Karel Köcher

* 1934  

  • “I was already about to leave (the USA), the apartment and everything was already sold and my stuff packed, and I was... well, not arrested, but asked to meet them. It was a joint meeting where the FBI and the CIA were present, there was certain Brown, the head of the intelligence in the CIA, and then the head of counterintelligence from the FBI from New York, a young guy. The made me a good offer. They said: ´We know that you work for the other side, but we will give you immunity if you start working for us, how about that?´ What was interesting was that they were asking me only about the period when I had been in the CIA, that is until 1976. They asked no questions about what was after that. They didn’t know about it, you understand? Thus it was probably Kalugin who had turned me in, because if Fiala had turned me in, they would have known everything. Or it was more complicated with Fiala, but that doesn’t matter. So we discussed it for about a week and they let me go home, so if I were smart enough, I would even be able to escape them. If I had had some forged passports somewhere in my safe. Since I'm a professional, I would have escaped them even if I had been under surveillance.”

  • “The situation there was interesting, because it was a maximum security prison located directly in New York, where people were awaiting trial. That was because Giuliani arrested whomever he could. They were the top heads of the mafia; really there were all the godfathers of the New York mafia there. Behind the bars there was Persico, the leader of the Colombo family, there was old Gambino and young Gambino, the topmost bosses, and they were immensely interesting people. Then there was some prominent Irish terrorist, so you were in an excellent company. Then there was Don Gaetano Badalamente, the boss of Italian mafia, whom the FBI lured from Palermo somewhere to Barcelona where they kidnapped him, a very interesting man. Those were the times when the mafia was not yet involved in drug trafficking, but they were exercising this medieval-like justice. It was actually a government. But I am very grateful to him and I will not say a word against him, because he really helped me. They treated me with great respect. Then there were other remarkable people... There were several extraordinary people, and it was an immensely great learning experience to meet them. Then there was the current boss of the Italian freemasons’ lodge P2, of the ultra neofascist rightwing, who is its leader up to now, and at that time he was nr. 2. It’s a long story, but this Franceso Pazienza was an immensely interesting man.”

  • “I was still trying to get to a position where I would not only have an opportunity to get some information, but where I would have the chance to actively learn something valuable and have an influence on the development of activities and strategies. I was working in the CIA quite successfully, and I eventually managed to attain this. In 1976 I was offered work in the office... It was basically a think tank, a small analytical research institute within the CIA structure, which served as the brain for their analysis. It was the most secret office, which had access to absolutely all CIA materials, and which was producing documents of even greater importance. I wrote a report of over hundred pages - I think I still have it somewhere – which discussed the assignment to get into the thinking of Soviet leaders and to find out the motives for their decisions, use examples from their personal histories to analyze them, and to determine whether they are pragmatical or ideological in their decision-making, what inclinations they have... similar investigations were carried out on Hitler during WWII. This was the top secret department, which meant the following: in order to get inside the CIA, you need to pass through many checkpoints. Then you take the elevator to their floor, pass through doors with coded access locks - every room had a coded access door in the CIA. I managed to get inside of all this, and get to the very top – and I reported it to Prague. That was when Kalugin intervened. What he achieved was that I was summoned to a meeting in Prague. He got scared. Kalugin, an American agent, got scared, because at that level, it was quite possible that I would find out about it. Or that I would be able to deduce who was sending the information to them. And I think he didn't dare to tell this to the Americans, because otherwise I would have been arrested immediately. If somebody had identified me, I would have been arrested and it would be then up to him. Because nobody else knew about me. Because Kalugin was the only Russian who had my materials. He solved it the same way he had done it with Schtschadrin, whom he had kidnapped and killed, whom he had probably killed by himself. Schtschadrin had also posed a personal threat to him, and he had been in a similar situation like me, working at the top level. And so I was called off to Prague, and everything was wonderful and everybody admired me, and then Kalugin appeared there and began to question me about some facts which I was not able to remember. His reaction was: ´You see?! He is not answering!´ He called me an enemy, who was working for the Americans and asked the intelligence service to get rid of me. He writes about it in his memoirs, where he exposed himself, and thus there is no doubt that it really was so. By the way, there is one more memoir, because Kalugin didn’t arrive alone to Prague; he allegedly came for a business trip with another person from the intelligence service. He was now after me. He wanted to meet me, he was asking about me, but he had been directly ordered by Andropov not to do it. This other guy writes that as soon as he heard it, he informed Andropov, that he phoned to Andropov from the Soviet embassy, and Andropov again forbade Kalugin to have any further contacts with me. Nevertheless, he still contacted me, and it is evident that he went against Andropov's order. Shortly after, Kalugin was kicked out from his position. I suspect that it might have been because of me, because he had disobeyed the order, because Andropov liked me quite well. But then he probably didn’t want to be involved in this, because the Czechs and Slovaks were autonomous to a certain extent, and he didn't really want to give orders to them. He didn’t want to turn them into enemies, and thus he left Köcher alone. So there I was in the villa near Benešov near Prague, and Kalugin told them that I was the enemy...”

  • “They find out about me and think what they ought to do with me. They were not into killing me. That would have been possible with Kalugin in the KGB, but it would hardly be possible in Czechoslovakia. The guy who was in charge of me in the American department, in the first administration, comes to me and says: ´Karel, we have wonderful news for you. You will not return to America, you will stay here. In two days you will appear in a press conference.´ – it was after the Minařík case – ´and you will testify about Havel and Tigrid and the people around them.´ That was couple of months before, the Charter was already being prepared, and in the first administration they must have known about it, because the community of people around the Charter was swarming with agents; in my opinion, at least half of the founders of the Charter were agents. ´You will simply accuse them.´ They were probably preparing some trial where they intended to charge Havel with high treason. It was even more complicated, because Tigrid was a CIA officer. I knew his boss. Obviously, I didn’t want to accuse Tigrid and Havel, especially Havel. And so I said to them: ´Well, arrest me then´ That was the final proof for them that I was an enemy for them. ´Come on, you got your parents here, your mom is here, you will get a car, a villa, you will become a hero, you are American, you are a traitor…´ This pressure lasted for some three days. Eventually – and it was quite a desperate situation because they didn’t know what to do with me, and I didn’t know how to get out of it, either – I began plying their game and I said: ´All right, so I'm this American agent, and obviously I had told these Americans where exactly I was going and where I would be, right? And if one of their CIA officers gets lost, that will be pretty bad. You will then get a war just like in the 1950s.´ And so they solved it this way: ´Pack your luggage!´ I packed my things and they drove me to the Ruzyně prison and told me to look at it. From there they took me to the Ruzyně airport and said: ´Fly there, and if you don’t break all your cooperation with the CIA immediately and start working against us, we will exterminate you in America. We can get hold of you there.´ They bypassed the passport control and led me to the airplane, returned my American passport to me and I flew off. And I resigned from the CIA immediately.”

  • "I missed Prague, and thus I asked them (my superiors in Prague) to do this as a favor for me. I wanted them to let me go to some organization or institution where I would be working under some special arrangement. After all those years I was able to arrive as a tourist, using my American passport. They didn’t approve it, but they had me come here and gave me a diplomatic passport and they didn’t restrict my movement in Prague, and thus I could pose as a tourist. It was good will on their part that they allowed me to come and go. They were generous in it, because at that time they didn’t yet have a clue what would be passing through Prague to Moscow. I tried to explain to Moscow that handling it this way was unsustainable, that they needed to find some modus vivendi, and reduce their nuclear armament and seek reciprocal measures from them. I was giving them guarantees that it was possible to negotiate with the Americans in good faith, that the enemies, the people around Reagan, were gone, and that those who were in power now would keep their word. And I was absolutely right in that. There was James Baker. They were sort of American conservative patriots, but they were very pragmatic. This Baker later befriended Shevardnadze, they were personal friends, and Reagan and Gorbatschow also became good friends. To explain that these two superpowers cannot go into conflict, but that they should rather divide the spheres of their interests, and if possible, leave out Eastern Europe and us from their plans, because this kind of empire was no longer possible in modern world. Because you can prove them that if the worst comes to the worst, the Americans would run them over. Economically and in terms of arms, because - it cannot be helped - the USA is indeed a more advanced society compared to the Soviet Union." Interviewer: "About the reports you were sending to Prague - these were mostly some analyses?" K. K.: "Yes, they were analyses based on very confidential information." Interviewer: "And you were getting the information from the people you knew?" K. K: "Certainly. They are very happy to talk to you about it, if you understand, of course they are. This way I learnt, for instance, that a preemptive attack on the Soviet Union was really being prepared. The deputy of one minister has really admitted it." Interviewer: "And when did this happen?" K. K.: "I think it was in 1983."

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    Praha, 01.03.2007

    duration: 02:43:35
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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One needs to get in the centre of the power and change its thinking

Karel Köcher
Karel Köcher
photo: tyden.cz

Karel Köcher was born September 21, 1934 in Bratislava. The Jewish family of his mother was severely affected by the holocaust. He studied at the English and French grammar school in Prague, and then at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University and at the Film Academy. As a young man he was involved in the anti-communist resistance. In the 1960’s he received two suspended sentences, and the secret police StB later persuaded him to collaborate. He explains this act his own effort to influence the communist regime from the inside. Educated, intelligent, and proficient in foreign languages, he was dispatched to the USA and after studies and employment at the Columbia University and others he managed to penetrate into the CIA as an informer for both Prague and Moscow. He worked for both the first and the second administrations of the StB. In 1984 he was arrested by the FBI and exchanged for Anatoli Schtscharanski in Berlin. Until 1990 he was working in the Institute for Forecasting in the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. Later he appeared in the media for his alleged involvement in an attempt at fraud against Mohamed-al-Fayed.