Tower Staffer Rebuffed KGB Advances

Times Staff Writer

A Soviet KGB officer made an unsuccessful effort to recruit a secretary to former Sen. John Tower while Tower served as a U.S. arms negotiator in Geneva, sources in Washington said Sunday.

The secretary, a woman, had been warned in advance about the KGB officer, and she rebuffed his advances.

The London Sunday Times, in an article citing secret CIA documents given to the Senate during the debate over Tower’s nomination to be defense secretary, said that a Soviet defector had tipped U.S. intelligence services that the KGB was planning to seek out Tower’s secretaries as potential agents.

Tower was in Geneva in 1985-86 as chief of the U.S. delegation to the strategic arms reduction talks (START) with the Soviet Union. President Bush in December nominated him to be defense secretary, but the Senate rejected him because of misgivings about his drinking habits and close ties to military contractors.


At a July 4, 1985, picnic attended by the staffs of the U.S. and Soviet delegations, a Soviet official approached a Tower secretary and tried to establish a relationship with her. A source in Washington who served on the Geneva delegation said that the man was a KGB officer known to the entire U.S. negotiating team as a Soviet spy.

Later that evening, he followed a group of Americans, including the secretary, to a disco in the Geneva Hilton, where he again tried to fraternize with her.

The secretary reported both attempts to security officers at the U.S. mission, according to the former delegation official. She retained her high security clearance and now works for a senior official of the Defense Department.