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Espionage - Spies of the East

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Rudolf Abel 

One of many aliases for William Fischer, an undercover Soviet agent who entered the United States in 1948 on a forged passport. He posed as an eccentric artist while leading a KGB spy ring in New York. His network kept in contact with Soviet agents trying to steal U.S. atomic secrets, including Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. 

Eventually he was betrayed by a former member of his network, and in 1960 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. A few years later, however, he was released to the Soviets in exchange for downed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. 

Aldrich Ames 

Probably the most damaging turncoat in CIA history. A career agency official, Ames began selling U.S. secrets to the KGB in 1985, when he was head of the CIA's Soviet counterintelligence unit. Within a decade he had revealed more than 100 covert operations and betrayed at least 30 agents. Ten of the spies revealed by Ames were later executed by the Soviets, including Dmitri Polyakov, the top CIA informer inside Soviet military intelligence (GRU). Ames' activities also may have allowed the Soviets to dupe the CIA by sending fake intelligence to the agency through the agents whom Ames compromised. 

Along with his co-conspirator and wife, Rosario, Ames was paid over $2.7 million for the information before he was arrested in 1994. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

Lavrenti Beria 

Notorious father of the KGB. Beria was appointed by Stalin to head the KGB's predecessor, the NKVD, in 1938, then proceeded to build one of the most ruthless and feared secret services in world history. Under Beria, the KGB engaged in unprecedented levels of secrecy, subversion, political purges, and murder. He also reportedly used his unchallenged power to regularly rape young Soviet girls. 

After Stalin's death in 1953, he lost the battle for succession to Malenkov and Khrushchev. The loss proved fatal: he was tried for treason and executed. 

George Blake 

The original "Manchurian Candidate." Blake was a Dutch-born British intelligence officer captured by North Korea during the Korean War. After undergoing intensive communist indoctrination in captivity, he was returned to Britain. He resumed his career with British intelligence but became a double-agent for Moscow. In the mid-1950s, the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6) stationed him in Berlin, where he proceeded to inform the Soviets about Allied intelligence operations, including the highly-secret tunnel under Berlin. He also exposed numerous Western agents, many of whom were put to death. 

Blake was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison. But five years later he escaped and made his way to the safety of Moscow. He has lived there ever since 

Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean 

Two members of the so-called "Cambridge spy ring" -- a circle of communist sympathizers at the Cambridge University who were recruited by the KGB in the 1930s. Burgess and Maclean joined the British Foreign Office and began supplying secret information to the Soviets. Maclean was particularly damaging: from a Foreign Office post in Washington he turned over highly classified nuclear information and secrets relating to the formation of NATO. Burgess, meanwhile, became a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6). 

In May 1951, fellow Soviet double-agent Kim Philby warned them that Allied counter-intelligence suspected Maclean was a mole. Burgess and Maclean mysteriously vanished and were not heard from again until they surfaced in the Soviet Union in 1956. Both men lived out the rest of their lives there, by varying degrees alcoholic and disillusioned. 

Larry Wu-tai Chin 

Little-known spy for the People's Republic of China who penetrated the CIA and went undetected for more than 30 years. Chin joined the CIA in 1948 and began sending U.S. secrets to China in about 1952. These included the location of Chinese prisoners of war in Korea. He was paid more than $180,000 for the information. 

Caught in 1985, he killed himself in prison by placing a plastic bag over his head. 

Klaus Fuchs 

German-born British physicist who provided the Soviets with nuclear secrets from the Manhattan Project. A member of the German Communist Party, Fuchs was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1933. Despite his communist background, and despite the fact that this background led to his expulsion from Britain in 1940, Fuchs was recruited to join the Manhattan Project in 1941. He proceeded to keep the Soviets informed on the project's progress until the end of the war. Fuch's provided details about how Manhattan Project scientists separated uranium-235 -- the fuel for the atomic bomb -- from uranium-238. Debate remains over how much he helped the Soviet nuclear weapons program, but it is believed he saved them at least one year's work in their own program to develop the atomic bomb. 

Fuchs' activities were finally detected and he was arrested in 1950. He confessed and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Nine years later he was released on good behavior and moved to communist East Germany. There, he was rewarded with the directorship of a nuclear research institute. He died in 1988. 

Gunter Guillaume 

KGB-trained East German spy who entered West Germany under the cover of a "refugee," then infiltrated the Social Democratic Party along with his wife and fellow double-agent, Christl. Christl became a secretary in the office of the Chancellor, Willy Brandt, and Gunter soon joined the administration as one of Brandt's three personal assistants. All the while, he passed top-level intelligence to the KGB and Markus Wolfe's East German Ministry for State Security. 

A Soviet defector eventually betrayed him, and Guillaume was arrested in 1974 -- to the overwhelming embarrassment of Willy Brandt and his government. Brandt was forced to resign. Guillaume, meanwhile, received a 13-year prison sentence while his wife was sentenced to nine years. Both were released early, in spy swaps with East Germany. 

Ted Hall 

At 19 years old, the youngest scientist on the Manhattan Project and a key source of nuclear information for the Soviet Union. While at Los Alamos, Hall providing the Soviets with classified information about how to detonate nuclear weapons by implosion. These secrets are believed to have helped the Soviets save two to eight years in developing their own atomic bomb. 

Hall was questioned by the FBI in 1951 but wasn't charged, for lack of evidence. Incredibly, despite having been infinitely more damaging to U.S. security than celebrated Soviet collaborators Harry Gold and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Hall was never imprisoned. He claims he simply believed no nation should hold a nuclear monopoly. Eventually, Hall moved to Britain. 

Kang Sheng 

Secret police chief of the People's Republic of China. After intelligence training in Moscow, Kang took control of the Chinese Communist Party's espionage organization. When the forces of Mao Tse-Tung took power in 1949, Kang became chief of the new government's intelligence agency, known as the Social Affairs Department. Kang successfully cajoled, bullied and lured expatriate Chinese scientists back to China to help Mao's nuclear weapons program. A favorite of Mao, Kang was elected to the Communist Party secretariat in 1962 and played a key role in the Cultural Revolution. After Mao's death he disappeared from view. 

Konon Molody 

Soviet spymaster operating from Britain under the alias "Gordon Lonsdale." Molody was born in Russia, but spent several years in the United States during his childhood. Upon his return to the Soviet Union in 1938, he committed himself to communism and espionage. Molody adopted the identity of Lonsdale, a dead Canadian. After World War II, he went to the U.S. and Canada. From there he went to Britain in 1955, posing as a businessman. Molody proceeded to head a spy network including the husband-and-wife team of Helen and Peter Kroger (a.k.a. Lona and Morris Cohen), who used their antiquarian book business as a cover for sending secret documents to the Soviet Union, and Royal Navy employee Harry Houghton. 

A Polish defector eventually unveiled Lonsdale to British intelligence and he was arrested in 1961. A few years later he was released to the Soviets in a spy exchange. 

Kim Philby 

The "third man" of the so-called "Cambridge spy ring" -- a devoted British communist and one of the most damaging moles in the history of Western intelligence. Schooled at Cambridge University, where he came in contact with fellow Soviet spies Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt, Philby entered the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6), rising to highly sensitive positions. After World War II he became head of counterespionage operations; in 1949 he was named chief MI-6 officer in Washington and top liaison officer between British and U.S. intelligence services. Here, Philby kept the Soviets well apprised of the operations of both agencies. He is thought responsible for the deaths of many Western agents he betrayed to the Soviets. 

His association with fellow double-agents Burgess and Maclean -- whom he helped escape to the Soviet Union -- eventually led to his downfall. Under suspicion, he was relieved of his intelligence duties in 1951 and dismissed from MI-6 in 1955. In 1963 he fled to the Soviet Union, where he joined the KGB. When he died in 1988, he was buried with full honors in a Moscow cemetery. 

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg 

U.S. communists who were executed in 1953 for passing on nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. During World War II, Julius obtained U.S. military secrets through his job as an electrical engineer on defense projects; meanwhile, Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, gave the Rosenbergs nuclear data he obtained while working as a machinist on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. This information was turned over to Harry Gold, courier for the Soviets' U.S. espionage ring. 

The Rosenbergs were arrested in 1950 after the discovery that another Harry Gold contact, Los Alamos physicist Klaus Fuchs, had delivered nuclear secrets to Moscow. The Rosenberg trial became a cause celebre among liberal activists and death penalty opponents, and debate still rages about the extent of their guilt. But a wealth of evidence, including some recently-released material, indicates Julius was in fact guilty as charged -- an enthusiastic Soviet spy, though perhaps not a terribly effective one. Ethel, though a devoted communist, may have been charged to bring pressure on Julius; her culpability remains a matter of more serious debate. The Rosenbergs were the first U.S. civilians to be executed for espionage. 


Code name for Ursula Kuczynski, a.k.a. Ruth Hamburger Beurton, perhaps one of the most successful female spies in history. A German-born British citizen, Sonia was an important spy for the Soviet Union during World War II. She was Klaus Fuchs' contact for passing atomic secrets to Moscow. After the war, Sonia continued her clandestine operations, recruiting many agents to the Soviet cause and passing on secret information. 

In 1950 she fled to East Germany, where she was greeted as a heroine. She was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1969 and the Order of Karl Marx in 1984. 

The Walker Family 

Led by U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer John Walker, who volunteered his services to the KGB in 1968 for for $1000 per week. Over the next 17 years, he turned over key information on the Navy's cipher machines and nuclear submarines. When retirement loomed, he began recruiting other members of his family to take his place: his brother Arthur, son Michael, and friend Jerry Whitworth then began providing Walker and his Soviet handlers with more classified information. 

Walker's ex-wife eventually turned him in to the FBI. He is serving a life prison term. 

Markus Wolf 

Legendary head of East Germany's spy agency for nearly 30 years, from 1958 to 1987. Known to western intelligence as the "man without a face," for his ability to avoid being photographed, Wolf developed one of the Cold War's most effective espionage operations. Under his direction, the East German Ministry for State Security ran a network of about 4,000 agents outside East Germany. He also orchestrated several high-profile coups, including infiltrating NATO headquarters in Brussels (the "Topaz" case) and guiding a mole into the administration of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. 

After German reunification Wolf was charged with espionage, bribery and treason, and sentenced to six years in prison. But that conviction was later overturned and he received a suspended sentence on lesser charges of kidnapping, coercion and causing bodily injury. Wolfe maintains his agency was only doing what all intelligence organizations did during the Cold War. 


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