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Cryptologia

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Project Kalina: The Lotos Operation Conundrum


Jan Bury
To cite this article: Jan Bury (2012) Project Kalina: The Lotos Operation Conundrum,
Cryptologia, 36:2, 119-128, DOI: 10.1080/01611194.2012.660854
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01611194.2012.660854

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Date: 23 August 2016, At: 02:38

Cryptologia, 36:119128, 2012


Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0161-1194 print
DOI: 10.1080/01611194.2012.660854

Project Kalina: The Lotos Operation Conundrum


JAN BURY
Abstract The article discusses the late 1980s aftermath of a Cold War Polish and
East German signals intelligence operation against US covert communications
lines. The release of new files available now at the Polish Institute of National
Remembrance allowed broader analysis of the problems and challenges encountered by Cold War Poles with respect to the then advanced technology used by
their adversary. The text also briefs the measures undertaken by Cold War Polish
security and its capabilities, also in the budget sphere.
Keywords CDS-501, Cold War, DSCS phase II, operation Lotos=Wolke,
RT-804, satellite communications, Short Range Agent Communications (SRAC),
signals intelligence (SIGINT)

Introduction
In 1983 and 1984, communist Polish signals intelligence conducted radio reconnaissance of the US Embassy in Warsaw under the cover name Lotos (Wolke), with
the assistance of the East German Stasi [5]. The main target was the DSCS Phase II
SHF X-band satellite communications link established by the US Government at its
Warsaws diplomatic post in 1981, a unique installation behind the Iron Curtain.
The results of the operation were flawed, since the advanced satellite link remained
immune to interception and code breaking due to the lack of appropriate receivers
and data processing capabilities by the Poles. However, the operation revealed an
ongoing US signals intelligence operation conducted from within the embassy compound, which targeted Polish Government VHF and UHF radio networks. Furthermore, the existence of UHF agent communications channels, that were allegedly
used by US intelligence, was divulged. These problems, as evidenced by the newly
released documents from [3], were not put aside by the Poles, but challenged in
the late 1980s.
Since the Poles lacked appropriate up-to-date signals intelligence technology to
continue the operation, following the departure of the East German support team in
1984, the Lotos operation was closed. However, the release of new archival records
[3] allows us, at present, to conclude that the operation was continued, with high
expenditures, albeit under a different cover name, by Polish signals intelligence alone
well into 1989, the year of the collapse of the communist regime in Poland.
This article is devoted to the analysis of the aftermath of the Lotos operation
and its continuation under the cover name Kalina (a feminine given name) and is
Address correspondence to Dr. Jan Bury, Faculty of Law and Administration, Cardinal
Stefan Wyszynski University, 1=3 Woycickiego Str., Bldg. 17, Warsaw 01-938, Poland. E-mail:
j.bury@uksw.edu.pl

119

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J. Bury

orthodoxly based on the released files from [3] and other sources cited in the
References. The first section discusses selected challenges facing Eastern Blocks
SIGINT in the mid-1980s with regards to the new means of covert agent communications. The second discusses project Kalina, which was the continuation of the
Lotos operation. The third briefs the efforts to detect alleged line of sight agent
communications in downtown Warsaw. Finally, the operation is concluded.

Challenging New Signals


Following the departure of the East German signals intelligence officers from
Warsaw and the end of the Lotos operation (analyzed in [5]), Polish SIGINT
(Biuro RKW MSW) remained in touch with the friendly communist services. This
cooperation, orchestrated by the Apparatus for Coordination, a joint Warsaw Pacts
SIGINT entity, brought interesting findings from East Berlin and Havana. According to the source [3], these services intercepted numerous covert transmissions,
mainly in the microwave band, for which US intelligence was blamed. For example,
at the end of 1982 the KGB intercepted burst data transmissions to US MARISAT
satellites from within the USSR and commenced a hunt for their source. The Soviets
linked the transmissions, which took place from parks and forests, with the presence
of US diplomats in these areas [1].
In March 1983, the Soviet KGB arrested the First Secretary of the US Embassy
in Moscow, Richard Osborne, and seized a sophisticated satellite agent radio in his
possession, which operated from a hidden bottom of his briefcase. It was an RS-804
miniature set allowing covert worldwide transmissions of burst messages up to 1596
characters long via US MARISAT and FLTSATCOM UHF communications satellites. The KGB exchanged knowledge of the set with other friendly services as
evidenced by the source [1].1
The RS-804, measuring 198  186  19 mm, consisted of the following parts:
1. An RT-804 transceiver, capable of sending signals at 10 Watt RF power, preset
to 311.15 Mcs. (i.e., the uplink channel from an Earth station to a MARISAT
satellite);
2. A CK-42 Confidential COMSEC Cryptographic Item encryption device with a
keypad capable of storing messages of up to 1579 characters long and sending
them in short bursts lasting 4 to 5 seconds;
3. A BS-804A Ni-Cd battery unit with an AC power supply=charger accommodating the Send=Off=Input switch and a red charging lamp;
4. A CPK-804=A remote control assembly with a wired activation switch;
5. A small copper laminated antenna measuring 310  310 mm, with filter and cable.
The entire set weighted only 2.3 kg and was easy to hide.
The core of the set was the CK-42 cryptographic device, measuring 100  68 
18 mm and weighting 160 grams (Figure 1). The brief manual label from RS-804s
1
A former Polish SIGINT officer speaking on the condition of anonymity told the author
that on the critical day a KGB surveillance party had observed Mr. Osborne during a walk
with his family in one of Moscows parks and, upon receiving a confirmation of an illicit transmission originating from his satellite radio, arrested him. The details of the operation were
also made available to Polish SIGINT along with an expertise of the set nicknamed the
Phobos by the Soviets.

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121

Figure 1. A facsimile of the photo of a CK-42 encryption device, which was a common part of
the RS-804 and CDS-501, as taken by the KGB in 1983 and then made available to the Poles
[1]. (Color figure available online.)

cabinet allows us to learn about the simplicity of usage employed with the set. The
algorithm used with the unit remained, however, unknown at the time of writing this
article. The RS-804 short manual is presented below [1].
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Switch to INPUT [position on the BS-804A unit]


With stylus depress INPUT key [on the CK-42]
Enter 19 character variable2
Enter twelve # [key]
Enter message number and an X
Enter text
Enter one  [key]
Enter four # [key]

Switch to send, position antenna, depress activate. After 30 seconds depress


interrogate. Observe MSG and ACT lamps for positive indication.
2
Likely, this was an individual key for each message. The keys were delivered on separate
sheets along with the RS-804.

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J. Bury

It can be concluded that even an unskilled operator, who completed a short


training, could operate the set successfully.
In the meantime, the Poles learned that Cuban security intercepted transmissions deemed as originating from the RS-804 system. To make matters worse for
Eastern Blocks SIGINT, the Cubans announced to their friendly services the existence of a similar US intelligence agent communications system, not using the MARISAT satellites but short range line of sight (LoS) transmissions. The compromised
devices nomenclature was the CDS-501, and the set consisted of a radio part bearing
a similar name, a BS-98 12-Volt battery, a CK-42 coder, which was a common share
with the RS-804, and a short antenna. The CDS-501 allowed sending encrypted messages of up to 1596 characters in short bursts lasting 4 to 21 seconds depending on
their volume. In general, the main difference between the RS-804 and the CDS-501
was the RF output power, which, in case of the former was 10 Watts, and the latter,
only 1 Watt. The Cubans reported to the Soviets, who advised the East Germans and
the Poles, about 4 to 5 CDS-501 transmissions intercepted daily. These were detected
in the vicinity of the US Interests Section in Havana.
Open source literature [79] listed various short range agent communications
(SRAC) systems used by Cold War US intelligence. One of them was the above mentioned CDS-501 compromised by the Cubans [7]. Cold War Poles were reasonably
preoccupied that such devices could have been used in their country, as well. It
was probably unknown to them that a SRAC device known as Iskra (or Discus)
was in the possession of a high-grade US asset in communist Poland, the deputy
commander of the Operations Directorate of the General Staff, Col. Ryszard
Kuklinski, who defected in November 1981 to the West just before the introduction
of martial law by the General Wojciech Jaruzelski regime.3 According to [6] and [9],
the early devices Kuklinski got from his US handlers malfunctioned and only the
third or fourth operated properly, so the technology was at that time immature
and still under development. Apparently, Kuklinski used the device successfully in
Warsaw shortly before his defection in late 1981.
In July 1985, Polish SIGINT chief, Col. Wlodzimierz Zabawski, asked the
interior minister, Lt.-Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, to approve a new operation molded
upon the Lotos to research the possible US intelligence signals incoming from
the UHF burst data systems, like the one compromised with the March 1983
Moscow arrest. Furthermore, the Poles wanted to review the opportunities to break
the DSCS Phase II data link. The UHF line of sight burst transmissions were
expected around the US Embassy in Warsaw, while alleged agents were supposed
to air their reports while driving nearby or while on foot [3].

Project Kalina Unraveled


Polish SIGINT chief, Col. Zabawski, intended to establish six to eight unmanned
intercept stations in the vicinity of the US Embassy compound in Warsaw, which
would be wire-controlled from the SIGINT HQ at Warsaws Miedzeszyn or from
the base downtown, established at the Justice Ministrys building near the Embassy.
3
Just before Kuklinski, his friend and neighbor, Col. Wlodzimierz Ostaszewicz, a former
deputy Polish military intelligence chief, defected to North America via Yugoslavia in
September 1981. It remains unknown whether Ostaszewicz was also provided with any
SRAC devices by his handlers.

Project Kalina

123

Unmanned intercept stations would be located either in the Polish intelligence collaborators apartments or the flats acquired or already owned by Warsaws interior
ministry. The receivers at the stations would be tuned to any known SRAC UHF
radio channels to confirm such transmissions in Warsaw. The Poles expected that
if the CDS-501 was employed, the assets would send the burst messages from the
nearby streets or the Ujazdowski Park near the Embassy. In order to better prepare
the operation, numerous high buildings in the downtown were also indicated as possible transmission sites to the Embassy [3].
The main drawback the Poles initially encountered was their lack of appropriate
microwave receivers and the associated equipment. They expected such radios to be
produced in the USSR or the GDR only in 1988 or later. Therefore, if funds were
secured and appropriate equipment was acquired from the West, a MARISAT signals intercept station would be also established at the SIGINT HQ in Warsaws suburban Miedzeszyn, with separate units targeting both the uplink and the downlink
channels, as well as a DSCS Phase II interception facility [3].
Zabawskis men divided the operation into two main streams validated by the
possible communications devices employed. The first one, which targeted SRAC
communications, particularly the already known CDS-501 signal patterns shared
by the Cubans, required the equipment listed below:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

A Rohde & Schwarz ESVP 201300 Mcs. advanced receiver valued at 31,000 USD;
AOR AR2001 25 to 550 Mcs. radio scanners valued at 1,800 USD;
Four Rohde & Schwarz HA 74=3 antennas valued at 2,000 USD;
One EMCO ETS-Lindgren 3101 2001000 Mcs. conical log spiral antenna worth
1,075 USD;
Four Miteq AM-3A-000110 antenna amplifiers valued at 2,800 USD;
Two JVC VCRs with ancillaries worth 3,000 USD;
Four UHER 4400 recorders valued at 2,800 USD;
Ten microprocessor-controlled interfaces valued at 1,000 USD;
Various assembly ancillaries at 1,000 USD.

Therefore, the minimalist approach cost of the above mentioned equipment was
estimated at 46,475 USD.
The second stream of the operation was to target the DSCS Phase II communications in the 8 Gcs. X-band. The necessary equipment to be acquired consisted of
the items listed below:
1. A Hewlett-Packard 8559=853A spectrum analyzer plug-in (HP 8559) with the
digital display mainframe (HP 853A) covering the 10 Mcs. to 21 Gcs. frequency
range with 1 kcs. resolution. The set was worth 17,875 USD;
2. A Miteq AMF-5B-0510-3 antenna amplifier worth 900 USD;
3. A Miteq AMF-5B-2060-1 antenna amplifier worth 900 USD;
4. An EMCO ETS 3102 conical log spiral antenna for the 1 to 10 Gcs. band valued
at 975 USD;
5. Two professional grade recorders valued at 8,000 USD;
6. Various ancillaries at 300 USD.
In total, the cost of the basic operation against the DSCS Phase II system was
assessed at 28,950 USD.
Despite the possible poor effects, Zabawski got Kiszczaks approval for the
operation, code-named Kalina, in July 1985 and the expenditures of 80,000 USD

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J. Bury

were to be covered from the interior ministrys funds. The operation was launched
under the supervision of Zabawskis subordinate, Maj. Janusz Wojtczak, the head
of Section III of Polish SIGINT, which was responsible for research and development (R&D). Furthermore, Polish SIGINT Section IV, which specialized in VHF
and UHF radio monitoring, contributed to the operation.
The reasons for the operation were related, first, to the 1983 Osborne case and
the possible use of the RS-804 by US assets in communist countries. Second, the
KGB, East German Stasi and Cuban Interior Ministry intercepted each week
around 24 to 28 MARISAT transmissions at the time.4 Third, the Poles were preoccupied with the possible CDS-501 UHF band short range agent communications
in Warsaw, as molded upon the illicit transmissions in Havana between the assets
and the US Interests Section.
It must be emphasized that with respect to the RS-804 system, both uplink and
downlink frequencies, spaced at 53.6 Mcs., were targeted by the Eastern Block
SIGINT services.
The operation commenced in 1986 and since it involved various spheres, the
SIGINT was assisted by Warsaw interior ministrys Department II (counterintelligence) and Bureau B responsible for surveillance watch operations. The Poles
established six covert locations (known as PZ, for Punkt Zakryty) in the vicinity
of the embassy. These were:
.
.
.
.
.

PZ
PZ
PZ
PZ
PZ

Tramp I and IIon 3 Piekna Street;


Muzaon the Ujazdowskie Avenue inside the Rembielinski Palace;
Bostonon 8 Ujazdowskie Avenue;
Kameraon 37 Ujazdowskie Avenue;
Tarason 46 Mokotowska Str.

Eventually, in September 1986, the advanced embargoed Rohde & Schwarz


equipment was acquired clandestinely in Austria by Polish interior ministrys
Department I (foreign intelligence) for 960,000 Austrian schillings. Obviously, the
warranty provisions were impossible to execute. Therefore, the SIGINT operation
could be fully launched [3].

Mystery Transmissions
Source [3] brings an interesting account of Lt. Zbigniew Powojewski, a Polish counterintelligences US desk officer, who reported in his memo of 16 December 1986
about security threats posed by the US Embassy in Warsaw. He mentioned the
secure DSCS Phase II communications channel, the frequencies used by the embassy
guards in the 162 Mcs. range and, remarkably, intercepted burst transmissions on

Yet, in 1983, East German Stasi developed a way to establish the approximate rough
area from which an agent operating the RS-804 transmitted since the RT-804 transmissions
were relayed by two MARISAT satellites simultaneously causing frequency and time deviations on the downlink. Therefore, it was possible to locate an RS-804 transmitter in a rectangle
of 100 km North-South by 40 km East-West by pointing a rough area of 100  40 km. Furthermore, declassified Stasi documents indicate that each month this Eastern Blocks SIGINT
intercepted between 250 to 350 UHF burst data transmissions sent via the MARISAT satellites in the mid-1980s. I owe this information to Dipl.-Ing. Detlev Vreisleben of Germany, who
researched the issue from declassified files available now at BStU in Berlin.

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125

348.56 Mcs. from the area of the Ujazdowski Park and another park near the Polish
parliaments Sejm building, just across from the embassy compound.
Zabawskis personnel was dominantly preoccupied with the mysterious burst
transmissions recorded by the counterintelligence in 1986 on 348.56 Mcs. The
Warsaw Center asserted these were SRAC-device agent communications conducted
in Warsaws Ujazdowski Park allegedly within the line of sight (within the 100
meters range between the correspondents) and unleashed a hunt for an alleged US
asset operating then in Poland [3].
Under the ambitious project Kalina, Polish SIGINT cooperated with the watch
and surveillance MoI Bureau B in order to control the alleged short-range illicit
transmissions blamed on US intelligence. The Tramp-I, Tramp II, Boston, and Taras
covert locations were equipped with unmanned intercept stations consisting of the
following items:
. Ground-plane antennas of ca. 50 cm length connected to receivers housed at each
location. The antennas were installed either on the roofs of the buildings or close
to the windows facing the embassy compound in a manner to hide them as much
as possible.
. Yaesus FRG-9600 multiband scanning receivers at each location;
. The MIF-90 interfaces measuring 150  80  50 mm powered from the FRG-9600
scanners;
. The PA-5C 20 VA power supplies;
. The RS-232C modems.
Each unmanned station was connected with the SIGINT HQ using a ten-wire
phone cable of which two wires were used for 4.8 kbps data transmission, two for
12 V power supply, two for audio signal, and two were used as a reserve. The issue
had to be agreed with the Bureau B chief, Col. Dr. Zenon Daroszewski, which
eventually took place on 9 January 1987.
In order to capture the alleged agent, Bureau B launched a comprehensive TV
surveillance system in the vicinity of the embassy, cover-named Strefa (zone), to
record the suspect when a SRAC device signal would be picked up. This technique
was chosen since it was impossible to use the then radio direction finders to establish
the precise position of the alleged asset during his short on-the-air presence.
However, the Poles realized that they required 100 video cameras to cover the
entire area. Since each such covert video surveillance point was valued at 10,000
USD, the entire Strefa operations cost was estimated at 1 million USD. Additional
expenditures were related to acquiring apartments for covert locations or safe houses
in the expensive downtown. Surprisingly, these funds were secured in the Warsaw
interior ministrys budget.
The file [3] ends on 13 July 1989 when SIGINT personnel tried to activate an
unmanned covert intercept station at the PZ Muza object. There were no files available in the sources depicting the operation in 1988.
Yet during the final year of communism in Poland in 1989, a Polish SIGINT station in Gdansk (cover-named P-625) intercepted one transmission on 311.15 Mcs.,
that is the uplink frequency of the MARISAT satellites as used by the RS-804 radios.
This confirmed the fears of the authorities, who concluded that a US asset operated
then in the Tricity on the coast of the Baltic Sea in northern Poland [2].
Despite the fall of communism in Poland following the 4 June 1989 free elections, communist Polish security apparatus remained in an almost untouched form

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J. Bury

till the summer of 1990. On 28 December 1989, a new plan of operations for the next
year was unveiled by Polish SIGINT, then known as MoIs Bureau A and RKW
following the October 1989 merger of the codes and ciphers (A) and SIGINT
(RKW) bureaus. Section VIII of MoIs Bureau A and RKW was to monitor the
VHF and UHF bands in the 301000 Mcs. range, including the alleged UHF line
of sight and satellite agent transmissions in Warsaw. The task was distributed among
four teams operating under the command of Maj. J. Paluch, which occupied the
Skala (scale) facility in downtown Warsaw. Their main targets were radio transmissions originating from US and British embassies [4].
The sources did not mention the real effects of the Kalina project or when this
operation was stopped.

Conclusion
The Kalina operation exposed technical limitations faced by an Eastern Block
SIGINT service when confronted with modern western technology and tradecraft.
These problems were, however, overcome thanks to an almost unlimited budget of
communist security services. It must be underlined that in 1987 the economic condition of the Warsaw regime was already dire, so the expenditures of over 1 million
USD for the Kalina operation are significant. Therefore, the CDS-501 systems
cryptographic strength was to be bypassed, albeit at high cost, thanks to mere radio
interception and video recording of a suspect by Polish security.
The quest for an alleged agent operating in Warsaw was launched by Polish
SIGINT likely on the ambitions grounds since it was the US desk of communist
Polish counterintelligence that intercepted the alleged spy transmissions in 1986,
rather than the SIGINT itself. However, the sources did not mention the end of
the operation or its results.
It can be deemed that, following the June 1989 free elections, the Poles were uninterested in compromising the alleged agent, whom they thought was using a SRAC
device. In fact, the communist Polish regime was rather preoccupied in the 1980s with
its own protection and with securing the future position in case it had to cede the
power to the opposition. The latter likely happened between February and April
1989 during the Polish Round Table Talks between the members of the regime and
the opposition, which culminated in the free elections two months later. The new situation that emerged following the June 1989 elections caused havoc within the executive power and legislature in Poland for almost a decade, in which, however, new aims
in the foreign policy were pursued, like the accession to NATO (1999) and the
European Union (2004). The United States eventually became an important ally
guaranteeing Polands security in the 21st century. During the interim period of the
early 1990s, judicial revisions into the cases of former US and western intelligence
assets were made by the new Polish authorities, perhaps as a precondition of the
future partnership with the US and accession to the western intergovernmental
organization.
Therefore, at the turn of 1989 and 1990 no one within the establishment in
Warsaw was indeed interested in searching for an alleged US asset operating in
Poland and the SIGINT was abandoned with its project. Another example of such
an attitude can be given, which was transmitted to the author by a former Polish intelligence officer speaking on the condition of anonymity, that during the last year of
communism in Poland the Warsaw center suspected a NATO-country mole within

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127

the security apparatus, who provided information to the West beyond the knowledge
of the then defectors. Eventually, the issue was disregarded at the HQ, since finding a
place in the new political and economic reality became a priority to the Polish spooks.
In technical terms, the main drawback that the Poles had faced during the Lotos
and Kalina operations was the lack of data storage and processing capabilities. Since
no computing power was available, the Poles recorded the streams of bits generated
by the DSCS Phase II link on magnetic tapes. When high data rates were employed,
such an approach would generate miles of tape to be processed each day, which came
out to be completely infeasible. There are mere hints in the already released sources
that Cold War Poles started expanding their data processing capabilities for SIGINT
purposes only in 1988 and 1989, too late to make a decent use of such in their
tradecraft.

Acknowledgments
The author would like to acknowledge Dipl.-Ing. Detlev Vreisleben of Germany
for his help during the preparation of the article. This research was funded from
the Polish Government scholarship budget of FY 2010-2011 under the Iuventus Plus
scheme.

About the Author


Jan Bury received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Oriental Institute, University of
Warsaw. He also studied at the universities in Kuwait, Tunis, Oxford, and Nijmegen.
Currently, he is Assistant Professor at the Institute of International Law, European
Law, and International Relations of the Faculty of Law and Administration of
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, Poland. His professional interests
are linked to international relations in the contemporary Arab World, and
non-military aspects of wars. Dr. Bury is also a member of the Editorial Board of
Cryptologia.

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