In July 1977,
President Jimmy Carter's secret Special Coordinating Committee,
the White House unit that oversees the clandestine activities
of the CIA, received a piece of dismaying news: A Central
Intelligence Agency spy in the Kremlin, "Trianon," had been
apprehended by the K.G.B., the Soviet intelligence service.
In 1978, the Soviet press reported that this American spy
had been tried for treason and sentenced to death.
"Trianon" was the code name for Anatoly
N. Filatov, a 37-year-old aide in the Soviet Foreign Ministry.
The CIA had caught him in a sex trap in Algiers in 1976, when
he was attached to the Soviet Embassy in Algeria. After being
confronted with compromising photographs, Filatov was persuaded
or blackmailed, as he is reported to have claimed at his trial,
to work as a spy for the CIA when he was reassigned to the
Foreign Ministry in Moscow. He was supplied with all the necessary
paraphernalia for espionage: a miniature camera for photographing
secret documents, a "burst" transmitter r signaling his contact
in the American Embassy in Moscow, and a "dead drop" on a
Moscow bridge, where he could inconspicuously leave his microfilm
for American intelligence agents to pick up.
How he was so quickly caught by the
K.G.B. has been a mystery of immense concern to US intelligence.
Was he detected through routine Soviet surveillance? Was he
exposed by an accidental leak from American intelligence?
Or was he betrayed by a mole planted inside American intelligence?
In response to a request from Senator
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, and Senator
Malcolm Wallop, Republican of Wyoming, the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence conducted an investigation into the circumstances
that led to Filatov's exposure, which itself opened up a Pandora's
box of secrets about the spy war.
When the Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence was briefed on the Filatov case shortly after
his arrest in 1977, according to one staff member of the committee,
it found that the case had thrown the American intelligence
community into confusion. Consternation arose because Filatov
was apparently the only United States agent in a position
of access to secrets in the Soviet Union - he was, in the
language of the intelligence world, a "mole." Moreover, incredible
as it may seem, he may have been the only mole that the CIA
had established inside the Kremlin in more than a decade.
According to one high Government official, who was familiar
with the major CIA operations between 1969 and 1977, the CIA
failed to establish a single productive mole in the Soviet
Union between the arrest of Col. Oleg Penkovsky in Moscow
in 1962 and the recruitment of Filatov in 1976. This intelligence
gap was also cited by former CIA executives and a staff member
of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The only exceptions mentioned by these
sources were two Soviet Unite Nations diplomats - codenamed
"Top Hat" and "Fedora," recruited by the FBI in New York and
a Soviet diplomat codenamed "Igor," recruited by the CIA in
Washington, during the 1960s. In all three cases, however,
CIA counterintelligence assessed that they were double agent
working for the K.G.B., and, in any case, all three returned
to Moscow and cut off their contacts to the CIA.
The primary task of any clandestine
intelligence service, whether the CIA or the K.G.B., is to
establish moles within the enemy's inner sanctum who are in
a position to warn changes in its plans and intentions. "No
intelligence can function unless it has secret sources," Richard
Helms, a former Director of Central Intelligence, pointed
out to me.
There are, be sure, other profitable
ways of gathering intelligence, such as overhead surveillance
of a potential enemy's activities, tapping into its underwater
cables by submarines and the interception of communications
by powerful antennae. Such reconnaissance requires highly
sophisticated equipment, such as spy planes, satellites, underwater
robots and computers, but it does not require the operation
of clandestine service. And, even in the age of satellites
and electronic wizardry, clandestine services are deemed necessary
to report on the strategic thinking of an adversary and other
clues that cannot be intercepted by remote platform. The clandestine
service specializes in the spotting, compromising, recruiting
and handling of moles on a regular basis. This is called Human
intelligence, or in CIA-talk, HUMINT.
While public debate over the CIA,
fueled by Presidential inquiries and Congressional investigations,
has narrowly focused on the charge that the agency has abused
its power by spying on domestic groups outside its legal purview,
the secret concern in intelligence circles, which has not
surfaced in any of the many public hearings, is that the CIA
is not spying effectively on its principal adversary: the
Soviet bloc. As William Harris, a counterintelligence expert
from the RAND Corporation put the question: "Why has the C.
LA. repeatedly failed to penetrate the Soviet system by recruiting
Within the CIA itself, this question
has been the center of a bitter and destructive debate that
has persisted unresolved for some 20 years. On one side of
the issue, it is argued that the K.G.B. has successfully established
its own moles with the CIA and other US intelligence services,
and that these moles report to Moscow the secret plans and
sources of the CIA, thereby making it impossible for the CIA
to recruit, or keep secret,- its own moles.
Tennant Bagley Jr., who was the deputy
chief of the CIA's Soviet Bloc Division in the mid-1960's
and was responsible for countering the activities of Soviet
intelligence, explained to me that "it takes a mole to catch
a mole." According to his view, the two most successful moles
that the CIA ever recruited, Col. Peter Popov (195358) and
Colonel Penkovsky (1961-62), were both caught by Soviet intelligence
because they had been betrayed by a K.G.B. mole, or moles,
working in American intelligence. Bagley claimed, moreover,
to have seen during his tenure in the CIA direct evidence
of a mole "feeding back," as he put it, operational plans
of the CIA to the K.G.B. "In one case, Soviet intelligence
clearly knew about an elaborate CIA plan to recruit a Soviet-bloc
diplomat in Switzerland," he pointed out. He knew of no productive
mole that the CIA had recruited in the Soviet Union since
the capture of Penkovsky in 1962. (Bagley retired from the
C-I-A. in 1972.) He accounted for this failure in blunt terms:
"It is impossible for the CIA to maintain any secret sources
if it is penetrated."
This argument was carried much farther
by James Jesus Angleton, who served as the CIA's counterintelligence
chief until 1975. Angleton, theorizing on the basis of information
supplied by Soviet defectors, believed that he had pinpointed
the K.G.B. "Penetrations," as he called them, in the Soviet
Bloc Division Of the CIA In 1963, he began purging or transferring
four possible suspects. When these "administrative measures,"
as he called them, did not result in ferreting out the mole
or plugging the apparent leak, Angleton took more drastic
action. In 1960s, he explained to me, he completely "cut off"
the entire Soviet Bloc Division from information about highly
sensitive cases. This step led to the near paralysis of the
Soviet Bloc Division, which was then responsible for all CIA
intelligence activities in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
on the other side of the debate, a
large number of CIA officers, such as William Colby, who became
Director of Central Intelligence in 1973, who believed that
the mole issue was divisive, demoralizing and ultimately a
dangerous distraction. They argued that Popov, Penkovsky and
other CIA moles were caught by the K.G.B. either through routine
surveillance procedures or because of a blunder or mishap
in American intelligence - and not through any information
supplied by a mole. These intelligence officers viewed the
deductive search for moles as "sick think," as Jack Maury,
a former head of the CIA's Soviet Bloc Division, described
it to me. Indeed, William Colby blamed the failure of the
CIA to recruit agents in the Soviet Union on the mistaken
fear that there was a mole in the CIA who would quickly betray
them. When he became Director, he fired Angleton and transferred
other counterintelligence officers who had worked under him.
He also did away with the tight compartmentalization' of information
that Angleton had insist Colby explains in his autobiography
that he took these actions because he believed that Angleton's
"ultra conspiratorial turn of mind had, at least in recent
years, become more of a liability than an asset to the agency-"
The dismissal of Angleton did not
end the debate. When the K.G.B. uncovered Filatov, the CIA
again had to come to grips with the possibility that Soviet
intelligence had a source in the agency. Even though CIA officials
told the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence that Filatov's
detection had come about because of an inadvertent statement
to the press by one of national security adviser Zbigniew
Brzezinski's deputies on the National Security Council, a
number of counterintelligence officers believed that Filatov
had been betrayed by a mole in the CIA
In fact, the CIA had cogent evidence
in its files testifying in no uncertain terms to the capacity
of Soviet intelligence to recruit and sustain moles in highly
sensitive positions in American and other Western intelligence
services. In the early 1960's, the CIA uncovered, through
the services of its own anonymous spy, a well organized complex
of Soviet moles that included not only American but also French,
German, Israeli, British, Swedish and NATO officers.
Most of these agents, according to
their public admissions, were induced to work for the K.G.B.
by financial rewards or sexual blackmail rather than an ideological
sympathy with Communism. Some were enlisted under "false flag"
arrangements in which, for example, former Nazis were recruited
by a K.G.B. front that Pretended to be a secret Nazi conspiracy.
They all continued spying for long periods of time, and, in
some instances, such as in west Germany, provided the, K.G.B.
not only with secrets but also with control of the intelligence
apparatus itself. In the West German case, according to Tennant
Bagley's analysis for the CIA, the moles were able to manipulate
the careers of their fellow officers so as to promote and
strategically place other K.G.B. moles. In this sense, the
mole complex was self-perpetuating; and between 1960 and 1978
more than two dozen K.G.B. agents would be uncovered in the
The unraveling of this complex did
not occur through any ordinary security procedure but through
an accident of history that could not reasonably be expected
to reoccur in the intelligence war. This story began with
a letter sent on April 1, 1958, to the American Ambassador
in Switzerland, Henry J. Taylor. Taylor promptly turned the
letter over to the CIA station chief in his embassy.
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