The Soviets wanted to infiltrate the Reagan camp. So, the CIA recruited a businessman to bait them.

U.S. 2020/6/5

Beginning in 1975, a big black limousine with diplomatic plates would pull up once a month to the no-parking zone outside John Greenagel’s office in the handsome Merchants Exchange Building in downtown San Francisco. A man would exit the car, paper bag in hand, and ascend the stairs to Greenagel’s public relations firm.

The man would hand Greenagel, then in his mid-30s, the paper bag, which always contained stale Cuban cigars and a bottle of Stolichnaya without a tax stamp.

“Compliments of Mr. Pavlov,” the man would say, and walk out.

Yuri Pavlov was a diplomat based at the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco and an undercover KGB officer, but the KGB probably wouldn’t have been pleased about who ended up partaking in these delectables. Because after the Soviet bag man left, Greenagel would call his CIA handler, who would pop over to his office; and they’d laugh and drink the Stoly, smoke the old Cubans and talk about Greenagel’s deepening friendship with Pavlov, which was entirely manufactured.

Greenagel was acting as an “access agent” — providing the CIA with key insights about Pavlov’s psychological and personality profile. Once foreign spies like Pavlov rotate abroad, information gleaned by access agents like Greenagel can help CIA officers sharpen their strategy for recruiting them. Access agents can also facilitate introductions between the intelligence target and other CIA operatives in a seemingly natural manner. Plus, in the case of spies like Pavlov, the precious hours spent with someone like Greenagel is time that foreign intelligence officer isn’t conducting espionage elsewhere. Access agents create opportunity costs.

Artistic interpretation of John Greenagel and his CIA handler. (Illustration: Noah<div class=

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