tv Sex and KGB Spies in the 1970s CSPAN February 28, 2015 12:30pm-2:01pm EST
cotton, etc. they really found their niche in really carrying any kind of cargo that did not require getting to market at a very fast pace. >> watch all of our adventure galveston saturday, march 7 at eastern on "booktv." and on sunday on "american history tv." up next on "american history tv ," former cia joanna mendez recounts the story of how to spice infiltrated the cia and gathered top-secret information through the use of sex in the 1970's. mendez reports that one popular d.c. swingers club, frequented by the couple, counted at least 10 study i -- 10 cia staffers and members -- as members.
this is about an hour and half. >> let me address our speaker today. someone who i have known for a number of years. i should mention right off the bat, i see her quite regularly. she is on the board of advisors of the international spy museum. and she and her husband, tony, whom many of you know from his fame in particular from "argo." tony could not be with us today but we are delighted to have jonna. jonna began her career overseas in germany where she was working and was recruited by cia. in 1966. at that time they brought air into -- she became a technical operations officer. tech ops, technical operations officers, often are crosstrained in a variety of things.
in jonna's case she was trained in disguise, identity transformation, and clandestine imaging. i will let her explain that if any of you are interested in that. but her really top specialties were photography and disguise. she was assigned in the mid-1980's, 1986 to what in the agency recall denied area -- we call denied area operations. they were called that because of the absolutely pervasive surveillance we had to deal with in russia, our principal adversary, and east europe. it was so pervasive we had to , develop special techniques. we became very good at communicating with our agents or secret sources even under surveillance. and tony and jonna helped facilitate that. jonna herself was made chief of disguise at the cia, running
that multimillion dollar program. there were a variety of people who are tech ops folks around the world. and she then retired from the agency in 1933, receiving the intelligence -- [laughter] all right. we will take it from the top. she shook her head, and then you all reacted. she retired in 1993 and earning the cia's intelligence commendation medal. since then, she has exhibited her photography work, which she now does at a variety of places. it is on exhibit at their home in maryland. she and tony have lectured in a variety of places, world affair councils colleges and so forth. she is a regular appearer here
on either a panel or as a single lecture. i will mention one book. i think this was your first book. "spy dust." it is about their years in moscow. denied area operations. this is where you first hear the term " moscow rules." it is used, this book, in, often with new intelligence personnel coming into the agency. it's that good, and it covers that many operations. so i have said enough. jonna, it is delightful to have you here. please help a welcome jonna mendez. [applause] >> good morning. there is no better way to start the day than to be introduced by peter. it is inspiring.
in another life, in another time i lived in d.c. and i was the smithsonian resident associate. i did so many programs with the smithsonian. once we moved out of washington, d.c., into the countryside, in -- an hour and a half from here where it is beautiful, where the blue ridge mountains are rolling, where there is no traffic, there are some things i miss. i miss trader joe's. i miss the bustle of the city and i miss these kinds of events sponsored by the smithsonian. there is no way to replicate them. so, it is good to see the -- these faces. you're not familiar to me but your programs are very familiar to me. to follow-up on what peter was saying, i spent most of my adult
life working for the central intelligence agency. i went to europe when i was 20. i went over there to be in my friend's wedding in germany. i never went home. home was kansas. we didn't have hills and trees and green grass in kansas and i stayed. i did start working for the cia overseas. came back to washington, d.c., worked for them back here and then it was a series of overseas and back home and overseas and back home. it was a way to see the world. i highly recommend it. we have mentored a lot of young people into the cia. it's a profession, an honorable profession, a great place to w ork and participate. to give back something to your country. i'm so proud at having served their -- there. having said all that, let's talk about some of the people we were working against. some of the enemies we were confronting, some of the techniques they were using, some of the techniques we use to try
and stop them or at least nullify what they had done. in this lead up to valentine's day, i get hanna koecher as a subject. hana was one of the most attractive, really beautiful blue-eyed blonde czechoslovakian intelligence officer working in the united states. she's an elusive woman to track down. she was part of a team. she and her husband came as a unit. they worked as a unit. and they left as a unit. so we will get into the story. you might discover somewhere along the way here, while i am delivering a powerpoint presentation, powerpoint is not my friend. the young man in the back of this room named memphis. memphis is my friend. so, we will start out -- [video
clip] >> the first foreign agent ever planted inside the cia -- karl koecher was born in czechoslovakia 50 years ago, charged today with passing u.s. secrets and the names of intelligence agents to the communist homeland. the fbi said he was trained to becomea a mole inside the cia. he worked for the agency from the 1970 -- >> from 1973 for 20 years. he worked in the united states for 20 years, spying for the czechoslovakian intelligence service, which meant spying for the kgb and the russians because it was a direct line. it went through czechoslovakia but his real masters were back in moscow. koecher was a very interesting man. he was an intellectual. he was firmly pro-communist in his beliefs. he was born in bratislava in 1934.
he was hired by the czechoslovakian intelligence service relatively early to come to the united states and to be a mole, to be one of the sleeper agents. you've all set and watched in the news, you watch the 10 moles that were arrested. most recently we had three more. god knows how many there are left, but there are probably a lot. but karl and hana koecher were two of those. they embedded themselves in american society and they proceeded to wreak some devastation while they pretended to be other than they were. he started out in czechoslovakia as a comedy writer for a radio show. this is a really smart man. but when he was young, he joined the communist party, and his bride-to-be, hana, she joined the communist party.
that is not quite as devastating as that might sound, because it was expected of young people at that time in communist societies that they would be party members. so, we gave away the punch line, the very first slide. you know they were arrested in 1984. they had three years of intelligence training in czechoslovakia with a specific goal of coming and burrowing into american society. they didn't come directly from czechoslovakia. that would have been too easy. that might have set off some flags. the first thing they did is they left czechoslovakia and they went to austria, they went to the anna. and when they did come to that i was days they emigrated from vienna. some people, peter would be one, would be suspicious of the anna.
there is so much activity that goes on there. historically and even today. they came in 1965. they showed up in the united states and presented themselves. this is a staged defection. karl koecher said we are being persecuted in our home country because we are anti-communist. we have been driven out of our country because i speak up against communism and now i can't get a job, they are going to put me in jail, and i have fled my home country and i'm coming to the shores of america, home of democracy, the start of a new life. right. well, it works. by 1971, he had become a united states citizen. and in the 1970's, and the 1980's, he became an employee of the cia. it's not easy to become an employee of the cia.
anybody who has joined recently will tell you that it is -- it's enormous background checks, but the fact is someone who has come from abroad and become a u.s. citizen, the background check can only go back to the day they landed on our shores. cia security does not go knocking on the doors of your ex neighbor in czechoslovakia. they do not go interviewing your former employer in czechoslovakia. and so it is little trick in the system that the security check cannot really go back that far. and that is one reason the cia has always been so leery about hiring foreign-born citizens. because there is a little room for mischief in there. and hana koecher certainly took advantage of that. he was 28 when he joined the czechoslovakian intelligence service. he married hana who was also a
member, already, of the intelligence service and already a member of the communist party. interestingly, i think, the day of their wedding was november 22nd, 1963. does it ring a bell? they got married the day kennedy was assassinated. so they completed their intelligence training, which would have involved a lot of tradecraft, a lot of language skills. when karl koecher came out of czechoslovakia, he was fluent in four languages. he spoke czech. he was fluent in english. you will hear him speak later. his english is very good. he was fluent in french and most importantly he was fluent in russian. you have to remind yourself because you know this already, but americans are not good with languages. it's a hole in the fabric of the society.
we do not speak four languages. we expect others to speak english. to a large extent, that works. but if you have a real skill in a foreign language it will get you very far in this country. and in today's world, the more exotic the language, the more valuable it is, of course. so if you speak farsi today fluently, natively, for instance, you can find a job quite easily. so they had a stage defection after they were married. hana was tenures younger than -- they are already spies when they set foot on the shores. but they have a little work to do because they have just shown up, but now they are going to have to establish themselves as good citizens of this country. so, the first thing that they do, karl gets a job at radio free europe. perfect.
his language skills are excellent. he is building actually a doussier. he is building his current past. for the cia consumption, because his goal is to get that job at the cia. hana actually got a different kind of a job. hana ended up working in the diamond industry in new york city. she worked off and on for harry winston some of you in here may even have a harry winston on your ring. i do not know. but that was her job that gave her incredible flexibility in traveling the world, going almost anywhere, and moving back and forth, say to switzerland which was one of her favorite places, carrying large sums of money.
she was the diamond merchant. of course she was carrying large sums of money. karl also went to school here and he ended up getting a doctorate at columbia university. so, he's got his radio free europe. he has got his scholarship that he can fall back on. he went to wagner college in staten island working in the philosophy department. so they're building, building, building this file for the cia to review. he got his citizenship in 1971. hana got her citizenship in 1972. i love this first bullet. wouldn't mika just cringe to know this? as part of this package that he was building, he p osed a theory a v irulantly anti-communist guy. that is why he could not get work.
when he was here, that was one of the things he would ran t about. and karl koecher was a ranter. he would get on a subject and you could not get him off it. he would not leave it alone. but when the subject was fake, it really becomes kind of interesting. so he was anti-communists. he was also anti-jewish, and he would go on and on. he was an outspoken, noisy, loud anti-semite. but he was jewish. this is part of the deal. this is part of what he is building. he was half jewish. the other half is catholic. guess what? he was also anti-catholic. so, everyone that ever met him heard him speak against communism, judaism, and catholicism. this was the persona that he was building as he was making his way.
so he is establishing what we call his bona fides for american consumption. a fake dissident, fake anti-communist, and a fake religious zealot. how is that for a package? i have to say it worked. because, after several years, he was hired by the cia. there was another side to karl koecher. there was not so much for public consumption. but it was very much about his job as a czechoslovakian intelligence officer putting out a dragnet to see how many contacts he could make that work -- were in high places or at least places where the information he wanted was and one of the tactics that he and hana took was the swinging
1960's sexual underworld that was going on in washington, d.c. it is interesting. i was telling peter before. during this time that they were having all of these parties and these group sex clubs, and there is more to come, i was working at the cia. and the koechers say that cia employs, at least 10 of them were very much involved in this kind of activity. and people from the pentagon. a u.s. senator and all these high-level government officials, which when i first heard this, i did not believe it. i thought, somebody has written a story to make a splash in some newspaper. but the more you read about it the more real it becomes. and a man named ron kessler has written a book, it's 1988. it is called "spy versus spy." and after the arrest, and after
the koecher sas are back in czechoslovakia, he interviewed them. amazingly karl koecher was very , frank and substantiates all of this and adds more. so, i feel comfortable presenting this as the way it was back in the day. i have done some work for a man named david major. he had a company called ci-center that did a lot of training for the central intelligence agency. and that's where i first ran into this video. this is a story about the koechers and about washington, d.c., and a restaurant called the exchange. and david is going to tell you quite gleefully, may be to -- maybe too gleefully, the story of the exchange restaurant. oops. memphis?
it will work. i'm pushing the wrong button. if it does not work, i will tell the story, but david tell the so much better because he just cannot contain himself. there was a restaurant down on g street, near the white house. and there was a group that met there. they were called the capital couples. and it was quite a group. it doesn't want to play. so i will tell them. don't tell david. it it was called capital couples and he loved the fact that the restaurant was named the exchange restaurant because that is exactly what happened there. people would literally come in
after work and they would, the young people today, would say they would hook up. they would find their partner for the evening or for the next hour or for whatever. and off they would go. this was official washington d.c., in the heart of the city. a couple of blocks from the white house. and this is all going on. the koechers are right in the middle of this. it is an opportunity for them to have access to people who had information that they were interested in. there is such a thing as pillow talk. and talking comes in somewhere along the line. and they could elicit a little bit of information here and there. but think about it. not just information. they now had a little leverage with people that they are meeting with, the people that they are le aving with, the people they are spending the night with. leverage in terms of blackmail ability possibly, because people that were doing this for not doing it in the open. not really.
this was done quietly after hours. you did not take this kind of activity into work. and so the koechers just by definition had the goods on some of these people they were meeting with. and karl koecher was all about making this network that was going to work for him, give him the information that he and prague and moscow wanted. they loved washington, d.c. the sex capital of the world they called it. [laughter] i did not make this stuff up. capital couples, that was at the exchange restaurant, saturday nights. they were there. a place called virginias inn place which was further out in the suburbs of virginia. meetings in hotels and private homes. 10 members were bona fide cia.
there were pentagon officials, reporters for major newspapers . if there are any reporters in here from a major newspaper, i'm sorry but you are being wrapped up in this. and one u.s. senator. this could absolutely change your view of your government at work. hana served as a kind of bait, because hana was absolutely stunning. she was gorgeous. and to show up at one of these things with hana on your arm , or at least going in the door, hana probably came out of this with more information, more useful information that he did. also, hana was the enthusiastic one in these proceedings. i do recommend "spy vs. spy" if you are home on a saturday night
and want some juicy reading. hana was quite the date. hana was working in new york city. he was working in washington d.c. they were commuting back-and-forth to see each other. there were commuting back and forth to pass documents. she would go overseas, pick up payments from their spy masters, bring it back to washington, d.c. to drop it off. and, of course, this commute had very much to do with sex parties, not just here in d.c. also up in new york where you can imagine there are 10 more of these places. that is what it looks like on the outside. it is not there anymore. thank god. so to sum up. in 1971, karl becomes a u.s. citizen. the next year, hana joins him. now they are both citizens which is important because at the cia they want tyour spourese -- your spouse to be a u.s.
citizen. he applied for staff work with the cia. he passes a polygraph because, of course, he had been trained in how you go about passing the polygraph. in 1973, they moved to the washington, d.c., area. his office was in roslyn. the office he worked in. and they lived in falls church. there they are. they could be your next-door neighbors. they might've been and you probably would not have known that. he worked for the cia from 1973 to 1975 in washington. and then later he is promoted. and they moved to new york city. now, one of the things -- peter, is this hard for you to understand? he was granted a top-secret clearance with what they call sci access. that is a lofty security
clearance. sci stands for special compartment information. it is one of the most sensitive compartment projects there is and karl had access to that. with that, he had access to almost everything. and he began work as a staff translator. he was working for se division that is soviet and east european division. the translating would have been all the eastern european languages, but primarily i would , say the emphasis would be on russian. he'd be listening to audio tapes, he'd be reading transcripts, he'd be looking at some of the photography of classified documents that had been gathered by agents working for the cia. he would be putting all of it into readable english.
it is such a sensitive place for an asset to be parked. and it is just kind of amazing that he got that kind of access. in 1976, the cia started to get a sense that something was not quite right. they began to have a feeling that he might be leaking a little bit of information. and they started giving him less and less work. and this time, as a matter of fact, he had such restricted access that he did not even contact his czechoslovakian intelligence service. he went quiet. the cia is acting a little suspicious. so he stopped doing what he's doing, except for the sex clubs. and he goes to ground. he is very, very quiet.
then in 1982, the fbi started having some suspicions about karl koecher. and what caught their attention was they were not looking for him. they were watching known czechoslovakian officers in washington, d.c. they were doing surveillance they were listening to their phones. they were bugging some places they went. that is the fbi's job. and they kept bumping into karl koecher. so, they started watching koecher very closely. and they started seeing what were recognizably what we call brush passes, where you're on a street and you are just doing this and there is something in your hand, like passing the baton. you do not see it when it is done right. right peter?
you don't see it at all. he was having brief encounters with these people, just very quick, short and on. and then they noticed that hana was also behaving a little oddly. hana was picking up some dead drops. hana was also doing some brush-passes. then they started listening to the telephone. pretty soon, the fbi gets a very good sense that of a got a working, operational case. they might be looking at two moles. karl was actually let go by the cia in 1977. you have to understand that to let someone like that, to let them go and get rid of them, it is a highly strategic kind of decision. you don't want to spook them. you don't want to do what ed howard did and run for the
skills. -- the hills. you want to take the case to court and prosecute. you want to arrest these people. it was a very delicate dance at the end. karl while he was having difficulties and looking for a job, hana was doing her diamond thing. she actually set up a company, a diamond import company. hana's having a great time. karl does not have a job now. hana had a good reputation and the diamond industry. karl was a little up and down. people who got to know him pretty much did not like him. hana became so american, it was hard to separate her out from the rest of the crowd. when she lived in new york, when they lived in new york, they were living the life. they lived in a high-rise
building, it was on 87th street. it was the same -- it was the saint regis at 50 east 89th street in manhattan. their neighbors were mel brooks the actor the tennis player ann bancroft. this was a ritzy building. living his cover, he was on the condominium board of directors and is vehemently denying the request to buy an apartment. he said lindell was a communist and he did not want a communist in his building. he made a huge deal out of this. lindell prevailed and moved into the building.
every day, hana is running 60 minutes, jogging, reading books, she has a book club. she is making quiche. she became so american, the great tragedy of her life i am sure, today, is that she had to leave new york city and go back to prague, where there is not a trader joe's or any of that stuff. she is back to pretty basic stuff. when they were in new york, they took their swinging lifestyle with them. they expanded it, because they were in new york city. they had nudist camps. they loved to go there. they went to the playboy club to have drinks. they were all over the place. they were meeting with other swingers, they came back down to washington d.c., because he
lost his cia access, but he has not lost access to people he has met in his after-hours activities. the fbi watched them for two years. from bugs and surveillance, they knew and could tell you what hana did on june 3. they could tell you that on june 6, they visited another swinging couple in westchester county. they can tell you that the next day, they went to rock lodge, a nudist colony in new jersey. at other times, they went to something called pinetree associates, write this down. this is in an annapolis. they were very much on top of them. here it starts getting tricky. if david major, an ask fbi officer, stood next to me, he would tell you it is hard to make an espionage case. you can have circumstantial evidence all over the place, but unless you can prove in court
that this piece of information was given to that person who didn't have authority to receive it, you cannot prove it. -- prevail. prosecuting a case like this is really, really hard. their hand was pushed because they learned, through telephone intercepts, in june of 1984, that the couple were planning on leaving the u.s. and were going back to europe. they told friends and neighbors, we are going back to austria. karl said, i have a job there in a construction company. this is not working out. i am having trouble finding work. i am going to go back to austria. we will sell our condominium. they put it on the market. this is 1984. they bought it for $40,000.
they sold it for $240,000. that would be their seed money to get back to europe and get reorganized. anyway, their friends never had a clue that they were working for the foreign government, that they were collecting intelligence. they never, ever knew. which is how it is supposed to be. the fbi is in a bind, because they believe, and once they -- they are going to leave. once they leave these shores there is no hope of prosecuting them. the fbi had to do something. they had to arrest them. they were hoping that they would arrest them, they would interview them, they would confess, and it would make a case. that was all they were going to get out of it. so, in fact, they did arrest them. they arrested them in 1984 after 20 years here in america. they are getting ready to fly back home. but karl didn't exactly confess. and they didn't actually make
the case. there were some mistakes made. the story i am telling comes from an fbi account of it. of course, it has the cia making the mistakes. i have a feeling that this is how it actually happened. the fbi is in the job of apprehending, taking to court, getting prosecutions for a crime. the cia is in a different business. the cia is in the business of following a lead to where it goes, never really apprehending, but trying to get back to the source, the truth, what really happened. the cia and the fbi are always a little bit at odds. one of them is talking more about bank robbers, the other is talking more about -- not arrests, but finding the truth.
what happened with the koechers, evidently, is there is an interview after they were arrested. promises were made to them verbal promises that, if they helped in the case, if they would just fess up and help out in this case, they would go free. they would be allowed to go free. because of that, once this got into court, it couldn't move forward. the prosecutor of this case for the united states government was rudy giuliani, back when he was the public attorney for new york. giuliani must have been tied in a knot, because he didn't really have anywhere to go with this. they tried to charge koecher with section 794. they held hana as a material witness. she was never charged.
they were held without bond for two years. the case could not be made. they were never taken to trial. in the end, the way it worked out was, a trade was arranged. this was one of those spy exchanges they did in berlin on a bridge. hana and karl koecher were traded for sharansky, antoine sharansky, the soviet dissident. both of them were considered high value by the respective sides. it was an indication for the -- to the united states government that that high level of trade could be made for the koechers, and it gave the u.s. government a sense of what the couple had been able to do while they were here. we will talk about that in a moment.
when they went back to prague, they received a hero's welcome. huge cheers. crowds lined the streets. there was a parade. they were given a brand-new volvo. they were given a villa outside of prague. they were to restart the rest of their life in prague. the author who wrote the book, "spy versus spy," went to prague and had a week of interviews with karl. he is still an active czech intelligence officer. it is almost unprecedented that he would speak to a journalist, and author, while he was engaged. he admitted as much. he was very frank in talking about what he had accomplished and not accomplished. i will play, next, a video, i
hope, a video of koecher speaking out and a board member at the museum, used to be had of -- head of counterintelligence for the kgb, speaking out. in all of that, you get a peek at what we call the wilderness of mirrors. it is a series of accusations and counter accusations about who was actually telling the truth, and what was really going on here. in this video, the russians are accusing our lovely board member, the youngest kgb general ever, have any of you met oleg? you will like this. they accuse him of being a cia plant. a cia infiltration of the kgb.
they said all the time that he was working for the kgb. he was actually working for the cia. of course, he denies that. he talks about karl koecher and what a villain he was, what a hardhearted man he was. it is a breathtaking bit of film. we will see if we can get it to play. it is said, when they were walking across the bridge in berlin, hana was wearing a white mink coat and a white mink hat for this exchange. and, that she looked like a movie star. which, i am sure, was the goal. ok. here we go. [video clip] >> almost from the moment he
first entered the cia, questions were raised about his loyalty. at the kgb, people doubted the truth of the reports. they began to wonder whether mr. koecher, after 10 years of easy living in the west, had changed sides. he was asked to return to prague, smuggled across the border and taken to a safe house, when he met the man sent from moscow to investigate him. >> as a senior official of the kgb in counterintelligence maybe i shouldn't have said that. because he definitely felt nervous. when you deal with counterintelligence, you expect some unpleasant things. >> pictures that identified cia
agents with whom koecher had worked, with their names written on the back. >> that was simple. you show a picture of someone, and say, listen. i forgot -- what's his name, by the way? you would expect your partner to immediately mention a name. i was amazed, koecher would not know these people. i gave him another picture. how about this one? and he would not remember again. that made me feel weird. what is going on? how come he gave the pictures, he put their names on the back now he doesn't remember. who put the names of these individuals? maybe it was someone else, maybe it was the cia. maybe he is a cia plant.
these thoughts inevitably came to my mind, and i felt uneasy with this man. >> i couldn't remember the particulars. >> of course, this is koecher. >> i believe he was really trying to put me in a position which would allow him to accuse me of being a traitor, for the cia. against the soviet union. that's what he told me. -- the czeches. >> i said, listen, this is your guy. after all, -- you should continue. we cannot impose our well, but i -- our will. but i am, as a director of foreign counterintelligence, seeing no reason why i should continue to trust this man and expect results from him. he is yours. thank you, that's it.
>> his version of the story is the one that is accepted in the united states. in russia, there is a different version. >> he himself was a cia agent. he was a mole within the kgb. it was his task to neutralize koecher. >> i heard that story from russia. my former chief of soviet intelligence, who spent 18 months in jail for high treason after an attempt to overthrow gorbachev, he is the author in most minds of this version. >> while he was head of the foreign counterintelligence, he did not expose a single american agent.
after we removed him, we exposed dozens and dozens of enemies. that fact alone says a lot. >> that is absolute rubbish, an attempt -- a typical soviet -style cheap accusation, which i , often take in stride, because it also reveals how on inventive -- uninventive they have become. >> he was sentenced in absentia to 14 years. it is now very clear, there is evidence. >> he will tell you, i was one of the foulest, meanest, most murderous lowlifes in the whole game.
>> koecher felt he had been set up to be killed. fortunately for him, the intelligence of both sides fearing retaliation, had become more reluctant to kill people they believed to be traitors. >> when they kept telling me i was an american agent, i said, well, you know, in that case the cia would of course be looking for me. it seems that the argument worked. eventually, they let me board a plane to vienna. the last thing i heard from them was that, you will stop working against us, or we will physically [inaudible]
>> koecher returned to the u.s. and withdrew from spying. he found a job teaching at a university. for four years, he believed his career as a spy was over. he was wrong. he would be called back into service as the world edged closer to global nuclear war. >> ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states. >> as the '80s began, the cold war heated up. ronald reagan, america's president, initiated a series of moves that made soviet leadership nervous. until then, the american nuclear doctrine was based on the fear of mutually assured destruction. but now, the u.s. began to develop a commanding and potentially destabilizing lead in the arms race. >> when reagan got into the
white house, they came upon the idea of limited nuclear war, which would begin with a first strike. and, as that is important which , could be won by the united states. >> most people forget how dangerous the 1980's were. it was in the early 1980's that the soviet union became convinced that the united states was going to conduct a preemptive attack against the soviet union in an operation called ryan, they told intelligence officers to look for signals for nuclear attack. they then planned a preemptive bolt from the blue nuclear attack against the united states. >> it was part of operation ryan that koecher was called in from the cold.
>> in 1981, when the head of czech intelligence came to moscow to meet khrushchev, then head of kgb counterintelligence, only then did we find out in his own words, how koecher had been smeared. >> the story of koecher's misfortune and suffering is a direct result of his actions. they sent an officer to new york. he apologized in the name of the soviets, and he talked about a nuclear alert being somehow prevented. i agreed. >> the soviets were in a state of hairtrigger tension. they expected attack, and were ready to launch their own. a single misunderstanding could have triggered a catastrophe. karl koecher's homeland would
be caught in the crossfire. >> that was an indication of the degeneration of the soviet system. some of the saber-rattling in washington at the time made soviet leadership nervous that they decided something is brewing, and they have to alert their intelligence services, the armed forces, to potential attack. so it was paranoia. >> soviet counterintelligence had field agents who were serious, tested, trustworthy and reliable. >> we knew precisely whether or not the americans were preparing a surprise nuclear attack on the soviet union. and that is why peace was preserved. because of the work of those field agents.
>> karl was back in active service. using his contacts to provide vital information that fed into a massive global intelligence gathering operation. at the same time, however, it seems that the fbi had somehow learned that he was the spy. from the moment he was reactivated, the fbi was on to him. they mounted around-the-clock surveillance. they had his car bugged. >> he was home-bugged, his place of business was bugged. what happened to give him later -- a way to the fbi? had he slipped up, or had he been betrayed? >> we will stop that right then. the next thing that comes is that they will never reveal a source of what gave him away. does that give you a sense of looking inside the intelligence community and trying to sort out
the truth, the allegations, the half-truths, the blame? it is kind of a profound look at what the cia has always been up against. i would point out, at the end of the day, we stand by oleg. he is an upstanding guy. what was coming at him there had to be alarming. so what happened after they went back to czechoslovakia? what happened to hana? she was hired by the british embassy in prague. it was a wake-up call for their security apparatus, the u.k. let her slide through. in 1994, she was fired as of the -- because of the publicity about her spying background when that came out. in 1995, the next year, the
local press reported that hana was complaining that publicizing information about her spy activity was damaging her business. [laughter] the prague court dismissed her charges, and they have not been publicly heard from since then. so that is a little bit of the story of hana and karl koecher their adventure in the u.s., their activities in the intelligence community, their embarrassment and expulsion to europe. but it doesn't give you a sense of the seriousness of what it was they were up to and the consequences of their activities. i will talk to you about one case they impacted directly, just one case. it can be talked about because it is in the public domain. there are other cases that i don't think you will your
-- will hear mentioned in the press. this is a story of a russian named alexander ogorodnik, a cia agent. his codename was trigon. he was initially spotted in colombia as a junior diplomat at their embassy, at the russian embassy. it was the colombians who decided, he might be ripe for recruitment. he was having some shady dealings of his own. he had a mistress. he could be blackmailed. they always look for things like that. they approached him, they were having difficulty convincing him that he wanted to work for the west, and they called in the cia to see if we could do anything with him. it was a very well known cia case officer named jack downing, who appears again and again in the history of our agency, when we need help.
they took downing to colombia. he met with ogorodnik and they formed a friendship that lasted throughout his career. ogorodnik was being posted back to moscow, where it is so hard to run a case, as peter alluded to, it is considered a denied area. a denied area is a part of the world where you won't meet face-to-face with an agent. it is too dangerous. you can't come in contact with an agent. everything is done in personally -- impersonally in a denied area. that is why it signals on mailboxes, it is dead drops, encrypted electronics. you are never face-to-face with an agent, because if they catch him in moscow, they will kill
him. so, when trigon was sent to moscow, his recognition signal to start the case and make it active in moscow, was jack downing's face. he knew jack downing, and there would be one brief encounter. he would see jack, and then the whole plan would kick in. jack downing was in moscow. he was just getting ready to leave. ogorodnik is reassigned to moscow, and jack has to go out on the street to meet him because he is the key. the problem was, jack, who is the deputy chief of station, could not get free. he could not get out on the street. there was no way to step out there without having teams of surveillance all over him. my husband, tony mendez, chief of disguise back then, was in moscow back then that week.
he was visiting. between tony and jack, they came up with this plan. there was another person from the united states, a unique looking man. he wore a cowboy hat. he wore a big belt and he had a huge mustache. he was just so distinct, you could spot him a block away. jack downing and tony mendez decided that they were going to turn jack downing into that guy. they borrowed the hat, they got the mustache out of a disguise thing, they dressed jack up like the visitor, and he went to security and out onto the street. nobody cared, because he was just a visitor from washington. he met with him. the washington operation began. the trigon operation, which is
mentioned in a book for sale here on the back table, it is called "the spy widow," this was one of the most significant operations the cia ever ran. it turned out trigon's new assignment was in the ministry of foreign affairs in moscow. he sat at the connection where all the classified traffic, to all the embassies, the russian embassies all over the world , came in and went out through his office. and so, the cia is sitting on this incredible gold mine of information and intelligence. this is back when they were doing the start talks, the strategic arms imitation talks. it has been said that the cia knew the russians' bottom line and those negotiations, before
anybody got off the plane in helsinki. this was an amazing source of information we had. to run this operation, required it -- it required the cia, and my office in particular, the office of technical service, to give case officers and agents in moscow, people like peter, and trigon, give them capabilities they had not had before. this was so important. so for instance we developed a camera, called the t-50, a camera so small -- there is one in this museum, one on display upstairs. it was so small you could put it in a key fob, a lipstick, a pin. you could put it in anything. this was a camera that had a tiny cassette. this is not digital, it was film.
the little cassette had the tiniest piece of film in it you ever saw. it was so small, to get film in the cartridge, you had to go to extraordinary efforts. we went to aerial reconnaissance film that the satellites used, which was very thin film, it is a weight thing, you can't lift that much weight into space. every ounce they could save. aerial reconnaissance film is so thin, in the dark room, when you put it on the reels, you couldn't even feel it. these tiny strips of film, god forbid if you ever drop one in the dark room you would never , find it. you couldn't -- if you touched it, you couldn't -- i am telling you. we invented a series of cameras, and a series of film, and a way to develop a tiny strip of film, and a way to print.
we collected, with those cameras, eventually, more significant intelligence than any satellite system, any other technical capability. it came with my teeny tiny cameras. i was the gal in the dark room putting the film in, taking it out, and developing it, and printing it. the agents who were using it were risking their lives every time they took a shot. that was one set of technical capabilities that we gave to moscow station. some others were considered proprietary. it would not be used for any other station in the world, only moscow could use some of our technical wherewithal, because we did not want it exposed anywhere else. we wanted the best saved for moscow, for an operation like
trigon. trigon was stellar. tony always talks about moscow rules. moscow rules were invented for a case like trigon, a case where you just couldn't do enough to protect this guy. there was a female case officer sent to moscow, whose only job was to handle this case. for her whole assignment, that is all she did. her name was marty peterson, and she wrote "the widow spy." her job the whole time she was in moscow, her only job was never to associate with another cia person outside the embassy never hang out with cia, never even acknowledge cia. she went with secretaries to the marine house on friday night. she had a completely different profile than a professional cia officer would have. she never met trigon in the time she spent there. she put down dead drops through him, and picked up dead drops
from him. that is all she did. but one night, she did a two and a half hour surveillance detection run out of the embassy. she wasn't followed much, because she was like a secretary. they didn't care. besides, they didn't use women, and they thought we didn't use women, so we used a lot of women. she did her 2.5 hour sdr, she was on the subway, she walked, she took a taxi, it was dark at night, she was making sure she didn't have surveillance. because she would go out on this bridge, over the moscow river, and she had in her purse a thing that looked like a lump of coal, but it wasn't. it was from our office. you could open it up and inside, there were some rubles, some medicine, some notes, some of those preloaded cameras for him
to take around and take photographs for us. she walked out on the bridge and think about this. if you are worried about being followed, this is a good place to see if you are being followed. you can see 360 degrees around you. there was no one there. she took the stone out of her purse, she put it in a niche in the bridge where he would look for it. she turned to walk away, and all of a sudden, she has 15 soviets all over her. she was arrested. they came popping up out of nowhere. of course, they came popping up out of somewhere, and that somewhere was, they had cut an opening in the bridge, and they had hung a ladder underneath. it was like a bunch of spiders. they were waiting, but they did not know who they were waiting for. they knew someone was going to come and put something in that bridge that night. they were going to arrest
whoever it was. well, it was marty. and they arrested marty peterson. that was the end of her career. it was all over in the press the next day, the international herald tribune had her picture being interrogated. pictures of all the stuff she was going to leave. and then, she was persona non grata, she was sent home. but what happened to trigon? he had been arrested, because karl koecher had been translating some of the documents that he had beenher -- been providing to the cia. not the documents in moscow, the documents in bogota. what they did, was a triangulation. koecher says, well, this man is obviously, he is married. he served in bogota, he is been -- has been reassigned to
moscow. by process of elimination, they figured out that it was trigon. they arrested trigon and asked him to write his confession. when trigon met with jack downing in bogota and agreed to work for the cia, he said act -- back then, i will work for you, but you, in turn, have to give me the wherewithal to take my own life. because, if i am arrested, i don't want to go through what they will put me through. i want to know that i have the ability to take my life if i feel i need to. the cia said no. there is something called an alto. lethal. it lived in my office when i was a secretary in the technical services division. it was in a box that had two keys.
my boss had one of the keys, and our chief of operation had the other. you could not just pick it up. it was very controlled. the cia said, no, you can't have that. it is an incredibly unique circumstance that we would give one of those things out. and trigon said, fine, i will not work for you. eventually, he won. we gave him one of those pills. we did not just hand him a pill. we took his favorite pen, and we -- and it was a status symbol back then, expensive and fabulous it and we took his pen, we machined out the end of the barrel so it looked fine from the outside. it was actually kind of fragile. it was very thin. inside of that, was the pill. when they asked trigon to write his confession, he said, i want my pen.
give me my pen. at that point, they had him stripped to his underwear. he was wearing his shorts and nothing else, because they didn't know and didn't trust, they had no idea what was going on, but they were so excited to get this confession. they gave him his pen, and he simply bit down on the end of it. the russians in the report, say he was dead before he hit the floor. that is the cost of someone like koecher, and that is the end of this prepared talk. marty peterson was in jail for three days, and she left the country. the soviets waited a year before they announced the death of trigon in 1978. it all went back to the koechers. that is one case of what
happened based on their activities. so, i think what we will do is take questions if anyone has any questions. i bet they do. my favorite, peter, is going to field them. >> thank you for a wonderful presentation. [applause] if i could add a footnote to this wonderful retelling of the case, when koecher was in the unit that was reading transcriptions, telephone taps and so forth i was in the , division. one of my functions is working with the fbi on double agent cases. also, i was part of the training crew. i had occasion to go down and train these folks who were doing this transcribing, in how to
read those friendly than just -- those differently than just the language. in other words, what is the meta meaning of what you're reading? what is really going on? are people talking in code? is there tension? can you detect tension? he was part of the group i trained. i will tell you, he did not have the word "spy" written across his for head. he was just part of the group there. interestingly, i was in on the recruitment of koecher from headquarters. it was exciting, because it was so rare for us to have success in that kind of case. thank you so much for recapturing that. questions, and if you would be kind enough to wait for the mic, everyone could hear it. right here, let's take first one. >> yes, i remember back in -- i remember seeing the washington post story on marty's
neighborhood. i worked with a woman who the washington post identified as an fbi officer, an agent. but anyway, i can't remember the reasons that the agency let koecher go in 1975, 1976. what -- i seem to remember we could fire him for swinging back then. i cannot remember if there was a reason given, or was that the reason given? >> i'm not sure the agency knew that was going on when it was going on, the swinging part. i don't think that anybody officially connected to the united states government was taking that information in, that they were engaged in that kind of thing. and i don't think the cia was particularly looking for that kind of thing. is that your experience? >> i think you are correct. i, frankly, don't recall that he was let go for cause.
i think there was concern, and he was let go. but i would have to go back and , read into the case again. obviously, he was out there, even though the bureau was still trying to be alert to what he was up to. as you know, they stayed on here. >> [inaudible] >> sorry? >> left long before the bureau got on her. >> yes. >> i can't remember. did he leave of his own accord? >> i don't remember either. , other questions, here is one right over here. right here. then we will take the one in the back. right here. >> the koechers were hired in the early 1960's by czech intelligence. while they were in the u.s., the
soviet union invaded prague. i wonder if the koechers'attitude was more loyalty in the old czech republic, or loyalty to the soviet union. >> that is a wonderful question. i have no information on that. i would think they were old-school, they were raised in that culture, they were raised in that society. but i cannot speak to that. i don't know. >> as she mentioned, they underwent training before they even -- this is a classic case of a mole. they were trained, sent here to insert themselves into society and eventually, of course, he am -- he applied for employment. he may have applied elsewhere.
the idea was to get a job in what we now call the intelligence community. >> [inaudible] >> yes. and of course, the soviet union, very much, was the senior among equals over the eastern european intelligence services. hence, that is why oleg was brought in. my recollection is, you looked over the case more recently than i have. wasn't trigon first surfaced with oleg in that meeting? i think so. the reason why karl, shown these pictures, didn't know these people, is that he was looking at recordings of these people, the transcript from operations or telephone transcript. it was an interesting -- we are past each other. >> have you seen that video before? i thought that was a fascinating
-- >> no, not before. >> if oleg walked into my office and said, i would like to have a chat with you, he is quite the character in that role. >> ok. other questions -- right back here. yes. >> was hana as vehemently anti-semitic as her husband? she worked in the diamond industry -- [laughter] >> good point. >> i don't think even karl was anti-semitic. i think that was his posture that he presented for consumption. dissident guy, intellectual guy very outspoken. you see them in that tape, a bit older and more moderated, but the one you read about was not a moderate man at all.
hana, in all the interviews, and all the recorded interviews with hana, she was very much in love with her husband. if he was anti-communist, she was anti-communist. of course, he wasn't. but whatever he was, she was right there, mimicking, going along with it. he wasn't anti-semitic. he said he was an atheist. >> his defection in austria, did he defect to the austrians or the americans? where did that happen? >> i think he moved to vienna, he lived in vienna, and he got on a plane in vienna and said, i am fleeing i stopped in vienna but i am clean from -- i am fleeing from czechoslovakia, looking for a new home. >> it was not an outright
dramatic defection. they sought asylum in the u.s. like many refugees when they got here, they indicated they had cause to flee, and so it was not a great defection with headlines and so forth. let me take one more over here. then we will come right back. you have got one. why don't we take that one? then we will take the one over here. >> this is a little different perspective, when reagan became president, the soviets had quite a bit of paranoia about attack. i believe it was in operation in 1983 or 1984, it may have been nato forces, in which the soviets felt this was the beginning of a preemptive attack. somebody, i don't know if it was british intelligence are the -- or the cia, who said, we need to stand down, or something like that. do you recall that at all? >> i do not. i do not. >> not precisely, no.
as david said, it was a very tense period with fears on both sides. you did have that. we had the cuban missile crisis much earlier, and a similar crisis in the early 1980's. yes. one over here. >> do we know if the two of them are still alive, and where they are? and have they ever really sort of done interviews recently that bring these things to light? >> i looked and i couldn't find anything. i can't find interviews are any -- or any indication that they are not alive. >> she was working for the english embassy in prague, right? >> we can track them up to 1995. she was working for the british embassy in prague. did not get traction back in czechoslovakia. they were little-known.
there was not a lot of press. >> the british did not realize who was working for them? >> no. >> how about right here, amanda? >> there is an aspect that is somewhat tangential, but of great interest. the fall of novotny led to the prague spring. there is debate as to how much of a threat the product spring -- the progress spring -- the prague spring posed to brezhnev, did the czech intelligence continue its cooperation during the prague spring, or was there any sign that the government was minimizing or getting away from cooperating with soviet intelligence as we got into the prague summer? >> that is a fascinating question. i would like to know the answer, but i do not have the answer.
>> i think if he'd lived, you would have seen that. but that, too, is a very tense period. if you have political change like that, there is often the old guard, that you are contending with, as you had in moscow as well, he was sentenced in absentia, charged with giving up secrets. oleg was not even a effector. -- defector. he came here on an at&t contract, and it didn't take off. he chose to stay on. it is a good thing. >> it is hard to track some of these things back, historically, when you can see from that bit of tape how history can be manipulated depending on who you are asking the question of. it gets harder and harder to find. where is the truth?
>> yes? other questions? >> peter? >> right here. >> thank you. >> this is almost a dumb question. >> no dumb questions. >> i teach a course in aspects of espionage at the university of delaware senior center every fall. this will be my sixth year. no matter what i lecture on for those 10 weeks, they end up asking me questions about what they see on television. most of the time, i can make fun of it. that's easy. but now there is a program called "the americans," and it has been written up a bit in the "post." i watched it the other night and about one third of it -- you know the program i am talking about? >> i do. i get asked about it as well. go ahead. >> about one-third of it is good
operationally. until i saw the koecher thing i thought this was coming out of nowhere. but, what would your opinion be? were the koechers perhaps some sort of symbol or something of what the americans ended up doing? >> are you familiar with "the americans"? you are about to be challenged by another program, about an illegal couple living in america. in the case of "the americans," do you -- >> i would mention that there will be a piece on abc sunday morning, this coming sunday. they interviewed tony, i know they have interviewed sandy grimes. i am not sure. i think, maybe, the cia gentleman behind "the americans," wiseman?
i believe he was interviewed about this phenomenon of these shows that are based on former cia employees. that is the point of the show on sunday. >> [inaudible] >> abc. george stephanopoulos. they will address that. the thing that strikes me is the enduring popularity of the subject. i find it amazing. >> what you have, and many of you will remember in 2010 the y arrested 10 russians living here as what we consider illegals. if you recall, they traded them back, they being us, the u.s. -- for four people they had in prison. it was a fascinating exchange,
it reminds you of the department of agriculture catch and release program for fish. we caught them and release them. [laughter] what you saw recently is the arrest of an individual in new york, in the banking industry, living as an illegal. that is, he was undeclared, he was not declared as a foreign agent, he happened to be russian. his two handlers happen to be in the russian embassy. in the case of "the americans," the big distinction i see is there were illegals in this country, people sent -- sometimes, the term "sleeper agent" is used. typically, they are kept for handling a sensitive operation or in wartime, they are behind the lines. we have never seen illegals engaged in the range of activity that you have in "the americans," or that you will see
in this forthcoming series called "allegiance." but, i mean, it is hollywood. in other words, it has to be a dramatic program. as you say, often, the trade is quite good. you'll see that to a degree in "allegiance" as well. >> i look forward to it. >> there are no dumb questions. anything else? go ahead. right here. >> you mention that this was a cia employee involved in intricate inventions. any of the cia technical inventions later transferred into the industry, similar to how nasa's inventions make it into the industry?
or, do you keep it all to yourself? >> the question was, working in the office technical services, where we develop a lot of unique proprietary kinds of materials , and techniques, did any of it ever make into commercial -- make it into commercial technology? the answer is, yes. i will give you one example. batteries. we had people who spent their entire lives on batteries. that is all they did. batteries. one of them became so famous george that one of the schools , one of them is named after him. batteries paid off in the end. our particular problem is we needed smaller and smaller and smaller, and more and more power. if you're going to put a bug in the conference table of a bureau
in moscow, and put it under the conference table and plant it or put it in the woodwork like they did in the state department, do you think you will ever get into change the batteries in that thing? you are not. it will only last as long as it lasts. and so, you need these little, small, teeny tiny, and i mean very small, very strong -- those came out into hearing aids. that technology came into that -- into battery watches. those small batteries are based on research and development done at the cia. there are a lot of small things like that that translated. thank you for the question. >> ok. once again, thank you so much for this wonderful presentation. [applause] >> thank you. >> and thank you all so much for coming and joining us. have a good rest of your day.
we will see you back for program two. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] > columbia south carolina surrender to the union army. the university of south carolina recently hosted a panel of historians discussed columbia's destruction, fall, and recovery. as well as how those events of it are mentored by the city and history. that's tonight on "the civil war," at 6:00 p.m. eastern time on c-span tv. >> of next, the national -- up next, the national portrait gallery talks about immature pictures of george washington. -- amit sure -- amatur
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