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Cold War Spy is topic for Shakespeare Club

On this season’s Shakespeare Club theme “scandalous women,” Lisa Mertz presented “Hana Koecher, Cold War Spy.” Hana Koecher was married to the infamous Karl Koecher, the only known East Bloc spy ever in history to penetrate the CIA on behalf of the Soviet KGB. He worked for the CIA from 1973 until his arrest in 1984.

The Cold War developed throughout the years following the end of World War 2 in 1945. In 1946 Winston Churchill delivered his far-reaching Iron Curtain speech entitled “The Sinews of Peace.” The following year, President Harry S. Truman delivered an address to a joint session of Congress challenging Soviet ambitions throughout the world, which became known as The Truman Doctrine.

Simplistically put, the threat of nuclear war of the Cuban Missile Crisis gave rise to the fear of “mutually assured destruction” which lead to a time of dÈtente, a policy of easing hostilities between the Soviet Union and the US, promoted by Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Leonid Brezhnev. However, dÈtente came to an end with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

From 1979-1987, the renewed Cold War was a period of increased tensions between the US and the Soviet Union after dÈtente. Changes in Western foreign policy toward the Soviet Union characterized by increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures are generally associated with US president Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990). Under what became known as the “Reagan Doctrine,” the United States undertook the largest military buildup since World War II and implemented new policies directly opposed to the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, in 1962, the Czechoslovak Intelligence Service began training Karl Koecher to work for the CIA. He and Hana married in 1963. Two years later Karl and Hana Koecher orchestrated a phony defection from Czechoslovakia, posing as fervent anti-communist dissidents. Before attaining US citizenship in 1971, Karl achieved a Ph.D. at Columbia University where he had studied under Zbigniew Brzezinski.

In 1973, Koecher became a CIA translator and analyst with Top Secret security clearance. Because of his knowledge of science and engineering terms, he was given some of the most sensitive material the CIA had.

His wife and spy-partner, Hana developed a career in the diamond industry as a diamond grader and salesperson, which gave her the opportunity to travel all over the world with large sums of money and to pass information gathered by Karl to the StB. She was skilled at handing off info using dead drops and brush passes with Czech agents. But, most scandalous about Hana Koecher’s vocation as a spy was her practice of “sexpionage.” Throughout their years with the CIA, she and Karl attended swingers’ parties in New York City and Washington, D.C. to gather compromising information on other attendees who are said to have been high ranking government officials.

In intelligence circles, Koecher is known as one of the most important spies in U.S. history. In 1986, the Soviets showed their appreciation by trading the Koechers for Natan Sharansky, one of the most prominent Soviet dissidents of all time, the last big spy-swap on Berlin’s famous Glienicke Bridge, the “Bridge of Spies.” The Koechers returned to Czechoslovakia to a hero’s welcome. A parade was held in their honor.

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