The Braden Files
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Spy story

Five times from January 1977 to February 1978, a Russian man approached cars with U.S. diplomatic license plates in Moscow, begging to speak to an American.

By chance, the first car he encountered at a gas station belonged to the Moscow station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency. Fearing that the Russian was a KGB agent sent to entrap Americans, his request for a meeting was ignored.

But the persistent Russian kept coming back, once pounding on the station chief’s car. Each time, he revealed more about himself, indicating that he had information about Soviet weapon systems. Each time, he was turned away.

Finally, he made one last desperate effort to reach out to the Americans. If he was spurned this time, he wrote in an 11-page letter, he would give up. The CIA assigned a Russian-speaking officer named John Guilsher to make contact with the man, a senior engineer named Adolf G. Tolkachev.

After several telephone conversations, Tolkachev and Mr. Guilsher met in person on New Year’s Day 1979. Tolkachev passed along 91 pages of notes about his work with Soviet radar systems and aircraft. He also impressed Mr. Guilsher because he seemed to be one of the few sober Russians walking the streets of Moscow on the festive holiday.

Thus began one of the most remarkable episodes of espionage in the history of the Cold War.

“For almost a decade,” intelligence expert David Wise has written, “Tolkachev proved to be the CIA’s most valuable asset inside the Soviet Union, his existence a closely guarded secret.”

Full story here

SF Chronicle

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