Secrets of the Teheren Archive
(page 2)

Spring 1987

by Edward Jay Epstein

These top secret internal directives also reveal that in 1973 there was a sudden increase in the CIA's confidence in its ability to run and service agents in hostile territory. Up until 1973, the CIA considered such contacts behind enemy lines to be a very difficult--and dangerous--enterprise. Not only did the KGB maintain a full-court press of surveillance, especially around the embassy, but it was known to use double-agents to entrap intermediaries that might be used as couriers. In January 1973, there was a dramatic change in the CIA's appreciation of this situation. On January 9th, in a top secret cable, The CIA`s Soviet Bloc division, code named BK Herald, informed all stations abroad:

BK Herald can and does run many resident agents inside the REDTOP countries. We have the capability to mount and support such operations over an indefinite period, and we currently are able to exfiltrate agents, in most cases with their families, from the REDTOP countries when it is time for them to leave.

In other words, the new CIA took the position that it could not only recruit untested REDTOP walk-ins at foreign embassies but, after they returned to Moscow, it could contact them with impunity, employ them as "resident agents" (or moles), and then, if necessary, smuggle them, and their families, out of Russia. ( Volume 53, p.29) This fearless bluster, presumably had been based on doubts about the efficiency of the Soviet security services-- "The KGB is not 10 feet tall" -- proved to be disastrously short lived. By 1978, the KGB had arrested a large number of the CIA's "resident agents" in Moscow, including Anatoli Filatov, Alexandr Ogorodnik and Vladimir Kalinin, and had used other CIA recruits, such as Sanya Lipavsky, as provocateurs to discredit the dissident movement.

The Teheran documents also provide a surprisingly lucid picture of the basic exercises involved in espionage. The "first imperative", according to the January 9th 1973 directive, is to discourage any potential REDTOP dissident from actually defecting. If he does, it will be known to the Soviets, and they can be expected to take measures to nullify the value of his information. Instead, he should be persuaded to return to his post, and maintain secret contact. In CIA parlance, this is a "turn around". In cases where the REDTOP is not a position of access, the CIA explains "we are prepared to guide and assist him in his career [in the Soviet government], running him in place until he develops the access we need". The CIA, in other words, operated on the premise that it could promote Soviet personnel in their careers in the Soviet foreign office, Armed Forces and KGB through supplying them with information and, by doing so, maneuver them into positions where they could steal or intercept secrets that were valuable to the United States. The idea is to develop a mole. "Our ultimate objective is to have the walk-in return to his home country and continue his agent relationship while working inside"(Vol 53, p.28-9)

These directives also include the nuts and bolts details of espionage. There are, for example, step-by-step instructions for recruiting for the job of a mole a Soviet Bloc official who contacts a US Embassy ( If the officer on duty doesn't speak his language, there are convenient cards in Russian and Chinese ). First, the walk-in is told to return to his comrades, and say nothing to them about the contact. Then, he is handed a chemical Secret Writing kit [SW] (which allows him to develop invisible addendum to letters). He is also assigned his "Indicator", or code word, which signals that an otherwise innocuous-looking letter contains a message. In return, the Soviet Bloc official is asked to supply a home mailing address or to address an envelope to himself. He is told he can" expect a letter (mailed securely in his own country by a BKHERALD officer) containing an SW message with instructions two to three months after his return"(Vol 53 p.30) Next, the CIA sends a so-called "ops package" to the Soviet Union (or wherever) "containing covert communications materials, reporting requirements and other instructions" for the agent-to-be which is "dead dropped" --IE, stashed in a safe location such as a tree trunk. Finally, a message in secret writing is mailed to him telling the walk-in where to pick up this "ops package". Once he receives this equipment, the recruit becomes a full fledge spy-- photocopying requested documents, answering CIA questionnaires, etc and depositing the data in his dead drop.

Other documents in the archives show that the CIA did not merely sit around waiting for REDTOP walk-ins to stray into the embassy. It sets up operations ( "ops") to approach, tempt, compromise and recruit their diplomats and intelligence officers. To begin these "ops", U.S. intelligence officers poured through "biographical" research reports, prepared by U.S. and allied embassies, on Soviet diplomatic personnel in Iran and sifted out from them possibly vulnerable REDTOPS. For example, it was reported that one recently transferred Soviet diplomat's wife had been President Nikolai Kosygin's mistress. If true, it might make him amenable to betraying his country. As it turned out, the report was false (she had merely been Kosygin's secretary), and the "op" was scrapped.(volume 52, pp32-36) After a "target" is finally found, the "op" frequently employed intermediaries, called "access agents" to approach him. The longest such case involved the use of an American doctor, who worked with Soviet doctors in a hospital in Teheran-- for the task of befriending the targets. (Vol 52, pp 44-75) The code name for the agent was "Larry Giel". If the "op" then went well, the REDTOP was then maneuvered into a meeting of the CIA recruiter, who would then attempt to trick or induce him into cooperating. As it turned out, despite persistent efforts by the CIA and Air force intelligence, these "ops" against REDTOPS rarely, if ever, succeeded in Iran (at least not in the published documents). The CIA had more apparent success in recruiting Iranian diplomats in the period following the overthrow of the Shah in 1978. An entire volume of CIA documents is devoted to the intriguing arrangements necessary for clandestine contacts with two such Iranian officials, code named SDLURE and SDROTTER (Volume 9)

Beyond such espionage activities, this archive also provides a measure not ordinarily available of the quality of the diplomatic reporting. This cable traffic between U.S. Embassies and Washington-- which is in effect daily, if unpublished, journalism, was based mainly on conversations with foreign diplomats from both friendly and unfriendly nations. In Iran, for example, U.S. political officers regularly sought out their counterparts in the Soviet Embassy, and, while treating them to dinner at the Teheran Steak House, pressed them with questions about Soviet intentions in countries around the world. The answers were presumed to be the quasi-official Soviet line. (In return, the Soviets invited Americans to the Sauna in the Soviet Embassy). (Volume 50, pp 43-88)

These messages from foreign sources, reviewed in the hindsight of history, show the extent to which nations used diplomatic contacts to test, manipulate and control their adversaries. The way the Soviet Union used diplomatic channels to de-sensitize the United States to it planned coup in Afghanistan in October 1979 is a case in point. The Soviets were, up until that point, facing a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The Socialist government of Taraki and Amin, backed by the Soviets, had seized power in April 1978. But despite over one billion dollars in Soviet economic and military aid, and some 4000 Soviet military advisors, it had been unable to deal with the growing Moslem insurgency, was financed secretly by Saudi Arabia. (Volume 30, pp142-3)

The Soviet Union decided in the summer of 1979 to suppress the rebellion, which meant replacing the Afghan leaders (who still retained some claim of independence from Moscow). In preparing this coup, the Soviets sent a series of messages to the American embassy, beginning in June, through both its own Minister, V.S. Safronchuk and the East German Ambassador, Dr. Hermann Schwiesau. As the American Ambassador reported in the secret section of a July 18th cable to Washington. "Over the last 3 weeks, we had hints of a Soviet assisted internal coup both from GDR Ambassador Schwiesau and from...Safronchuk". He explained that Schwiesau had become the "One of our most important sources of.. Moscow's thinking". The message from the East German ambassador was that Moscow would not allow the socialist coup to interfere, even if it meant direct intervention. He explained: "Safronchuk had been given the task, by Moscow, to bring about a `radical change' in the Government" of Afghanistan. Then, spelling out the course of action-- and even giving the approximate date, he "indicated that a military intraparty coup, deposing of Amin and perhaps others, is what the Soviets intend". (Volume 29, pp 180-181) The message of Moscow's plan to pull a coup was pointedly repeated on at least three other occasions that month. In addition, there were reported in the cable traffic numerous instances of undisguised Soviet military moves to support its intervention in Afghanistan. (Volume 30)

Finally, the Teheran archive reveals something about US intelligence against its allies, notably Israel. The CIA left intact in the embassy archives in Teheran an extremely damaging 47-page report on Israeli intelligence, called Israel: Foreign Intelligence and Security Services. The March 1979 report was not only classified "SECRET," "NOFORN" ( not releasable to foreign nationals) "NOCONTRACT", ( not releasable to contract employees) and "ORCON" ( originator of the report, the CIA`s counterintelligence staff, controlled who in the American government saw it.) (Volume 11, pp. 1-2) Such labels were necessary because it reveals sources and methods of Israel's most secret intelligence services-- including Mossad and Shin Beth. The report closely defines its foreign targets, its tactics, including "false-flag" recruitments (where Israeli agents pose as NATO officers and "surreptitious entry operations" (for example, break into embassies) and its table of organization, personnel, budgets and liaisons with foreign intelligence services with nations with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations such as China.)

The CIA explained "Most of the information in this publication has been derived from a variety of sources including covert assets of the Central Intelligence Agency." And "covert assets" means, in CIA speak, spies, it becomes evident how the CIA obtained at least a portion of Israel's secret documents. It used its moles and other "covert assets" in Israel to furnish it with these documents. They were, it appears, which from the data t provided, would have to be Israeli government employees with access to the most closely held intelligence secrets. These agents in turn had to be recruited and managed by the CIA, which is the essence of espionage. So the CIA was therefore engaged in espionage operations against Israel from 1976-9, when the report in the Teheran Archives was prepared. And, from this espionage, it knew about similar Israel espionage activities against the U.S. The report states, for example, that Mossad routinely "collects" intelligence in the United States through its eighth department. (Volume 11, p.17-18)

From a point of view of keeping secret the legitimate workings of U.S. national security mechanism, it would have been better if these documents had been destroyed before the embassy was surrendered. But since these documents have been published, they cannot be ignored. For just as the archive of Soviet documents at Smolensk, captured intact by the German Army in 1941, and subsequently taken from them by the Americans in 1945, gave rise to an new perspective on the governmental operations of the Soviet Union, the Teheran documents provide missing pieces in a multitude of jigsaw puzzles. (Original draft, Updated )

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