The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal
David E. Hoffman
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A Washington Post Notable Book of the Year
It was the height of the Cold War, and a dangerous time to be stationed in the Soviet Union. One evening, while the chief of the CIA’s Moscow station was filling his gas tank, a stranger approached and dropped a note into the car. The chief, suspicious of a KGB trap, ignored the overture. But the man had made up his mind. His attempts to establish contact with the CIA would be rebuffed four times before he thrust upon them an envelope whose contents would stun U.S. intelligence. In the years that followed, that man, Adolf Tolkachev, became one of the most valuable spies ever for the U.S. But these activities posed an enormous personal threat to Tolkachev and his American handlers. They had clandestine meetings in parks and on street corners, and used spy cameras, props, and private codes, eluding the ever-present KGB in its own backyard—until a shocking betrayal put them all at risk.
Drawing on previously classified CIA documents and on interviews with firsthand participants, The Billion Dollar Spy is a brilliant feat of reporting and a riveting true story of intrigue in the final years of the Cold War.
Forden, a case officer who had been tutored by Smith, went to Warsaw and invented a technique using a slowly moving car to slip around corners, in the gap, and exchange packages with agents. It was a sort of brush pass using the car. “I submitted a proposal for what I thought was a valuable tradecraft tool to meet people in areas which were heavy in surveillance against American spies,” Forden recalled. “I got a response from the front office of the division, ‘Risky. Dangerous. Won’t work.’ To
mentioned in the December note. The engineer had indicated he could obtain schematics for a Soviet radar package code-named AMETIST or “amethyst,” that he had described as becoming the basic unit for interceptor aircraft like the MiG-25. They would also press him for more about look-down, shoot-down radar. Depending on how long that might take, they would set up a schedule for future meetings, with four possible sites designated at thirty-day intervals. The engineer would be encouraged to stuff
encrypted them, but in the case of Tolkachev extra precautions were taken. Any identifying information such as names, ages, locations, or physical characteristics in the cables was double encrypted. For example, a mention of Oleg would be changed to Alex before the cable was fully scrambled for transmission to headquarters. At Langley, the cable was unscrambled and the proper names or words put back in. That way, if the KGB had managed to intercept the cable, they still would not have a name or
the L-pill would be “a significant psychological boost to him,” Hathaway said, describing Tolkachev as “a mature, sensible and cautious individual” who needed an escape hatch in case he was arrested by the KGB.9 — In July, Hathaway responded to earlier questions from the Moscow station about the value of Tolkachev’s intelligence. He said that even if Tolkachev departed the Soviet Union, “the value of his product would not diminish for at least 8–10 years.” Why? The weapons systems that
but also revealed research and development a decade into the future. His name was Adolf Tolkachev, and his intelligence was worth billions.9 — Two months later, on March 10, 1981, the beat-up old beige-and-green Volkswagen van rattled out of the U.S. embassy compound in Moscow. Once again in disguise, Rolph slipped past the guards. His mission, to meet Tolkachev, was extremely delicate because he was carrying Discus, the CIA’s electronic messaging device. Rolph did not want to get caught with