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How The Stories Of These Soviet Cold War Defectors Reveal The Intelligence Abyss Part 2

Within the murky depths of the historical intelligence abyss lies a nearly ceaseless array of unanswered questions and varying accusations, some affirm or deny the credibility of several figures related to unresolved historical mysteries. The first article in this series began a descent into reviewing the valuable but often inconsistent nature of multiple defectors that dealt with intelligence groups. From Pyotr Popov, a reliable double agent that was later exposed and executed, to Peter Deriabin a source of valuable intelligence, who later offered less reliable claims regarding significant world events based on mere postulations, are just two varying historic tales.

Defectors can each offer vital intelligence, but they simultaneously might also render consequential negative effects for those dealing with them. The question is how much weight the claims of a defector should be given, at what point could they be wrong, and even if they are false defectors or moles intent on misinforming the very people they claim to aid. Defectors and moles can both appear nearly the same in the vastness of historical intelligence and in rare cases are precisely that.

Russian espionage agent Reino Hayhanen defected in the late spring of 1957 from the KGB intelligence service by contacting the US Embassy in Paris. He was born the son of peasants located near Leningrad amidst 1920, but overcame this humble background to receive schooling akin to a teaching certificate. By 1939, Hayhanen was a primary school teacher, but soon attracted the notice of his country’s secret police the NKVD and was employed by them. His prior study of Finnish made him useful in the middle of a war between the Soviet Union and Finland.

Hayhanen was assigned to interrogate prisoners, process documents, and served as the local NKVD translator. Following the military conflict, he was utilized for developing informants, checking the loyalty of Soviet workers in Finland, and identifying anti-Soviet elements within Finnish society. Hayhanen was deemed an expert regarding Finnish intelligence and joined the NKGB Soviet intelligence group. During 1948, he was reassigned to the newly established KGB and trained in photography, decoding secret transmissions, and studied English.[i]

The next year Hayhanen continued his KGB training and had severed ties with his family to aid establishing the new assigned identity of “American” laborer Eugene Maki. The Maki identity had been stolen from a family of former US citizens that prior left America for Russia and were unable to subsequently escape the Soviet Union. Reino would spend years under his alias establishing a cover in Finland to undertake future espionage missions in the course of the early 1950’s.

By 1952, Hayhanen was newly married using his alias and had convinced American officials in Helsinki to provide him a passport for his eventual travel westward. After five years of undertaking clandestine operations for the KGB in Europe and the United States, he was ordered back to Moscow. Time spent in wealthier more liberal countries paired with his growing disillusionment of Soviet officials and policies drove him to defect. According to official files, a little known conflict began when this defector was repeatedly passed between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Hayhanen made contact with US embassy officials in France and this alerted the CIA officers within the same building that were part of its Paris Station by 1957. Agency Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton contacted FBI Domestic Intelligence Chief Alan Belmont in May regarding Hayhanen and was informed the FBI would not accept his defection unless his claims were substantiated. The CIA noted days later, “Hayhanen had suffered almost a complete mental breakdown and that in view of his condition, arrangements were made for him to be returned to the US. by plane.” The Agency would give Hayhanen to FBI agents in New York and, because of his “emotional state,” they imprisoned him at the “U.S. Marine Hospital in Staten Island” for a handful of days.

The Bureau then released Hayhanen and returned the defector with his wife to their New York home while providing some compensation for cooperation for just over a month. Yet, “after a short handling period in the US the Bureau dropped Hayhanen, an alcoholic, because he became a problem and CIA took the responsibility of safeguarding him, giving the Bureau free access to him and time to develop leads…” During the next year, Hayhanen would expose several methods of Soviet clandestine practices that included a hollow nickel, which provided the ability to easily pass secret information and provided US officials with the identity of his Russian intelligence handler “Mark”.

Following Mark’s apprehension and interrogation, he admitted to being KGB operative William August Fisher aka Rudolph Ivanovich Abel, whose dwelling provided US intelligence groups a wealth of spy equipment and technological gadgetry used by the Russians. Abel would be convicted by a jury and his sentence was appealed but upheld by the US Supreme Court during 1960.[ii] The FBI’s liaison to the CIA, Sam Papich, years later reported to J. Edgar Hoover that Agency officials were not pleased most of the credit for Hayhanen’s defection and testimony was given to the Bureau.

The valuable information revealed by Reino Hayhanen, and confession of Rudolph Abel, would additionally destroy a prior functional spy ring and years later Abel was traded for captured U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. Nevertheless, Hayhanen like most defectors was a man with some credibility issues, similar to the drinking issues and mental troubles of Vladimir Petrov, and was handled by competing official groups.[iii] By 1961, Reino Hayhanen would die in a car wreck on the Pennsylvania turnpike and some would claim it was KGB revenge for his betrayal. Nevertheless, his demise would remove another valuable but troublesome agent from the use of American intelligence groups. 

With the arrival of the 1960’s multiple additional defectors would approach the Central Intelligence Agency seeking to relocate westward beyond the reach of Soviet power. Polish intelligence officer Michael Goleniewski of the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa (SB) defected from his country’s intelligence service, during 1961, and proved to be of significant use to Western officials due to his prior simultaneous operational service for the Soviet KGB. He was born in Poland’s northeastern city Nieswiez, amidst 1922, and graduated high school just before WWII in 1939. Goleniewski attempted to hide a period of collaboration with later occupying German forces and subsequently joined the Polish Workers party to improve his reputation. He was able to gain positions in the Communist government and these jobs led to the Polish intelligence service recruiting Goleniewski. Among his varying posts was regional counterintelligence chief, deputy head of scientific and intelligence branch, and this established his contact with the KGB, and later the CIA by 1958. [iv]

Micheal was among the few intelligence agents that had convinced both his own country’s officials and Soviet officials that he was loyal to each, but eventually betrayed them to a third government. Among the information he reportedly offered the CIA was the identity of hundreds of Soviet agents in Western countries and double agents that included a significant British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS aka MI6) traitor George Blake who some have blamed for the death of defector Pytor Popov. Goleniewski, like prior defector Peter Deriabin, would be among the earliest sources to report the Soviet use of “dezinformatsiya” (disinformation) campaigns that had been undertaken by the KGB since at least the 1950’s. Dezinformatsiya was “the deliberate and purposeful dissemination of false information regarding accomplished facts and/or intentions, plans of action, etc., for the purpose of misleading the enemy.” “While Goleniewski was not the first source to refer to dezinformatsiya, he was the first to bring it to CIA consciousness as a technique to be reckoned with in our analysis of the USSR’s foreign policy.”[v] Micheal further offered that in the event of a KGB defection Soviet officials might use the same technique in attempts to discredit accurate intelligence sources.

Agency fixture Tennant Harrington Bagley served in different periods as Foreign Intelligence Operations Section officer, was a subsequent lieutenant of James Angleton’s Counterintelligence Special Investigations Staff (CISIG), and eventually became the Deputy Chief of the CIA’s Soviet Division.[vi] He was among those charged with prior handling multiple important defectors that included Pytor Popov, who was discovered and executed, and Micheal Goleniewski who later became unreliable. Bagley further dealt with additional later contentious defectors that triggered a wide ranging investigation targeting dozens of Agency officers based upon less than proven claims. He, similar to Angleton, was eventually convinced that a mole likely existed within the ranks of the CIA and other Western intelligence groups. Yet the compromising of Popov and eventual unraveling of Goleniewski’s credibility that occurred following his involvement caused Tennant Bagley himself to fall under later suspicion.     

Goleniewski was eventually sidelined and some have claimed the CIA began to deprive him of prior agreements for citizenship and other benefits when he was deemed unimportant by another later Soviet defector. Unfortunately, like other notable defectors Goleniewski began to make impossible demands and claimed that he was the heir to Russia’s imperial throne. Micheal, additionally, began a letter writing campaign to CIA leaders and even published his royal claims in paid newspaper advertisements. Seeking to preserve his past successful usage as a source of information, the Agency would do its best to conceal him from US officials that desired further interviews. Goleniewski proved to be an intelligence boon, and later public embarrassment, which reveals the dual nature of handling defectors. If a defector’s useful intelligence was allowed to influence their handling too greatly and unreliable claims were left unchecked, it might permit success to be compromised by fanciful claims which destroyed any later credible use.

In November, in the same year that Goleniewski was utilized by the US officials, another KGB defector would emerge, the assassin Bogdan Nikolaevich Stashinsky. He was born during 1931 in a village outside the city of Lviv in the west of Ukraine to impoverished parents. During his late teens, Stashinsky would undertake studies in Lviv to become a math teacher and in his travels between home and school he was detained by local police for riding without a ticket. Reportedly, Bogdan was let off with merely a questioning but would later be summoned again by Russian authorities and was “blackmailed into becoming an informer” via threats toward his family.[vii] Stashinsky would soon become active in operations for the Soviet MVD intelligence group by using his sibling to lure out underground Ukrainian nationalist leaders opposing Russia’s government. This effectively caused a rift with his family and left Bogdan to a life of posing as a translator in East Berlin while serving in multiple intelligence groups and ultimately he was a KGB agent in Thirteenth Department.[viii] During the 1950’s at least two Ukrainian nationalist leaders were assassinated by Stashinsky, using specialized handheld weapons that sprayed a highly poisonous mist.

As his career developed, Stashinsky would become romantically involved and marry Inge Pohl to whom he later confessed his crimes and she reportedly convinced him to surrender himself to Western officials. The couple had a child that died the same year that Stashinsky would chose to defect and it was the funeral that provided the couple a chance to flee. Unfortunately, Stashinsky was rebuffed by the CIA due to his varying identification papers stolen from the KGB, claims of assassination, without evidence, he offered during interrogation, and the unique manner of weapons used. After being given to West German officials Bogdan was interrogated and imprisoned while his wife had been left alone, but free. Unlike US officials, after repeated interviews, German authorities investigated his claims at multiple crime scenes and eventually concluded he was reliable.

Bogdan was put on trial in West Germany during nineteen 1962 and found guilty, but sentenced to less than a decade of prison. The light sentence and Stashinsky’s ability to vanish, following release from prison, a mere four years later were feasibly due to useful intelligence material that was shared more completely with German officials.[ix] Yet, by then, his former wife had filed to divorce him and he was left without a homeland, spouse, or family. According to one historical intelligence scholar, the CIA was responsible for reengaging with Stashinsky once his bonafides were established by German authorities and resettled him to South Africa.[x] He was later found living in that nation based on local police reports which state he was granted asylum in a nation largely beyond the diplomatic reach of the Soviet Union. A related media article states, “He is probably still living there, always looking over his shoulder, aware that the old habits of KGB die hard, if at all.” Yet, Stashinsky was just the beginning of defectors that had trouble establishing themselves, and, eventually, nearly every later defector was highly suspect due to emerging factions within the Central Intelligence Agency.

A single defector would later claim all others following them were false agents in a seemingly unlikely grand Soviet plot of dezinformatsiya to confound Western intelligence. Agency Chief of Counterintelligence James Angleton for years would be this person’s main champion, because the Soviet defector’s claims reinforced his prior deep suspicions of moles in his midst. Due to these eventual claims, men would die, loyal officials would have their reputations destroyed or be labeled traitors, and James Angleton would lose nearly all the power and influence he spent decades constructing. These claims would confound and hamper Central Intelligence Agency operations, and the functionality of its Soviet Division, for more than a decade. The defector responsible for this huge shift in policy and the resulting fallout was named Golitsyn and his related claims would shake the foundations of Western intelligence.

[i]. Federal Bureau of Investigation, (n.d), Hollow Nickel/Rudolph Abel, Famous Cases and Criminals, fbi.gov

[ii]. Espionage: Pudgy Finger Points, October 28, 1957, Time Magazine, content.time.com

[iii]. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Partial of 124-10185-10098-8, Relationship with CIA The Abel Case, pp. 1-3 

[iv]. Tim Tate, January 1, 2022, He was the West’s Most Important Undercover Spy. An Affair Brought it All Down, Politico Magazine, politico.com

[v]. Central Intelligence Agency, (n.d.), Study: “The Monster Plot” aka the Hart Report, pp. 113-115

[vi]. CIA Consolidated Files, Tennant Harrington Bagley, Primary Evidence Collections, Central Intelligence Agency, tpaak.com

[vii]. Espionage: A Poor Devil, Friday October 26, 1962, Time Magazine, content.time.com

[viii]. CIA, February 17, 1964, Russ Holmes Work File, Soviet Use of Assassination and Kidnapping, pp. 8-9, The Mary Ferrell Foundation, maryferrell.org

[ix]. Serhii Plokhy, January 5, 2017, How a KGB Assassin Used the Death of His Child to Defect, Politico Magazine, politico.com

[x]. Nigel West, 2006, Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence, Bogdan Stashinsky, The Scarecrow Press, pp. 242-243