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Cryptonym: LIFEAT

Definition:
CIA telephone tapping program on a number of phone lines in Mexico City, aimed primarily at the home phone lines of Soviet and Cuban personnel. Other targets included the Yugoslav Embassy, and more. Project grew to include TELEX systems and microphone placements. See also LIENVOY.
Status:
Documented
Discussion:
Unlike LIENVOY, LIFEAT was a direct operation which the Mexican government was unaware of. It had a number of listening posts, referred to as "LPs".
Sources:

104-10414-10124: MEXICO CITY STATION HISTORY

Phone tap operations in Mexico City began after WW II when Charles Anderson recruited two employees of the telephone company. By 1955, the Soviet desks considered it the CIA's best tap operation.

104-10413-10050: PROJECT LIFEAT BEGAN AS A SINGLE TELTAP

"Project LIFEAT began in 1951 as a unilateral wiretap operation, starting with a single tap against the Soviet Legation and, as of mid 1962, covered as many as 30 lines in a single month. During the period August thru October 1963, 24 lines were covered. Project LIFEAT ceased to provide coverage of the entire Soviet official installation in June 1960 when the jointly run project LIENVOY assumed that responsibility. That left LIFEAT free to concentrate on suspected individuals and targets of interest solely to the U.S.G., i.e., Soviet, Satellite and Cuban agents/intelligence operatives resident in Mexico City whose activities were of operational or counterintelligence interest; the project was not designed to provide positive intelligence information...coverage of the official Soviet and Satellite and Cuban installations became a joint operation with the Mexican government, via LIENVOY...during the summer of 1962, a review of the project indicated a growing need for increased CI/CE coverage of selected targets. In addition to the operational targets described here, REDACTED LIFEAT continued to provide information on Cuban exile and other revolutionary groups active in Mexico, the travel of important Communists particularly to Cuba and Iron Curtain countries, and the travel of US citizens, especially Communists and Leftists, to Cuba. Through coverage of the American Communist Group in Mexico (ACGM), LIFEAT provided the FBI with ever increasing amounts of information on the leftist activities of relatives and friends of the ACGM to reside in the US."

104-10413-10052:

Tap recording Dalton Trumbo and his wife as well as Albert Maltz in 1961, two members of the Hollywood 10.

104-10413-10295: PROJECT REVIEW:LIFEAT

July 1962-May 1963: The homes of four Soviet intelligence officers were covered during this reporting period: Vladilan I. Samokhin, Alexsandr G. Sidorov, Tatiaya Sokolovskaya, and (unlisted, but Svyatolslav F. Kuznetsov is listed on 104-10413-10294). Pouch communications regarding Cubans included the AMSTRUT target (AMSTRUT-2/Juanita Castro and her relatives), Jose Ordoqui (future AMROD target), Albert Maltz, Margaret Maltz, Noah Seborer, and Charles Small of the ACGM, Juan Jose Arevalo (mostly REDACTED) and Judith Ferreto. CI information from AEGENERATE, LISTEED-1, LISTEED-2, and a PCM (Communist Party of Mexico) safehouse. There was also Polish and Yugoslavian coverage, and the other coverage listed in 104-10413-10294. The average of lines covered was 18, with a high of 25 in one month.

104-10413-10294: DISPATCH:LIFEAT PROGRESS REPORT/JULY 1963

July 1963: The leads listed here include two home phones of Soviet intelligence officers (Aleksandr G. Sidorov and Svyatolslav F. Kuznetsov), a suspected Soviet support agent, the Polish commercial offices, the Pole known as BEKNAVE, AMSTRUT-8 and another AMSTRUT target, a Cuban commercial attache (probably AMAUTO-1/Guillermo Ruiz Perez), ESLARD-1/Juan Jose Arevalo (the exiled Guatemalan ex-president), Costa Rican Communist exile Judith Ferreto, David Drucker and Charles Small (Smolikoff) of the American Communist Group in Mexico (ACGM), former SMOTH/MI-6 agent with a literary bent (note: probably John Rettie), two targets of ZRKNICK (operation against Cuban governmental agents) and the home of a Czech intelligence officer.

104-10188-10447: REVIEW OF LIFEAT AND LIENVOY PROJECTS BY KUTUBE/OPS

Sept-Oct. 1963: "There is one qualification which the Chief of Station expects in his reports officers, and in most of his case officers as well, and that is a good working knowledge of Spanish. The transmission of the Spanish language take from the ZRJOINT intercept center and the ZRSOLO listening posts is not delayed by translation, like the product of the Czech, Polish and Yugoslav lines, which stays one day with the various translators."

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Contributors:
MFF • Bill Simpich

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