What follows is a transcript of an interview I did with Nicholas Best, a correspondent, with Norwegian Public Radio.
It was done in connection with a series of broadcasts he is producing on the Arne Treholt espionage case. The well-born Norwegian diplomat and government official, now almost seventy-six years old, was convicted of high treason and espionage against his native Norway in the mid-1980s and sentenced to a twenty year prison term. Following his arrest Norwegian commentators called him the “greatest traitor to Norway since Quisling.” Pardoned after just eight years, Treholt moved to Russia and then Cyprus where he resides today.
I hope you find it interesting.
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Tape Sync Interview Raymond Batvinis
My name is Raymond J Batvinis, I hold a doctorate from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC in history I’m a professional historian, now, and for 25 years from 1972 until I retired in 1997 I was a Special Agent of with the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation. I served part of that time as a Supervisory Special Agent of the FBI and the overwhelming bulk of my career was spent in the foreign counterintelligence and counterterrorism side of the house. I’ve continued to focus on intelligence matters and terrorism matters since my retirement in 1997, and I’m currently doing that right now.
I entered on duty with the FBI on July 17th 1972, and I immediately went into agents training and new agents training ran oh approximately 16 weeks at that time. And it was all conducted at the FBI’s academy in Quantico, Virginia, and we learned the basics of investigation. A lot of work was done on firearms, physical training, all sorts of different lectures from particular units at FBI Headquarters.
and then in October, following my graduation my first office was in Cleveland, Ohio. And I was assigned to an organised crime squad, in Cleveland. I did mainly surveillance work up there of organised crime figures that they had under investigation. And then I transferred over to a squad that did investigations of interstate transportation and stolen property. We did a lot of fugitive work.
And it was an excellent start to my carer. Gave me a very good grounding in criminal investigative work. And then in April 1974 I was transferred to the Washington Field Office eh. Washington Field Office at the time was in the old Post Office Building which parenthetically is now the Trump Hotel, right at the corner of 12th street North West and Pennsylvania Avenue. And I was in the Washington Field Office for about 8 years.
I started out doing what we call applicant work, and applicant work refers to background investigations on men and women, who are applying for positions with the government. Men and women who were going to be special agents of the FBI, or going to be working for the Department of Justices Lawyers, people who are undergoing backgrounds for the atomic energy administration – or the atomic energy commission–excuse me–at that time.
So I did that for about 8 or 9 months and then I got transferred in, I think, September of 1975, maybe February of 1975, I don’t exactly remember, to a foreign counter intelligence squad. And I never looked back, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was something I had no experience with previously.
We worked against Soviet Union and the Satellite countries, that had embassies in Washington, DC. So I remained there until 80, and then I assigned to the training unit in the intelligence division. And we trained agent s and analysts, and linguists and we also provided training to other agencies of the government – CIA, and NSA, DIA, on counterintelligence matters
and then I got reassigned to the Baltimore Field Office. Which covered the state of Maryland and Delaware. And I spent the rest of my career there, focusing on counter intelligence matters, and counterterrorism matters. And it was a great place to be because it was and office where… it had a wide variety of matters and wide variety of counterintelligence issues and
cases our biggest account in the Baltimore Field Office from the standpoint of CI matters – Counterintelligence matters – was the National Security Agency at Fort Mead. I practically had an office up there, because they were so important, so I had a very rich and rewarding career, I found it absolutely wonderful and …
but when I retired, I retired. I never looked back. I didn’t think I would ever be going back to the Bureau, but in the wake of 9/11 I was called back to provide specialised training in counter intelligence matters to agents and analysts, and then for a couple of years I did what was called the Lessons Learned Course. I travelled the country for the FBI putting on week long seminars for FBI employees
in the counterintelligence arena. On the history of the FBIs CI program. Lessons Learned – things we did right, things we did wrong. And I contin… I don’t do that anymore, but I continue to be involved – I write actively, I’m writing a biography, it’ll be my third book, but it’s a biography of a Soviet spy who’s very little known to history, so I keep myself busy
N: Mood in intelligence circles during the late 70s early 80s? Were you winning the war?
RB: No. As I say I came into it in 1975. So I was completely completely new at it. But my sense reflecting back on it was that the United States, in particular from a counterintelligence standpoint was overwhelmed.
I would, with regard to the intelligence threat posed by the Soviet Union, and don’t forget its Satellite countries as well. The Satellite countries were a force multiplier, for the Soviet Union. For the KGB and the GRU.
The KGB and GRU had trained these Satellite countries – Poland, Hungary Romania East Germany, Albania, although Albania was pretty much remote, Yugoslavia, all of these countries had representation here in the United States. All of them were – all their services, their intelligence services right after the war were trained by the KGB, and GRU
and of course what they collected – the other one I forgot of course was Czechoslovakia – a very active service – These services were going out and trying to recruit Americans but they were collecting information that would be essential to the Warsaw pact and the Warsaw pact countries.
So, in the 1970s I reiterate the fact that we felt overwhelmed. And that we were actually losing the counterintelligence war because of the growing numbers of intelligence officers here in the United States.
Ever increasing without a commensurate increase in the number of specialists who are trying to fight the intelligence war here in this country.
N: What kind of numbers are we talking about?
RB: Eh I did some research in connection with this programme, and the Mitrokhin Archive (in Cambridge) which were prepared by Vasily Mitrokhin notes that there were at least 300 Soviet officials working at the United Nations Secretariat in New York in the 1970s. That’s overwhelming. When you consider that the New York office alone had only a thousand agents doing everything and they had 300 just at the United Nations Secretariat, that doesn’t include the consulate,
that doesn’t include the Warsaw pact countries that had representation at the United Nations Secretariat, that didn’t include AM-TORG their trading company in New York, that didn’t include the soviet consulate in New York, that didn’t include the Satellite consulates in New York, that didn’t include the embassy in Washington, DC, and the various agencies that it had in Washington DC, it did not include the Soviet consulate in San Francisco. It does not include the Soviet visitors and students and Czech and Polish visitors, and students coming to.. eh Polish businesses here,
so it was really a period when the counterintelligence resources of the United States were really strained to the breaking point.
RB: I’m sorry, I don’t. I can’t help you with that.
N: Reaction to his arrest?
RB: You know I think the reaction, and I’m speculating here, the reaction was I don’t want to say muted, but the reaction was limited, and I believe so because the eh FBI covered him while he was here. And when he returned to Norway, in I guess was it 83 he returned to Norway? He was arrested in January of 84, but we were very heavily involved in other matters at that time.
and there were no… I’m sure the agents who worked the case and certain people in the New York Office and FBI Headquarters, as well as the agency – CIA and you know, Department of Justice, there was a reaction, but it didn’t have the what’s the word I’m struggling – didn’t have the kick, in other words, because he had gone back to Norway, and it was really the baby of the Norwegian Services at that time.
N: Remember anything personally about his arrest?
RB: I don’t, I don’t remember in my case, I don’t remember hearing very much about it at all.
N: Remember the trial?
RB: No, I’m sorry, I don’t Nick.
N: Reaction to the sentence?
RB: I was not surprised at the original 20-year sentence, and I don’t claim to be, in fact I’m not even knowledgeable about Norwegian Jurisprudence. I am a little bit aware of jurisprudence in Great Britain, and I know that unlike in the United States, someone’s convicted of espionage they’re going to get life in prison. Generally, not always, but if its depending on the gravity of it.
So when I heard that it was 20 years that did not surprise me. I think George Blake for example – the spy who was recruited by the Soviet Union when he was a prisoner in North Korea, He received 20 years (Blake var dobbeltagent som fikk faktisk 42 år). I’m trying to think of another one, I think the Krogers–Morris and Lona Cohen who were Americans and were picked up in Great Britain – they were sentenced to 20 years (de var illegals som fikk 25 og 20 år).
So I… these sentences don’t surprise me, in terms of espionage sentences in… in European countries.
N: Tell me about what you know about the case in New York?
RB: This is where I’m speculating a little bit, and Ill make a break where I’m not speculating, but what I’m sure happened in this particular case was the Norwegian Service came to the United States, and conferred with the FBI and explained what they had. Because at that particular point the Bureau had no need to know about Arne Treholt.
Because it was really a matter between the British and the Norwegians at that particular point. When he, and we would never have known about it had he not been assigned to the United Nations – well, to the United Nations in New York. And of course we had to be involved because we were the primary counter intelligence service here in this country, so we were the ones who would do the investigations, and the investigations would be done under American law.
So they would come over, confer with the assistant director and the men and women who are in the Soviet Section and then someone like Jean Gray and maybe the S.. Special Agent in Charge, well he would be Special Agent in Charge, would go down there – there’d be a conference the Norwegian Service would provide everything that they knew about Treholt, you know the basically the down and dirty – where, who, what, where, why, when, how. Where he’s going to be living. Etc etc.
BESKRIVELSE AV HVORDAN EN SQUAD OPPERERER – SPES. CASE AGENT:
Where he’s going to be working that sort of thing. And then it would be placed operationally or tactically in the hands of the New York Office. And a case agent would be assigned to it. And the case agent really is responsible completely responsible for the day to day management of that particular case.
He would be the one who was handling, or she, in this particular case I think it was a man. And eh, would be responsible for briefing the Seniors, the SAC, the ASAC – the Assistant Special Agent in Charge. On the progress of the case and keeping the FBI headquarters informed.
They would also, he would also be responsible for managing the day to day activities of the undercover agents, briefing them on what was, anything new that was going on. Getting their debriefs, developing strategies for meeting Treholt, and his wife, providing feedback on his mood, on what he was doing.
So they would be, they would be critical, and the case agent would be critical in ensuring that he was getting maximum out of the undercover operation. And then he would have to manage the technical side. He would also have to manage the wiretap, He’d also have to manage a microphone, if a microphone was used.
And he it would he would be dealing with the translators. Remember that he was Norwegian, and most likely if there was a microphone – I can’t say if there was – but if there was a microphone in the house, he would probably be talking Norwegian to his wife,
or Norwegian to any guest who came over who were with the Norwegian Consulate or the Norwegian component of the (?), So you’d need a translator in addition to that. So they would be doing their work, he’d be reading the translations on a regular basis. And then he would be managing the surveillance as well.
He wouldn’t be doing the surveillance necessarily, but there are surveillance teams in New York who are specially designated for just this kind of work. And they would be doing maybe periodic surveillance on this individual, so he’d be responsible… , he would be responsible for managing these, so that case agent has in my opinion, if I was his supervisor he would have one case
and one case only. Because that would be occupying him and he may even of had an assistant with him. To handle all these various components that go into to such an investigation.
N: Number of FBI agents involved?
RB: The general rule of thumb, I was always told, that the optimal number is seven on a squad. But I would suggest to you that that’s never, that’s pie in the sky. I would tend to think that they’re more like 12, when I was in there. I had a lot. I had at one point I had 25 I mean I was, it was it was a great experience for me but it was a large number people.
But you could have 12 on a squad, but that doesn’t mean everyone on that squad is working on that case full time. No. I would, just based on my speculation I would say there were probably 3 or 4 that were working this thing full time the case agent, the undercover agents maybe one other agent who was assisting the case agent. The surveillance people would be working on another squad. All they did was surveillance, so they would be… he’d be managing those agents and those personnel not on a day to day basis but giving them direction, giving them guidance.
On when would be the best time to surveil this individual, when would not be the best time, so that were not wasting those resources. And then he would be also interacting almost daily with the linguists and the translators, and the people in the tech room, who are managing the technical aspect of this. So in terms of people involved I would say – and I’m spitballing here Nick, a little bit – but I would say there are probably oh 15, 20, 25 people some working on it full time others working on it periodically.
RB: Yeah. What’s unusual about the Treholt case is the fact that conventionally the FBI is investigating adversaries, were investigating – that’s a nice term – were investigating the Soviet Union, and were investigating the Warsaw bloc countries. China, eh… In this case, it was a Western Diplomat. And I think that changed the calculus a little bit. The KGB officers and GRU officers and satellite intelligence officers under investigation
they expect us. They’re warned that the FBI going to be investigating them. But Western diplomats have a, maybe, I’m sure they get security briefings, but I think on the whole they don’t have anything to concern themselves with, with regard to the FBI. But in this particular case the FBI is investigating a western diplomat.
So that made it unusual. The full panoply of investigative tactics, or mechanisms that I’ve just described to you, would be applied to any of the satellite services, obviously we don’t have the resources to pull out the stops on every single individual, but when necessary the FBI can do that. And in this case the decision was made to do that because it was an important case and Norway of course is an important NATO partner and an important European partner of the United States,
politically, militarily, defence wise.
N: How important Norway to the Soviets?
RB: Well Norway is an important… Norway is an important listening post for the Soviet Union. I mean, remember that it was in Norway during the late 1950s where the U2 was landing, in Northern Norway. In the Fjords of Norway. They share a common border with the Soviet Union, they’re an important listening post
If hostilities ever broke out Norway would be at the very edge of the conflict. They would be directly involved in the conflict. They also have an important border with the Baltic sea which requires the them to monitor the Soviet shipping going in and out of Northern ports of the Soviet Union. And I might also point out that we know this from the record, that in the 1970s the NSA and CIA had an important actually it wasn’t CIA necessarily it was NSA and the Navy,
had installed a listening device under the sea of Okhotsk – on the floor of the sea of Okhotsk, which they had placed under a cable that provid.. that was unencrypted and the messages on that cable provided NSA with advanced warning about activities in the Soviet Northern Fleet, in the Pacific. And that cable had, We were picking up the emissions and we were picking up the voices of the communicators in the northern Fleet.
The Navy put a cable on that tap, and ran it to Norway and it came up at Norway, and then was attached to a antenna and that antenna beamed those conversations right back to NSA in Port Mead, Maryland. SO listen… translators Russian translators could just all day listen to the communications of the Russian Northern fleet
with by way of Norway, so it’s a critically important, politically and critically important for the United States and Western Defence, even today for our own defence and for NATOs defence.
N: How was the KGBs foreign intelligence organised and how did they work with agents?
BESKRIVELSE AV RESIDENS OSV – LEGALS OG ILLEGALS med focus på USA
RB: Well those I think are two questions. Let’s handle the first question, first. How would they operate. Essentially they operated in two fashions. When we talk about the Residency. The residency for those not familiar with that term is a station, in other words, it’s a squad. To keep it… or a group or a unit or a component.
And there would be what were called, what we called in our terminology legal residencies- What is a legal residency? It has nothing to do with the law, A legal Residency is a term of art applied to a an intelligence unit that is under diplomatic protection. So the intelligence unit would be based at an embassy – the New York one was based at the Soviet Consulate in New York.
And it would be run by a Rezident. The chief would be called the Resident. R-E-Z-I-D-E-N-T. He is the station chief. And he is the boss. He manages everyone in that residency. Under him would be what we call Line Chiefs, and that’s another term for let’s say Squad Supervisor, or Sub Unit Supervisor. And it would be a sub unit supervisor for a group of maybe 3 or 4 or 5 who are going out and trying to recruit Americans or French or whoever they can, to get classified political and economic intelligence.
And the there is line S.. line X. Line X would be a would have a… it’s a sub unit – would have a supervisor he would be – these are all intelligence officers by the way, they’re all either KGB or GRU officers. And there’d be… I’m speaking for both KGB and GRU now. And it’d be a line X, and line X would be responsible for scientific intelligence.
There’d be a line KR which is counterintelligence. That group would be responsible for trying to recruit FBI personnel NSA personnel, CIA personnel, and they’d also be required for monitoring the political loyalties of the men and women who are part, who are part of the embassy, the husbands the wives – making sure that they were not falling prey to recruitments by the FBI.
And then another would be line N, and that’s a smaller one, Line N is for is called is fort eh illegals, and Ill get into that in a second. That line N would be he would be, and they’re all he’s by the way. Would be an illegals support officer, and Ill explain what illegal means. He is responsible for handling illegals in that particular country.
Now what I’ve just described is applicable to both the KGB and the GRU. With the exception perhaps of Line PR. Because the GRU is really more focused on recruiting military officers and getting military information. The C… the KGB has that account, as does the SVR, today.
Now, the next is the illegals. And the illegals are intelligence officers, generally speaking, they’re going to be intelligence officers dispatched from the Soviet Union or maybe recruited by the KGB from the from Poland or from Czechoslovakia or from East Germany,
and they will be making them officers or be making them agents – maybe not officers. But agents, and what they’re job is to infiltrate countries around the world, lets use the united states as an example.
They infiltrate the united states and they are what you and I remember maybe from our John Le Carre novels, the sleeper agent. The person who is posing as your next door neighbour. And his job is to service in in what we call erm – essential dead drops. The the spy – lets say the American who’s working for a private company, and he’s doing classified work.
BESKRIVELSE AV TRADECRAFT med focus på USA
and what he does, he puts down a package at a particular location. The illegal will come out and pick up that package. And then he will then go set a signal. The illegal support officer will meet him, rendezvous with him, maybe it’ll be another dead drop – he’ll pick that up, and then he can take that back into the consulate, or to the embassy, where its under diplomatic protection and then send it back to Moscow.
The the benefit of the legals, is the fact that if they’re caught, if they’re caught, nothing is going to happen to them, other than the fact that they are going to be sent back to… they’re going to be essentially expelled from the United States or expelled from Great Britain, but they will not be prosecuted. They have diplomatic protection.
The shortcoming of the legal is he is always under watch by the FBI, so he has to watch what he does. He has to be very cautious in his movements. His movements are limited. For example, in New York his movements were limited to 25 miles’ circle from the epicentre I think being the Empire State Building. In Washington DC for many years they couldn’t go outside a 25-mile limit
with the epicentre being the Washington Monument. So they cant travel, at all, without notifying the US Government. The illegal, if he gets caught, he’s going to be prosecuted. He’s going to be charged with espionage. That’s the downside. The upside is he can travel wherever he wants, internationally and no one will be the wiser. Because he’s basically blended right into the fabric of American Society.
French society, British society, whatever country he or she is assigned to.
MER OM TRADECRAFT – DEAD DROPS, PERSONAL CONTACT VERSUS IMPERSONAL CONTAKT OSV:
N: How would a case officer work with an agent?
It varies. They can meet them personally or they can employ what I’ve just described – impersonally. I think that’s word I was struggling for a few minutes ago. You have two different types. You have personal meetings, and then impersonal meetings. With someone like… eh an impersonal meeting is exactly what I’ve just described.
I’m an intelligence… I’m a KGB officer in Washington, and my agent is in Norfolk Virginia. I cant travel to Norfolk to meet him, so he gets instructions, usually they are a year in advance to take all the material that he has, to photograph it and don’t make copies of the photographs, leave them undeveloped. And on a particular date at a particular time, in a particular month at a particular location,
Say, at the base of a telephone pole, or at the base of a sign, or at the base of a particular tree for example, he’s to put that package down and eh just put it under lets say some leaves. And then what he is to do – he’s to go to a lets say a sign, and take a chalk mark and put the chalk mark, make a chalk mark on the sign
and say it’s a vertical piece of chalk mark. And then he leaves… waits. And the KGB officer will then drive to that sign and if he sees that chalk mark he knows that that agent has put down that package. He goes… he picks up the package. He then goes and then puts another package down at another location and he may go back to a different sign, lets say a stop sign and he puts a chalk mark horizontally on the sign.
The agent looks for that – now he knows that his money has been placed down, and that his instructions are going to be included in that. So he goes and he picks it up. He then travels back to Norfolk. These two individuals have now had an exchange of money, instructions and product.
and they they’ve never met. And this is called impersonal contact. And this goes on and on and on and on and essentially practically full proof. The other is a personal meeting. And the personal meeting is conducted – and these are decisions made at the centre in Moscow, and they’re made in conjunction with conversations with the head of the station in the particular city. Lets say in New York City.
And it would seem to me, and I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about it, with Treholt my feeling is that Zjizjin and others met him personally. And they did that because it was perfectly logical for them to do that. They would not in any way attract attention to see a Norwegian diplomat sitting with a Soviet diplomat. Or having drinks at the UN bar with a Soviet diplomat. It would have not raised, because this is the way did it. So..
the meeting that they have. They’re having cocktails or maybe they’re having dinner in the UN restaurant. This is really what is essentially they’re a a self created cover for action. If somebody was to say I saw you with Zjizjin – yes, we were talking about etc. etc. And who’s to say that Treholt didn’t prepare a memorandum on the meeting which he gave to his bosses, obviously he’s not telling them the whole story LER
but I mean he’s preparing, as a cover – yes I met him and we just discussed A, B, C, D etc. So, they have a variety of ways that they eh can not only establish contact but maintain contact.
N: Having meetings in other countries. Arrange dates for meetings and also reserve, back-up dates?
RB: Not only is that plausible but that’s part of their eh, of their routine. In other words, we saw this routinely through the later debriefings of men and women who have committed espionage. For example, John Walker – was a classic. He spied against the Navy for 17 years. And that’s what he would do. He would meet his his handlers in a third country.
A very popular one was Austria. They would meet in Austria. But they could also meet in Thailand, they also could meet in New Deli. And if they’re told for example if he’s not there, or if the individual doesn’t show up. Wait a week. And go back, or wait another week and go back. If they don’t show up. Go home and wait for further contact.
So this type of contact is not at all unusual. And its done its done for often for security purposes. I’m speculating here again, but I suspect that the Soviets would not want to meet Treholt in Norway because the Norwegians have a, from what I understand, a very effective security service.
They’re going to want to go to a place where the coverage is going to be lighter. Where coverage against the Soviets are going to be lighter. As I indicated earlier, we saw a lot of visits to places like Switzerland, Austria, India, where the Soviets got very little coverage.
So they felt comfortable operating there, so what you’re describing is perfectly plausible. And its right out of the KGB playbook
N: How it works with payments made by the KGB.
Lets start off by saying that if the person walked in to an embassy, lets say a person working for… a person with access to classified information here in the united states walks in in Mexico and… into the Soviet embassy or in Mexico, during my time now it’s the Russian embassy
N: Money – small amounts – small denominations?
and he said look I’m hard pressed for money, because I’m a gambler or my wife just divorced me and she’s taking everything or whatever it happens to be. Drugs or whatever, and he said I need 10,000. The Russians aren’t going to give him 10,000 dollars. What they’re going to do is they’re going to give him part of that.
And there are two reasons for that. Number one: They don’t want him suddenly to get well, financially. And then they never see him again, okay. The other is pretty much a spin off of the first thing. They want him to come back. And what they’ll say to him is well well give you 4,000 dollars lets say or 3,000 cause this material looks good. But we have to check it out back at the centre.
They want him to come back for that second contact. And they want to begin the they want to give him enough money that he keeps coming back to them, but not so much money that he says its not worth my risking going to jail. Does that make sense to you? In other words, they want to keep him… and the other factor here is security. They don’t want to give him so much money that he brings this money – you cant bring 10,000 dollars in cash into this, into the United States without filling out a form that goes to the treasury department. So its going to be under that.
And its going to be a number, an amount that eh an amount that he can plausibly explain away. So that’s… Money is, money is not tricky but money is fundamental in the philosophy behind KGB and GRU and SVR and GRU. Giving of money is to make sure that the rabbit will always come back to the carrot, so to speak.
N: World peace – where is the line?
RB: I… When I hear questions like that… I reflect back on a comment once made by Supreme Court US supreme court justice Byron White and I think he summed up your question perfectly, but he was talking about pornography. And of course he’s a Supreme Court Justice and these are LER these our delicate issues and but he was the one who said with regard to pornography, and it applies perfectly to your question. He says I he says: I cant define pornography, but I know it when I see it, and eh… that applies to exactly what your talking about.
Diplomats have access to classified information all the time, and they sit down and they have to deal with other diplomats of other countries, but they know where that line is. Occasionally something will slip, and it can be problematic, but most.. practically all experienced, seasoned diplomats know what they can share with another diplomat and what they cannot share.
And this is what the KGB and the GRU and the Chinese and their current counterparts are looking for they’re looking for somebody who’s going to cross that line. And I find it disingenuous when I hear somebody say that: well I’m doing this in the interests of world peace. And yet they’re still getting paid for it. And that… John Walker who was one of the most horrendous spies in the history of the 20th Century, certainly in the history of the Cold War,
that was his argument, that he was doing this in the interests of maintaining the nuclear balance, so to speak. To alert the Soviets that the United States was not going to go to war and I have a lot of difficulty with that argument.
N: Why was no attempt made to play Treholt back against the Soviets.
RB: Yeah. There are… This is.. This can be, this can be a complicated answer, but first of all there are enormous political risks. Because the Americans are investigating an important foreign office official of a NATO partner. And the implications of this going bad would be very very difficult for NATO, I wonder if NATO officials were actually briefed at any point about Treholts treachery.
And also Norway is a very important partner for the United States, and then there are operational risks as well. The investigations that the FBI conducted were what we call passive investigations because in no way did we want to trip him or alert him, probably a better way, alert him to the fact that he was under eh, he was under surveillance or that he was being watched. And his activities were being watched here in the United States.
So we were using FISA – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we we were using all sorts of other techniques in keeping him under in err under investigation and also trying to turn him into a double agent in other words turn him back against the KGB would have been far, far too too risky, in fact I think it would have been disastrous, because he to my knowledge he made no signs of ever changing his political attitude.
There were no hints that he had had a an epiphany and suddenly he was, he regretted what he did and began to and began to show remorse for what he did, and the other factor is that it was not just one agency that could make this call. You had the FBI you had the CIA in the United States you had the British Intelligence Service. You had the British Government and the US Government, right up to the White House.
You had the Norwegian Foreign Office and the Norwegian Government involved, so all three and all these groups would have had to agree that this was a wise idea to have someone approach him, and try to flip him. And then you’ve got to think down the road. Think about the consequences of such an act. If.. And I say its too risky cause if he says no, and he says I have no interest in this, the very first
report he’s going to make is to the KGB, and then wants going to happen next is the KGB is going to launch an internal mole hunt, to try and determine how Treholts name got into the hands of the FBI and the Norwegian, and it would conceivably blow back to Oleg Gordievsky, who was the main focus of our efforts at this time, we had to protect him, the British had to protect him,
because he was an ongoing stream, a constant stream of the highest level intelligence that we were probably receiving on the internal workings of the KGB.
he was a deputy resident. He was tagged to be the resident in Great Britain, so he was a very very important character. So those are some of the reasons why it was just not worth the effort to try and take such a a a potentially disastrous risk, to try and approach him and turn him back.
N: Why he wasn’t stopped earlier.
RB: That question really is not one that the FBI and the United States Government has to make. Although they would probably have a role, because if Treholt has NATO secrets, and some of those NATO secrets are US secrets then we would have equities there. But the decision to stop him really I think rests with Norwegian authorities, and that question I think is better addressed to Norwegian authorities.
There is there is a calculus here, Nick, On the one hand, what access does he have to NATO documents, what access does he have to Norwegian sensitive Norwegian documents where the Brits, NATO, the United States would have equities. And then on the flip side of it, what kind of information are we getting from Gordievsky? Gordievsky information I have to believe based on my readings, and my understandings, and the very brief conversation I had with Gordievsky myself,
was that he was the goose that was laying the golden eggs. He was in play at – right at the height of the cold war, and he had a line right into the top levels of the KGB, don’t forget it was Gordievsky who warned us in 83 that the Russians thought we were going to a 3rd World War, based on our NATO exercises in Europe and around the European continent the Russians thought that this was a mask for war.
And it was Gordievsky who gave us the warning and enabled us to go back to the Russians and say this is just a, an exercise. And we actually scaled down our exercise in order to assuage Russian fears. So he was very very important, and that probably is what played into, or was a major factor in why they allowed this case to go so long.
N: Any info about the Iraq, middle east angle?
RB: I don’t, I’m sorry I cant help you with that.
RB: Well I think I think with regard the United States, the period you asked that did this resonate, did this case resonate in 84 when he was arrested. We were going through a very tumultuous period in the late 70s oh lets say from 1976 really up until 1986.
and it began with the Carter administration. President Carter gets very little credit and he should because he did a lot for the international security and counterintelligence during his one term.
We aggressively went after the eh KGB, the GRU, in New York for example, the Arcady Shevchenko, who was I think the undersecretary of the UN, he was recruited by the FBI and the CIA, and provided valuable intelligence. We had, we were beginning to go after the Russians big time, at that time. We had a case called Lemon Aid, and in that case we walked a soviet – we walked, excuse me a US Naval Officer onto a Soviet Cruise ship.
And he agreed… he offered to provide (?) secrets to the Soviet Union about SOSAS (?) buoys in the North Atlantic. Which had a very important role in our monitoring Soviet submarines. And he was doing this under the direction of the FBI, and the Navy. And they picked up on it, well I wont go through the whole story, but the decision was made in 1978, I believe, to arrest
There were 3 KGB officers and 2 of them were at the UN secretariat. And the decision was made to arrest these 2 guys. One was Valdik Enger the other was Rudolf Chernyayev. The Russians when we arrested them went crazy. Claiming they had diplomatic immunity.
The Department of Justice… his name was Bell, Griffin Bell, He was the Attorney General, at the time, he looked at this and he said these individuals don’t have the same diplomatic immunity that they did have when they were working for the Soviet UN mission. So they were arrested and they went to jail. They spent time in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. So it was a shot across the Russians bow, telling them to slow down.
and to be more mindful. And that, during Carters presidency that’s when we pass FISA, in October of 1978, the foreign intelligence Surveillance Act was passed, in October of 1979, the classified information procedures act was passed, and we were beginning to go up against a lot of espionage agents and we were beginning to arrest them.
And another factor, and Ill kind of close with this. And we can talk about Reagan if you wish. Reagan.. Reagan picked up on Carter and really built up National Security and American Counterintelligence. And had a lot benefit for the FBI. But also in the wake of Watergate, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence were created. Which gave the executive branch a gateway into appealing to congress for remedial legislation that would help us –
so this was very very busy time, and I think that probably contributes some to why the Treholt case didn’t really rise to high on the radar screen, because we had so many cases popping during that particular period of time.
N: Gordievsky putting Treholt in the top 10 Soviet spies
RB: He put Treholt in the top 10 of ever or during the cold war?!
He might make the top 10, but I think that there are agents, and again I don’t know – its not fair, to you. Cause I don’t know what information he gave up. So that’s really unfair of me to say. Probably re-frame my answer. Id really have to look at what he gave up. And try to, because
The sad part about this there are never any really white papers that come out. For example, number one definitely be or near the top five would be John Walker, another one would be Ronald William Pelten at NSA, another one would be Donald Maclean, another one would be one I’m working on right now William Wiesband. I’m trying to think in Great Britain,
the other one would be Kim Philby, for example, and I think given time we could go right down the list, of soviet you could – Harry Dexter White. Alger Hiss. Now I’ve given you about seven. And I think with a little bit more time I could come up with others, who were… George Kolval, for example was one of them.
who was a very… who was inside the Manhattan project. So if he did make the cut, he would probably be down around 8, 9 or 10.