Q&A: KGB Spy on Infiltrating America in the Cold War

Tom Foreman
Inside Base Camp
July 23, 2003

The hunt for Saddam Hussein's sons has culminated in a fatal gun battle; and much is being made of the dramatic final moments. Beyond the roar of the guns however, what often makes such an attack successful, is the stealthy work of intelligence officers and their sources.

This is the shadowy world of whispered secrets, hidden alliances, and sudden betrayals that can mean the difference between military success and failure. And no one knows that world better than the spies who worked through the coldest days of the Cold War.

Oleg Kalugin is one of them. A retired KGB major general, he was once head of the KGB's worldwide foreign counter-intelligence operations and spent much of his time working the streets of Washington, D.C., spying on America. His criticism of the KGB for lawlessness, cronyism, and arbitrary rule eventually resulted in him being convicted of treason in his home country. No wonder he now lives primarily in the United States.

As he walks into my studio he has the smooth, easy bearing of a confident businessman; or perhaps it is the slick veneer of a seasoned political operative. His face is warm and welcoming; or cold and appraising. His eyes sparkle with mischief; or maybe malice. In other words, he is a consummate spy: appearing to be whatever he wishes, and moving the truth like the queen in three-card monte.

Tom Foreman — How strange does it feel to be sitting here in Washington today talking about all the things you were involved in?

Oleg Kalugin — It's nothing strange to me—I lived in this country since 1958, in and out, and I feel it's a second home for me. And though (it was) a foe and an adversary in the old days, I always felt attached to this country because I wanted to turn my potential enemies into potential friends. And that's a great challenge for any individual—for an intelligence officer in particular. Once you treat your counterparts as potential friends, once you are through with your job, you feel very comfortable with your former adversaries who have become your real friends now.

Tom Foreman — What was it about Americans back in those days that you most liked for professional purposes?

Oleg Kalugin — The openness of this country, the availability of things, which were restricted in the U.S.S.R.—things you could see. You could read. You could go to places. Even though I was restricted as a diplomat by 25 miles (40 kilometers), I did not feel restricted in many other ways.

Tom Foreman — You could learn an awful lot about people before you even met them, if you wanted?

Oleg Kalugin — Absolutely. You take the Defense Department telephone directory—it was available for free and it was not classified at the time. And you just scan it and you find interesting names and people, and then you start looking for these people. That's part of the business. In Russia, it would be absolutely inconceivable to get any telephone directory. There were no public telephone directories at all—none.

Tom Foreman — Every time you managed to get somebody on the other side (to recruit an American to be a Soviet spy) you could never really trust them, could you?

Continued on Next Page >>


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