Moscow's Sensitive Ears

by Dmitry Prokhorov

Radio-technical intelligence of the KGB of the USSR in the 1970s-1980s operated all over the world

On September 22, 2003, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov issued a statement that the dismantling of Russian military bases in Cuba (Lourdes) and Vietnam (Cam Ranh), which began in December 2001, has been fully completed. Moreover, along with the military bases, the radio-electronic and radio-technical intelligence centers located on their territory were also liquidated, which significantly affected the ability of the Russian special services to receive important information. Meanwhile, the leadership of the USSR, unlike our today's statesmen, attached great importance to listening to the air and paid great attention to the creation and improvement of the structures necessary for this.


The sphere of activity of Soviet radio intelligence began to expand significantly from the beginning of the 1950s. In particular, active research work was carried out to find ways to access sources using the VHF and microwave bands. At the same time, electronic intelligence was further developed, extracting data on radio-electronic equipment of foreign states. The corresponding divisions of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the 8th Main Directorate of the State Security Committee of the USSR were engaged in this.

Later, already in the 1960s, the 16th department appeared in the KGB, which was required to perform the following tasks: to intercept communications from the communication lines of foreign missions and illegal immigrants on the territory of the USSR; engage in locating radio equipment and decrypting intercepted messages; to carry out technical penetration into foreign embassies and representations both in the USSR and abroad; receive information abroad in government and military communication lines of foreign states, as well as using listening equipment and other technical means.

The number of employees of the 16th department at the end of the 1970s reached two thousand people. It then included:

The 1st department was engaged in breaking ciphers, for which it had a computer "Bulat" - one of the most powerful in the USSR.

3rd department - was responsible for translating the correspondence read into Russian, which then entered the 4th department.

4th department - edited and provided explanatory comments received from the 3rd department materials and selected from them those that were intended to be sent to consumers. The material was arranged in two brochures. At the same time, only some members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU received one of them (in the 1970s they were Brezhnev, Andropov, Gromyko, Kirilenko, Suslov and Ustinov), and the heads of the First (intelligence) and Second (counterintelligence) of the main directorates of the KGB ... In addition, without specifying the sources, the information contained in the second brochure was sent to other interested departments.

The 5th department was engaged in the analysis of cipher systems and communicated with the relevant special services of the Warsaw Pact member countries and the allied states.

Service 1 - was responsible for bookmarks and other technical methods of infiltrating foreign embassies. At the same time, the 1st Department of the Service was in charge of the analysis of foreign encrypted communication equipment for identifying bookmarks in it, and developed methods for capturing signals emitted by this equipment. The 2nd department was engaged in the interception of these signals and their processing. The 3rd department maintained contacts with customs authorities and other institutions, with the help of which operations were carried out to insert and remove "bugs". The 5th department "cleared" the intercepted signals from interference.

It should be noted here that from the first days of its existence, the United States was the main object of the management's attention. So, the head of the American department of the 8th Main Directorate of the KGB, Seleznev, immediately demanded that the employees of the 16th immediately begin collecting information about American ciphers, the opening of which was the main task of his unit.

To carry out radio intercepts, the 16th department had numerous stations on the territory of the USSR. In addition, since the 1960s, radio interception posts have been created at the PSU residencies in foreign countries. The very first such post was organized in 1963 in Mexico City and was codenamed "Radar". Three years later, a similar post called "Initiative" was earned at the USSR Embassy in Washington, and in 1967 the "Proba" post began functioning in New York. By 1970, the posts "Pochin-1" (in the embassy), "Pochin-2" (in the residential complex of the embassy), "Proba-1" (in the building of the Soviet representation in the UN) and "Proba-2" (at the dacha of the Soviet embassy on Long Island) could already intercept messages from diplomats from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Portugal, Spain and a number of other countries, as well as some messages transmitted over American military lines of communication. At the same time, most of the information received received high marks from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Andrei Gromyko, and the Soviet representative to the UN, Yakov Malik.


Yuri Andropov, chairman of the KGB of the USSR, approved a plan to deploy radio interception posts in 15 stations of the PGU on May 15, 1970, and by the end of this decade, more than 30 such "points" were already operating abroad. In addition to the already mentioned "Pochina-1" and "Pochina-2", "Samples-1" and "Samples-2", these were: "Spring" in San Francisco, "Venus" in Montreal, "Radar" in Mexico City, Termit-S in Havana, Maple in Brasilia, Island in Reykjavik, Mercury in London, North in Oslo, Jupiter in Paris, Centaurus 1 in Bonn, Centaurus 2 "in Cologne," Tyrol-1 "in Salzburg," Tyrol-2 "in Vienna," Elbrus "in Bern," Caucasus "in Geneva," Start "in Rome," Altai "in Lisbon," Rainbow "in Athens, Tulip in The Hague, Vega in Brussels, Parus in Belgrade, Raduga-T in Ankara, Sirius in Istanbul, Mars in Tehran, Orion in Cairo, Sigma in Damascus, Zarya in Tokyo, Crab in Beijing, Cupid in Hanoi, Dolphin in Jakarta, Crimea in Nairobi.

In addition, on April 25, 1975, a decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR authorized the creation of a radio interception post of the 16th Directorate at the GRU base in Lourdes in Cuba. The post, named Termit P, went into operation in December 1976 and was equipped with a 12-meter fixed parabolic and a 7-meter mobile parabolic antenna mounted on an open truck. They made it possible to intercept messages in the microwave range transmitted from American satellites, as well as monitor communications between microwave communication towers. Later, the same posts were set up at the Cam Ranh military base (Vietnam) and in South Yemen.

However, of all the "points" the most important were the posts in New York and Washington. So, in 1975, Pochin-1 and Pochin-2 intercepted 2.6 thousand messages, and in 1976 - already 7 thousand. Among the latter, it is worth noting those that concerned the trip of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the group meetings NATO nuclear planning, meetings of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with the leaders of Great Britain, France, Germany and South Africa. It was also possible to listen to the conversations that were conducted through the Andrews airbase between Washington and the owner of the White House, the Secretary of State, and other high-ranking American officials who flew on the presidential plane on visits abroad (for which one of the employees of the Pochin-1 post was awarded the Order of the Red Star ). On the basis of these interceptions, 800 reports were prepared and sent to Moscow.

However, the spoils of the Pochin-1 and Pochin-2 posts were information not only of a political, but also of a military nature. It concerned, in particular, Trident, MX, Pershing-2 ballistic missiles, cruise and anti-aircraft missiles, F-15, F-16, F-18, B-52 and B-1 aircraft. Since 1973, the New York posts "Proba-1" and "Proba-2" have been able to receive very valuable scientific and technical information. For example, they intercepted a number of facsimile messages from Brookhaven National Laboratory, Boeing, Fairchild, General Dynamics, Grumman, Hughes, Lockheed, IBM, and some other leading firms in the American military-industrial complex. Thus, it was possible to find out very important data on the design and development of the A-10, B-1, F-14 aircraft, and other machines, on anti-missile and anti-submarine defense programs. And the Spring Post, which opened in 1976 in San Francisco, controlled the fax and telephone communications of the Pentagon contractors, as well as the largest companies located on the west coast of the United States.

In addition to the radio interception posts at the PGU residencies in Washington, New York, and San Francisco, there were radio posts (Zephyr, Rocket, and Rubin, respectively) that tapped FBI communications, tracking American counterintelligence operations. For example, in the 1970s, the Rocket post in New York constantly monitored: a radio communication channel between surveillance vehicles and six FBI posts that supervised the movements of Soviet mission officials; a radio communication channel used by FBI agents who "guided" the staff of UN missions in a number of Middle Eastern and Western states; a radio communication channel between the surveillance machines and the bank robbery investigation department; radio communication channel for FBI agents involved in other criminal investigations; a communication channel between the FBI dispatch centers in New York and New Jersey; a communication channel between the New York control center and the FBI vehicles.

The results of the activities of the Raketa radio monitoring station can be judged by the report of the New York station of the PGU 1973: “The FBI observation posts and the surveillance teams use simple codes, slang expressions and conditional phrases for communication that are easily deciphered by the Raketa operator. observation posts and outdoor observation groups are short dialogues in which the post informs the group about the vehicle number of the observation object and the direction in which it moves before and after the intersection.

The daily radio interception of messages from the FBI control center provides an idea of the operational situation and how the FBI is conducting operations in the city. When the residency (PGU KGB - DP) conducts a city operation, the operator of the "Rocket" monitors the work of the FBI radio center; if necessary, the operative worker can receive a danger signal before going to the place of the operation, or he can be ordered to terminate the operation if he has come under external surveillance. The "Rocket" post registers all local citizens who have come to the attention of the FBI, and their names are entered into the files of the "Contact" system (the computer automated system for searching by surnames that existed at the KGB PGU - DP). "

In the 1980s, radio interception and monitoring posts were already available in all residencies of the KGB PGU abroad. At the same time, each of them in November had to submit to the Center an annual report, which detailed the content of the "captured" encrypted and open messages, the percentage of operatively significant interceptions, identified new communication channels of intelligence interest, characteristics of the situation in the country from the point of view of radio intelligence , the degree to which the post has completed its assigned tasks, measures to ensure security and secrecy, and plans for the work of the "point" for the next year. But to the head of the 16th department, Krasavin, this seemed insufficient. He presented the KGB leadership with a long-term plan, providing for the deployment by the end of the decade of another 40 or 50 radio interception and monitoring posts in Soviet institutions abroad. That, according to calculations, could increase the amount of information extracted by 5-8 times.


In addition to radio intelligence proper, the 16th KGB Department widely practiced the installation of so-called "bookmarks" in the premises of foreign missions both on the territory of the USSR and abroad, into the equipment with which these institutions were equipped. One of the first successful operations of this kind was carried out in the 1970s, when specialists from the Lubyanka managed to provide "bugs" to the new encryption equipment of the Japanese embassy in Moscow. Moreover, they were installed at the moment when the truck with the container in which the encoders were located crossed the Soviet-Finnish border and followed to the capital of the USSR.

In January 1983, while repairing a teletypewriter in their embassy in Moscow, the French discovered a "bookmark" intended for transmitting telegraph information to an external power grid. In the course of the investigation, it turned out that since 1978, the KGB intercepted all messages received and sent by diplomats of the French Republic, including the most secret ones. In 1984, craftsmen from the 16th department installed "bookmarks" in 30 new typewriters intended for the US Embassy in Moscow and the US Consulate General in Leningrad.

However, the 16th Directorate began the most ambitious operation against the United States diplomatic mission in the Mother See in 1979, when the Americans began to erect a new 8-story embassy building. Moreover, the elements of the listening devices were laid directly into the building structures, as a result of which the house, in fact, was one giant system of sensors that could intercept almost all radio signals and conversations taking place in the premises. The Americans, however, managed to identify some "bugs" during the construction, but not all ...

Vadim Bakatin, who briefly held the post of chairman of the KGB, helped to solve the problem for his overseas colleagues, who unilaterally handed over to the Americans in December 1991 the technical documentation and layouts of the "tabs". He stated, however, that all the equipment is technically and morally outdated and does not represent a secret for the US intelligence services. But they reacted very differently to the unexpected gift. A senior US official said in an interview with the Washington Post: "Our technicians were amazed at the complexity of the equipment. One CIA official said that we only have such things at the development stage."

Operations with "bookmarks", as mentioned above, were carried out not only on the territory of the USSR, but also abroad. For example, in January 1966, agents of the PGU in Beirut installed a microphone in the office of the British Ambassador to Lebanon Richez, and in February - in the office of the ICU resident in Beirut, Lanna (Operation Ruby). As a result, the deputy head of the First Main Directorate, Tsimbal, reported to the chairman of the KGB of the USSR Andropov in 1967, it was possible to identify more than 50 SIS agents in the Middle East and Egypt, to determine the identities of six people introduced by the British into the intelligence network of the KGB, GRU and the Security Service of Czechoslovakia (StB ). And in 1969, the residence of the CIA resident in Lebanon was stuffed with eavesdropping devices.

In 1965, it was possible to place "bookmarks" in the apartment of one of the American diplomats in the capital of Guinea - Conakry, and in 1972 - in the office of the US ambassador to this country, Todman.

The New York residency of PSU did not lag behind. In late 1969, she successfully carried out Operation Pressing, in which remote-controlled radio transmitters were trapped in offices in the UN building used by the President of the Security Council. At the same time, Operation Crab was carried out to install "bugs" in the premises of the United Nations Secretary General U Thant, as well as in the Ghanaian mission to the UN.

In the same 1969, the Washington residency of the PSU provided a "bookmark" for the meeting room of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US Senate, which functioned for more than four years. In 1980, an employee of the same residency, Lozenko, installed a listening device in a conference room of one of the corporations, which was used for meetings by the Society for Operational Research. This made it possible to acquire information about plans for the deployment of American nuclear weapons in Europe, about US chemical weapons, about the mobilization capabilities of the United States, about Washington's position in the negotiations on SALT-2, read the report of a high-ranking Pentagon official "Current state and development trends of the US nuclear forces in Central European Theater of War ".

The last known operation of this kind dates back to the late 1990s, when an agent of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Robert Hanssen, installed a "bookmark" in the conference room of the US Department of State, located near the office of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.


The Warsaw Pact allies rendered great assistance to Soviet intelligence officers in carrying out radio-technical intelligence operations. For example, in the 1960s, KGB officers, with the assistance of their Bulgarian colleagues, infiltrated the Italian embassy in Sofia and made copies of the Calabria and Sardinia keys used to serve the NATO Information Department. And a little later, at the French embassy in Bulgaria, representatives of the KGB copied the code books of the French special services' residencies.

And in the future, the KGB of the USSR and related departments of the socialist countries continued fruitful joint work in the field of radio intelligence and cryptanalysis.

In January 1975, Yuri Andropov approved the "Instruction on the principles and directions of cooperation with the security services of the socialist states in the field of decryption operations", drawn up in the 16th department. This document contained the following fundamental principles: first, joint operations with "friends" should be carried out under the leadership of the KGB; secondly, the information transmitted to the allies "should not reveal the level of the latest Soviet achievements in the field of cryptanalysis."

In particular, the instructions said: "Given the fact that at present the relevant services of our friends have accumulated some experience of working on goals using methods of electronic cryptanalysis, there is some possibility that in the future our friends may also try to use these methods on their own. Under these conditions, it is essential to strengthen further cooperation between the 16th Directorate and the relevant services of our friends in order to exclude the possibility of operations uncontrolled by us, which could cause irreparable damage to the 16th Directorate in terms of the use of methods of electronic cryptanalysis ".

However, despite such stringent requirements, the interaction of the KGB with the special services of the allied states of the USSR developed quite successfully. For example, only in 1974, as a result of joint operations, the 16th department managed to obtain cipher materials from seven embassies in Prague, five in Sofia, two in Warsaw and as many in Budapest. Moreover, the friends shared with the Chekists some of their agents from Western countries.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liquidation of the KGB of the USSR, the 8th Main Directorate, the 16th Directorate and the Directorate of Government Communications, which were part of it, were merged by Boris Yeltsin's decree (# 313 of December 24, 1991) into the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information under the President of the Russian Federation (FAPSI), which, according to the Law "On Federal Bodies of Government Communications and Information" dated February 19, 1993, was also responsible for conducting intelligence activities in the special communications system. This was done by the Main Directorate of Electronic Intelligence for Communications (GURRSS), created on the basis of the 16th Directorate of the KGB of the USSR.

As for the radio interception centers located abroad, their fate was determined in 2001, when on October 16, Moscow unexpectedly notified Havana of its intention to close the electronic intelligence center located in Lourdes. The next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting at the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed this decision, adding that the Russian naval base in Cam Ranh (Vietnam) and the electronic intelligence post located there will also be liquidated.

This step was explained solely by material considerations. In particular, the annual payment to Cuba for the center in Lourdes was $ 200 million, or 6 billion rubles, and in the past 10 years, Russia's expenses amounted to $ 3 billion, excluding maintenance and personnel (1.5 thousand rubles). people) and their families. As for the base in Cam Ranh, until 2004 it was transferred to the Russian Federation by Vietnam on a free lease, but its maintenance cost Russia $ 1 million a year.

The Chief of the General Staff, General of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin, also commented on such an unexpected move by Moscow. He stated that "for $ 200 million we can purchase and launch 20 reconnaissance and communication satellites into space, as well as purchase 100 radar stations." Thus, Kvashnin argued, Russia does not refuse to conduct electronic reconnaissance of the territory of the United States, but is going to do it from space.

The reaction of secret war experts and specialists to the closure of the Lourdes center has been largely negative. At the same time, the emphasis was on the fact that Cuba, as already mentioned, received more than 70 percent of US intelligence information. However, another point of view was circulating, according to which the Americans had been driving "misinformation" through Lourdes for a long time. Whatever it was, but on December 29, 2001, the closing ceremony of the center took place. By this time, a plan was developed for dismantling the equipment and its removal, as well as a schedule for the transfer of personnel to Russia. Dismantling of the center equipment took place during January 2002 and was completed by February. The same fate befell the electronic intelligence post in Cam Ranh. And finally, the Russian military bases, as already mentioned, were liquidated in September 2003.

However, the matter did not end with the abolition of foreign radio-technical intelligence centers - on March 11, 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the disbandment of FAPSI and the transfer of its units to the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of Defense. Organizationally, the FAPSI section was completed by July 2003. At the same time, electronic reconnaissance and decryption services were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, and other divisions - the FSB. Time will show how this reorganization will affect the activities of the Russian special services.