Tuesday, November 9, 2010


During the Cold War, one of the front lines was in the Soviet capital, where the Central Intelligence Agency and Secret Intelligence Service maintained stations in their respective embassies and attempted to conduct operations, despite heavy surveillance from the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate. In the immediate postwar era, the CIA decided not to establish a station in Moscow, but when in 1953 that policy was reversed, the results were disastrous. The first CIAofficer dispatched to the capital, Edward Ellis Smith, had fought in Europe during World War II, and afterward had worked in G-2 military intelligence in Washington, D.C. He learned Russian and in 1948 had been assigned to Moscow under assistant military attaché cover. In September 1950, when he returned to Washington, Smith joined the CIA and was to be the very first CIA officer sent to Moscow working under semiofficial cover. His mission was to prepare dead drops for Maj. Piotr Popov, the CIA’s first source inside the GRU. Popov was a walk-in who had volunteered to spy while he had been posted to Vienna, but the CIA needed a method of communicating with him upon his return to Moscow.
However, Smith succumbed to the attractions of Valya, his very alluring Soviet maid, and was compromised in a classic honeytrap and blackmailed by the KGB. Then Paul Garbler was dispatched to replace him. Smith was obliged to resign from the CIA, despite having confessed his failings, and Garbler did not have any more success in attempting to run the CIA’s only GRU source.
The U.S. embassy in Moscow has long been the target of Soviet espionage, particularly the fifth floor, which accommodated the CIA station and the 300-square-foot “yellow submarine” metallic box in which the most sensitive work was undertaken. In 1952 an ingenious device was discovered concealed inside the Great Seal of the United States that had been presented to the ambassador, Averell Harriman, and placed over his desk. The resonance apparatus required no independent power supply but simply resonated at a particular frequency when bombarded with microwaves (see SATYR). The resulting lowlevel transmissions were picked up by the KGB nearby, and the equipment continued in operation until the seal was examined in 1952. Since then, the embassy has experienced almost continuous technical surveillance, although it took a tip from a KGB defector, Yuri Nosenko, in May 1964 to find no less than 40 bugs hidden inside the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors, which had been added in 1953 shortly before the building was occupied.
In 1978 a tunnel was discovered under the chancery in Tchaikovsky Street, and plans were made to build an entirely new building at a site nearby. However, the new construction, built by Soviet contractors, was dogged by frequent discoveries of eavesdropping devices embedded in the very fabric of the structure.
In 1984 more bugs were found inside typewriters used in the embassy, but knowledge of how they had been planted did not emerge until December 1986 when a U.S. Marine, Sergeant Clayton J. Lonetree, approached Jim Olson, the CIAstation chief in Vienna, and confessed to having allowed KGB personnel into the classified areas of the embassy in Moscow at night. Lonetree had been the victim of a honeytrap conducted by a KGB agent, Violette Seina, while he had been posted to Moscow between September 1984 and March 1986.
Seina previously had worked at the embassy as a locally employed telephonist and translator, but her genial “Uncle Sasha” was actually a skilled KGB officer, Aleksei G. Yefimov, who manipulated the young native American and persuaded him to compromise classified information.
Lonetree’s confession resulted in the detention of six other marines, including Corporal Arnold Bracey, who was suspected of having had several affairs with various Soviet women. In the end, the charges against all except Lonetree were dropped, and he was convicted in August 1987 in a military court on 12 counts of espionage and collaborating with the Soviets to supply floor plans of the embassies in Moscow and Vienna and identifying U.S. intelligence personnel. Lonetree was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment, but following a further, detailed inquiry by the Naval Investigative Service, it was concluded that the KGB never did gain access to the embassy, and his sentence was cut in May 1988 to 25 years, in 1992 to 20 years, and then to 15 years. Finally, he was released in February 1996.
A year later, in July 1997 former director of central intelligence James R. Schlesinger completed a review of security procedures at the embassy in Moscow and recommended that the top three floors of the new embassy be rebuilt and that a new, six-floor annex be constructed to accommodate a high-security unit. It was not until May 2000 that the new embassy was completed, having been dismantled and rebuilt at a cost of $240 million, nine years after Boris Yeltsin’s chairman of the KGB, Vadim Bakatin, had handed over to the U.S. ambassador, Robert S. Strauss, the blueprints to the KGB’s entire bugging system. In the new facility, the top two floors, reserved for the use of the National Security Agency and CIA, had been replaced with four ultrasecure floors.
CIA station chiefs in Moscow have included Hugh Montgomery, Barry Kelly, Jack Downing, Robert Fulton, Gus Hathaway, Carl Gebhardt, Murat Natirboff, Dick Stolz, Michael Cline, and Burton Gerber