How the CIA Used the Illusions of Magicians to Fool the KGB

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This excerpt from The Moscow Rules, which I wrote with my husband, Tony Mendez, deals with a daunting technical operation in Moscow undertaken by the CIA with support from our office, Office of Technical Service or OTS, a group often likened to the “Q” of Ian Fleming’s novels. The target was an underground communication line, newly installed, that connected the Krasnaya Pakhra Nuclear Weapons Research Institute to the Soviet Defense Ministry in the city. This newly installed communication link was accessed by a series of manholes that ran beside a heavily trafficked artery around Moscow. The problem was how to get one of our officers into one of their manholes, despite the overwhelming surveillance that we all were subjected to. The solution, from our Disguise Branch, led to a new technique that we called Disguise-on-the-Run or DOTR, and it became a tool that we used on more than one occasion. As was often the case in our line of work, our best solutions would arise out of desperation. We not only needed a technique that could ensure that our first man in would be safe, we needed a technique that could be replicated repeatedly, as our OTS technical officers serviced the wiretap once it was installed.

Here is how it began as told from Tony’s perspective:

The OTS office at 2430 E Street is still an infamous address in the intelligence community. The cluster of buildings perched on the hill behind the Bureau of Naval Medicine and across 23rd Street from the State Department, where Wild Bill Donovan began America’s fledgling intelligence capability, the Office of Strategic Services, it is also where Bob Gates lived in a row of generals’ quarters while he was President Obama’s secre­tary of defense, just three blocks  from the White House.

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