Military Review

Destroyed American Lighter

On my "working" table of a pensioner is an American Cricket lighter, black and white bottom. This superbly made master layout often evokes memories of the first trip to the United States, where we had to endure so many ups and downs that, in the opinion of friends, would be enough for my colleagues for the entire period of service in the KGB intelligence service. But I am not an exception, and the biographies of many officers of the First Main Directorate (PSU) of the KGB, with whom I had to work, were full of such incredible stories that my career looks quite successful against their background, where the punctures paid off with the joy of victories, in which luck was often present .

Destroyed American Lighter

Spy Arsenal Ogorodnika.

I remember my comrades with whom I worked in the USA and whose fates and careers drastically changed, and this disposable lighter, which seemed so common, broke for many. In memory, a call to the carpet in the office of Vadim Alekseevich Kirpichenko, deputy head of the PSU, who shows “my” lighter and, smiling slyly, orders to be in the morning at the Investigation Department of the KGB in Lefortovo. Even today, after 30 years, the soul is chilling from the memories of three days spent in a narrow, lonely office, where the owner, a young, energetic investigator politely asked the same questions, often taking tea breaks with desiccants while trying to translate our eight-hour meetings into friendly conversations.

Then, at the request of Vadim Alekseevich, I met with Nadezhda, the wife of my colleague Boris, who was now sitting alone in Lefortovo. General Kirpichenko asked me to somehow support Hope, which did not know about the double life of her husband and after his arrest immediately lost all her close friends and girlfriends.

We stood around the GUM for a long time, hugging each other, whispering to each other some words ... Wiping tears to her, I conveyed the Soviet deficit for Boris — a can of coffee and the Marlboro block, noticing how young guys were taking pictures of us from the outside, using the cover “ Attache Case ”, which I myself so many times prepared for covert shooting of“ objects of operational interest ”...


And began this dramatic история on a sunny Saturday morning, when I, a young operative-technical officer of the KGB residency in the United States, decided to take care of the current affairs that had accumulated over the week, without being distracted by the constant requests of operatives (they were actively working in the city that day). I planned to transfer to the film the thick American reference books and scientific reports that had accumulated during the week, which had to be returned to their storage sites.

The intercom call made, cursing, get out of the photo-room. Zhenya, a skilled worker, was my faithful assistant for the technical protection of the building of the Soviet mission. Zhenya said in a mysterious voice that he had found a camera lost by someone from “our”. I flew like a bullet into the basement, where Zhenya told me in a whisper that his spouse early in the morning, restoring order after a stormy party meeting on the eve, picked up the lighter left by someone on the floor in the assembly hall.

Eugene, as a meticulous Soviet technician, tried to fill a disposable lighter, which regularly sparks, but did not burn. He began to turn away the bottom, under which was the edge of the film of a characteristic pale purple color. Zhenya was not surprised and immediately gave me a lighter, believing that such a spy subject could accidentally drop one of the security officers.

I was extremely happy, having received unknown special equipment in my hands, and first of all I ran to the authorities. My resident, who also spent the weekend at work, didn’t share my joy at finding a lighter and told me in a gloomy voice to carefully display part of the film in the hope of identifying the owner by the shots taken. Unlike me, the chief immediately concluded that the enemy was working in our building.

Using a night vision device, I disassembled the camera, pulled out and lit up a piece of film to determine the development time for obtaining a negative contrast. I securely wrapped the rest of the film in black paper and began to disassemble the apparatus itself to prepare a detailed report.

The lighter really was a real spy micro-camera, but with a clean, unexposed film, which saved the hapless agent-crap from immediate exposure, but made the intelligence and counterintelligence of the KGB actively look for him.

However, it was not easy to do this: ironically, the find was not found under the chair where its owner was sitting, but where she rolled from an accidental kick. Most of them were smokers, honest Soviet foreign workers, who did not suspect that they would fall under the close attention of counterintelligence after returning to their homeland for a long time.

As I later found out, the lighter was sent to the Operational and Technical Directorate (OTU) of the KGB, where specialists immediately identified the already well-known micro-camera, previously discovered with the CIA agent Ogorodnik, arrested in 1977 in Moscow. A search of his apartment inside an expensive Parker pen turned out to be a similar camera. However, the death of Ogorodnik did not allow counterintelligence to establish the features of the appearance of this special equipment in him, as well as ways of preparing for work such an unusual for those times camera for which a secret container with spare tapes in the Soviet battery was found in the cache.

Now in the KGB OTU there was a second micro-camera, already in the lighter. But the absence of the owner of this special equipment, as in the case of Ogorodnik poisoning, did not give operational and technical details important for the KGB investigators. And therefore both cameras were transferred to NIL-11, the leading photo-optical laboratory of the committee. Its designers carefully studied these American products, carried out the necessary measurements and even prepared detailed drawings. In 1985, after the arrest of the spy Tolkachev, a third variant of the CIA camera fell into the hands of the KGB, already in a cylindrical key ring. Tolkachev told the investigators in detail about his photographic equipment, including his own modernization - he taped a long knitting needle to the camera to rigidly fix the distance to the surface of the documents to be removed. Photographing Soviet secrets has become faster and better - a talented spy has proved himself here too!


The main units of the camera T-100.

After a few decades, retired Robert Wallace, the former director of the CIA Operational Technical Service (OTS), decided to talk about how and for whom these unusual cameras were made at that time. It turns out that OTS specialists have long puzzled over the idea of ​​creating their own agent camera. This idea emerged during the time of Penkovsky’s spy, who often and carelessly used the famous Minox camera and was even photographed by KGB officers at the time of filming secret documents.

Unlike the KGB, with its enormous scientific, technical and production potential, the CIA did not have a similar technical base. Special officers-managers traveled around the country in search of individual handicraftsmen, small teams of talented designers and geniuses obsessed with their own ideas. Sometimes the CIA officers managed to persuade the owners of major American concerns to assist native intelligence. But in the 1960s and 1970s, similar successful projects for the CIA took place only in cases of large-scale government funding, as was the case with spy satellites and U-2 planes.

However, the CIA was lucky with the cameras - a small company was found, where the owner, a talented engineer and designer, personally took on the T-100 project - this is how the first model of the camera in the lighter was named, the first works on which date back to the beginning of the 1970-s.

The main condition set by the CIA for the manufacturer was the possibility of using the new camera for photographing in specially protected places, including inside the KGB residencies abroad. A high photo resolution was required for a clear copy of the image of the entire page of the document - the camera should not have given distortion at the edges of the frame. Working with a camera was supposed to be without a flash, and the device itself had to hold at least a hundred frames and work silently. In addition, the CIA OTS added the requirement that the camera be the minimum size for installing it inside everyday objects, which could be introduced into protected premises and security zones of Soviet foreign missions.

After some time, the manufacturer showed UTS officers a new device. He was six times smaller than the famous Minox; The main unit of the T-100 had a cylindrical shape, which, in combination with its small size, made it possible to use household items such as fountain pens, lighters, and even a cylindrical key-ring for keys as a camouflage.

As Robert Wallace wrote, the camera lens with a diameter of 4 mm was assembled from eight elements with jewelery and precision clockwork. Some lens details were with a pinhead. The lens, the mechanisms of the shutter and the feed film were combined in an aluminum body size 38 mm in length and 10 mm in diameter. With a maximum length of 38 film, cm could be made up to 100 frames.

The new camera was created in an atmosphere of strict secrecy and was intended for the secret copying of documents by especially valuable agents. Now a CIA agent could silently take pictures by hiding the camera in his palm, at a distance of 28 cm from the plane of the document. At the same time, it seemed from the outside that the agent was simply studying the text, drawings or documents.

The unusual design of the T-100 required a special ultra-thin high-resolution film. After long attempts at the OTS, the CIA found a way out using old stock of photographic film for satellite cameras. The Kodak company, under a secret contract, has long produced a special Kodak-1414 film for the CIA, the base of which was covered with an ultrathin emulsion, and they began to use it for T-100 cameras.


Ogorodnik, an employee of the Soviet embassy in Colombia, who received after his recruitment the pseudonym Trigon, was one of the first agents in work with whom the use of the newest secret apparatus was planned. However, unlike Penkovsky, a personnel officer of the GRU, before starting work with Ogorodnik, his special training was required in many areas of undercover activities, including training in working with a new camera. To this end, an experienced officer of the Soviet CIA department, George, who knew Russian and had practice with the T-100 camera, was sent to the capital of Colombia, Bogota. In connection with the special secrecy of Ogorodnik’s communication and training, George arrived in Bogota under the tourist cover, as the CIA station in Colombia was aware of only one operative officer, whom George could call for emergency assistance or to communicate with Langley.

Trigon agent training was carried out for several months in one of the rooms of the Hilton Hotel, where Ogorodnik could have legendary stopped by on the way, carrying out routine diplomatic and economic assignments. For Ogorodnik, who smoked cigarettes during his recruitment, the T-100 camera in the cigarette lighter was first manufactured. However, after some time, Trigon decided to give up cigarettes because he was concerned about his health. And therefore, George brought a new modification of the T-50 for Ogorodnik, which differed from the first model only in the length of the film. The fact is that during the tests and practical use of the T-100 the film was often wedged inside the camera and the designers changed the film feed mechanism, sacrificing the number of shots, but significantly increasing the reliability of the camera.

The T-50 version, camouflaged in an expensive Parker pen, which was a very relevant item for personal use by the second secretary of the Soviet embassy, ​​was intended for the already non-smoker Ogorodnika. According to a secret CIA order, Parker designed a pen on the 1,5 mm thicker, with a reduced ink container and a shorter pen base, which made it possible to create a cavity inside the pen in which the T-50 camera was mounted.

At the end of his training, Trigon decided to take a risky step - he persuaded his mentor to use a pen-camera inside the embassy reference room, where Soviet diplomats worked with secret documents and telegrams. In the opinion of Ogorodnik, the document “On the state and prospects of Soviet-Chinese relations” recently received from Moscow was of particular interest to the CIA. This material was new, top secret, and Trigon patiently waited its turn when the Soviet ambassador carefully reads this document and then writes the names of the diplomats who should read and express their opinion at the meeting.

However, it was possible to read the secret document only in the small room of the embassy's referenture, where quite unexpectedly I looked through the window through the door of the courier of the special guard of the referentura - the round-the-clock duty officer of the most important premises of the embassy.

Instructor George was against the idea of ​​the Gardener, because the agent’s training was not over. In addition, there was a high risk of deciphering the entire event, since Trigon planned to take pictures inside the reference room of the reference room, where not only the security guard could enter, but also the cipher clerk who issued and collected secret documents after reading.

However, after receiving the "OK" from Langley, George carefully instructed Ogorodnik and gave him a Parker pen ready for work. A few days later Trigon appeared in George’s room with the words “I think I did it.”

When Ogorodnik left, George, leaving the hotel for a considerable distance, called a street vending machine with a conditional phrase to meet his assistant, to whom he passed the pen, walking about a kilometer to the meeting place, fearing local taxi drivers who often robbed American tourists.

Models of T-50 cameras in various camouflages.

By the nearest flight to the United States, the liaison delivered a fountain pen to Langley, where experienced photo specialists neatly displayed and printed all the 50 shots taken by Ogorodnik. It turned out that there were only two unreadable frames that did not contain important information. It was a real success, and the director of the CIA on the same day personally went to meet with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who assessed the materials received by the CIA "as the most important intelligence information he had ever read as head of the State Department."

George was pleased with the success of his student and the quality of the work of special photographic equipment. In the history of the CIA, this incident was the first when it was possible to photograph secret documents inside the referenture of the Soviet embassy.

In 1975, after the completion of the mission, Trigon returned to Moscow, where he received the most prestigious place in the Foreign Ministry. However, his position gave the opportunity to read and photograph the “fountain pen” documents of the Soviet ambassadors sent from all over the world. Until the time of his arrest in 1977, Trigon actively used microphotocameras, which American intelligence officers transmitted to him through caches in Moscow. As for the owner of the camera-lighter, a completely different fate awaited him, again, ironically ...


The lighters were looking for a real owner of the lighters lost at the party meeting for a long time, because the KGB threw all their efforts at developing the “smokers” who had returned to the USSR, who, unaware, quietly worked for someone at PSU, who were at the Foreign Ministry and MW. Sometimes, however, they were surprised by personnel decisions - under any pretext they were not allowed to go abroad, carefully “wrapping” objects of development with agents and special equipment from all sides in order to get any evidence or even hints at them. Careers "smokers" also evolved strange - they moved, but not up, but in different directions, again in the hope of fixing attempts to display signs of work for the CIA.

But the real owner of the cigarette lighter remained in the USA and was already extremely careful in working with special equipment. His contacts with the FBI, and then with the CIA began earlier, during his first business trip to America as a "graduate student" as part of a group of Soviet students.

His rather easy recruitment by US counterintelligence is most likely due to the fact that Boris was not a personnel officer of the PGU KGB, but was transferred to intelligence from the periphery in the wake of personnel strengthening the central office of the committee. Boris did not have sufficient operational experience abroad and after a short work in Moscow TASS with a group of graduate students and students was sent for an internship at one of the US universities.

The FBI counterintelligence immediately drew attention to a young, active graduate student who had good language training, easily made contacts and systematically collected materials for the dissertation. Boris was “framed” by a frustrated American, an FBI agent who quickly became a friend of a Soviet trainee. She was the one who introduced Boris to her “elder brother”, but in reality the FBI officer, with whom Boris gradually developed friendly relations.

Somehow the “elder brother” gave valuable advice to get university material assistance to Boris, who was expecting his wife's arrival from the USSR and was going to show her America and, of course, make presents. Boris signed a fake “university” document that the “elder brother” prepared, and received the FNI 500 dollars with a light heart, which for those times was a decent amount.

Now Boris was "hooked" by counterintelligence, and after his wife left, he was recruited. Finally, before leaving for the USSR, the “elder brother” provided Boris with open materials, which were to show Boris’s leaders in Moscow the effectiveness of his business trip to the USA. The calculation of the FBI was based on the return of Boris to America, but already as an operational officer of one of the KGB residencies in the United States.

Subsequently, Boris, while on a second mission, worked for the FBI, and then for the CIA, providing operational information to US intelligence agencies who planned to continue contacts with Boris in Moscow after the end of the mission. It was the CIA who supplied his agent with a T-50 camera in a cigarette lighter for photographing secret documents in the residency, where Boris occasionally came while working “under the roof” of the TASS press bureau. To improve the quality of photographs, Boris practiced printing the final documents on the work of the residency, arriving at the diplomatic mission in the evenings and on weekends, so that none of the security officers would interfere with his photographs.

Once Boris received a task from his curator to photograph the interior of his residency. While shooting, Boris took the last picture of a large mirror in front of the exit door from the station, which, like the lost camera, then contributed to its decoding.

In 1985, at the beginning of his work for the KGB, Aldridge Ames, among the Soviet employees recruited by the American special services, called a young officer who worked in the 1970s in San Francisco. However, this was not enough to identify Boris. Later, the KGB was able to get the same picture with a mirror, where Boris himself was reflected, which turned out to be the ultimate evidence against him.

Unlike Ogorodnik, who committed suicide and Tolkachev who was shot, Boris’s fate turned out to be much less tragic. By the verdict of the tribunal, he was given 15 years, but after six years, Boris was already free after a presidential pardon. He moved to the USA, and then the family joined him.

In the KGB, various attempts were made to replay the CIA camera. It must be said that the KGB already had its own micro-cameras with similar parameters, which were actively used during the Cold War. However, repeated attempts by the KGB and STASI to create a special thin high-resolution film, like that of Kodak-1414, did not give the desired result.

According to Robert Wallace, the CIA has repeatedly appealed to friendly intelligence agencies to make T-50 cameras based on a complete set of design and assembly drawings. However, the world's leading photo-optical laboratories either immediately refused to repeat the unique camera, or even after repeated attempts could not make such elements as the lens and the shutter.

And the real T-50 cameras can be seen in the FSB Museum on Lubyanka and in the Museum of the FSB Academy.

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  1. PKK
    PKK 10 July 2016 07: 18
    To the author plus.
    1. Megatron
      Megatron 10 July 2016 11: 22
      What does this mean - "less tragic"? One gets the impression that the author sympathizes with this scum, which should have been shot.
  2. kalibr
    kalibr 10 July 2016 07: 42
    "However, the repeated attempts of the KGB and STAZI to create a special thin film with high resolution, like that of Kodak-1414, did not give the desired result."
    Interesting, but today they created it or not?
    1. Bayonet
      Bayonet 10 July 2016 08: 05
      Quote: kalibr
      Interesting, but today they created it or not?

      Today it is not needed at all - information is stored on electronic media (flash drives).
    2. Amurets
      Amurets 10 July 2016 09: 15
      Quote: kalibr
      Interesting, but today they created it or not?

      No! In the USSR, all the film "Kodak-1414" was subject to mandatory surrender. It fell into the USSR along with the photographic equipment of spy balls and cassettes from US spy satellites. These operations are described in detail in one of the issues of the magazine PM (Popular Mechanics.) I don't remember what year, but my electronic subscription disappeared along with the carrier. Now this film can be ordered in the USA for telescopes. By the way, I found a link to a very interesting museum. Http://
    3. Mister X
      Mister X 10 July 2016 14: 01
      Kodak, under a secret contract, has long produced a special Kodak-1414 film for the CIA,
      Author Vladimir Alekseenko

      I found a mention of this film on the manufacturer's website in the "consumables" section.
      The full name is KODAK Baking Solution MX-1414-1.

      Several photos of miniature cameras to the author to help.

      T-100 Miniature Camera in a Cricket Lighter

      T-50 miniature camera in a Parker fountain pen

      Miniature camera in a pen

      Miniature camera in a ZIPPO lighter

      Miniature camera in SEIKO watches
  3. Amurets
    Amurets 10 July 2016 07: 54
    << According to Robert Wallace, the CIA has repeatedly approached friendly intelligence agencies with a request to make T-50 cameras based on a complete set of design and assembly drawings. However, the world's leading photo-optical laboratories either immediately refused to repeat the unique camera, or even after repeated attempts they could not manufacture such elements as a lens and a shutter. >>
    This is what the author's work means! This is admiration for the master with the "Big Letter", and not for the traitors who used the products of this master. So they say: "What a worker? There is a queue behind the fence." I don't remember the master of the class. Left-handers "stood in line. But the fact that due to the death of a master who knew how to edit and sharpen tools for making rifling in rifle barrels, production stopped, I read in one of the weapons magazines. Later we found a way out, but the quality of the rifling was already not that. This is what the skill of one person means, whose work cannot be repeated. The author is a plus, no doubt. Thanks for the article.
    1. Mikhail Matyugin
      Mikhail Matyugin 13 July 2016 00: 27
      Quote: Amurets
      Then they found a way out, but the quality of the rifling was not the same. This is what the skill of one person means, the work of which we will not repeat.

      Yeah, pro is always pro.
  4. realist
    realist 10 July 2016 08: 10
    the inventor has great respect and, as always, the same thing can be used for different purposes.
  5. thinker
    thinker 10 July 2016 10: 00
    And the real T-50 cameras can be seen in the FSB Museum on Lubyanka and in the Museum of the FSB Academy.
    You can, but not everyone bully
  6. alexej123
    alexej123 10 July 2016 14: 51
    Solid extraordinary article - PLUS.
  7. Lyubopyatov
    Lyubopyatov 10 July 2016 20: 32
    I was moved by the presidential pardon for Boris. Immediately I remembered the pardon of the US naval officer, spy Alan Pope, who found out the secret of the production of the Shkval cavitation torpedo. Much continues to touch today ...
  8. mc1aren
    mc1aren 11 July 2016 14: 16
    I read this article about 1,5 years ago ... on some women's site ... :) but the article is curious ...
  9. Zulu_S
    Zulu_S 11 July 2016 20: 04
    A useful, interesting, informative article. Thanks to the author.