Archive: How Israel Caught a Top-Ranking Soviet Spy, Who Has Died at Age 97

[This blog post first appeared here at IsraelSpy.com in June 2012.  It is adapted from an article by Yossi Melman, then a correspondent for the newspaper Haaretz, published April 15, 2008.  Professor Klingberg — exposed as a spy for Communist Russia, tried and imprisoned in secret in Israel, and totally unrepentant when interviewed later in Paris by Melman — died in late November 2015 in the French capital at age 97.]

A Soviet spy-turned-double agent led to the 1983 arrest of Professor Avraham Marcus Klingberg, the highest-ranking Soviet spy ever caught by Israel.

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Klingberg, who was the deputy head of the top-secret Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona, immigrated to Israel in late 1948. Before immigrating to Israel, he had served and been wounded as a soldier in the Red Army during World War II. Klingberg initially told his Israeli interrogators that he began working as a Soviet spy in 1957, after being blackmailed by a Soviet operative, but Israeli intelligence believes he was already a Soviet agent when he moved to Israel.

In his book published in 2007, he said he was first enlisted in the early 1950s by a pro-Soviet Israeli while at a rehabilitation center, healing from injuries sustained in a car crash.

In his memoir, Klingberg wrote that during his trial for espionage, he saw a note that had been accidentally left on his file by the prosecution. The note revealed he had been exposed by a double agent. The military censor deleted this reference from Klingberg’s memoir.

Klingberg was suspected of being a Soviet spy as early as 1963, but he was exculpated after passing a polygraph test. Further information received aroused suspicion over Klingberg, but after having failed once, Shin Bet officials were reluctant to act prematurely.

The information from the double agent, received in 1983, was considered sufficient to prove Klingberg’s complicity. After being interrogated at a secret location in Tel Aviv, Klingberg admitted he had been working for the Soviets. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail. After having served 16 years in prison, he was released to house arrest.

In 2003, after the 20-year sentence was over, he was allowed to leave Israel and live with his daughter in Paris.

November 30, 2015

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