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Cold War Warriors

Virtue of Patience

Major Ted Streeter, USA Ret

My previous two articles explored the lighter side of the espionage game. And, there are many more such examples – for instance, the time we apprehended what we believed to be a saboteur inside a major US Army ammunition storage depot in Germany. But,we quickly learned that our saboteur was just some poor guy who had had a major fight with his wife, bought a bottle of brandy, got blindingly drunk, somehow penetrated the heavily guarded perimeter wires, and passed out on one of the ammunition storage bunkers. But, there were also many serious incidents, one of which I'd like to discuss in this article. Since I believe this will be my last article, I would like to take this opportunity to reminisce and philosophize a bit.

I was a very small cog in the machinery of the intelligence engine, but over the years developed a few observations that, I believe, are peculiar to the Cold War recruitment of voluntary agents. The first is the importance of ideology in recruiting personnel from the Soviet Bloc. A good example of that is "George", a KGB defector, rather famous in the intelligence community, to whom I spoke on a couple of occasions. George was thoroughly indoctrinated and a true believer in Marxist ideology, before being transferred to the KGB station in London.

Holland Park, London - where KGB Headquarters were located during the Cold War

Once there, however, he found that the West was not the decadent society that it had been portrayed as being. George began to ponder the differences between London and Soviet society, and eventually concluded that a life of freedom was definitely the choice to make. From that point the next step was easy. Recruiters from the East, however could rarely use ideology as a recruitment tool. For them, the right approach was spotting an individual who was in some way dissatisfied with spouse, job, system, etc., or who loved the extravagant life style, and combining that with money. Sometimes the former factors weren't necessary. Money is a great motivator in the capitalist world.

I've been out of the business for some time now, but I imagine that all of that has changed. We no longer face a state-sponsored political ideology, but rather are now opposed by a transnational,religious adversary. Those who have argued about religion, know that it's well nigh impossible to get one's opponent to admit that his or her faith may be flawed or to expect them to see its own weaknesses. And, there is a degree of fanaticism involved, which formerly did not play that great a role. I do not pretend to be an expert on Islam, but from what I have read and heard, portions of it can be interpreted to advocate killing non-believers (us), and achieving martyrdom if one dies in the process. That makes it tough when trying to recruit volunteers to penetrate terrorist organizations. On the positive side, however, something is working. You'll notice that many of those arrested (most recently the Capitol Hill bomber) have been duped into believing that they are working with Al Qaeda or another terrorist organization. So, kudos to our guys and gals in the FBI and the law enforcement community!

As to non-voluntary recruitment of Western personnel, I need say only one word – sex! While other factors may have at times played a minor role, the overwhelming method of involuntary recruitment was some variation of the "honey trap", usually involving an unhappily married middle aged male who just happens to meet a young, voluptuous, willing, foreign national female, becomes "involved", and is entrapped. Oddly enough, heterosexual sex has been the overwhelming culprit. When I first started my career, homosexuality was considered a security factor, and those who acknowledged the practice were denied a security clearance. That persisted until, I believe, the mid-1980s. But to my knowledge (and I could be wrong), other than the Burgess & Maclean case in the '50s- no sex-related espionage case has involved homosexuality. And, all of this discussion brings us to "Bob".

It has been said that espionage is the world's second oldest profession with none of the virtues of the first. I can't (won't!) discuss the virtues of the first, but a primary one of the second is patience; the ability to wait until the right time to make the move. In Bob's case, the KGB waited about 11 years for an opportunity that it first spotted in 1973 or '74.

After I retired from the US Army, I was employed by a small, foreign service agency, now defunct, in Washington, D.C., where I ran the counterintelligence effort. In the late 1980s, we received word from another agency that Bob- then returning from the Soviet Union to a high post in our agency, had been co-opted by the KGB. We called Bob in for an interview, and over a period of time, his story emerged. By the way, no water boarding took place!

 ‘Izvestiya news headquarters, Moscow

Bob was a young Republican who had worked hard for the re-election of Richard Nixon and, as a reward, was given a minor post in the White House. One of his duties was maintaining liaison with young Republican groups around the country, and in that capacity he somehow met Vladimir (Vlad), the accredited US correspondent for "Izvestiya"- a top, Soviet newspaper. Bob and Vlad became close friends over the next couple of years until Vlad was recalled to Moscow. Bob eventually left the White House and joined our agency. After a year or so, Bob was posted to Africa – Kenya, I believe – and after a short period - who should he run into, but his old friend Vladimir! Complete chance right? What a small world! It seems that just by chance, Vladimir had also been posted to Kenya. The two resumed their friendship until Bob returned to the US for a few years. He was then posted to the Soviet Union, and lo and behold, who should he meet upon arrival but good ol' Vlad, who had heard "through the grapevine" that Bob was coming to the USSR. Bob and Vlad resumed their ways, and all went well until just before Bob was to return to the US, when the trap was sprung.

Russian "Honey Trap"  – Anna (Anya) Chapman

About a week before his departure, Vlad called Bob and asked that they meet at the apartment of a mutual, artist friend. Bob agreed. Upon arrival, Bob found Vlad, the artist and another man, "Mikhail", seated in the living room. After introductions, Vlad and the artist excused themselves and left. Mikhail then told Bob that he (Mikhail) was an attorney who represented a young lady who claimed that Bob had impregnated her. Mikhail produced photographs of the two in compromising positions, and stated that should the lady press charges, Bob would not be allowed to leave the Soviet Union until the matter was settled. Also, his career and marriage would both be shot. However, Mikhail stated that if Bob would just sign a document (in Russian) that Mikhail had prepared, Bob would be free to leave. He, Mikhail would fix the situation and no one would be the wiser. By the way, Mikhail, added, someone would contact him in Washington, after he had settled into his new job and advise him as to how the matter had turned out. Bob, weighing all the possibilities, signed the document, and the KGB had him. Bob's Washington contact would have, of course, advised him that if Bob passed certain information to the contact, that Bob's activities in the USSR would remain in confidence. Bob could not do otherwise, because the KGB now had a document signed by him.

Polygraph Session

Bob was polygraphed on the Soviet Union phase of his activities and relationship with Vladimir, and his account of what had transpired turned out to be accurate. However, Bob refused to be polygraphed on anything prior to his Soviet Union tour. I am absolutely convinced- although I can't prove it, that very early in their relationship, Vladimir spotted Bob's weakness for extra-marital sex (if you'd met Bob's wife, you'd understand), and that he nurtured that weakness throughout their times together, waiting at least 11 years before springing the trap. Had we not learned of it, Bob would have occupied a high position in our agency- as a Soviet mole. Patience is indeed a virtue. Bob, incidentally, was not prosecuted. He was dismissed from the Foreign Service and now lives…. who knows where?

I left the profession in 1995- after 34 years service. I consider myself very fortunate to have entered it just when the Berlin Wall went up and to have left a few years after the demise of the "evil empire". Now all, I would imagine, has changed. But, my time left me with memories that those currently in the community, will never experience, memories that illustrate what the Cold War, the bi-polar world, was all about.

I recall walking into what was advertised as a grocery store in Moscow, to find the shelves bare except for a few cans of something and a couple of scrawny, greenish chickens hanging from meat hooks behind the counter. I remember shopping at the giant GUM department store in Moscow. I was a pipe smoker at the time and tried to buy one where ever I went- which was an experience in the Moscow GUM. First, if you could get waited on, you picked out your merchandise. The clerk then wrote a chit describing it, which you took to the cashier. You paid the cashier, who stamped your chit, and then you returned to the counter to try to get waited on again. When and if you were successful, the clerk inspected the chit, took out the merchandise, and sent it to the wrapper, where you would go to stand in line while that process took place. Only after all was completed, could you leave the store with your wares. The whole system was the epitome of what one local resident told me - "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."

Most of all, I remember standing in Red Square at night, gazing at the Kremlin atop which sat a huge, brightly lit, red star. Here was the seat of world Communism, from which emanated the suppression of eastern Europe, the Cuban Missile crisis, the invasion of Afghanistan, and all of the other initiatives designed to defeat my country and the West. It was an eerie, almost religious feeling that I shall never forget.

I also remember, when packing for a trip to Eastern Europe, to always include at least one carton of cigarettes. A pack of Marlboros could do wonders there, except for Romania, where Kents seemed to be the cigarette of choice.

I remember checking into the Sheraton Balkan, in Sofia, Bulgaria, with my traveling partner, to be told that our rooms were not yet ready. We checked back in a half hour with the young Bulgarian desk clerk to be told that they were still not ready. A half hour later- the same thing. We asked to speak to the manager, who was Danish, as the Balkan was being managed by a Danish company. The manager simply instructed the kid to give us two other rooms- a decision that would be made by any desk clerk in the West without prompting. It occurred to me how sad it was to be raised in a system where individual action was discouraged if not prohibited, and that it was this quality – the power and desire of individual initiative – if any, that would ultimately result in the Western victory over Communism.


Lastly, I recall two trips to Czechoslovakia, one in the mid-80s and the other in 1992. Prague is a beautiful city, untouched by World War II, full of historic facades (not to mention some of the best beer to be had). But, in 1985 the city was leaden – dark, gray- without life. On a couple of occasions I would stop to ask directions (in German), and people would immediately flee, afraid to be seen in the company of a Westerner. Western European broadcasts were all jammed. The airport was segregated into two parts, enforced by armed guards - one for those flying within the Eastern Bloc and the other for those traveling to the West. No contact was allowed. I remember stepping onto the Air Austria plane for the flight to Vienna, and immediately being overcome by a feeling of freedom- of release from the oppressiveness of Communist society. I returned in the summer of 1992 to find Prague alive and thriving. Flowers everywhere. A Peruvian band playing in Wenceslas Square, and the streets thronged with American soldiers and their families- all in search of that famous Czech crystalware.

Although Cold War lasted for only 50 years- a nanosecond in human history- it was unique in so many ways that will never be duplicated. I'm sure that future writers will recall similar tales from their experiences during the war on terrorism, but none in my mind will equal the period when one half of the world faced the other and we came very close to blowing ourselves to pieces. The Cold War provided me not only with a career, but with the chance to serve my country in ways that not many people experience. But, we've moved on, and as for the Cold War- I guess it's goodbye to all that.

Ted Streeter is a retired U.S. Army Major with 22 years service and an additional 13 years service with the federal government, all in the field of intelligence and national security. He retired from the Gettysburg Borough Council on December 31, 2011, after 14 years service: seven as Council President.

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