Cold War KGB agent Judith Coplon dies in Manhattan
March 2, 2011 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Judith Coplon, an American Justice Department analyst who spied for the Soviet Union, and whose 1949 espionage trial became an international sensation, died last weekend in New York. When she was arrested by the FBI at age 27, Coplon worked as an analyst for the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Section, and was privy to counterintelligence reports issued daily by the Bureau. A few years prior to her March 1949 arrest, Coplon had begun an affair with Valentin A. Gubitchev, a married Soviet NKGB (forerunner of the KGB) officer stationed at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It is believed that Gubitchev recruited her and acted as her handler, meeting her regularly at various New York locations in order to obtain from her copies of Justice Department documents. In 1948, her role as an NKGB agent code-named ‘Sima’, was revealed through the National Security Agency’s VENONA project, which decoded wartime Soviet diplomatic cables that had been intercepted by US intelligence. But although she was convicted on espionage and conspiracy charges, her legal team later managed to overturn the convictions on a number of technicalities, and by challenging the FBI’s attempt to keep evidence in the case secret, on grounds of national security. During her trial, Coplon consistently maintained that she had never been a communist, and that her only crime was that she spoke Russian. But documents released from Soviet archives after the dissolution of the USSR confirmed her espionage activities. Following her release, Coplon married one of the lawyers in her defense team and assumed the name Socolov. She died on Saturday in Manhattan, at age 88.