The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman

The Billion Dollar Spy

The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story Of Cold War Espionage And Betrayal tells the story of the CIA’s Moscow Station in the 1980s. It deals mostly with a Russian Engineer: Adolf Tolkachev.

Tolkachev’s grandparents were killed and unjustly imprisoned by Stalin. It’s hard to get over something like that. But it was the lies and hypocrisy that pushed this man into the arms of the CIA.

Hoffman writes a non-fiction book that almost reads like a spy thriller. But he also put the story into context. They were difficult years for the CIA. Moscow was a difficult city to spy in. There was extreme danger for both the recruit and the agency. Moscow was under heavy surveillance by the KGB. Yet it was humorous how porous that coverage was at times. What wasn’t funny, were the leaks from the CIA that got Tolkachev and other spies killed by the KGB.

Hoffman’s research dug up lots of interesting tactics and devices. I especially liked reading about the cameras used. A lot of expensive spy cameras were developed and deployed only to be dropped for the lowly Pentax SLR. Tolkachev provided much of the plans for Russian radar to the CIA and hence the US Air Force and Navy. He worked from 1979 through 1985. The USAF estimated he saved them over a billion dollars in research and development. More importantly, it allowed our weapons to take advantage in their flawed systems.

336 pages

Excerpts From My Kindle

In his long April letter to the CIA, Tolkachev wrote disdainfully of Soviet ideology and public life. He said that politics, literature, and philosophy had been “enmeshed for a long time in such an impassable, hypocritical demagoguery” and “ideological empty talk” that he tried to ignore them. – location 1500-1503

“The major systems of current interest to us,” headquarters said, “are the Tu-22M, Tu-160, Yak-41, IFF systems, and major modifications to the SAPFIR radar. – location 3807-3808

Thanks to Kathy Krantz Fieramosca for permission to reproduce her painting of Adolf Tolkachev. – location 5052-5052


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