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Soviet Espionage in the United States

Under official cover and Illegals

Soviet espionage in the United States under official cover and Illegals

excerpt from Enemy Amongst Trojans. A Soviet Spy at USC, 2010, p. 17

Intelligence Officers under Official Cover and Illegals

Many Soviet KGB and GRU intelligence officers commonly operated in the United States and other countries under official diplomatic cover. They posed as staff members of embassies and consulates or as journalists, trade representatives, and members or employees of international organizations such as the United Nations. The station chief, or rezident (resident), living legally in the target country ran operations of the spy organization known as a "legal rezidentura."

An influential Russian journalist, writer, and TV anchor Leonid Mlechin described that,

In those years [before the collapse of the USSR] a majority of Soviet journalists stationed abroad were in reality officers of the KGB and to a lesser degree of the GRU ... Regarding [Soviet] TV and radio reporters, here [a] KGB [officer commonly] had a position of the second journalist [in the bureau] or TV cameraman. Newspaper reporters—with the exception of "Pravda" [the main official newspaper organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union]—were largely intelligence officers."[20]

Former head of counterintelligence in the KGB foreign intelligence General Oleg D. Kalugin observed that "two-thirds of Soviet foreign correspondents were [directly] connected with the KGB," many being career KGB officers. The KGB could always count on all other Soviet journalists. The former chief of the KGB (during the Gorbachev’s presidency) Vladimir Kryuchkov affectionately referred to them as "our assistants." [21] As for diplomats, "of the hundred or so people stationed at the [Soviet] embassy [in Washington, DC, in 1960s]," wrote Kalugin, "about forty were KGB officers." [22] In his words, the Soviet mission to the United Nations "in fact was little more than a nest of KGB spies and intelligence officers ... [T]he mission was headquarters to about three hundred Soviets, more than a third of whom were KGB officers." [23]

The other category of Soviet intelligence officers were those who entered foreign countries without any apparent connections to the Soviet state. [24] They used false identities and background cover stories (legenda, or a legend, in the parlance of the trade), operated under aliases, and did not enjoy diplomatic immunity. In the United States, they most often posed as Americans. These deepcover Soviet spies, the illegals, operated intelligence organizations known as an "illegal rezidentura." They usually entered the country illegally with forged identification papers in violation of law, hence the name. Illegals established and controlled their own networks of agents and they used communications channels independent from the intelligence offi cers under official cover who operated the legal rezidentura.

A GRU officer, posing as Ignacy Samuel Witczak, was such an illegal resident, or station chief, of the Soviet military intelligence operating a spy ring from Los Angeles, California.

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Soviet Espionage in Southern California

About the book

Enemy Amongst Trojans by Mike Gruntman

USC VSOE News Story:

Viterbi Astronautics Professor Writes Cold War Historical Study

Book review  (Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf) studies in intelligence

"Mike Gruntman, an astronautics professor at USC, has written an interesting and succinct account of this [espionage] case that heretofore escaped the attention of other espionage academics. A nice contribution to the literature."

Studies in Intelligence (unclassified extracts), CIA, Vol. 59, No. 4, p. 74, December 2015.

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