Brian Kelley, veteran counterspy, dies at 68

Broke Moscow code, was falsely accused as KGB mole

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Retired CIA officer Brian J. Kelley, a veteran counterspy who broke the code on how Moscow secretly communicates with deep-cover agents and who mistakenly was hounded by the FBI as a suspected KGB mole, has died. He was 68.

Mr. Kelley died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack and was found Monday, according to his wife, Patricia McCarthy Kelley.

Pentagon press secretary George Little, a former CIA spokesman, called him “a national treasure.”

“I’m saddened by the loss of this outstanding CIA officer, someone who courageously confronted every challenge that came his way on the job,” Mr. Little said. “He was the consummate intelligence professional, a patriotic American and an inspiration to a generation of younger CIA officers.”

Brian’s courage and strength of character never ceased to amaze me,” said Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive who worked with Mr. Kelley. “He gave his heart and soul to improving the profession that had been both his accuser and his calling in life. He was an extraordinary American.”

CIA spokesman Preston Golson praised Mr. Kelley for a distinguished career of service to the United States. “He was a recognized expert in counterintelligence, and he never broke faith with his country or his colleagues,” Mr. Golson said.

Mr. Kelley had a storied career as a counterspy, first in the Air Force and then at CIA, with the often arcane and difficult mission of finding and neutralizing foreign spies.

He was born Jan. 8, 1943, in Waterbury, Conn., and graduated from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont with a degree in political science. He joined the Air Force in 1964.

Mr. Kelley spent 20 years with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, doing counterintelligence work until 1984, when he moved to the CIA and joined its counterespionage branch.

Late in his career, he worked in the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, and retired from active service in 2006.

He earned numerous intelligence awards while in government and was a teacher during retirement.

A landmark in his career occurred in April 1989. While working in the CIA’s classified counterintelligence office, Mr. Kelley figured out a still-classified method used by Moscow to clandestinely communicate with deep-cover agents called “illegals.”

The discovery led to the unmasking of State Department diplomat Felix Bloch, a suspected spy who was photographed meeting a KGB “illegal” officer in Vienna, Austria, and exchanging a briefcase thought to contain secrets.

Bloch eventually got away after Mr. Kelley alerted the FBI that the CIA was tailing the diplomat. It was learned years later that Bloch had been tipped off to the CIA investigation by Robert Hanssen, a longtime recruited Soviet agent working in the FBI counterespionage section.

After CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Ames was arrested as a spy for Moscow in 1994, the FBI began searching for a second mole and focused on Mr. Kelley because of the compromise of the Bloch probe.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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