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The Farewell dossier was the collection of documents that Colonel Vladimir Vetrov, a KGB defector (code-named "Farewell"), gathered and gave to the French DST in 1981–82, during the Cold War.

Vetrov was an engineer who had been assigned to evaluate information on Western hardware and software gathered by the "Line X" technical intelligence operation for Directorate T, the Soviet directorate for scientific and technical intelligence collection from the West. He became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist(Bolshivist) system and decided to work with the French at the end of 1980. Between the spring of 1981 and early 1982, Vetrov gave almost 4,000 secret documents to the DST, including the complete list of 250 Line X officers stationed under legal cover in embassies around the world.

As a consequence, Western nations undertook a mass expulsion of Soviet technology spies. The CIA also mounted a counter-intelligence operation that transferred modified hardware and software designs to the Soviets. Thomas Reed alleged this was the cause of a spectacular trans-Siberian pipeline disaster in 1982.

Vetrov's story inspired the 1997 book Bonjour Farewell: La Vérité sur la Taupe Française du KGB by Serguei Kostine.[1] It was adapted in the French film L'affaire Farewell (2009) starring Emir Kusturica and Guillaume Canet.[2]


Vetrov was a 53-year-old engineer assigned to evaluate the intelligence collected by Directorate T. He became disillusioned, and volunteered his services to France for ideological reasons. French intelligence gave him the codename "Farewell" — an English word so that the KGB would assume he worked for the CIA if they learned of the code-name.[3]

Vetrov supplied French intelligence with a list of Soviet organizations in scientific collection and summary reports from Directorate T on the goals, achievements, and unfilled objectives of the program. Farewell revealed the names of more than 200 Line X officers stationed in 10 KGB residences in the West, along with more than 100 leads to Line X recruitments.[4]

In a private meeting on July 19, 1981 at the Ottawa Summit, French president François Mitterrand made President Ronald Reagan aware of Farewell and offered the intelligence to the United States.[4][5] William Safire said Mitterrand described the man as belonging to a section that was evaluating the achievements of Soviet efforts to acquire western technology. Reagan expressed great interest in Mitterrand's revelations and thanked him for having the material sent to the United States government. It was passed through Vice President Bush and then to CIA.[4] Reagan passed this on to William Casey, his Director of Central Intelligence. Casey called in Gus W. Weiss, then working with Thomas C. Reed on the staff of the National Security Council. After studying the list of hundreds of Soviet agents and purchasers (including one cosmonaut) assigned to this penetration in the US and Japan, Weiss counselled against deportation."[5] "The Farewell Dossier also identified hundreds of case officials, agents at their posts and other suppliers of information through the West and Japan. Besides identifying agents, the most useful information brought by the Dossier consisted of the ‘shopping list’ and its aims in terms of acquisition of technology in the coming years."[6]

The dossier, under the name of Farewell, reached the CIA in August 1981. It demonstrated that the Soviets had spent years carrying out their theft of research and development activities. The Central Intelligence Agency decided to turn Directorate T into a weapon against the Soviet Union itself.

CIA response

While Vetrov was recruited by the French, the Western counter-reaction came from the US.

Safire was writing a series of hardline columns denouncing the financial backing being given Moscow by Germany and Britain for the Trans-Siberian Pipeline, a major natural gas pipeline from Siberia to Europe. That project would give control of European energy supplies to the Communists, as well as generate US$8 billion a year to support Soviet computer and satellite research.[5]

Intelligence shortcomings, as we see, have a thousand fathers; secret intelligence triumphs are orphans. Here is the unremarked story of "the Farewell dossier": how a CIA campaign of computer sabotage resulting in a huge explosion in Siberia — all engineered by a mild-mannered economist named Gus Weiss — helped us win the Cold War.

Under normal circumstances, success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan; in the world of intelligence gathering, nothing could be further from the truth. Weiss worked down the hall from me [Safire] in the Nixon administration. In early 1974, he wrote a report on Soviet advances in technology through purchasing and copying that led the beleaguered president — detente notwithstanding — to place restrictions on the export of computers and software to the USSR.

The CIA mounted a counter-intelligence operation that transferred modified hardware and software designs over to the Soviets. They instigated an operation of disinformation and faulty technology transfer.

Information from Vetrov also led to the arrest in New York of the spy Dieter Gerhardt, a South African naval officer who had been passing secrets to the Soviets for 20 years.[7] His handler, Vitaly Shlykov was arrested and subsequently imprisoned in Switzerland while attempting to meet with Gerhardt's wife, Ruth, who was acting as his courier.

Counterintelligence response

Another result was that the United States and its NATO allies later "rolled up the entire Line X collection network, both in the US and overseas." Weiss said "the heart of Soviet technology collection crumbled and would not recover." "Mikhail Gorbachev became furious when arrests and deportations of Soviet agents began in various countries, since he was unaware that the contents of the Farewell dossier were in the hands of the main heads of NATO governments. In a meeting of the Politburo on October 22, 1986, called to inform colleagues about the Reykjavik Summit, he alleged that the Americans were "acting very discourteously and behaving like bandits". Even though he showed a complacent face to the public, privately Gorbachev would refer to Reagan as "a liar".[6]

During the final days of the Soviet Union, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the USSR had to work blind. Gorbachev had no idea about what was happening in the laboratories and high technology industries in the United States; he was totally unaware that Soviet laboratories and industries had been compromised and to what point.[6]


An engineer, Vetrov was assigned to evaluate information on Western hardware and software gathered by spies ("Line X") for Directorate T.[4] However, he became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist system and defected at the end of 1980. Between the spring of 1981 and early 1982, Vetrov handed over almost 4,000 secret documents to the French DST, including the complete list of 200 Line X officers stationed under legal cover in embassies around the world.

It also led to the death of Vetrov. "Vetrov fell into a tragic episode with a woman and a fellow KGB officer in a Moscow park. In circumstances that are not clear, he stabbed and killed the officer and then stabbed but did not kill the woman. He was arrested, and, in the ensuing investigation, his espionage activities were discovered; he was eventually executed in 1985. CIA had enough intelligence to institute protective countermeasures."[4]

In 1985, the case took a bizarre turn when information on the Farewell dossier surfaced in France. Mitterrand came to suspect that Vetrov had been a CIA plant set up to test him to see if the material would be handed over to the Americans or kept by the French. Acting on this mistaken belief, Mitterrand fired the chief of the French service, Yves Bonnet.[4] The details of the operation were declassified in 1996.

Further analysis

Fidel Castro wrote in a 2007 article that the campaign of countermeasures based on Farewell's dossier was an economic war; that although no lives were lost in the gas pipeline explosion, the Soviet economy was significantly damaged; and that between 1984 and 1985, the United States and its NATO allies had put an end to the technology spying operation, which had destroyed the capacity of the USSR to capture technology when Moscow was caught between a defective economy on one hand and a US President determined to prevail and end the cold war on the other.[6]


Further reading

  • Gordon Brook-Shepherd, The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, New York, 1989) pp. 311–327
  • Paul Kengor, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (Regan/HarperCollins, New York, 2006)
  • Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud, Adieu Farewell (Laffont, Paris, 2009, in French); "Farewell" (AmazonCrossing, Aug. 2011, in English). First complete investigation of the Farewell Dossier and its international impact.
  • Giles Slade, Made To Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America (Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 2007): see Chapter 8.

External links

  • Realclearhistory The Greatest Spy of the 20th Century by S. Kostin and E. Raynaud.

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