The Soviets wanted to infiltrate the Reagan camp. So, the CIA recruited a businessman to bait them.

Zach Dorfman
Contributor

Beginning in 1975, a big black limousine with diplomatic plates would pull up once a month to the no-parking zone outside John Greenagel’s office in the handsome Merchants Exchange Building in downtown San Francisco. A man would exit the car, paper bag in hand, and ascend the stairs to Greenagel’s public relations firm.

The man would hand Greenagel, then in his mid-30s, the paper bag, which always contained stale Cuban cigars and a bottle of Stolichnaya without a tax stamp.

“Compliments of Mr. Pavlov,” the man would say, and walk out.

Yuri Pavlov was a diplomat based at the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco and an undercover KGB officer, but the KGB probably wouldn’t have been pleased about who ended up partaking in these delectables. Because after the Soviet bag man left, Greenagel would call his CIA handler, who would pop over to his office; and they’d laugh and drink the Stoly, smoke the old Cubans and talk about Greenagel’s deepening friendship with Pavlov, which was entirely manufactured.

Greenagel was acting as an “access agent” — providing the CIA with key insights about Pavlov’s psychological and personality profile. Once foreign spies like Pavlov rotate abroad, information gleaned by access agents like Greenagel can help CIA officers sharpen their strategy for recruiting them. Access agents can also facilitate introductions between the intelligence target and other CIA operatives in a seemingly natural manner. Plus, in the case of spies like Pavlov, the precious hours spent with someone like Greenagel is time that foreign intelligence officer isn’t conducting espionage elsewhere. Access agents create opportunity costs.

Artistic interpretation of John Greenagel and his CIA handler. (Illustration: Noah MacMillan for Yahoo News)

The CIA is generally conceived to operate primarily abroad, but this, one former counterintelligence official put it, is a “fantasy.” The domestic operational arm of the CIA, known today as the National Resources (NR) Division, maintains warm ties with industry leaders in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street and beyond; voluntarily debriefs business people, scientists and other U.S. citizens returning from trips abroad; and tries to recruit foreign nationals on American soil, such as student visa holders, to work for the U.S. government. (Current CIA Director Gina Haspel previously served as deputy director for the NR Division.)

But the full breadth of the agency’s stateside operations remains opaque. Recently declassified government documents laying out the permitted scope of domestic activities are heavily redacted; the CIA refuses even to confirm basic details about staffing or the National Resources Division’s number of offices across the country. (A 2013 report in Newsweek put the number of offices nationwide at about a dozen.)

Nor is Greenagel’s story unique, say former U.S. intelligence officials: The CIA has long facilitated false intimacies between U.S.-based persons and intelligence targets like Pavlov on American soil. Though imbued with a distinctly Cold War flavor, Greenagel’s tale offers a rare window into CIA activities within the United States — and even more important, highlights an enduring, and newly relevant, feature of Russian espionage: an acute interest in gathering intelligence on U.S. political campaigns. Greenagal’s recruitment by the CIA was targeted: He was a first-generation, dyed-in-the-wool Reaganite, an early, well-connected figure in Ronald Reagan’s insurgent bid to wrestle the 1976 Republican nomination from incumbent President Gerald Ford. Once the CIA placed him near Yuri Pavlov, it was like a moth to the flame.

KGB officers like Pavlov “wanted to learn about the American political system, and what people were thinking at the time,” notes Rick Smith, a longtime former San Francisco-based FBI counterintelligence agent. “Just like what [the Russians] are doing now with Trump.”

San Francisco by the mid-1970s had established itself as a countercultural mecca, the capital of American leftism; it was the incubator for the anti-Vietnam War, free speech and black power movements — a roiling cultural and political admixture. Reagan rose to the California governorship, in no small part, as a counter-reaction to this perceived Bay Area babel.

Greenagel had developed a solid pedigree in conservative politics. He was state chairman of the Youth for Goldwater campaign in 1964, had volunteered for then-Gov. Reagan’s reelection campaign in the late 1960s and later led a successful campaign on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce to defeat a statewide ballot measure the organization deemed anti-business.

After working for the chamber, Greenagel founded his own one-man public relations firm. Business was uneven. “I had more time on my hands than I would have liked,” he recalls. Reagan, who left the governorship in early 1975, was mounting an audacious primary challenge to Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination; and Greenagel — a supporter of Reagan’s forceful anticommunism and opposed to Ford’s policy of détente — enthusiastically volunteered, again, to work for the Reagan camp.

Greenagel was an archetypical “solid citizen,” a member of a now moribund — but once mighty — California political tribe most often associated with suburban Orange County, which helped define modern right-wing U.S. politics, twice propelling Reagan to the White House.

The CIA in the 1970s was also being buffeted by change. A series of scandals, including revelations about a massive illegal domestic CIA spying program, led to Congress’s establishment in 1975 of the Church and Pike Committees (the forerunners to today’s Senate and House Intelligence Committees, respectively), which scrutinized past intelligence community misdeeds.

And those misdeeds were audacious. The congressional committees revealed CIA assassination plots targeting foreign leaders; experiments with mind control, which involved the unwitting dosage of human subjects with LSD; and a secret biological weapons program. Public faith in the nation’s spies was at a historic low. This was the unsettled, and unsettling, backdrop to the phone call Greenagel received one day in 1975.

Dick Miller, an executive at PG&E, the powerful local electric utility, was on the other line. The two men were friendly and knew each other through earlier shared work at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. At the time, Miller also served on the San Francisco Police Commission, which liaised with the CIA and FBI. Miller asked Greenagel his opinion of the agency, and Greenagel expressed support for its mission. Miller told Greenagel he had a friend named “Steve Orwell,” a San Francisco-based CIA officer, who happened to be interested in speaking with him. Greenagel, intrigued, agreed to continue the conversation.

A few days later, Greenagel received a call from Orwell, who recommended they meet for lunch at the Redwood Room, a landmark art deco cocktail bar downtown. Orwell told Greenagel he’d be wearing a blue suit and yellow tie.

At the Redwood Room, Orwell explained to Greenagel what the CIA had in mind for him. The Soviet Consulate in San Francisco, which had opened in 1973, was a hotbed of spy activity focused on California, and Yuri Pavlov, a diplomat-cum-KGB officer, was aggressively trying to develop relationships with individuals associated with the Reagan camp. The Soviets saw Reagan as a dangerous hardliner who opposed the ratcheting-down of tensions pursued by Nixon and Ford. The Soviets were also concerned about the charismatic former actor’s growing cachet.

Orwell said that “the Reagan announcement had sent all kinds of tremors through the consulate,” recalls Greenagel.

The problem was that Pavlov wasn’t actually making many inroads. Orwell told Greenagel that at diplomatic functions and cocktail parties Pavlov “would start talking with somebody that may have had a connection to the Reagan campaign, and typically the guy would say, ‘Fuck yourself,’ so they wanted somebody who was willing to be nice. And Greenagel said, ‘Hell, if I met some Russian guy who wanted to talk about Reagan, that probably would have been my reaction.’”

Orwell told Greenagel that he had an ideal background for work with the agency. Greenagel was self-employed — with no prying boss or colleagues — and he could keep his own hours.

There were a few logistical issues — beyond, of course, the standard background check. First, Greenagel had no official role in the Reagan campaign; he was strictly a volunteer. No problem, said Orwell: he would contact Lyn Nofziger, then the Reagan campaign press secretary (and later an adviser within the Reagan White House), explain the situation and make sure that Greenagel would be given cover.

In the dark-paneled elegance of the Redwood Room, a setting fit for a spy novel, Orwell had just one last question for Greenagel: “’Would you be willing to help? We just want a guy who will become friends with him.’”

Greenagel said yes.

Yuri Pavlov, a slender, athletic man, was something of a sensitive soul. The CIA had intelligence that Pavlov — who like Greenagel was in his mid-30s — was disturbed by the nepotism in Soviet society. His wife had inherited a factory position from her father, a Communist Party official, and Pavlov felt stymied in his work. It was a point of pride for Pavlov that, stationed in the United States, for the first time in his career he was earning more than his wife.

Bill Kinane, a former longtime FBI counterintelligence agent based in San Francisco, says that, though Pavlov posed as Soviet diplomat, he was in fact a KGB “Line PR” officer — that is, focused on political intelligence. Those KGB officers were in the United States to collect intelligence from Americans. “They had cover, but they were out there — talking to as many people as they could talk to,” says Smith, who also worked Soviet counterintelligence in San Francisco during this time.

Pavlov was an easygoing and handsome man, with strong English skills. Outgoing by nature, he was a frequent presence at prominent local private organizations like the Commonwealth Club and World Affairs Council, sidling up to government officials at talks. “Pavlov was very active, very good, very sophisticated,” recalls Smith. “He had a lot of good contacts. And we kept a real close eye on him.”

Pavlov also “worked the campus at Berkeley,” says Kinane. The KGB officer attended lectures, keeping an eye on Soviet students studying there and targeting professors who might wind up one day in Washington. Pavlov also hung out at bars in Berkeley popular with left-wing clientele, especially international students who might rise to prominence one day in their own countries. He would try to elicit sympathy at Berkeley for the Soviet perspective.

“The Russians realized that if Democrats won, Berkeley professors would be joining [an incoming presidential] administration,” recalls Kinane, “and if Republicans won, Stanford folks would.” Pavlov was active in both circles, says Kinane, and he also built relationships with Silicon Valley executives who were fundraisers for both parties.

The FBI knew all this because, at the time, the KGB was “riddled” with agents working for the United States, according to Kinane, who would receive intelligence detailing reports Pavlov was submitting about his progress in the Bay Area. “All of these KGB guys were under pressure to develop sources and assets,” he says, and as a result they tended to exaggerate their connections and lie about their development of American agents, a sort of spy’s version of résumé inflation.

Those reports, in turn, would end up back with the CIA, which would then call the FBI and say, “‘This person is a KGB source,’ and we’d say, ‘No.’ But it would cause problems for innocent Americans,” Kinane says. “We were getting all this stuff about sourcing and half of it was bullshit. KGB officers would read something in the paper and say that they were told it. Not Pavlov, though.”

Pavlov, it turns out, was an honest KGB officer who sought out real American sources, and now the CIA needed to make sure Greenagel would be one of those sources. The challenge, however, was to initiate contact between Greenagal and Pavlov in a natural, unforced manner. Orwell, the CIA officer, had a plan.

A few days after their meeting in the Redwood Room, Orwell called Greenagel with good news — Nofzinger had readily agreed to the CIA’s request. If anyone inquired, Greenagel’s role in the Reagan for President campaign would be “special adviser.”

Now, the thing to do was broker an introduction. Orwell told Greenagel that Pavlov would soon be attending a party at the home of retired Gen. Elvy Roberts — the former commander of the Presidio in San Francisco — in the tony suburb of Tiburon. This was their chance, and Orwell told Greenagel to plan on attending the party. Roberts, Orwell explained, would feign prior intimacy with Greenagel, even though the two men had never met. Roberts would then facilitate an introduction to Pavlov.

It worked. Roberts opened the door to his house, recalls Greenagel, and greeted him like an old friend. “‘Oh, John, we’re so glad you’re here,’ he said. ‘There’s a guy who is anxious to meet you.’ Then he took me over to Pavlov.”

Pavlov was, unsurprisingly, acutely interested in Greenagel’s work with the Reagan campaign, so they exchanged business cards and agreed to meet soon. Not long after, Pavlov, as expected, contacted Greenagel and invited him to meet up for lunch. Over the meal, Pavlov peppered Greenagel with questions about the former California governor. “He asked, ‘Is Reagan a warmonger? Why does he want military superiority? Why doesn’t he support détente?’” recalls Greenagel.

An unlikely friendship — of sorts — blossomed; soon they were seeing each other socially on a regular basis, usually over drinks or meals. The two men — the staunch Reaganite and Soviet spy — would drive over the Golden Gate Bridge together for boozy outings in Sausalito. Pavlov, who had a weakness for Johnnie Walker Black, would partake in ideological debates about the merits of communism and capitalism, and engage in more mundane talk about their personal and professional lives, including about Pavlov’s boss — that is, Soviet Consul General Alexander Zinchuk.

But Greenagel had a leg up. In fact, he already knew about Pavlov’s workplace gripes before Pavlov ever once confided in him, because Orwell had extensively briefed him about what the CIA already knew. Over the course of their friendship, Pavlov confided these and other details to Greenagel, which Greenagel then dutifully passed on to the CIA, often corroborating its prior information on Pavlov.

Orwell had only a few rules for Greenagel: First, he was to discourage Pavlov from defecting, if the Russian expressed interest in doing so. The CIA wanted “agents in place” — that is, active KGB officers, who generally had access to more and better intelligence than defectors. He was also to encourage Pavlov to break the rules governing the activities of Soviet diplomats, such as those regarding local travel (the movements of Soviet diplomats were heavily circumscribed under U.S. law).

Finally, Orwell encouraged Greenagel to ply Pavlov with expensive gifts, such as a suit. (This was probably aimed at potentially compromising Pavlov down the road; if the CIA ever approached Pavlov and revealed he had accepted gifts from an agency asset, he might then be induced to work for the CIA rather than face the wrath of the KGB.) Occasionally, Orwell would hand Greenagel $100 bills to cover his expenses for his outings with Pavlov; Greenagel would sign the receipts using his mother’s maiden name.

It was worth the time and expense. Pavlov, Orwell told Greenagel, was someone the agency was “particularly interested” in trying to recruit. The CIA believed that Pavlov was someone who believed he could make a difference in the world — what the CIA profilers referred to as a “messianic complex.”

Yuri Pavlov wasn’t of interest just to the CIA. The FBI was following him closely too. He was, in fact, one of the “main cases” Kinane, the former FBI counterintelligence agent, was assigned during the mid-1970s. One of the great ironies, however, was that neither Kinane, nor Smith, the other FBI officer who worked Soviet counterintelligence in San Francisco at the time, recalled that the CIA had recruited Greenagel as an agent.

Artistic interpretation of FBI agents surveilling Yuri Pavlov. (Illustration: Noah MacMillan for Yahoo News)

It may seem surprising that FBI agents like Kinane and Smith could know so much about a Soviet spy like Pavlov and yet be ignorant of Greenagel’s work with the CIA, but it’s not. While the CIA and FBI can and do work well together, the counterintelligence world has often been wracked by tensions between the two agencies. FBI agents often bristle at the CIA’s perceived flouting of rules governing their domestic activities.

Today, Executive Order 12333, a 1981 document, lays out the roles and responsibilities of both agencies in broad terms. The order, last updated in 2008, affirms the FBI as the lead agency for counterintelligence and foreign intelligence collection on U.S. soil. The bureau’s primacy is underlined by its search, seizure and arrest powers.

The CIA can conduct clandestine foreign intelligence gathering in the United States, but must generally coordinate with the FBI — and this is a major point of friction. The CIA is forbidden to perform “internal security” or law enforcement functions domestically. It also cannot conduct electronic surveillance, searches of “U.S persons” (that is, citizens or legal permanent residents), or physical surveillance of U.S. persons (except for current or former CIA employees or contractors) on U.S. soil. And it cannot target the domestic activities of U.S. persons for foreign intelligence purposes.

The CIA can, however, go undercover domestically when approaching non-U.S. persons. And crucially, it can collect foreign intelligence from “witting and voluntary” citizens and legal permanent residents on American soil, like Greenagel, who are aware they are working with the CIA and are doing so freely. It also sometimes tasks these individuals to commit espionage abroad — part of “a volunteer force of citizen-spies who roamed the world,” as Henry Crumpton, the former NR Division chief, writes in his memoir, “The Art of Intelligence.”

But, as is often the case with the intelligence world, the devil is in the details — and the details are secret. A raft of documents recently declassified after an ACLU-led court battle reveals just how little the public knows. Entire pages delineating the rules governing the CIA’s activities in the United States are redacted, as are big swaths of another key document — a 2005 CIA-FBI “memorandum of understanding” that lays out the specific procedure for intelligence coordination and cooperation between the two agencies.

Sometimes, “understanding” between the FBI and CIA on counterintelligence has run at a deficit. It was a “constant battle with the agency,” recalls Smith, the former FBI counterintelligence agent. “We’re trying to do the same thing. It causes problems.” Often, FBI counterintelligence felt like the CIA was muscling into its territory, disrupting delicate FBI operations already in progress. Although the two agencies could coordinate effectively, recalls Smith, there were FBI agents in San Francisco who simply refused to work with their CIA counterparts.

While the CIA-FBI relationship has evolved significantly since the Cold War — and especially post-9/11 — serious tensions have endured to the present, say half a dozen former intelligence officials from both agencies, who requested anonymity in order to speak more candidly on the subject. In some corners of the FBI, there is a deep strain of skepticism, edging on outright hostility, regarding the CIA that is rooted as much in cultural differences as bureaucratic rivalries.

A major sticking point between the two agencies is the requirement that the CIA coordinate its clandestine domestic activities with the FBI. Often, say multiple former counterintelligence officials, CIA officers will request making an approach on a target, or someone with access to that person. The FBI will decline, citing current operations already underway. The CIA will go around their backs and contact the person anyway.

In one case, recalled a former FBI counterintelligence official, a CIA officer asked whether he could make an approach to an American citizen connected to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — which helps design and maintain the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal — with connections to Russians of intelligence interest. After the FBI agent said no, the CIA officer went ahead and approached the person anyway, representing himself as a “consultant,” in violation of rules requiring that CIA officers disclosure their identity to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Sometimes, say multiple former counterintelligence officials, undercover CIA officers have been caught by FBI surveillance — or even on FISA warrants — making these approaches.

Things can get heated. “I’ve had agents say, ‘I’m going to go out and fucking arrest that guy’” — a CIA officer caught on FBI surveillance around 2010 — “‘for interfering with our investigation and not declaring themselves the way they’re supposed to,’” recalls a former senior counterintelligence official. “And I’m like, ‘Hold on,’ let’s not get this shit out in the streets. It happens all the time.”

The CIA “treated us like a hostile intelligence service,” said another former senior counterintelligence official.

While there is no evidence that Greenagel’s work on behalf of the CIA ever ran crosswise of the FBI, it does raise the question of why the bureau, which was keeping close tabs on Pavlov and his outreach to the Reagan camp, never came across Greenagel.

Greenagel believes that the FBI had some role in conducting his background check. But he never had a single interaction with the bureau, nor did his CIA handler tell him if local FBI counterintelligence was aware he was working for the agency. The scope of what the FBI knew about his activities, if anything, is unclear. It seems hard to believe, given that the FBI was monitoring Pavlov, but it could well be that the bureau simply missed the fact that a KGB officer was meeting regularly with someone involved with the Reagan campaign. (The FBI and CIA both declined to comment about Pavlov, CIA-FBI tensions or the related issues of using Americans as agents.)

The lack of coordination between the FBI and CIA wasn’t isolated to Greenagel and Pavlov. Greenagel also helped recruit a former colleague of his from the Chamber of Commerce, Jim Haynes, to work for the CIA. Haynes was subsequently contacted by Steve Orwell.

Around 1975, with Orwell’s guidance, Haynes feigned interest in obtaining a visa to visit Moscow to write a story for the Chamber of Commerce about the Soviet Union’s preparatory work for the 1980 Olympics. His target was Konstantin Koryavin, a KGB officer posing as a Soviet diplomat in charge of the visa process.

Like Greenagel and Orwell, Haynes began to meet up with Koryavin. But unlike Pavlov, Koryavin seemed more interested in women than politics. “His head was on a swivel. He was looking at every female that walked by,” recalls Haynes. Once, when Koryavin’s wife was back in Moscow, the Soviet diplomat contacted Haynes with a request: He wanted to visit the local strip clubs. So, on a damp, chilly San Francisco evening, the two men caroused around North Beach, drunkenly patronizing the neighborhood’s topless joints.

After that boozy night, Haynes met with Orwell. “I asked him, ‘What’s the endgame?’ And he says, ‘What do you mean’? ‘Well,’ I asked, ‘what am I supposed to do with this guy?’ Orwell says, ‘Wait a minute. Time out. You’re not in some James Bond book. We’re not looking for anything funny. What we want to do is establish a relationship. Get him to trust you. Get him to like you.’ And ideally, my role was to get him hooked on life in the United States so when he rotated back to Moscow he could be turned.”

That never happened. After a year or so, Haynes took a job out of state, ending his work with the CIA and his relationship with Koryavin, who later moved to the Soviet mission to the United Nations in New York. One evening, Koryavin was stopped by the FBI while covertly delivering cash to officials in the tiny U.S. Communist Party in New York. FBI officers “stuffed [Koryavin] in a booth” at a local restaurant and attempted to recruit the KGB officer to work for the Americans, says Kinane.

The FBI, which was apparently unaware of the CIA’s efforts back in San Francisco, was unsuccessful.

In the cat and mouse game of recruiting Cold War spies, it’s hard to say who came out ahead. What is perhaps most striking about Pavlov’s efforts to develop contacts in the Reagan camp was, in fact, how fruitless they seemed in the end. Some of the academics Pavlov targeted did indeed end up working in presidential administrations, recalls Kinane, though Pavlov failed to recruit any of them.

If Pavlov failed to infiltrate the Reagan campaign, it would appear the CIA also failed to turn the frustrated KGB officer with a “messianic complex” to the other side. But there are signs that he and his wife at least contemplated what life in the United States might be like. One day, says Greenagel, the two men were out drinking, and, out of the blue, Pavlov posed a pregnant question. “John,” he asked, “Do you think I could ever pass as an American?” Taken aback — and instructed by Orwell to discourage defection — Greenagel muttered something about his accented English and dowdy suits betraying foreign origins. Pavlov never brought it up again.

Another time, during one of their regular social engagements, Pavlov invited Greenagel up to his apartment — the only time, in fact, he visited Pavlov’s home, says Greenagel. Pavlov lived in a beautiful, spacious place near the Presidio, just down the hill from the Soviet Consulate. Greenagel met Pavlov’s wife, Natalia, who spent most of her days in the apartment watching television and trying to learn English. When Greenagel looked around the apartment, he was shocked at how Pavlov’s wife had decorated the place. She had covered entire walls with cut-out photos from American magazines.

Sometime around 1980, Pavlov rotated out of San Francisco. Before leaving, he introduced Greenagel to another diplomat based at the consulate, Alexander Potemkin, who wasn’t previously on the CIA’s radar. Nonetheless, Potemkin continued to see Greenagel, and Greenagel continued to report back to the CIA.

One time, Greenagel invited Potemkin over to his apartment in Pacific Heights for drinks. The Soviet diplomat showed up with a colleague from the embassy who Greenagel suspected was a security officer. After a few drinks, Potemkin’s colleague got aggressive, and began to grill him.

“We think you’re FBI,” he said to Greenagel.

“I don’t have a goddamn thing to do with the FBI,” Greenagel replied — which was true.

Despite the alcohol-fueled confrontation, Greenagel and Potemkin still met up occasionally, though their contacts were less frequent and petered out by 1984, when Greenagel took a job down in Silicon Valley. (Potemkin now works at the Washington, D.C.-based American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation. According to an article in Russia Beyond, part of a Russian state news agency, Potemkin retired from the Russian diplomatic service in 1993 and “received authorization from both the Russian and U.S. governments to stay on and become an advocate for cross-cultural exchange and promotion.” He did not respond to a request for comment.)

Greenagel’s time as a CIA asset drew to a close, and he never knew what became of Pavlov. But Kinane, the former FBI agent, heard through the grapevine the KGB official’s life back in Moscow was grim: that Pavlov’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver in Moscow and that he and his wife split apart after that. Eventually, Kinane was told, Pavlov sank into alcoholism and died.

Smith, the other former FBI agent, remembered Pavlov fondly, at least in the professional sense. “We respected him a great deal,” Smith said. “He was a good KGB officer.”

By good, Smith meant smart and hard-working, as opposed, perhaps, to Koryavin — the KGB officer the FBI tried to recruit in New York. Koryavin reappeared in the 1990s, when Kinane served as the FBI’s legal attaché in Moscow. The Soviet Union had fallen apart, and the government, including its spy service, was in disarray. Koryavin contacted Kinane through an intermediary, not to offer his services as a spy, but to sell a fake Stradivarius string instrument. He was “a con man of the first order,” says Kinane.

CIA officer Steve Orwell, whose real name Greenagel learned was Harold Chipman, died in 1988; his obituary in the Washington Post, while noting his residence in San Francisco and work as a cryptographer at the Army Security Agency, does not mention any CIA affiliation. (Chipman is identified as a CIA officer in “Blond Ghost,” a 1994 book by David Corn.)

While Greenagel’s relationship with Pavlov may never have yielded any great catch for the CIA, by way of a turned KGB officer, it did allow the CIA to keep tabs on Moscow’s interest in infiltrating the Reagan camp. Moscow’s interest in gaining inroads into political campaigns is unchanged. What changed, at least by 2016, was the reaction from the Republican presidential candidate and his campaign, which was much less suspicious of Russian outreach.

Four decades after Pavlov cozied up to Greenagel, hoping to make contacts in the Reagan camp, key members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, including the candidate’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York. That meeting, and other contacts between Russian officials and the Trump camp, is now at the center of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

If the American public is surprised by Russian outreach to the Trump campaign, intelligence officials, particularly those who worked cases during the Cold War, are not.

“People think this is new. This isn’t new. The Russians have been doing this stuff for 40 or 50 years. It’s news now because they’ve been so successful,” says Smith, the former FBI counterintelligence agent.

“You’ve got to hand it to the Russians: they know what they’re doing. They’re more and more sophisticated; they’ve learned an awful lot. Now they get somebody like Donald Trump Jr. meeting with them — they’re killing them — because Americans like Trump Jr. don’t know what they’re doing.”

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