Читать онлайн "Spycatcher" автора Wright Peter Maurice - RuLit - Страница 18


Выбрать главу

But bugging the CPGB headquarters and covering Third World delegations were, in the end, interruptions of the main task, which was to confront the Soviet Union and her allies. The first A2 operation I undertook against the Russians was Operation CHOIR. It actually began some months before I joined MI5, when Hugh Winterborn mounted an operation to bug the Russian Consulate on the Bayswater Road. The opportunity arose when the building next door was refurbished in preparation for new occupants. MI5 went in under cover as decorators and Winterborn fitted a new device called the probe microphone, which had been developed by John Taylor in the Dollis Hill Laboratory.

The probe microphone was a large, high-sensitivity microphone, which was used to gain covert access through a party wall. The device was lodged inside the wall about eighteen inches from the target side. The eighteen inches between the probe microphone and the target room were drilled out by hand at a quarter-inch diameter in steps of half an inch. Half an inch from the target side the quarter-inch-diameter hole ended and a small pinhole was drilled, again by hand, using a No 60-size bit, so that the intrusion into the target side was almost invisible to the naked eye. The eighteen-inch bore hole was then lined -with a smooth perspex tube which was acoustically matched into the microphone. The microphone fed out into the street and back along telephone wires to Leconfield House, where amplifiers boosted the captured sound into intelligible speech.

Six months after Winterborn installed the CHOIR microphone it suddenly went dead. MI5 had, at the time, an agent who worked as an occasional decorator and odd-job man for the Russians. His name was Nutkin, which earned him the inevitable nickname of "Squirrel." Nutkin told us that the target room had been repainted. Although it seemed most likely that the pinhole had been covered with paint, we were still puzzled. Before the installation was made, Winterborn had obtained detailed measurements of the target wall from Nutkin. Using these he had planned the microphone pinhole to emerge behind a plaster leaf of the elaborate cornicework fourteen feet above the floor. It seemed unlikely that anyone would paint so carefully as to actually seal the hole. Still, Winterborn and I decided to drill it out again.

The new operation involved considerable planning. The renovation work in the building next door to the Consulate had finished. It was now a busy office with a constant stream of visitors, some of whom we knew to be Russians checking on security. We had to work at night and in total silence. We needed scaffolding to work fourteen feet up as well as plaster and paint to repair any damage. Winterborn arranged for a prefabricated scaffolding system and quick-drying decorating materials, specially developed for MI5 by the Building Research Station, to be delivered to the office in small packages so as not to alert the ever-vigilant Consulate.

A week later Jagger and I took a taxi to the top of Bayswater Road. It was winter and the streets were dark and crowded with returning commuters. We walked briskly down toward the Consulate and let ourselves into the building next door using one of Jagger's famous keys. We unpacked our attache cases, which contained our tools and a small radio receiver. The observation post opposite the Consulate was under instructions to monitor the building for any signs of movement. We monitored the broadcasts on our receiver without acknowledgment, so that we could cease work if anyone came into the target room.

Every microphone MI5 installs is recorded in the A Branch Index, which logs technical specifications, a history of its operation, and, most important of all, its precise location. While Jagger erected the scaffolding in total silence, I studied the wall plan, which we had brought with us from the A Branch Index, and made the triangular measurements. We began scraping away the plaster. It was tense work. Each piece of plaster had to be removed by hand before it fell to the floor, and could then be placed in a bag for removal. After an hour we unearthed the microphone, carefully sealed inside the wall in a layer of plasticine. I disconnected the cables and slid out the perspex acoustic tube which led into the target room.

The No. 60 drill bit had a special stop on it ensuring the bit turned so slowly that a flake of plaster or paint could not be pushed out into the target room. I inserted the drill bit and held the body steady while Jagger delicately turned the handle. After two turns there was still resistance. Whatever was blocking the hole, it was obviously not a thin layer of paint. In the light of passing car headlights we exchanged puzzled glances. The drill turned again. And again. Still resistance. Then suddenly the bit ran free and almost immediately encountered another obstacle. I gently pulled the drill back to our side of the wall and Jagger packed the bit into a small box for examination in Leconfield House. Listening down the hole with an acoustic tube, I could hear the ticking of a clock in the target room, so without doubt the drill had entered the target room as originally designed, behind the rear side of a plaster leaf in the cornice.

We swiftly packed the microphone back into the wall, reconnected the cables, and replastered the hole. We had three hours to kill, waiting for the plaster to set before we could repaint the damage. We sat smoking, our receiver crackling intermittently. Even at the dead of night both sides were still dancing the Cold War waltz, as Watcher cars chased Russian diplomats through the darkened streets of London. But the Consulate remained silent.

The next day on the seventh floor Winterborn and I listened to the CHOIR microphone. It was muffled, but clearly working. The only problem was that nobody was saying anything in the target room. All I could hear was the steady clacking of a solitary typewriter. We went down to the basement to examine the No. 60 drill bit under a microscope. It was covered to a depth of three-eighths of an inch with plaster dust. Whoever the Russian decorator was, he had been mighty conscientious.

"That's no bloody redecoration," said Winterborn, squinting down the microscope. "You can't trowel plaster three-eighths of an inch down a pinhole. That's been done with a bloody syringe!"

A month or so later, "Squirrel" Nutkin was able to catch a sight of the target room. It had been completely remodeled with a soundproofed partition across the party wall. Behind the partition a single secretary worked with a typewriter. The Russians obviously knew, as we did, that party walls were vulnerable to attack. But, as far as we could tell, they did not know about the probe microphone. And yet it seemed probable that they had detected the pinhole and stopped it.

In July 1955 I tackled the Soviets once again, this time in Canada. MI5 received a request for technical assistance in an operation the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were planning to install microphones in the Russian Embassy in Ottawa. The old three-story Embassy building overlooking the Rideau River had recently burned down. The RCMP planned to install eavesdropping equipment during the rebuilding work, but needed access to the latest equipment, so they contacted MI5.



2011 - 2018