Karl Koecher

Karel František Koecher (21 September 1934 in Bratislava) is a mole known to have penetrated the CIA.[2]

Karel Koecher
Karel František Koecher

September 21, 1934 (age 84)
Alma materCharles University
Indiana University
Columbia University
Spouse(s)Hana Pardemecova
Spying career

Early life

Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, his father was a Viennese-born Czech and his mother Irena, a Slovak Jew.[1] As the son of an Anglophile, Koecher gained his language skills from an early age attending an English grammar school and later French lyceum before the war.[1] Prior to his entry to university, his anti-state activities in his teen years attracted the attention of the security service, the StB, after the Communists took over in Czechoslovakia in 1948.[1] As remembered by some of his classmates, from early age he showed strong analytical capabilities, high intelligence and individualistic nature. Due to his unlikeable character, in later years, his former classmates would not invite him on annual class meetings.[3] He studied physics and mathematics at Charles University as well as film at the Academy of Performing Arts.[1] After university he tried a few jobs including a teacher, a reporter for state television, and a radio comedy writer.[1] He became a radio comedy writer and was allegedly frequently scrutinized by the Communist security forces for his satire that mocked the regime (this turned out to be a pre-planned "cover story"). He joined the Communist Party in 1960,[4] and the Czechoslovak intelligence service in 1962.[5] Koecher claims that constant harassment from the StB due to his history of anti-state and anti-social behavior, ruined his different careers and in order to end the harassment, decided to join the StB.[1] With the help of a friend within the StB and his language skills, he was recruited into the intelligence service.[1] In 1963, he married Hanna Pardemecova.[1] His first two years were devoted to training and counter-intelligence work against West Germans in Prague.[1]


Because of his English language skills, Koecher was selected to become a mole in the West. In 1965 he and his wife, Hana Koecher (the daughter of a Communist Party official[6]), seemingly emigrated to the United States via Austria posing as defecting dissidents.[7][1] His language skills and status as a defector aided Koecher in gaining employment at Radio Free Europe and a year long fellowship at Indiana University.[1] He returned to New York in 1967 and he gained a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University,[8][1] and became an American citizen in 1971.[4][9]

With the purge of his superiors at the StB during the aftermath of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, he found himself out of touch with the service and approached the FBI instead in an attempt to defect and use his knowledge against the Soviets but they weren't interested.[1] His supply of information to the StB dwindled from 1969 until 1971, but he continued to integrate himself in American society.[1] Taking a CIA prescreening employment exam in November 1972, he passed and was employed.[1] After several years as a sleeper he was hired by the CIA as a translator/analyst in 1973[7] due to his fake dissident credentials and skills in a number of Eastern European languages. He was given high level security clearance and given the job of translating and analyzing documents handed over by CIA agents and transcripts of wiretaps and bugs. He quickly became one of the USSR's best sources of information, allowing them to mount an effective defense against CIA covert actions. He is believed to have betrayed Aleksandr Dmitrievich Ogorodnik, a Soviet diplomat who spied for the CIA.[10]

In September 1976, however, Koecher was summoned back to Prague to a meeting with KGB head of counter-intelligence, Oleg Kalugin.[1] Kalugin claims that after interrogating Koecher, Kalugin argued that he was in fact a double agent and his information could not be trusted.[1] The StB then ordered Koecher to resign from the CIA or face death.[1] After seven days of interrogation, Koecher returned to New York and retired, leaving the CIA for a post in academia teaching philosophy.[1] By 1982, Koecher was rehabilitated by the KGB after Kalugin was demoted from chief of foreign counterintelligence and Koecher's past intelligence had been reassessed.[1] In 1980s, with growing tensions due to the election of Ronald Reagan, Koecher was one of a number of agents reactivated, when he was reproached by the StB intelligence officer Jan Fila in New York.[1] He returned to work part-time for the CIA. Although the FBI asserts that they had been monitoring and surveilling Koecher and his wife from the early 1980s, it was at least three years before he was arrested.[1]

To this day, neither the FBI nor the CIA will reveal what alerted them to Koecher's treachery. Koecher and other KGB officials claim it was Kalugin.[11] Another suggestion by a CIA historian, is that it was the StB intelligence officer, Jan Fila, who betrayed him with the latter disappearing in December 1989, a month after the Czechoslovakian Velvet Revolution.[1]


The FBI apprehended Koecher on 27 November 1984, outside the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, and brought him and, soon afterwards, his wife in for several days of questioning.[6][1] Finally, Koecher agreed to become a double agent working for the Americans, provided that they agreed to grant him immunity from prosecution.[1] This was done and Koecher attempted to convince the FBI that he was cooperating.[1]

However, it was then decided that Koecher was not reliable enough to be a double agent and was likely to defect and return to Czechoslovakia. On November 27, 1984, the day after the couple sold their apartment[12] and hours before they were scheduled to fly to Switzerland, Koecher and his wife were arrested in New York City. Koecher was held on espionage charges and Hana Koecher as a material witness.[12] The arrest of the two agents was released to the media.[7] U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani led the case.[12]

It soon emerged that the FBI had badly blundered. Koecher's confession was given only after his interrogators promised him immunity as a ruse, and was thus invalid.[6][13] His wife had been denied access to a lawyer despite frequent requests for one,[12] which reportedly caused Justice Department officials to refuse to charge her.[14] She refused to testify against Karl, asserting spousal privilege, though prosecutors argued this did not apply given the two had been partners in crime.[15] With little concrete evidence, it appeared that Koecher had a good chance of being acquitted.[16]

Koecher was the victim of an attempted stabbing by an unnamed inmate while in prison.[1] The inmate supposedly lunged at Koecher with a pair of scissors in an attack Koecher said was foiled by a Hells Angels member, Sandy Alexander.[1] Koecher claims the inmate was moved to another prison, and could not be located years later, which he says is proof of an attempt by US intelligence agencies to assassinate him.[17]

Koecher, worrying about his own safety, sent through his lawyer a request to the KGB chairman that he be part of a prisoner exchange with the Soviets.[1] KGB chairman Kryuchkov agreed, and so did the prosecutor's office, concerned about the embarrassing chance of an acquittal. Koecher pleaded guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage for Czechoslovakia,[15] and was sentenced to life in prison,[16] which was reduced to time served provided he left the US and never returned.[18] On February 11, 1986, Koecher and his wife were part of a nine-person exchange at Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, of which the most prominent member was noted dissident Anatoly Shcharansky.[16]


Koecher returned to Czechoslovakia to a hero's welcome and was given a house and a Volvo car as a reward for his services.[19] He was also given a job at the Prague Institute for Economic Forecasting,[20] where many future politicians worked; Václav Klaus and Miloš Zeman the future Czech presidents were among them. Some U. S. journalists stated they had seen Koecher issuing orders at the Laterna Magika theatre during the early days of the Velvet Revolution (1989). Koecher denied any involvement in the Velvet Revolution, saying that journalists must have mixed him up with the then unknown Václav Klaus, who had a similar appearance.[21]

As revealed in Ronald Kessler's book The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, Kessler and his wife Pamela interviewed Koecher and his wife Hana for five days after their return to Prague. The book says Koecher introduced Hana, a sexy blonde with enormous blue eyes, to swinging. She liked it so much that she became a far more avid swinger than he was. As Hana served dinner on the deck of their home, Kessler asked Koecher how he felt about Ogorodnik's death. "I'm deeply sorry about that," Koecher told Kessler. "But the people who did him in were the CIA and he himself. They recruited him in such a clumsy manner . . ."[22]

The fall of communism has seen Koecher fall from prominence, with the exception of his alleged involvement in a scheme run by self-professed former CIA operatives to defraud Mohammed Al-Fayed with false documents that would support his conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana.[20][23][24] He continues to live in the Czech Republic in relative obscurity. His wife, Hana Koecher, made the headlines in the Czech Republic, when she was fired from her new job as a translator for the British Embassy in Prague. The British were completely unaware of her espionage past until a Czech newspaper reporter notified them. A suit she filed against a media organisation for revealing her past as a spy, damaging her business, was rejected.[19][25]

An episode of the 2004 Canadian documentary series Betrayal! covered the Koecher case.[26]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Cunningham, Benjamin (30 June 2016). "How a Czech 'super-spy' infiltrated CIA". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  2. ^ Sevela, Vladimir (2015). Cesky Krtek v CIA. Prague: Prostor. pp. 35–38. ISBN 978-80-7260-320-6.
  3. ^ Sevela, Vladimir (2015). Cesky Krtek v CIA. Prague: Prostor. pp. 35–38. ISBN 978-80-7260-320-6.
  4. ^ a b Pamela Kessler (2005). Undercover Washington: where famous spies lived, worked, and loved. Capital Books. p. 27. ISBN 1-931868-97-2.
  5. ^ "Picking Up the Czech", Time Magazine, 10 December 1984
  6. ^ a b c "Accused spy couple awaiting trial". The Day (New London). N.Y. Times News Service. 13 January 1985. p. D-10.
  7. ^ a b c "Lawyer calls accused spy double agent". Eugene Register-Guard. 30 November 1984.
  8. ^ "Czech spy to plead innocent". Prescott Daily Courier. New York. UPI. 29 November 1984. p. 2A.
  9. ^ "ALERT". www.dhra.mil. Archived from the original on 2016-08-09. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  10. ^ Cleveland C. Cram (October 1993), Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature, 1977-92 (PDF), The Center for the Study of Intelligence, p. 58
  11. ^ "Newyorske listy". www.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  12. ^ a b c d "Wife of suspected spy not charged". The Pittsburgh Press. 29 November 1984. p. A15.
  13. ^ Pete Earley (1997). Confessions of a spy:the real story of Aldrich Ames. Putnam Adult. p. 73. ISBN 0-399-14188-X. his statement was inadmissible in court because the two FBI agents and the CIA officer who had interrogated him made promises that they never intended to keep.
  14. ^ Ronald Ostrow (Los Angeles Times) (8 February 1986). "U.S. includes Czech couple in spy swap". Anchorage Daily News. p. a-8.
  15. ^ a b Aaron Epstein (11 February 1986). "Czech Infiltrator Part Of Planned Spy Swap, A Justice Official Says". Philadelphia Inquirer.
  16. ^ a b c "East, West exchange spies, Shcharansky". Houston Chronicle. 11 February 1986. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011.
  17. ^ "Radio Prague - Köcher, espion tchécoslovaque à la CIA, échangé par les Soviétiques contre Sharansky (2e partie)". www.radio.cz. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  18. ^ "AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes". www.afio.com. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  19. ^ a b Jeff Stein (8 July 2010). "Past Russian spies have found post-swap life gets a bit sticky". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ a b Jan Culik (2 August 1999), "Princess Diana, Al Fayed, the CIA and a Czech Spook", Central Europe Review
  21. ^ Česká televize, 15. 6. 2007 Uvolněte se, prosím
  22. ^ "Revealing the CIA's Secrets". Newsmax. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  23. ^ Anjali Mody (24 July 1999). "Dodi Fayed takes scriptwriters of Di's `assassination' to court". Indian Express.
  24. ^ Peter Koenig (3 May 1998). "Al Fayed and the CIA conman". The Independent. London.
  25. ^ "A WOMAN TRANSLATOR'S DARK PAST - Intelligence Online". www.intelligenceonline.com. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  26. ^ "Betrayal! - Associated Producers Ltd". www.apltd.ca. Retrieved 2016-06-18.

See also

External links


  • Ronald Kessler: The CIA At War: Inside The Secret Campaign Against Terror, 2004, ISBN 0-312-31933-9.
  • Ronald Kessler: The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, 2003, ISBN 0-312-98977-6.
  • Ronald Kessler: The FBI: Inside the World's Most Powerful Law Enforcement Agency, 1994, ISBN 0-671-78658-X.
  • Ronald Kessler: Inside the CIA, 1994, ISBN 0-671-73458-X.
  • Ronald Kessler: Escape from the CIA: How the CIA Won and Lost the Most Important KGB Spy Ever to Defect to the U.S., 1991, ISBN 0-671-72664-1.
  • Ronald Kessler: The Spy In The Russian Club, 1990, ISBN 978-0-684-19116-4.
  • Ronald Kessler: Spy Vs Spy: Stalking Soviet Spies in America, 1988, ISBN 0-7153-9337-5.
Aleksandr Dmitrievich Ogorodnik

Alexander Dmitrievich Ogorodnik (November 11, 1939 – June 22, 1977) was a Soviet diplomat who, while stationed in Bogotá, was contacted by the Colombian Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to spy on the Soviet Union, operating under the code name TRIGON.He initially showed little promise and claimed he knew only of Colombian political affairs. He was later transferred to the Soviet Foreign Ministry in Moscow. In this new position, he was able to photograph a great deal of secret diplomatic cables, many of which were sent daily to the White House.

Ogorodnik eventually requested a suicide pill to be used in the event that he was caught. His chief handler in Bogota, famed CIA traitor Aldrich Ames, was able to supply him with one. However, Ogorodnik threw away the first pen containing the L-Pill and asked for the CIA to provide him with another pen. After much discussion in the CIA Headquarters regarding this request, it was eventually approved and his Moscow handler, Martha Peterson, delivered the pen through a dead drop.Ogorodnik was betrayed by a Czechoslovakian translator working for the CIA, Karl Koecher, and was arrested in 1977. During his interrogation, Ogorodnik offered to write a full confession and asked for his pen. When the interrogator handed him the pen containing the pill, Ogorodnik bit on it and died soon after.

Boris Bukov

Boris Yakovlevich Bukov, also Boris Bykov ("Sasha") Regiment Commissar (15 November 1935) was a member of the Communist Party member since 1919. Bykov was head of the underground apparatus with which Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss were connected.

David Sheldon Boone

David Sheldon Boone (born August 26, 1952) is a former U.S. Army signals analyst who worked for the National Security Agency and was convicted of espionage-related charges in 1999 related to his sale of secret documents to the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991. He is currently serving a prison sentence of 24 years and four months. Boone's case was an example of a late Cold War U.S. government security breach.

Elena Miller

Elena Miller, formerly Yelena Borisovna Olshanskaya, is a Russian, who, as alleged by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), came to Canada and spied under the name of a dead child and later lost the right to immigrate back to Canada to live with her second, Canadian husband.

Flora Wovschin

Flora Don Wovschin (born 20 February 1923), was a suspected Soviet spy who later renounced her American citizenship.

Jack Dunlap

Jack Edward Dunlap (November 14, 1927 – July 23, 1963) was a United States Army sergeant stationed at the National Security Agency who later became a spy for the Soviet Union in the early 1960s.

John Herrmann

John Theodore Herrmann was a writer in the 1920s and 1930s and is alleged to have introduced Whittaker Chambers to Alger Hiss.


Koecher or Köcher may refer to:

Dick Koecher (born 1926), American former professional baseball pitcher

Karl Koecher (born 1934), Czechoslovak spy, the only mole known to have penetrated the CIA

Max Koecher (1924–1990), German mathematician

Litzi Friedmann

Alice Friedmann (née Kohlmann; 1910–1991), known as Litzi Friedmann, was an Austrian Communist who was the first wife of Kim Philby, a member of the Cambridge Five.

Maria Wicher

Maria Wicher was married to Professor Enos Wicher and was the mother of Flora Wovschin. The family were all spies for the Soviet Union during the 1940s. Maria had previously been married to Dr. William A. Wovschin, Flora's father.

Her code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona project is "Dasha".

Michael Bettaney

Michael John Bettaney (13 February 1950 – 16 August 2018), also known as Michael Malkin, was a British intelligence officer who worked in the counter-espionage branch of the Security Service often known as MI5. He was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1984 of offences under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 after passing sensitive documents to the Soviet Embassy in London and attempting to act as an agent-in-place for the Soviet Union.

Reino Häyhänen

Reino Häyhänen (May 14, 1920 – 1961) was an Ingrian Finnish origin Soviet-born lieutenant colonel who defected to the United States.

Robert Thompson (spy)

Robert Thompson (born 1935) was a U.S. Air Force clerk who confessed in 1965 to passing hundreds of photos of secret documents to the Soviet Union since 1957 while he was based in West Berlin at the Office of Special Investigation at Tempelhof Air Base. He served there from December 1952 to December 1958.

Thompson was in contact with the Soviet intelligence after he returned to the USA. On 7 June 1963, FBI surveillance watched a personal meeting with a known KGB officer and an individual who later was identified as Thompson.

Thompson was arrested on 7 January 1965 at his service station in Babylon, NY where he was running a home fuel-oil delivery service as a truck driver. He pleaded guilty and received a 30-year sentence which he served in the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.

Saville Sax

Saville Sax (July 26, 1924 – September 25, 1980) was the Harvard College roommate of Theodore Hall who recruited Hall for the Soviets and acted as a courier to move the atomic secrets from Los Alamos to the Soviets.

Stephen Joseph Ratkai

Stephen Joseph Ratkai is a Hungarian-Canadian who was arrested, charged and convicted of espionage in St. John's, Newfoundland in February 1989. Ratkai was born near Antigonish, Nova Scotia, but spent his formative years in both Hungary and Canada after his father returned to Budapest. While studying chemical engineering in Budapest, he was recruited by Soviet Intelligence to become a courier for information on the SOSUS network site at the US Naval Station in Argentia, Newfoundland. Ratkai was caught in a sting operation organized by US Naval Intelligence, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and was arrested after receiving documents from a US Navy double agent in June 1988. He pleaded guilty to charges of espionage in February 1989 and was sentenced to 9 years in prison.

Thomas Patrick Cavanaugh

Thomas Patrick Cavanaugh is an aerospace engineer who was sentenced in 1985 after being convicted of trying to sell stealth bomber secrets to the Soviet Union.

Vincent Reno

Franklin Vincent Reno was a mathematician and civilian employee at the United States Army Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in the 1930s. Reno was a member of the "Karl group" of Soviet spies which was being handled by Whittaker Chambers until 1938. Reno confessed in late 1948 to his espionage activities on behalf of the GRU.

He is listed as number "118th" in the Gorsky Memo.

William Ward Pigman

William Ward Pigman (March 5, 1910 – September 30, 1977), also known as Ward Pigman, was a chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at New York Medical College, and a suspected Soviet Union spy as part of the "Karl group" for Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU).

Yotoku Miyagi

Yotoku Miyagi (宮城 与徳, Miyagi Yotoku, 1903–1943) was an Okinawan Marxist artist, Communist Party USA member, and a member of Richard Sorge's spy ring.

Soviet and Russian spies
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