What CIA spies endured during the Cold War
During the Cold War espionage game between America’s CIA officers and Soviet KGB spies, many unusual events unfolded. Here are a few:
The photo above is of “Checkpoint Charlie”. The Berlin Wall prevented the West from having further influence on the East, stopped the flow of migrants out of the communist sector, and ultimately become the most iconic image of the Cold War in Europe. The United States quickly condemned the wall, which divided families and limited freedom of movement.
A CIA officer knew that his Moscow flat was bugged as he called friends to arrange a dinner date. While driving to the restaurant, he noticed that the car behind him was KGB surveillance (They followed him everywhere). Unfortunately, he and his wife got lost, so they decided to get behind the KGB vehicle… and it took him straight to the restaurant!
During the eighties, the CIA secretly pumped funds into abstract expressionists, such as Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko, in an attempt to make American freedom and expression art popular in contrast to rigid Soviet art. Yes, ultra-liberal artists had unknowingly worked for the CIA.
In 1981 a CIA undercover operative escaped Iran using a fake German passport, but he was detained because it used the middle initial “H”, and German passports did not use initials. His quick thinking saved his life- he said it stood for “Hitler” and he had special permission to use an initial. It worked.
The Soviet KGB used an incredibly subtle trick to identify hundreds of spies: Americans would use good-quality, rust-proof staples on their documents, whereas actual Russians used cheap staples that left a rust stain behind.
In 1962, Project Cold feet was an operation where two CIA operatives airdropped onto an abandoned Soviet research station on an ice floe, retrieved files on advanced submarine detection systems, and were extracted via a Fulton Skyhook recovery system attached to a modified B-17. Several years later, the CIA raised a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine from the ocean with a huge ship outfitted with a giant claw, after convincing billionaire Howard Hughes to claim that he built the ship to mine manganese from the sea floor- the ship was named the Hughes Glomar Explorer.
Is the CIA in your neighborhood? During the Cold War, and still today, the Agency maintains safe houses to house Russian defectors and to keep them safe from GRU assassins while they are debriefed. Some are rented, some are owned by the Agency, but they blend in well into the neighborhood.
The CIA does not always use money to gain vital secrets. Afghan warlords offered a goldmine of information on Taliban activities in exchange for Viagra pills.
Still a mystery. In 1978, former CIA deputy director John Paisley’s sailboat was found empty, and his body was discovered in the Chesapeake Bay, weighted down by diving belts with a bullet hole in the head. He monitored Soviet military movements and nuclear capabilities. Suicide or a KGB murder?
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.