INT: Can I ask you just a couple of other questions. Do you think he had a good sense of what would happen if he were caught? Did you ever talk about that? Again try and say Polyakov if you can remember.
JM: I approached Polyakov at one time, indicating that he was in dangerous waters by co-operating with us and that if it ever came to pass that he wanted to stay in the United States, we would fight his cause, we would get him asylum and there would be no problem financially in this regard. He made it very clear, not only that one time I approached him, but several other times, that he had no intention of ever doing this, regardless of what happened. He had committed himself to be what he was and if he was caught, he was willing to take the consequences., he was very determined in this regard, indicating that his sympathies were not with the United States, they were with the Russian people and this was why he was doing this. He was helping the United States, but this is his way of presenting the fight for the Russian people and he was deeply committed to .
INT: How valuable... I know... I this is a technical area and stuff to do with missiles, it's very difficult to understand this, but can you just... without going into details of the technical stuff, just give us a picture of how important he was during this crucial Vietnam War. I mean you said that he named some names, but just stick for a moment with this question of the technical information he was giving you as to whether or not that was of assistance to the US during this...
INT: Are you able to make an overall judgement of the stuff that he gave you as to his value? I mean, I know he'd been spying for a long time, but can you give an up-sum of from your point of view, from as far as you could see, just how valuable Polyakov was? I mean, that's another sort of...
JM: Polyakov, with the information that he provided us while he was in the New York area [clears throat] completely changed the counter-intelligence activities of the FBI. Number one and really it wasn't the most important, but number one, he told us that the Soviets monitored all of our radio communications. They knew what we were doing, who we were following, what our actions were and cautioned us to be very careful when it came to his security in this regard. Number two, he said that they had the capability of monitoring our microwave telephone calls coming out of the New York area or if it happened to be Washington, coming out of the Washington area and they could zero in through their monitoring systems on any number of telephone calls and they would choose what they would monitor, such as Defense Department, National Security Agency, etc. This was, of course, probably no new information, but I'm sure the National Security Agency could tell you that they had the capability of doing the same thing. But we didn't know that the Soviets in New York City or in the United States had this capability and they did and to prove a point, if you ever took an aerial view of the top of any Soviet establishment, be it the embassy in Washington, the Soviet mission in the United Nations or in the San Francisco consulate, there are so many antennae and you would think that you were sitting in a radio or TV studio set up. Their roofs were full of antennae coming out of there and it's quite obvious what they were doing. we got support for this from other people we had talked to after Polyakov, but he was the first one to divulge this capability.
INT: And on a broader level, from the range of information that he gave you, are you able to say how important you thought he was from your point of view? I mean the range of information that he gave you about technical stuff and military stuff and people who were spying against America?
JM: Um, first of all the personality data that Polyakov gave us on other Soviets enabled us to conduct our investigations pointed towards those weaknesses that he was able to tell us. when he gave this information, of course, on the American agents that they had developed, we had to initiate investigation of these people, which was completely unknown to us at the time and after than investigation, these people were arrested and convicted and served their time. so in that regard, his importance has to be evaluated that we had no information relative to those agents he gave us. In the illegals field we did have some information about several of the illegals, but not to the extent that he elaborated on what they were doing, what their modus operandi was, how they maintained contact with their homeland, what their mission was here, to sit and to be used only in the event of hostilities, where diplomatic personnel were recalled out of the country and they would have depend on these illegals to furnish them information. The illegals would come in here as normal citizens under fraudulent means, using fake passports, different identities and what not. After they would get here, they would establish themselves under a different name, get Social Security cards, get driver's license, anything to legitimatize themselves and find employment, whether it would be in a military installation or in an intelligence agency and thereafter... work within that agency to carry on their activities. these were very tough cases. we were fortunate in New York to break one or two of 'em, but after he gave us more information, and subsequently he, Polyakov, told us that the GRU changed their whole illegal program because too many of the people were being compromised. they stopped the old way they were doing it and instituted new means, not depending as much on the illegal agents as they had in the past.
INT: Tell me about his code name.
JM: His code... Polyakov's code name was arrived it almost simultaneous with the time that he dumped me out of his car on Riverside Drive, which was after the first meeting which occurred at Grant's Tomb and on the way back to the office, after I was picked up, I knew that we were going to have to give him a code name and it popped into my mind, out of a clear blue sky, Tophat and why did I pick Tophat? somewhere in the back of my mind I can remember my children watching a cartoon character on TV and I think the title was Top Cat. this was a cartoon, Mickey Mouse type of thing, and it just popped into my mind at the time and I thought, well, we'll give him the name Tophat and it so happened it was accepted and he was forever famous for his code name, Tophat.
INT: I just wanted to ask you something about... I meant to ask you early on, John, which is not to do with Polyakov, but is to do with the outlook of the FBI in the counter-intelligence field. back in your early days in the FBI working in counter-intelligence, how did you regard the enemy that you were up against in New York, the KGB? I mean, did you have respect for them in a way, that they were professionals and that they were very good at their job or were... you know, how seriously did you take the threat... did you take the threat that they posed to you? You know, some sort of context for how you guys...
JM: Well, without recording this yet, yes, we had a lot of respect for 'em. We knew that they were very well trained, that they were very professional, but we also recognized that they had many faults and... it was obvious that we had deficiencies, but mainly because we were under the control of our State Department. We couldn't really make any moves unless we got authority from the State Department, for instance, to approach Polyakov. We had to go to the State Department, get the authority to make an approach to him and this was true in any approach that we ever made, any contact we made with the Soviet or any foreign national. and this hampered us to a degree. many times they wouldn't give us that authority to do it, plus the fact that the Justice Department had to be cut in on this whole thing and give their approval for any overt action that we took that could possibly fall into the illegal category. So we had some deficiencies, but they were not of our making. we would have done a lot more and a lot of serious things if we had the free hand to do it. Technical wise we could never make an installation with a microphone or otherwise without getting approval from the Justice Department, the State Department and in some instances, the CIA. they all had control over us.
INT: I wanted to ask you something about illegals, again not to do with Polyakov, but to help our audience out understanding this, could you just tell me a bit... a little bit about the Soviet illegals.
JM: I mean, let me give you an example, would that be all right? And it has to do with Polyakov, but it happened before...
INT: I wanted to ask you this sort of theoretical thing, that there is this type of agent...