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Posted at 7:45 PM ET, 07/ 8/2010

Sleeper spies: Tinker, tailor, soldier ... who?

By Jeff Stein

The problem with long term, deep cover agents, the late East German spymaster Markus Wolf once remarked, is that you can forget they exist.

Considering the puzzle over whether the 10 Russians expelled Thursday ever found a secret here -- they weren't charged with espionage, after all -- Wolf's long ago observation seems apt.

Considered by many to be the evil genius "Karla" in a John Le Carre spy-thriller trilogy, Wolf literally got under the skins of Western intelligence during the 34 years he headed the Stasi's foreign division, inserting dozens of spies into their ranks.

Usually, they were long term projects. And like the 10 Russians expelled from here on Thursday, Wolf's agents established their covers well before they were infiltrated into the United States.

“We often used Australia, South Africa, or Latin America for this purpose," Wolf recalled in his 1999 memoir, "Man Without A Face."

"They had to live in the interim country for a couple of years before moving to America so as not to arouse suspicion, and we told them not to recuit any sources for some time after that."

Years could go by before they were activated.

“We sometimes joked among ourselves," Wolf wrote, "that by the time such illegals became fully operational, we had forgotten who they were or why we had sent them.”

By Jeff Stein  | July 8, 2010; 7:45 PM ET
Categories:  Backchannel chatter, Intelligence, Lawandcourts  
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Next: Dead Russian defector not connected to spy ring

Comments

Graham Greene? Pardon me, but don't you mean John le Carré? Or am I misunderstanding?

Posted by: josta59 | July 8, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

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