The KGB: Eyes of the Kremlin

The new KGB: how Andropov's agents watch the home front and the world

  • Share
  • Read Later

(6 of 13)

for the visa registration office. Later, while the Siberians exchanged hugs and kisses with family members through the heavy metal grate covering an embassy basement window, a young agent in a black leather jacket perched on a nearby railing, taking pictures of them. Said a U.S. diplomat: "They have a hunting license to go anywhere in the system."

Western intelligence authorities fear that the KGB believes the same rules that lead to success at home will also work abroad. During the Andropov era, the KGB's foreign directorate moved out of the Dzerzhinsky Square headquarters to a large, modern, half-moon-shaped office building on the Moscow Ring Road. It expanded overseas operations, though it still shares assignments with the GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye), the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Soviet military. Many experts consider the KGB to be the world's most effective information-gathering organization. Says a senior intelligence staff member in Congress: "It used to be that you could tell the KGB guys a mile off. They were caricatures of themselves. Now they are highly sophisticated, urbane, exceptionally smart, and there are more of them."

Counterintelligence analysts estimate there are at least 350 KGB and GRU agents in the U.S. In Soviet embassies and consulates around the globe, at least a third of the resident diplomatic staff are estimated to work for the KGB. These "legals," who operate under diplomatic cover, receive support from other agents scattered through the Soviet press corps or the staff of Soviet agencies with overseas offices, such as Aeroflot and Intourist. The largest concentration of agents in the U.S. is in New York City, where special United Nations conferences can swell the size of the Soviet delegation to more than 1,000.

The KGB runs a parallel espionage operation using "illegals." Such agents assume a false identity, complete with a false personal history, or "legend," so they can penetrate deeply into a foreign setting. They often remain inactive for years before receiving an assignment from Moscow. Illegal Agent Rudolph Herrmann slipped into the U.S. by way of Canada in 1969 and, while posing as a freelance photographer, arranged information drops for other spies. FBI agents caught up with Herrmann because of a blunder by his KGB contact and turned him into a double agent. Herrmann "officially defected" in 1980, after receiving orders from Moscow to groom his son for the spy trade.

According to the FBI, the Soviet Union gleans about three-quarters of its intelligence from documents, publications and other sources freely available to the public. Soviet diplomats are a familiar sight on Capitol Hill in Washington, where they sit as observers at open sessions of sensitive congressional committees. Staff members in the office of former Congressman David Emery were taken aback during last year's debate over the MX ballistic missile when one brazen Soviet agent walked in looking for documents on the weapon.

Hardly any of the data obtained by such open means are of themselves damaging to national security. Still, intelligence officials fear that by arranging bits and pieces of data into a mosaic, the Soviets come up with some highly sensitive conclusions. Critics of the Freedom of Information Act claim that its provisions are so broad

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13