19 July 2011

Anniversary: The Farewell Dossier

30 years ago today, French President François Mitterrand made the Farewell Dossier known to President Reagan. Wikipedia's summary is pretty basic and factual:

The Farewell Dossier was the collection of documents which Colonel Vladimir Vetrov, a KGB defector (code-named "Farewell") gathered and gave to the French DST in 1981–82, during the Cold War.

An engineer, Vetrov had been assigned to evaluate information on Western hardware and software gathered by spies ("Line X") for Directorate T, the directorate for scientific and technical intelligence collection from the West. He became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist system and decided to work with the French at the end of 1980. Between the spring of 1981 and early 1982, Vetrov gave almost 4,000 secret documents to the DST, including the complete list of 250 Line X officers stationed under legal cover in embassies around the world.

Western nations undertook a mass expulsion of Soviet technology spies. The CIA also mounted a counter-intelligence operation that transferred modified hardware and software designs to the Soviets. Thomas Reed alleged this was the cause of a spectacular trans-Siberian pipeline disaster in 1982.

Vetrov's story inspired Bonjour Farewell: La vérité sur la taupe française du KGB (1997) by Serguei Kostine. It was adapted loosely for the French film L'affaire Farewell (2009) starring Emir Kusturica and Guillaume Canet.

The more extended article in the Central Intelligence Agency archives gives a much deeper history, as well as some of the deeper operations.

As was later reported in Aviation Week and Space Technology, CIA and the Defense Department, in partnership with the FBI, set up a program to do just what we had discussed: modified products were devised and "made available" to Line X collection channels. The CIA project leader and his associates studied the Farewell material, examined export license applications and other intelligence, and contrived to introduce altered products into KGB collection. American industry helped in the preparation of items to be "marketed" to Line X. Contrived computer chips found their way into Soviet military equipment, flawed turbines were installed on a gas pipeline, and defective plans disrupted the output of chemical plants and a tractor factory. The Pentagon introduced misleading information pertinent to stealth aircraft, space defense, and tactical aircraft.(4) The Soviet Space Shuttle was a rejected NASA design.(5) When Casey told President Reagan of the undertaking, the latter was enthusiastic. In time, the project proved to be a model of interagency cooperation, with the FBI handling domestic requirements and CIA responsible for overseas operations. The program had great success, and it was never detected.

In a further use of the Farewell product, Casey sent the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence to Europe to tell NATO governments and intelligence services of the Line X threat. These meetings led to the expulsion or compromise of about 200 Soviet intelligence officers and their sources, causing the collapse of Line X operations in Europe. Although some military intelligence officers avoided compromise, the heart of Soviet technology collection crumbled and would not recover. This mortal blow came just at the beginning of Reagan's defense buildup, his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and the introduction of stealth aircraft into US forces.

Or, as William Safire reported in the New York Times...

Weiss said: ''Why not help the Soviets with their shopping? Now that we know what they want, we can help them get it.'' The catch: computer chips would be designed to pass Soviet quality tests and then to fail in operation.

By: Brant

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