- Party leader Joseph Stalin began eavesdropping on his colleagues in 1922, when he ordered telephone taps on members of the Soviet leadership. According to Stalin’s private secretary, in the mid-1920s Stalin listened to the phone conversations of his adversaries to learn of their tactics in the interparty wars that followed the death of Vladimir Lenin. Stalin continued the practice of tapping the telephones of his colleagues right up to his death in 1953.The Soviet intelligence and security services perfected audio surveillance to keep track of foreign suspected dissidents, diplomats, and intelligence officers at home and abroad. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s offices and bedrooms were bugged at the Tehran and Yalta conferences, where he met with Stalin. According to Lavrenty Beria’s son, who translated the material, Stalin asked for copies of Roosevelt’s conversations as well as detailed comments on what the president’s talks revealed about his health and state of mind. One of the most famous incidents of audio surveillance involved a wooden carving of the Great Seal of the United States presented to the American ambassador in 1945. The seal, which was placed on the wall behind the ambassador’s desk, contained a bugging device that transmitted any conversations in the office. The device was discovered in 1952 and was put on display at the United Nations several years later during a debate on Soviet and American espionage. Audio surveillance remained an important tool of the KGB to the end of the Soviet regime, and it provided an immense amount of raw information for security officers. In the months before the 1991 August putsch, the KGB placed bugging devices in the offices of Mikhail Gorbachev, his wife, and his wife’s hairdresser.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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