“The Spies Who Came in From the Cold” – with Chris Costa and John Quattrocki at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago
Andrew Hammond: Hi and welcome to "SpyCast." I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond, historian and curator here at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. "SpyCast's" sole purpose is to educate our listeners about the past, present and future of intelligence and espionage. Every week, through engaging conversations, we explore some aspect of a vast ecosystem that looms beneath the surface of everyday life. We talk to spies, operators, mole hunters, defectors, analysts and authors to explore the stories and secrets, tradecraft and technology of this secret world. We are "SpyCast." Now sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Andrew Hammond: Welcome to this week's episode of "SpyCast." This week's episode is a live panel conversation we had in Chicago at the home of our partners, the Pritzker Military Institute and Museum, right down there by the Great Lake Michigan. The panel was on Cold War intelligence and espionage through the experiences of two former intelligence officers who had served during the Cold War period, Chris Costa and John Quattrocki. Chris is the current executive director of the International Spy Museum and a former career intelligence officer with the U.S. Army. He served for 34 years, with 25 of those in hotspots such as Panama, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Before coming to the museum, he was special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council. John retired from the Senior Executive Service as a special agent of the FBI. He had 19 years of operational experience against the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, East Asia, Islamic extremist groups and domestic terrorism. John also has 14 years of experience in U.S. national security policy and served on the U.S. National Security Council as the director of counterintelligence programs. I think you'll enjoy the switch-up of formats.
Liz Eberlein: Good evening and welcome to tonight's program, presented jointly by the Pritzker Military Museum and Library and International Spy Museum. With us this evening to talk about their own experiences in the world of Cold War intelligence are executive director of the Spy Museum, Colonel retired Chris Costa and Special Agent retired John Quattrocki. Chris Costa is a former intelligence officer of 34 years, with 25 of those in active duty in hotspots such as Panama, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and is also a past special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council. John Quattrocki retired from the Senior Executive Service as a special agent of the FBI with 19 years of operational experience against the Soviet Union, Russia, the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, East Asia, the Islamic extremist groups and domestic terrorism. He also has experience in U.S. national security, policy development and implementation at FBI headquarters and in the Intelligence Directorate on the National Security Council staff at the White House as the director of counterintelligence programs.
Liz Eberlein: Guiding the conversation this evening is historian and curator at the International Spy Museum Dr. Andrew Hammond. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Hammond, Chris Costa and John Quattrocki to the stage.
Liz Eberlein: Dr. Hammond, the program is yours.
Andrew Hammond: Thank you. Well, thanks so much for joining us tonight. It's a real privilege to be here. I was just thinking, when Liz was introducing both of our speakers tonight, you really don't want to read their CVs. It will make you feel like a chronic underachiever. So I had the pleasure of doing that. So before we go on to the questions, just a couple of minutes where I'm just going to reflect on the Cold War to make sure we're all on the same starting block.
Andrew Hammond: So the Cold War - the Cold War was many things to many different people. It was something that took place all over the globe - in Africa, Angola and Mozambique, in the Americas, Cuba and Nicaragua, in Asia, Vietnam, Afghanistan - really encompassing the whole surface of the globe. It affected economies, societies, culture and, of course, intelligence. For many people, the Cold War is seen as the golden age of traditional espionage and intelligence. So the Cold War is so many different things. And it's about some of these things that I've spoken about. But it's also about people. It's also about individual human beings. And we are very lucky tonight because we've got two intelligence officers who were - served during the Cold War, but also in the period afterwards, where they went on to have very distinguished careers. So I'm really looking forward to speaking to them a little bit more.
Andrew Hammond: And just because it's - Monday was Memorial Day, so the day where we think about those who've served the nation overseas and have fallen. And that's for the military specifically. But I think that, for me, there's no doubt in my mind that it was people like John and Chris. If it wasn't for successive generations of people stepping up to the plate and serving in institutions such as the FBI and the U.S. Army, I personally, as a European - I think that the light of liberty would have been extinguished in Europe. So I just want to say, you know, personally, thanks for standing up and being counted.
Andrew Hammond: OK. So let's start off. I thought a good place to begin - tell us about one experience that captures the essence of the Cold War for you in terms of your career. So when you think of the Cold War, what's one of the first things that comes to your mind, Chris?
Chris Costa: Well, thanks, Andrew, for having me. And also, it is a privilege - to reiterate what you said, it's a privilege to be here this evening. And we very much appreciate the opportunity to share some of our stories to help educate the public. So with all humility, we're going to talk a little bit about our experiences tonight. And as I reflected on the Cold War, which I didn't think a lot about because I spent so many days, weeks and months in combat zones. And, of course, the counterterrorism fight took up a lot of my career, post-9/11.
Chris Costa: But all of that said, the foundation for my work really started in the Cold War. And when Andrew previewed some of the questions he would ask about, I reflected on the idea that I was lucky enough to be a young counterintelligence agent, meaning looking for spies at NATO headquarters, walking cobblestone streets, working with six different countries, conducting investigations and offensively going after Russians, presumably at a time where peace was breaking out in Europe. This is the early 1990s, post the wall coming down. And during my time at SHAPE headquarters, the Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, so the military headquarters, a few miles from NATO headquarters outside of Brussels, there was a spy uncovered. And that changed the trajectory of the next year or so of my career as we did a damage assessment. And we had to identify if that spy had tentacles into the military secrets that we had at SHAPE headquarters. So that was eye-opening for me, particularly because I used to go to Brussels and knowing that there was a spy somewhere at NATO, not knowing where that spy was.
Chris Costa: And as it turned out, the wife of that spy would interact with me quite frequently as I passed some of the most sensitive secrets we had to her hands to put in the safe at the NATO Office of Security. It turned out her husband was Rainer Rupp, known as Topaz, an East German spy. And I thought that I was lucky enough to experience that, despite seeing the other side of treachery, seeing the devastation - personal relationships, as well as the damage to NATO. But as a young captain, that became a formative experience throughout the rest of my career as I - I ended up recruiting sources and working human intelligence. And I never forgot those lessons. So to answer your question directly, it was those days when Topaz was uncovered in in Brussels, circa 1993, I believe.
Andrew Hammond: And John?
John Quattrocki: So conveniently, I can cover the decade or so before that as probably the old guy. But first, let me address the 500-pound A and O in the room. I haven't lived here for 40 years, but I'm a returning Chicago - born and raised. So if you're from Hyde Park, Lincoln Park or Highland Park, hello, neighbor. It's great to be home. And I add my gratitude to the museum and to Chris and Andrew for having this opportunity.
John Quattrocki: Older than Chris, probably older than anybody in the room - and so you should know, I came into the bureau, FBI, in late '82. In late '82, President Reagan had just signed Executive Order 12333. So we go from about 500 agents working CI to about 3,500 agents in the space of two fiscal years. So if you go back or you might recall, Time magazine runs the Year of the Spy in 1985. That wasn't by accident. We trebled the number of agents we were working on counterespionage and counterintelligence, those being two different practices. And so I came in with that wave. We hired about 550 agents just in late '82, early '83 for the fiscal year '83. So I came back here through the Chicago office, right around the old Kluczynski building. They've since moved. And then they told me, never come into the office again. They put me in recovery operation up on the North Side. And no good deed goes unpunished, so they sent me to San Diego. And from San Diego, I get put on another domestic terrorism undercover. And they sent me a language school. So at the height of the Cold War, the Brezhnev era, the Reagan era, they sent me to language school for the Czech language. Irish Italians speak fluent Spanish, so he sent me for Czech. So this is the government in its fullest flower. So I come out of language school speaking Czech and Slovak, and I walk right into the largest espionage case in peacetime American history, the Clyde Conrad-Zoltan Szabo case. Runs for about one-half of the Cold War, from '67 to the mid-'90s.
John Quattrocki: And it was not an espionage case without extraordinary consequence. This was not about stealing secrets to the men's room. This was not about stealing Chinese menus or perhaps an artillery placement or a plane placement. This was about 400 to 500 tactical nuclear weapons in the Fulda Gap defending NATO and Europe from a Soviet and Warsaw Pact assault during all of the Cold War. And I got pulled into the case because Clyde Conrad, and before him, Zoltan Szabo, a native Hungarian, had been pitched coercively by the Hungarian intelligence service. And Szabo and Conrad were smart enough to realize that the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War still was riven by internal dissent among the Warsaw Pact countries and with the USSR. So they tried to hide from the Soviets by double-dealing with the Czechoslovaks.
John Quattrocki: So as the only Czech speaker - now think of this - Warsaw Pact - the only Czech speaker we could actually use on an espionage case - with all of four years in the bureau, I get pulled into the Clyde Conrad-Zoltan Szabo case. So I become the case agent for this case that would go on for another 10 years. And the story has one of the great Cold War endings of all time because we don't solve it completely but for the fact the wall comes down in '89. So in November of '89, we are struggling with some of the unresolved issues with just an extraordinarily horizontally and vertically developed spy ring supported by Hungarian Swedes - were being used as couriers, a leak with The New York Times members of other services that have been recruited for the Soviets who were working with us in USR and SHAPE headquarters.
John Quattrocki: And so across this whole spectrum, we have come up against a brick wall neatly laid by the Soviets and in the Warsaw Pact. And then the wall comes down. The wall comes down, and I get a call 4 o'clock in the morning. Hey, I'm your action officer at Andrews Air Force Base. You're a Czech speaker. We're flying you into Prague. I said, I'm not in the Air Force anymore. I'm in the FBI. He said, we know. But you're going to Prague. And so I call headquarters. Oh, John, we got to tell you. This - things are moving quickly. So we're moving all the language speakers back into Europe. So I go to Czechoslovakia when there were still 70- to 75,000 Soviet soldiers still in Czechoslovakia - and they wouldn't leave for another three years - in about 60 military bases in Czechoslovakia.
John Quattrocki: So that's probably the thing that shaped it for me the most because we saw the nonmonolithic nature of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR is our working at times with each other and many times against each other and even internally against each other. And then we saw our fortunes change dramatically because, as you know, the fall of the wall was basically unforecasted by U.S. intelligence, through no fault of anybody's. But in October, we were planning for long-range five-and-six year operations. It came to a halt immediately. So that's my one Cold War experience that starts with the case in '67, Conrad-Szabo, in the dead center in the Cold War, that goes all the way through the natural termination of those relationships and our new relationship with Central Europe, which are now our NATO partners.
Andrew Hammond: I remember I heard of someone who was writing a thesis, and the title of the thesis was going to be Why the Cold War will Continue. And they were due to publish in December 1989.
Unidentified Audience Members: Oh.
Andrew Hammond: (Laughter) So they had to go change the thesis a little. And just one brief point - John mentioned the Fulda Gap, where the tactical nuclear weapons were going to be used. So just for those that aren't aware, that's just an area of the - central Germany where the Soviet army was predicted to have poured through. It was one of the natural places that it would come through. So that kind of became a shorthand for the Cold War, right?
John Quattrocki: Right.
Andrew Hammond: So I think you sort of answered this already, but when did you join your respective institutions? I believe it was '84 for you, Chris, and '83 for you, John.
John Quattrocki: Right.
Chris Costa: Right.
Andrew Hammond: So you are joining around the same time.
Chris Costa: Yeah, right. I mean, I was commissioned an Army officer in '84, and I became a military intelligence officer in 1988. So I came in as an infantryman. And to the point of Fulda Gap, we in the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky - we were not going to fight necessarily in the Fulda Gap. We were going to fight maybe the Soviets in Southwest Asia. Most of us young lieutenants had to look at the map and try to figure out, where is Southwest Asia again? And we ended up spending a lot of time there after the first Gulf War because that was fought in Iraq, in southwest Asia. So much of our planning in the 101st was focused in 1990 against Saddam Hussein. And the Russians watched that play out. And we had a formidable offensive against the Iraqis. And, of course, the Iraqis used Warsaw Pact equipment, Soviet equipment, Soviet doctrine. And they acquitted themselves poorly. At the same time, the United States was prepared to fight that kind of fight that we had rehearsed for Europe. But this time it played out in Southwest Asia. So when I joined the Army, that was the fight that we were focused on. And there was this little thing called the Cold War that was playing out. And it took my organization, the 101st, to Central America. Because when we think about the Cold War - John's very traditional Cold War, which is fascinating, the work that he was involved with - counterintelligence and counterespionage - that was a different kind of fight that I was involved with initially because that Cold War played out in Central America.
Chris Costa: So as a 101st - a guy that just graduated Airborne Ranger School, showed up as a rifle platoon leader - we ended up on the border with Nicaragua demonstrating our capabilities because we thought, at some point in time, we could intercede against Nicaragua, who were being backed by Russians - so a proxy war. We hear that term of art play out in terms of Ukraine, right? So that was the fight that I was in as a young lieutenant. But it wasn't a shooting war. It was a demonstration. And I was not entirely satisfied with the idea of being between wars because we were trained as infantrymen. Our job was to prepare to go to war. And then I said, you know what? I want to fight against our adversaries on a different plane - multilevel chess, if you will. And that's what brought me into the intelligence business. We all wanted to be guys like John some day and the ones that preceded us. And we were schooled by some of the lessons that we learned from case agents, like John, working these fascinating espionage cases.
John Quattrocki: Can I add something to that? And I appreciate the very kind words. The Conrad-Szabo case spun off 17 separate investigations on U.S. servicepersons - men and women - in uniform, under oath, serving in uniform across Europe. We don't make this case, obviously, unless we're working with the United States Army. So above all else, this is a story about the Army and the FBI. And we've talked about this offline. I can talk - I actually teach four courses in this, so I know I can talk on this for a long time. The United States Army and the FBI are the pointy end of the spear when it comes to counterintelligence. And for you, the taxpayer - to whom we owe justification and gratitude for your tax dollars for letting us do what we do on your behalf - the Army and the FBI carry the bulk of the responsibility when it comes to not just counterespionage, but counterintelligence. And they're not the same. Those are not synonymous terms.
John Quattrocki: And the Army in this case really did itself proud. The Army under Colonel Stu Herrington and about 11 guys he had working for him and working with us in the Washington field office and an agent that I work with down in Tampa, Florida, of all places - we caught one of our soldiers who had retired and was driving a cab to the little mouse with ears over in Orlando. And he turned out to be the turnkey to the whole operation once we actually got into the Czech files, once the wall comes down. So this is nothing but the worst of the Cold War in the beginning - very, very, very, very grave circumstances. We were talking about this in the green room before we came in. At the height of the Conrad-Szabo case, you have the Able Archer '83 exercise, which by most accounts - now that we've gotten in the files - put us within days, maybe hours, of a decision to pull the trigger on the Soviet side, thinking a Reagan training exercise had turned kinetic, and they were coming after us.
John Quattrocki: So we had U.S. Army soldiers with access to nuclear - tactical nuclear, but nuclear nonetheless - secrets. And the work of the Army and the work of the FBI - not just in the Washington field office where I was, but down in Tampa and in three other offices around the country - is really one of the extraordinary successes of the Cold War and substantially contributed to maintaining things below the boil level. We never - I'm not saying it wasn't hot. We kept it below the level of boil. But it's due primarily to the extraordinary work of the Army in Europe, which posed some real challenges for us because, by the Status of Forces Agreement, we had certain obligations with the Germans.
Chris Costa: That's right.
John Quattrocki: Right - which posed some challenges for us, so...
Chris Costa: And just a little more context - so we just talked about Able Archer, this communications exercise that played out in Europe, which caused the Russians to believe - the Soviets, actually - to believe that, potentially, there would be a nuclear first strike by the United States - because of the rhetoric of Reagan, because of his strong stance against communism, because of what was playing out in Central America. And here's a twist on the story of Topaz. Remember that source I talked about embedded at NATO that was working for the East Germans? That particular source stole NATO secrets - secrets that I was sworn to protect and investigate the disclosures of. At the time, that intelligence went to East Germany. That went to the Soviet Union and informed the Soviet Union that the United States was not going to conduct a strike, that this was only an exercise. So this is the wilderness of mirrors.
Chris Costa: And John and I - we can't get involved with any moral positions on this. Our job was to catch, disrupt, deter spies directed against the United States or our partners. And in this case, ironically, that particular spy prevented potentially nuclear war at the time. This is circa 19 - the late 1980s. So it's just a fascinating twist.
Chris Costa: And just one final point on Tampa, just to flash-forward a little bit. Because of the relationships I had with the FBI as a young officer in the mid-2000s when I was in Iraq and I had a human source that was at risk of being killed, he was compromised, he was being hunted down by surrogates from another country on the ground in Iraq, I didn't know who to turn to. I went through all the official channels to try to get this source exfiltrated, taken out of Iraq to the United States and essentially repatriated. And I hit a lot of bureaucratic roadblocks. But I went to my friends in the FBI, CI people that at the time I wasn't working with, counterintelligence people. I was working principally with FBI focused on counterterrorism. And they were able to help me, and they were able to take that particular source, not only save his family's life, get them here to the United States and continue to this day to work against our nation's adversaries here as an American citizen. And by the way, he saved countless American special operations individuals' lives, our operators. So I just think that gives you a sense on how none of this is completely clean in terms of lanes of responsibility. We build relationships. We work together on counterespionage, but we can end up working on counterterrorism decades later.
Andrew Hammond: One of interesting things about when John and Chris joined their respective agencies is this is a really fascinating period of the Cold War, right? So Carter has just left office. The Soviets invade Afghanistan Christmas Day in 1979. Carter goes before Congress in his State of the Union, calls it the greatest threat to the peace since the Second World War. So we're talking about the tensions already ratcheted up. And there was a covert action to fund the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, which, of course, connects much later on to things that we don't have time to go into tonight. And then the Reagan - and then Reagan comes in, Reagan restores the sense of moral clarity. But the National Security Council, the main decision-making and processing body of the foreign policy establishment, goes through five national security advisers during the Reagan era.
Andrew Hammond: There's a lot of interesting things going on. And so, you know, the period when both of these gentlemen served is also just a really, really fascinating period of the Cold War when they were young and - you know, not that they aren't young anymore - not young anymore. But I think you know what I mean, yeah (laughter)? OK. I mean, one of the things that I'm interested in is what kind of organization did you encounter? What was the FBI like when you joined up? What was the U.S. Army like when you joined up? You know, because these institutions evolve. There is particular generational changes. You know, who were, like, the dinosaurs when both of you joined your agency? Who were the young Turks? What were some of the - how was the morale, the mindset and so forth? Talk us through that a little bit.
Chris Costa: Thanks for the question, Andrew. So as a young lieutenant graduating from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., a small military college I'm very proud of, I graduated there, and then I'm in the 101st Airborne Division, as I said. And I showed up there and I was so fortunate. John and I both agreed, we were very lucky. We were very fortunate. My mentors and coaches were all Vietnam veterans, but they were the best, the best that were left, that stuck through really tough times in the 1970s. And when they told us the horror stories of the 1970s, we were stunned but so proud because they mentored - and I'm talking about the sergeants mentoring the lieutenants the way a good sergeant does it - right? - where you don't know you're being mentored until years later. Well, as I was being mentored by the nation's best, these were Vietnam veterans that would share vignettes. And sometimes even on an exercise or on a patrol in Honduras, my platoon sergeant in particular - I won't say his name here - he would react sometimes because he would get disoriented because of his Vietnam experiences. He was still troubled by really bad patrols and really tough times in Vietnam serving his nation. Those were the people that mentored and coached me.
Chris Costa: But the morale was so high. We were getting ready to deploy to Honduras. Our morale was exceedingly high. We knew that we were taking part in something bigger than ourselves, and that might sound a little Pollyanna-ish, but we were very, very proud, and the morale was exceedingly high. And that was the Army that ultimately rolled into Desert Storm. I'm getting ahead of the narrative, but that's what I found in 1984 - an Army, though, that hadn't been tested in combat other than Grenada, which I had missed. We hadn't been tested in combat on any large scale since roughly 1975. So we were roughly unproven. So we had to rely on being trained by these amazing noncommissioned officers and officers that had served time in Vietnam.
John Quattrocki: So my experience is somewhat different than that. So the FBI come into it in early '83. It is not convinced J. Edgar Hoover's not coming back. J. Edgar Hoover died 50 years ago, May 2. So he died May 2, 1972. And there were agents walking around the Chicago office here that would speak in perfectly lucid terms for paragraphs and then talk about J. Edgar Hoover. They could not bring themselves to say the man's name. They lived in fear of the man that served as director of the FBI for 48 years. Hoover dies May 2 of '72. Year and a half later, Jim Angleton is fired at CIA, last week in December 1974, after the infamous Family Jewels leak in The New York Times and the Church Committee hearings subsequent to that. U.S. intelligence, by and large - not in terms of the military, but for the civilian side, so CIA and the FBI - stands down for five years. In fact, I've got a standing FOIA request, as you might guess, with the government. And there's been, recently, some declassified material provided with regard to Henry Kissinger talking to George Bush, as Kissinger leaves with the Ford administration and Bush takes over up at the U.N. Henry Kissinger tells George Bush, we have nothing going on in intel around the world at all in the transition during the - after the '76 election. Stansfield Turner comes in, and Judge Webster hasn't come into the bureau yet.
John Quattrocki: So the agency and the bureau are really down in manpower, and they're really down in morale. The bureau is hiring maybe 40 agents a year back then. So the bureau I come into is low on morale at the topside and unbelievably energetic on the low end for those of us that came in, as you correctly reflected. So that's how an agent with only four years in winds up getting the biggest espionage case we got going because there was this whole top layer that had really been laid low by what the administration and the Congress had done, which was necessary, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it was untoward. But they - there were peoples whose mortgages and college tuitions for their children were put at risk because DOJ was going to indict them after Church, all of which has now become declassified. It's really worth a read.
John Quattrocki: So the Bureau I come into has thrown 3,000 agents into the breach but we have no top-line management. So when we had this conversation earlier, there was a difference between counterintelligence and counterespionage. The bureau's counterintelligence program becomes a counterespionage program because the supervisors we brought in had all come out of the criminal division of the FBI. They only knew how to make cases, right? You can't hire 3,000 new people and put them in a new practice and not have management up top. But we didn't have the management layer going back generations. So we brought in criminal managers to manage this enormous manpower push on the counterintelligence side. And so '85, '86 and '87 become - they weren't even the golden years. They were the platinum years in terms of counterespionage.
John Quattrocki: But we set our sails on a counterespionage versus all counterintelligence program in the mid-'80s, which we eventually recovered from, but we learned a lot of lessons. So it was very much in flux, and especially here in Chicago because Chicago and New York had had some unique experiences with domestic terrorism. And so they had gone and taken their counterintelligence energy and pushed it into a series of bombings here in Chicago and in New York, averaging out to about 900 bombings a year for the 10 years between '67 and '77, which most people don't realize. So I came into a bureau that was really struggling with redefining its national security mission in the wake of Hoover's passing and then the Church Committee hearings - so very different.
Chris Costa: And Andrew can correct me because he's our brilliant historian, but I think I'd be remiss if I didn't provide a little context on the Family Jewels and James Jesus Angleton. Angleton was a CIA officer that, by some accounts - it's controversial - he destroyed the CIA because all - he saw Russians everywhere, Soviet spies everywhere, and singularly, by some accounts, destroyed the ability of the CIA for a time to recruit Russians and collect intelligence because officers were so scared that they were recruiting a plant by the Soviets. And then secondly, the crown jewels - that had implications for the armies. That was the idea that there were lots of abuses by the intelligence community. And there were, to be fair.
Chris Costa: So when I was a young counterintelligence agent going through the training, learning how to do surveillance, we spent a lot of time with lawyers to ensure - and we'd say, we want to do that. You can't do that. Why not? Because of 1975, because of the Church Commission, because of all of the sins of the past. And again, I kind of felt, at some level, I might have missed the good times, right? But as it turns out, we were very restricted as Army counterintelligence agents. So flash-forward years later, working at the White House, I was not necessarily an expert on domestic violent extremism because the Army - we spend the bulk of our time focused overseas as a result of the sins of the past during the Vietnam era. So that's just a little finer point on the nuance of the times.
Andrew Hammond: We'll be right back after this.
Andrew Hammond: I just want to pick up on a couple of points because I've been charged to make sure that we're not leaving anyone behind and the caravan is crossing the desert together. So just for the FBI - so Hoover, almost 50 years. And now it's a 10-year term. That's correct?
John Quattrocki: Now it's a 10-year term, yes.
Andrew Hammond: Now it's a 10-year term. And that's partly in response to that. And then the Church and Pike Committee hearings are the House and the Senate. They have investigations into abuses and various activities of the FBI, the CIA and so forth. That's 1975. There's a commission, the Rockefeller Commission, that looks into it as well. William Colby, the CIA director, complies and is seen by some as having sold out the CIA. So I guess the point is, the late '70s, morale generally in the intelligence community is pretty much rock bottom. And the director of central intelligence under Ronald Reagan is a gentleman called Bill Casey, and he came into the CIA promising to unleash the CIA and take it off of the hook that it had been on. So I think that that's some interesting context for when these two gentlemen joined the intelligence community. And just one final point as well. Yeah, the - for the FBI, you mentioned the criminal division and the counterintelligence division. We don't have tons of time left. So just really quickly...
John Quattrocki: Dig into it fast?
Andrew Hammond: ...Tell them the divisions.
John Quattrocki: So there's two family - Hoover had two family businesses, right? So he had the criminal division, so you had to spend time in bank robberies and kidnappings, full stop. So I did six months in bank robberies and kidnappings in San Diego, the bank robbery capital of the United States of America. There are more bank robberies per capita in San Diego than anywhere else in the country, and there's reasons for that. I won't get into that now. So the Criminal Investigative Division of the bureau, as opposed to the National Security Division Bureau, division five and division six, both of them were beloved sons of J. Edgar Hoover. He had a national security account going back to 1970. So the notion is the bureau picked up intelligence or counterintelligence late in Hoover's career as kind of a homesteading or territorial act is just not true. He loved them both equally, and you had to spend time in both.
John Quattrocki: So the criminal division basically covers what you'd think - bank robberies, kidnappings, anything that crosses state line, public corruption, many white-collar crimes if it travels by wire, what we call FBW, fraud by wire. And that's the criminal division, almost full stop. The National Security Division used to be counterintelligence and counterespionage. As an example, on the morning of 9/11, we had 400 agents only working counterterrorism. In the whole bureau, we had 400 agents working counterterrorism. By Friday the 14, we had 3,200. The bureau is very good at surging manpower, as anybody will tell you. We can turn lots of shoulders to the wheel very quickly. So we gutted the counterintelligence division because everybody had their clearances and we put them all on counterterrorism until the smoke cleared, literally in this case. I apologize for that loose reference.
John Quattrocki: So it is not the case that, you know, one division swamped the other or vied for the director's affections. Now, since then, because of the Church Committee, we've brought in a series of judges, starting with Judge Webster. And we started to color inside a different set of lines. And that's mostly a counterespionage line versus a counterintelligence line. And that only got worse after 9/11 - more exacerbated, I wouldn't call it worse. So there's some reconciling to be done there. But the bureau's had probably four life spans or lifestyles when it comes to balancing the criminal and the national security division.
Andrew Hammond: I think one of the interesting things about all of this is the life cycle of these institutions and how they change and evolve. But I think it would be good - I'm going to have to skip a bunch of questions because we've just had such a rich conversation. One of the things that I wanted to do was to give you both the opportunity to, now that you guys have heard a little bit more about what both of you had done, you were both part of the counterintelligence enterprise but for different institutions, is there any questions that you would really love to ask each other? Is there something that you would like to ask John, Chris?
Chris Costa: Yeah, there is a question. So, John, we almost got to it before the program began. I consider this a great honor and a privilege that the FBI have me on occasion talk to agents about my experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence. And I'd like to think I'm an excellent recruiter for the FBI. Don't tell anyone. And that said, I do want to know from you, John, when I talk to an agent that's on a bank robbery squad and really enjoying what they might view as the meat and potatoes of the FBI because they're putting handcuffs on guys, they're testifying in court - when I tell these young agents that I recommend that they take up or consider counterintelligence, what'll I tell them about that? How do I pitch that?
John Quattrocki: Right. And we go through this as a recruiting challenge daily. So if you have sons and daughters who want to come to the bureau, I'll give you my cellphone number and email address. The bureau has done a great job on CI, but a very bad job with you, the public, and with the Hill and, frankly, with some of the White Houses in terms of explaining the difference between counterintelligence, which is easy to confuse, and counterespionage, which is a criminal investigation. Like when I was in bank robberies - you have a source, you might have a wiretap, you'd have forensics from the crime scene, you have witnesses, you have physical surveillance. Five tools - that's your toolbox, as an investigator, for your whole life. That's your toolbox. Analysis is somebody else's shop.
John Quattrocki: Counterespionage - you get to play with three of those. You have sources, physical surveillance and wiretaps. You only have three tools in your toolbox. But it's a criminal investigation where you have to meet the legal standard - probable cause unto beyond reasonable doubt. And it's the most challenging kind of criminal work because you have a state sponsor actively engaged in trying to deceive you as to what they're actually doing and towards what purpose. So it's everything I saw in bank robberies, everything I saw in kidnappings, everything I saw in domestic terrorism, with the added challenge of it being sponsored by a multibillion dollar state sponsor who is invested in deceiving you. And that makes it the most extraordinary challenge you can have in a 20-year or a two-year career.
Chris Costa: Thank you very much, John.
Andrew Hammond: Is there something you would like to ask Chris, John?
John Quattrocki: Yeah. So as you can tell from our resumes, Chris and I had - he outranked me, but we had the same job in the NSC staff. So I was on President Bush's NSC staff, and I was the director of counterintelligence programs. You were on President Trump's NSC staff as a senior director. Over those 20 years, do you see any difference in an administration's use of the NSC as a policymaking body?
Chris Costa: So I'm a bit of a student of the National Security Council and the national security decision-making process. But when I showed up on Inauguration Day 2017 in an apolitical position, I was detailed from Special Operations Command. There's no rulebook. There's no manual. I couldn't demonstrate to anybody anything but absolute confidence and competence. And that's what I did, accordingly. And it was the best experience that I ever had, notwithstanding all of the drama that we've all witnessed. The counterterrorism team that I was proud to lead - 15 professionals from NSA, National Security Agency, CIA, FBI. I joked with John - and this is true - I had so many FBI on my staff that I handpicked because I really trusted the FBI. I think some people would have been very discouraged or upset if they had known how many FBI agents I had stacked in my office. But we were focused on counterterrorism, and counterterrorism is apolitical.
Chris Costa: So the one constant from my studies is the NSC has to deliver to the president of the United States the best advice and recommendation for the president to make a decision that's well-informed. So that is the constant. And I want to share with you, again, my experience. You would have been very proud of my team because I don't know who was Republican or who was Democrat. They just wanted to prevent a 9/11. That was our remit. That was what kept us up at night. And it was an extraordinary experience. But to John's question, pointedly, it was all about delivering a recommendation to the president of the United States, well-informed by the intelligence.
John Quattrocki: Good.
Andrew Hammond: Just so I can ask the final question so that all of you have time to ask our guests questions as well, I'm going to take on a really terrible task. I'm going to try to explain the difference between counterintelligence and counterespionage just so we can move past it quickly on to the final question. And I'm taking on this task with two career counterintelligence officers, so feel free to jump all over me at any moment. But just generally speaking, I think counterespionage - or at the Spy Museum, espionage is a narrower activity, whereas intelligence is much broader. Espionage, by its very nature, is clandestine, is secret. Intelligence traditionally was, but now it's increasingly - there's open-source intelligence. So within the counterintelligence umbrella, you can bring in signals intelligence, human intelligence, satellite intelligence - all different types of things. But counterespionage is much narrower, right?
John Quattrocki: Yeah. So it - this is publicly available. Our counterespionage account is about 4% of our overall counterintelligence account. So we work - the bad - the foreign - train foreign intelligence officer to a much greater degree than we work U.S. persons. Counterespionage - U.S. person in access, working with a foreign power. Foreign power - training its own intelligence officers to come here and cultivate those people. Two entirely different accounts. And on rare occasions, we've had the counterespionage team bump into the counterintelligence team from the bureau at the Washington field office because one's working the U.S. person, one's working the Soviet and need-to-know - they weren't sharing that information. So the counterespionage team would bump into the counterintelligence team. Well, what are you doing here? Well, I'm following this guy. Well, he's servicing your guy. So that's the classic example of the difference between CI and CE.
Andrew Hammond: And the final question is, with what's happening in the Ukraine at the moment, do you think that the West came in from the cold too quickly? Was there...
John Quattrocki: I'm going to defer to you on that one, Chris.
Andrew Hammond: What was there a sense that the Cold War is over; Russia is a waning power; we don't need to worry about it anymore? I don't think Russia would - I think it's in a weaker position than it was during the Cold War, but it's strong enough to be a spoiler. So it might not win the game, but it'd try to stop other people from winning the game or winning them under favorable conditions. So I just wondered if you thought that the intelligence community had maybe pivoted away from looking at entities like Russia, thinking about Europe. Oh, Europe's - you know, you don't need to worry about that anymore. It's all - they're all in the EU and singing "Kumbaya" and stuff. Yeah. Just any thoughts on that, Chris?
Chris Costa: Just that - and you and I have talked about this. I mean, you're a scholar of the Cold War, Andrew, and you could provide a whole lot more context. But the bottom line is you're looking at somebody that experienced really inadequate war termination. What am I talking about? In the aftermath of Desert Storm, we declared victory, and I ended up deploying to Iraq through the second Gulf War. I ended up deploying all over the Middle East as a result of never terminating a war appropriately, for a variety of reasons. And now it's very easy for us to say, maybe the Cold War never ended definitively.
Chris Costa: It's easy to say that with what we're seeing in the Ukraine. But I would submit it is very difficult to end a conflict in a satisfactory way. Look at the First World War. Some make the argument the Second World War was a direct result of, again, an unfair ending of the war, in terms of the German perspective, as an example. I'm rereading - because of what's going on in Ukraine, I'm reading an excellent history book by Barbara Tuchman on 1914 - how we all went to war, the unintended consequences of really miscalculation. So that is a long-winded way of saying that the Cold War maybe was not terminated. And certainly, from a Russian standpoint, they feel significantly aggrieved. So somehow, some way, diplomatically, militarily, intelligence-wise, they felt as though someday they have to get their revenge - revanche - have to acquit themselves on a battlefield again. So I think that's part of what we're seeing playing out right now. But again, it's - we're in the midst of this. And your guess is as good as mine. And you're students of history, or you wouldn't be here tonight, I submit. So I think that we'll watch this play out, and you'll be able to judge for yourself.
Andrew Hammond: Any thoughts, John?
John Quattrocki: No. I'll - in fact, I'll defer to our questions. I can't add much to that, and I won't, so we can give you time for our guests.
Liz Eberlein: All right. Thank you. So we are going to be coming around and collecting those index cards. If you have one, just hold it up. Someone will come around and grab it. But to start off, this question-asker is wondering if either of you have any thoughts on how to mitigate the global nuclear threat.
Andrew Hammond: Small questions.
Chris Costa: Well, I'll just offer this, just to provide - maybe this will make you feel a little better. In terms of tactical nuclear weapons - they're devastating. Civilians will die. There aren't - there's no such thing, virtually, of just a military target in a place like Europe. It's really hard when you have the kind of yield - right? - the capability that a nuclear weapon has. But I made this point in a couple op-eds. We really did plan - and John actually mentioned this earlier on in our talk - we really did plan for tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. And the Europeans, of course, didn't like that conversation. But we expected it. So that is to say, we somehow survived decades in the Cold War without a nuclear confrontation. But hope, of course, is not a course of action.
Chris Costa: I suspect, though, there is still a deterrence of a capability for some kind of catastrophic response. And rational nations do not want that. So I think deterrence can be factored into even Ukraine and what we're seeing today because I still maintain, despite the reporting that we're seeing - and I have no inside track on this - Putin may be sick, etc., but at the end of the day, I believe - to my point on revenge and revanche and inadequate war termination - I think that Putin is still - can be construed as a rational actor in terms of his worldview. Now, I might be proven wrong. I hope I am right. So I think rational actors and the possibility of deterrence will allow there to be some space for some kind of diplomatic agreement. So that's how I would answer that really tough question. Whoever answered that, don't raise your hand. I don't want to know.
Liz Eberlein: All right. So we have another question here. What is the role of the private sector, for example, technology, in today's counterintelligence and espionage activities, especially given today's digital landscape?
John Quattrocki: So it's a great question. And it's a challenge. You recall earlier, I said that post-9/11, we had a drawdown in our counterintelligence resources. In many ways - not all ways but in many ways - that's become permanentized (ph). And as the government - not just the bureau - but as the government has allowed security, counterintelligence, foreign intelligence collection to become somewhat synonymized, the government has seen the counterintelligence resources as a kind of a human capital escrow account to draw on for other elements of the government. And in so doing, we have started to lend our counterintelligence bodies to the private sector. So we are actually providing indirect cost support to the private sector for their counterintelligence responsibilities rather than causing them to acquit all their own counterintelligence responsibilities, which I actually personally wrote into the milestone - the MDA, the Milestone Decision Authority on long-term platform acquisition. You need to pay for that out of Lockheed's account or Booz Allen's account or any of the large corporate companies because you can't continue to draw off the counterintelligence resources to keep companies afloat and to keep the security shops at non-CI or non-intel's offices in the government afloat 'cause pretty soon, you'll have no viable counterintelligence program. As you start to share all your resources with everybody on all their missions, you have less of your core mission left to support. So it's a great question, and we don't have the answer to that right now.
Andrew Hammond: Just if I can briefly jump in, last year on the Spy Museum's podcast, we had the former FBI director of counterintelligence, and he was in the - before New York and Washington were - you know, those were the kind of strategic centers of gravity for counterintelligence. And now it's increasingly shifting to San Jose, Silicon Valley, other places out there. So I think that gives you a sense of how the game has changed a little bit.
John Quattrocki: I actually had a hand in it. So in '95 we had the infamous '95 walk-in where we have a defector - hands us back our whole nuclear weapons program for the last 20 years coming out of Chinese holdings. So the Cox Report comes out of that, and the Department of Energy's response to the loss of those secrets was they asked the FBI for agents. And I had taken over the China program at this point. We put 42 FBI - 42 is a lot. That's a big manpower commitment. We put 42 FBI agents in DOE facilities. So this is a 30-year, 25-year-plus problem mostly lending our counterintelligence expertise to everybody else's security problems. And this is a problem we're going to have to address at some point. We're going to have to fully define what counterintelligence is and is not, and staff up counterintelligence and counterespionage for a government purpose and help others staff their own security issues out of security resources towards a security goal.
Chris Costa: And just to underscore that point on how important this is from - and again, I'm not a spokesman for the FBI, but I can say that I had an opportunity recently, another privilege, to sit with Director Wray out in Arizona and have a conversation and talk to him about the private sector lash-up with the FBI. And he was very proud at how that lash-up has manifested in ways that FBI agents in the past could never have imagined - right, John?
John Quattrocki: Right.
Chris Costa: ...This lash-up. And it's so important. And the FBI acknowledges that they cannot do this alone without incorporating the private sector to combat disinformation, as well as classic espionage directed at the United States, not to mention countries like China stealing our technology.
Liz Eberlein: We have a question from our livestream audience. Aside from Moscow, Berlin has been described as the chessboard for the Cold War in terms of espionage. Given your collective experience or expertise, what city in the world today approaches that level of planning?
Chris Costa: So I'll jump in there. And I will say at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., we like to say that that is the hub where - a convergence where all espionage services in the world seem to gravitate toward for a variety of reasons that are quite obvious to people here. So I would say that D.C., although it would be nice to suggest and it's romantic to think about Paris or Vienna - right? - but really, Washington, D.C. is a hub. And suffice to say, I spend a lot of time with our Five Eye, our intelligence partners, Australia, the U.K. and other friendly intelligence services who are partners with us in many ways - the Canadians, etc. I know I'm missing the Australians.
Chris Costa: That said, there are a lot of intelligence organizations that are working against us, non-traditionally collecting. So I would say Washington, D.C. is a hub...
John Quattrocki: And I would...
Chris Costa: ...Of espionage.
John Quattrocki: ...I would broaden that out for this reason. It's pure math. It's not even math. It's arithmetic. The United States is the only country in the world - 161 countries - 191, 161 you can find on a map. The United States is the only country with two full sets of ambassadorial staffs in the country - right? - the Russian ambassador to the U.N. is not the Russian ambassador to the United States. If you accept the fact that all ambassadorial staffs, consular and embassy staffs, are actually cover for intelligence operations - and they are, right? - then you've got twice the number of cover for action staffs in the United States than anywhere else in the country. So, in fact, they have more opportunity to work among the 28,000 or so black-passport-holding foreign diplomats in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
John Quattrocki: Now, that's different than one of the more permissive environments. And we could go into that. There's three or four countries around the world - or city - capital cities that are more permissive. And everybody kind of plays in the - well, we don't want to embarrass our friends, but there are three or four cities where everybody's playing there because their internal security service is challenged by the overwhelming presence of first-rate, First World foreign intelligence services like the Americans, like the Soviets - French, the British, the Chinese.
Andrew Hammond: Can I just really briefly jump in? I must admit that initially I was tempted to say Chicago to try to ingratiate myself with the audience...
Andrew Hammond: But just - just a quick thought. You know, it's a little bit of a cliche, but people say that information is the new oil. So if Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of oil, where's the Saudi Arabia of information? The United States. So to me, Americans set these - stake a major claim for this. I think Washington and New York, for the reasons you've just described.
Liz Eberlein: So I apologize to all of you who have asked questions. I know we have a ton of them, but we are running short on time, so I'll close with this question. In your opinion, has there been improved relations in intelligence sharing between the FBI, CIA and other intel bodies since 9/11?
John Quattrocki: Chris, you should take that because you've seen that most recently.
Chris Costa: I have, indeed. So it's - there are lots of examples where prior to 9/11, there were significant frictions. There have been books written. There have been television miniseries, almost really chronicling the friction between the FBI and CIA. 9/11 did a lot to really reverse that trend because the whole intelligence community, everyone, had to come together to focus on counterterrorism. So the relationships between the FBI, CIA and the broader intelligence community, the barriers were broken. The walls came down all to really galvanize a fight against a threat directed at our nation that we all saw manifest on 9/11.
Chris Costa: All of that said, when I talk to people in the community - at the Hoover Building, at CIA headquarters - there - there's a sense that those relationships have really made the community such that we're not going to go backwards. The relationships of coordination and working together, those relationships and that paradigm shifted post-9/11. There'll be different offices that struggle with that, different leaders. But for all intents and purposes, we know that the community can work together as one cohesive organization, if you will - for lack of a better term. So I think if there's anything good that came out of the counterterrorism fight, it was the fact that intelligence sharing and working together, not only in the U.S. intelligence community, but, again, I have to flag with our foreign partners. - non-traditional partners, too, everyone from the Japanese to Afghans. We worked with partners, and we can't do it without partners. So that leaves us in a - on a positive note, right?
Liz Eberlein: So I, again, apologize. I know we have many questions. I think we could host another series of programs just with these gentlemen on the stage. But I would - just want to thank Andrew, Chris and John for being with us this evening. We thank all of you for attending, for all of the questions that you asked. Thank you for being with us this evening. And good night.
Chris Costa: Thank you very much.
Andrew Hammond: Thanks for listening to this episode of "SpyCast." Go to our webpage where you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes and full transcripts. We have over 500 episodes in our back catalogue for you to explore. Please follow the show on Twitter @INTLSpyCast and share your favorite quotes and insights or start a conversation. If you have any additional feedback, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond. And you can connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @SpyHistorian. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage-related artifacts, the International Spy Museum. The "SpyCast" team includes Mike Mincey and Memphis Vaughn III. See you for next week's show.