Akhmerov, Ishak Abdulovich

(1901–1975)
   A Tatar, Akhmerov had a career in counterintelligence before he was dispatched to the United States by the NKVD as an illegal. He served as deputy rezident (intelligence officer) and then “illegal rezident” in the United States for over a decade. In the late 1930s, he recruited and ran important sources within the U.S. government, including Alger Hiss. Akhmerov worked closely with committed U.S. Communist Party members, including American party boss Earl Browder. One American who refused to spy for Moscow described Akhmerov as “affable” with a good command of the English language. Akhmerov was recalled to Moscow in 1940 after being accused of treason. Miraculously, he escaped trial and execution and returned to the United States during World War II to run agents in Washington.
   Akhmerov’s cover during his second tour was as the manager of a clothing and fur store in Baltimore. (His father had been a furrier.) Akhmerov’s cover was strengthened further when he married Helen Lowry, the niece of Earl Browder. (Akhmerov was one of the few Soviet intelligence officers permitted to marry a foreigner.) Lowry, whose code name was “Nelly,” served as a courier between the illegal apparatus and NKVD officers under “legal” cover as diplomats. She also maintained a safe house in Baltimore where Akhmerov could meet agents.
   Akhmerov was a clever and careful case officer. During his second tour as an illegal, he ran a number of agents within the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, including sources in the White House, the nascent American intelligence services, and the State Department. In 1942 and 1943, he transmitted 300 rolls of microfilm with classified documents and assessments to Moscow, while in 1944 more than 600 rolls of scientific and technical intelligence reached Moscow from Akhmerov’s agents. One of his most effective couriers was Elizabeth Bentley, who turned herself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in late 1945, disclosing Akhmerov’s operations. Following Bentley’s defection, the Akhmerovs served as illegals in Switzerland, taking the name of a famous American millionaire. In the 1950s, they returned to Moscow for good. He was promoted to colonel and served as the deputy chief of the service’s illegals department. Helen taught English in Moscow to a new generation of illegals, while Akhmerov instructed them in tradecraft.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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