As I discussed the shortcomings of the CIA’s recent report on Havana Syndrome in my previous post, I thought I’d stay in the murky world of espionage and tell you how I came into the possession of KGB microfilm of American secrets.
I spent three years teaching English in Russia in the 90s, mostly based in the small town of Dubna, best known for its physics institute and the fact that the town has an element, dubnium, named after it.
Every so often, I’d have to make the three-hour train journey to the Moscow office for training sessions. On one occasion, the company had acquired a new office complex in the basement of a huge tower block in central Moscow. The basement offices had previously belonged to the KGB (or the FSB as they became), who were still in the process of emptying the building as we were moving in. As you went in through a massive thick metal door, you stepped through a shower cubicle. We speculated that this was to wash irradiated survivors of a nuclear attack before allowing them into the bunker… or was it to gas unwelcome visitors?
Inside, there was a large walk-in cupboard housing a chunky filing cabinet with drawers open and overflowing with little envelopes. These little envelopes, most stamped with США (‘USA’ in Russian, were piled up to knee height on the floor and wrapped in bundles of 20-30 with elastic bands. There were thousands of them….
Several of the English teachers, myself included, couldn’t resist helping themselves to some Cold War memorabilia as souvenirs. I came away with several bundles of these envelopes, perhaps close to a hundred. All contained microfilm with text in English and mysterious diagrams, though it was too small to make much out.
The next time I returned to the UK, I took my KGB files to the library to examine my stolen secrets using the microfiche reader. I was hoping for a crashed flying saucer, or the truth about JFK, or sonic ray guns or at least a nuclear submarine or something.
What I got were US patents for automatic car parking mechanisms. Every single one. Some films were from 1947, some were from 1953 and 1957. Around a hundred of them, all different, but all showing various types of conveyor belts, lifts and pulleys for automatic car parking. I checked them all. No UFOs, no hit lists, no nukes and not even mind zapping commie ray guns.… Just loads and loads of automated car parking systems! I didn’t realise the world of international espionage was so, well…. dull.
I’ve lost or given away most of the files over the intervening decades, though I’ve still got a few left. If the FSB or the CIA want them back, well make me an offer. I may be in possession of lost classified information that could change the world of, er…. automated car parking mechanisms, for ever.