Thursday, July 21, 2011

From State Legislatve Aide to Defector to KGB: Not the Usual Career Path

Edward Lee Howard. Safe House: The Compelling Memoirs of the Only CIA Spy to Seek Asylum in Russia. Bethesda, Md.: Enigma Book: National Press Books, 1995.

The author, Edward Lee Howard, was a CIA agent who contends a Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) agent led the CIA to believe he was spying for the KBG. The FBL assigned 60 agents to investigate Howard. Howard contents the KGB created misdirection to bring focus on him so that another CIA agent Aldrich Ames could provide the KGB information undetected. Ames did this for eight years before he was caught.

Howard defected to the Soviet Union. He claims he did this because he did not believe he could receive a fair trial in the U.S. The author continued living in Russia under KGB protection.

The CIA attempted to stop this autobiography from being published. The ACLU negotiated approval of publication with the Justice Department.

Howard was about to work in the American embassy in Moscow when he failed a polygraph test in 1983 and was fired from the CIA. The CIA contends Howard gave names of CIA agents to the Soviet Union who then killed some CIA agents. The Soviet Union gave Howard political asylum.

Howard worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development when he received a cryptic request for a job interview from a place with no return address. It turned out to be from the CIA. He was questioned, given medical, psychological, polygraph, attitudinal, and language tests. Howard believes the CIA sought honest people who thought “the ends justify the means”.

The first year of CIA employment involved career training and rotations to different offices. Howard learned that while he was instructed that military actions in foreign countries require Congressional approval, the CIA had more leeway with approval from the President. He also realized most CIA employees were analysts, technicians, secretaries, and file clerks. Howard was a covert employee. He was taught Russian and assigned to Moscow.

Howard took a CIA lie detector test. He states he was then asked to resign yet was never told why he should do so. He notes lie detectors are not accurate. After leaving, the CIA made several requests for Howard to take a physical exam, which he refused. In his anger, he called the CIA Chief of Station in Moscow and left a message declining the physical exam. He called on an unsecured line which he knew was monitored by the KGB. This let the KGB know, since only CIA agents were required to take physical exams, that Howard had been a CIA agent and now what his cover had been, a State Department employee.

Howard found a job with the New Mexico state legislature. He worked as an Economic Analyst for the Legislative Finance Committee. He began drinking heavily with legislators and fellow employees. He got into a fight while intoxicated and discharged his gun into a vehicle. He pled guilty to aggravated assault and received probation.

KGB Colonel Vitali Sergeevich Yurchenko requested political asylum in Rome. Yurchenko told the CIA he knew of two Americans working for the KGB. One was Ronald Pelton of the National Security Agency. Yurchenko stated he never met the other man but that he know it was a former CIA employees whose Moscow assignment had been withdrawn. The CIA concluded it was Howard. Howard believes Yurchenko did this to draw CIA attention away from the real mole, Aldrich Ames.

Howard could tell from his training on how KGB agents are followed that light aircraft were following his movements. He did not understand why that was happening. He concentrated on his busy legislative work while noting the surveillance planes were obvious as they got as close as 1,000 feet above him.

The FBI finally confronted Howard with allegations that he was a KGB informer. He also realized the FBI knew he took a trip to Europe in violation of his probation. He could have gotten seven years imprisonment for that alone.

Howard decided to flee. He constructed a dummy and placed it in a car following him that wouldn’t realize he had fled on foot. He tape recorded a voice message to leave on another’s phone so those listening to his wiretaps would believe he was still there making phone calls. He fled to Helsinki and went to the Soviet Embassy. The Soviets offered to bring Howard to Moscow. Three consular officers drove him through the Finnish-Soviet border with Howard hidden in the trunk. The officers showed their diplomatic credentials while a third remained in the car. One stayed in the car to explain why search dogs would find a human scent.

The CIA denounced Howard as a traitor who had been fired from the CIA for drug use as well as womanizing and being a homosexual.

Howard found the KGB officials he met as very friendly and not like the negative stereotypes he was taught by the CIA. He was treated well. He was debriefed and told the KGB what he knew about the CIA.

Howard states he was treated well, not because he had information but for the public relations value the Soviet had because he had defected. The Soviets also realized that several defectors had later committed suicide and wanted Howard to feel comfortable.

Howard insists he did not name any CIA agent that was not already known to them. The KGB was particularly interested in CIA recruitment methods. The CIA would sometimes engage in “false flag” recruitments where they would pretend to be agents from another country in order to recruit someone who did not like the USA or did not want to work for the CIA.

Howard noted both the CIA and KGB have press offices that distort and spin news.

Yurchenko double defected and returned to the KGB. Yurchenko claimed to have been kidnapped by the CIA and claimed he told the CIA nothing. The KGB feared Howard might double defect and began guarding him at all times, even when he went to the bathroom. Howard does not believe Yurchenko’s allegations the CIA drugged and kidnapped him. Howard does not believe that is the CIA’s style of operating. He also believes Yurchenko did not reveal the names of real KGB agents or else he would have named Aldrich Ames.

The CIA reported Howard gave the KGB the name of a CIA informant, Adolf Tolkachev, a scientist, who was then arrested and executed by the Soviets. Howard denied this, writing that CIA agents did not know each others’ identities. CIA agents and their locations are listed by codes with the codes sealed in CIA offices in Moscow so even the Washington office could not divulge this information. Aldrich Ames would use personal computer, which were relatively new then, to obtain names of CIA agents.

Howard claimed the CIA used his name over and over to blame him for every operation the KGB discovered. Howard believed this was CIA spin.

Howard staged a protest against the KGB over his desire to reunite with his family that he left behind in America. He went on top of his roof and refused to come down. Even his neighbor, Boris Yeltsin, came by to watch him on the roof. Yeltsin, then a Politburo member, inquired what was happening, which sparked a KGB response. The KGB agreed to let Howard visit his family in America. They gave him a fake passport and had him fly Malev, an airline whose computers were not accessible to the CIA. When he arrived in America, he realized it would be too risky for him and his family to make contact as the CIA was still observing his family. He returned to the Soviet Union. He decided to defect so his family could then formally visit him in the Soviet Union.

Howard agreed to let the Soviets formally announce that he was the first CIA officer to defect to the KGB. He became a Soviet citizen. In return, he received a home and a job comparable to what he had in America. He continued working on econometrics. He discovered the CIA believed economic data was very important while the KGB focused more on military and political research. A few years later, the KGB changed their minds and made economic data their first priority.

Howard stated the KGB treated him far better than the CIA treated defectors. The CIA would be helpful to defectors until the CIA had all the information they needed. They then dropped them with only a phone number in case they had a problem.

Howard claims the David Wise book about him took some of his statements out of context and that false allegations were mae. His is glad the book also presented his side.

Howard lived in Hungary until the U.S. government wanted that $160 million in assistance to Hungary was in jeopardy if Howard remained there. He moved to Czechoslovakia and worked with the Czech Foreign Investment Council. While there, their Communist government fell to Vaclav Havel.

“U.S. News and World Report” reported Howard committed suicide. Howard assures readers he did not.

Howard moved to Sweden. Yet Sweden feared he was a Russian spy trying to steal information about technology. He was convinced to leave Sweden. He returned to Moscow.


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