Meeting with Agents

2 JULY 96


The adversary's view on a second aspect of agent operations.


A. A. Konovalov and V. S. Sokolov

The conditions under which intelligence work has to be carried out in capitalist countries change periodically for better or worse, and in the last few years these changes have led to a considerable deterioration in the situation. Since last spring, with the wrecking of the summit conference by the Americans and a number of other important international political events, the relations between our country and the USA and NATO countries have deteriorated considerably and still remain strained.

This has led in turn to a sharp deterioration in the agent situation and conditions under which intelligence work under official cover has to be carried out in the most important capitalist countries. These conditions depend to a great extent on our political relations with the country in question, and sometimes they are entirely dependent on these relations. This fact has given rise to a necessity to switch agent work, to the extent possible, to illegal 2 methods. Yet the official base, which has to bear the brunt of operational work at present, will retain its importance for some time.

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Operational Hazards

The severer conditions currently encountered have not been marked by any new or special counterintelligence devices or methods unknown to us, though such a possibility should of course not be excluded. They are due mainly to greater activity on the part of counterintelligence and more intensive use of familiar methods and procedures. In countries where counterintelligence is very active--the USA, the Federal German Republic, Great Britain, Sweden, Holland, and some others--the operations of counterintelligence have a number of more or less similar features. Some of those which figure in the present intensified activity are the following:

  • Considerable intensification of stationary surveillance.
  • Surveillance by groups in cars, sometimes fully equipped with radio. (In the past this was not so.)
  • Troublesome attempts to infiltrate provocateurs into our network by exploiting our people's acquaintances among local residents.
  • Stricter application of discriminatory measures against our people when they travel about the country. (Before making such trips it is necessary to have special permission, to provide details of the route, which has to be approved by the authorities, and to indicate where one is going to stay overnight.)
  • Introduction of stricter security measures for safeguarding secrets at target installations in a number of countries.
  • Greater use of covert surveillance of intelligence officers. Installation of signalling and eavesdropping devices in the cars of our officers.
  • Recourse in the USA to flagrant provocation of our intelligence officers (even by arbitrary and unlawful acts).

The next-to-last item above is especially noteworthy. American counterintelligence, for instance, surreptitiously installs in our officers' cars various types of radio-signalling equipment which, when the car's ignition is switched on, emits a constant radio signal on a particular frequency (but no sound audible to the human ear). It thus becomes unnecessary for enemy counterintelligence to follow very closely behind the target car, for it can determine the location of the car at distances up to 20 miles by D/F’ing the signal. There have been cases when eavesdropping equipment connected to radio transmitters has been placed in our cars so that the conversations between our officers in moving cars could be picked up by the cars of counterintelligence men following a long way (2-3 km.) behind.

It is known for certain that in some countries the personnel of our military attaché offices are investigated not only by the counterintelligence of the country concerned but also by American counterintelligence organs. Several cases have convinced us that American counterintelligence has a special department devoted to investigating our officers, evidently with a view to mounting provocation operations against them. For example, one of the American assistant military attachés was outwardly very friendly towards one of our assistant military attachés. This put our officer on the alert, but he continued to meet the American concerned. In the end, it became evident that the reason for this "friendliness" lay in nothing else than the intention on the part of the American to collect as much information as possible about our attaché.

It is important to note also the intensification of anti-Communist and anti-Soviet propaganda in the press, radio, movies, and television, the systematic frightening of the population and the rousing of spy mania by dragging up old so-called spy cases, and attempts to compromise our establishments and citizens by sending fabricators, "walk-ins," etc., to us. It is known that the counterintelligence services of countries in the aggressive blocs try, under the direction of American counterintelligence, to coordinate their efforts in the common struggle against Soviet intelligence and exchange information regarding our modus operandi and our intelligence officers.

All this makes intelligence work more difficult and puts a high demand on the ability, tradecraft, and personal qualities of our workers. Experience shows, however, that an able and conscientious intelligence officer can achieve good results even in difficult conditions, and on the other hand there have been examples of unsatisfactory work on the part of intelligence officers under conditions that did not appear to make the fulfillment of their tasks difficult. Therefore in assessing this or that officer abroad one must not weigh too heavily the difficulty of the situation but center one's attention on the efforts he makes to fulfill his tasks and on his personal qualities.

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The Need for Meetings

Of all aspects of agent work the most crucial is that of personal meetings. The frequency, content, and duration of meetings and the conditions under which they are held depend on many circumstances. It is not necessary to have frequent meetings with a well-trained and conscientious agent who has secret writing materials and photographic equipment, a system of reliable deaddrops and signals, and one-way radio communications with the Center.3 With such agents personal meetings can be held at intervals of one and a half to two years and sometimes even longer, without detriment.

It is almost impossible to avoid personal meetings altogether, however. The following are some of the circumstances that require them.

  • Some agents refuse to have anything to do with impersonal means of communication, have no confidence in deaddrops and secret writing, and do not regard contact via a local principal agent or a cutout as satisfactory. If such agents are in a position to obtain documentary information, then personal meetings with them are essential. The frequency of meetings with such agents can vary: they may be held often, or rarely. When the agent situation deteriorates greatly, our intelligence officers under official cover may have to drop all personal meetings for a certain length of time.

  • Personal meetings are also essential for firming up, briefing, and training new agents or ones with whom contact has been broken for a long period. Others, working for us for ideological reasons, express a desire to meet our officers because this provides them their only opportunity to talk to Soviet people, and it is not always possible to turn down such a request from an agent.

  • Personal meetings are required for agents assigned agent-organizational tasks, particularly the recruitment of new agents; these obviously cannot do their work without consultations. And finally, occasional meetings are needed with persons in charge of safehouses and accommodation addresses. As a rule such persons are not taught to use secret writing and other operational devices, so impersonal means cannot be used for contact with them.

Of the several kinds of meetings with agents, those held abroad by an intelligence officer working under the official cover of a Soviet establishment in that country are the most dangerous, because the intelligence officer is often under surveillance and is naturally not always successful in ensuring his own secure approach to a meeting. Despite the fact that such meetings involve great risk, however, they are still the main means for directing agents.

It would be safer if meetings with an agent in the country where he lives were carried out by a representative from our Center arriving illegally 4 in the country. If this man has entered the country without having aroused the suspicion of the authorities, one can be more or less certain that the meetings he holds will not come to the notice of counterintelligence. In spite of their advantages, however, such meetings cannot be used as the regular thing. They can be held only infrequently, once or twice a year, since it is difficult to arrange the entry of an illegal officer at shorter intervals. If such trips are made according to a pattern and do not have sufficiently good cover stories, they can lead to compromise.

Another arrangement that can be regarded as secure is meeting in a third country to which the agent and our intelligence officer can go in accordance with a prearranged plan, having prepared a cover story to explain their simultaneous arrival. But it would be difficult both for the agent and for the intelligence officer to have a good cover for such trips more often than, say, once a year, even if the meetings were held in different third countries.

The most favorable conditions for working with agents can be created on our own territory. Now that a large number of foreigners come to our country as tourists or as members of various scientific, cultural, and social delegations, it is comparatively easy for an agent to enter the USSR. These trips, however, can likewise be made only infrequently. Although the entry into the USSR can be concealed, most agents, particularly those in government service, have no opportunity to go abroad oftener than once a year, during their leave. Moreover, it is necessary to have a cover story every time for the agent's trip to another country and also to back up the cover story, and this requires that additional measures be taken.

Consequently, despite all the advantages of holding personal meetings with agents in third countries or in the USSR or having intelligence officers enter the country illegally to hold them, the practical possibilities for such arrangements are limited by a number of circumstances. The result is that official-cover intelligence officers have to carry out personal meetings with agents in the country where they live; and at present the number of such meetings considerably exceeds the number of all other kinds of meetings.

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Security under Official Cover

First let us examine the elements of a personal meeting held by an officer under official cover which it is essential to disguise and the ways of doing this. The requirements fall into five phases:

  • Disguise for the departure of the intelligence officer from the official building where he works, his home, or some other place.
  • The carrying out of checks on the way to the meeting place, including countersurveillance dispositions.
  • A cover story for the intelligence officer's actions at all stages of the operation--his movements to the meeting place, his establishing contact with the agent, his presence together with the agent at the meeting.
  • Security in receiving material from the agent and in passing instructions and money to him.
  • Secure delivery of the agent's material to the residency.

The departure of an intelligence officer working under official cover for a meeting with an agent is one of the most complicated actions in agent work; it has to be covered by some artifice because it is made from an official building or place of residence that is likely to be under the eyes of counterintelligence agents. The officer can never be sure what the situation will be after he has set out, whether he will or will not be under counterintelligence surveillance. The following devices have been used in practice to make a successful departure possible:

  • Some dispersal of the efforts of counterintelligence by previous and simultaneous departures for town of other intelligence officers with convincing cover stories.
  • Covering the purpose of the departure by visits to establishments and business offices connected with the intelligence officer's official duties.
  • Covering it by taking members of his family to stores, a movie, the theater, or a sports event.
  • Evasive departure by the officer (possible if he for instance lives in a house containing many apartments and having several exits) to pick up an operational car parked at a prearranged spot.
  • Smuggling the officer out concealed in a car.

If one of these actions is carried out naturally and does not arouse the suspicions of counterintelligence, the officer will be able to proceed to the meeting without being followed. If he does not succeed in evading surveillance and it is absolutely essential to have a personal meeting with the agent, he may (with the permission of the resident,5 obtained in advance) make attempts in a natural way to shake off the surveillance. But as a general rule, if the agent is a valuable one, if the officer does not know the city well, if he has not had much experience holding meetings in complicated circumstances, and in a number of other cases, he should not attempt to shake off surveillance but abandon the meeting. Precise instructions as to the conditions under which he is permitted to go through with the meeting must be given by the resident.

Different methods can be used for evading surveillance. Sometimes for this purpose two persons go out in one car, one of them being the intelligence officer, who gets out unobtrusively in a downtown area. Or the car is driven to the center of town or along the main arteries in the evening rush hours, with the expectation that the counterintelligence cars will be caught in traffic and not be able to maintain the surveillance.

Good knowledge of the city and the situation, skillful driving, ability to spot surveillance, and knowledge of the counter-intelligence's weak points have, as a rule, enabled our intelligence officers to shake off surveillance quite naturally in cases where this has been essential. It goes without saying that when an officer not engaged in an agent operation notices he is being followed he should not try to shake off the surveillance and so alert counterintelligence unnecessarily.

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Surveillance en Route

After convincing himself that he is not being followed, the intelligence officer proceeds to the meeting place by a route planned in advance with a view to suitability for checking thoroughly against surveillance all along it. Only after he is absolutely confident that he is not being followed does he go to the agreed place and hold the meeting with the agent. In addition to the usual visual checks against surveillance, a countersurveillance setup and certain technical means 6 are used for detecting it.

Countersurveillance is set up at two or three points on the intelligence officer's route to the meeting place. At these points a second, sometimes more experienced, officer watches the other drive or walk past and determines whether or not he is being followed. Having detected surveillance, the supporting officer gives an agreed signal at a specified time warning the other that he is being followed; this signal also denotes that the arranged meeting should not be carried out. The points selected for countersurveillance must lie on a section of the route where it is impossible for counterintelligence to maintain surveillance from parallel streets.

Regardless of the use of technical means (with which it is not always possible to detect the presence of surveillance), an intelligence officer going to a meeting with an agent must have a well-developed ability to check reliably and without mistake for surveillance and spot it for certain if it is there.

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The Cover Story

An important matter which calls for special attention on the part of an intelligence officer going to a personal meeting with an agent is the cover story to account for his activities and inparticular for his presence in various parts of town at various stages of the operation. If the meeting is in the evening, the ostensible purpose of his movements about town might be to visit a movie theater, sports event, or any public place that is open in the evening in the suburbs.

It is much harder to have a convincing cover story for the actual contact with the agent and for being together with him at the meeting place. A brief contact can be attributed to a casual encounter, either party asking for example the way to some address or where the movie theater is, but it is often difficult to account for spending a longer time together. Because of this, meetings must be kept as short as possible when it is only a matter of passing material and money.

If in the course of the work it becomes essential to have a lengthy meeting with an agent in order to settle important handling problems, then the plan for such a meeting should be carefully thought out and usually approved by the Center. Long meetings are usually held in safehouses or, in summer, out of town under the guise of picnics, trips to the beach, fishing parties, etc. For prolonged discussions we have recourse also to meetings in third countries or in our country.

Some may question whether it is essential to have a cover story for such an agent operation as a meeting. They may argue that if enemy counterintelligence apprehends our case officer together with an agent, then no cover story will help. This is not in fact so. A cover story is necessary in all stages of carrying out any agent operation in an urban area. When counterintelligence is very active, a case officer must keep ever in mind ostensible motives for all his behavior which will account for it in the eyes of counterintelligence and conceal its clandestine nature, so that his actions appear as natural and plausible as possible to the counterintelligence agents. Thus a cover story does not mean just having a verbal explanation ready in case it is required but calls for a whole range of actions by the intelligence officer tacitly explaining his behavior.

Since counterintelligence carries out surveillance of our people in official positions abroad, it is important to succeed in acting out a prepared cover story and support it by observable moves; the vigilance of counterintelligence's external surveillance can thereby be weakened, experience shows, and the intelligence officer left to carry out the operation undisturbed. Thus a cover story reduces the likelihood of compromise by being caught together with an agent.

Moreover, a cover story plays an important part if the intelligence officer does happen to be apprehended, alone or with the agent. The circumstances may vary: our case officer may accidentally, without any connection with his agent operation, have aroused the interest of the police by some action that seemed to them inexplicable, suspicious, or unlawful; or the police may have been summoned by observant local volunteers who suspected that something was wrong (one of our cars, for example, was once stopped by American counterintelligence on suspicion that "an abortion was being carried out in the car"). In either case our officer can escape unpleasantness (being taken to the police station, etc.) only if he has a clear and convincing cover story and acts calm and confident.

Or the enemy counterintelligence may have definite information that an intelligence officer is involved in agent work and decide to arrest him in the act of meeting the agent. This is undoubtedly the worst case, but even here our case officer, acting in accordance with a previously prepared cover story which accounts for his contact and presence with the agent, must endeavor to prove that the arrest is unjustified and demand that he be set free. In practice there have been quite a number of cases where counterintelligence has been compelled to release our men just because they acted with determination and insistence. If he has a prepared cover story, an intelligence officer can thus avoid a compromise or, in the extreme case, attribute the incident to provocation on the part of enemy counterintelligence.

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Passing Material

When material is to be collected at meetings with agents, one must take steps to minimize the possibility that the case officer, if detained by counterintelligence, would be found to have the agent material on him. Some useful arrangements are provision for another officer to pick up the material and deliver it promptly to the residency, the construction of hiding places in operational cars in which the material can be securely conveyed to the residency, and equipping operational cars with means for the rapid destruction of compromising agent material.

The process of taking the material from an agent and passing it to another officer is a crucial one which calls for good and clear planning, thorough checking to be sure that the second officer has not been followed, and a well-thought-out cover story to account for the movements and actions of all persons taking part in the operation. The supporting officer must reach the area of the meeting with such timing that in the event of his having been followed the principal intelligence officer is not exposed to the risk of compromise. It is important that the routes followed by the principal and the supporting officer should not cross, but meet in the area coming from different directions. This enables the supporting officer to carry out a thorough check on the way and arrive with full assurance that there is no surveillance. If he does find that he is being followed, he must lead the counterintelligence men away from the area of the meeting and must on no account go where the principal officer is.

There is some difficulty constructing a cover story for an evening meeting between two intelligence officers in an aria far from where they work and live. Suitable places for passing material under cover of an "accidental" meeting are the large parking lots at suburban movie theaters, business centers, and some grocery stores, drug stores, and restaurants.

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Excursion Meetings

Our intelligence officers working under official cover have in practice used illegal trips to distant towns in the country where they are assigned as a means to hold secure meetings with agents. In planning such meetings there are certain peculiarities which are described below.

Serious attention must be paid to finding a way to leave the city securely. If the officer has a car and the trip is comparatively short, it is not particularly difficult to do this: it is easy to invent a cover story for a trip by car. But it is quite often necessary to make long-distance trips, for which the most suitable means is train or aircraft. The officer can leave his car where he usually parks it in order to give the impression that he is at home. He can leave the city, after careful checking for surveillance, by municipal or suburban public transportation. The security of the operation would be endangered if he bought a train ticket at the railway station or a ticket office in the city, for in these places there are, as a rule, fixed counterintelligence surveillance posts which might set up surveillance on him. Usually he goes to a nearby town on his planned route where the train stops.

It is best to do the next stage of the journey by train because it is not necessary to give one's name when buying a ticket at the station. You can buy one there one or two hours before the train leaves. For a long train trip it is best to get a ticket for a one-passenger Pullman compartment, in order to avoid undesirable companions. (Persons of average means do travel this way.)   Moreover, it is much easier to get a Pullman ticket on a busy rail line.

To save time it may be desirable to go part of the way by air. A drawback in travelling by air is that you have to give your name when you buy a ticket. A case officer should therefore not go by air from the city where he lives or from neighboring towns; if counterintelligence should notice that he is away and make inquiries at the airline, it could easily establish when he left and where he went.

In buying an airline ticket you can, if necessary, rent a car to be available at your destination, where you have only to show your receipt to the representative of the rental company and pick up the key to the car (USA practice). A person renting a car while buying his ticket does not have to give any particulars about himself but only show an operator's license and deposit $50. The use of a rented car has a number of advantages. In the first place it enables the case officer to move about freely.   Secondly, it enables him to stay at roadside motels, which require no particulars when one registers except name and address. Registration at hotels, on the other hand, is now more complicated: you have to give your place of work and the purpose of your visit. Thirdly, the car makes it possible to conceal your final destination.

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Sample Meetings: One

It will be useful to give some examples to illustrate what we have said about methods of holding meetings with agents.

Last summer a meeting was set up in the city where an intelligence officer and his agent lived: this operation is pictured in Sketch 1. Three or four hours before the meeting was due to take place (it was set for dinner time), the case officer who  was going to hold it, together with a supporting intelligence officer and a chauffeur, left the embassy and drove by their usual route toward the house where the embassy staff live. Shortly before reaching the house both intelligence officers got out of the car and went down into the subway. The chauffeur (also an intelligence officer) went on to the area of the meeting, to take his stand outside a large store in which the supporting officer would be posted.


After changing trains en route, the intelligence officers left the subway, went into a store, and made some purchases. Altogether, they were there about 40 minutes. On leaving the store they hailed a cruising taxi and went to another large store. They went up to the top floor by escalator and then down again and left the store by another exit. They walked several blocks and went back down into the subway. They changed trains once and came out at the opposite end of town from where the meeting was to be.

Having spent some time in a restaurant, they took the subway again to the vicinity of a third large store. The supporting officer telephoned from the store to the embassy residence, spoke to his wife about his purchases, and was told (in coded form) that technical means (TS--tekhnicheskoye sredstvo) had detected no surveillance. Then both intelligence officers went a few more stations by subway and finally arrived on foot in the meeting area 20 minutes before it was to take place. Ten minutes before the meeting the supporting officer fell behind the officer who was to hold it and, having checked for surveillance, went off to the large store where the operational car was stationed.

The officer holding the meeting proceeded to the agreed place, checked it, and made contact with the agent. They walked a block to the agent's car, got in, and transferred the material from agent to officer. A short distance from the store the officer got out of the car, entered the store, and passed the material to the supporting officer, who immediately took it in the operational car to the embassy. The principal officer meanwhile got back into the agent's car, and they finished discussing their business while driving around. Then, after checking for surveillance, the officer got out of the agent's car, went home by public transportation, and immediately informed the resident by a code phrase that the meeting had been held successfully. Later he saw the resident and reported verbally in detail.

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Meeting Two

Another example of a meeting in the city where the intelligence officer and agent live is shown in Sketch 2. On the day of the meeting the case officer made no trips into town. He remained at the embassy up to the end of the working day and drove toward home a few minutes after most of the staff had left the building. About half way home he turned off to the grocery store where he usually bought groceries. Now he noticed a suspicious car behind him.

He went into the store, bought some groceries, and started home again. The car he had seen still followed him. He drove straight home, parked his car near the house, and decided to wait a while. He could afford to because the meeting had been arranged for 10 o'clock in the evening.

He waited for an hour and a half and then left the house by a side door and walked toward the nearest drug store, about one kilometer away. He checked for surveillance and detected none. After buying a few things at the drug store he began to walk toward home. Then, having seen no signs of surveillance, he turned into a side street and, following a route he had planned along quiet streets and crossings, came to where an operational car with a supporting intelligence officer was waiting for him. If this car had been followed and so could not get to the agreed place, another officer was in position in another car a short distance away.

The case officer and supporting officer now drove along a previously planned route, avoiding major arteries and crossroads, in the general direction of the place where the meeting was to be held. On the way they made repeated checks for surveillance; there was none. The route included one segment where it was impossible for counterintelligence to carry out surveillance by using parallel streets. Here the case officer checked for surveillance once more, and in addition a countersurveillance station had been set up: another intelligence officer sitting in a car in a movie theater parking lot was in a position to observe the case officer drive past. If he had seen a car following, he would have set up a danger signal at an greed place, and the officer would not have gone to the meeting.


  1. Embassy building

  2. Counterintelligence car

  3. Case officer's home

  4. Drug store

  5. Grocery store

  6. Place where operational car is parked

  7. Place for alternate operational ear

  8. Parking lot from which countersurveillance is carried out

  9. Movie theater

  10. Segment where counterintelligence could not use parallel streets

  11. Place for countersurveillance's danger signal

  12. Place for TS's danger signal

  13. Place where case officer leaves car

  14. Meeting place

  15. Travel by car

  16. Travel by foot


Participants checked against surveillance at all stages.

There being no danger signal, the officers drove on to the meeting area. The cover for their presence in this area was to go to a movie, the last performance beginning at 10:30. Ten minutes before the time of meeting, 600 to 700 meters from the meeting place, the case officer checked to see whether another danger signal, this one based on information from TS, had been set up. The signal, which was to have been an office car at an agreed spot, was not there, so they drove on another 300 meters.

The supporting officer remained near the car while the case officer proceeded on foot to the meeting place. Fifteen minutes later he returned with the material, and they drove off. The case officer got out near another movie theater and, while the supporting officer delivered the material to the residency, made his own way home and slipped unobtrusively into the house through the side door.

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Other Meetings

Here we shall only mention our experience in holding more lengthy meetings (say three to five hours) outside the city. For this purpose the case officer, after making checks and acting in accordance with an appropriate plan, drives out to a resort area, where important operational matters are discussed with the agent at a suitable spot (a wooded park, a restaurant) in quiet surroundings.

It will be useful to give an example of arrangements for a meeting having the purpose of severing relations with a provocateur. Sketch 3 shows one of these.

In the past year it was established that agent K, whom officer V of our military attaché office was actively engaged in developing, was a provocateur. For operational reasons we could not reveal to K that we were aware he was collaborating with counterintelligence. We managed to discover that counterintelligence intended to arrest V with compromising material on him at a routine meeting during which K was to pass it to him.

On instructions from the Center, an operation was planned to mislead counterintelligence. Instead of V, an officer G, who had a diplomatic passport, was sent to the meeting place with instructions not to contact K but to behave in such a way that counterintelligence would come to the conclusion that he was checking out the place. After examining the area, officer G obtrusively telephoned the military attaché that he had established the presence of surveillance. Officer V had driven into town at the same time, but on the way to the meeting place he went into a restaurant and stayed there. With technical means we discovered that surveillance was mounted against the officers' cars on these trips.


Several hours after the meeting was missed, officer V telephoned the provocateur, apologized that it had been impossible for him to come, and warned him to be careful: he had noticed something suspicious when he was driving into town. He would call him again after a time and set up another meeting. Needless to say, there were no more meetings of any kind with K. Thus this operation succeeded in deceiving enemy counterintelligence and frustrating the provocation planned by it.

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Emissaries from Headquarters

Illegal trips made by case officers of the Center for the purpose of meeting agents require complicated and careful preparation, but the preparatory effort is well worth while. Such meetings provide an opportunity to work with an agent in a calm and businesslike atmosphere, increase confidence in the reliability of communications, and make it easier to induce agents to work more actively. The preparation (working out a cover story and a route, ordering and producing the main and supporting documents) usually takes up to two months. For officers going on a second illegal trip the time can be reduced; in practice, the only limiting element is the time it takes to produce the necessary documents.

The most complicated and delicate part of an illegal trip is passing through border and customs controls in the first capitalist country. The reason for this is not only that border officials take a somewhat greater interest in travellers from the USSR and other countries of the socialist camp, but mainly that our intelligence officers usually have with them documents of a very compromising nature--two passports--which could be found if a search were made. Another awkward and vulnerable moment is the visit that our intelligence officer has to make, before returning home, to one of our consulates abroad in order to obtain an entry visa to the USSR. Both these hazards can be avoided, however, by arranging that passports be passed to the intelligence officer through deaddrops in the countries where they are.

After passing through border and customs controls in the first capitalist country, the Center case officer, merging with the mass of tourists and moving about freely, can easily carry out agent operations. As a rule, however, he does not travel directly from the USSR to the country where the meeting with the agent has been arranged but passes through one or two intervening countries in order to confuse his trail and make sure he is not being watched.

If he and the agent do not know each other, contact is made through a prearranged recognition meeting. As a rule, the agent is given a place where he must arrive at a specified time and a route to take from there. This is done so that our officer can recognize the agent and see whether he is being followed before contacting him. The first meeting is usually a short one, for making the agent's acquaintance and arranging another meeting; the place for this is selected in advance or by agreement with the agent, taking into account the nature of the business to be taken up.

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Third Countries

As a result of the great increase in tourist traffic, many of our agents can make regular trips under good cover to European and other countries. A meeting between an agent and one of our intelligence officers who has just arrived or is living in the third country illegally is quite safe for both.

The counterintelligence of the country in which the agent lives may use its operational apparatus to watch him carefully but covertly. Sometimes such surveillance is mounted "preventively" on a person because he has access to valuable classified information, not as a result of his having been compromised; or it may be that interest in him has arisen in connection with his past activities or because he is active in progressive organizations. But when the agent leaves the country, counterintelligence loses the ability to organize secret surveillance along the route.

Recently the press reported details of legal proceedings in London against five individuals accused of espionage. 7

From these details it is evident that British counterintelligence was able to keep close secret surveillance on them for six months undetected but was unable to organize surveillance when they made trips to other European countries. The validity of this inference is attested by the fact that not a single one of the arrested persons was charged with any kind of illegal activity connected with espionage while he was travelling on the continent.

Since the best and most reliable arrangement from the security viewpoint is an illegal meeting, it is desirable that meetings, especially with valuable agents, be carried out from illegal bases in third countries. When this is not possible, an officer from the Center can go to the country concerned under a cover story. In some European countries where counterintelligence is very active, our official residencies often resort to holding meetings with agents in other countries where counterintelligence is not so active. This method has been used for several years and fully justifies itself.

The summoning of an agent to a third country is done by sending instructions and details of the arrangements for the meeting through deaddrops, by radio, or by technical means (secret writing, microdots). On arrival in the country, the Center's representative or the officer from a neighboring residency establishes contact with the agent, the first meeting being as a rule a short one to tell the agent what the arrangements for further work will be. Depending on the nature of the business to be settled, work with the agent may be carried out in safehouses, in public places, or out of town.

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Agent Visits in the USSR

Bringing an agent to the USSR is by its nature and scope a complicated operation. It is undertaken only for the most important reasons, for example training in the use of radio or planning an agent's future work. It is used very often for training radio operators; such training is almost impossible in the country in which the agent lives, because radio equipment is fairly complicated and calls for at least some technical knowledge.

An agent may also be summoned to the USSR with a view to firming him up as a member of an existing net. Cases arise from time to time when such a measure becomes necessary, as for instance when an agent is not yet sufficiently involved in practical work and additional measures are called for, even to getting compromising material on him, to force him to work actively on behalf of our intelligence efforts. Sometimes the summoning of an agent is connected with the necessity of assessing him. In such a case his arrival will provide a test of his attitude toward us as well as an opportunity to assess his personal qualities and feelings. Finally, for agents who work with us out of ideological motives and whose friendship for us has been confirmed, a trip to the USSR can be regarded as a great reward for their efforts.

The best way for the agent to enter the USSR is illegally, though in certain cases the use of legal ways (tourists, scientific-technical and cultural conferences, congresses, symposiums, etc.) is not excluded. In such cases the Center and the agent must be absolutely certain that the visit will appear entirely natural and will not attract the attention of the counterintelligence service of the agent's country. One must also take into account the circumstances in which the agent will find himself with respect to his intelligence work in Moscow. If he travels as one of a party, it will be difficult or practically impossible for him to explain convincingly his absence during the times he has to meet with us. Consequently, it is preferable that agents come here alone, without any connection with groups of tourists or scientists. Naturally, the agent must have a good cover story for such a trip.

There are at least three ways to bring an agent illegally into the USSR. In the first the agent, under a suitable pretext and with a good cover story, travels on his own documents to an intermediate country. There he makes a secure contact with a representative of ours and gets from him a new passport with entry visas to the USSR affixed in advance. He enters the USSR on this passport. After completing his tasks here, he leaves on the same passport for either the same or another intermediate country, where he changes back to his own passport for the journey home.

Under a second procedure the agent arrives in West Germany, whence he flies (in order to avoid entries in his documents) to West Berlin. He crosses into East Berlin 8 and is brought by air to the Soviet Union. In travelling to West Berlin he has used his own documents, which will show only that he has been in West Germany. There will be nothing to show that he has been in Berlin but his name on the airline's flight list. In travelling from Berlin to the Soviet Union he uses new documents (passport, certificate of identity, travel orders).

A third way, when a good cover story is available, is for the agent to use his own documents for travel to one of the countries of the socialist camp and from there be brought to the USSR, the visa being issued on a separate sheet of paper. The reliability and the value of the agent, his social position, and his personal qualities must be taken into account in choosing among these procedures.

The use of an operational passport, as in the first two procedures above, is quite an acceptable device, but one must take into account the necessity for a great deal of preparatory work. A cover story for the agent's departure from his country, his travel route, and arrangements for changing over to the operational passport have to be worked out. The operational passport has to be made ready, and for this it is necessary to obtain from the agent in good time his photograph and all the passport data. Arrangements must be made for contacting the agent in a third country in order to give him the new documents and, if necessary, to pick up his own documents for safekeeping. And finally, signals have to be set up to denote his departure and his safe return to his own country.

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A Case History

An actual case from last January will serve as an example. At that time agent A was brought to Moscow for training in radio communications, codes, and secret writing and for briefing about his future work. Two residencies participated in the planning for this operation. The preparatory measures included:

  • Detailed planning and study of the route by which the agent should be taken to an intermediate country and from there to the USSR
  • Study and analysis of the operational situation on the route (visa and passport regulations, border controls, customs, currency restrictions, rules governing foreigners in the country of transit, etc.).
  • Working up a cover story for the agent, coordinating it with him, and getting the necessary data for a passport.
  • Estimating logistical requirements (the cost of the trip).
  • Settling the details of the travel route.
  • Making arrangements for handling the agent at the Center (safehouse, schedule of work, entertainment, transport, food).

The route the agent was to follow was selected in the light of his very good knowledge of the situation in adjacent countries and in Western Europe generally and his familiarity with passport and visa requirements and currency restrictions. A change to air transport was envisaged because it was known that there was no strict control at the airport involved. To give the agent his forged passport a recognition meeting was pre-arranged at an intermediate point, where the agent also gave his real passport to our officer for safekeeping.

Before the agent left his country, a meeting was held at which his knowledge of his cover story was checked, arrangements were made for contacting him on his return, and he was given money for traveling expenses. He was also informed in advance of the data and entries in the forged passport so that he could get used to the cover story supporting it.

His cover for absence from his country was a vacation trip to another country. Since there were then many West European tourists in that country, such a trip would not arouse suspicion. Another favorable circumstance was that the trip required no visa and documents were not stamped at the border. TO support this cover story the agent, on arrival in the intermediate country, wrote several postcards to his acquaintances at home and gave them to our intelligence officer, who  mailed them off at intervals while the agent was in Moscow.

The agent's journey to Moscow and back to the third country and then his return to his own country took place without incident or suspicious sign. His documents were not photographed anywhere. On reaching his country he set up at the agreed place the signal denoting his safe arrival home.

While he was in Moscow he was trained in quiet surroundings by experienced instructors in radio communications, codes, and operational equipment. He was given directions for his future work. In addition, his presence in Moscow was utilized to exert moral influence on him with a view to strengthening his sympathy for our country and thereby promoting closer collaboration with us.

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Despite all the advantages of training and briefing agents in Moscow, a number of drawbacks make it difficult to use this procedure. Some agents would have trouble getting a convincing cover story to account for a lengthy absence from their work, family, etc.; moving an agent to the Soviet Union is always a fairly complicated business; one cannot exclude the possibility of a sudden change in the operational situation while the agent is on the way to the Soviet Union, so that data on him and his photograph come into the hands of hostile counterintelligence services; and the agent must be a sufficiently confident person to be able to pass calmly and naturally through all the border checks without arousing anyone's suspicion. These difficulties lead to the necessity of holding some lengthy meetings with agents both in the countries where they are operating and in third countries where counterintelligence is less active, particularly when it is a question of giving them refresher courses in radio communications or briefings on their work. Sometimes such meetings with agents can be held right in the country where they are operating, especially if a safehouse is available.

When their official positions allow an agent and an intelligence officer to visit the same events and establishments (receptions, conferences, business houses, sports arenas, stadiums), it is convenient to use these for short meetings and conversations. Brief instructions can sometimes be passed to an agent surreptitiously, by slipping him a note, and the intelligence officer can get information from the agent in the same way.

In the summer there are good opportunities to cover meetings by going on picnics, making trips to the beach, and going fishing. At picnics or on the beach the cover can be made still more convincing if the officer takes along members of his family. He and the agent, having agreed to meet at a particular place, arrive in the area at different times. At an appointed hour they leave their families on some natural pretext (taking part in a game, visiting a snack bar, etc.) and meet and have a talk. If a long meeting is required, a lonely, secluded spot should be selected. The beach or picnic area should not be one frequented by Soviet representatives, and thorough checks for surveillance should be made on the way to it.

Fishing trips provide good cover for long meetings in the summer time. It can be agreed with the agent to meet somewhere on the outskirts of town early in the morning. From there, after a thorough check for surveillance, they can drive in the agent's car to a place where motor boats can be rented, rent one, and go out fishing. Or they can arrive separately at the place where boats are rented, each rent a boat, and then contrive to meet on the water. The first alternative is better since only the agent's car is left parked at the dock, the boat is rented in his name, and so there is no trace whatever of the intelligence officer's presence either during the meeting or afterward. He needs only make sure that he is not followed on his way to meet the agent in the first place.

Many meetings are held in motels. Thus an agent, acting in accordance with instructions, drives one evening to the outskirts of the city (or to a small town nearby), rents a one-room cabin in his own name, and spends the night there. The next morning our intelligence officer drives out to that vicinity, making sure that he is not followed. He conceals his car and walks to the motel. He recognizes the agent's quarters by his car parked outside and enters without being noticed by anyone. Throughout the day he briefs the agent on his work, leaving after darkness falls. Thus his presence at the motel is undiscovered.

People who live in small apartments have begun a fairly widespread practice of making arrangements for out-of-town guests of theirs to stay at motels. The rooms or cabins at the motels are rented, not by the guests when they arrive, but by the hosts themselves as soon as they know that guests are coming. This practice also has possibilities for covering agent meetings.

Other ways of covering meetings have been used. In some residencies, meetings have even been held in the houses where the Soviet officers live. Whatever cover measures the intelligence officer takes, however, their effectiveness depends considerably on whether the agent conducts himself correctly, his ability to conceal his work, and the extent to which his behavior is disciplined. If he is undisciplined and does not strictly observe contact arrangements, so that it becomes necessary to take irregular steps such as calling him on the telephone or intercepting him, all the cover precautions used by the intelligence officer may at times become futile. The same thing will happen if the agent does not take adequate steps to conceal the temporary removal of documents or does not have a convincing cover story to tell the members of his family to account for absences and for having extra money.

An agent is unreliable if he is timid or lacks self-confidence. Such an agent can attract suspicion to himself by his timid behavior, whereas a bold and enterprising agent, behaving naturally in accordance with a good cover story, will not stand out from other local residents. The agent, like the intelligence officer, can take helpful initiatives to enhance the security of operations under way in making checks for surveillance, inventing cover stories, etc. This is why agent training is a continuing concern.

New, more effective measures for cover, which could ensure that work is continued under worsening conditions, should be thought out and readied in advance. Some of the possibilities are holding personal meetings with agents at night, holding them in specially selected officers' living quarters, using new forms of impersonal contact, smuggling agents into official establishments for meetings, and getting them in in the great throng of guests coming to large receptions. But one must not be limited to such examples; the whole body of intelligence officers must work actively and creatively on this problem. In present conditions, when counterintelligence in most of the capitalist countries is very active, great importance must be placed on measures for making personal meetings between intelligence officers and agents secure.

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1 This article is adapted from a paper issued in 1960 under Top Secret classification by the Military-Diplomatic Academy of the Soviet Army, Department of Special Training. For the circumstances of its issue see Studies VIII 1, p. 16.

2 Deep-cover.

3 Headquarters.

4 Under deep cover.

5 Chief of station.

6 Presumably monitoring the radio communications of the surveillance team.

7 The Lonsdale-Kroger-Houghton-Gee case.

8 The wall now puts a crimp into this procedure.


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Posted: May 08, 2007 07:54 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 12:51 PM