Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Farewell Dossier

Farewell is a recent Cold War espionage movie, based on the actual case of Vladimir Vetrov, an engineer who worked at the KGB's Directorate T. The 2009 movie was shown at several film festivals and is recently released.

The real story of Farewell begins at the end of the 1960's, when Soviet R&D in the field of electronics and computers trailed the West by a decade. In 1970, a new organisation, called Directorate T, was established within the KGB to start an aggressive intelligence collection of Western science and technology. Line X was it's operational section with many KGB and GRU officers covertly operating in foreign Rezidentura across the world.

The Line X operations were most successful and produced thousands of high quality R&D documents that could enable the Soviets to close the gap with the West, if it wasn't for their inability to organise the required corresponding industry and economy. Nevertheless, Line X provided crucial information that enabled the development and copying of Western technology on a large scale. It saved them billions of Russian Ruble.

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.

In the movie, Colonel Vetrov's name is changed into Grigoriev. As for the rest of the story, any resemblance with real persons and events is not a coincidence. You can watch the Farewell Movie trailer (HD) at Youtube or here below. More about the movie and user revies at the Internet Movie Data Base. Don't read the spoilers! Farewell is not a flashy action movie but one in the genre of the brilliant The Lives of Others (see its trailer, and make sure to get the original and subtitled version) or The Russia House, about ordinairy people who get involved in espionage and how it profoundly changes their lives. Movies that leave you speechless after seeing them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And now the most complete investigation of the Farewell case to date has been published in English by AmazonCrossing: Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the 20th Century" by Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud, with a foreword by Richard V. Allen.

Available since Aug. 2, 2011