Former Finnish diplomat reveals she worked for the CIA

Marja-Liisa Linkoaho


A Finnish diplomat in Cold-War East Germany has revealed how she was recruited by the US Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s, shortly after the construction of the Berlin Wall. Marja-Liisa Linkoaho spoke to the Sunday edition of Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, and admitted that she worked for American intelligence. She did so despite representing Finland, which was notably pro-Soviet during the presidency of ‘neutralist’ Finnish statesman Urho Kekkonen. She told the paper that, in 1961, at age 27, she became an assistant at the Finnish trade mission in East Germany, which at the time served as Finland’s de facto embassy in the communist country. The trade mission was headed by Consul General Olavi Wanne, and was centrally located on Mauerstrasse, within walking distance from the border between East and West Berlin. In August of 1961, less than three months after Linkoaho moved to East Germany, the country’s government, under Walter Ulbricht, took the decision to begin the construction of the Berlin Wall. However, as a foreign diplomat, Linkoaho was able to travel freely between East and West Germany despite the construction in Berlin of the heavily policed partition barrier. Several months later, Linkoaho borrowed a sum of money by one of her Finnish co-workers at the trade commission, which she used to purchase a German-made Volkswagen Beetle, from an American car dealership in West Berlin. However, shortly after she returned to East Berlin with her new car, it was stolen. Interestingly, Linkoaho said that, soon after the theft of her car, she was contacted by the CIA and asked to work for them as an agent, in return for money and a new car. The Finnish former diplomat told the Helsingin Sanomat that she had been contacted by the CIA “a few times before”, but had politely declined the Agency’s offers for work. This time, however, she needed the money, and the car, so she took up the offer.

She later learned that her task was to help smuggle CIA agents out of East Germany, using a 1959 Opel Rekord, which was provided to her by the Agency. The interior of the car contained a secret compartment, built by CIA technicians, which could be used to hide a single individual under the back seat. Linkoaho was also required to transport payments, in West German deutschmarks, to East Germans who had been recruited by the CIA. The former diplomat also told the paper that she was trained by her CIA handlers in counter-surveillance and basic disguise techniques, which she was expected to employ on a daily basis.

In May of 1963, the head of the Finnish trade office, Consul General Wanne, was replaced by Lennart Sumelius, who promptly terminated Linkoaho’s position and had her return to Finland. She said she never found out whether her job was abruptly terminated because her superiors in the Finnish diplomatic service discovered her CIA activities. In 2009, Linkoaho applied to the office of the German Federal Commission in charge of the Stasi archives for a copy of any Stasi documents filed under her name. Shortly afterwards, she received a copy of her file, coded Case XV/1559/03. It contained nearly 80 pages, 20 of which were reports produced by Stasi human intelligence operatives keeping tabs on the Finnish diplomat. The initial report filed under her name stated that she was “suspected of hostile activity and espionage”. The Stasi, it turns out, was right in suspecting her.

2 Responses to Former Finnish diplomat reveals she worked for the CIA

  1. Kidd says:

    living in west germany during the 60s , i found most people that were busted for spying, were doing it for money and not ideology

  2. Mike McGraw says:

    You mean spying for the East or for the West? Or both, perhaps?

We welcome informed comments and corrections. Comments attacking or deriding the author(s), instead of addressing the content of articles, will NOT be approved for publication.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: