Special Report

The Most Famous Spies in History

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Larry Wu-Tai Chin (1922-1986)

A Chinese-born naturalized American citizen who worked as a translator for the U.S. government for 37 years, Larry Wu-Tai Chin was one of China’s most valuable foreign agents during the Cold War. He handed over profiles on CIA agents as well as information about foreign policy initiatives including Nixon’s plans to open relations with China. It is believed that Chin – who committed suicide upon being convicted of espionage – made over $1 million spying for China.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Adolf Tolkachev (1927-1986)

A Soviet citizen and electronics engineer who distrusted his government, Adolf Tolkachev sought out U.S. intelligence agents repeatedly before finally being hired as an agent. He passed along valuable information regarding Soviet aircraft and weapons technology while the CIA saw to it that he received medical checkups and was sent banned rock music for his children. He was eventually compromised by a former American agent and was arrested and executed.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

John Anthony Walker, Jr. (1937-2014)

From 1967 to 1985, John Anthony Walker, a Navy officer and communications specialist leaked documents to the Soviet Union including key information allowing the Soviets to solve ciphers and locate U.S. submarines at any time. His actions were the largest Naval security breach in history. Walker was convicted, given three life sentences, and died in prison in 2014.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Shi Pei Pu (1938-2009)

A Chinese opera singer who performed in drag, Shi Pei Pu worked in Beijing and developed a 20-year sexual relationship with a French embassy clerk named Bernard Boursicot, whom Pei Pu pressured into handing over classified documents. Boursicot eventually brought his lover to France, where they were both arrested and convicted of espionage.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Oleg Gordievsky (1938- )

A KGB officer who became disillusioned with Soviet politics and served as a double agent for British secret services from 1974 to 1985, Oleg Gordievsky was one of the highest ranking KGB officers to ever supply secrets to western intelligence. After his position was compromised, he was snuck out of the Soviet Union with the help of the British, and was sentenced to death in absentia for treason.

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