KGB’s most dangerous officer unveils secrets of Soviet intelligence
Western counterintelligence agencies attempted to re-recruit Soviet agents; several traitors defected to the West, and some Soviet diplomats committed adultery in “the ways that defy imagination,” according to Viktor Budanov, a former chief of the KGB’s Directorate K. The Directorate K, one of several sub-directorates within the First Chief Directorate (external intelligence) of the KGB, was disbanded following the August 1991 events. The Soviet-era defector Oleg Gordievsky described Budanov as the KGB’s grimmest and most dangerous person. Viktor Budanov speaks with Pravda.ru correspondent Ilya Tarasov:
Q: Mr. Budanov, what kind of operations your highly secret division of the KGB was involved in? Why do you think a number of former Chekists refer to it as SMERSH (a Russian acronym for Smert’ Shpionam or “Death to Spies,” a specialized counterintelligence department of the Soviet military intelligence during WWII) operating within the KGB?
A: The Directorate K was responsible for internal security to support the KGB intelligence operations in foreign countries. I was in charge of that service for quite a long time. Those in other KGB departments involved in gathering of political intelligence and personnel of various Soviet organizations working abroad often painted our directorate as something horrible. I do know that a number of awe-inspiring epithets including ‘SMERSH’ were used for describing the Directorate K.
As a man who started on the lowest rung of the ladder to reach its highest one, I am confident that a division responsible for internal security of an external intelligence agency is absolutely essential for conducting all intelligence operations. Incidentally, a similar division exists within the United States’ CIA.
Keeping our own agents under surveillance was not the main task of our directorate. No doubt about it, we kept watch on some of them who had started causing damage to our country by cooperating with the intelligence agencies of target countries. I would like to stress the point that we kept the suspects under surveillance only in case we had irrefutable evidence of their double-dealing. Obtaining reliable information with regard to security of all foreign intelligence operations carried out by the KGB was the main task assigned to the directorate. We were also responsible for maintaining security at the Soviet organizations operating abroad.
Penetrating foreign intelligence and security agencies by recruiting their members was part of our core activities. Penetrations were necessary for double-checking information gathered by our agents. The operations were also a must for checking our own intelligence personnel or controllers, who worked with every important human sources of information.
Q: Did your personnel even plant bugs in agents’ apartments or install cut-out dead drops or radio contact devices in a fashion described in TASS is Authorized to State, a novel by Y. Semionov?
A: Maintaining communication between an agent and his controllers is the weakest link when it comes to security of any intelligence operation. The so-called anonymous or cut-out means f communication have been used by intelligence agencies all over the world. Advanced cut-out communications are still actively used for espionage purposes by the intelligence agencies of major Western countries e.g. United States, which have carried out and continue to carry out intelligence-gathering operations against our country.
In fact, cut-out communications yield the best results because they allow an intelligence agency to use its human source within a target country for a longer period.
However, it does not mean that a human source is completely incapable of being compromised. The KGB used a variety of methods aimed at detecting double agents with whom enemy intelligence agencies maintained contact via cut-out communications. On the other hand, there was no way we could wiretap the phones of every officer of the First Chief Directorate or the phones used by personnel of the Soviet Foreign Ministry. We would not able to do the job because the First Chief Directorate had no equipment to support such operations. Besides, we always strictly followed the letter of the law, at least during my time with counterintelligence and intelligence divisions of the KGB of the Soviet Union. I never had to launch an operation that could have broken the law effective in the territory of the Soviet Union.
Q: There was a security officer in every Soviet embassy. Is it true that such an officer had unlimited powers for keeping an eye on any event that took place on the embassy premises?
A: Soviet embassies and other establishments abroad have always had to use services provided by security officers. Nowadays the Russian diplomats rely on their services too. Not only Russia has security officers in its foreign establishments. It is a standard practice used by a number of Western countries. For instance, the FBI officers or security service personnel of the Department of States are assigned to U.S. embassies and other establishments located in foreign countries.
I happen to personally know an officer in charge of security of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Compared to the Soviet press during perestroika, neither America’s right-wing media nor its left-wing media is raising a hue a cry against U.S. security agencies, which allegedly keep control not over the American people but the U.S. government as well.