The story of a suspected KGB mole who shook the FBI in the 1960s

Readers of this blog will know about the infamous case of James Jesus Angleton, who headed the counterintelligence department of the Central Intelligence Agency from the 1950s to the 1970s, and led the biggest mole hunt in the Agency’s history. David Wise, author of several intelligence-related books, including the best-selling Spy, about FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, writes in a new article that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was also shaken by a similar mole hunt, which never became public. In an article published in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine, Wise claims that the probe constituted “the first mole hunt in the history of the FBI” and that it was “one of the most sensitive investigations” in the history of the Bureau. Wise suggests that the mole hunt began in the spring of 1962, when Aleksei Kulak, a 39-year-old Soviet scientific consultant to the United Nations, who was in fact KGB operative, defected to the FBI. He was instructed by his American handlers to operate as an agent-in-place and supplied the FBI for a decade with secret information from the Soviet Union. The FBI gave him the codename FEDORA, also known in Bureau files as “Source 10”. In his article in The Smithsonian, which is based on interviews with no fewer than 30 current and former FBI agents, Wise describes FEDORA as “one of the most important sources the FBI had” at the time. Kulak and another KGB agent, Valentin Lysov, who defected to American intelligence in the mid-1960s, told the FBI that the Soviet Union kept a source inside the FBI, known as “Dick”. But neither defector knew whether Dick was the source’s real name, or whether it was simply a KGB operational codename. The FBI, says Wise, gave the alleged mole the code term UNSUB (“unknown subject”) Dick, and began a massive mole hunt. Wise quotes David Major, a 24-year veteran of the FBI’s counterintelligence office, who says that the UNSUB Dick investigation “shook the foundations of the Bureau” and “ripped it apart”. Another FBI source tells Wise that FBI agents who were not connected to UNSUB Dick were concerned that the exhaustive investigations would bring to light things like drinking problems or extramarital affairs, which could cost them their careers. The identity of the alleged mole was never discovered. Oleg Kalugin, a major general in the KGB during the Cold War, who later defected to the US, told Wise that UNSUB Dick really existed and that he was paid rather handsomely. However, many in the FBI became suspicious when, in 1976, Kulak returned to Moscow and declined a CIA offer to have him and his family exfiltrated to the US. He eventually died in 1982 of natural causes. Wise contacted the FBI for a comment on the story but he was told that the Bureau’s “assistant director for counterintelligence will not confirm or deny such a case”.

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