Oleg Kalugin, the one-time head of counterintelligence for the Russian KGB, told Eyewitness News that it was no problem to find Americans who were willing to sell out. And, he adds, Las Vegas is a great place to recruit spies.
Political liberals aren't going to like what Kalugin has to say. Kalugin supervised hundreds of spies while working for the KGB, and he spent much of his time trying to recruit Americans to help the Russians, including some famous names. Persons with left-leaning politics were always targeted first, he said, and Nevada is a great place for targeting future recruits.
Nikita Kruschev's vow that "we will bury you" was no idle boast. The Russians believed they would triumph, if not through force of arms, then through any means necessary.
"We thought we could achieve this through education and also the spread of the gospel of communism, that we shall triumph because the ideas we propagated were simply invincible," Kalugin said.
Kalugin's enthusiasm for the Communist Manifesto propelled him at a young age to the pinnacle of Soviet power. He became a major general in the KGB, chief of foreign counterintelligence, and master of a sinister cabal of spies and saboteurs.
"I specialized in active measures, disinformation, deception and recruitment," he said.
But how do you find people who might be willing to sell out their country? Kalugin says it was easy, especially during the turbulent '60s and '70s, when so many young people were disillusioned with the government.
"If you impress a person with your own convictions and he is soft, a liberal or left wing, you may get him involved," Kalugin said. "Espionage will come later on; you first establish a bond of friendship."
Remember the suspicion among conservatives during the Vietnam conflict that the anti-war movement was aligned with communists? Kalugin says it was true, that the KGB thoroughly infiltrated peace groups, funded peace organizations, even published peacenik magazines.
"We found dozens who hated the U.S. and would do any damage to the U.S. in protest of the slaughter of Vietnamese," Kalugin said.
Celebrities, even Nobel laureates, signed up as unwitting partners of KGB-sponsored organizations. Many in Hollywood promoted the KGB agenda, knowingly or not. "People in the arts for propaganda, not for espionage," Kalugin said.
Jane Fonda was a perfect example. She was a leftist and a pacifist.
"We would always use names to corroborate Russian propaganda," Kalugin said. "This great woman is now on our side. Whether she was didn't matter."
The civil rights movement provided more fertile ground. Although the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover operated under the assumption that Martin Luther King Jr. was a communist, Kalugin says it wasn't true, but he says KGB did back some of King's jealous rivals in the movement.
"Some of our assets in civil rights wanted to tarnish King's reputation so they could take over themselves," he said.
The environmental movement was also targeted for KGB infiltration, he says, with the simple message that the best way to preserve nature was to work against the system that would exploit it for profits.
And the anti-nuclear protesters who've been a fixture at the Nevada Test Site for 20 years or more? "These people would be targeted," Kalugin said. "All those who protested government action."
Kalugin says he recruited dozens of big-time journalists as well as members of Congress. Among his most valuable spies was John Walker, who sold vital Navy secrets to the Russians for 18 years.
Kalugin knows details about FBI agent Robert Hanssen's case but would not reveal them just yet. And he shed light on an enduring debate, saying there is no question that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were, in fact, Russian spies.
But it wasn't only leftists who became KGB assets. Kalugin says the rule was -- and is -- to look for people on the extremes.
"The worst anti-American element in recent history is Timothy McVeigh," Kalugin said. "Because of his hatred of the U.S. government, 168 lives were lost. Is he alone? No."
To clarify, the general was not saying that McVeigh had ever worked with the Russians, but was using him as an example of someone on the fringes who might have been targeted for recruitment.
Kalugin says the new regime in Russia is not to be trusted, and that Americans must be on their guard.