Defections of intelligence agents from the Soviet Union and other Soviet-bloc countries to the United States have increased significantly over the past few years, a senior US official said.
Theodore Gardner, head of the FBI's office here, said that in the past five years 50 people, including highly trained agent of the KGB, and spy agencies of other Communist countries have defected to the US.
He declined to say just how many defections has taken place before 1976 but said the increase was due to the increasing number of foreign visitors to the US within the past five years.
The FBI has a specially trained squad to deal with defectors and potential defectors. FBI agents help defectors relocate by providing them with new lives and identities to protect them against retaliation.
While defections have increased, the Soviet Union and other Communist countries have stepped up their efforts to infiltrate US intelligence agencies, Mr. Gardner said. Over 20 hostile foreign intelligence agencies with a total of about 300 agents operate in Washington alone.