The mystery of Lord Victor Rothschild’s (1910-1990) connections to Soviet intelligence has vexed researchers for over a half century now. As the scion of an ultra-wealthy banking house and confidante to Winston Churchill, Rothschild was an influential figure in Britain’s power elite for decades, occupying key positions in counterintelligence, the energy sector and strategic policy planning. But was he also the notorious Cambridge Spy Ring’s “Fifth Man,” a spy for Moscow who could access the crown jewels of UK secrets?
The Cambridge network – consisting of Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross – has gone down in history as one of Soviet secret service’s most successful penetrations, to the shame of the British establishment. Long after their exposure, Rothschild was well-situated as a grey cardinal of UK politics, seemingly untouchable. Continue reading Victor Rothschild, Soviet Spy →
Did Russian intelligence sway the outcome of the 2016 United States presidential race? Ask the CIA and mainstream Western media organs, and they’ll have you believe that yes, it was none other than Moscow’s shadowy operatives who managed to infiltrate Donald Trump into the newly gold-bedecked Oval Office. Blame the Russians, our betters declare, rather than a year of skewed coverage and loaded polls. While the theory has become popular among opposition to the new administration, it is based on exactly zero evidence – which means we should designate it under the establishment’s own rubric as “fake news.”
To bolster the charge, the US Intelligence Community (of Iraq WMD fame) has released a public report intimating that Vladimir Putin “hacked the election.” Through cyberwarfare, agents of influence and information campaigns, we are told, the Kremlin pulled off the unthinkable and effectively ran a regime-change operation in America. Warmongering neoconservatives and virtue-signaling liberals alike commenced their reenactment of Red Dawn. Piling on, CNN and Buzzfeed unveiled a sloppy, error-ridden and highly dubious dossier detailing Trump’s alleged Russian ties and sexual blackmail material (kompromat). None of these claims have been backed by a shred of credible proof presented to the public, so why should they be taken as an article of faith? Continue reading Did Russia Hack the Election? →
How did the KGB train its deep-cover officers to pose, operate and live under the guise of foreign nationalities? Former KGB Chairman Vladimir Efimovich Semichastny (1924-2001) describes how the KGB First Chief Directorate’s elite Directorate S processed, prepared and deployed illegal officers for work abroad in the field – without the protection of the Soviet embassy or Moscow Center.
Our nation’s intelligence was distinguished by one particularity that could be discovered only extremely rarely in the practices of other secret services. This concerns the training and use of so-called “illegals” – Soviet citizens who settled in other countries under assumed names, thereby allowing us to create the consummate agent network. Such a network couldn’t be uncovered by the Western counterintelligence services that were orbiting mainly around our embassies; representations; trade missions; bureaus; and press agencies. Continue reading KGB Directorate S: Training an Illegal →
Veteran chief of the KGB’s elite Alpha Group Maj. Gen. Gennady Nikolaevich Zaitsev recounts the 1977 operation to arrest CIA intelligence officer Martha Peterson, who worked out of the US Embassy under diplomatic cover. Peterson had been handling a valuable agent – Aleksandr Ogorodnik, code-named Trigon, a highly-placed staffer at the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Little did Peterson know at the time that Ogorodnik had already been arrested and committed suicide in custody with poison supplied from Langley. The trap carefully laid by the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate was set…
It so happened that I had the opportunity to participate in an arrest of a spy even before joining the spetsnaz Alpha Group. At that time, I served in the Seventh Directorate of the KGB of the USSR. Do you remember the film TASS is Authorized to Declare …? It told the story of how the KGB exposed Trigon, an enemy agent. In reality, this was Alexander Ogorodnik (Trigon), a staff member at the American Department of the Directorate for Planning Foreign Policy Measures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He committed suicide during arrest. Continue reading The Spy with the Broken Bracelet →
KGB Colonel Stanislav Lekarev (1935-2010) was an especially apt observer of the interplay between intelligence, culture and deep politics. While we know about the CIA’s extensive ties with Hollywood, the KGB had its own assets in the USSR film industry. Here Lekarev, an officer of the KGB First Chief Directorate, goes undercover as a Soviet film executive in 1970’s London, where he crosses swords with British counterintelligence, MI5.
SovExportFilm wasn’t a cover for everyone – you could crash and burn quickly here. A three-month probation period in State Cinema before my departure gave me little to work with. Moscow negotiations with Western commercial representatives didn’t allow me to delve into the nuances of SovExportFilm’s specifics. Viewing Western productions also didn’t help me any. And it was so obvious their quality was higher. Only on the job do you understand that you have to figure out the details of film production – be able to precisely determine the worthiness of reels from the point of view of mastery by scenarists, directors, cameramen, actors, as well as the quality of the film. It’s additionally useful to know the basics of the Stanislavsky System; this impresses those conversing with you. Along with all of that, you need accounting knowledge and the ability to write reports. If you don’t go the distance, the question of your replacement will be raised. So it happened – people wishing to replace you will always be found.
Continue reading Lights, Camera, Covert Action →
Directorate K (Kontrrazvedka: Counterintelligence) of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (FCD – Foreign Intelligence) was responsible for protecting the FCD from infiltration as well as penetrating hostile intelligence services. A decorated veteran of “Line KR,” KGB Colonel Viktor Ivanovich Cherkashin, shares his insights and experience in this interview.
1985 was christened Year of the Spy, when as a result of of the treachery of a number of officers, Soviet intelligence suffered significant losses among its agent networks, but simultaneously it was able to recruit high-level American intelligence officers overseas. Reserve Colonel from the KGB First Chief Directorate’s (FCD) Directorate K (Foreign Counterintelligence) Viktor Cherkashin tells us about this and a number of other major spy scandals.
Continue reading KGB Foreign Counterintelligence →
Major General Yuri Drozdov, the legendary last chief of Directorate S (Illegals) within the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (FCD – Foreign Intelligence) tells of working with KGB Chairman and future General Secretary Yuri Andropov. Andropov was known for his sophisticated approach to intelligence matters, and was a generous patron to Directorate S.
There were many leaders with whom I was to meet and work: Yuri Andropov, Andrei Gromyko, Boris Ponomarev, Viktor Chebrikov, Vladimir Kryuchkov, and others. On these meetings and conversations I could speak much and for a long time. I’ll say just a few words on Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov.
In recent times more is being written about Yuri Vladimirovich – as a KGB chairman, diplomat, and man overall – both here in Russia and abroad. Continue reading Andropov & KGB Directorate S →
Often overlooked in spy culture are Alfred Hitchcock’s espionage classics. In the Hitchcock film Vertigo (1958), we highlighted the use of mind control, doubling and voyeurism on the part of a shadowy Bohemian Grove-esque elite intent on manipulating the middle class Scottie (Jimmy Stewart) based on a profiling of his psychological weaknesses. In North by Northwest (1959) similar themes emerge, yet the master of suspense seemed willing to reveal much more than merely psychoanalytical and Freudian elements, notably shooting the first film to mention the CIA. Continue reading Hollywood Spies: North by Northwest →
Using his unique access to the Kremlin, German journalist Alexander Rahr shares the inside story on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s formative years in Leningrad and his path to the KGB.
Putin never concealed his background. Spiridon, his grandfather on the father’s side, was a cook, but not a regular one. Initially, he prepared meals for Lenin, then—for Stalin. A person working in such a position and in such proximity to the Kremlin’s leaders could not not be a staffer at the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), KGB’s predecessor. Spiridon served the dictator daily, and it is beyond any doubt that he was being watched much more closely than any Politburo member.
Continue reading Putin’s Path to the KGB →
GRU Maj. Gen. Dmitry Polyakov (1921-1988) was a decorated veteran of the Great Patriotic War (World War II) and an old-line Stalinist. Yet beginning in 1959, when on assignment under diplomatic cover at the UN Mission in New York, he was also a US intelligence asset after he volunteered his services to the FBI. Until his arrest in 1986, Polyakov shared the GRU’s most guarded secrets on its international agent networks with Washington, making him the highest-ranking and most damaging mole in the history of Soviet intelligence. Polyakov was finally brought to heel in 1986, when the KGB tracked him down thanks to leads from their own moles – CIA officer Aldrich Ames and FBI special agent Robert Hanssen. The KGB’s Third Chief Directorate, military counterintelligence, swung in to action.
From the last decade of the Soviet Union presented in the FSB Museum’s “Spy Gallery,” it especially follows to turn our attention to a photograph of an elderly man sitting in the dock of the accused in the proceedings hall of the Supreme Court’s Military Collegium.
He knew his punishment beforehand and wasn’t hoping for leniency. Almost 25 years of work for the FBI and CIA could not be atoned for by his candid admissions. On the conscience of former General Dmitry Feodorovich Polyakov was the blood of Soviet secret intelligence officers, the shattered fates of his colleagues in intelligence, and the most important state secrets betrayed to the adversary. Continue reading Washington’s GRU General →