Soviet Intelligence in the United States, 1971

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

The extent of Soviet espionage in the United States was a perpetual question of the Cold War.  From the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, but especially during the Great Depression, many Americans joined the Communist Party of the United States.  Most of them did so as genuine political protest because they did not see a future for the capitalist system.  A few, however, became agents of the USSR.  In addition, the Soviet Union sent numerous intelligence operatives to the United States, many acting as diplomatic or commercial representatives or in other capacities.  The extent of the Soviet effort against the U.S. did not become evident until World War II and especially the post-war years when some prominent defectors revealed more details.  The U.S. reaction sometimes bordered on the hysterical (witness McCarthyism), but the threat was real.

In a September 1971, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which had primary responsibility for countering the domestic Soviet threat, prepared a short report entitled “Soviet Intelligence Operations Against the United States” that brought the situation up to date.  That document opened with the following three paragraphs:[1]

The full (redacted) text of the report is available below.

In response, the Department of State prepared a study entitled “Soviet Intelligence Operations in the United States.”  The summary and several selected paragraphs follow:[2]

The full text of the study is available below.

The Department of State sent copies of its study to the National Security Adviser in the White House, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, all of whom had received copies of the FBI report, as well as the FBI.


[1] “Soviet Intelligence Operations Against the United States,” September 28, 1971, enclosed in J. Edgar Hoover to Secretary of State William P. Rogers, September 30, 1971, file POL 23-4 US (NAID 160894698), all attached to a memorandum of December 20, 1971 to Henry Kissinger at the White House, 1970-73 Subject-Numeric File (NAID 580618), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[2] “Soviet Intelligence Operations in the United States,” undated, attached to Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Martin J. Hillenbrand to the Acting Secretary of State, December 9, 1971, file POL 23-4 US, all attached to a memorandum of December 20, 1971 to Henry Kissinger at the White House, 1970-73 Subject-Numeric File (NAID 580618), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

One thought on “Soviet Intelligence in the United States, 1971

Leave a Reply