“L’affaire Farewell”

I saw an excellent movie yesterday. A French production, “l’affaire Farewell.” or just “Farewell,” tells the story of an intelligence coup for the West, the transfer of information about technology (primarily stealing it and reproducing the end product in the USSR because they could not afford the R&D), and the extent to which the Soviets had penetrated Western corporate and academic institutions at all levels. Ashamedly, I had not remembered reading this in The Mitrokhin Archives, where it is mentioned on three pages. The Central Intelligence Agency has an excellent essay here that’s also linked in a review called “The Farewell Dossier” on Dirk’s Blog:

In 1981, French President Mitterand personally informed US President Ronald Reagan that the French intelligence service DST had a source within Directorate T. KGB Colonel Vladimir Vetrov (photo right), codenamed Farewell, was stationed as Line X officer in France during the 1960’s and supervised later on in Moscow the evaluation of all intelligence, collected by Line X. He revealed the names of more than 200 Line X officers, many of their recruited agents, and provided information about the Line X targets. Although Western intelligence suspected the Soviet collection of R&D, they were astonished by its size and success.

Farewell initiated one of the most important deception operations of the Cold War. Instead of dismantling the Line X operations, US intelligence decided to feed Line X with false information that appeared genuine but would fail later on, when actually applied. Knowing exactly what Line X was looking for, the CIA and FBI supplied the KGB with all kinds of flawed technology. A remarkable aspect of the operation was that, if discovered by the Soviets, it would still be a success, as the Soviets would be suspicious about anything that was collected by its Line X officers.

Farewell enabled the US to keep ahead of Soviet military technology, economics and industry, and played an important role in the aggressive US arms build-up to lure the Soviets into keeping pace with the American military industry. The Soviet efforts to close that gap eventually lead to the bankruptcy and collapse of the Soviet Union. Reagan called Farewell one of the most important espionage cases of the 20Th century. You can read the full story on the Farewell Dossier on the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. The Mitrokhin Archive (see my book reviews) also contains information on Soviet science and technology espionage, the Farewell case and on Vetrov.