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.
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
Colonel Aleksei Mikhailovich Kozlov (1934-2015) was a deep-cover intelligence officer in the KGB’s elite Directorate S, the Illegals, during the height of the Cold War. Posing as a traveling German businessman, he was captured by South African counterintelligence in 1980, but not before passing onto Moscow Center shocking information on joint South African-Israeli nuclear weapons tests. This December 20th, 2009 interview with the newspaper Izvestia provides another fascinating inside look at the global-scale operations of KGB Directorate S.
Izvestia: How did you get into Illegal Intelligence?
Kozlov: In 1953 I arrived in Moscow from Vologda to go to the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO). My character brought me to humanities, and I very much loved the German language. I had wonderful teacher in school – Zelman Shmulevich Pertsovsky. He was a Polish Jew who in 1939, when the Germans entered Poland, crossed the Bug River and turned up on our side. He was simply in love with the German language and quoted Schiller and Goethe by heart. He called me a “slacker” and helped a lot with preparing for higher education. Continue reading Deep Cover in South Africa
Retired KGB Major General Boris Ratnikov has a story to tell – about the Soviet and Russian intelligence services’ use of psychic espionage in the Great Game. While Ratnikov’s story may sound fantastic, the details on Cold War-era remote viewing programs in both the United States and Soviet Union are very real. With that in mind, perhaps the general’s claims aren’t so far-fetched after all. In this 2006 interview with state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta (RG), Ratnikov (BR) reveals some aspects of his mysterious work that no less than mirror the popular film Inception.
Major General Boris Ratnikov, 62 years old. Worked in the UKGB [Upravlenie – Directorate] for Moscow and Moscow Oblast. From 1991 he was the first deputy chief of the Russian Federation Main Protection Directorate (GUO). From 1994 to 1997 he was the main consultant to the Russian Federation Presidential Security Service (SBP) and Advisor to the chief of the Federal Protection Service (FSO). Today he is Advisor to the Chairman of the Moscow Oblast Duma. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Psychic Spies
Before the murder of John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald – or even possibly a double – visited the Soviet embassy in Mexico City. Retired KGB Lt. Gen. Nikolai Leonov, then on assignment in Mexico’s capital as an intelligence officer, met Oswald that day, and he has little doubt the young American was just a pawn in a much wider plot.
An intelligence officer’s workdays were full of work with active agent networks, with those who had been brought into partnership with Soviet intelligence by previous shifts of our colleagues, and with agents arriving from other countries, etc.
Former KGB General Filipp Bobkov was a veteran counterintelligence officer and chosen by Yuri Andropov to head the Fifth Chief Directorate (Ideological Counter-Subversion), which he led from 1969 to 1983. Bobkov recounts the twilight war of counterespionage waged between the CIA and KGB – a contest with deadly consequences.
In the Cold War, as in any other war, there were successes and defeats – failures and miscalculations that at times led to inescapable consequences. Any intelligence service will suffer the blows of the enemy with difficulty, and the KGB also had to undergo not a few such blows. Betrayals by apparatus officers – those with whom you spend all day, whom you see in the elevator and at meetings, with whom you’re connected by constant engagement in shared matters – these were taken especially painfully.