing is finished and the gathered information is analyzed and communicated, dagger, the spy of action, moves in. The dagger's action plan is exacting and must be carried out quickly and decisively. The dagger carries the latest in defensive weapons and escape kits. This is the spy type who makes the raid, carries out the kidnapping, destroys an enemy's communications, or sabotages infrastructures such as bridges, roads, or airports. No need for dazzle or charm—the dagger is simply trouble.

Homing Pigeons

Although espionage and the latest technology went hand in hand in the mid-twentieth century, the humble homing pigeon remained a valuable part of covert operations during that time. These small, powerful birds flew great distances and had a remarkable knack of finding their way home.

Homing pigeons were the earliest spy planes of World War II and the first satellites of the 1950s. Soldiers and spies carried the birds hidden in clothes or packs, then released them for photography or sending messages. The homing pigeons flew with small, constantly clicking cameras strapped to their chests, photographing everything in their flight path. Homing pigeons also carried messages in leg canisters. The messages were reduced to tiny dots containing microphotography. Capable of flying in any weather, homing pigeons were sent on hundreds of thousands of missions during World War I and World War II and through the 1940s and

1950s. An amazing 95 percent of the missions were completed, with the pigeons returning safely to their home base.

About this article

Espionage in the Cold War

Updated About content Print Article