In their own (code) words: 4

Welcome back to another edition of ‘in their own (code) words’ wherein we look at the words of the world’s spymasters. I’m looking at Allen Dulles’ rather stolid The Craft of Intelligence, written in 1963. Dulles (1893-1969) had a long and storied career in intelligence, including a role as the first civilian director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The topic this week is electronic audio surveillance and a general overview on taps and hidden microphones, and how they’re planted (as you’ll see, sometimes quite literally!).

A technical aid to espionage of another kind is the concealed microphone and transmitter which keeps up a flow of live information from inside a target or a nearby listening post; this is known to the public as “telephone tapping” or “bugging” or “miking.” “Audio surveillance,” as it is called in intelligence work, requires excellent miniaturized electronic equipment, clever methods of concealment and a human agent to penetrate the premises and do the concealing.

Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in early June of 1960 displayed before the United Nations in New York the Great Seal of the United States which had been hanging in the office of the American Ambassador in Moscow. In it the Soviets had concealed a tiny instrument which, when activated, transmitted to a Soviet listening post everything that was said in the Ambassador’s office. Actually, the installation of this device was no great feat for the Soviets since every foreign embassy in Moscow has to call on the services of local electricians, telephone men, plumbers, charwomen and the like. The Soviets have no difficulties in seeing to it that their own citizens cooperate with their intelligence service, or they may send intelligence officers, disguised as technicians, to do the job.

In early May, 1964, our State Department publicly disclosed that as a result of a thorough demolishing of the internal walls, ceilings and floors of “sensitive” rooms in our embassy in Moscow, forty concealed microphones were brought to light. Previous intensive electronic testing for such hidden devices had not located any of these microphones.

In Soviet Russa and in the major cities of the satellite countries certain hotel rooms are designated for foreign travelers because they have been previously bugged on a permanent basis. Microphones do not have to be installed in a rush when an “interesting” foreigner arrives on the scene. The microphones are already there, and it is only the foreigner who has to be installed. All the hotels are state-owned and have permanent police agents on their staffs whose responsibility is to see that the proper foreigners are put in the “right” rooms.

…Outside its own country an intelligence service must consider the possible repercussions and embarrassments that may result from the discovery that an official installation has been illegally entered and its equipment tampered with. As in all espionage operations, the trick is to find the man who can do the job and who has the talent and the motive, whether patriotic or pecuniary. There was one instance when the Soviets managed to place microphones in the flowerpots that decorated the offices of a Western embassy in a neutral country. The janitor of the building, who had a weakness for alcohol, was glad to comply for a little pocket money. He never knew who the people were who borrowed the pots from him every now and then or what they did with them.

This post first appeared on the Mister 8 website (11th December 2009)

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