A DOUBLE agent dubbed ‘the world’s most successful spy’ was instrumental in helping Vladimir Putin seize power – and his identity still remains a mystery decades later.
Known simply as “The Fourth Man,” the mole was one of several Soviet spies who managed to infiltrate the heart of US intelligence.
But unlike most that were eventually unearthed, this mysterious haunting has never been identified — it’s one of the greatest mysteries in all of espionage.
And the mission of him and his colleagues was so devastating that it is believed they helped pave the way for the rise of the tyrannical Putin in Russia.
Russia’s spies at the time left the CIA paralyzed and blind – with no trustworthy information fed to them about the brutal Vlad’s sudden rise to power.
With this loophole, former KGB man and mafia enforcer Putin was able to consolidate his power and set the stage for taking control of Russia.
The Fourth Man compromised the identities of Russian spies working for Washington DC and leaked a lot of sensitive CIA data.
Ex-CIA agent Robert Baer told The Sun Online the spy’s actions at the time “could have changed history”.
It is believed that if The Fourth Man had been singled out, US intelligence might have been able to identify the Putin threat and alert the Kremlin.
He said all talks between then-US President Bill Clinton and then-Russian leader Boris Yeltsin were leaked to Putin and the KGB.
It is claimed that Vlad then helped intimidate Yeltsin, the first Russian leader after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and seized control in 1999.
Putin usurped Yeltsin as President of the Russian Federation and embarked on a stunning reform of Kremlin policies that would change the country forever.
“Was there any reason Clinton could have persuaded Yeltsin to find anyone other than Putin if we had known who Putin was and what he was doing? Could we have changed the story?” Bear explained.
“I think that was probably the case. If we understood at that point that the KGB was embedding itself in the Russian government and preparing for a takeover in 1999, was there a way to avert it?”
According to Baer, the Russian spies infiltrating the CIA during this period were known as “The Cambridge Five, but only worse” – a reference to the Soviet spy ring that infiltrated the UK in the 1930s-1950s.
Was he the most brilliant spy of all time?
And while the US caught a slew of spies, there were still leaks that couldn’t be explained – prompting them to begin the hunt for the mysterious “Fourth Man”.
Baer told The Sun Online: “There was a fourth man – just look at the evidence.
“No one doubts that, and the fact that the FBI has been actively pursuing this for 25 years.
“The people and branch of the USSR and everyone else agrees that there was a Fourth Man.
“I have no doubt about that, the question is who was it? Some people believe he is dead, others believe there was a fourth man and a fifth man. Was he the most brilliant spy of all time?”
In a desperate attempt to sort them out, the agency and FBI formed the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in May 1994, headed by veteran intelligence chief Paul Redmond and four other officers.
Within six months, the top-secret unit was “shut down” and its officers relegated to dead-end jobs.
What they discovered would have profound implications for US intelligence for years to come.
The 1980s were a devastating time for US intelligence.
Though on the verge of winning the Cold War, the CIA and FBI were rocked by a devastating wave of high-level official defectors to Moscow and a series of high-profile infiltrations by Kremlin-backed spies.
Among them were CIA officers Edward Lee Howard and Aldrich Ames, and FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who together helped identify, arrest, jail and execute agents who worked for the US during the Cold War.
In a desperate effort to clear the decks, both agencies formed the SIU and charged them with solving a list of “anomalies” that could not be explained by shady actions by Howard, Ames, or Hanssen – namely, an event dubbed “‘ 85- ’86 casualties” of Russian agents.
CIA officers Laine Bannerman, Diana Worthen and MaryAnn Hough, and FBI analyst Jim Milburn began their top-secret mission to find and weed out what they believed to be “the fourth man.”
“They went back to 1983 and looked at the timeline when Ames was on the job, when Howard was on the job, and it just didn’t add up. There were these compromises that they just couldn’t be responsible for. ‘ Baer told us.
The former CIA spy-turned-writer said the SIU was quick to spot a Pentagon request for information on Russian weapons leaking to Moscow.
“It was apparent that the list was immediately passed to the Russians, who then proceeded to feed disinformation into the CIA, which the CIA and the Pentagon overheard,” Baer said.
The team was also briefed on “The Fourth Man” by a trusted Russian spy.
They also noted that the Russians deliberately flooded their Washington DC embassy with officials to overwhelm CIA surveillance teams using a tactic known as “starbursts.”
Their goal was to clear the way for a KGB agent to meet with the mole without CIA surveillance.
But the biggest sign was the dismissal of Soviet agent and former KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky, who was suddenly recalled from London to Moscow in May 1985, drugged and interrogated.
“The real anomaly was Gordievsky,” Baer explained.
“It was the considered opinion of the FBI and CIA that it wasn’t Ames who gave up on Gordievsky.
“It was someone who had revealed his identity to the Russians months ago.”
After weeks of investigations, the undercover team compiled a list of six to seven suspects and created detailed profiles on each of their careers.
“When they got to the bottom of the list,” Baer said, “they realized that it was [the head of the SIU] Redmond.”
LOVE FROM RUSSIA
The “Cambridge Five” but worse
Together they helped identify, arrest and kill CIA agents in Moscow in the 1980s and 1990s.
Howard was the first CIA agent to defect after growing angry at his firing and leaking classified information to a KGB contact in Europe.
He escaped to a Soviet embassy in Helsinki, Finland in 1985. On July 12, 2002, he was found dead at his home in Russia, reportedly after falling from his home with a broken neck.
Ames compromised more CIA agents than any other officer in history and helped foil at least 100 intelligence operations before his arrest in March 1993.
The CIA agent spoke fluent Russian and met regularly with Soviet embassy officials, who paid him thousands of dollars for the information he shared.
His peers became suspicious after he bought a $50,000 luxury Jaguar and a $540,000 home in Arlington, Virginia, which he paid for in cash with his meager $60,000 annual salary.
He is currently serving a life sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Hanssen, a former FBI agent, was the most prolific spy. He fed secrets to the Soviets from 1979 to 2001 in what the US Department of Justice called “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.”
Hanssen was arrested in February 2001 after being caught leaving a package containing top secret material at a dead dump. He pleaded guilty to espionage charges and was sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms.
The team turned its findings over to CIA bosses in December 1994.
“They knew this wasn’t airtight information, but what they really wanted wasn’t to charge Redmond or anyone else, but to start the investigation and look into things like finances and travel, because it couldn’t all be considered evidence for so long.” until that was done,” Baer explained.
“They never said Redmond directly, but they just looked at the matrix and the profile and said they couldn’t come to any other conclusion.”
But when Bannerman, Worthen and Hough and Milburn dropped their report in their bosses’ laps, hoping they would make the right decision, they realized they were wrong.
Baer said: “What happened was immediate retaliation against them.
“They were fired from their jobs, they got jobs and non-essential jobs. It was clear her career was over.”
The SIU was disbanded and taken over by the FBI while Redmond resigned and was never charged.
Years later, Bannerman collaborated with Baer, who recently wrote a book about the mysterious infiltration called The Fourth Man: The Hunt for the KGB’s CIA Mole and Why the US Overlooked Putin.
This isn’t the first time the Fourth Man theory has been publicly debated.
The Main Enemy, published in 2003 by James Risen and former CIA officer Milt Bearden, has led US officials to believe another rogue agent in the US’s top spy corps was at large.
Baer said members of the SIU team are now coming forward because they “didn’t want the guy to get away with it.”
But Baer says without more information, it’s impossible to say for sure that Redmond was the mole that plagued the CIA for decades.
“You are innocent until proven guilty and there is no smoking gun in this story,” he said.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5692100/inside-hunt-for-the-worlds-most-successful-spy-russia/ Mystery of the “world’s most successful spy” who helped Putin seize power and provide Russia with US secrets for 10 years