Good article by David Wise in the latest issue of the Smithsonian magazine:
In an exclusive interview, a retired FBI agent who posed as a KGB officer finally spills the beans about his greatest sting operations
Dimitry Droujinsky is on his third cup of black coffee when he starts talking about his toughest case. “It was what we called in the bureau ‘an old dog case,’” he says. He smiles. “Twenty-eight years old.” But when it comes to tracking spies and discovering which secrets they have betrayed, counterintelligence never forgets.
We’re alone, sitting in the dimly lit back room of a restaurant in Northern Virginia. The case he’s talking about unfolded in the spring of 1993 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It involved a clerk who worked for the National Security Agency for three years in the mid-1960s, in a branch that gave him access to classified documents transmitted or received from NSA stations all over the world. Federal agents had evidence that he had sold some of that supersecret organization’s most sensitive information to the KGB, but not enough to prosecute him. “I said I knew it would be hard,” Droujinsky says. “I didn’t realize how hard.”
He booked a motel room in Lancaster. Government technicians set up recording equipment in the next room and trained a video camera through a pinhole in the wall. And if the target refused to meet at the motel? “Just in case,” Droujinsky says, sipping more coffee, “I had a briefcase with a recorder.”
His moment had come. He picked up the phone in his motel room and dialed. When a man answered, Dimitry Droujinsky did what the FBI depended on him to do.
“Ah, Mr. Robert Lipka?” he said, with the slightest trace of a Russian accent. “My name is Sergei Nikitin. I am from the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.”
“Yes?” Lipka replied cautiously.
“And my superiors in Moscow have instructed me to meet with you and discuss something very important about your safety and security. You understand?”
Lipka did not reply.
“I am here today in the Lancaster area,” Droujinsky said. “Can you meet me at the Comfort Inn?”
When he dialed Lipka’s number, Droujinsky was already a legend inside the FBI. He spent much of his career, from the 1960s to the late ’90s, impersonating a KGB officer or some other enemy of the United States to catch spies and terrorists. His acting was Oscar-worthy, but he toiled in the shadows, his work unknown. He guarded his identity and appearance so closely that on the rare occasion he testified in court, he took the stand disguised in a wig, thick glasses, beard and mustache. The FBI has never commented publicly about his work, but Phillip A. Parker, a veteran counterintelligence agent and former deputy assistant director for operations of the bureau’s intelligence division, knew Droujinsky well. “He was a valuable asset to the FBI,” Parker told me. “He was very talented.”
He handled an array of cases—in 1987, he impersonated an Arabic-speaking playboy aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean to lure the notorious airplane hijacker Fawaz Younis into the FBI’s hands—but Droujinsky was particularly useful in his role in the Cold War. “A lot of people were trying to sell secrets in those days,” he says. “Who pays the most? The Russians. So they went to the Russians. We needed someone to pose as a Russian.” . . . (read the rest)