The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

By Christopher Andrew; Vasili Mitrokhin | Go to book overview

TWELVE
THE MAIN ADVERSARY
Part 3: Illegals after "Abel"

In 1966 the lack of high-grade political intelligence from the United States led the KGB Collegium, a senior advisory body headed by the Chairman, to call for a major improvement in intelligence operations against the Main Adversary. The chief method by which it proposed to achieve this improvement, however, was one which had already been attempted unsuccessfully during the 1950s: the creation over the next few years of a network of illegal residencies which would take over the main burden of intelligence operations from the legal residencies in New York, Washington and San Francisco.1

Not until six years after the arrest of " Rudolf Abel" in 1957 did the KGB succeed in establishing another illegal residency on the territory of the Main Adversary. Though there were brief missions to or through the United States by a number of illegals, the first to have taken up residence who is recorded in the files noted by Mitrokhin was KONOV, a Muscovite of Greek origin born in 1912, who took the identity of Gerhard Max Kohler, a Sudeten German born in Reichenberg (now part of the Czech Republic) in 1917. KONOV was a war veteran and radio specialist who worked as head of a laboratory in Leningrad until his recruitment by the KGB in April 1955. He spent the next four years in East Germany, working as an engineer, establishing his German cover identity and studying both his next destination, West Germany, and his ultimate target, the United States. The KGB, which specialized in arranged marriages for its illegals, found him a German wife and assistant previously employed by the Stasi, codenamed EMMA, who took the identity of Erna Helga Maria Decker, born on September 2, 1928 near Breslau (now in Poland).2

In October 1959, posing as East German refugees, KONOV and EMMA crossed to the FRG, where KONOV found work as a radio engineer. In 1962 he began corresponding with American radio and electronics companies and obtained several job offers. After visiting the United States as a tourist, he accepted employment in a company which in 1963 enabled EMMA and himself to obtain immigrant visas. KONOV seems to have been the first post-war illegal sent to the United States to concentrate on scientific and technological intelligence (S&T). Specializing in electronic measuring devices, he took part in a number of international exhibitions and-- according to his file made several inventions. KONOV's S&T was so highly rated by the Centre that it won him two KGB awards. On June 20, 1970, after living for

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