Work With Walk-ins


The following article is adapted from one of several on Soviet intelligence doctrine written by high-ranking officers of the GRU (the Soviet defense intelligence agency).  It was originally published in 1962. The articles apparently constituted part of an effort to improve the unsatisfactory performance of the GRU, a purpose which had reportedly motivated the installation of General of the Army Serov as its chief in 1958.

Although addressed particularly to GRU operations officers, the papers can be said to reflect Soviet operational doctrine generally. The civilian KGB, because of its security responsibilities, is counterintelligence-oriented, but the operational philosophies and practices of the two services are similar. The Serov lecture on walk-ins, in particular, which formalizes a revision of GRU operational principles in that field, is presumably based on his long experience in MVD/KGB operations.

Serov's treatment shows that Soviet problems in assessing and handling the walk-in are not unlike our own. Earlier, it seems, the hazards had been evaded by a brush-off policy: GRU officers avoided difficult decisions and the possibility of security flaps by simply refusing to receive walk-ins. Serov changed this policy. He makes it clear that walk-ins at GRU residencies will now receive a hearing and be carefully assessed.


Ivan A. Serov

The main task of intelligence is to give timely warning to our government and to the Command of the Armed Forces regarding imperialist preparations for surprise attack on the USSR and other countries of the socialist camp. Success in discharging the important responsibilities placed on intelligence depends to a great extent on proper planning and direction of the work and on the ability to make use of all possible means.

A significant role in intelligence activities is played by work with walk-ins,2 i.e., persons who approach Soviet representatives of their own accord, wishing to help the Soviet Union and offering their services, in particular to obtain documents of value to us. In a number of countries (USA, France, Western Germany, Italy, and others) approaches by such walk-ins are not an infrequent occurrence. For this there is, in our view, a logical explanation.

Many people in capitalist countries are in serious financial straits, living in constant anxiety about the future. They consequently resort to any possible means of earning some money to put aside, and for the sake of this financial security they are ready to run the risks involved in offering to collaborate with us. In these countries there also live many who came from countries of the socialist camp and have retained their love for the motherland, and others who have paid visits during the last few years to the Soviet Union, have come to know the Soviet people better, and are genuinely eager to do what they can to help us.

The majority, to be sure, of those who turn up regularly at our embassies declaring that they are in sympathy with the Soviet Union and want to help it in some way or other offer "inventions" or "important" documents which, when checked, prove to be of no value. Counterintelligence often makes use of such approaches in order to see which of our officers react to the "tempting" offers and so find out which ones are intelligence officers and what their methods are. These visitors bring drawings and various descriptions of their "inventions" and ask to see the military or naval attaché to show them to him. As a rule they are received by personnel of the attaché's office. They usually say that they are in sympathy with the USSR and for this reason are approaching the Soviet embassy; otherwise they would have offered their services to the Americans--naturally they would like to get some financial reward. Some declare that they are ready to go to the USSR in order to develop the invention. But in the course of detailed conversation with these "inventors" it emerges as a rule that they know little about their own inventions or about military equipment in the branches in which they have presented themselves as specialists. This probing of their story leads to the timely detection of counterintelligence agents.

One might think that work with walk-ins presents no special difficulties, if only for the reason that one does not have to seek them out, find ways of approaching them, etc. Such reasoning is misleading. Working with persons who offer their services is a very complicated business. First of all, it is difficult to make a quick assessment of the true motives of such a person, to discern the real reasons for the offer, and accordingly to make the right decision.

It will be seen in the case histories following that people walk into official Soviet establishments abroad with all kinds of motives. Some are ideologically close to us and genuinely and unselfishly anxious to help us; some are in sympathy with the Soviet Union but want at the same time to supplement their income; and some, though not in accord with our ideas and views, are still ready to collaborate honestly with us for financial reasons. On the other hand, Soviet representatives often have to deal with unemployed persons who come to our establishments out of desperation as a last hope of getting some means of livelihood; needless to say these have as a rule no agent potential and cannot be of any use to us. Approaches are also made by various kinds of rogues, swindlers, and blackmailers, who in their search for easy money are ready to do anything and to whom nothing is sacred; today they will sell a state secret entrusted to them, and tomorrow they will betray the one to whom they sold it. Finally, counterintelligence often tries to plant agents under the guise of walk-ins, and here the slightest mistake can lead to very undesirable consequences.

Offers of service may be made by letter (through the mails or in some other way), by telephone, or in person at the Soviet establishment. The manner of approach can be very different. Persons wanting to make money usually produce a large quantity of documents and talk much and willingly about themselves, trying to make a favorable impression. Extortioners and blackmailers usually act impudent, making their offer in the form of an ultimatum and even resorting to open threats. It is essential that the staffs of the service attachés and other mission offices be able to assess correctly the persons who approach them, their motives, and the material they offer, so as to make the right decision regarding further action.

It must be said that until lately our officers, in the majority of cases, have acted without thinking things out properly; on the assumption that all offers are provocations they have as a rule turned them down and reported their decision to the Center 3 afterwards, when it was too late to correct any mistake. It is only during the last two years, after intervention by the Center, that legal residencies 4 and the military attachés' offices have started to show greater thoughtfulness in making decisions on such questions, and the results have not been slow in becoming apparent.

Here are some concrete examples of correct and incorrect action by Soviet representatives with respect to persons offering their services, together with some conclusions and practical suggestions for improving work of this kind.


Potential Agents with Financial Motivation

Dangerous Contacts

In 1960 there was found in the mailbox of one of our embassies an anonymous letter asking that contact be established with the writer, who claimed he had something important that he could tell us and gave only his home telephone number. From this number the officers of the residency were able to determine the name of the correspondent, and with the help of local reference books they assembled all the essential details about him (where he worked, his job, his office and home addresses, etc.). It was evident that he occupied a position which gave him access to valuable information, and there was good reason, therefore, for arranging a meeting with him.We shall call him X.

The residency decided to telephone the number X had given and ask him to come to a meeting at a stipulated place, but to intercept him on his way there so that counterintelligence, if it listened in on the telephone call, would not be able to mount surveillance on the meeting. This plan was carried out.

During the meeting X gave some details about himself and said that he had access to important documentary information which he would pass to us if we would pay for it. His statements about himself agreed with the information that had been developed by the residency. At the end of the meeting it was agreed that X would come the following week with some of the material to one of the embassy's houses.

On the appointed day he arrived with the secret documents, and they proved to be valuable. A talk was held with him in which the possibilities of getting material of interest to us and the motives which had prompted him to offer his services were thoroughly explored. Then, as a further check on X's honesty, it was suggested to him that he bring another batch of suitable material to the same house. X refused to do this, saying that he could not run the risk again, and suggested that arrangements be made for him to pass the material somewhere out of town.

In the two meetings it had thus been determined that X was being truthful, that his motives were financial, and that he was exercising caution, evidently appreciating the gravity of establishing this relationship and aware of its possible consequences. There was no doubt about the value of the material received from him. Taking all this into account, the residency decided to accept X's offer and in the future maintain contact with him by dead-drop.

This decision was correct. But the residency had made some mistakes. The first meeting should not have been arranged by telephoning the number given in the letter but in person, by meeting X "accidentally" on his way to work or home from work--his office and home address were known. Moreover, a second visit to the embassy's property should not have been suggested even as a test; it could not be excluded that the house was watched by counterintelligence, who might have apprehended X on the way in. If the residency's staff had given thorough and thoughtful consideration to all the circumstances involved they could have avoided these mistakes.

Amateur Lapse

Last year in a certain country a man who called himself A---- telephoned our air attaché at home, saying he was a specialist in aviation and would like to have a talk. He was told that he could call at the air attaché's house any time he liked.

He turned up a few days later and offered to hand over, at a price, documentary information which was of interest to us. He gave quite a lot of details about himself and in general terms explained his access to the material. There seemed to be nothing suspicious about his behavior. The residency officer conducting the interview, however, evidently without adequate training, did not make definite arrangements for a subsequent meeting, and his arrangements for emergency contact were insecure.

The resident 5 reported A----'s offer to the Center, which gave instructions to study his potential and if it seemed good to make use of his services. A---- was summoned to a meeting by telephone, as had been agreed. At this meeting a residency officer ascertained his potential for supplying information, gave him the task of producing a particular document, and agreed on the way it should be passed.

At the appointed time A---- brought the document to the air attaché's office, and it proved to be of value. But before long the residency received a cable to the effect that further contact with him was risky, and it had to drop him.

On analysis it is easy to see that the residency made a number of serious errors from the very beginning of this case. First of all, an inadequately trained officer was allowed to interview A----. Moreover, this officer did not display any initiative and even failed to make arrangements for a subsequent meeting, so that the reestablishment of contact required use of the telephone. Repeated telephone conversations with A----and his visits to the air attaché's house and office evidently attracted the attention of counterintelligence; hence the warning cable. Thus a possibly valuable source was lost through carelessness.

Nursing a Gambler

In 1961 our embassy in one of the NATO countries was visited by a man we will call D. He gave an assumed name and said he was a citizen of the country, working in one of its important military establishments. He wanted to meet and have a talk with some military official of ours. His request was granted; he was introduced to a member of the military attaché's staff.

D declared that on certain conditions he could hand us secret information which passed through his office. He had not brought any material with him, but he had access to a number of important Secret and Top Secret documents which be could show us at any time. He asked a very large sum for delivering this material. He refused to give his real name. The interviewing intelligence officer expressed a desire to see the documents, and they agreed on a meeting in town for this purpose.   If the rendezvous should fail, D could be reached on a public telephone the number of which he supplied.

The residency analyzed the circumstances under which D had presented himself, his behavior, and the operational situation and decided to check up on him more thoroughly. In particular, it was decided not to go through with the meeting but to establish by means of secret observation whether D went to the prescribed place and whether signs of counterintelligence activity were in evidence in the area. At the appointed time D showed up at the meeting place with a bundle, and nothing suspicious was seen by the watchers stationed in the area.

With this reassurance, it was decided to ring D on the agreed public telephone and suggest that he bring the material to one of our official buildings. If D was a plant, this location for the delivery would reduce to a minimum the opportunity for counterintelligence to stage an incident. D agreed, and at the stipulated time he brought in two Top Secret documents. These proved to be genuine and valuable. D was paid a suitable amount for them and recruited as a regular agent.

Further meetings were held with D, both in the official building and in town. He handed over a number of valuable papers to us, signed the receipts for money paid him, and gave his hand-written agreement to collaborate with us on a regular basis. His personal papers were also photographed. The residency continued to study D in person at these meetings and through other channels.

In the course of this collaboration and study the following facts were established about D:

  • He was fond of gambling.
  • He had offered us his services for financial reasons, being in heavy debt because of gambling losses.
  • He did not sympathize with our ideas and did not disguise his dislike of us.
  • Being an ardent gambler, he was often in urgent need of money, and he not infrequently handed us ultimatums that large sums should be paid him or he would cease his collaboration with us.
  • He was not only not intelligent but a very flighty person: repeatedly he failed to keep agreed appointments; sometimes he turned up at meetings drunk; and on one occasion he broke off the meeting in the middle and rushed away in a rage.

Because of D's slow-wittedness, the instability of his character, his casual attitude, and his greed he was a very difficult agent to run, and the maintenance of contact with him presented serious dangers. Some risk was justified because the material he obtained was very valuable. But in working with such a personality the officers of the residency should have been especially circumspect and careful to avoid the slightest mistake. In particular, D should not have been asked to come to an official building for the first meeting and especially not for subsequent meetings: members of the staff of important military establishments who have weaknesses of character and are given to gambling are undoubtedly under the eye of counterintelligence.

American Peddler

A man walked into the official building of the military attaché in the USA. He gave his name, showed the cover of a Top Secret document to an intelligence officer, and asked whether it would be of interest to us. The officer answered that he might be interested in the text, not in the cover. The man fished the document out of the pocket of his overcoat and said that he could let us have it for fifty dollars. The officer examined the contents of the document and paid the money. It was agreed that the visitor would later furnish another such document, bringing it to the same building.

At the second meeting a thorough talk was held with the man, going into his particulars and possibilities as an agent, his job, and certain other questions concerning his history and personal qualities. The residency's officers got the impression that he was not playing a double game, had good potential, and was genuinely anxious to work with us. They therefore came to agreement with him on the terms under which he would regularly supply documentary material. Future meetings, however, would be held outside of Washington.

Later on, contact arrangements with this man grew gradually more complicated with the introduction of dead drops, emergency meetings, reserve meetings, etc. During his collaboration he furnished us a large quantity of valuable documents. The material was paid for in accordance with its nature and value. 6

It would appear that in this example everything went well. Here too, however, mistakes were made. Clearly, not enough thought had been given to the first steps. In the first place, arrangements should not have been made for a second meeting with the visitor in an official building. Even if it is assumed that his first visit to a Soviet establishment had not been noticed by counterintelligence, nothing can justify the risk which the residency officers took in setting the second meeting there.

Moreover, the residency officers did not carry out a thorough and all-around check when leaving for the first meeting with this man outside. They should have, because they had no guarantee whatever that the visitor was not a counterintelligence plant. Surely it cannot be excluded that counterintelligence might sacrifice several important documents in order to put through a planned scheme for compromising Soviet representatives. This example shows that even when everything goes as it should it is wrong not to have exercised the greatest vigilance, foresight, and care, thinking everything through to its logical end and committing oneself to action only when fully convinced of success.

From Peddler to Agent

In April of last year a visitor--let us call him M--came into our embassy in one of the European countries and asked to see the military attaché. He was interviewed first by the military attaché's interpreter and then by the attaché himself. Showing his personal papers, M explained that he was working at an important military target, was badly in need of money, and therefore was prepared, though not in sympathy with the Soviet Union, to sell us documents of a military nature. As proof of his bona fides he produced an important and undoubtedly genuine NATO document which showed that he really had potential as an agent.

M's papers were photographed, and arrangements were made with him for a routine meeting in town. To this meeting he brought another document and received payment for it. It was agreed that in the future a purely commercial relationship would be maintained, with transactions to be consummated item by item on M's initiative.

During subsequent meetings the case officer, by displaying an interest in M's family and home life, managed to win his confidence and get on friendly terms with him. He succeeded in finding out M's exact job, addresses, and telephone numbers. Arrangements were made enabling either party to summon the other to urgent meetings, and a system of signals was set up in town. In this way M began to deliver a regular supply of the top secret material to which he had access.   Gradually relations developed to the point that M became a real agent. This was achieved through clever handling in which the case officer had to overcome quite a number of difficulties; at the beginning, for instance, M wanted to get a large sum of money immediately for handing over one or two documents.

Attention is drawn to this case because some military intelligence officers have the wrong impression about the possibilities and the time needed to get on agent terms with a walk-in. Many act too hastily in this respect, evidently on the theory that when someone comes in with an offer, then is the time to act: recruit him and get a good mark. This is a harmful approach, fraught with unpleasant consequences. Here it is very relevant to quote the old proverb, "Seven times measure; cut once."


Peddlers Without Goods

The Gleaner

In 1957 an Austrian, one Sh---- , approached the Soviet consulate in Vienna with an offer to obtain for us from the headquarters of American forces in West Germany several movies showing tests of new American weapons. The case officer examined Sh---- 's papers and extracted the data for a name check. Upon receiving a go-ahead from the Center he advanced the man his expenses for a round trip to West Germany, with the understanding that he would be paid for the movies after they had been examined.

After some days Sh---- returned and handed over a film, but examination revealed that it depicted American aircraft and other equipment of which photographs had appeared in open newspapers and magazines and was therefore of no interest whatever to us. A talk with Sh---- brought out that he needed money and had grasped at a straw to get into our service, believing that he could be of use to us in some way.

Perennial Con-Man

In December 1959 a stranger called at the Soviet consulate in Copenhagen wanting to talk to someone in the military attaché's office. In the ensuing conversation the man gave his name as V---- and said that in return for money he could give us information verbally or in writing (with photographs attached) on the Nike anti-aircraft missile sites in the Copenhagen area. He pointed out that he had previously sold military information to an officer on the staff of the Soviet military attaché in Paris. He displayed several photographs of anti-aircraft missile sites which seemed of doubtful value. He was asked to stand by for a few days and then telephone the interviewing officer at home.

A check was requested of the Center, and it was established that although V really had been given money for passing military information to our officers in France, his reports had been of little value. The Center therefore instructed Copenhagen not to meet him or accept any material from him.

Nevertheless, when V---- came again to the consulate a year and a half later, on 15 July 1961, an officer in the military attaché's office entered into conversation with him. After telling about his financial difficulties V---- offered to write a report on the same old subject, the Nike missile sites around Copenhagen, for 600 Danish kroner. The military attaché, instead of turning down the offer, had V---- write the report on the spot and paid him 300 kroner for it. The information was practically worthless, and the instruction to have no further contact with the man had to be repeated.

This shows how some people will try to take advantage of the inexperience and ignorance of our officers and how some officers are hasty in their decisions, spend money unjustifiably, and run unnecessary risks.

Traveler's Aid

In 1960 a certain B----, a displaced person of Ukrainian nationality, visited the official building of the military attaché in one of the European countries. He claimed to know that a group of Ukrainian nationalists was preparing a terrorist act against Soviet leaders and offered his services in ferreting out the details of this plot and the identity of those who would actually carry out the deed.

Instead of having a long talk with B---- to find out more about him, his connections, and his sources of information, our officer accepted his story on faith and arranged to meet him the next day at a designated spot and give him the money he needed to travel to the city where the terrorists were. On instructions from the Center, however, B----'s character and his information were checked. It turned out that his story was false. He had evidently invented the whole thing to get money for moving from one country to another.

Et Dona Ferentes

In 1958 several approaches were made to the Soviet consulate in Vienna by Greeks, mostly small merchants or students. A Greek named Kh---- was especially persistent in offering his services; he declared straight out that he wanted to help the Soviet Union for financial reasons. Asked why he was making this offer in Vienna rather than in Greece and how he thought he could help us, he replied that he was afraid of visiting the embassy in Athens but was often in Austria on business and that he himself had no special access but could get information through his brother, a sergeant at one of the American bases in Greece.

It was learned later that Greeks were making similar offers to embassies of other countries of the socialist camp, in fact to all establishments where in their opinion they might find a taker. This example shows, among other things, that walk-ins should be checked against information from the military attachés of other countries.

Blackmailers and Extortioners

A great danger is presented by persons who offer their services from dishonest, mercenary motives or with provocation in view--blackmailers, extortioners, swindlers, and persons acting under the control of counterintelligence. Special care has to be exercised in dealing with them.

Attractive Rogue

In 1959 a local national, U----, came to the official building of a military attaché. He had certification as test pilot for an aircraft firm, and he offered the design of an electromagnetic engine he had developed. A brief examination showed the design to be of no interest whatever, and it was turned down. Nevertheless, the man did not leave; he complained about being badly off, mentioned debts, said that he was poorly treated where he was working, and finally asked our officer for $500 as a loan, promising that he would help us in any way he could.

In general, the residency's officers formed a favorable impression of U----. In reporting the incident to the Center they suggested that he be given a loan and that a receipt be obtained for it. The Center did not approve this proposal; it saw many suspicious features in U----'s approach and behavior, savoring of preparations for a provocation. It sent instructions to break off contact with him.

At the end of 1959 U---- again approached our officer, requesting a meeting in town; and the resident, without the Center's permission, authorized the renewed contact. At this meeting U---- handed our officer diagrams of some of the equipment on the antisubmarine aircraft Argus, the value of which was judged by intelligence to be moderate. He also reported that he had transferred to another aircraft company, complained about his financial position, and asked for help. At subsequent meetings he handed over two secret papers (one of which was valuable), boasted about his access to secret documents especially on the Bomarc antiaircraft missile, asked that he be advanced ten thousand dollars to buy a house, and hinted that he had important connections in circles of interest to us.

The Center sent instructions to stop all contact with U----, who, however, continued to telephone and call in person at the official building and mail postcards there. The residency, for its part, tried insistently to get the Center's permission to have meetings with the man and seemed to have no misgivings that he might be a counterintelligence plant and bent on provocation. Finally, when these efforts to reestablish contact proved of no avail, U---- resorted to blackmail and intimidation. In several letters addressed to the military attaché at his office and offering more "important" documents, he demanded the payment of ten thousand dollars for the material already supplied and threatened to put the whole "transaction" into the hands of counterintelligence and the law.

In analyzing this case it is easy to see that in addition to the attempt at blackmail there cannot be excluded the possibility that counterintelligence had a finger in the pie: U---- may have been given the task of arousing the interest of our officers in order to compromise them at some suitable moment. Among the weaknesses shown by the residency's officers was the fact that they failed to see through U---- in the initial stages of their work with him, made an incorrect assessment of him, did not investigate his potential, did not learn his real intentions, did not study or check up on him properly, and did not attach sufficient importance to the suspicious features in his behavior.

American Imposters

In 1958 a stranger came to the Paris embassy, said that he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army and badly in need of money, and offered some typewritten documents. Our officers, without studying the material properly, paid twenty thousand francs for it. Examined more closely, what had seemed reports on the disposition of individual U.S. units in West Germany turned out to be only an exercise for use in typist training.

The "lieutenant" was not seen again in Paris, but some time later he visited our embassy in Denmark, saying that he had collaborated with the military attaché's office in Paris and asking for money against a promise of some documents. He could have been just a swindler looking for some easy money, but he may have been a plant of NATO counterintelligence trying to identify our personnel.

In August 1960 a Second Lieutenant N---- of the U.S. Army Reserve called at our embassy in Paris. He said that he was willing to help Soviet intelligence if we made it worth his while. He himself had no access to information but he had a friend who did, a captain serving at an air base in Spain who wanted to earn some money and had asked to be put in touch with Soviet intelligence. N---- asked for money for a trip to Spain and promised to bring back a copy of the U.S. field service regulations.

The conversation with N---- was carried on through an interpreter, since he spoke only English; but he made a good impression on the officer who talked with him. On his personal signature he was given the money to go see his friend. When he got to Spain, however, he telephoned our officer demanding more money. The tone he used left no doubt that he was simply a rogue and an extortioner. Our officer hung up the receiver.

Later it was discovered that N---- had gone from the meeting with our officer to French counterintelligence, where he told them that he was an agent of the Soviet intelligence service and was willing to help them. The French, however, although they verified that he had visited our military attaché, had refused his services, recognizing that he was simply a rogue. Two months later the man turned up at our embassy in Beirut and approached the ambassador and the military attaché with the same kind of offer. On instruction from the Center he was asked to leave the embassy.

This was an obvious example of carelessness and credulity on the part of our officer in Paris.

Checkroom Trap

In May 1958 the embassy in Sweden received a letter written in English which said:

"Do you know the method by which NATO intends to combat your submarines? Have you heard of the DAR equipment, which, in conjunction with new antisubmarine mines, can . . . [etc., etc.]? Do you know where the stations . . . [for submarine detection] will be situated? If you want answers [to these questions], I will be glad to let you have the main principles on which DAR equipment operates, and how this equipment will detect your submarines regardless of the temperature of the water. . . I can also explain to you how to save hundreds of your submarines from the new mines. I can tell you approximately where the first two fields will be laid (to within two miles).

"The writer of these lines, who wishes to remain anonymous, has come to Stockholm only for a few days and will soon be returning to his station in Germany. For the information to be supplied, if it is acceptable, I am asking ten thousand American dollars. The information will be handed over to you in portions worth three thousand American dollars each, payment to be made later. This means that, if the first lot of material is to your liking, you will pay for it and will receive another batch.

"The material can be handed over in Switzerland or in Sweden, whichever you prefer. I will have two weeks' leave in June or July. In order to convince me that you are interested, I would like you to pay my travel expenses in advance at the same time you inform me which country you would like to meet me in. Your answer, together with 1600 Swedish kroner in the currency of any West European country, can be left at the checkroom at Lidingo up until 1630 hours on Saturday, 10 May. You can put your message in a pair of old shoes and tell the attendant at the checkroom that the parcel will be picked up by a messenger from Mr. Ekker."

The letter was clearly a provocation. The residency acted correctly in leaving it unanswered.

Cover Story

In August 1960 an approach to the military attaché's office in Vienna was made by a man who said he was a West German citizen, Konrad Loezel, born 1921, living at Nuernberg, Neuhausen 13. Interviewed by an assistant military attaché, Loezel declared that he was a genuine friend of the Soviet Union and for a long time had sought an opportunity to get into touch with us; he was in a position to pass us some very important information, in particular the formula of a new military material which had recently been developed in great secrecy. He had a confederate, a Major Bauer, serving in the NATO 3rd Fighter Squadron located at Fuerth; he himself was in charge of a travel bureau in Nuernberg (he produced a document to confirm this); he was a member of the Free Democratic Party of West Germany and a member of the Defense Committee of the Bavarian Landtag, where he had many friends among the deputies; he was well informed about all military construction work in Bavaria.

In giving all these details he was obviously trying to arouse interest in his potential. But such a wealth of detail appeared suspicious to the residency's officers, and they pressed for more particulars on some of the points. Loezel grew confused in his replies, and what he represented became evident.


Counterintelligence Plants

Lures in Rome

Once an Italian telephoned the embassy and asked for a meeting in town with an officer of the military attache's staff, specifying the time and place. The resident decided that no one should go to the meeting, but the area where it was to be held should be put under surveillance. It turned out that counterintelligence officers were stationed all around.

Another Italian took advantage of receptions and other official functions to make approaches to first one and then other Soviet representatives with offers of his services, attempting to arrange meetings in other, less official surroundings. This person's conduct appeared suspicious to the residency's officers, and they politely but firmly turned down all his advances. Then he switched his attentions to the Czech military attaché, and not without success. But during one of their meetings at a restaurant, when the Italian had got up and gone to the men's room, a waiter informed the Czech that his friend was a provocateur employed by the police.

Although in these examples our officers displayed due caution and did not take the bait, it is unfortunately the case that not all of them so conduct themselves always. Some still show weaknesses in grasping a situation, do not analyze events sufficiently deeply and thoroughly, and tolerate lapses in security.

On Target

In the summer of 1958, on a Sunday, a certain P---- telephoned to the building housing our mission and asked insistently for a meeting with a member of the staff.   The person on duty that day, an intelligence officer of the residency whose cover job was technical, not diplomatic, and in whom counterintelligence had recently shown a particular interest, answered that on a holiday there were no senior members of the staff in the office. P---- replied that since he could not stay over until Monday he would come along and have a talk with the duty officer. The latter, explaining that he was busy at the moment, asked P---- to call back a little later, and he immediately reported the matter to the resident. Because of his current attraction for counterintelligence, he had been instructed to drop all work with agents for the present.

Now the resident gave him strict orders that if P---- turned up at the building he should listen to what he had to say but not accept any material from him or commit himself in any way by any arrangements or promises. The decision of the resident was undoubtedly the correct one, especially since one or two things P---- said had been suspicious; he was clearly trying to interest the duty officer in his potential. Despite the resident's instruction, however, the officer fell for the temptingly easy dangled recruitment and when P----telephoned again agreed to meet him a long way out of town and under the detailed arrangements he suggested.

The resident gave categorical orders that the meeting was not to take place; he assumed that P---- was probably a counterintelligence agent. The counterintelligence service was of course aware that the officer in whom it was interested was on duty that day. Having some knowledge of his character, it reckoned on his not being able to resist P----'s offer to hand over information "of a kind not previously received by anyone." When it had aroused his interest and induced him to come to a meeting outside of town, it would then try to compromise him.

This conclusion was strengthened by a further incident. Some weeks later, when the same officer was on duty, a certain Mr. Kh---- telephoned for an appointment, came to the building, and told this officer that he could pass us information on military electronics. In confirmation of his access he produced a film showing the buildings of the school of military electronics. Again the officer displayed quite unjustified trustfulness. He accepted the film, which was of no value whatever, and arranged to meet Kh---- later in town to return it. This was evidently just what counterintelligence was trying to achieve--to catch our man at the meeting place with the film on him, as tangible grounds for compromising him. This meeting was likewise forbidden.

This example illustrates that the reception of walk-ins should be reserved to experienced case officers who can handle the interview expertly and avoid hasty decisions.


Miscellaneous Walk-Ins

Brush-Off Approved

At the end of 1959 one of the staff of a military attaché's office, Nikolay, noticed on his way home from work that he was being followed by a counterintelligence car in which, strangely, there was only the driver; usually at least two counterintelligence agents rode together. He had been about to stop at a large self-service store to get some groceries. While he was in a section of the store where there were no other customers at the time, the counterintelligence man came up and said that for a large sum of money he would reveal the whereabouts of two former citizens of countries of the socialist camp who were betraying their motherland.

Nikolay replied, reasonably, that neither the whereabouts nor the fate of traitors could be of interest to the countries they had betrayed. The man did not give up, however; he advised Nikolay to think about his offer and said that he hoped to have further conversations with him on the subject.

The incident was reported to the Center. Although the counterintelligence agent's whole behavior and the way he had chosen to make the contact gave grounds to believe that the money motive was genuine, the Center approved Nikolay's refusal and issued instructions that if the agent made another approach all his offers were to be turned down and no negotiations entered into.

This example shows that in some, let us say very rare, cases even counterintelligence officers may approach us in the hope of making money. Our people must be particularly careful in dealing with walk-ins in this category; when conversations with them are approved by the Center they should be entrusted only to the most experienced and best trained officers.

Mistaken Brush-Off

In May 1959 two men, having asked for an interview, were received by our military attache in Stockholm and his assistant. They said that they had served in the army and had certain information, particularly about the naval base, which they would be willing to give us for an appropriate reward. The military attaché immediately broke off the conversation and asked them to leave, and a few days later he reported the incident to the official representative of the Swedish Ministry of Defense, who informed the Swedish security police.

Almost a year later, on 25 March 1960, the Swedish newspapers reported under sensational headlines the arrest of these two men for espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. According to the representative of the Ministry of Defense, the police had needed this time to establish their identity. It is characteristic that the reactionary press, reviving in this connection its periodic anti-Soviet spy-mania campaign, distorted the facts in a tendentious way. Without denying that the investigation was initiated by a warning from the Soviet military attaché, the newspapers made the deliberately false charge that he had accepted documents from the men and in informing the Ministry of Defense of their visit made no mention of these.

Both the men were brought up for trial. On the stand they denied any act or intent of espionage, declaring that they had just wanted to trick a Soviet establishment into giving them two thousand kroner to relieve them of the financial straits they were in. The trial proceedings were also used as an excuse for anti-Soviet propaganda by the reactionary press.

In this case the military attaché and his assistant had acted very thoughtlessly. Their mistake not only repulsed and jeopardized two men who may really have wanted to help us, not only provided an opening for the development of anti-Soviet propaganda, but also made the work of other Soviet representatives more difficult. The case became known outside Sweden, and it cannot be excluded that it has given pause to more than one budding walk-in, making them wonder whether an approach to Soviet officials would get them anywhere.

Haphazard operation

During the period from April to August 1959 one of our embassies began to receive by mail a series of unsolicited reports always bearing the same signature in Russian, "Your friend Mun," but each time a different address in a certain town that was off limits to our representatives. The first reports were of no interest, but then documents of considerable value began to arrive, showing that Mun had good access to important information on military-technical matters in his country. The residency officers, however, did not move to establish contact with him. They were uncertain about his real address, and his telephone number was unknown. They therefore sat back and waited for further initiatives on his part.

For some time nothing was received from Mun, but in October of the same year a letter arrived in which he pointed out that he had sent us various kinds of "photographs" and asked us to let him know whether we were receiving his letters; if so he would continue to write now and then and "ask questions about life in the USSR." In the letter he gave his true full name and address. A check established that he really did live in the town he had named from the beginning. The residency replied that it was receiving his letters and gave him to understand that it hoped to establish personal contact with him.

Having weighed and analyzed all the details of the case, the Center decided that it was worth running some risk to establish contact with Mun and gave instructions that he should be approached by a residency officer in a position to travel around the country without informing the local authorities of his itinerary. Such a meeting took place, but then the contact was broken with no warning or explanation to Mun, who, disquieted and anxious to renew the operation, therefore came to our official mission with valuable material on his person.

Thus faulty action on the part of the residency's officers compelled Mun to behave in a way that compromised him. They failed to take advantage of the favorable circumstances that had been presented for collaboration and Mun's genuine desire to help us, acted irresponsibly in conducting the operation, and did not display the necessary discreet initiative.

Good Agent; Poor Access

At the end of 1961 the Soviet embassy in one of the Scandinavian countries was visited by a local citizen, N----, aged 22, who declared that he supported the policy of the USSR and was against that of the USA and would like to help us in any way he could. At the first meeting he refused to give his surname, wishing evidently to find out first what attitude we would take towards him, but he handed over aerial photographs of NATO airfields in his country marked "Secret" (and later judged to be of indifferent value). It was arranged that he should come back again after ten days.

This time N---- brought a secret text for training in work on missiles. He said he had taken it from the safe of an officer who had left the key in the lock while off on an official trip. Now he let us have his surname, his address, and job, but he reported that he was being sent for a year to another city. The case officer arranged to meet him, however, when he was in town on leave or holiday.

The case officer got the impression that N---- was genuinely anxious to help us, that he really was who he said he was, and that he was acting carefully and thoughtfully, moreover. In his conversation he displayed knowledge of the kind that a military man in his stated speciality should have; if he could not answer a question he said so straight out; he had withheld his name at the first meeting, and he had taken measures to cover up his intentions as he walked past a policeman on duty at the gates of the embassy.

The residency reported these views to the Center and suggested that we should continue working with N----. It was decided, however, that despite his genuine desire to be helpful to us it would be unproductive to maintain further relations with him: he was not now in a position to obtain information of interest to us. There remained the task of breaking off contact with him skillfully, so as to preserve his access to us in case some valuable information came into his hands, and, more important, tactfully, so that he would not feel hurt by the decision. All these considerations have to be taken into account.

Died Aborning

In 1956 a Soviet embassy received a letter from a Mr. Tom saying that he was an ex-employee of an important establishment in his country and had information which in his opinion would be of great interest to the USSR. His address and telephone number were given. A check of the city directory showed such a person was listed, but at a different address. Further checks, however, established that he had recently moved to a new apartment, at the address given in the letter.

The resident decided to make contact with Tom. A theater ticket for a certain date was sent to his home address, and a case officer, Peter, attended the same performance. Without contacting Tom, he succeeded in identifying him and even got the tag number on the car in which he drove away. Then two weeks were devoted to attempts to intercept him on the street as he left the apartment; these ended in failure.

Finally Peter, acting in accordance with a plan approved by the Center, ascertained by telephone that Tom was at home and after a few minutes paid him a visit in his suburban apartment. Tom gave particulars about himself and provided some information of apparent interest. He said that during World War II he had served as a captain in the air force. In 1954 he had applied for employment in one of the important government agencies, and after thorough security inquiries he got the necessary clearance. His work involved study of the foreign press for items which might be of interest to the government. In December 1955, however, he had left this agency of his own accord.

A second meeting with Tom took place a week later. At this meeting the question of how he could be useful was discussed, particularly the suggestion that he get a job at one of the defense targets, where he could regularly get information which would be of value to us and for which he would be paid. Yet a third meeting was held, but at the fourth meeting Tom did not show up.

Peter thereupon went to see him at home. Tom, whom he found very nervous, told him categorically that he did not wish to have any further contact with us. Two months later the residency saw a brief notice in the local press that Tom had committed suicide. A week later Peter, on leave in Moscow, learned that his entry visa to the country had been canceled. After a year the publication of certain details, coupled with an analysis of material in our possession, showed that Tom's contacts with us had most probably come to the notice of counterintelligence, presumably through the telephone call to his apartment.7

This example shows that counterintelligence keeps employees of important establishments under observation for some time after they have stopped working there. Our officers should bear this in mind.

Well-Wishing Only

In May of last year an American soldier came to the Soviet embassy in one of the Latin American countries and asked to see the military attaché. He said he had made a special trip there in order to tell us about the preparations for war being made in the USA; he did not want to take part in another war and kill honest people in the interests of American monopolists. He gave from personal observation some details about the battle training of American troops, handed over some manuals which were of no value, and reported that after a few months he would be going with his unit to Europe.

Two months later he came to see us again, handed over a directive which was of some interest, and gave some verbal information. We arranged that on arrival in Europe he would make contact with a representative of the Soviet military attache in one of the West European countries. The Center checked into the particulars which he had given about himself and confirmed them.

Soon the soldier did arrive in Europe and, as arranged, met our representatives in a third country, having gone there on leave ostensibly to see the sights. He was undoubtedly a genuine walk-in, but he did not have access to secret material and therefore could not be of any use. This operation was a waste of effort.

We Muddle Through

In September 1961 a local citizen, K----, came to the Soviet embassy in an African country and said that he would like to see our officer S----.  S---- came and introduced himself, but K---- refused to give his name. He did not want to talk in the embassy; could S---- meet him in some public place in town?   S----agreed, and they set a place and time.

When they met in town K---- said that he was an employee of the security service who had taken part in watching Soviet citizens and those of other countries of the socialist camp and expressed a desire to be helpful. He gave his name, but with great reluctance. S---- decided that K----'s offer of his services was an attempt at provocation. He recommended to the resident that no more meetings with him be held.

The Center, however, concluded that S---- should have another meeting with K---- under certain security precautions which it specified. This was the right decision: to date three further meetings have been held, and at two of these useful written and verbal information has been received from K----.

In analyzing this case note should be taken of the following mistakes. Without a prior check and the receipt of confirmatory data on K---- the case officer should not have gone to a meeting with him. Having taken the risk, however, and having recognized that K---- was in a position to supply information of interest to us, he should not have decided against further meetings with him but conducted them in such a way that the man would not think he was being exploited as an agent.

Key to Nothing

In October 1956 the officer on duty at one of our missions found the key to a baggage locker in the mailbox. Clearly it had come from someone wishing to establish contact with us. An officer was given the touchy job of going to the airport and railroad station to study the layout and try to find out where the corresponding locker was. He must have been either insufficiently experienced or in too big a hurry; he failed to discover anything.

On the next day a man calling himself R---- telephoned the mission and asked whether the key had been used. Told we didn't know where it should be used, he said the locker was at the bus station. Our officer went to the bus station, but he spotted several counterintelligence cars in the neighborhood. It was clear that the telephone conversation with R---- had been monitored, and of course we could not open the locker.

A day later R---- telephoned the mission again, this time from another town, to find out if we had succeeded in picking up his material. After this telephone call counterintelligence again displayed activity with respect to our officers leaving the mission. R---- made no further attempt to get into touch with us.

It can be hypothesized that R---- was a real walk-in who did not want to make personal contact for fear of compromising himself. If this was the case then the residency was undoubtedly guilty of negligence in failing to find the locker promptly and so not discovering what was in it and losing a chance to establish relations with a person who could have been useful. On the other hand, the possibility that R---- was acting under the direction of counterintelligence cannot be excluded. The residency should in any case have first found out whom it was dealing with--a genuine walk-in or a counterintelligence plant--and then acted in accordance with the situation.8

No Interest in U.S. Bases

In the summer of 1959 a foreigner who described himself as a Spanish journalist came to the consulate in Vienna. He said that through reliable senior officer friends in the Spanish army he had obtained plans of American military targets under construction in Spain--airfields, roads, stores, and oil pipe lines. These he wanted to sell. Refusing to give his name or show his personal papers, he asked to talk to a member of the consulate staff who had the necessary authority. He also refused to show the plans to the consular official or to visit the consulate a second time, declaring that the only question to be settled was the price we would pay for the plans.

The resident was informed and he consulted the KGB resident. The two then conferred with the embassy counselor, and together they agreed on the following answer to be given the Spaniard: Since the Soviet Union has no intention of fighting with Spain, plans of military structures on the territory of Spain are of no interest whatever to us; the only thing in which the Soviet Union is interested, and what it desires for the Spanish people, is that they should rid themselves as quickly as possible of the dictatorship of Franco. When he was given this answer the Spaniard, surprised and angry, said he would find another buyer for his plans and left.

Did the residents and counselor act correctly in this case? Of course not. First of all, it is incorrect that American military bases in Spain are of no interest to us. Moreover, the officers did not even look at the plans, did not examine any details of the offer, and summarily repulsed a person who might have proved of use to us. From this example it can be seen that some of our officers do not attach sufficient importance to the fulfillment of the tasks given them, do not display intelligent initiative, and make incorrect decisions.

Archery at Dusk

In the summer of 1958 an arrow from a sports bow with a note attached to it was found in the courtyard of one of our missions. The note informed us that a person using the name Ar was prepared to give us information for a specified sum of money and designated a time and place for a meeting in town. The resident decided that we should not meet with Ar according to these instructions. He gave orders that the property across the street from the mission, whence the arrow presumably came, should be watched for two days.

On the next day, a Sunday, when darkness was falling, a car stopped not far from the mission premises. A young man and a girl got out and started to walk obtrusively toward our entrance, paying no attention to the counterintelligence men on duty nearby. In the meantime a second young man who had remained in the car shot another arrow into the courtyard. This was found likewise to have a note attached, with the same contents as the first.

Having analyzed all that had happened and taking into account that by that time the operational situation had become unfavorable, the residency decided that it was inexpedient to establish contact with Ar, especially since two other people were in on the offer. It cannot be excluded that this was quite a well-planned counterintelligence provocation scheme. But it cannot be stated with certainty that these young people were not genuinely anxious to help us.

Local Party Members

We do not run agents in friendly countries of the socialist camp, and in a number of other places (certain African and Arab countries, Cuba) we do not recruit local citizens as agents but use the citizens of capitalist countries who live there. Everywhere we are forbidden to maintain agent relations with members of the fraternal Communist and Workers Parties and other progressive elements.

Nevertheless it cannot be avoided that walk-ins from these prohibited categories turn up at our missions. What should be done in such cases? It is essential to listen to the visitor patiently and attentively and then explain our position to him so thoroughly as to arrive at complete mutual understanding and send him away satisfied. The following case can be cited as an example.

In January 1960 a Finnish citizen, A----, came to the Soviet embassy and asked for an interview with our military representative. The military attaché instructed his assistant to receive the Finn. The visitor, giving his name, age, and address, said that he was a construction foreman from Tampere and that until recently he had worked in the construction organization of the Ministry of Defense helping build underground ammunition storage bunkers. His visit to the embassy was for the purpose of turning over to us the blueprints of these bunkers. He displayed one of the drawings, which sketched a bunker some 50 x 20 meters in floor area and which bore the stamp of the engineer department of the Finnish armed forces.

The assistant military attaché told A---- that because of the friendly relations between the USSR and Finland Soviet representatives could not meddle in the internal affairs of his country and its armed forces. A---- understood our position but explained his own by citing the fact that in spite of friendly relations between the countries some Finnish officers continued to remain hostile to the USSR and were educating their men in this spirit. He himself was a member of the Finnish Communist Party and of the Finland-USSR society, actually heading one of the local branches of this society; he therefore had considered it his duty to inform the Soviet representative.

The assistant attaché thanked A---- for his warm attitude toward the USSR and for his concern and good work on behalf of Finnish-USSR relations. On this they parted.

General Precepts

The above examples illustrate that residency officers still make quite a lot of blunders and bad judgments in working with walk-ins. In order to avoid these and carry out such work in a better planned and more effective way, some general rules which should be adhered to can be summed up as follows.


On receiving by mail a letter with an offer of services, it is essential to note whether the sender's name and address are given, to check on the way mail is delivered to the establishment, to know whether counterintelligence in that country runs a mail scrutiny operation, and to examine any suggestion of a meeting as to place and manner. If the letter has been dropped into the establishment's mailbox without going through the mails, then the situation is simpler, but here too it is essential to carry out the appropriate checks.

After this, the question of a meeting with the writer should be settled: should he be asked to come to an official establishment (embassy, trade delegation, etc.), or to a safe house? More use should be made of meetings in various public places, for instance at athletic events, theaters, and other big gatherings, in order to avoid drawing the attention of counterintelligence from the beginning.

In talking to the write-in the main question should be cleared up first--what information can he provide? Only later and in a tactful way should efforts be made to get some particulars about him, bearing in mind that as a rule even a person who is well disposed toward us will try to conceal such particulars in order to avoid getting himself into trouble. On the other hand, a write-in bent on provocation will boast about his position and exaggerate his access, trying to make his proposition attractive.

It is only after clearing up all these questions that a decision should be taken regarding further action--whether to continue the contact and if so where to meet, or to drop it.

If someone comes to a mission of ours with an offer to help us, in this case too it is important to start the conversation by clearing up the main question--what potential he has for providing material of interest--and then only gradually to inquire into his motives and other matters. If in the course of the conversation it becomes clear that the visitor's potential is limited, it is essential to tell him at once that we, the officials at the embassy (or trade delegation or attaché office), do not indulge in such activities.

If a person's offer is of interest and his position gives him access to valuable material, it should be determined whether he has perchance been planted by counterintelligence and briefed to arouse our interest. His statements about where he is employed and the kind of work he does should be checked by probing thoroughly his knowledge of the work and determining whether he really does know all the details he should or has only acquired a general acquaintance with it from counterintelligence briefings. After this uncertainty has been resolved the question of further meetings can be decided.

If a walk-in brings documents along when he first offers his services it is best for the interviewing officer to pretend that he does not know the language they are written in or on some other pretext ask permission to show them to a colleague in order to determine their value; this will provide an opportunity to photograph them. Depending on their value, the interview can be resumed with the object of determining the man's position and potential, his financial terms, etc.

If it is decided to pursue the operation it is essential to give careful thought to arrangements for further meetings, the planning of dead drops, etc. Personal meetings should be kept as infrequent as possible; when they have to be held the cover story for them should be carefully worked out and the circumstances made to appear casual and natural so as to avoid attracting counterintelligence attention.

Country Team Support

When walk-ins telephone to embassy personnel at their homes or come to the official embassy buildings or other Soviet establishments (trade delegation, TASS) asking to see a military officer, they should not be directed to the military attache's office, but a member of his staff should be sent to the office where the visitor has called and the interview held there. The attachés and residents should establish close liaison with all Soviet establishments in order to be informed quickly when a walk-in appears, and our officers should conduct the meetings on the spot in these establishments. Only the most experienced officers should be given this assignment.

In the event of an approach by telephone it is generally better to arrange to have the interview at a trade delegation, TASS office, or similar installation rather than on the premises of the military attaché's office or the embassy. Counterintelligence watches the former less closely, as a rule, and a military representative sent to such a place can therefore hold the meeting under more favorable conditions.

Persons who come to Soviet establishments requesting political asylum, however, are handled through Ministry of Foreign Affairs channels. We should not involve ourselves in such matters.

Offers may also be made at exhibitions, receptions, and various kinds of open meetings. It is essential to treat these with the greatest caution; a person who approaches you in these surroundings could photograph or otherwise compromise you in the course of your very first conversation with him.

In conclusion, it should be emphasized once more that work with walk-ins is an important part of agent operations for strategic intelligence and when properly planned and conducted can be very fruitful.

1 Serov has had a long career in the Soviet security and intelligence services. Reportedly rising through the Central Committee apparatus that controlled the services, he entered State Security (then the NKVD) during the thirties. He first gained notoriety as organizer of deportations from the Baltic states after their annexation in 1940 and of the relocation of suspect nationalities in the USSR during the war. When Lavrentiy Beriya was overthrown in 1954, Serov became chief of the reorganized and carefully subordinated State Security service. His appointment as chief of the GRU at the end of 1958 was not made public, but it is said to have been made because of high-level disappointment with GRU performance. The discovery in 1963 that GRU officer Oleg Penkovskiy was a US-UK agent led to Serov's dismissal from this post.

2 The Russian word is dobrozhelatel, "well-wisher," as used here virtually the equivalent of our "walk-in." Note the term's positive psychological value in contrast to the derogatory connotation of our "defector."

3 We would say "Headquarters."

4 Official-cover field stations.

5 Chief of Station.

6 This operation, while not fully identified, may have been reflected in several seemingly unrelated incidents that occurred in and around Washington in 1954. In August of that year a guard from a Norfolk shipyard where an aircraft carrier was under construction went into the Soviet military attaché's office. It was later ascertained that he held a Q clearance. Although identified by six witnesses, he denied even being in Washington on the date in question. On at least six occasions during 1954 personnel of the Soviet naval attaché's office visited a wooded area near Arlington, Virginia. These visits, possibly to service a dead drop, are believed to have some relationship to the guard's activity.

7 This case appears to be that of Nick Clark Wallen, a former CIA employee who committed suicide on 25 April 1956. The Washington Sunday Star, in reporting his death, said that Wallen had had a clandestine association with Anatoli A. Popov, assistant Soviet military attaché, and that the latter's re-entry visa had been canceled by the State Department.

8 In October 1956 a man using the name Dr. Rubirosa telephoned the office of the Soviet military attaché in Washington and asked for an assistant attaché who had recently been declared persona non grata. Later the same day an unidentified man brought a small envelope to the office door. The next day "Rubirosa" called to ask if a red key had been received. Then he called twice more: on 25 October he was told the information would be picked up as soon as possible, but on the following day the Soviets said they were not interested. A Washington bus terminal locker was found to contain schematic wiring diagrams for an electronic device. Although "Dr. Rubirosa" was never firmly identified, a likely suspect was found in a former employee of an industrial concern, a mental case.



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Posted: May 08, 2007 07:51 AM
Last Updated: Aug 04, 2011 03:10 PM