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On October 8, 1978, a Canadian national by the name of William Dyson stepped off a plane at O’Hare International Airport and proceeded toward Customs and Immigration. Two days later, William Dyson vanished into thin air. His identity was a forgery used by the KGB to get a young, ambitious East German agent named Albrecht Dittrich into the United States.
The plan succeeded, and the spy assumed a new identity: Jack Barsky. For the next 10 years, Barsky worked undercover for the Soviets, carrying out secret operations during the late Cold War years, taking corporate cover jobs, and settling into a suburban life in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley as a husband and father. During those same years, he regularly returned to East Germany, where another wife and family waited.
Barsky’s cover was compromised in 1988 and the KGB called him home, but Barsky faked his own death and remained in the United States. In 1992, a KGB defector included Barsky’s name in a list of thousands of Soviet agents operating around the world. Later, the FBI placed him under surveillance for several years—even planting a counterespionage agent as his next-door neighbor—before detaining him in 1997. But no charges were ever brought. Because Barsky was no longer an active spy, the FBI determined that he was more valuable as a source of information.
Vince Houghton, curator and historian at the International Spy Museum, interviews Barsky about his immersion in espionage during a critical period in international relations, how he juggled identities and allegiances, and how he assembled a new life after spending decades as spy.
Barsky’s book, Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America (Tyndale Momentum) is available for signing after the program.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)