Tactical American Patriots

London, May 17, 1985: Oleg Gordievsky was at the top of his career. A talented operative, he had been promoted a number of months before to rezident, or chief of the Soviet KGB station in London. The Russian capital appeared to have no clue he’d been working for MI6 in secret, the British intelligence agency for eleven years.

That Friday, Gordievsky received a cable ordering him to report back to the capital of the Russian Federation “urgently” to verify his promotion and meet with the KGB’s two highest officers. Concern began to run down my back,” he told me. “Because l knew it absolutely was a death sentence.” He’d been back at headquarters just four months earlier and everything appeared well. Now, he feared, the KGB’s counterspies had become suspicious and were recalling him to confront him. If he refused the summons, he would destroy his career. However if he came back home, he might be shot.

His MI6 handlers assured him they’d picked up no sign that something was wrong. They urged him to travel to the Russian capital, however they also provided him with an escape set up just in case he signaled that he was in peril.

Gordievsky was determined to risk his life and go.

Athens, May 21, 1985: After the morning meeting at the Soviet Embassy, Col. Sergei lvanovich Bokhan stayed behind to speak to his boss, the local rezident of the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence service. The deputy chief Bokhan was aware of all GRU spy operations aimed toward Greece, the US and also the different North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries. Once they chatted for a short time, the rezident said, “By the way, Sergei, this cable came in” and tossed it over. It said Bokhan’s son, Alex, 18, was having some bother in military college, prompted the deputy take his vacation, three months early and come back to the Soviet Union to influence him.

Bokhan froze. “Stay calm,” he remembers telling himself “They know.”

His childhood nickname, back on a collective in the country, was “Mole.” Currently, heavyset, powerfully designed man of forty three, he had been operating for the GRU for sixteen years and feeding Soviet secrets to the Central Intelligence Agency for ten years. He knew instantly that the cable was a tactical maneuver. A number of days earlier he had referred to his relative-in-law the capital of the Ukraine, Alex was learning, and been assured his son was doing well. Bokhan assumed that each, the Committee for State Security and also the GRU looking at him. He determined to go away to Athens – however not for the capital of the Russian Federation.

Moscow, August 3, 1985: At 2a.m., once Andrei Poleshchuk got home. The 23-year-old journalist had been operating late for Novosti, the Soviet news agency. Through the windows of the downstairs flat he shared along with his folks, he saw strangers moving. An oversized man let him in and flashed a badge. “Your father’s been arrested,” he said. He wouldn’t say why. Arrested? Not possible. His father, Leonid Poleshchuk, was a senior Soviet KGB intelligence operation officer, recently the deputy rezident for intelligence operation Lagos, Nigeria.

For months, Andrei had been hoping his father would help top realize he dream housing. He had graduated from college and located a decent job, and he wished to be on his own. Housing in the capital of the Russian Federation not possible to find anywhere, even for a Committee for State Security officer, however one day, he received an apparently miraculous letter from his father. It mentioned his folks had unexpectedly heard about a flat they might obtain for him; his father determined to require his vacation and be available at home. Leonid and his spouse, Lyudmila, had been back a fortnight once the Soviet KGB showed up at their door.

“It was surreal, sort of a dangerous nightmare,” Andrei told me. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I went into the lavatory, barred the door and stared at myself within the mirror.”
The Russian agency men searched the lodging all night. “In the morning, they took us – my mother, granny, and me and placed us in separate black Volga’s,” Andrei said. They were driven to the notorious Lefortovo jail for interrogation.

On that initial day, Andrei grilled his questioners to clarify why his father had been arrested. Someone finally answered: “For espionage?

The year 1985 was a catastrophe for and British intelligence agencies. Additionally to Gordievsky, Bokhan and Poleshchuk, over a dozen different sources were exposed. That fall, the Soviet KGB rolled up all of the CIA’s assets within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in a very fast lightning strike that sent the agency reeling. 10 agents were killed and innumerable others confined.

Faced with these unexplained losses, the Central Intelligence Agency in Oct. 1986 established a little, extremely secret, mole-hunting unit to uncover the reason for this disaster. With the arrest of Aldrich Ames in 1994, it appeared that the mole hunters had found their quarry. Once he began spying for the Russians nearly a decade earlier, Ames was chief of the CIA’s Soviet intelligence operation branch, entrusted with secrets that might be of inestimable worth to the Russian agency. He was close to being married, and his debts were mounting.

After Ames was charged with spying, his lawyer, Plato Cacheris, negotiated a plea bargaining with prosecutors:  Ames’ spouse, Rosario, a confederate in his spying, would be spared on a long jail sentence if he cooperated totally with the authorities. In extended Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation debriefings, he talked regarding his 9 years of spying for the capital of the Russian Federation – as well as the day he turned over the identities of “virtually all Soviet agents of the Central Intelligence Agency and different American and foreign services best-known to me.” That day was  June thirteen, 1985, by Ames’ account. In his fourth floor workplace at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, he committed 5 to 7 pounds of secret documents and walked out of the building. He drove across the Potomac River to Washington, D.C. and entered Chadwicks, {a  preferred Georgetown place to eat, where he handed the documents to a Soviet Embassy official named Sergei Chuvakhin. The agents he betrayed that day, he has said, included Oleg Gordievsky, whose Central Intelligence Agency code name was GTTICKLE; Sergei Bokhan, or GTBLIZZARD; and Leonid Poleshchuk, or GTWEIGH.

But the United States Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation debriefers before long recognized obvious anomaly in Ames’ account: it absolutely was clear that those 3 agents had fallen below suspicion in May, 1985 – before Ames insists he handed over the documents. “The timeline simply didn’t work” to clarify Gordievsky’s recall to the capital of the Russian Federation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Leslie Wiser, who ran the Ames case, told me. “At least the timeline based on what Ames said once he was debriefed …. If it wasn’t Ames, then it had been somebody else, therefore we have a tendency to begin to go looking for the source of the compromise,” Wiser said.

That raised a prospect that continues to exist, even today, an issue of deep concern among the intelligence agents, not acknowledged publicly: That the 3 agents might have been betrayed by a mole within U.S. intelligence whose identity remains unknown. The Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to discuss whether or not the search is continuing.

The mere belief that there’s another mole, whether or not correct, could cause chaos within the intelligence community. Throughout the sixties, a corrosive mole hunt by James J. Angleton, the CIA’s counterintelligence chief showed the institutional psychosis that paralyzed operations geared toward the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and noncontiguous for the lives of the many innocent CIA officers, who were dismissed or sidetracked in their careers. Nonetheless, to an intelligence agency, ignoring the likelihood of a mole isn’t a possibility, either. The stories of Oleg Gordievsky, Sergei Bokhan and Leonid Poleshchuk – rumored here in an intensive new detail and based on interviews with Gordievsky, Bokhan and Andrei Poleshchuk, additionally as former FBI| and CIA officers. This suggests the harm a mole can cause.

As presently as Gordievsky landed the capital of the Russian Federation, he picked up signs that he had gambled wrong. On the outside door of his flat, somebody had latched a 3rd lock he never used as a result of he had lost the key; he had to interrupt. Clearly the Soviet KGB had searched his flat. Some days passed before his boss, Viktor Grushko, drove him to a KGB country house, expressing that some individuals wished to speak to him. Gordievsky was served sandwiches and Armenian spirits. Subsequently he awoke from sleep, half-dressed in one among the dacha’s many bedrooms. He had been doped. A Russian agency general told him he had confessed. “Confess again!” The general roared. Gordievsky was taken home, however Grushko confronted him at the Soviet KGB the succeeding day. “We know very well that you’ve been deceiving us for years,” he said. Gordievsky was told his London posting was over, however he would be allowed to stay in a very non-sensitive KGB department in Moscow. It absolutely was apparent that Soviet counterintelligence agents didn’t have enough proof to arrest him. Gordievsky believes they were waiting to catch him contacting British intelligence. “They expected I might do one thing stupid or another he told me. However, it absolutely was only a matter of time. “Sooner or later they would arrest me.” His escape set up was certain beneath the flyleaf of a novel; he had to slit the cover to open and read the instructions. He was to face a certain Moscow street corner on a chosen day and time till he saw a “British-looking” man who was eating something. He did so, however nothing happened. He tried once more, following the disengagement plan, and this time a man earning a dark-green bag from Harrods, the upmarket London mercantile establishment, walked by eating a candy bar. It had been the signal to launch his escape.

On the appointed day he started proverka, or “dry-cleaning,” – walking an elaborate route to throw of anyone that could be watching him. From a Russian capital railroad terminal, he made his way with a train, a bus, and a taxi to place close to the Finnish-Soviet border, where he hid in some grass by the wayside till 2 cars stopped. Within were three British intelligence agents, the candy bar man and 2 ladies, one of whom was Gordievsky’s MI6 case officer in London. Though Gordievsky has written that he climbed into the trunk of one of the cars, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer says he really crawled into a space within a specially modified Land Rover. Had the Russians examined the automobile, they might have seen the hump on the floor where the rotating shaft would usually be. However this Land Rover’s driveshaft had been rerouted through one of the vehicle’s doors, the former CIA officer says, so that Gordievsky might fold himself into the hump, in effect concealing in plain sight. They drove through many checkpoints with no hassle, but they had to stop at Soviet customs once they reached the border. When the driver turned off the engine, Gordievsky could hear dogs nearby – Alsatians, he later learned. Minutes passed. His worry mounted. He started having a problem with his respiration. The ladies fed the dogs potato chips to distract them. Then the automobile started up once more, and the radio, that had been playing pop music, suddenly boomed out Sibelius’ Finlandia. He was free.

In Athens, Bokhan was known as an emergency contact that rang within the United States intelligence agency station within the American Embassy. He asked for a fictitious Greek worker. “You have the incorrect number,” he was told. The coded exchange triggered a meeting that night along with his CIA case officer, Dick Reiser, who cabled headquarters in Langley that BLIZZARD was in trouble. Before long there was an idea for an “exfiltration,” the CIA’s term for spiriting an agent in danger out of a an overseas country.

Five days after Bokhan received the cable concerning his son, he took his partner, Alla, and their 10-year-old daughter, Maria, to the beach. He had never told his spouse that he was an operative for the CIA – it might have placed her in mortal danger – However currently he had to mention something. As they walked on the beach that Saturday he said his career was in trouble. Would she ever live in the West? “What country?” Alla asked. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, and quoted a Russian proverb: “S milym rai i v shalashe.” If you love someone, you’ll have heaven even in a tent. “I don’t want to live tent,” she said.

He dropped it, sensing that he was moving into dangerous territory. They had a luxurious lunch. Bokhan knew it would be his last meal together with his family, and Maria bought a stuffed Greek doll called a patatuff. Once they had driven home, he packed a gym bag and declared that he was going for a jog. Then he kissed his partner and daughter goodbye.

He drove around Athens in his BMW for nearly an hour to be sure he wasn’t being followed, and then walked into a one hundred-foot pedestrian tunnel underneath a main road. Reiser was waiting in a car at the other end. In the back seat were a jacket, hat and dark glasses. Bokhan put them on as Reiser drove to a secure house. Once dark they left for a little airfield, where Bokhan boarded a Central Intelligence Agency plane. Once stops in capital of Spain and Frankfurt on the Main, a military jet flew him across the Atlantic. At Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, he looked out the window and saw many black cars the other people on the tarmac. He asked if they were there to greet an important diplomat. “No,” he was told, “they’re here for you.“

He walked down the steps and shook hands with the waiting the Central Intelligence Agency officers.

“Welcome to the United States,” one of them said.

After months of interrogation at Lefortovo, Andrei Poleshchuk told his captors he wouldn’t answer any further queries unless they told him who his father worked for. “That’s when they showed me a piece of paper with the words, ‘I met Joe,’ ” Andrei told me. “It was in my father’s handwriting” Leonid Poleshchuk knew his first CIA case officer, who had recruited him in the Kingdom of Nepal, as Joe. “It was the KGB’s way of saying my father worked for the CIA,” Andrei said.

Before Leonid Poleshchuk left Lagos, he had asked the Central Intelligence Agency for $20,000 to buy the flat that was purportedly waiting for him. The agency cautioned that it would be too risky for him to bring that money through the airport and told him the cash would be in Moscow, stashed within a faux rock.

What neither the Central Intelligence Agency nor Poleshchuk knew was that the “apartment” was KGB operation. The Soviets had organized it for the apparently good news to reach his wife through a friend and former co-worker in Moscow, who wrote to her in Lagos.

Poleshchuk was lured back to his fate. Leonid didn’t make it to the rock.

A Russian TV documentary shows a shadowy figure choosing it, but Andrei said it’s an actor, not his father. In June 1986, Leonid was tried and, predictably, convicted. Andrei was allowed to go to him in jail just the once, after he was sentenced to death. “At first, I couldn’t even recognize him,” Andrei said. “He had lost a great deal of weight. He was skinny, pale and clearly sick. He was sort of a walking dead man. I could sense he had been tortured.” Leonid was executed on July 30. The Soviet KGB told Andrei his father’s remains were cremated and there would be no grave.

In the history of U.S. intelligence, only three major moles – men whose betrayals had fatal results – that have been identified. Before Ames, there was Edward Lee Howard, a CIA officer who had been slated to travel to Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation, but was dismissed instead for drug use and petty thievery. On September 21, 1985, Howard eluded the Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance and escaped into the Land of Enchantment, New Mexican desert with the assistance of his wife, Mary, and a pop-up dummy in his car’s passenger seat (a technique he had learned in the CIA training). The previous day, Moscow had declared that a Soviet defense researcher named Adolf G. Tolkachev had been arrested as a CIA spy. Within the Central Intelligence Agency, Howard was blasted for Tolkachev’s exposure and consequent execution, though Ames, too, had betrayed the researcher’s identity. (Howard, Russian authorities reported in 2002, died of a fall in KGB country house close to the capital of the Russian Federation. One news account said he had fallen down the steps and broken his neck.)

After Ames, there was FBI agent Robert P. Hanssen, who was arrested in 2001 spying for Moscow on and off for over twenty two years, Hanssen disclosed dozens of secrets, including the eavesdropping tunnel the Federal Bureau of Investigation had dug underneath the Soviet Embassy in Washington and the identities of two FBI sources inside the embassy, who were executed additionally. Hanssen, who was guilty of espionage, is serving a life sentence in the supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

U.S. counterintelligence operations agents have established that neither Howard nor Hanssen had access to the identities of all the intelligence sources that were betrayed in 1985. Therefore the discrepancy between Ames’ timeline and also the exposure of Gordievsky, Bokhan and Poleshchuk remains unexplained.

The FBI agent, who unmasked Ames, Leslie Wiser, in July 1994, flew to London to interview Gordievsky. The relocated spy told Wiser he was convinced Ames had betrayed him, but he confirmed that he had been suddenly summoned back to Moscow on May 17, 1985 – nearly four weeks before Ames said he named him to the Soviet KGB.

From the day they talked, Wiser told me, “we believed it had been necessary for the United States of America to consider the strong risk that Gordievsky was compromised by somebody within the U.S. Intelligence Community.” Wiser acknowledges that Ames may have lied or been mistaken concerning the date – Ames has conceded that he drank heavily before his meetings with the KGB. But Ames, always insisted to the FBI, the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee that he disclosed no important sources before his meeting at Chadwicks. In April 1985, he has said, he told a Soviet contact in Washington the names of two or three double agents who had approached the CIA but were actually working for the KGB – “dangles,” in intelligence terms. He did so, he said, to prove his bona fides as a possible Soviet KGB mole. A letter from the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, where he is serving a life sentence, Ames wrote; “I’m quite sure of my recollection that I gave the Russian agency no names of any other of the the 2 or 3 double agents/dangles provided in April ’85, until June 13th.”

For those who are betrayed, the harm persists long after the initial shock passes. A number of days after Oleg Gordievsky was recalled to Moscow, the KGB flew his spouse, Leila, and their 2 daughters there, and he broke the unwelcome news that they would not be posted back to London. “When I came to Moscow, she left,” he says, taking the youngsters along with her on a vacation. Once Gordievsky escaped, a Soviet military tribunal sentenced him to death in absentia. He underwent an interrogation by MI6 and cooperated with it and different Western intelligence services. He traveled often times, to the United States, Germany, France, New Zealand, Australia, South America and also the Middle East. He met with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan of the United States, wrote a memoir and co-wrote a book on the Soviet KGB.

He continuously hoped Leila would be a part of his life in England. She did, in 1991, but the strain caused by six years of separation proved too much to repair. By 1993 their marriage was over. Sergei Bokhan was additionally separated from his family for six years. Inside of a fortnight after his flight to the US, he had a brand new name, a fake background, a social security number and a 9-millimeter Beretta. He stayed in safe houses in Virginia initially, then lived half a year in California to learn English, moved back east and consulted for the CIA and some U.S. companies. Once Bokhan escape from Athens, the Soviet KGB hustled his spouse back to Moscow and searched her flat and began a series of interrogations. “For 2 years, I visited Lefortovo, 2 or 3 times a week,” Alla Bokhan told me.

“We had neighbors that were terribly shut. Everybody avoided me. If I was expecting the elevator, they went down the stairs. I had no job. After I found employment, the Committee for State Security called and they fired me. That happened many times.”

Finally, in 1991, with the Soviet KGB in disarray after the chief unsuccessfully led a coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the authorities let Alla and her daughter leave. They flew to the big apple and, with help from the CIA and the FBI, were reunited with Sergei at a motel near John F. Kennedy International airport. He had champagne and flowers waiting, a giant basket of fruit, chocolates and a balloon. There were embraces, and everybody cried. Maria, then 16, was carrying the patatuff.

Bokhan’s son, Alex made it to the US, in 1995. He is employed as a programmer. For a long time he resented the impact of his father’s Central Intelligence Agency spying on his own life. “I was angry because I was dropped from military school and sent to the army, way off; close Vladivostok,” he said. “I was eighteen years old.” Now he sees that episode otherwise. “After many years, I understood him. It’s OK. To be dead or to be alive was the question for my dad. He didn’t have a choice.” Today, Sergei and Alla live quietly within the Sun Belt under his new identity.

Andrei Poleshchuk said his father’s arrest was a disaster for his mother. “It shortened her life,” he said. “Soon after his arrest she collapsed psychologically. I will never forget the day when I got home and she was singing songs, melodies, no words, and looking insane. Her eyes were empty. It was scary.”

The Soviet KGB took her to an infirmary, where she was doped and interrogated further. After some months, she was released. But, he adds, “I would never, ever see her smile again.” She died 3 years later, in 1988.

Once his father was dead, Andrei kept working for Novosti. In 1988, he took a Moscow river cruise and met “a blond, blue-eyed and very beautiful” woman named Svetlana, who worked for an automotive magazine. They married in 1993, after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and he worked for a freelance newspaper in Moscow for a time. In 1997, Andrei and Svetlana emigrated to the United States. They have 2 children, and he works as an freelance analyst for business and government contractors in Northern Virginia.

Before long, when they arrived within the United States, there was a ceremony observing his father at a Russian Orthodox Church in Washington. “Afterward, we drove to a home in Virginia for a reception, where I met Joe,” Andrei told me in a conversation over lunch at a restaurant tucked away on a side street in Washington. Leonid’s original case officer blamed himself for years for letting my father down. Joe had become terribly close to my father and disturbed; some error, had led to his betrayal.”

Before his father left Lagos, Andrei said, he gave a gold watch to his CIA operative at the time. “He asked it be given to Joe, with a message, “Here is something from Leo.” By the time Joe learned of the gift, Andrei said, his father had been arrested. “Joe said to his people, ‘Keep the watch, I want to give it to his son.”’ At a reception after the church ceremony, Joe gave Andrei the watch.

Intelligence agencies cannot tolerate unresolved mysteries and loose ends. Long after the huge losses in 1985, the lingering questions still wear away their counterintelligence specialists. John Milton Bearden, who held several senior posts is his 30-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, is convinced there was a traitor, and up until now, undetected.

“Some of it just didn’t add up,” he says. “The mole isn’t just some guy who stole a few secrets. He might be dead, or he’s living in his dacha now. And the intelligence culture is not going to let that go. There is no statute of limitations for espionage. These things have to be run to ground.”

If there is another mole, and they are still alive, the FBI would certainly wish to catch him and prosecute him. The CIA would wish question him at length to try to determine the complete extent of his treachery. If it should end up that the mole is not alive, the intelligence agencies would still run a harm assessment to undertake a reconstruction of what and who might have been betrayed.

“That the KGB ran another mole is plain and simple,” Victor Cherkashin, an artful Soviet KGB counterintelligence officer, has written. Of course Cherkashin, who worked in the Soviet Embassy in Washington and handled Ames, may have been unable to resist a chance to taunt the FBI and the CIA.

It is possible that Gordievsky, Bokhan and Poleshchuk fell under KGB suspicion through some operational error or communications intercept. But some highly experienced U.S. counterintelligence experts doubt it.

John F. Lewis Jr., a former FBI counterintelligence agent, who was chief of the national security division, believes there is a fourth mole. “I always thought there was another one,” he told me. “There were certain anomalies that took place that we just couldn’t put our finger on.” And Bearden says, “I remain convinced there is a fourth man; maybe a fifth. I talked to some old MI6 friends, and they say they are sure there is; either one of ours or theirs.”

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