Fountain Pen Concealment

Artifact Details

In the early 1970s, Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a Soviet bureaucrat serving his country in Bogota, Colombia. CIA recruited Ogorodnik in January 1974 and gave him the cryptonym TRIGON. As a CIA asset, Ogorodnik smuggled documents from the Soviet Embassy and brought them to a safehouse where CIA photographed them. The material he provided gave CIA valuable insights into Soviet policies in Latin America.

To prepare Ogorodnik for his return to the Soviet Union in October 1974, at Ogorodnik’s insistence, OTS provided him a concealment (within the pen) modified to hold a cyanide capsule as a way to commit suicide in case he was caught. Although its features are not visible in this photo, the pen given to TRIGON used similar technology and tradecraft.

TRIGON’s concerns were valid. In early 1977, TRIGON’s CIA case officers noticed the quality of his photos declined significantly, which led them to believe the Soviets were onto him.  CIA later learned TRIGON had died on 22 June 1977. After the Soviet KGB had arrested him, he agreed to sign a confession—as long as he could use his own pen. When the KGB allowed him to do so, Ogorodnik bit down on the pen, releasing the cyanide, and died instantly.