He's either as smart as the devil himself or the luckiest bastard alive.
February 21, 2018 3:32 PM   Subscribe

In 1985, KGB Colonel Vitaly Yurchenko defected to America. He told agents he had terminal stomach cancer and had decided to make the world right in the time he had left. Yurchenko told KGB secrets to the CIA and NSA, including important details about 55 to 60 KGB assets in America and two Soviet moles (Edward Lee Howard and Ronald Pelton) inside US intelligence. But three months in, he learned he didn't have terminal stomach cancer -- just a minor bowel disorder. So Vitaly Yurchenko changed his mind and escaped back to the Soviet Embassy. He told the media that the CIA had drugged and kidnapped him. “The agency had either been completely taken in by a brilliant Soviet intelligence officer, or allowed one of its top Soviet defectors to slip out of its hands.” (Via)

In an essay, "The Spy Who Came Back From The Dead" published in Life Magazine in 1986, investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein offered a different take on what had happened. He believed that the CIA voluntarily let Yurchenko go, and allowed him to escape back to the Soviets. But they were never able to confirm if he was a double agent.
posted by zarq (12 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
What a wild story. My life is boring in comparison.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:51 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Poster's Note:

This is actually the second Metafilter post I've made about a Soviet defector who changed their mind. The first was about Josef Stalin's "Little Sparrow," his only daughter, (born Svetlana Stalina) who upon moving to the US changed her name to Lana Peters. Mrs. Peters not only defected to the US and then returned to the Soviet Union, she re-defected(!) back again in 1986.

Mentioning it because someone reading this post might be as fascinated by the idea of defectors returning to their home countries as I am and want further reading material.
posted by zarq at 4:16 PM on February 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests in that I am reading nothing but John le Carré books right now.
posted by NoMich at 4:27 PM on February 21, 2018 [10 favorites]


The first was about Josef Stalin's "Little Sparrow," his only daughter, (born Svetlana Stalina)...

Hah. The penny just dropped for me on Adil Hoxha's code name (Sparrow) in that Simpsons episode.

Also, I went to university with a guy who was actually named - by his Stalinist parents - for Enver Hoxha. That's a whole 'nother story.

Both posts are great - thanks. I have some reading to do!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:44 PM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


There was a powerful little depth charge down near the bottom of that Washingtonian article:
By the time Rochford and his colleagues learned the truth about Yurchenko, the battle of wits between the American agencies and the KGB appeared to be over. When Robert Mueller took over as FBI director in 2001, he continued a downsizing of the counterintelligence department that his predecessors had started. “I was in the meeting when he told us: Stop wasting your time on something like the Russian intelligence,” recalls David Major, at the time an FBI counterintelligence leader and a former National Security Council staffer under Reagan. Major argued that it was only a matter of time before the lack of attention was “going to bite us on the ass. And it has, hasn’t it?”
Wondered, like me, why Robert Mueller was chosen to lead the investigation of the Trump/Russia connection?

Simple, the capstone of his career at the FBI was declaring, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, that the FBI should 'stop wasting your time with something like the Russian intelligence', and that's exactly what the people who picked him expect him to do again.

And he probably will.
posted by jamjam at 5:01 PM on February 21, 2018 [10 favorites]


The Cold War in the 80's and 90's is like one long comedy sketch with skits, twits, and the future of allocating natural resources.
For example, my hometown hero:
mister boone.

Like a drive-through secret shop. The embassy staff asks for your I.D., you get tea and 1500 large with 3 contact points and 3 different times.
Yuri Andropov is the key and not.
Nice find Zarq
posted by clavdivs at 5:55 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


That sounds like it could be the plot of a Coen Brothers movie.
posted by davebush at 6:14 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


and that's exactly what the people who picked him expect him to do again.

You had me thinking till the conclusion but there is smoke there. After Haannsseenn, and some other Bureau misTAKES, 9/11 happened and restructdemantleagather happened as Presidents Humpty and Dumpty shoulda put back together, again.
Thus: "The pieces soon began falling into place.
Structurally, the entire counterterrorism operation was reorganized and expanded, with FBI Headquarters taking on oversight of terrorism cases nationwide to strengthen accountability and coordination with other agencies and governments. In September 2005, by presidential directive, this restructuring took another step forward with the creation of the National Security Branch, which consolidated FBI counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and intelligence responsibilities into a single “agency within an agency.”

I mean, you can taste that plaster and new furniture with packing peanuts to neutralize the air smell.
posted by clavdivs at 6:17 PM on February 21, 2018


zarq, maybe sometime you could do a post on Yuri Nosenko.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:42 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


That sounds like it could be the plot of a Coen Brothers movie.

Like the part in Burn After Reading where the FBI men shake their heads at an idiot who thinks they have some hot US secrets and goes to the Russian embassy to try to sell them.

"The Russians?"

Because what kind of idiot thinks the Russians are still a threat to our national security?
posted by straight at 10:13 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I could see how the CIA could lose a defector. Intelligence agencies aren't always intelligent. They are just large bureaucracies staffed by people.

I just read a book about Kim Philby, the British intelligence officer who spied for the Soviet Union for 25 years. Not only did the Brits fail to uncover him for a long time, when they finally did, he was able to board a ship bound for the Soviet Union... several days after he had confessed his guilt.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:15 PM on February 21, 2018


Simple, the capstone of his career at the FBI was declaring, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, that the FBI should 'stop wasting your time with something like the Russian intelligence', and that's exactly what the people who picked him expect him to do again.

And he probably will.



Are you saying Mueller is some kind of Russian asset ?
posted by Pendragon at 12:34 AM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


« Older Remember the 1998s?   |   Dismantling of a dam and restoring an ecosystem Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments