Dead Russian defector not connected to spy ring
Russian defector Sergei Tretyakov, who ran spying operations in New York in the 1990s and who died unannounced in Florida last month, had no connections to the 10 spies deported Thursday, his biographer says.
Tretyakov collaborated closely with former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley in the 2008 book “Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War.”
On his personal blog Friday, Earley said the defector died from a heart attack on June 13 at age 53, not foul play.
Because Tretyakov’s premature death came only two weeks before the FBI arrested nine Russians and a naturalized U.S. citizen for being "sleeper" agents -- and then went unannounced for nearly a month -- there was some speculation that the two events might be connected.
Earley said they were not.
“The fact that he was in charge of all covert operations in New York City when several of the illegals entered the country suggested that he was aware of their operations and quickly led to speculation that he had tipped off the FBI about the ring,” Earley wrote.
The FBI, he said, ruled out homicide in Tretyakov's death.
“That autopsy has now been completed and it showed no evidence of foul play, according to an FBI official who spoke to me off-the-record. Helen [Tretyakov] said her husband died from massive cardiac arrest.”
UPDATE: Read Earley's report today on confusion over the autopsy.
According to Earley, Tretyakov told the FBI everything he knew about Russian sleeper agents when he defected in 2000, but “he did not know the individuals who later were arrested.”
“One reason why I believe Sergei did not know about the 11 Russians who were arrested as illegals is because he did not hold back during our interviews in identifying persons whom he claimed were Russian spies,” Earley wrote.
In their book, Tretyakov fingered several people in Canada and the United States by their code names as Russian agents.
One of the most prominent was a Pakistani-born Canadian scientist who Tretyakov identified only as “ARTHUR,” but who other authoritative sources in 2008 identified for me as Tariq Rauf, the principal official at the International Atomic Energy Agency responsible for determining whether Iran is building a nuclear weapon.
In the first of two interviews, Rauf declined an opportunity to flatly deny Tretyakov’s accusation. He also declined to say whether he knew or had ever met Tretyakov, who worked under diplomatic cover in Canada.
But in a second exchange, by e-mail, Rauf said he had “never” worked “for any intel types whatsoever.“
“I have worked for government and privately funded think tanks, and have been an academic researcher all through -- 'til joining my current employer, where I am an impartial loyal international civil servant,” he said.
Author Earley said he had examined Tretyakov’s records — photographs, e-mail, even a restaurant napkin on which ARTHUR scribbled notes about Ukrainian missiles — to back up every allegation in the book.
“If they want to sue us, fine,” said Earley of all the Canadians Tretyakov fingered as spies. “We’ll just run Sergei up there with our stuff and see what happens.”
Rauf never filed suit.
| July 9, 2010; 4:45 PM ET
Categories: Intelligence, Media
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