Through the Looking Glass

by Edward Jay Epstein

In the midst of a blinding snow storm, a short stocky man, bundled in a heavy overcoat, arrived at the American Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. He matter-of-factly identified himself as a consul at the Soviet Embassy, and then asked to see Frank Friberg. The request, coming from a Soviet stranger, immediately set off alarm bells; Friberg was the CIA station chief.

The procedures for dealing with a potential defector were immediately put in effect. After escorting the Russian visitor to an isolated room, the marine guard alerted the desk officer at the embassy, who relayed the Mayday message to the CIA station. Within minutes, Friberg rushed down to meet this Soviet "walk in". The stranger came right to the point. He identified himself as Anatoli Golitsyn, a major in the KGB. To leave no doubt in the mind of his CIA counterpart, he handed over a sheath of secret documents from the files of the Soviet Embassy in Helsinki. He said he would make further information available about the Soviet espionage apparatus if the CIA immediately arrange his safe passage to the United States, along with that of his wife and daughter.

It was an extraordinary offer. Friberg asked the Russian if he would consider returning to the Soviet Embassy and acting as an agent in place for the CIA.

Golitsyn was adamant. He replied he would not survive if he returned. The KGB had means of identifying CIA agents in place-- and he could disclose them after he was safely in America.

Friberg realized that he was suggesting that there was a serious leak in the CIA. Unable to persuade him to work as a mole, he asked how much time he had to organize his defection.

Golitsyn replied that he had to be out by Christmas day. After that, his wife and daughter would be expected back in Moscow, and Soviet security personnel, who were being rotated over the holiday, would be back on active duty. This gave Friberg a maximum of forty-eight hours.

In Washington, the frantic search through the CIA's central registry of records produced only a single "trace" on Golitsyn. Peter Derebian, a KGB officer who had been stationed in Vienna before defecting in 1954, had mentioned him to his CIA debriefers as a KGB officer who might be potentially disloyal to the Soviet Union. Before this lead could be followed up in Vienna, Golitsyn had been recalled to Moscow.

The CIA had been given now a second chance. The Soviet Russia division authorized his immediate evacuation from Helsinki. No matter what diplomatic complications it would cause, it wanted to get this KGB officer in the palm of its hand, and use him to identify, and possible approach, other potential defectors in the Soviet diplomatic Corp.

On Christmas day, a US air force courier plane landed at Helsinki's snow-covered airport. Servicing military attaches stationed abroad, such flights are routinely exempted from foreign customs and immigration inspection. This was, however, not a routine training mission. While the plane waited on the runway, a car pulled up beside it. Its passengers, who carried no luggage, quickly boarded the plane. Among them were Golitsyn, his wife and daughter. Minutes later, the plane was airborne again, en route to West Germany.

The first round of interrogations took place at the US Army defector center outside of Frankfurt. Golitsyn was required to write out by hand his entire career in the KGB from the day he joined in 1948 to the day he defected-- listing all the positions he held, promotions he received and KGB officers with whom he came in contact. Unlike most previous defectors, who had field agents with limited knowledge about the central apparatus of the KGB, Golitsyn claimed to have been assigned to the KGB's headquarters in Moscow and also to its "think tank", the KGB institute, where intelligence operations were related to overall Soviet strategy.

To determine if his story was true, Golitsyn was next strapped into a stress-analyzing machine, used by the CIA as a lie-detector , and relentlessly quizzed about various details of his story -- a process known in the CIA as "fluttering". After each session, counterintelligence experts also compared each bit of information he provided with what was already known. By the end of the first week, the CIA was fully persuaded that he was a bona fide defector who had indeed held the positions in the KGB he claimed. Arrangements were then made to bring him and with his family to the United States.

In February 1962, in an isolated and heavy-guarded CIA compound overlooking the Choptank River in Talbot County, Maryland, he began an extensive debriefing. To the amazement of his debriefers, he not only revealed knowledge of a wide range of secret NATO documents -- but he identified them by their code numbers. He explained that for convenience the KGB used the NATO numbering system to request specific documents, which would than arrive from its source in France in 72 hours.

President John F. Kennedy, apprized of the Golitsyn revelations, then dispatched a personal courier to Paris, with an "eyes only" letter for President Charles De Gaulle. In it, he warned that the KGB had penetrated French intelligence.

A few weeks later, six French intelligence officers, handpicked by De Gaulle, arrived in Washington. They carried with them specially-devised ciphers that by passed the normal channels of French intelligence, and kept their very presence in the United States a secret from even their own embassy. Their tape-recorded interrogation of Golitsyn, who they code-named Martel, took 14 days, and left them in a paralyzing quandary.

The French intelligence secrets Golitsyn had provided came from the highest echelon of the French government. When the list of those having access to them was narrowed down, suspicion was focused on both the head of French counterintelligence and De Gaulle's personal intelligence advisor.

Golitsyn then dropped another bombshell. He told of a KGB plan he had help draft in Moscow to use the French intelligence service to spy on missile sites in the American Midwest. French intelligence officers would be ordered by Paris to use their contacts to gather data -- for the benefit of Moscow.

De Vosjoli initially was openly incredulous of this allegation. It not only implied that the KGB controlled French intelligence, but that it would blatantly use its officers to spy on the United States. His first reaction was that Golitsyn was a "plant", dispatched by the KGB for the express purpose of disrupting US-French relations. Several months later, however, he had to abandon this theory. He received an order from Paris to begin organizing French spy networks in the United States. The mission would be to ferret out secret data about American missile bases. De Vosjoli could not believe his eyes: it was the very order that Golitsyn claimed he had seen a year earlier in Moscow. Since he knew that France itself had no need for such information about US bases, he queried Paris for further clarification. The answer instructed him to implement the plan without further delay-- or questions.

At this point, he realized that Golitsyn's assertion , as implausible as it first seemed, was correct. The KGB had penetrated French intelligence. He refused the order. In Paris, a top official, who was identified through Golitsyn's leads as a member of a spy ring, code-named Sapphire, was thrown from a window-- and died. When well-connected friends in Paris then informed de Vosjoli that this was done on orders of French intelligence to protect others in the ring. He then attempted going out of his normal reporting channels to General De Gaulle himself, but to no avail. By November 1963, he realized his own life was in jeopardy and he sought the protection of the CIA.

Golitsyn, the source who had caused all this turmoil, was becoming throughout this period increasingly more difficult to debrief. He was an angry, short-tempered man with no patience for matters that he considered trivial. He prided himself on being a historian of Soviet foreign policy. His interrogators, on the other hand, needed to test every petty detail in his story. This led to constant friction.

The Soviet Bloc Division seemed mainly concerned in having Golitsyn identify the KGB officers working under cover as diplomats at each embassy. He was tediously shown over one thousand snapshots of Soviet diplomats, usually surreptitiously taken, and asked if he recognized them. Then Golitsyn refused to look at any more photographs, shouting at his debriefers, "What good is knowing all the names in the KGB. .. if you don't understand what they do?". He insisted that they should be debriefing him on strategy-- not personnel. The interrogators let him finish his tirade, then, returned to the snapshots. Their job was to identify officers of the KGB, not delineate its geopolitical strategies.

Then, when these photo sessions were over, Golitsyn was asked whether he would be willing to go abroad and personally contact former KGB acquaintances on behalf of the CIA. He refused, explaining "The KGB knows all your operations in advance". To prove his point, he ticked off a number of examples of CIA attempts to recruit Soviet diplomats in Switzerland and Austria which the KGB had had advanced warnings.

The debriefers showed little interested in this assertion; instead they implied his debriefings were coming to an end. Golitsyn then demanded to see the President of the United States. When informed that such an audience was impossible, he became even less cooperative, and asked permission to go to England..

By the end of his first year, the CIA had concluded that they had "squeezed" Golitsyn of all the information he knew. In early 1963, it arranged to send him to England to be "resettled" under a new identity.

Stephan De Mowbray handled his case there Before his defection, Golitsyn had worked at KGB headquarters in the northern European espionage division, which included England. He had prepared his defection by memorizing English as well as French documents. Many of these came directly from the files of MI-5, the British equivalent of the FBI. For example, he quoted verbatim from a secret report on the breaking of a Soviet code by British intelligence. As it turned out, one of his interrogators had written the report. When he rechecked the "bigot list"-- which identifies all those with access to the report, he found that it had been circulated is to only the top executives officers of MI5. How then could have Golitsyn seen it in Moscow?

The only answer was that one of these executives had provided the KGB with the report. The search for that tainted executive, which would continue for over a decade, began with the setting up of a secret unit, called innocuously "The Fluency Committee". The members included De Mowbray and six other counterintelligence officers drawn from both MI-6 and MI-5. Their sole job was determining who was the mole. As these investigators evaluated the clues from Golitsyn and other sources, they gradually eliminated most of the names on the Bigot list. There remained two prime suspects-- Sir Roger Hollis, the Director of MI-5, and his deputy,Graham Mitchell. Both were put under surveillance.


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