After World War II, the grandfather of the atomic bomb, Hans Bethe, returned to the quiet college town of Ithaca, New York to resume his research. International spies, intent on reshaping the global balance of power, would soon follow.
A counterintelligence success years in the making was framed as a lucky break fueled by drunk driving
The Federal Bureau of Investigation file on Oleg Lyalin offers new insight into what’s been called “the single biggest action taken against Moscow by any western government” - the 1971 expulsion of dozens of Soviet personnel. According to the narrative established at the time, and repeated even in recent publications, Lyalin’s defection “led to the discovery and deportation of 105 Soviet officials who were accused of spying in Britain” and was prompted by a drunk driving arrest. As his FBI file shows, however, the real story is more complicated than that and has long been one of MI-5’s closely held secrets.
Shortly before he was set to testify before Congress, Soviet defector Sergei Kourdakov’s “accidentally” committed suicide with a gun the Central Intelligence Agency allegedly told him to illegally get - and the Federal Bureau of Investigation refused to investigate.
Sergei Kourdakov’s story is controversial, unusual, and utterly unforgettable. From when the Soviet defector swam from a Russian trawler to Canada until his supposed accidental suicide with a gun a Central Intelligence Agency officer allegedly told him to illegally get shortly before he would testify before Congress, his tale is straight out of a pulp fiction spy thriller - with an evangelical twist complete with bible smugglers who may have had CIA ties of their own.
In 1963, the Central Intelligence Agency sent an undercover photographer to the Moscow Fair in the heart of the then Soviet Union. While the fact that some of the photos are still redacted 50 years later hints at the secrecy of his assignment, one detail has been made public: at some point he got bored and took photos of a stray cat.