HomeVisitMuseum ExhibitsFact SheetsDisplay

Secrets for Money

Another notable OSI case involved a Soviet spy in the United States. In 1986 senior Soviet military attache Col. Vladimir M. Ismaylov attempted to buy secret Air Force documents. Ismaylov was an agent working secretly for the Soviet Chief Directorate for Intelligence, or GRU. Ismaylov was the highest-ranking Soviet Air Force officer at the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., when he was found to be a spy by OSI agents working with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). In a carefully prepared plan to catch Ismaylov, an Air Force officer, pretending to be willing to sell USAF secrets, responded to Ismaylov's attempts to recruit him after the GRU had evaluated him for about a year. Finally, the Soviets asked the officer to photograph documents relating to the Strategic Defense Initiative (the "Star Wars" nuclear missile defense system) and other programs including cruise missiles, stealth bombers and a hypersonic passenger jet. He was instructed to give these to the Soviets in return for money.

Ismaylov planned to pick up the documents at so-called "dead drops" in remote areas around Washington. A dead drop is a hidden place where disguised packages containing money, microfilm, documents or other materials can be hidden and picked up later by another person. This procedure eliminates the need for agents and their handlers to actually meet. On June 19, 1986, Ismaylov went to a remote site in rural Prince George's County, Md., to leave a payment for documents he had retrieved at a dead drop. FBI agents apprehended Ismaylov as he buried a milk carton containing $41,100. Col. Ismaylov was expelled from the United States for activities incompatible with his diplomatic role.

Click here to return to the OSI Overview.

Featured Links

Plan Your Visit button
E-newsletter Sign-up button
Explore Museum Exhibits button
Browse Photos button
Visit Press Room button
Become a Volunteer button
Air Force Museum Foundation button
Donate an item button