02 February 2006

Philip Agee tradecraft comments

During the research into the methods of tradecraft used by spies, ex CIA officer Philip Agee was asked for his expert views on the so-called tradecraft that I was supposed to have used in my case. Evidence from the Russian defector Oleg Gordievsky and MI5 officer Mrs. C was to be used by the prosecution during my trial, and their opinion was that it was undeniably typical of the Russian KGB or SVR. Philip Agee produced a report on what he considered the value of the exhibits to be used at my trial.

From: Philip Agee
Eppendorfer Landstrasse 56 II
2000 Hamburg 20, Germany

June 20 1993

Fax to: Mr Richard Jefferies, Tuckers Solicitors, London
Fax to: Mr Gary Summers, the Chambers of Rock Tansey QC, London

Dear Mr. Jefferies, Dear Mr. Summers

My report on documentation relating to the Michael John Smith case follows. Should you have additional questions, I will be glad to help.

If you plan, or decide, to use my work and my name in the proceedings, please let me have an idea of the procedure and the details. Also, if you wish to have any assistance in getting in touch with the association of former KGB/GRU officers, I will be glad to help in that. Still more, if you want me to obtain and review for possible use any of the books listed in the attachments, I could probably get them fairly fast by telephone and DHL or Federal Express.

I hope that this work will be of use to you

Yours sincerely,
Philip Agee

From: Philip Agee
Eppendorfer Landstrasse 56 II
2000 Hamburg 20, Germany

June 19 1993

To: Mr Richard Jefferies, Tuckers Solicitors, London
To: Mr Gary Summers, the Chambers of Rock Tansey QC, London

Ref: Tuckers RJJ/SLB/LON/C/S/1390, 4 June 1993


The notes seem to relate to clandestine activities, possibly including, but not limited to, an intelligence operation. The practices reflected in the notes cannot be said to be exclusively SVR (former KGB) or GRU (Russian military intelligence) in as much as they are quite similar to those which I, as a CIA officer, carried out. Even if one wrongly accepted that the notes reflected exclusively SVR or GRU tradecraft, one could not conclude that they prove a relationship between the defendant and an SVR or GRU officer since these services have, through training and operations, passed their tradecraft on to thousands of others throughout most of the world.

Detailed Comments

Except where noted, these comments relate to specified paragraphs of the Gary Summers memorandum of April 25, 1993.

Re paragraph (4), these practices are consistent with what I recall of Soviet tradecraft. However, I also recall using all of these practices in the CIA. Thus they are not exclusive to the KGB.

Re paragraph (6) (i) and (ii): The signals and notes could reflect a relationship with the KGB (SVR) or GRU; or, they could reflect a clandestine relationship with the intelligence service of a number of other countries; or, they could reflect a non-governmental, private commercial or industrial espionage operation; or, they could reflect a clandestine relationship having nothing to do with espionage.

Through my training and experience in the CIA, I learned that the KGB and the GRU for many years engaged in joint operations with “friendly” services, and provided training for these services. Such operations and training reflected KGB and GRU tradecraft practices.

(See also Chapter VII, “Dangerous Little Brothers”, in John Barron’s KGB, published in New York by Reader’s Digest Press in 1974, an authoritative work on the Soviet services. This chapter describes KGB support for, and joint operations, with the intelligence services of virtually every member of the former Soviet Bloc including Cuba.)

Thousands of intelligence officers of these other countries learned and used Soviet-inspired tradecraft. Add to these the thousands of agents (not intelligence officers, but indigenous “spies”) who worked at one time or another for the intelligence services of communist countries, practicing the same tradecraft. One can conclude that literally tens of thousands of persons have learned Soviet tradecraft over the years. Any of these are capable of utilizing the same tradecraft in operations sponsored by any country in the world, or by a non-governmental firm, involved in commercial or industrial espionage.

Moreover, the notes could be Smith’s reminders for his instructions to another person, rather than notations of instructions to him. On this possibility, note in JS/42, the expression “I suggest …”

In conclusion, I do not find the statements of (6) (i) and (ii) convincing.

Concerning paragraph (6) (iii): Former intelligence officers, Soviets included, may be working in commercial, non-governmental activities. The bi-monthly magazine Surveillant, published in Washington, D.C. by the National Intelligence Book Center, lists books, periodicals and activities relating to intelligence and security matters. In one issue it shows an ad from The International Herald Tribune that was noted in an earlier issue of Periscope, the newsletter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). It said: “Former KGB agent seeks employment in similar field, Tel: Paris 1-” For the specific date of the Herald Tribune that carried the ad, one could check with the AFIO office in Virginia, tel: 703-790-0320; fax 703-790-0264. See Attachment 1. The statement in (6) (iii), therefore, may not be true, since Smith could have been led to believe that he was involved with a commercial/industrial security firm. Certainly one cannot conclude that from the tradecraft he knew he was dealing with Russians --- as opposed to any other nationality.

Concerning paragraph (7):
(i): The notes could be evidence of tradecraft/spycraft, but they could also be evidence of another kind of relationship that the parties are attempting to hide, e.g. illicit romance, drug trade, other criminal activity. As reflected in the statement of “Mrs C” dated November 9, 1992, some of the notes seem to have “intelligence significance,” and some do not. Thus “Mrs C” could only conclude, in commenting on JS/44, that the list “old project notes, biosensors, micromachining, micron valve,” etc. “appears to be a list of requirements,” but it just as well might not have “intelligence significance.” Each of the four documents, according to “Mrs C’s” analysis, contains notes of “intelligence significance” and notes of “no intelligence significance.” She expresses her selection in this respect with a certainty that does not sufficiently admit of speculation. Moreover, how does one explain the juxtapositioning of notes with and without “intelligence significance”? Was this Smith’s way of creating confusion or obscuring the meaning of those notes with “intelligence significance”? If so, he would have to be very stupid to believe he was fooling anyone. And when were the notes made? As Smith was receiving the instructions? I would find this hard to believe since a responsible case officer, of Russian or any other nationality, would not normally want his agent to write down and keep incriminating written material from one meeting to the next --- perhaps as long as a month or more --- and then regarding several meetings. A responsible case officer would be certain that no such things were kept in writing. Such things as signals, dates and places for the next meeting, and procedure for re-establishing a lost contact would normally be committed to memory. If these are indeed notes in Smith’s hand, he may have made them after meetings, alone, as suggested by the size of the paper or pad (too large to be discreet in an open-air meeting). Still, one cannot overlook that the notes could be interpreted as Smith’s reminders of instructions that he was giving rather than receiving.

(ii) The notes could be, but are not necessarily, evidence of KGB tradecraft/spycraft. As noted above tradecraft-like practices are found generally when people attempt to keep a relationship hidden. Also as noted, thousands of non-Soviets and non-Russians, including non-communists, have learned KGB tradecraft practices. It is not inconceivable that if Mr Smith was truly engaged in espionage, the real sponsor might have been a commercial investigative firm or a British ally, either of which could have been attempting “false flag” techniques in order to give appearances of KGB sponsorship, in order to conceal their sponsorship in the event the activity were discovered. From the notes alone, however, one simply cannot be sure.

(iii) No. See my comments above, keyed to (4).

(iv) The notes listed in (5) could indicate KGB tradecraft, or the tradecraft of many other services, commercial firms, or individuals. And as noted, there is no way to know from the notes whether they reflect instructions being given or received.

(v) Answer is the same as previous paragraph (iv).

(vi) I can say that similar tradecraft practices are used by the CIA, and in clandestine operations generally, but I am unfamiliar with specific practices of the services of Israel, France, Germany and Britain.

(vii) For this question and for (viii) and (x), I have reviewed several years’ editions of Surveillant as well as other listings and my personal library. For possible descriptions of KGB tradecraft see Attachment 2 on The Official KGB Handbook.

(viii) See Attachment 3 on Espionage: Down and Dirty, Dictionary of Espionage, The International Dictionary of Intelligence, Economic Espionage and Telling Lies.

(ix) I cannot speak from experience, but I believe the answer is logically “yes.”

(x) See Attachment 4 on Business Intelligence for Market Development and How to Get Anything on Anybody.

(xi) Concerning the publications listed in Attachment 2, 3 and 4 one could order direct from the publishers or through a book seller. Assistance might also be available from the National Intelligence Book Center in Washington, D.C. which publishes Surveillant. The Managing Editor is Elizabeth Bancroft, and her telephone is (202) 785-4334.

(xii) See answer above, in paragraphs keyed to (6) (i) and (ii) and (6) (iii).

Additional comments:
(1) Concerning the letter to Smith (JS/40) that Mr. Gordievsky finds “typical” for re-establishing contact “after an accidental break,” I have never heard of such a practice. As Mr Gordievsky wrote, “the agent and KGB officer know from previous agreement” what the “date, time and place of the meeting” are. The use of such a letter might be to encourage a renewed contact by someone (in this case Smith) who has refused, or otherwise failed, to follow arrangements previously made for re-establishing contact. More normal, I believe, would be for the case officer to intercept the agent between the agent’s house and his workplace, while shopping, or even directly at his home.

(2) Regarding the notes marked JS/43, and the comment “Homebase asked about plants common interest”: “Mrs. C” finds this of “no intelligence significance” but I would point out that the KGB headquarters is commonly known as “The Center” as the title of Gordievsky’s book confirms. If Smith had been taking literal notes from a KGB case officer, I would expect “Center” rather than “Homebase” in the notes.

(3) Concerning the report dated December 9, 1992 by “Mrs. C” on JS/45 and her visits to Portugal and France: my opinion is that the maps could or could not be related to KGB tradecraft or to the tradecraft practiced by many other services, security firms or individuals. Certainly the maps and marks on them could refer to matters other than espionage for the KGB. Concerning the Gordievsky statement dated May 5, 1993: I agree with Gordievsky that the maps and marks could or could not “have an intelligence purpose,”

(4) Former officers of the KGB have established an organization that Mr Smith’s defense team might wish to contact.

This is:
The Association of Retired Intelligence Officers
103045, Moscow, Kuznetsky Most st., 20-22/6, Bldg 5, Room 2
Tel: 928-2291; Fax: 903-4378

The former officer who should be contacted, and who speaks English, is Yuri H. Totrov. My name can be used as a reference, as I am a member of the (U.S.) Association of National Security Alumni which is planning several public forums with Mr. Totrov’s association. The Moscow association could perhaps produce evidence and testimony on KGB tradecraft practices and the diffusion of these practices throughout the world through the training of other services and through agent operations.

Attachments from Surveillant:
Attachment 1: Shows comment from Peter Kessler that he had seen the former KGB officer’s advert in The International Herald Tribune, and had submitted it to PERISCOPE (the Journal of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers).

Attachment 2: Shows an advert for the book The Official KGB Handbook [English Translation] by The USSR Committee for State Security.

Attachment 3, p.1: Shows an advert for the book Espionage: Down & Dirty by Tony Lesee.

Attachment 3, p.2: Shows an advert for the book Dictionary of Espionage by Christopher Dobson and Ronald Payne.

Attachment 3, p.3 & 4: Shows an advert for the book The International Dictionary of Intelligence by Leo D. Carl

Attachment 3, p.5: Shows advance details about a new book called Economic Espionage by Peter Schweizer.

Attachment 3, p.6: Shows an advert for the book Telling Lies by Paul Ekman.

Attachment 4, p.1: Shows an advert for the book Business Intelligence for Market Development by David Haynes.

Attachment 4, p.2: Shows an advert for the book How to Get Anything on Anybody by Lee Lapin.