Operational Contacts

18 SEPT 95


Soviet doctrine on the holding of meetings with agents.


L. K. Bekrenev

Personal contacts with agents are conditioned by a series of mutually related factors among which the following are basic:

  • The situation, maturity, and importance of the agent.
  • What is to be accomplished by the meeting.
  • The professional skill and the legal status of case officer and agent.
  • The timing, duration, and place of the meeting.
  • Prevailing operational conditions.


Quality of the Agent

If an agent is sufficiently trusted and if he supplies valuable information, personal contact with him should be reduced to a minimum. For the intervals it suffices to work out a plan for either to summon the other to a meeting in case of emergency.

Even in meetings with a tested and reliable agent much attention is paid to security as well as to the fulfillment of intelligence requirements; but in working with an agent who has not been fully assessed and vetted, the prime emphasis is put on vigilance and checking-has he been planted by the local counterintelligence, are his motives in agreeing to collaborate sincere? The need for personal meetings with such an agent is increased, for they give the opportunity to assess him more completely. But the meetings must be conducted with caution. In 1959 an officer assigned to a certain residency 2 submitted a plan for a third-country meeting with an agent who had been recently and hurriedly recruited and not thoroughly assessed. Headquarters warned the resident 3 of the need for precautionary measures, and in this it proved to be correct: the agent brought along counterintelligence officers to the meeting site. The resident's application of precautionary measures and the case officer's observance of correct operating techniques en route to the meeting made possible the deflection of a serious provocation by adversary counterintelligence. One should not neglect personal meetings with agents who are not sources of important information. Agents performing support roles are also essential to the service and should be appreciated. If a Soviet intelligence officer on an illegal assignment is supplied cover by an auxiliary agent, his fate depends upon that agent.

In general, whatever an agent's role in the intelligence net, personal contact should be made with him only when it is impossible to manage without it. The number of meetings should be kept as low as possible, especially with sources of valuable information. This principle holds for all residencies and agent group4 but particularly for residencies under legal5 cover in countries which have severe counterintelligence practices.

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Purpose of Meetings

Personal meetings may be held to give an agent his next assignment and instructions for carrying it out, to train him in tradecraft or the use of technical or communications equipment, to transmit documents, reports, technical equipment, money, or other items, or to fulfill several of these purposes. In actual practice several purposes are usually served by a meeting. In addition to its particular objectives more general needs can be filled. A meeting held for training purposes may be a means for clarifying biographic data on the agent or his views on various subjects. At every meeting with an agent one should study him and obtain new data on his potential and talents, thereby providing a better basis for judging his sincerity and deciding how much trust to place in him.

These various objectives require different kinds of meeting in terms of frequency, duration, and choice of time and place.

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Professional Skill

Success in face-to-face handling depends to a large degree on the professional authority of the handler, his knowledge of the business, the firmness of his will, his adherence to principle, and his ability to get along with people. Above all else is dedication to the assignment and a positive resolve to achieve success and fulfill the assigned tasks.

Vigilance in protecting one's activity and intentions not only from counterintelligence but also from the agent requires a developed intuition, the power of observation, and an ability to retain the initiative and assert one's will tactfully.

Some case officers lose the initiative during agent meetings by wasting time discussing secondary matters or problems in no way related to the purpose of the meeting and end up failing to attain the objectives for which the meeting had been set up. Recently, for example, a case officer from one of our residencies under legal cover was asked to make a quick contact with an agent in order to transmit to him Headquarters' decision that he should immediately leave the country because of impending danger. Instead of executing these instructions immediately, the case officer devoted a meeting to completely unnecessary conversation about the agent's status in the country, means of communication, legal documentation, etc. Then he ordered the agent not to travel anywhere without his approval and set another meeting for six days later! The resident had to correct the situation immediately.

There have been cases in which agents have actually refused to meet with officers who exhibited incompetence in matters concerning which they themselves, as specialists, were working in behalf of Soviet intelligence. During meetings the case officers acted timid, were not serious, let their minds wander, acted stiff and formal, attempted to order the agents about, or did not show interest in the agents' problems. Or they did not give the agents satisfactory explanations of operational or contact problems, betraying thereby lack of preparation and at times confusion, which engendered doubts in the agents as to the security of working with them. Such conduct has often lost us the services of valuable agents.

Experienced case officers are made; not born. Experience is acquired by practical work. New case officers, just beginning to work at agent operations abroad, therefore have to hold personal meetings with agents.   But they learn also by example, instruction, and coaching. It is necessary to imbue them with professional skills and draw them gradually, starting with less complicated tasks, into the work of handling agents.

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Legal Status

There have been instances in which agents have refused to meet with case officers whose legal position in the country was incompatible with their own situation. In particular, several agents have refused to have meetings with officers from our military attaché apparatus because if discovered by outsiders or counterintelligence they would be incriminated. The legal status of case officers and agents is of utmost significance for clandestinity, security of communications, and ability to make personal contact and must be taken into account in planning meetings.

During the years 1951-1953 our service suffered some bitter failures. To a significant degree these were a consequence of slackened vigilance on the part of case officers in legal residencies and of their agents. The case officers would report that meetings had been carried out under favorable conditions and there had been no external surveillance. But testimony at trials would subsequently show that counterintelligence had known not only the time and place of meetings but also their duration and details such as who the participants were and what they did, how the officers were dressed, and in one case even the color of the wrapper on a package that had been passed. There had obviously been surveillance which both case officers and agents had failed to detect.

These failures occurred, not because operational conditions were terribly complicated or the adversary counterintelligence service was so skillful, but because either the case officers or the agents had forgotten to be vigilant at all times, mistaken the significance of cover and security, or done incorrect things. This was what enabled counterintelligence to arrest our agents and expel our officers from the country. At present counterintelligence practices are less severe in several of the eastern capitalist countries than in the west, but that gives no reason to weaken vigilance there. Favorable elements in any operational situation should be taken advantage of, but not by relaxing vigilance and security consciousness.

Illegal residencies 6 and agent groups, not being subject to surveillance of the kind experienced under legal cover, can depend better on having secure personal meetings. These can be held in a relaxed atmosphere and in some instances without clandestinity. In every country there live many "welcome" foreigners, tourism is a mass phenomenon, business and family ties are widely developed; thus large human streams cross international borders. No country has a counterintelligence service with the capability to follow every foreigner, not to say every local inhabitant, in its effort to identify officers and agents of foreign intelligence services.

This does not mean that members of illegal residencies are not subjected to any surveillance, only that its incidence on them is greatly reduced. Provided, of course, that they have not compromised themselves by mistakes or rash acts and so been placed under special observation, counterintelligence does not follow at their heels. Moreover, they have greater freedom in selecting cover stories, means of disguise, and other security measures, even in countries with the most severe counterintelligence practices.

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Choice of Case Officer

The legal status factor should be taken into account in deciding what case officer is to be assigned to carry out any particular meeting with an agent. Initially, in legal residencies, meetings with agents are carried out by the officers who assessed and recruited them. Depending on the purpose of the meeting or the importance of the agent, they can also be held by the resident, his deputy, or a special case officer sent for this purpose from Headquarters.

Case officers in legal residencies, in the course of recruiting agents, cultivate new contacts among local inhabitants who seem to have agent potential. The development of such persons, on top of already recruited agents, brings an increasing number of personal meetings and concomitant danger of detection. In order to reduce this danger and also improve the management of the intelligence net, Headquarters splits off the most valuable agents of legal residencies and sets them up under illegal residencies or as agent groups reporting directly to Headquarters via illegal channels.

In illegal residencies and agent groups meetings are held by the residents, their deputies, and the group leaders. A resident can assign a trusted cut-out to hold a meeting that has limited objectives such as transmitting materials. Despite the favorable conditions in illegal residencies, meetings must be planned and held in full compliance with clandestine operational doctrine. Holding them without professional planning is not permitted. Each member of an illegal residency or agent group must check constantly for clandestinity and for the security of his illegal status and make efforts to improve that status.

In principle it is undesirable to make frequent changes in the person assigned to meet an agent. It is therefore important, before assigning an officer to make contact with any agent, to think over thoroughly all the considerations presented above in order to avoid mistakes. From the point of view of security, it is also improper to set up personal contact between the radio operator of an illegal residency and agents in its network. Only the resident must know the identity of the radio operator.

As a parallel security measure the agents of an illegal residency must not know the basic biographic data (name, nationality, addresses) on the resident, his assistants, or the cut-outs who effect the operational contact. For this reason it is better to use pseudonyms, although in practice it is not always possible. Under no circumstances should horizontal lines of personal contact be permitted, even if adherence to this doctrine necessitates excluding an agent from operational activity for some time. This is a vitally important rule, especially among valuable and trusted agents.

Headquarters is responsible for personal contact arrangements with illegal residents, group leaders, and singleton case officers or agents reporting directly to Headquarters. It sends out its case officers for this purpose, either illegally with foreign documentation or officially with Soviet documentation and an appropriate cover story. The meetings can be held in the target country or in a third country. In some cases the agent may be summoned to Headquarters and the business taken care of there. In that case it is necessary to expunge from the agent's passport (or the resident's or group leader's), all notations concerning his stay in the Soviet Union.

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Choice of Place

The choice of meeting place is of considerable importance and should be made deliberately and with foresight. It has to lend itself to the objectives of the meeting, suit the positions in society of the agent and case officer, and satisfy security considerations. Meetings can be held on city streets, in parks, restaurants, cafes, reading rooms, or museums, out of town, in the suburbs, etc. The range of possibilities depends to a large degree on the creative initiative of members of the residency, conditioned by a firm knowledge of the real operational situation, local conditions, and the structure and techniques of the counterintelligence and police forces.

Elements to be taken into account include the severity of the country's administration, the sensitivity of the police force, the extent to which police and counterintelligence check local inhabitants, foreigners, employees of Soviet installations, main highways, streets, and squares, and how well state and private buildings and transportation facilities are guarded. Similarly it is necessary to bear in mind the degree to which counterintelligence and police agents are planted in enterprises and public buildings such as theaters, museums, libraries, and restaurants. In addition to counterintelligence activity, one should consider police measures for maintaining public order, particularly the control of criminal elements and lesser violators of law and morality. In the summer of 1959, for example, two of our illegals meeting abroad found themselves in a district where the police were conducting a roundup of such elements. When they saw what was going on they took off, but could not get away without having their documents inspected by the police. The situation would have been much worse for an officer under legal cover meeting with an agent.

For prolonged meetings it is necessary to choose places which outsiders cannot observe. Frequently the agent is picked up at some predetermined place in an automobile and taken for operational work to a place chosen earlier that the agent himself had not known about. The agent's own car can also be used for this purpose. It is best not to hold conversations on operational matters in the automobile, for it is possible that a recorder might be hidden in it.

Places for long meetings present fewer difficulties in illegal residencies. Their members can meet in their own apartments, in hotels, or in out-of-town resort areas without any special risk of suspicion. But even in illegal residencies the demands of clandestinity and security must be observed in choosing meeting places. The local operational climate and the status of the persons to take part in the meeting must be taken into account.

The problem is greater in residencies under legal cover, Here it is best either to have reliable safehouses or to deliver the agent discreetly to the official residency building. The latter is a serious operational move. If neither is feasible, it is better to have Headquarters dispatch an officer to a third country, either legally or illegally, for the meeting.

Here are some of the mistakes sometimes made by case officers of legal residencies. They hold meetings in restaurants and other public establishments located near hotels and houses where employees of Soviet installations, sometimes even the case officers themselves, reside. The service personnel in such establishments know the identities of Soviet citizens. Some of them may be counterintelligence agents, and in any case they may spot our officer holding a meeting and report to the police or the counterintelligence service. Other meetings are held near guarded compounds and government installations where more intense surveillance is maintained than elsewhere. Some case officers use the same site for successive meetings over an extended period of time. Others hold meetings in their own or the agent's apartment, sometimes taking along their wives in order to suggest a family friendship. These fail to realize that social intercourse implies a closer relationship than legitimate business relations and unquestionably will not escape notice in these days of intense counterintelligence activity.

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Timing, Duration, Frequency

In the matter of timing it is always necessary to bear in mind the current foreign policy objectives of the Soviet government so that these will not be prejudiced by any unfavorable incident arising from the operational contact. If there is any such risk the meeting should be postponed until another time. This applies to meetings with agents that are poorly assessed or insufficiently tested, particularly if there is doubt of their bona fides. It applies also when there is a possibility that the case officer will be under surveillance as he leaves for the meeting. This consideration should be borne in mind by case officers of illegal residencies but especially by those in residencies under legal cover.

Governments of capitalist countries sometimes pursue political ends by having counterintelligence set up special provocations against Soviet officials and catch them meeting with agents or agent candidates. The object may be to compromise Soviet foreign policy, strain international relations, or strengthen the political position of the capitalist government, especially if it is currently trying to get a military or anti-democratic law through parliament. Sometimes this is done against the opposition of the counterintelligence service, for the premature detention of the Soviet officer may frustrate its effort to make a thorough study of his contacts. As a rule provocations against our officers are associated with an international or internal political development, and they are even mounted against officials who have no connection with agent operations.

Meetings should be kept as short as the transaction of the business allows. The case officer and agent must not be together without a purpose. They should not waste time discussing matters having no substantial relationship to the business at hand. This does not mean that one should talk to the agent only about business in dry bureaucratic language. Sensitivity towards the agent's interests must be developed. If the situation permits, he should be heard out even on matters which were not anticipated when the meeting was planned but which have an operational relationship and can influence his future work. But he should not be permitted to deflect the talk into a labyrinth of secondary, insignificant topics. The case officer must keep the initiative in his own hands, and he must remember that control of a meeting in a proper and businesslike manner cuts down its length.

Frequent meetings with the same agent are unwise, especially if he is a tested and reliable one producing important secret information. Meetings with such agents can be reduced to one or two a year, or even fewer, held whenever possible in third countries. Routine transactions can be taken care of through nonpersonal forms of communication. With more ordinary agents it should not be necessary to meet oftener than once every two or three months. These limitations are of special importance for residencies under legal cover.

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Operational Conditions

It should be taken as axiomatic that Soviet intelligence officers under legal cover are subject to counterintelligence scrutiny in all capitalist countries, most effectively in those with severe counterintelligence practices. In some European and eastern countries the counterintelligence effort is not as intense as in the countries of the Anglo-American bloc, and the operational situation is therefore "easier." But this seeming ease never justifies reduced vigilance and security-consciousness on the part of case officers and agents. Flaps still occur in countries where the operational situation appears to be relatively favorable, and analysis shows that flaps do not depend on the complexity or simplicity of the operational situation but are traceable to deficiencies in the camouflage of operational activity, slackening of vigilance, and neglect of cover and clandestinity.

In capitalist countries of the east that have comparatively small counterintelligence apparatuses, the activities of our legal residencies still do not necessarily go without observation. The counterintelligence programs of such countries as the U.S.A., England, and France are also extended to those eastern countries and seek to undermine and compromise the favorably developing relations between them and the Soviet Union. The capitalist counterintelligence services exploit in this effort all the national peculiarities of which the east has many. This tactic of adversary counterintelligence carries possibilities of great unpleasantness for us.

Because of the operational conditions now prevailing in capitalist countries, intelligence officers, especially those in residencies under legal cover, must seek out and apply the most reliable forms and methods of camouflage and clandestinity when meeting personally with agents. Although the holding of personal meetings has been rendered difficult for them, with proper study, good planning, and careful execution it can be successful. Counterintelligence surveillance of personnel in Soviet installations abroad is not so tight or continuous as to make operational activity impossible. As a rule it is intermittent and is shifted from one case officer to another and even to persons that have no connection with agent operations. A counterintelligence service does not possess the means for uninterrupted surveillance in all places at all times in all cities; it uses various systems, and observation teams do not work around the clock in all places. Once one understands the working patterns of a particular counterintelligence service, obstacles erected by it can be circumvented.

An agent with whom personal contact is maintained must be inculcated by his case officer with the qualities of a clandestine personality. He must be invested with the ability to camouflage himself, to exercise vigilance, to determine whether he is being observed by counterintelligence.   He must have the ability to spot surveillance at his place of work or outside his place of work, especially when departing for an operational meeting.

Agents' carelessness or inexperience in matters of security has often resulted in operational flaps. Some agents have failed to attach significance to the circumstance that someone, often an acquaintance or friend, began to show intensified interest in them before the compromise. They ignored changes in their relationships with co-workers and friends. They did not wonder about the appearance of new faces in their milieu. Some agents, because of inexperience or in a deliberate violation of security rules induced by personal rashness, have failed to check for surveillance when going to an operational meeting. Some agents go to operational meetings unprepared, without thinking out their future actions in advance, and have not planned what behavior patterns to exhibit while en route to the meeting place or in its area. Some have approached our case officers at places not stipulated as meeting sites, have telephoned the case officer at his office and discussed personal contact arrangements, or have showed up in person at the Soviet installation to see the case officer.

Regardless of how skillful and vigilant a case officer may be, he can come to the attention of counterintelligence if one of his agents violates operational rules deliberately or neglects them because of inexperience. Furthermore, the agent's attitude toward cover and clandestinity when meeting with his case officer contributes to some degree to the over-all assessment of his sincerity and honesty in collaborating with Soviet intelligence. Some agents, of course, work honestly with us without adhering to the basic rules of security on the premise that no kind of surveillance is being directed at them. Nevertheless the case officer must always consider the agent's attitude toward security and train and indoctrinate him accordingly. He must seek out the reasons for every deviation by the agent from the norms of behavior he has laid down.

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Planning a Meeting

The preparation of a meeting plan is done by the handling case officer with the guidance of the resident or his deputy. It begins with the meeting's objectives and tasks, including specific problems to be resolved with the agent, the ways and order of their solution, and operational or personal problems which the agent may have and which should be settled at the meeting. If the meeting place and time previously selected are not suitable for the accomplishment of these tasks or for current operational conditions, then it is proper to make changes. The agent should be informed in advance by non-personal contact or at the agreed time and place during a brief contact. The latter procedure is the better if the scheduled meeting is imminent; it avoids confusion and possible broken contact. If it is possible that surveillance of the handling officer may endanger the meeting, then he can be replaced by another handler.

The case officer must study the operational climate on the route of travel and in the area of the meeting place. He must be prepared to take correct stock of the situation on the spot and in case of necessity make the proper security decisions. Some case officers panic when complications arise in the operational situation in the vicinity of the meeting place. Some officers suspecting surveillance either continue according to plan, attaching no significance to their suspicions, or completely abandon the meeting without activating planned measures to get to the bottom of the situation. If the latter, they frequently head for the automobile that brought them to the meeting area instead of going home, thus giving counterintelligence the opportunity to identify another intelligence officer, the one at the wheel of the parked automobile. Another mistake is for the case officer, instead of leaving the meeting area by a route designed to avoid encountering the agent, to take a direction that results in confrontation with him. Not suspecting danger (incidentally, the need for danger signals is not always anticipated), the agent goes right up to the case officer; and counterintelligence has caught them in contact.

The plan will include reaffirmation or replacement of agreed meeting arrangements and signals, the cover story for the meeting and the sequence of actions to be taken to substantiate it, assessment of the personal qualities of the agent and observation of his behavior, the sequence of actions to be used in checking the operational climate in the meeting area beforehand and afterward, and in case of need a check on the agent's honesty. It will include the sequence of moves to be made in the event the agent does not appear or if complications arise while the case officer is en route to the meeting area, approaching the meeting site, or actually with the agent. Finally, it will include arrangements with the support elements assigned to provide security for the meeting and the danger signals agreed upon.

After he has thought over and clarified all of these elements, the officer should make a written outline of his plan and schedule of action. This will help him to resolve all problems and accomplish his mission completely and clandestinely in the briefest possible period of time.

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Secure Exit

The departure of a case officer for an agent meeting is critical when he is under legal cover in a capitalist country with stringent counterintelligence practices. Preparations can be made approximately as follows.

Several days before the scheduled meeting the residency, using support means and other available assets, studies the status of the case officer with respect to the presence of counterintelligence surveillance. Also studied are the counterintelligence personnel and technical assets being used against the Soviet installations, especially the counterintelligence officers assigned to follow the given case officer. Trial exits of the case officer into the city are made in order to determine the nature and extent of surveillance. Similar exits are made simultaneously by other case officers in order to determine as completely as possible the intensity of surveillance and to see whether the counterintelligence assets assigned to the given officer are withdrawn and reassigned to follow the others.

The case officer who is to hold the meeting "trains" counterintelligence personnel to a habitual daily schedule of movements in order to take the edge off their vigilance. It may be useful to deviate from this daily pattern sometimes in order to test how the counterintelligence personnel react, but one should never "play" with the counterintelligence agents and tease them by acts ostensibly designed to shake surveillance.

On the basis of data collected by these measures steps are worked out for the officer to make a secure exit into the city to hold the meeting (or to forewarn the agent if he discovers surveillance). A system of signals is agreed upon and an appropriate distribution of security and support personnel is worked out. For the latter, other case officers and technical personnel in the residency are co-opted, ones not subject to intensive counterintelligence surveillance.

For the exit itself various techniques of camouflage are used. In one case, talks indicating the case officer was ill were held several times during the day over a telephone known to be tapped by the counterintelligence service. The state of his health was being discussed again over the telephone at the very time when he was leaving his home to meet an agent, so early that surveillance teams had not yet started to work. In another instance the officer was hidden in an automobile and driven by two other members of the residency to a place where one of the two was taking driving lessons. The counterintelligence agents, who for some time had been used to watching this car leave for the driving lessons, now trailed it for a while and then fell for the cover story and discontinued surveillance.

Once a "party" was arranged in the apartment of a case officer who was scheduled to meet with an illegal. Counterintelligence, believing the cover story and supposing that all residency personnel subject to surveillance were safely assembled in this one place, relaxed vigilance. Taking advantage of their relaxation, the "host" went out by a secret exit, held his meeting, and returned the same way. He resumed entertaining his "guests" and then conducted them down to the street before the very eyes of the counterintelligence agents, leaving the impression he had been in the apartment with his comrades all the time.

In order to weaken surveillance over a case officer who is about to leave for an agent meeting, other members of the residency are sometimes sent into town in order to disperse the strength of the surveillance teams and distract their attention. The invention of successful camouflage devices depends on the use of initiative and resourcefulness in the light of the specific concrete situation.

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Surveillance en Route

Automobiles and residency members on foot can be used for signaling danger to the case officer going to a meeting. They are stationed at prearranged points, the men perhaps making calls from specified telephone booths. Everything is calculated as to time and place. The case officer may be required to go to a stipulated point at a given time or be at a given place in order to observe what kind of a signal is set up there. If our automobile, for example, were parked at a specified point, this would signify that the case officer was under surveillance and should not keep the rendezvous. In working out such safeguards they should be so calculated as to warn the case officer in time for him to call off the operation before making contact with the agent.

Secret technical devices are used to detect surveillance on case officers going to an agent meeting.7 Carefully selected residency employees can also be sent out to test operational conditions along the handling officer's route, at particular points to be passed, and in the area of the meeting place. This must be done, however, without attracting superfluous persons into the meeting area and without drawing counterintelligence attention to it. In some cases such procedures are coordinated on the spot with residents of fellow intelligence organs.8 Sometimes employees supporting the meeting of a case officer with an agent are subjected to more intense surveillance than the case officer himself and so pull the counterintelligence "tails" along after them to the meeting. In this fashion security support is converted into its opposite, and the operation has to be called off.

The case officer departing for a meeting is required to check carefully whether he himself is under surveillance. If he is, he must convince the surveillants by his actions that his trip into town has no intelligence connotations; that is, he must act in conformity with the approved cover story or its alternate. He must also try to shake off the surveillants. It is not proper, however, to let it be evident that he is trying to shake them off, especially if the meeting is with a valuable agent. Obvious efforts usually do not work. On the contrary, they charge the atmosphere around the case officer and bring on counterintelligence reinforcements.

The officer can go on to the meeting only after careful checking and making fully certain that there is no surveillance. When surveillance is discovered and when it is impossible to get away from it naturally, he should calmly abort the meeting.

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The Meeting

Upon meeting the agent, the case officer first tells him the cover story for their being together and then establishes arrangements for future contact. After that the business specified in the meeting plan can be taken up. If the plan calls for the return of intelligence materials to the agent, these are given to him immediately. But if it calls for the case officer to get materials from the agent, it is best for him to take them at the last moment, just before the meeting ends. Then, when counterintelligence activity is severe, he must get rid of them as quickly as possible. For this purpose support automobiles or other members of the residency are sometimes stationed at predetermined points in order to take them from him.

Various techniques are used to effect the transfer of intelligence materials. They can be thrown into the open window of a parked automobile.. They can be passed outside of town between two cars in motion, one overtaking the other and running side by side with it for a brief span. Heavy suitcases containing radio gear, for example, can be handed over in this way. Or the exchange can be accomplished under the pretext that one car is helping the other make repairs. Under present conditions, however, residencies under legal cover should receive and pass materials whenever possible via non-personal forms of communication with the aid of technical operational equipment.9

After the meeting has ended the case officer may, if special permission has been obtained from the resident, check on the actions of the agent by discreet, unnoticeable surveillance. This practice obtains when something in his behavior and performance gives rise to suspicion.

Upon return to the residency the case officer makes a detailed oral report to the resident, and if asked he writes a report for transmittal to Headquarters including his own comments and conclusions. The resident adds his comments before sending it.

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Under Better Conditions

Meetings with an agent in a third country are planned and conducted in compliance with all the requirements of cover and clandestinity applicable to agent meetings everywhere. This applies especially when a Headquarters officer has traveled there with Soviet documentation to hold the meeting. In a third country, however, the operational climate is more favorable in that the counterintelligence and police agents do not know the identity of either the case officer or the agent. Moreover, neither the case officer nor the agent has acquaintances among the local populace, with whom an encounter during a meeting would be most undesirable. The agent feels more confident and relaxed, a circumstance which facilitates a more complete and thorough examination and resolution of the business at hand.

A third country is usually chosen that has less stringent counterintelligence practices, one where the operational situation permits holding a meeting with less risk of discovery. The case officer who arrives in a third country illegally, with foreign documentation, enjoys still more favorable conditions, not only for meetings but also for non-clandestine association with the agent. The two can even live in the same hotel. Nevertheless, a case officer meeting an agent in a third country must carefully adhere to all the rules of clandestine intelligence operations.

In illegal residencies and agent groups, meetings with agents should conform to the same requirements, even though conditions are different and security measures normally do not have to be carried to such lengths. The establishment of personal contact in illegal residencies and agent groups is under the control of Headquarters, and residents and group leaders report on meetings to Headquarters through their communications channels.

Meetings with an agent summoned from abroad to Headquarters enjoy the most favorable conditions of all, held in a safehouse and in a calm atmosphere which provide the opportunity to thrash out problems thoroughly and resolve pending operational matters. Such meetings establish conditions for definitive checking and assessment of the agent, should this be necessary. They entail, however, acute problems of security and cover, especially when the agent is quartered in a hotel with other foreigners. His contacts with Soviet officials must not become known to outsiders, especially his own countrymen. if he arrives with false documentation, he should be quartered in a safehouse only, and he should not appear in those places where citizens of his country might meet him. His exit from the USSR also requires serious attention. He cannot take an airplane or train on which acquaintances might happen to be traveling.

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Despite its obvious vulnerability, personal contact in agent operations is unavoidable. It must be used most intensively for recruitment purposes. It has a number of advantages over other modes of agent communication. It facilitates the exchange of materials, the assessment of potential agents, and agent indoctrination and training. It is a means of direct supervision, which is extraordinarily important and necessary in intelligence operations, especially in the protection of the network from penetration by provocateurs and counterintelligence agents.

It is used primarily within residencies. It is also used by Headquarters for communication with agents, group leaders, and illegal residents, especially in peacetime. It can seldom be the means of delivering urgent intelligence reports, however, and therefore even in peacetime arrangements for radio and other forms of non-personal communication with Headquarters must be established.

Much is demanded of case officers making personal contacts -- excellence in operational preparedness, personality, education, and general cultural development, knowledge of specialized matters on which the agents are working, ability to detect surveillance, ability to grasp quickly the content and significance of a discussion and make correct decisions on matters broached by agents, and skill in avoiding compromise of self and agent when danger threatens.

Because of the complexity of modern operational conditions, the possibilities for personal contact in a target country are significantly reduced and in some instances eliminated completely. Personal contact with a valuable agent should take place in a third country or at Headquarters.

Under present conditions the number of personal meetings between agents and case officers under legal cover should be reduced to a minimum. This end can be achieved by the amalgamation of agents into agent groups or illegal residencies, by cutting off group leaders and illegal residents from contact with legal residencies, and by training illegal case officers at Headquarters to send out for meetings. The indispensable residue of meetings in residencies under legal cover are feasible if the essential measures of security and cover are taken.

Because plans for personal contacts depend on the particular participants, purposes, and local situation, much freedom is granted to residents in this respect. Yet control and supervision by Headquarters is never completely absent. It is precisely the central intelligence apparatus which can and must, by study of experience with personal contacts in all strategic intelligence operations, substantially aid residents to set up arrangements that conform with modern operational conditions. Headquarters officers, residency officers, and those who are in intelligence training establishments must develop the highest creative initiative and resourcefulness in the quest for secure agent communications, in fitting these to actual operational problems, and in the application of the latest attainments of Soviet and foreign science and technology.

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1 Adapted from a Top Secret paper issued by the Soviet Military-Diplomatic Academy in 1960. For the circumstances of its issue see Studies VIII 1, p. 16.

2 Field Station.

3 Chief of Station.

4 Which may be controlled by a principal agent rather than a staff officer.

5 Official (or semiofficial, like Tass).

6 Under deep cover, which in Soviet practice involves false documentation.

7  Presumably the monitoring of counterintelligence radios.

8  I.e., the KGB.

9 Presumably concealment devices, including microphotography.


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Posted: May 08, 2007 07:58 AM
Last Updated: Aug 04, 2011 03:56 PM