Tag Archives: Counterintelligence

Through KGB Eyes: Washington, DC

In his memoirs, KGB First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) Colonel Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Sokolov gives his impressions of five years, from 1966-1971, serving in the FCD’s Line KR (Counterintelligence) in the KGB’s Washington residency. Culture shock and tradecraft come together as Sokolov just barely tolerates American cuisine, gets his ears blown out at a Beatles concert, and evades the FBI’s surveillance teams.


That summer in Washington was unusually hot. The temperature during the day went up to 40 degrees Celsius and higher, something that had occurred only 100 years ago. Along with that, as characteristic of Washington, the humidity remained high.

The weather wholly corresponded to the requirements of the KGB medical commission we underwent before our departure to America for work in conditions of a “hot and humid climate.” Dressed in a fashionable black Finnish half-cotton suit not available to all Soviet citizens, white nylon shirt and tie, and Czech “oak” loafers, I felt in the best case like I had a wig on, but confidently and with dignity I stepped onto the land of the Main Adversary for the first time.

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Spy Snatchers: KGB Alpha Group

Spetsnaz Group “Alpha” was founded in 1974 on the orders of KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov. As this article by KGB veteran Lt. Col. Igor Atamenenko makes clear, Alpha was not only a secretive anti-terror force, but also the high-class muscle used in the KGB’s counterintelligence operations against foreign intelligence services. 


Even the KGB’s overseers from the CPSU Central Committee’s department of administrative organs were not informed of the true purpose of the Group “A,” Lubyanka’s super-secret unit that attained wide publicity under the name of Alpha only after the events of August 1991 in Moscow. For them it was just one of the structures within the KGB, and many operations executed by its officers also remain a closely-guarded secret to this day, continuing to to carry the stamp “Top Secret” and “Of Special Importance.”

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Inside The KGB’s Intelligence School

KGB Lt. Gen. Leonid Vladimirovich Shebarshin (1935-2012) was an experienced specialist on South Asia and Iran and would become the last chief of the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) in 1989. In his memoirs, Shebarshin recalls his time training at the KGB’s 101st Intelligence School in 1962. 


101 – That was the name of the intelligence school subsequently transformed into the KGB’s Yuri Andropov Red Banner Institute.

For the first time in my life I was quartered in a dormitory. In the two-story wooden house of pre-war construction, the walls were starting to become dilapidated, in places the floors would bend, but it was warm and cozy in the winter, and in the spring lilac branches would brush against the windows.

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Philby and the Betrayal of the West

In the twilight arena of international espionage, one name more than any other evokes an image of patient, masterful treachery, the insidious presence of the enemy in one’s own inner sanctum. No matter the country they serve, generations of intelligence and counterintelligence trainees have been expected to know this name well: Philby. For half a century now, Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby (1912-1988) remains both in espionage history and popular literature the quintessential mole, the deep-penetration agent who buried his way to the top of British intelligence to provide Soviet Russia with the Crown’s most guarded secrets. The shock of Philby’s treason reverberated throughout the British establishment, while in retrospective the affair tells us more about the social, cultural, and spiritual depravity of an entire ruling elite than just the sordid exploits of a spy.

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The Illegals: Russia’s Elite Spies

The FBI’s recent arrest of several alleged deep-cover Russian intelligence officers, also known as “illegals”, has provoked astonishment in the media. As if U.S. intelligence agencies would ever dream of carrying out covert work in Russia! Since the memory span of reporters and pundits rarely extends beyond a few weeks, perhaps this is understandable. But it should come as no surprise that spying remains an important tool of statecraft. As exemplified by the illegals, the Russians are top players in the game of human intelligence.

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