History of Soviet espionage in the United States

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Since the late 1920s, the Soviet Union, through its OGPU and NKVD intelligence services, used Russian and foreign-born nationals as well as Communist and left-leaning Americans to perform espionage activities in the United States.<ref>Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press (2000)</ref><ref>Weinstein, Allen, and Vassiliev, Alexander, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999)</ref><ref>Retrieved Papers Shed Light On Communist Activities In U.S., Associated Press, January 31, 2001</ref> These various espionage networks eventually succeeded in penetrating various U.S. government agencies, transmitting classified or confidential information to Moscow, while influencing U.S. government officials to support policies favorable to the Soviet Union.<ref>Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press (2000)</ref><ref>Weinstein, Allen, and Vassiliev, Alexander, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999)</ref><ref>Retrieved Papers Shed Light On Communist Activities In U.S., Associated Press, January 31, 2001</ref> The Soviet Union's greatest espionage achievement was in obtaining plans and specifications for the U.S. atomic bomb.

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[edit] First efforts

During the 1920s, Soviet intelligence focused on military and industrial espionage in the United States, specifically aircraft and munitions industries, and penetrating the mainline federal government bureaucracies, such as the Department of State and War Department. A front organization was created in 1928 for the infiltration and placement of scientists into industry and government: the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians (FAECT). <ref>Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin And Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley. Steven T. Usdin, Yale University Press. October 10, 2005, pg 28</ref>

[edit] Browder and Golos networks

One chief aim was the infiltration, placement, and subversion of American political life at all levels of society. Earl Browder, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA), served as an agent recruiter himself on behalf of Soviet intelligence. .<ref>Sudoplatov, Pavel Anatoli, Schecter, Jerrold L., and Schecter, Leona P., Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness - A Soviet Spymaster, Little Brown, Boston (1994)</ref> <ref>Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, The Secret World of American Communism, Yale University Press (1995)</ref>

Browder later stated that "by the mid-thirties, the Party was not putting its principal emphasis on recruiting members." Left unstated was his intent to use party members for espionage work, where suitable. Browder advocated the use of a United Front involving other members of the left, both to strengthen advocacy of pro-Soviet policy and to enlarge the pool of potential recruits for espionage work. In 1935, NKVD agent Iskhak Akhmerov entered the US with false identity papers to assist in the collection of useful intelligence, and operated without interruption until 1939, when he left the US. Akhmerov's wife, an American who worked for Soviet intelligence, was Helen Lowry (Elza Akhmerova), the niece of CPUSA General Secretary Earl Browder. Recent information from Soviet archives have revealed that Browder's younger sister Marguerite worked until 1938 as an NKVD operative in Europe. She discontinued this work only when Browder himself requested her release from duty, fearful that her work would compromise his position as General Secretary.<ref>Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, The Secret World of American Communism, Yale University Press (1995)</ref>

One early Soviet spy rings was headed by Jacob Golos. Jake Golos (birth name Jacob Rasin or Raisen) was a Ukrainian-born Bolshevik revolutionary and Soviet secret police (NKVD) operative in the USSR. He was also a longtime senior official of the CPUSA involved in covert work and cooperation with Soviet intelligence agencies. He took over an existing network of agents and intelligence sources from Earl Browder. Golos' controller was the head of the NKVD's American desk, Gaik Ovakimian, also known as "The Puppetmaster", who would later serve a key role in the assassination of Leon Trotsky. <ref>[ http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page44.html Alexander Vassiliev’s Notes on Anatoly Gorsky’s December 1948 Memo on Compromised American Sources and Networks], John Earl Haynes, “KGB officer Gaik Badelovich Ovakimian worked as a Soviet spy in the United States from 1933 until 1941 when he was arrested and deported. He was identified in the Venona cables under the cover name Gennady. Elizabeth Bentley reported that Golos identified Ovakimian as his chief contact with the KGB until the arrest.” </ref> Golos was the "main pillar" of the NKVD intelligence network. He had worked with Soviet intelligence from the mid 1930s, and probably earlier. He was not merely a CPUSA official assisting the NKVD (an agent or “probationer” in Soviet intelligence parlance) but held official rank in the NKVD, and claimed to be an oldtime Chekist. Golos headed the Central Control Commission which planned the kidnapping and execution of Juliet Poyntz, an American GRU agent who after a recent trip to Moscow had expressed revulsion upon viewing the effects of Stalinist policies. <ref> Still Perplexed About Krivitsky. Earl M. Hyde International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence. Routledge. July-September, 2003</ref>

Golos established a company called World Tourists with money from Earl Browder, the General Secretary. The firm, which posed as a travel agency, was used to facilitate international travel to and from the United States by Soviet agents and CPUSA members. World Tourists was also involved in manufacturing fake passports, as Browder used such a false passport on covert trips to the Soviet Union in 1936. <ref>Weinstein, Allen, and Vassiliev, Alexander, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era. New York: Random House, 1999, pgs 85-87</ref> At World Tourist, Golos frequently met Bernard Schuster, an NKVD agent (code name ECHO and DICK) and Communist Party functionary who carried out background investigations for Golos as part of the vetting process of agent candidates.<ref>VENONA documents NY-MOSCOW, Nos. 1221, 1457, and 1512 (1944)</ref> In March of 1940, Golos pled guilty to being an unregistered foreign agent, paid a $500 fine, and served probation in lieu of a four-month prison sentence.

Soviet intelligence did not like Golos' refusal to allow Soviet contact with his sources (a measure implemented by Golos to protect himself and to ensure his continued retention by the NKVD). The NKVD suspected Golos of Trotskyism and tried to lure him to Moscow, where he could be arrested, but the US government got to him first. But even then, did not reveal his agent network. After Browder went to prison in 1940, Golos took over running Browder's agents. In 1941, Golos set up a commercial forwarding enterprise, called the US Shipping and Service Corporation, with Elizabeth Bentley, his lover, as one of its officers. <ref>Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, The Secret World of American Communism, Yale University Press (1995), pg 233</ref> <ref>Weinstein, Allen, and Vassiliev, Alexander, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era. New York: Random House, 1999, pgs 101, 102</ref>

Sometime in November of 1943, Golos met in New York with key figures of the Perlo group, a group working in several government departments and agencies in Washington, DC. The group was already in the service of Browder. Later that same month, after a series of heart attacks over the previous two years, Golos died in bed in Bentley's arms. Bentley then took over his operations (thus the reference in the decrypts to him as a “former” colleague). [citation needed]

[edit] Secret apparatus

By the end of 1936 at least four mid-level State Department officials were delivering information to Soviet intelligence: Alger Hiss, assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Francis Sayre; Julian Wadleigh, economist in the Trade Agreements Section; Laurence Duggan, Latin American division; and Noel Field, West European division. Whittaker Chambers later testified that the plans for a tank design with a revolutionary new suspension invented by J. Walter Christie (then being tested in the U.S.A.) were procured and put into production in the Soviet Union as the Mark BT, later developed into the famous Soviet T-34 tank.<ref>Chambers, Whittaker, Witness, New York: Random House (1952), ISBN 0-895-26789-6</ref><ref>Suvorov, Viktor, Icebreaker, London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd. (1990), ISBN 0-241-12622-3</ref>

In 1993, experts from the Library of Congress traveled to Moscow to copy previously secret archives of Communist Party USA (CPUSA) records, sent to the Soviet Union for safekeeping by party organizers. The records provide an irrefutable record of Soviet intelligence and cooperation provided by those in the radical left in the United States from the 1920s through the 1940s. Some documents revealed that the CPUSA was actively involved in secretly recruiting party members from African-American groups and rural farm workers. The records contained further evidence that Soviet sympathizers had indeed infiltrated the State Department, beginning in the 1930s. Included were letters from two U.S. ambassadors in Europe to Roosevelt and a senior State Department official. Thanks to an official in the State department sympathetic to the Party, the confidential correspondence, concerning political and economic matters in Europe, ended up in the hands of Soviet intelligence.<ref>Retrieved Papers Shed Light On Communist Activities In U.S., Associated Press, January 31, 2001</ref>

In the late 1930s and 1940 the OGPU, known as the Political Directorate, used the U.S. as one of several staging areas for multiple OGPU plots to murder exiled Soviet leader Leon Trotsky, then living in Mexico City. It was American Communists who infiltrated Trotsky’s killer into his own household . They were also central to the NKVD's unsuccessful efforts to free the killer from a Mexican prison. [citation needed]

[edit] Soble Spy Ring

Jacob Albam and the Sobles were indicted on espionage charges by the FBI in 1957, all three were later convicted and served prison terms. The Zlatovskis remained in Paris, France, where the laws did not allow their extradition to the United States for espionage. Robert Soblen was sentenced to life in prison for his espionage work at Sandia National Laboratory, but jumped bail and escaped to Israel. After being expelled from that country, he later committed suicide in Britain while awaiting extradition back to the United States.<ref>Cooperation, Time Magazine, August 19, 1957</ref><ref>Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, Early Cold War Spies: The Espionage Trials that Shaped American Politics Cambridge University Press (2006)</ref>

[edit] Wartime Espionage

During the war, Soviet espionage agents obtained classified reports on electronic advances in radio-beacon artillery fuzes by Emerson Radio, including a complete proximity fuze (reportedly the same fuze design that was later installed on Soviet anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down Francis Gary Powers's U-2 in 1960). [citation needed] Thousands of documents from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) were photocopied or stolen, including a complete set of design and production drawings for Lockheed Aircraft's new P-80 Shooting Star fighter jet.<ref>Feklisov, Aleksandr, and Kostin, Sergei, The Man Behind the Rosenbergs, Enigma Books (2001)</ref>

[edit] Atomic Bomb Secrets

Josef Stalin directed Soviet intelligence officers to collect information in four main areas. Pavel Fitin, the 34-year-old chief of the KGB First Directorate, was directed to seek American intelligence concerning Hitler's plans for the war in Russia; secret war aims of London and Washington, particularly with regard to planning for Operation Overlord, the second front in Europe; any indications the Western allies might be willing to make a separate peace with Hitler; and American scientific and technological progress, particularly in the development of an atomic weapon.

[edit] The Silvermaster Spy Ring

The United States Treasury Department was successfully penetrated by nearly a dozen Soviet agents or information sources, including Harold Glasser and his superior, Harry Dexter White, assistant secretary of the treasury and the second most influential official in the department.<ref>Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press (2000)</ref><ref>Weinstein, Allen, and Vassiliev, Alexander, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999)</ref> In Late May 1941 Vitaly Pavlov, a 25 year-old NKVD officer, approached White and attempted to secure his assistance to influence U.S. policy with towards Japan. White agreed to assist Soviet intelligence in any way he could. The principle function of White was to aid in the infiltration and placement of Soviet operatives within the government, and protecting sources. [citation needed] When security concerns arose around Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, White protected him in his sensitive position at the Board of Economic Warfare. White likewise was a purveyor of information and resources to assist Soviet aims, and agreed to press for release of German occupation currency plates to the Soviet Union. The Soviets later used the plates to print unrestricted sums of money to exchange for U.S. and Allied hard goods.<ref>Schecter, Jerrold and Leona, Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History, Potomac Books (2002)</ref>

In August 1945 Elizabeth Bentley, fearful of assassination by the Soviet KGB, turned herself in to the government. [citation needed] She implicated many agents and sources in the Golos and Silvermaster spy networks, and was the first to accuse Harry Dexter White of acting on behalf of Soviet interests in releasing occupation plates to Moscow, later confirmed by Soviet archives and former KGB officers.<ref>Sudoplatov, Pavel Anatoli, Schecter, Jerrold L., and Schecter, Leona P., Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness - A Soviet Spymaster, Little Brown, Boston (1994)</ref><ref>Schecter, Jerrold and Leona, Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History, Potomac Books (2002)</ref>

[edit] Aftermath

President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9835 of 22 March 1947 tightened protections against subversive infiltration of the US Government, defining disloyalty as membership on a list of subversive organizations maintained by the Attorney General. In 1997, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Chairman of the Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy wrote, "President Truman was almost willfully obtuse as regards American Communism."<ref>Moynihan, Daniel, et al., Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, U.S. Government Printing Office (1997)</ref>

Soviet successes in obtaining information on U.S. defense readiness and atomic bomb stockpiles are thought to have led directly to Stalin's decision to blockade Berlin in 1949 and to acquiesce in Kim Il Sung's invasion of South Korea in 1950. [citation needed]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading

  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press
  • Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999)

History of Soviet espionage in the United States

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