Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Boris Solomatin Interview

Page 3

Q: When did John Walker Jr. first walk into the Soviet Embassy? He claims that he can't remember and the FBI has never been certain. This date could be important.

A: I am surprised that he has forgotten. I didn't keep a diary, but this date I could never forget because of what followed. It was in October 1967.

KW-7 cipher machine (Archives)
KW-7 cipher machine (Archives)

Q: That is much earlier than anyone has ever reported. It means that he spied for the KGB from late 1967 until mid-1985, more than 17 years. That must be a record. It also means that he became a spy three months before the U.S.S. Pueblo, was seized off the coast of North Korea in January 1968. We know that the North Koreans captured an actual KW-7 cipher machine from that spy ship. At the time, the KW-7 was the most widely used code machine in the entire U.S. military. The Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, even the CIA used it to send messages. If Walker gave you the codes and the North Koreans gave you the actual machine, then you had everything you needed to read our military secrets. Did they give you that machine?

A: I don't make out of myself a man who knows everything in intelligence - as some former officers of the First Department who have written their books try to do. In intelligence and counter-intelligence only the man who is heading these services knows everything. I am saying this because all the questions concerning ciphers and cipher machines were under another department - in a directorate outside of mine, similar to your National Security Agency, which is quite separate from your CIA. But this much I will say. Whether or not the North Koreans gave us a working KW-7 machine is really of no importance. How can I say this? Because in your own book about John Walker, your Family of Spies, you say that he and his best friend, Jerry Whitworth, provided the KGB with the technical drawings that we needed to construct a working KW-7 machine and later other code machines. Walker has admitted to your FBI that he did this. Do you understand what this means, the significance of this compromise? For more than seventeen years, Walker enabled your enemies to read your most sensitive military secrets. We knew everything! There has never been a security breach of this magnitude and length in the history of espionage. Seventeen years we were able to read your cables!


PICTURE1 So I spit on all the rules and regulations and met with Walker face-to-face for two hours with only the two of us present. Of course during the first meeting I couldn't be totally sure that Walker was not a double agent but somehow I felt that he was not one. Let me explain a little bit of spycraft to you. To implant a double agent into a competing intelligence service is very difficult and expensive. Though there are many attempts at this, the success, to my opinion as a rule, is minimal.

During my career, I could have been or must have been a victim of several double agents cases - men who pretended to be spies. But after two or three of my people's meetings with them, I happily recognized them for what they were. The trick for a KGB agent to avoid being fooled is first of all to know enough about America to know what is secret and what is not secret. And that question often can be answered by asking this question: is the information being offered to me going to damage the country of the person giving it. For instance, in the case of John Walker, I knew that Norfolk was the East Coast main base for the U.S. naval fleet. I didn't know at the time much, but after meeting Walker I studied your Navy in detail. Also I did not and still do not know of a single instance when any intelligence service has used as a double agent a man with a sample of cryptography. Ciphers and code machines are too important, too sensitive for anyone to risk, even if they came up with a false example. Ciphers are too serious. The intelligence service cannot allow itself a game around such a serious matter.

There is something else to remember. Even if one service is feeding another service rubbish, a wise intelligence officer can learn much from that rubbish. Whether they send you true or false information - the fact that they send anything is a clue to how they think.

So when I saw the ciphers, which seemed to be real, I suspected that Walker was not a double agent.



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