In 1980, Victor Lozenko, a KGB technical intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover, attended a conference in a room also used by the System Planning Corp., which did classified work for the Pentagon. Before leaving, Mr. Lozenko planted a listening device under the table. For the next 10 months, the signal from that bug was monitored by cars with diplomatic plates from nine nearby locations.
It provided the KGB with information about the deployment of American nuclear weapons in Europe, American chemical weapons, and a lot of other things. So pleased was the KGB with Lozenko's haul that it awarded him the Order of the Red Star.
The story is told in the revealing book "The Sword and the Shield," by British scholar Christopher Andrews, based on KGB files spirited out of Lubyanka headquarters over a period of 30 years by Vasili Mitrokhin, who defected in 1992.
If this account sounds familiar, it should. It is much like the story of Vladimir Gusev, caught earlier this month recording at several parking spots from a bug planted in a wall molding on the seventh floor of the State Department.
Russian espionage has long had a positive passion for eavesdropping, to which it has devoted more of its resources than it has given to human spying. Moscow old hands will remember the bug planted in the great seal of the United States behind the desk of Ambassador George Kennan in the early 1950s. In 1964, 40 bugs were pried out of the walls of the American Embassy in Moscow. In 1985, construction of a new embassy was halted because it was so riddled with bugs.
In 1969, Soviet eavesdroppers intercepted White House telephone conversations about candidates for positions in the Nixon administration. Communications from Andrews Air Force Base with the president's plane were also monitored.
For four years, starting in 1969, the KGB had a bug in a meeting room of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In 1974, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was overheard talking to his fiance, Nancy Maginnis, asking how he looked and sounded on television in a speech he had just delivered. When that was reported to Moscow, word came back that KGB chief Yuri Andropov "loved the intercepted conversation," concluding that it revealed Kissinger's vanity.
(For that you need spies?)
By 1982, Soviet SIGINT (signals intelligence) employed 350,000 intercept operators and other technicians worldwide, about five times as many as employed by American intelligence. As of 1992, when Mr. Mitrokhin defected, there had been no cutbacks.
Something tells me that however much the expelled Vladimir Gusev is missed by Russian intelligence, he will be, or has been, replaced.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society