THE SPIES AND THEIR MASTERS
The high-level defections were a summer-long phenomenon, and for a change the most important traffic seemed to be westbound. One after another, in Athens, Rome and London, senior Soviet intelligence officers sought sanctuary in the capitalist world, apparently triggering an exodus of compromised West Germans as well as a series of diplomatic expulsions by Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Initially, the movements appeared to be just another flare-up in the traditional East-West espionage industry, a competition normally involving far more cloak than dagger. But last week the fallout from the defections continued to settle on both sides of the Atlantic. For one thing, a parliamentary inquiry was launched in Bonn. For another, a socalled “mole hunt” was under way in Washington. As well, a former employee of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was on the run. As a result, what was expected to be the Autumn of the Summit-President Ronald Reagan meeting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva on Nov. 19 and 20—was rapidly becoming the Season of the Spy.
Devious: The Soviet defectors—if sincere—were well placed to deliver priceless information to Western intelligence agencies. At the same time, they raised the nightmare spectre of exposed agents and revealed methods for the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB). But it remained uncertain whether the defections represented a major gain for the West or were part of a larger and more devious KGB “disinformation” program. In the shadowy world of the spymasters, absolute certainties are as rare as a midwinter heat wave in Moscow.
The intelligence war involves high stakes, huge costs and hard men. For both East and West the end always justifies the means. The spymasters on both sides of the ideological divide are committed to two main objectives: first,
to gather as much military, scientific, industrial and political information as possible; and second, to confuse the other side, often with false material. KGB chairman Viktor M. Chebrikov, CIA director William Casey, Ml6 director general Sir Colin Frederick Figures and Markus (Misha) Wolf, chief of East Germany’s Central Intelligence Directorate (HVA), have to be at once ruthless, cunning, patient and, above all, skeptical.
Caution: For his part, Thomas
D’Arcy Finn, director of the new Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), advocates caution in assessing the latest Soviet defections. In a rare interview Finn told Maclean's (page 40): “From time to time you do get a spate of defections, either from East to West or West to East. I am not sure that one can draw any particular conclusions.”
Perhaps not, but the Soviet defectors
were all senior agents. The troika: Sergei Bokhan, 50, deputy director of Soviet military intelligence in Athens, who defected in the Greek capital in May; Vitaly Yurchenko, 50, a high-ranking Moscow-based KGB officer who disappeared on July 28 during a “diplomatic” visit to
Rome, reappearing in the United States; and Oleg Gordievsky, 46, the senior KGB officer in London, who defected to Britain early in September after a 19-year career as a double agent. Last week CIA interrogators were “debriefing” Bokhan and Yurchenko under strict security at separate safe houses in the United States while agents from Ml5, British counterintelligence, were questioning Gordievsky.
Storm: Bokhan’s interrogation swiftly caused a political storm in Greece, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Earlier, concern about Greek security breaches had led U.S. authorities to delay delivery of 40 new F-16C electronically advanced jet fighters worth a total of $1 billion. Last month Greek police charged a navy officer and two businessmen with passing defence secrets and electronic equipment to Soviet diplomats. And last week the conservative opposition charged that Soviet agents had infiltrated Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou’s Socialist government, as well as the Greek armed forces and news media. Papandreou dismissed the charge as “a cheap political slander.”
At the same time, spokesmen for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government—which swiftly expelled 31 Soviet citizens after Gordievsky’s defection-made it clear that it expected to resume normal relations with Moscow. Indeed, London and Moscow are expected to sign a new five-year trade agreement early next month.
Still, the knowledge that a KGB officer as highly placed as Gordievsky had been a double agent and was passing detailed information to Ml5 would likely have caused a major panic among Soviet
agents still in Britain. And the apparent success of the Gordievsky operation seemed bound to reassure, at least partially, British intelligence’s so-called “cousins” in the CIA, after years of embarrassing security breaches highlighted by the defections in the 1950s of
highly placed moles H.A.R. (Kim) Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean.
Of the three Soviet defectors, Yurchenko was the last to be publicly identified. But ever since Washington acknowledged his presence on Sept. 26, the U.S. intelligence community has been working feverishly—in search of spies inside the CIA itself. In the past, U.S. officials have steadfastly maintained that the Soviets had never managed to penetrate the American intelligence establishment, at least partly because of the effectiveness of regular lie-detector tests on agency employees. But last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an unprecedented manhunt for Edward L. Howard, 33, a CIA agent who lost his job in intelligence 18 months ago and who apparently was named by Yurchenko as a Soviet spy.
Missing: The FBI, which is responsible for internal American security, went so far as to release a picture of Howard and ask for the public’s help, even though spokesmen for most intelligence sources said that he had fled to Europe. Then, late last week the FBI formally charged the missing Howard with selling U.S. intelligence secrets to the Soviets. An affidavit filed in U.S. district court in Albuquerque, N.M., said he met KGB agents in Austria a year ago and that they paid him for information.
David Durenberger (R-Minn.), for one, chairman of the Senate intelligence
committee, said the Howard case “might be as serious as anything this country has seen in the past.” By week’s end, there were unconfirmed reports that information passed from Howard to the KGB had led to the execution of a Soviet official in Moscow—allegedly for providing information to U.S. agents. And the FBI was investigating another, unnamed ex-CIA employee, also suspected of working for the Soviets. The CIA fired Howard after he failed a lie-detector test and complained about an impending posting to Moscow. During the past 18 months he had worked as an economic analyst for the New Mexico state legislature. Described by neighbors in Santa Fe, N.M., as a “dedicated family man,” Howard left his wife, Mary, a note saying he did not expect to see her or their two-year-old son, Lee, again. The note read in part, “Sell the house, jeep, etc. and move in with one of our parents and be happy.” Surveillance: Howard’s disappearance, on a moonless night in the desert, embarrassed the FBI, which was supposed to have him under surveillance. Two days before he vanished the FBI had confronted him with questions about links with the Soviets. Said a Reagan administration official: “The FBI screwed up by letting this guy slip.” Although Yurchenko’s defection became public only recently, the Soviets have marked him absent for more than two months—since he disappeared after telling members of the Soviet Embassy staff in Rome that he was going for a stroll through the Vatican. If, as some
sources say, Yurchenko held the KGB rank of general and was in the very highest echelons of the vast Soviet security organization, his unexplained absence would have provoked the intelligence equivalent of a nuclear red alert.
Within a week of Yurchenko’s disappearance the first of a series of espionage-related movements began in West Germany, causing a political setback to the administration of Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Among the most prominent to flee: Sonja Lüneburg, 61, for 12 years personal secretary to Economics Minister Martin Bangemann. Another defector was Hans Joachim Tiedge, 48, a hard-drinking counterintelligence officer responsible for tracking down the agents whom East Germany’s “Misha”
Wolf sends flooding into the federal republic every year.
Lüneburg remains officially unaccounted for, although she is widely believed to be in Moscow.
As for Tiedge, he disappeared on Aug. 19, only to surface four days later in East Germany. According to experts in Bonn, Tiedge fled with enough knowledge to cause serious damage to Western intelligence operations. Last week the West German parliament (Bundestag) formally established an inquiry—expected to last until mid-1986—into what the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) described as the worst spy scandal in decades. The investigation will focus on the competence of Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann, who was Tiedge’s ultimate boss. Earlier, the SPD declared that Zimmermann had been derelict in his duties and should resign.
Suspicion: The Soviet defections coincided with a major public relations effort to present Gorbachev in the West as a modern, personable leader of the Communist world’s superpower. And they threatened to heighten suspicion—if not the tension —between Washington and Moscow in the crucial weeks leading up to the first summit conference since former president Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev met in Vienna in 1979. But some intelligence sources in Britain said that Gorbachev himself inadvertantly provoked the defections by ordering Chebrikov to shake up the KGB establishment.
Like the CIA’s Casey, 72, who is the first American spymaster to be a full member of a presidential cabinet, Chebrikov, 62, wields massive power in the Soviet Union. American and Soviet spymasters occupy unique positions, with the vast forces under their command and their access to unlimited and unaccountable funds. Indeed, former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov used the chairmanship of the KGB to win supreme
power. And in the United States former CIA director George Bush has been a heartbeat from the White House for the five years he has served as Reagan’s vice-president.
Lonely: Secret agents live, work and sometimes die in the shadows of a wellhidden underworld. In effect, they are lonely front-line soldiers in a war that is seldom seen. Deception is their stock-intrade, information their most valued currency, exposure their constant concern. Modern spies risk disgrace, imprisonment and —in rare circumstances—execution in order to practise their ancient trade.
Their triumphs necessarily remain secret, while their failures can lead to glaring publicity, international outrage and national retaliation.
Still, the number of spies continues to expand.
Lavishly funded by governments locked in grim military and economic competition, espionage has become a growth industry.
Indeed, money has become increasingly important in recruiting new talent. Until recently, ideology and blackmail were the most common motivations for treason in the West. But materialism is overtaking them. According to Stanislav Levchenko, a former KGB officer based in Japan who defected to the West in 1979, there is a line in a KGB training manual that says, “All Americans can be bought.” And in
testimony before Congress last June, Philip A. Parker, the FBI’s deputy director of intelligence, declared, “Hostile intelligence services seek to identify people with financial or professional problems that might make them vulnerable to exploitation.” He added that among the 22 Americans and foreign nationals arrested by the FBI on spyrelated charges in the past 18 months, money was the most common reason for treason.
According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the accused leader of the so-called Walker family spy ring—former U.S. Navy chief warrant officer John A. Walker Jr., 47—may have netted up to $100,000 a year from the Soviets. Prosecutors allege that Walker sold vital military se| crets to Moscow for 17 jj years, eventually recruit2 ing his son Michael, a £ seaman on the nuclear 5 aircraft carrier USS Nimz itz, and his close friend Jerry Whitworth, a retired navy radio specialist, to help gather material. All three are awaiting trial on espionage charges, while Walker’s brother Arthur, convicted in August, will be sentenced in Norfolk, Va., next week.
Money was also cited in the bizarre case of former FBI agent Richard Miller, 48, of Los Angeles, accused of selling secret counterintelligence documents to convicted Soviet spy Svetlana Ogorodnikov and her husband, Nikolai Ogorodnikov, both of whom are currently serving U.S. prison sentences. Prosecutors claim that Miller, who was fired by the FBI shortly before his arrest last October, received $65,000 for the documents. As well, the prosecution alleges, Miller fell into a so-called “honey trap”—the espionage term for sexual seduction, a common recruitment device often used as a prelude to blackmail—and was Svetlana’s lover during a four-month period.
Beyond the inducements of sex, money and ideology, the spymasters use psychological analysis in enlisting agents spy on their own countries. The desire for venge against wrongs, real or imagined, is one frequently exploited character trait. The thirst for intrigue and romance is another. Said Dr. Steven R. Pieczenik, a Bethesda, Md., psychiatrist who acts as a state department consultant on security clearances:
“Some spies have a Casablanca attitude.”
Risks: Because the spymasters’ appetite for information is insatiable, their demands are relentless. For low-level agents, the risks rapidly escalate. According to Dr. Louis West, a University of California psychiatrist who has written several studies on intelligence-related matters for the U.S. government, professional recruiters “use a carrotand-stick approach. The carrot is more money for doing more work, and the
stick is the threat of exposure for work already done. The bottom line is that you work for them forever.”
Expelled: Unlike most amateurs, professional spies often get a second chance after being caught. And Vladimir Gavryuskin, 61, even managed to get a third. Gavryuskin was one of a group of 40 Soviets expelled for spying on Britain in 1968, where he was second economic secretary at the Soviet Embassy. Subse-
quently, he was posted to Ottawa and later became Soviet consul-general in Montreal. Then, in 1982 Canada expelled him, along with 17 other Soviets whom Ottawa named as spies.Undeterred, Gavryuskin persevered in his “diplomatic” career and last month he became the first Soviet ambassador to the tiny nation of Lesotho, a country completely surrounded by troubled South Africa. His embassy has a staff of 27—despite the fact that Lesotho and Moscow have almost no dealings.
But for most, an espionage career affords little glamor and even less of the high living so common among the spies of fiction. Still, the image persists, promoted by the James Bond movie genre and countless paperback thrillers. And in a curious case of life imitating art, espionage professionals have adopted some of the terms invented by bestselling novelists and made popular by the news media. The modern nomencla-
ture of spying—moles, sleepers, honeytraps, cut-outs, safe-houses—is in vivid contrast to the grim realities of the trade. Much of it was coined by British author John le Carré, whose novels include Smiley ’s People and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and who chose to use his art to imitate life. Le Carré used British spymaster Sir Maurice Oldfield, who died in 1978, as a model for George Smiley, and he based the sinister Karla, Smiley’s fictional Soviet opponent, on East Germany’s Wolf.
Network: As for spies “coming in from the cold,” among the first to do so was Igor Gouzenko, a young cipher clerk at the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa. Gouzenko defected, walking away from his desk on Sept. 5, 1945, with hundreds of documents detailing a vast, previously unsuspected network of Soviet agents operating in North America. For his invaluable assistance Gouzenko received a pension, a new identity and protection by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police until his death in 1982 in the small Ontario community where he made his home. Gouzenko blazed a trail —and helped establish the ground rules for a clandestine East-West struggle that has never stopped. Four decades after Gouzenko, the three senior Soviet intelligence officers who are now being debriefed by U.S. and British agents can probably expect treatment similar to the kind that Gouzenko received from the spymasters of the West. But their pensions will be bigger—if they are telling the truth.