Miracles of espionage: how the CIA introduced bugs and movie cameras into the copiers of diplomats from the USSR

Miracles of espionage: how the CIA introduced bugs and movie cameras into the copiers of diplomats from the USSR
Miracles of espionage: how the CIA introduced bugs and movie cameras into the copiers of diplomats from the USSR
11 January 2021, 10:03Technology
A startling story was told by Popular Mechanics magazine - about how in 1962 the CIA persuaded John Dassoer, vice president of Xerox Corporation, to help his native intelligence in spying on the Soviet embassy in Washington.

The CIA learned that the USSR embassy is using the first automatic copying machine Xerox-914, which naturally requires monthly maintenance by the company's specialists. Hence the idea arose - to install a small household movie camera Bell & Howell-2x8 into the apparatus, which could record the contents of documents copied by diplomats and intelligence officers working under the roof of the Soviet diplomatic mission.

The lead designer and engineer of the corporation, Ray Zappot, and three more specialists - optics, electronics and television, were involved in the project. Huge funds were allocated to create a copying machine with a "bug" and a secret design bureau was organized. For conspiracy, he was placed inside a small shopping center, in an abandoned bowling alley, where there were no windows. And now, after a while, all the technical problems were resolved.

A movie camera hidden inside the Xerox-914 copier in time-lapse shooting mode could photograph title pages of copied documents on one cassette: their reflection through a special mirror fell on the selenium drum of the copier and then onto sheets of white paper. The unmasking chatter of a movie camera was completely blocked by the noise of a working apparatus.

Moreover, it turned out that the security services of the embassy trusted the specialists from Xerox so much that they did not control the service itself! Throughout 1963, technicians took monthly data and changed the film in a movie camera, easily leaving the embassy grounds.

But appetite, as you know, comes with eating. And soon the next task from Langley was the installation of the "bug" in the compact desktop machine "Xerox-813". This model no longer had room for an ordinary 8mm movie camera, and the secret Xerox team had to create a miniature camera with a lot of film, along the way changing the design of the copier's mirror.

In 1964, Ray Zappot's work was awarded a secret patent. The inventor considered equipping all copiers with a covert documentation system that would help the United States verify allies and fight enemies, but in 1969 a chemical company was caught by the hand trying to spy on competitors in this way. One would have expected the Soviet embassy to start checking its copying machines and find a cleverly embedded bug. For this or some other reason, but the project was closed.

But in the mid-1970s, history repeated itself - this time with the USSR Consulate General in San Francisco, which bought the Japanese Toshiba copying machine.

A dedicated KGB officer (one of the authors of this article) closely followed the work of the American technician, who always commented in detail on his actions. They even developed friendly relations - both were professionals and treated each other with respect. Once in the late 1970s, instead of everyone's favorite technique, an elegant little girl came. She tried to speak briskly in Russian and clumsily poked a screwdriver into the apparatus. After she left, the security service of the Consulate General called the service company and politely asked why a charming amateur was sent instead of a professional. To which the secretary, innocently apologizing, replied that it was not a company specialist who had come, but a CIA officer temporarily working for them as an intern. Why not?

As a result, the Japanese car was sent to Moscow, to the famous institute of special equipment of the KGB of the USSR, where a sophisticated information retrieval device was found inside its welded base. This system, using a special optical sensor, recorded the image of the first sheet of the copied document, and then transmitted it in digital form via a radio channel to a neighboring private house. Most likely, it was there that a special receiver and printer were located, which restored the image on paper for subsequent study by American "competent authorities".

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