Major Intelligence Agencies
The United States. After the abolition of the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS), in January 1946 President Harry S. Truman established the Central Intelligence Group under the direction of the National Intelligence Authority. These were replaced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council (NSC) via the September 1947 National Security Act. Responsibility for domestic counterintelligence fell on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), founded in 1961, controlled military intelligence, while the National Security Agency (NSA), formed in 1952, dealt with foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT). All services were subordinated to the NSC.
The United Kingdom and Canada. Cold War reorganization in the United Kingdom (UK) began in the summer of 1944, when Secret Intelligence Services (SIS, MI6) set up an anti-Soviet section and recruited new agents, absorbing some members of the disbanded wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE). While MI6 was responsible externally for intelligence, counterintelligence, covert action, and clandestine communications support, the Security Service (MI5), responsible for domestic security, evolved from the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau, and the Special Branch of Scotland Yard was made its executive arm. The British code-breaking organization, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), emerged from the control of SIS to become an independent service, answerable to the Foreign Office and responsible for armed services' signals interception. The 1947 British-American Security Agreement, or Secret Treaty, formalized collaborative signals communication among the British and American intelligence organizations.
In Canada, counterintelligence was largely handled by the Intelligence Section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Criminal Investigation Branch from 1946 to 1981, when the civilian Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was established.
Other Western-allied agencies. Secret services among other Western countries included the French Service de Documentation Extérieur et de Contre-Espionnage (SDECE, External Documentation and Counterespionage Service) and the Federal Republic of Germany's (FRG, West Germany) Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND, Federal Intelligence Service of the Republic of Germany). Chief among pro-Western nations, the newly formed State of Israel reorganized its defense systems and formed the Mossad in 1951.
Soviet networks. Unlike the CIA, Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence networks were of long standing, with sweeping powers domestically and abroad. Descended from the Cheka, Soviet security services had undergone a complex series of organizational and name changes. In 1946, the Stalinist Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (NKVD, People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) had been transformed into the Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del (MVD, Ministry of Internal Affairs), which in turn evolved into the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB, Committee for State Security) after the 1953 death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. From 13 March 1954 to 6 November 1991, the KGB was responsible for foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, and countersubversion. The MVD remained in charge of internment camps, known as gulags, and border and domestic troops. In 1957, control of border forces reverted to the KGB. A smaller military intelligence body, Glavnoe Razvedyvatelnoe Upravlenie (GRU), was responsible for signals and overhead intelligence.
Among the countries of the Warsaw Pact, Poland maintained from three to four secret police and intelligence organizations, the chief of which was Informacja (Military Counterintelligence), later called Wojskow Sluzba Wewnetrzna (WSW, Military Internal Service). Other Soviet bloc intelligence services included Romania's Securitate (Security Service); Czechoslovakia's Státni Tajna Bezpecnostni (STB, State Secret Security Forces) and the military secret service, Obranne Bezpecnostni Zpravodajstvi (OBZ, Committee of Defense Security Information); Hungary's Allamvedélmi Hivatal (AVH, State Security Authority); and Bulgaria's Durzhavna Sigurnost (DS, Security Service). The Soviet bloc's best-known and most effective intelligence service was the German Democratic Republic's (GDR, East Germany) Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Stasi, Ministry for State Security), established on 8 February 1950 and modeled after the then-operating NKVD. Its foreign wing, Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA, Information Headquarters), was headed by Markus Wolf.
Other agencies. In the developing world, Soviet- and Western-backed governments alike had active intelligence services, including the security forces of the Ngo Dinh Diem administration in South Vietnam (among these the American-backed Military Security Service and the Office Six of Diem's Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and the North Vietnamese Cong An Vu Trang Nhan Dan (PASF, People's Security Force), a border gendarmerie and security network that linked remote villages.
1945–1960: Spy Scandals, Defectors, and Covert Operations
First, the FBI followed up on a 1942 interrogation of Whittaker Chambers, whose accusations centered on Alger Hiss, soon to be director of the State Department's Office of Special Political Affairs. Venona documents later indicated that "ALES," a code name for Hiss, had been working in the communist underground since 1935. Second, Elizabeth Bentley, formerly connected with Jacob Golos, U.S. Chief of Soviet Espionage Operations, approached the FBI and later the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to name Julius Rosenberg among others, an accusation later backed by Venona decryptions. Third, in September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a GRU code clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, defected to the RCMP. His revelations exposed the Soviet spymaster in Ottawa, Colonel Nicolai Zabotin, and led to sweeping arrests in Canada. More important, Gouzenko informed on Operation
Gouzenko's revelations were reinforced in 1948 by further Venona deciphers. Subsequent FBI arrests included those of Harry Gold (Fuchs's courier), Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and David Greenglass. On the evidence of Greenglass and Gold, the Rosenbergs were executed by means of electrocution on 19 June 1953 for espionage. Also convicted were Theodore Hall, who leaked Manhattan Project plutonium details, and aeronautical engineer William Perl. Another scientist, Bruno Pontecorvo, fled to the Soviet Union.
The Cambridge Five. Perhaps the most notorious spy ring of the Cold War was the Cambridge Five, which included Kim Philby, an MI6 agent; Donald Maclean, a British Foreign Office secretary; Guy Burgess, MI6 agent and Foreign Office secretary; Anthony Blunt, art historian; and John Cairncross, a member of the Defence Division of the Treasury who was concerned with the Radioactive Substances Act. By the summer of 1944, Maclean had already supplied atomic and political intelligence to Moscow and, until exposure, had access to details of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the British atomic bomb project. Philby was doubtless the most useful to the Soviets. As early as September 1945, he ensured that Konstantin Volkov, deputy resident in Turkey, was abducted before his would-be defection; in Washington during 1949–1951 Philby furnished CIA as well as British information; and in Albania he alerted Soviet intelligence to SIS-sponsored seaborne landings and of a CIA parachute drop in November 1950. The spy network fell apart in 1951, when Venona evidence exposed Maclean. Warned by Philby, he fled with Burgess to Moscow. Philby's recall and dismissal culminated in his 1963 defection.
Intelligence failure in Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) invasion of the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) in June 1950 highlighted Western intelligence shortcomings. Although reports had noted the North Korean troop buildup, CIA analysts discounted their significance. A similar lapse occurred in November 1950, when United Nations (UN) forces under General Douglas MacArthur had pushed the North Koreans toward the Yalu River and discounted the possibility of Chinese intervention, ignoring the data of Chinese spies regarding troop buildups on the North Korean–Chinese border. Consequently, UN forces were overwhelmed by a Chinese offensive in late November.
The Berlin Tunnel and George Blake. One of the earliest major intelligence initiatives in Berlin was compromised by a mole in MI6, George Blake, who had also reported the earlier Operation
Other Soviet penetrations in Europe and North America. In France, a strong postwar Communist Party facilitated infiltration, and many moles were not caught. The most important conviction, that of Georges Pâques, occurred only after a twenty-year career of passing on defense secrets, particularly during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle (1958–1969) onward.
In the FRG, floods of East European refugees made Soviet penetration relatively easy. No sooner had the Gehlen Organization been established than it was riddled with Soviet agents, a situation that continued after the organization's restructuring into the BND. Although two former Nazi SS officers, Hans Clemens and Heinze Felfe, were acclaimed for their anti-Soviet espionage, they were simultaneously forwarding copies of BND documents to Stasi headquarters in Karlshorst. Apart from the KGB and Stasi, other Soviet bloc nations also deployed spies in the West. For example, Alfred Frenzel transmitted FRG and American defense data to the STB until his arrest in 1960.
Spies and moles also continued to target the UK. Konon Trofimovich Molody ran a number of agents, including the Americans Peter and Helen Kroger (formerly part of the Rosenberg spy ring) and a British pair, Harry Houghton and Ethel Gee, who transmitted information on antisubmarine warfare and nuclear submarines. A lead from a CIA mole in Poland led to the conviction of the group, but Molody was freed in a spy exchange in 1964.
Although the Soviet Union lacked the technical resources of the West, TECHINT nevertheless posed a formidable threat. The U.S. embassy in Moscow, constructed in 1953, was riddled with electronic listening devices, as were other embassies, notably that of Japan. In addition, by 1960 three agents were monitoring NSA cryptanalysis at Fort Meade.
The mole and spy hunts. After Yugoslavia's break with Moscow in 1948, the Soviet world became obsessed with the search for moles and spies. Show trials abounded, such as that of Hungarian interior minister László Rajk, who was accused in 1948 of subversive connections with Yugoslavia, and that of Noel Field, an alleged CIA agent. The hunt for subversives took an anti-Zionist bent, as in Stalin's 1951 removal of Rudolf Slánský, the secretary-general of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. At the climax of Stalin's anti-Jewish witch-hunt during 1952–1953, many Soviet Jewish doctors were accused of being foreign agents.
In the United States, espionage fears culminated in an almost simultaneous Red Scare, marked by HUAC hearings and McCarthyism. Shortly after Congressman Richard Nixon's appointment to HUAC, Hollywood fell under investigation; the ten who refused to answer questions about their political allegiances were jailed for contempt of Congress. The Red Scare reached a new level with Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's February 1950 charge that 205 communists or communist sympathizers were in the State Department. The hunt extended to writers, teachers, academics, and UN personnel, and it stopped only in 1954 when McCarthy falsely claimed that the U.S. Army had been infiltrated.
Covert operations. After the creation of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), American intelligence was active overseas in a series of covert operations: influencing the 1948 Italian elections to ensure the defeat of the communists, intervening in Iran in 1953 to overthrow Premier Mohammed Mossadegh, assisting in the election of Ramon Magsaysay in the Philippines (1953) through disinformation campaigns, and backing the 1954 coup to overthrow Guatemala's President Jacobo Arbenz. The most devastating consequences of these operations occurred in Hungary during the revolution of 1956. Under Frank Wisner, the CIA had begun Operation
Aerial photo reconnaissance: The Powers Case. After CIASIS reconnaissance flights of RB-57 aircraft over the Soviet nuclear test site at Kapustin Yar had proved nearly disastrous, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft took to the air and initially proved immune to Soviet attack. Then on 1 May 1960, a U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union. Two NSA moles, Bernon Mitchell and William Martin, had probably warned the KGB in December 1959 about forthcoming U-2 flights. Soon thereafter, Soviet and Western satellite space surveillance replaced aerial reconnaissance.
Reino Hayhanen, hollow coins, and Colonel Abel. On 10 February 1962, Colonel Rudolf Abel (Vilyam Genrikovich Fisher) was traded for U-2 pilot Powers. The investigation that led to Abel's October 1957 espionage conviction began as early as 1953, when an American paperboy discovered a hollow nickel containing an encrypted message. Five years later, defecting KGB agent Reino Hayhanen supplied the key to the code and led to the FBI's arrest of one of Hayhanen's controllers, code-named "Mark."
1960–1975: The Crisis Years
Nevertheless, covert action against Cuba continued with Operation
Berlin standoff. Shortly after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a Berlin crisis caught Western and Soviet intelligence off guard. American intelligence sources were unaware of the decision to construct a wall in August 1961; similarly, Soviet military intelligence, after monitoring the American exercise that preceded the tank standoff of 27 October 1961, were mistaken in assuming that U.S. objectives were offensive. An armed clash was averted by a diplomatic channel in the form of GRU Colonel Georgi Bolshakov, who informed Kennedy that, thanks to Soviet intelligence, Khrushchev was aware of America's nuclear superiority. Consequently, both sides drew back their tanks.
Aerial reconnaissance, Oleg Penkovsky, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. A full-scale superpower conflict was again averted some months later by aerial reconnaissance and the reports of Soviet informant GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky. In mid-July 1962, American intelligence learned of Soviet cargo vessels bound for Cuba and evacuations from the port of Mariel. On 29 August 1962, aerial photographs revealed surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites. CIA analysts at first viewed these as purely defensive, reinforced by Soviet disinformation. Later analysis of U-2 photographs, however, showed intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) sites. On 22 October 1962, President Kennedy threatened a U.S. response if the nuclear-tipped missiles were not dismantled and withdrawn. Vital intelligence underlay Kennedy's threat. Two years earlier, Penkovsky had offered to work for the British SIS as a Soviet mole. His U.S. intelligence debriefing had confirmed that the Soviet Union had several thousand fewer intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) than previously believed. Subsequently, the Soviets withdrew the IRBMs from Cuba.
Vietnam: Ignored intelligence and covert activity. A less-positive intelligence outcome ensued in Vietnam, where the CIA's Office of Current Intelligence and Board of National Estimates had warned against escalating involvement, predicting that it would spur Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, North Vietnam) infiltration of the Republic of Vietnam (ROV, South Vietnam). The Kennedy administration ignored this warning, and subsequently CIA personnel were involved in questionable covert operations, such as the ouster of President Diem and Operation
Other covert operations. During the 1960s, the CIA was involved in coups in the Dominican Republic (1963, 1965), Ecuador (1963), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), the Congo (1965), and Greece (1965, 1967). Covert actions continued in 1970 with the overthrow of Cambodia's Prince Sihanouk, a 1971 coup in Bolivia, and the 1973 overthrow and assassination of Chile's Salvador Allende.
The CIA discredited: James Angleton, Watergate, Operation
Soon, however, Angleton was to be fired in the wake of developments that greatly discredited the CIA. Negative publicity from the involvement of former CIA agents in the Watergate wiretapping of Democratic Party headquarters in 1972 mounted with journalist Seymour Hersh's coverage of Operation
Disquiet in the Soviet bloc. While scandal rocked the American intelligence establishment, the Soviet Union faced unrest in Czechoslovakia. The 1968 Prague Spring led to increased KGB surveillance, a steady flow of SIGINT from diplomatic missions, and the infiltration of agents posing as Western tourists. KGB analysts attributed unrest to the CIA. In the wake of the Warsaw Pact invasion on 20 August 1968, STB and KGB officials arrested leading reformers, reinstalled KGB intelligence heads, and purged the Communist Party, professionals, and universities.
Soviet involvement in Asia, the Middle East, and the third world. After the Sino-Soviet split began in the late 1950s, little intelligence emanated from the People's Republic of China (PRC). Soviet advisors and KGB agents were recalled. Stringent controls during the 1960s' Cultural Revolution only reinforced the lack of intelligence. Nevertheless, satellite reconnaissance revealed that the Chinese were developing their own satellite, launched in 1970.
India, where the KGB distilled disinformation during the 1967 election campaign, served as a somewhat more fertile intelligence field. A friendship treaty between the Soviet Union and India in 1971, alongside India's lax security, enabled the influx of KGB and GRU officers.
Meanwhile, Soviet intelligence focused on the Middle East, encouraged by growing American unpopularity in that region and the 1956 Anglo-French-Israeli failure to control the Suez Canal. Egyptian intelligence officers went to Moscow for training, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser appointed a Soviet agent, Sami Sharaf, as his intelligence head. These intelligence inroads were not reliable, however, as the Arab-Israeli War of June 1967 demonstrated. Although reports claimed that Soviet equipment and training had transformed the Egyptian Army, the first three hours of Israeli air raids determined the outcome of the Six-Day War. Soon after Nasser's death in 1970 and the succession of President Anwar Sadat, Soviet intelligence suffered a major setback with the arrest of pro-Soviet agents and the installation of a CIA-backed director of intelligence. Following the Kremlin's estrangement from Egypt, the Soviet sphere of influence moved to Palestine, and the KGB began training guerrillas of Yasir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Soviet influence in Africa during the 1970s extended to Angola, where KGB talks led to Soviet arms deliveries and the arrival of Cuban troops. In the Sudan, a Soviet-backed coup failed in July 1971 and led to the discovery and flight of CIA agent Vladimir Sakharov. Moscow also sent arms to Mozambique and in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) backed first Robert Mugabe and then Joshua Nkomo. In South Africa, Moscow supported the South African Communist Party, which played a key role in the African National Congress (ANC).
Soviet involvement in the UK and Europe. As in the earlier years of the Cold War, Soviet intelligence in the UK focused on defense-related science and technology. Intelligence officers flooded the country, and three Labour Party members of Parliament—Will Owen, John Stonehouse, and Tom Driberg—were recruited to provide classified information. Three British spies convicted during the early years of the Soviet Leonid Brezhnev era included Frank Bossard, for passing on secrets of guided weapon development (1965); Douglas Britten, for providing Royal Air Force (RAF) signals intelligence (1968); and Sub-Lieutenant David Bingham, for filming secret documents at the Portsmouth naval base (1972).
Defections of Soviet agents continued during the 1960s. Three occurred in Berlin. The most notable was that of Oleg Lyalin, who provided MI5 with sabotage plans for Western capitals.
John and Arthur Walker and Geoffrey Prime. The KGB recruited its two most important SIGINT spies early in 1968: Corporal Geoffrey Prime of RAF SIGINT in Berlin and a few days later U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Walker, connected with submarine forces in Norfolk, Virginia. For the next eighteen years, Walker sold decoded communications and encryption material to the Soviets, also recruiting Michael Walker, his brother Arthur, and a friend, Jerry Whitworth, all military personnel with access to various levels of secure information. These agents helped the KGB to reorganize SIGINT and to separate ciphers and communications security in separate departments. The Walker spy group, perhaps the most damaging to the West in the entire Cold War, was sentenced in 1985, and Prime was sentenced in 1982.
1976–1991: Further Intelligence FailuresDétente, escalation, collapse, and the Iranian hostage crisis. The flight of the Shah of Iran and the ensuing Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 reinforced charges that American intelligence focused too much on TECHINT and too little on HUMINT and analysis. The discovery that secret documents in the seized U.S. embassy had fallen into the hands of militants evoked charges of incompetence, as did the CIA's role in
Soviet intervention: Afghanistan and Poland. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 marked the end of East-West détente. Throughout the occupation, the KGB maintained a steady presence, sending detailed reports and setting up an Afghan security service, Khedamate Etela'ate Dawlati (KHAD). Meanwhile, the CIA provided funds and arms to anti-Soviet rebels, and matériel from both sides left rival factions in the subsequent civil war well armed after the last Soviet troops withdrew in 1989.
Poland's Solidarity movement exacerbated the USSR's problems abroad and further heightened East-West tensions. As earlier in Czechoslovakia, the KGB sent in agents posing as tourists, while Polish security services sent detailed reports to the KGB. Still, realizing that armed intervention would destroy all hope of superpower arms control, Moscow did not resort to invasion; instead, a coup supported by the KGB and Polish security forces installed General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who imposed martial law on 13 December 1981.
American covert operations. American intelligence continued to focus on South and Central America beginning with Nicaragua in 1979, where Marxists had just ousted Anastasio Somoza II. To arm the anticommunist Contras and skirt a congressional mandate forbidding intervention in Nicaragua, the CIA began arms sales to Iran in 1981 to raise money covertly. Shortly after a U.S. cargo plane was shot down over Nicaragua on 5 October 1986, the Iran-Contra Affair erupted, embarrassing the Reagan administration. In El Salvador, right-wing leader Roberto D'Aubuisson's assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero led to civil conflict in 1980, with the CIA providing equipment and intelligence to D'Aubuisson. After Operation
Reagan's get-tough stance continued with the 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (also known as Star Wars), which foresaw the use of space-based laser technology to destroy Soviet missiles in flight. In addition, during 2–11 November 1983 NATO's Able Archer 83, war games intended to practice nuclear release mechanisms, may also have served as disinformation, an attempt to convince Soviet forces that the West was ready to strike should the need arise.
Spies, defectors, and double agents to 1991. As the Cold War wound down, spying continued. The focus of Soviet espionage shifted from the military to the technological, with California's Silicon Valley technology companies a priority; a second focus monitored European integration in the European Community; and a third evaluated the Arctic fringe, where oil and natural gas resources attracted Western interest after the 1973–1974 oil crisis. The U.S. embassy in Moscow continued to be vulnerable, confirmed by the 1987 discovery of an American informant, Sergeant Clayton Lone-tree, who gave KGB agents access to the mission. Bulgarian intelligence joined forces with the KGB in a bizarre espionage development in October 1978, murdering the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov with the poisoned tip of an umbrella. In 1989, Felix Bloch, a former high-ranking Foreign Service officer, was accused of having spied for the KGB, but the charge was dropped.
Defectors continued to move westward. One of the most valuable double agents proved to be KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky, who began spying for SIS in 1974. Called back to Moscow on a pretext after American spy Aldrich Ames had identified him, Gordievsky was briefly held until his extradition to London in 1985. A. G. Tolkachev, an electronics expert at a Moscow military-aviation institute, was a valuable CIA
The collapse of the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 took the worldwide intelligence community by surprise. And as with earlier failures to assess the military situation in Korea and Vietnam or the deposal of the Shah of Iran and the hostage crisis (1979), the CIA again came under attack.
Post-1991: The Legacy
In Britain, post–Cold War spy exposures took a dramatic turn when, on 24 March 1992, Vasili Mitrokhin, a former member of the KGB's First Directorate, contacted the British and offered to turn over a number of volumes detailing KGB activities from 1948 to 1984, some of them listing hundreds of agents and contacts. The British Labour government commissioned Christopher Andrew, a prominent Soviet historian, to research and collate the archive, but before the book was released The Times serialized a number of chapters. A furor erupted with allegations that two British spies for the Soviets—Melita Norwood and John Symonds—were still alive and had never been prosecuted.