Espionagehas been utilized as a tactic throughout the world for many centuries.
Theheight of intelligence and counterintelligence organizations peaked during theCold War, because there was an increase in the amount of funding and resourcesdevoted to espionage. The Cold War was a period of continuous political andmilitary tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both nations hadopposing ideologies, different views on capitalism and communism, and wantedpower for global supremacy. The Soviet Union employed espionage, fearing that capitalistnations would bring the downfall of communism. Soviet espionage was organizedand ran by the Komitet GosudarstvennoyBezopasnosti (??????? ???????????????????????????), commonly referred to as the KGB. The KGB was the most powerfulSoviet intelligence agency, with the main goal of gathering intelligencematerial on western technology and military operations. Famous atomic spiessuch as the Rosenbergs and Klaus Fuchs, revealed secrets to Soviet Intelligenceregarding the Manhattan Project.
The Manhattan Project was the codename for aproject conducted during World War II, but had a major emphasis on the ColdWar. The USSR’s hostile behavior in seizing Eastern Europe, revelationsabout its repressive and tyrannical government, its attainment of the atomicbomb, and the resulting fears of nuclear warfare and atomic spies wouldultimately be (Sulcik 7) “the very beginning of Cold War espionage and alsospark what would become the arms race in later decades” (Shmerer 1). Whilemany organizations such as the CIA and KGB became synonymous with Cold Warespionage, several others played key roles in acquiring information abouttop-secret projects and missions. During the Cold War, obtaining informationwas vital to both sides.
Both the United States and the Soviet Union employedspies to infiltrate enemy territory and gain insight about hidden projects andatomic weaponry. The Cold War opposition between the United States and theSoviet Union affected every aspect of America’s interaction with the rest ofthe world. The FBI increased its counterespionage efforts against the Sovietsin the United States (Sulick 6). Although espionage alone did “not tip thescales of victory” in the fight between the nations, the exposing secrets didresult in serious consequences (14). Whenever spies were discovered during theCold War, the United States and Soviet Union were forced to create countermeasuresto make up for the military, scientific, and economic advantages that theopposing side gained from the stolen secrets (14).
TheSoviet Union showed more expertise than the United States in espionage becauseit was able to recruit a number of American and British spies. Sovietintelligence dedicated a huge amount of time and energy into spying on theUnited States and Britain (“Espionage and the Manhattan Project” 1). Solely in theUnited States, hundreds of Americans supplied the USSR with confidential information.Espionage was one of the concerns during the Manhattan Project. In December1941, the government launched the Manhattan Project, the scientific andmilitary task to develop an atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project commencedbecause it was a response to fears that German scientists had already beenworking on a nuclear weapon since the 1930s (History.com Staff, “ManhattanProject”, 2). The Manhattan Project was a classified project for the fear thatthe nuclear technology would be stolen by Soviet spies.
However, the SovietUnion prioritized the infiltration of the Manhattan Project. Soviet agents wereable to acquire and distribute vital information about the project, includingblueprints, with ease (Llewellyn et al.2). Information regarding the Manhattan Project could be used by the SovietUnion to advance their own nuclear projects or to increase covert operationsagainst the project.
The production and use ofthe atomic bomb involved “some of the world’s leading scientific minds” (History.comStaff, “Manhattan Project”, 1). The atomic bomb createda new level of psychological panic. It influenced media, government, and dailylives of those all around the world. As the covert plan to construct the bomb beganin the United States, the Soviet spy ring grew tremendously. The Soviet spies were most prominent in obtaining theinformation required to make the atomic bombs. The amount of informationthey collected was said to have been “huge, inestimable, and significantfor our state and science” (Sebestyen 28).
Notorious spies such as KlausFuchs and the Rosenbergs were said to have provided atomic secrets that wouldhelp to dismantle the superpower of the United States. Most of the informationstolen by the Soviet government was channeled through the British physicist, KlausFuchs. In late 1941, Fuchs first provided his duties to Soviet intelligence (“Espionageand the Manhattan Project” 1). Subsequently, he started distributinginformation about British atomic research. Fuchs was a leading physiciston the Manhattan Project and a main scientist at Britain’s nuclear facility by1949 (Holmes 2). For several years, Fuchs shared all of his notes from the ManhattanProject to the government of the USSR. Fuchs ultimately was caught by theUnited States government, and his confession led to the capture of many otherspies within the Manhattan Project (Shmerer 1).
Some of these spies includedthe famous Rosenbergs, Julius and Ethel. After Klaus Fuchs’ arrest, David Greenglass implicatedhis sister and her husband, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, as Soviet spies. TheRosenbergs were American citizens indicted, convicted, and executed for sharingconfidential information to Soviet intelligence, which assisted the USSR toduplicate their own nuclear weapons, specifically the atomic bomb. JuliusRosenberg was involved in espionage for the Soviet Union and provided the USSRwith numerous classified documents, including a model of a proximity fuze. Juliuswas also involved in attempting to recruit others to spy for the Soviet Union,including Ethel’s brother David Greenglass. Greenglass shared details about theManhattan Project to Julius, including information regarding the “high-explosivelenses being developed for the implosion bomb” (“Espionage” 2).
Greenglass reported that hissister Ethel had typed the notes her husband passed to the Soviet Union on theAmerican bomb project. The United States eventually passed espionage laws butstill faced a complicated and difficult predicament indicting spies, which was exemplifiedby the Venona Project. The Venona Project revealed the extensive amount ofSoviet espionage in the United States, and meticulous analysis allowedinvestigators to identify many of the American spies. TheVenona Project was a military investigation decoding Soviet messages going inand out of the United States.
These messages revealed hundreds of citizens andimmigrants all on American soil that revealed confidential information toSoviet intelligence. Soviet intelligence officers in the United States frequentlycommunicated with their superiors in Moscow via telegraphic cables. Thesemessages were encrypted, but in 1946 the United States began to decrypt asignificant amount of these messages. This shocking discovery of spies and thisleaked information showed the Soviet Union and communists’ ability to influenceand control the United States. The treachery of American atomic secrets to theSoviets allowed the Soviet Union to construct atomic weapons many years soonerand at a significantly lower cost than it otherwise would have (Haynes andKlehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, 3).
The Venona messagesremained top secret and only a handful of government officials knew thedetails, until the program was declassified in 1995 (“The Venona Intercepts” 1).Soviet intelligence discovered the Venona Project in 1949 through one of theirBritish agents, but there was nothing they could do to stop it. It was thisproject that corroborated the espionage of the Rosenbergs and Klaus Fuchs. TheRosenbergs repudiated all accusations and obstinately refused to specify namesor answer many questions. They were found guilty, sentenced to death in 1951and despite pleas for clemency, executed on June 19, 1953 in the electric chairat Sing-Sing prison in New York (Holmes 3).
The Soviet Union’s espionageagainst the United States from 1942 to 1945 was excessive and constant. By thelate 1940s, the evidence provided by the Venona Project of the immense size andintense hostility of Soviet intelligence operations caused American counterintelligenceprofessionals to deduce that “Stalin had already launched a covert attack onthe United States” (Haynes and Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America,12). The United States believed that this Soviet espionage indicated that theCold War had begun not after World War II but many years earlier (12). Espionageactivities persisted from the beginning of the Cold War and through the late1960s and still lingering today. These spieswere deciphering encrypted information, and using countless skills to acquirean advantage over other enemy countries (Ehrman 2).Today, if a spy penetrates the US government and acquires secrets it wouldcreate more damage now than it would have before technology. Besides the threatfrom terrorist spies, another emerging threat that can cause equal damage to USnational security is cyberespionage (Sulick 15). Computer hacking has quicklyevolved into a modern tool used by foreign intelligence services to stealAmerican government and commercial secrets (15).
Spy services utilizedtechnological advances for many centuries to easily acquire secrets. Computertechnology is well suited to espionage and has significantly enhanced many ofthe essential elements of secrecy (15). Through this advanced technology, largeamounts of data can be obtained and sent at rapid speeds through easily hiddenportable devices like flash drives and memory cards. However, the perpetratoris shielded by the anonymity of the internet and his or her theft at times goesunnoticed. Foreign adversaries, specifically China and Russia, have exploitedthese advantages to penetrate both US government and industry informationsystems (15).
In 2011, a report to Congress by the National CounterintelligenceExecutive (NCIX) stated that “the computer networks of a broad array of USgovernment agencies, private companies, universities and other institutions –all holding large volumes of sensitive economic information – were targeted bycyberespionage” (Shanker 2). The NCIX report states that computer attacks areincreasing exponentially, particularly against US government classifiedsystems. Internet espionage exists within the United States, yet America’s lingeringdoubt in the threat of espionage prevails. Despitebeing an ally during World War II, the Soviet Union inaugurated a full-blown espionageattempt to reveal the military and defense secrets of the United States in the1940s. As the top-secret plan to build the bomb, named the Manhattan Project, beganin the United States, the Soviet spy ring flourished and grew way before theFBI or CIA knew of its existence. If the Soviet Union had not obtained accessto such significant pieces of information, the pivoting point of psychologicalfear to actual physical fear escalating around the world (possibly the fearitself) would not have evolved to such prominence. The Soviet Union’s espionagewas a war on American soil, fought secretly to demolish the superpower of theUnited States.