Russian intelligence good at foot and vehicle surveillance
It was tough to be a CIA operative in the Soviet Union during the Cold War days (It’s still tough today). In the Soviet Union, the KGB kept close surveillance on American spies and State Department officials. Author David E. Hoffman, in his book The Billion Dollar Spy, discusses the CIA’s Moscow station during the Cold War, revealing how spies recruited agents, and what happened when things went wrong. Some of the stories were amusing and some were tragic.
On a humorous note, Hoffman writes how a CIA officer new to the Soviet station was amused to sometimes reach for his coat only to find it had vanished. (Later, it would mysteriously return, now likely bugged by the KGB.) His apartment was bugged as well, and his phone lines were tapped. Once, he used an unsecure line to set up dinner at a restaurant with friends. While driving to the restaurant, he figured out that the cars behind him and in front of him were KGB surveillance. At some point in the drive, he and his wife got lost, so they decided to just follow the KGB to see what would happen. The KGB took him straight to the restaurant.
The CIA used to have a device called Jack in the Box, made from sex dolls cut from the shoulder down. If an agent was being tailed by the KGB, his driver would turn sharply, giving him time to hop out of the car. The driver would then deploy the device, so it would look like the agent was still in the car.
Another tactic involved “repetitive redundancy”, where CIA operatives would lull their foreign surveillance into a state of boredom. One agent at the Prague station noticed that the Czech secret police were following him everywhere he went. So, he made his daily routine incredibly boring and predictable. He drove slowly, never deviated from his normal route, nor his normal routine. He drove the babysitter home each evening and got a haircut on the same day, at the same time each week. After six months, he discovered that for his haircut and babysitter drives, his watchers would no longer follow, so long as he reappeared at the same time as usual. He exploited their boredom and lethargy and used their careless gap in surveillance as a moment to meet his contacts.
In the MISSION OF VENGEANCE spy thriller, I created a situation where former KGB spies were still active in the Caribbean, particularly in the Dominican Republic. Russia had plans to undermine America’s influence in the Caribbean. CIA spymaster Corey Pearson knew the KGB agents were deft at surveillance and counter-surveillance, just like they were in Moscow during the Cold War, so he used counterintelligence tactics to counter them without revealing himself. Here’s a few snippets from MISSION OF VENGEANCE:
Snippet 1: He agreed in advance with the defecting KGB agent Yury Bocharov that their next contact location would be the Hard Rock Café in Santo Domingo. Earlier, Corey drove past the Waterfront Restaurant in Sosua and eyed the Red Flamboyant tree outside. In the shade under its crimson canopy was a bench with a blue mark scribbled on the back frame. A signal from Bocharov to meet today at 4 p.m. Corey never wanted to meet directly with Bocharov in Sosua, nor did he desire to use a dead drop to pass information back and forth. The Russians were too skilled in surveillance spy craft.
Snippet 2: Corey flew into the Gregorio Luperon International Airport on the CIA’s HST Airlines. He rented a car and began the short drive on Rt. 5 into Sosua, a town In Puerto Plata Province on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The plan was to get a hold of Lieutenant Danilo Sanchez’s crime scene report and conduct countersurveillance before the debriefing at the Waterfront Restaurant. It was a precautionary measure to ensure his counterintelligence team stayed under the radar of Russian intelligence, for a trained KGB spy could cleverly spot a suspicious tail.
End of Snippets
The video, The FBI Investigates Soviet Deep-Cover Spies in America reveals how, over a decade, deep-cover Russian spies embedded themselves in America, collected intelligence and passed it onto their handlers. It describes a large FBI undercover counterintelligence operation, called Operation Ghost Stories. Enjoy!
Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community, and relishes traveling to the Florida Keys and Key West, the Bahamas and Caribbean. He combines both passions in his Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.