Espionage Awareness Programs



  On a Saturday morning in January 1980, while on patrol, Cpl. Thomas E. Hutchins, a Maryland State trooper, noticed a car with diplomatic tags traveling slowly on a major highway. The trooper also observed that the driver of the car was constantly checking his rearview mirror as he drove. The actions of the driver, combined with the speed of the vehicle, the early hour, and the diplomatic tags, aroused his suspicions enough that he ran a check of the car's registration. It was registered to a Soviet, Ivan Ivanovich Odintsov. The trooper then asked himself what could a Soviet diplomat be doing at 6:00 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning? Now, more suspicious than ever, Corporal Hutchins continued to follow the diplomat's car.

The diplomat, noticing the patrol vehicle, tried to evade the trooper. Then, he attempted several counter surveillance techniques to determine if he was still being followed. Losing his composure, the diplomat accelerated to more than 60 m.p.h. and ran a stop sign. This was when Corporal Hutchins decided to pull him over.

As he approached the stopped vehicle, Corporal Hutchins noticed that the Soviet diplomat appeared frightened and nervous. When asked to identify himself, Odintsov stated he was a Soviet diplomat and produced a diplomatic passport and a District of Columbia driver's license. Also, with no prompting, he told the officer that he was going fishing.

Corporal Hutchins, seeing no fishing gear in the car and knowing that there was no place to fish in the area, asked his dispatcher to contact the U.S. State Department to advise them of the stop and seek its guidance. A short time later, the dispatcher informed the trooper that no one was available at the State Department at that hour. Concerned about the proximity of the Soviet to Andrews Air Force Base and the Naval Communications Station, which were both less than 5 miles away, but running out of alternatives, he decided to issue the Soviet a warning citation and allowed him to depart. However, before the end of his patrol, the trooper did notify the Security Police at the airbase of the Soviet's presence in the area.

Unknown to Corporal Hutchins, the Soviet was a known KGB intelligence officer. Later, in 1985, the FBI learned that Odintsov was one of the KGB officers responsible for handling John Walker, the most notable Soviet penetration of the U.S. Navy in this century. The fact that Walker was not identified on that Saturday morning, 5 years earlier, was just bad luck.


Identifying agents and activities of foreign intelligence services in the United States is the most difficult task of counterintelligence. Without identification, plans cannot be developed to penetrate and neutralize an espionage operation. However, once the identification is made, even the most sophisticated network can be brought down.

To be successful in its counterintelligence mission, the FBI depends on an informed, enlightened citizenry and local and State law enforcement to assist in the identification process. Public participation in the identification process has led to the identification of past KGB activities, and it still remains critical to current counterintelligence efforts.

Unfortunately, however, the American public's perception of the Soviet threat has changed considerably in recent years. In June 1989, public opinion polls conducted in the United States indicated that 65% of Americans no longer consider the Soviet Union an immediate threat. (1) And, Stern Magazine reported that during the summer of 1989, 50% of West Germans polled believed they were more threatened by the United States than the Soviet Union. (2) Interesting facts, especially since both polls were taken before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Now, incidents witnessed by American citizens that were previously viewed as suspicious or threatening are no longer seen in that light. In turn, citizens report fewer of these incidents.

Today, the uninformed might conclude that an effective counterintelligence program is no longer necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Nicholas Daniloff, former Moscow reporter for U.S. News and World Report and one-time prisoner of the KGB, stated in a recent newspaper article, "Despite the reforms...Soviet spying against the United States will continue with intensity for a long time to come." (3)

What the American public fails to realize is that the Soviets continue to spend billions of dollars annually on espionage and intelligence collections activities in an attempt to close the gap with the West in microelectronics, computers, and sophisticated weapons systems. (4) In fact, heightened citizen awareness and cooperation is needed just as much now as it was in the past.


The FBI has developed a variety of techniques and programs to counter the activities of hostile foreign intelligence services in the United States. One of the most effective of these efforts is the Development of Espionage and Counterintelligence Awareness Program (DECA). DECA links the FBI's counterintelligence program to the security countermeasures employed by defense contractors. Under this program, FBI resources are focused on the spy's targets--U.S. employees with access to classified information--not on the intelligence officer or the diplomatic establishment.

The DECA Program operates in all 56 FBI Field Offices. In each office, a DECA coordinator administers the program. The coordinator's primary responsibility is to visit firms that have been awarded classified contracts to update them on current foreign intelligence threats.

Because of the dramatic increase in the threat posed by foreign intelligence services, the focus of the DECA Program has been expanded to now include American firms not engaged in classified government contracts and the public in general. Also, with the increase in exchange programs among Soviet and East European governments and U.S. Government agencies and local law enforcement agencies, DECA coordinators are now providing espionage briefings to other Federal agencies and local police departments.

At the beginning of 1990, the FBI appointed a national DECA coordinator (NDC) to manage the program throughout the country. A short time later, a national DECA advisory committee was organized. This committee, composed of DECA coordinators from the larger FBI field offices, assists the NDC with the formulation and implementation of DECA goals, training, slides, videos, (5) and literature.


In August 1988, as another step designed to increase espionage awareness, the Industrial Security Awareness Council (ISAC) was formed. ISAC is a joint Government/private sector working group whose membership includes the Defense Investigative Service (DIS), the FBI, and 11 defense contractors. (6)

ISAC's goal is to promote security awareness in the defense industry by focusing on the collective resources of industry and government. Its members share awareness resources, thereby reducing needless duplication of efforts that occur when companies operate alone, without coordination and cooperation. This concept has since been expanded by DIS and the FBI to other regions of the country and plans are in progress to make it a national organization.


The United States continues to have secrets that some foreign powers seek and are willing to steal. These secrets go beyond the strategic military and technological information that impact on national security. They also include sensitive economic information and proprietary technologies of America's private sector. These technologies may never be classified, but their loss could have a negative impact on those companies who developed them. A loss in the private sector, if significant enough to threaten a company's survival, could also endanger national security.

The successes achieved by Soviet and other foreign intelligence services during the 1980s serve to reinforce the fact that counterintelligence is a strategic issue that requires a coordinated, effective national response. Because the world is so complex and is in a constant state of flux, the FBI must be able to articulate clearly this evolving intelligence threat and work with America's private sector to meet today's counterintelligence challenges successfully.

Freddie L. Capps, Jr., Special Agent FBI


(1) David Remnick, The Washington Post, June 13, 1989, p.A 1.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Nicholas Daniloff, "Reforms In Soviet Union Only Increase Appetites For Secrets From The West," Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1989.

(4) Hughes Aircraft Company, A Counterintelligence Awareness Primer, 1987, p. 5.

(5) Hughes Aircraft Company and the FBI jointly produced a video entitled "Espionage 2000." This 30-minute video contains interviews of experts in the counterintelligence and security countermeasures fields discussing important awareness issues. It is available to any government agency or defense contractor for use in espionage awareness programs by contacting the FBI, the Defense Investigative Service, or the Hughes Aircraft Company.

(6) The 11 defense contractors are Aerospace Corporation, Hughes Aircraft Company, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company, Logicon, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, Northrop Corporation, Rockwell International Corporation, Science Applications International, Trident Data Corporation, and TRW