RESEARCH DOCUMENT : The Moscow Signals Declassified & Microwave Diplomacy, 1967-1977


The Moscow Signals Declassified & Microwave Diplomacy, 1967-1977
Declassified Records Detail Diplomatic Efforts to End Microwave Radiation Directed at Moscow Embassy
Kissinger to Dobrynin: “We Are Trying to Keep the Thing Quiet”; “You Could Give Me a Radiation Treatment”
Ford to Brezhnev: Microwaves “Pose Unacceptable Potential Hazards to the Health of Our Employees”
Soviet Foreign Minister: An “Imaginary Issue”
Washington D.C., September 15, 2022 – On December 9, 1975, as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger prepared to travel to Moscow for arms control talks, he placed an urgent phone call to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin in Washington. “I want to talk to you about the signal,” Kissinger told Dobrynin. “That beam you are beaming into our Embassy in Moscow. Maybe you could turn it off until I get there.” Amid diplomatic banter about how the Soviets “could give me a radiation treatment,” Kissinger issued a clear warning: the microwave radiation that the Soviets had been aiming daily at the U.S. Embassy building for over a decade threatened to become a major scandal in U.S.-Soviet relations. “We really are sitting on it here but too many people know about it,” Kissinger said. “We will catch hell unless we can say something is happening” to stop it.
Transcripts of Kissinger’s calls to Dobrynin, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the National Security Archive, are among a special collection of documents posted today on the “Moscow Signal” scandal-recording years of secret diplomacy to press the Soviets to terminate the daily microwave transmissions directed at the U.S. Embassy building.
High-level U.S. efforts to press Soviet leaders to halt the radiation activity began in 1967 and continued under four administrations into the Carter era. The microwave transmissions, believed to be related to bugging devices hidden in the Embassy walls, continued for decades after they were first detected when the U.S. Chancery opened in the early 1950s.
Today’s posting on “Microwave Diplomacy: 1967-1977” includes a number of noteworthy records, published here for the first time. Among them:
Correspondence between President Gerald Ford and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev: “These transmissions have created levels of radiation within the Embassy which may, in the opinion of our medical authorities, represent a hazard to the health of the American families living and working in that building,” Ford wrote to the Soviet premier in December 1975. In response, Brezhnev denied any Soviet intention to threaten the health of U.S. personnel, and claimed “the electromagnetic field in the area of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow [was] of industrial origin.” He did, however, invite U.S. specialists to come to Moscow and meet with Soviet officials to compare measurements of the radiation, which he insisted was “several times lower than the standard officially recognized in the United States as not hazardous for human health.”
Secret negotiations between Scowcroft aide William Hyland, and Soviet official Yuli Voronstov: The documents disclose secret talks toward an agreement under which the U.S. would dismantle its surveillance shed on the roof of the Embassy in return for the Soviets “turn[ing] off their radiation.”
Ambassador Walter Stoessel’s Messages: Stoessel’s declassified cables reveal him to be the unsung hero of the Moscow Signal scandal. Stoessel pressed Kissinger for months to step up pressure on the Soviet leadership to halt the microwave beams and supported a briefing for Embassy personnel, who had been kept in the dark about the daily microwave exposure to themselves and their families. Stoessel first suggested “a protest” to Soviet officials in June 1975 when new microwave signals were detected. On January 31, 1976, he met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and warned him that he would have to brief the U.S. Embassy staff if the microwave signals were not halted. After Kissinger’s office abruptly cancelled a briefing planned for February 4, Stoessel pressed for it to be rescheduled, citing growing discontent and rampant suspicion among the Moscow diplomatic corps that something was amiss. As the Ambassador reported to Washington on February 5, “We are rapidly approaching an untenable situation” at the Embassy.
The history of the Moscow Signal has received renewed media attention in recent months as a potential historical precedent for the “Havana Syndrome”-a mysterious constellation of cognitive and neurological symptoms suffered by CIA and State Department personnel in Havana and elsewhere that led to the shuttering of the CIA Station in Cuba and drastic staff reductions at the U.S. Embassy in Havana five years ago this month. Significant differences between the two phenomena notwithstanding, in interviews and articles a number of former diplomats who were exposed to the Moscow Signal have compared the two episodes. “Today’s Havana Syndrome is ‘like déjà vu all over again,'” wrote retired diplomat James Schumaker, who developed leukemia after serving in Russia in the 1970s, in an article for The Foreign Service Journal titled “Before Havana Syndrome there was Moscow Signal.”
The Archive’s “Microwave Diplomacy, 1967-1977” posting is the second of a two-part series on the Moscow Signal. Part I, “PANDORA/BIZARRE,” was published on September 13. A related posting concerning the Soviet beaming of ionizing radiation, “Irradiating Richard Nixon,” will be published the week of September 19.
Moscow Signal Diplomacy, 1967-1977
The U.S. government had worried about the microwave radiation that the Soviets had been beaming at the U.S. Embassy since the early 1960s. The U.S. complained about it to Moscow during the 1960s, but to no avail. In December 1975, the two countries became tangled in a controversy after Moscow increased the intensity of the microwaves. In a telephone conversation with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asked about the “beam you are beaming into our Embassy in Moscow.” Kissinger said the Ford administration would “catch hell unless we say something is happening,” observing that “too many people [already] know about” the microwaves. Kissinger joked about getting a “radiation treatment” during upcoming arms control in Moscow and quipped that a light bulb in the U.S. ambassador’s room seemed to “glow” even if it was not in the socket.
While Kissinger would momentarily joke about the microwaves, he knew that it was no laughing matter, not least because of the foreign policy implications and the uncertain health effects of microwave radiation. Declassified documents demonstrate that for the U.S. government, the Moscow Signal-the semi-official designation for the microwave beams-was a “form of harassment” that the Soviets had to stop. Yet, as early as the Johnson and Nixon administrations, when senior U.S. diplomats protested, the Soviets refused to concede that there was a problem. According to a declassified telegram from 1969, a Soviet diplomat denied that there was any “specially directed radio irradiation of the embassy building.”
That Soviet denial was part of a pattern: when the Ford and Carter administrations lodged protests about increased strength of the microwave radiation, top Soviet officials, including Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, stonewalled. According to a declassified telegram, Gromyko told U.S. Ambassador Walter Stoessel in January 1976 that it was an “imaginary issue.”
Today’s posting is the first published collection of declassified U.S. government documents on the diplomacy surrounding the Moscow Signal. Using a wide range of archival records, from State Department telegrams to records of Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations (obtained in 2004 through a National Security Archive lawsuit), this posting captures some of the key moments in the history of the U.S. diplomatic effort to turn off the mysterious beams. This little known history, covering the late 1960s through the administration of President Jimmy Carter, includes protests to foreign ministers, messages from U.S. presidents protesting the microwaves, and sometimes angry Soviet responses. President Gerald Ford’s complaint to Brezhnev and the latter’s reply are published here for the first time [see documents 9 and 11].
The Moscow Signal was so secret for so many years that even the U.S. Embassy staff was in the dark until early 1976, when it received an official briefing. Kissinger wanted strict secrecy and was reluctant to inform embassy personnel. According to a February 1976 message, the microwave beams were a “major foreign policy problem,” and there should be no leaks about the briefing because the Soviets would see the disclosures as a “means of embarrassing them.” Relations with Moscow were already difficult because of the Angola crisis, failing SALT negotiations, and tensions over Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, among other issues, and Washington did not want to exacerbate existing strains in the relationship by disclosing the microwave problem. For Kissinger, if diplomacy was to succeed at turning off the microwave, the secrecy had to continue.
But the sheer number of individuals working at the Embassy made secrecy impossible to maintain. Indeed, immediately after the staff briefing on February 6, 1976, the facts of the matter began to leak. According to a declassified telegram, a Los Angeles Times reporter based in Moscow called to tell the Embassy that he had the “‘full story’ on the Embassy briefing.” [see Document 17].
The documents point to the impact of U.S. diplomacy but also to its limits. Very soon after Ambassador Stoessel’s conversation with Gromyko, the Soviets, without admitting to anything, reduced the microwave signal strength, something the U.S. detected. But documents from 1976 and 1977 also confirm that, despite persistent U.S. protests, the Soviets refused to turn off the microwaves altogether.
Secrecy was also a problem for deciding who in the Embassy community should be told about the microwaves. The secret February 1976 briefing was for Embassy staff only and barred “unofficial Americans,” such as spouses, even when they lived in apartments located inside the Chancery. It was not until mid-1976, after repeated complaints, that the Department made an unclassified, but controlled, “Fact Sheet” available to spouses [see document 26]. “Fact Sheets” could not settle questions about the health impacts of low-level microwave radiation, however, even after the State Department commissioned studies from Johns Hopkins University.
One long-secret, but important, episode from the Moscow Signal history concerns negotiations between U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser William Hyland and Soviet diplomat Yuli Vorontsov that took place in early 1976. Hyland offered the Soviets a trade-if the Soviets turned off the microwaves (including those emanating from their facilities in Washington), the U.S. would tear down its electronic intelligence “shack” on the Chancery roof. The Soviets would also tear down the electronics shack on the roof of their Washington embassy.
The Hyland-Vorontsov negotiations failed; during a telephone conversation, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft told Kissinger that the Soviets found the press coverage infuriating, making it “impossible [for them] to do anything.” That it is possible to say anything substantive at all about the talks is thanks to the availability of a declassified Top Secret memorandum of conversation, held at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, between Deputy National Security Adviser David Aaron and Soviet diplomat Vladillen Vasev, where Aaron presented Hyland’s key proposals [see Document 32].
The Hyland-Vorontsov talks were of renewed interest to White House officials later during the Carter administration, when, in October 1977, the Soviets abruptly increased the power level of the microwave signals. President Carter protested in a letter to the Kremlin, but the Soviets rejected his complaint. The Embassy’s cable of November 1977 described Brezhnev, “thumping the table” and exclaiming, “this is stupidity.” David Aaron’s effort to continue the Hyland-Vorontsov talks was not in the cards.
Mysteries of the Moscow Signal and U.S. Diplomacy
Why exactly the Soviets were beaming the microwaves at the Chancery remains a puzzle. While the declassified documents demonstrate that, during the 1950s, radio operators at the U.S. Embassy discovered a “radio signal” that was later determined to be a “continuous microwave signal,” no detailed attempt at an explanation of what the Soviets had in mind has been declassified. Powerful Soviet organizational interests, including the KGB, may have supported the Embassy microwave program, but only conjectures about their purposes have surfaced. Theories of mind control and purposeful physiological damage were discredited after the Project PANDORA debacle, but a more plausible interpretation was that Moscow was trying to interfere with U.S. electronic intelligence operations conducted from the Embassy. Another interpretation was that the Soviets were using the microwaves to activate listening devices planted in the walls of the Chancery, an interpretation that is mentioned in one of the declassified documents [see Document 20]. < 9-15/moscow-signals-declassified-microwave?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a3dd3 4fd-a58a-45e9-9206-674a8a6d709c#_edn1> [1] The Moscow Signal became a systematic problem in U.S.-Soviet relations in mid-1975 when the Soviets raised the signal strength enough to trouble Ambassador Walter Stoessel. He wanted consideration given to a high-level U.S. complaint, but more needs to be learned about Stoessel’s role and whether he threatened to < ory-from-fsos-james-schumaker-and-william-a-brown/> resign unless the U.S. protested. According to a CIA memorandum [Document 19], concern about the uncertain health impact of the microwave influenced the State Department. By December 1975 the U.S. had made an official protest and a few weeks later, President Ford sent a letter to General Secretary Brezhnev. Details of the decision-process concerning these protests have yet to surface.
The role of the intelligence agencies in the Moscow Signal debates of 1975-1976 also remains obscure. An excised memorandum from the Ford Library hints at elements of the problem. Concerning the proposal that William Hyland would make to Yuli Vorontsov about reciprocal measures to turn off microwaves and tear down electronics shacks on top of U.S. and Soviet embassies, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld argued that would pose “unnecessary restrictions” on U.S. intelligence activity. Future declassifications may shed light on the concerns of U.S intelligence.
Unknown unknowns abound about the Moscow Signal. With dozens of telegrams from 1976 stored in microfilm at the State Department [see sidebar], there are significant gaps about what can be known. While much about the diplomatic history of the Moscow Signal during the 1960s and 1970s has been disclosed, significant documents remain unavailable, and many were destroyed [See sidebar]. Pending declassification requests to the National Archives, the Gerald Ford Presidential Library, and the Department of State may someday shed more light on the complex impact of the microwaves on U.S. policymaking and U.S.-Soviet relations.
The Moscow Signal would remain a sore spot in U.S-Soviet relations for years, although by the 1980s, although whether the Reagan administration approved any protests remains to be learned. In 1987, in the context of a new era of détente, Secretary of State George Shultz <> complained to Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze about the “complete lack of restraint on the part of Soviet intelligence services and their relentless targeting of US Mission staff” through “Constant surveillance, bugging, entrapment, microwave beaming [and] the use of spy dust”, creating “an oppressive environment for our people.” Shevardnadze had his own complaints about U.S. intelligence activities, but whether or how long the Moscow Signal remained in place is unclear.
Note: Thanks to National Archives archivists David Langbart (NARA II), Geir Gunderson and John J. O’Çonnell (Gerald Ford Presidential Library) for their invaluable advice and assistance.
I. The Johnson Administration

< -25-june-1967-attached-letter-ambassador-llewellyn>
Document 1
< -25-june-1967-attached-letter-ambassador-llewellyn> Memorandum of Conversation, 25 June 1967, with attached letter from Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson, 11 July 1967, Secret
Jun 25, 1967
NARA, U.S. Department of State Records, Record Group 59 (RG 59), Subject Numeric Files, 1967-1969, BG Moscow 13; also published in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States 1964-1968, Volume XIV, Document <> 236.
When Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin met with President Lyndon Johnson at the June 1967 Glassboro, New Jersey summit for discussions of the Middle East and the arms race, Secretary of State Dean Rusk raised the issue of the “electro-magnetic signal” aimed at the U.S. Embassy’s Chancery with Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. It is unclear whether State Department officials had the latest data on the intensity of the signal, suggesting that it was lower than has been previously assumed. In any event, this was probably the only effort at the Secretary of State level to ask the Soviets to stop the microwave beams until Henry Kissinger took up the issue in late 1975.
According to the record of the conversation, personally prepared by Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson, Rusk wanted the Soviets to halt the “activity,” saying the radiation was at a “level higher than Soviet experts considered safe.” When Gromyko expressed skepticism, Thompson said there was “no doubt whatever about it” and then sketched out a “rough diagram” showing the source and destination of the signal. Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin retorted that the U.S. was aiming “similar activity” at Soviet diplomatic installations in the U.S. Gromyko said he would “look into the matter,” and there the matter stood, with apparently no change in the microwave signal.
II. The Nixon Administration

< am-092764-us-embassy-moscow-tums-technically>
Document 2
< am-092764-us-embassy-moscow-tums-technically> State Department telegram 092764 to U.S Embassy Moscow, “TUMS [Technically Unidentified Signal],” 7 June 1969, Secret
Jun 7, 1969
RG 59, Subject Numeric Files, 1967-1969, BG Moscow 13
The Moscow Signal problem surfaced in the first year of the Nixon administration. Probably referring to a meeting that Ambassador Jacob Beam had with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko on May 25, 1969, about the Moscow Signal (cited in Document 3), State Department officials were doubtful that the Soviets would “give us any satisfaction” on the problem. Through a message drafted by security chief Marvin Gentile and approved by Under Secretary of State Elliot Richardson, the U.S. took the position that the Soviets should turn off the microwaves altogether. The Department had no objection to a proposal by the Embassy to present the Soviets with a chart showing the “various modes” of the signals and “when they are active.” The chart should not show the strength of the Moscow Signal because that would not “support our claim that [the microwave signals] exceed minimum Soviet radiation safety levels.”
< ram-4343-state-department-tums-19-august-1969>
Document 3
< ram-4343-state-department-tums-19-august-1969> U.S. Embassy Moscow telegram 4343 to State Department, “TUMS,” 19 August 1969, Secret
Aug 19, 1969
RG 59, Subject Numeric Files, 1967-1969, BG Moscow 13
Some months after the discussion between Beam and Gromyko, the Soviet Foreign Ministry provided its official response through one of its American experts, Georgi Kornienko. The Ministry denied everything: there was no “special beam directed at the Embassy.” The radiation levels in the area of the Embassy were produced by different “institutes and laboratories” in the Embassy’s vicinity and were “much lower than safety standards acknowledged in Washington. Taking exception, Beam showed Kornienko a diagram indicating that the beam was aimed from a nearby apartment building and that it covered a wide swathe of the Embassy.
< airs-george-s-springsteen-acting-assistant>
Document 4
< airs-george-s-springsteen-acting-assistant> EUR [Bureau of European Affairs]- George S. Springsteen, Acting [Assistant Secretary] to Under Secretary, “Further Action on Moscow Microwave Signal (TUMS),” 25 November 1969, with attachments, Secret
Nov 25, 1969
RG 59, Subject Numeric Files, 1967-1969, BG Moscow 13
With the Soviets denying the existence of the Moscow Signal, the U.S. considered its next steps. The problem was complex; since Embassy staffers knew about the microwave, there was a possibility that information about the problem would reach the public. The fact that the U.S. did not know the purpose of the Moscow Signal, and had been unable to demonstrate any harmful effects, weakened its case. Even so, State Department official George Springsteen said in this memo that the U.S. should not drop the microwave issue and “reserve the right to raise [it] again.”
The U.S. could not accept Moscow’s proposal for a joint investigation, in part because of the risk of providing the Soviets with access to the Chancery. A proposal to publicize the issue would cause difficulties in the U.S-Soviet relationship over what Moscow saw as a “minor matter.” Nor could the issue be handled at a higher level (Secretary or Under Secretary of State) because the U.S. had been unable to demonstrate a health danger.
The U.S. had considered other options, but all had been rejected. One was to install equipment to jam the signal. Another was halt negotiations on proposals to build new embassies in Washington, D.C. and in Moscow. The last option was to “illuminate” the Soviet Embassy in Washington with “a signal similar to the Moscow signal.” Those proposals were discussed in a U.S. Intelligence Board report (Tab D) to this memo that remains unavailable.
Springsteen proposed that Ambassador Beam express the U.S. government’s “continuing concern over the directional beam and our regret that the Soviet authorities have not responded in a satisfactory manner.” On December 2, 1969, Under Secretary Elliot Richardson approved the authorizing message to Beam. If a protest was made, it has yet to be discovered.
< am-088304-us-embassy-moscow-moscow-signal-press>
Document 5
< am-088304-us-embassy-moscow-moscow-signal-press> State Department telegram 088304 to U.S. Embassy Moscow, “Moscow Signal Press Guidance,” 12 May 1972, Secret
May 12, 1972
RG 59, Subject Numeric Files, 1970-1973, PPB 9 US
Following a leak to the press about the Moscow Signal on the eve of the May 1972 Nixon-Brezhnev summit in Moscow, the Embassy asked for guidance in case the issue arose during press conferences. The Department quickly worked up guidance for use by Ambassador Beam. It noted that the microwave radiation was not associated with any known health danger but also characterized it as a “form of harassment.” The guidance also provided some history of the Moscow Signal, noting that the U.S. became aware of it when it occupied the Chancery building in March-April 1953. For a possible question about Project PANDORA, the guidance described it as a study “designed to simulate the beam and to determine any possible effects it might have on health.” The guidance denied, probably inaccurately, any possibility that U.S. diplomats had been “disturbed” about the phenomenon. Also, according to the guidance, the U.S. had not raised the matter with Soviet authorities “in the last year or two,” but the Soviets were well aware of “our displeasure.”
As it turned out the microwaves did not come up in the Embassy press briefing, and the guidance was not used. As far as the State Department was concerned, it was just as well, in view of the “general situation” of U.S.-Soviet relations-symbolized by the successful Nixon visit to Moscow. It instructed the Embassy to avoid using the guidance and to say “we will look into the matter” should the question ever come up.
III. The Ford Administration

< -8918-state-department-microwave-rfi-detected>
Document 6
< -8918-state-department-microwave-rfi-detected> Embassy Moscow telegram 8918 to State Department, “Microwave RFI Detected at Amembassy Moscow,” 26 June 1975, Secret, Excised copy
Jun 26, 1975
State Department FOIA Website
With this cable about “Microwave RFI [radio frequency interference],” Ambassador Walter Stoessel suggested the possibility of a protest. The excisions in this message probably covered the then-recent finding that the Soviets were aiming a new microwave signal at the Embassy given the codename MUTS [Moscow Unidentified Technical Signal] but which would be referred to as Signal 3A in the “Fact Sheet” released to the Embassy staff a year later [See Document 27]. The old signal, code named TUMS [Technically Unidentified Moscow Signal], had faded out, but MUTS had appeared. According to the “Fact Sheet,” it had been noticed before but had operated only intermittently until it became persistent starting in May 1975. Also according to the “Fact Sheet,” signal 3A [MUTS] operated up to 14 hours a day and, compared to previous signals, had “higher intensities, up to as much as thirteen microwatts per square centimeter.”
Stoessel provided some perspective on the microwave problem, noting that “Project Pandora” had not discovered any health problems associated with TUMS. He observed that a physiologist was going to visit the Embassy to investigate the radiation effects, and that technical equipment had been ordered to provide more precise data. But if the MUTS power level was above the Soviet Union’s own safety levels, Stoessel wanted the Department to consider a high-level protest, either from the Secretary of State or the Ambassador. Noting what had happened with Rusk’s 1967 complaint, he suggested looking into the signal strength issue before lodging any complaint with Moscow.
< versation-ambassador-anatoli-dobrynin-9-december>
Document 7
< versation-ambassador-anatoli-dobrynin-9-december> Kissinger Telephone Conversation with Ambassador Anatoli Dobrynin, 9 December 1975, 6:06 p.m.
Dec 9, 1975
Digital National Security Archive [DNSA] How the Department responded to Stoessel’s message is unknown, but the intensification of the microwave signal in October 1975, growing concern about adverse health consequences [see Document19], and Stoessel’s threat to resign (as has been claimed), may have motivated Washington to act. When the Ford administration initially took the microwave problem to Dobrynin is unclear. Kissinger had returned from East Asia and was about to leave for Europe, so someone else may have raised the matter with Dobrynin, either National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft or Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management Lawrence Eagleburger, who also was one of the few people knowledgeable about the matter.
During their conversation, when Kissinger asked Dobrynin about the signal “beaming” into the U.S. Embassy, the latter replied that his message to Moscow had not been answered, implying that some U.S. officials had already taken the problem to Dobrynin, prompting his message to the Kremlin. Worried about a leak, Kissinger wanted to know if the signaling was continuing or had ended: “We really are sitting on it here but too many people know about it.” The administration would “catch hell unless we say something is happening.” Kissinger was heading to Moscow for SALT talks, so the two joked about Kissinger getting a “radiation treatment.” Kissinger further joked that a light bulb in the U.S. Ambassador’s room starts to “glow” even when not in the socket.
< versation-ambassador-dobrynin-10-december-1975>
Document 8
< versation-ambassador-dobrynin-10-december-1975> Kissinger Telephone Conversation with Ambassador Dobrynin, 10 December 1975, 10:15 a.m.
Dec 10, 1975
Speaking to Dobrynin the next day, Kissinger said the signal was “very strong,” coming from different directions with a “ricocheting effect.” After Kissinger declared that this to be a “major problem,” Dobrynin said he had received no answers to his telegrams to Moscow, saying he would get in touch once he had an answer.
< eneral-secretary-brezhnev-attached-note-brent>
Document 9
< eneral-secretary-brezhnev-attached-note-brent> Letter, President Ford to General Secretary Brezhnev, attached to note from Brent Scowcroft to Anatoly Dobrynin, 17 December 1975, no classification
Dec 17, 1975
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office File, box 31, USSR “D” File [Dobrynin], Items # 147- #151
The Soviet foot-dragging led the Ford administration to take the matter to the highest level. Reflecting the seriousness with which top U.S. officials viewed the radiation beams, and the looming possibility that they would become public and create a scandal in U.S. relations with Moscow, Ford sent an urgent letter to Brezhnev. Ford said he was “distressed to learn” about the microwave transmissions which “have created levels of radiation within the Embassy which may, in the opinion of our medical authorities, represent a hazard to the health of the American families living and working in the building.” The letter diplomatically suggested that the two leaders shared a common interest in keeping the Moscow Signal from compromising bilateral relations. Ford concluded, “I therefore trust you will have these transmissions ended immediately.”
< nversation-ambassador-dobrynin-23-december-1975>
Document 10
< nversation-ambassador-dobrynin-23-december-1975> Kissinger Telephone Conversation with Ambassador Dobrynin, 23 December 1975, 6:15 p.m.
Dec 23, 1975
The microwave issue surfaced again in a conversation with Dobrynin. Kissinger said the situation was getting worse, with three separate signals operating about 18 hours daily. Kissinger, who was still “trying to keep the thing quiet,” did not have all of the facts straight, because there were only two microwave signals aimed at the Embassy at that time. That Dobrynin was not in the loop on this problem is suggested by his surprised reaction to Kissinger’s news that the hours of microwave transmission had doubled. Nevertheless, as Dobrynin noted-not too happily-both Ford and Brezhnev knew about the problem, and he was awaiting the latter’s reply to Ford’s message.
< oft-nd-31-december-1975-message-brezhnev-ford>
Document 11
< oft-nd-31-december-1975-message-brezhnev-ford> Letter, Dobrynin to Scowcroft, n.d. [31 December 1975] with message from Brezhnev to Ford attached, no classification
Dec 31, 1975
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office File, box 31, USSR “D” File [Dobrynin], Items # 152- #159
Responding to Ford’s letter, Brezhnev argued that there were “no grounds for concerns about the hazardous effects” of radiation exposure at the Moscow embassy. He repeated the Kremlin argument, dating back to the 1960s, that the radiation was “of industrial origin.” Brezhnev also stated that the radiation levels were far below both the U.S. and Soviet standards for harmful exposure and suggested that the level inside the building must be even lower than what Soviet technicians are measuring outside the building. If the U.S. was really concerned, he suggested, “Soviet specialists” could meet with U.S. technicians inside the U.S. Embassy to take comparative measurements and discuss the problem.
< wcroft-dobrynin-10-january-1976-message-ford>
Document 12
< wcroft-dobrynin-10-january-1976-message-ford> White House, Letter, Scowcroft to Dobrynin, 10 January 1976, with message from Ford to Brezhnev attached, no classification
Jan 10, 1975
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office File, box 31, USSR “D” File [Dobrynin], Items # 152- #159
On January 10, 1976, the White House responded positively to the proposal for U.S. and Soviet experts to meet to address the levels and source of the microwave beams. The letter to Brezhnev said that President Ford “welcomes the proposal to have specialists from both sides get together” because the U.S. will present facts that “clearly show that two new transmitters have gone into operation in recent months in the immediate area of the US Embassy and are operating at a level and for a duration which poses a threat to the well-being of US personnel in Moscow.” Ford told Brezhnev that the U.S. would dispatch the specialists immediately to Moscow and that they would “show the necessity of turning off the signals.”
< m-1436-state-department-moscow-signal-approach>
Document 13
< m-1436-state-department-moscow-signal-approach> Embassy Moscow telegram 1436 to State Department, “Moscow Signal-Approach to Gromyko,” 31 January 1976, Secret
Jan 31, 1976
RG 59, Access to Archival Database on-line system [ AAD] With the signal unabated and no results from the Ford-Brezhnev exchanges or the discussions with Soviet technical experts, the U.S. took the issue directly to Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Following guidance and talking points from a State Department telegram (that is unavailable), Ambassador Stoessel saw Gromyko on January 31, 1976. Probably under instructions from the Politburo and the KGB, Gromyko’s tone was “calm and moderate,” but he denied everything, arguing that it was an “imaginary issue.” Brezhnev had taken the same position. Apparently under instruction, Stoessel concluded by telling Gromyko the Embassy would brief the staff on February 4 unless the signals went off. Perhaps that was meant as pressure on the Kremlin to act.
In his comments, Stoessel observed that “if [the Soviets] decide to turn off signals, I assume that they will simply be turned off with no explanation given.” Probably not knowing how much Kissinger and Dobrynin had already been in touch on the microwaves, he proposed an approach to Dobrynin, who “is probably in better position than most Soviet officials to realize danger to our relationship.” This would have been to little avail because communications between Kissinger and Dobrynin were declining during this period, reflecting tensions in U.S.-Soviet relations over Angola and other issues.
< m-1437-state-department-moscow-signal-approach>
Document 14
< m-1437-state-department-moscow-signal-approach> Embassy Moscow telegram 1437 to State Department, “Moscow Signal-Approach to Gromyko,” 31 January 1976, Secret
Jan 31, 1976
This cable contains the text of the “informal paper” Stoessel gave to Gromyko summarizing the findings of U.S. experts who took measurements of the microwave beams with Soviet technicians. They found that the radiation levels in the embassy building were “several orders of magnitude above the typical background level in U.S. cities” and also “above the background level measured in U.S. residences in Moscow which are away from the Chancery building.” “Our medical experts are of the considered opinion that prolonged exposure to microwave radiation at the levels measured in the U.S. Embassy constitute a potential health hazard.” Further, “No level of radiation in the U.S. Embassy which is significantly above the typical background level in residential areas of large industrial cities is acceptable to us.”
< gram-1758-state-department-moscow-signal-5>
Document 15
< gram-1758-state-department-moscow-signal-5> US Embassy Moscow telegram 1758 to State Department, “Moscow Signal,” 5 February 1976, Confidential, excised copy
Feb 5, 1976
Nicholas Steneck Papers, Gerald Ford Presidential Library, box 1
For reasons that remain to be explained, the State Department abruptly cancelled a scheduled briefing on the microwaves for the Moscow Embassy staff. With “questioning and speculation” growing, Stoessel urged that the briefing be rescheduled. The Embassy’s physician was about to go on vacation, and rescheduling his travel would involve considerable cost, he argued. The visa of Dr. Pollack, whose presence at the briefing was essential, would expire in a few days, and if he took a planned trip to London, there was no guarantee that he would receive an entry visa. While concerned about leaks, he believed that providing the classified briefing to small groups of staffers would have less risk. “We are rapidly approaching an untenable situation.”
< ram-029350-embassy-moscow-moscow-signal-6-february>
Document 16
< ram-029350-embassy-moscow-moscow-signal-6-february> State Department telegram 029350 to Embassy Moscow, “Moscow Signal,” 6 February 1976, Secret
Feb 5, 1976
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, box 21, USSR – State Department telegrams
With rumors spreading around the Embassy, Stoessel persuaded Kissinger and Eagleburger to approve a briefing for the Embassy staff. The State Department sent a classified briefing paper, with talking points, that was not to be discussed with “unofficial Americans” (spouses) or with journalists. < 9-15/moscow-signals-declassified-microwave?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a3dd3 4fd-a58a-45e9-9206-674a8a6d709c#_edn2> [2] The briefing reviewed the history of the Moscow Signal, including its discovery by Embassy radio operators in the 1950s, and the rise in its intensity and duration during 1975.
According to the briefing paper, with the directional character of the microwave beams, some floors of the Embassy building, especially the upper levels, received greater exposure than others. Some of the floors had received levels of exposure that “slightly exceeded the Soviet safety standard.” The Soviets had recently reduced their power to below pre-May 1975 level, which “somewhat reduces our concern.” Nevertheless, the Department was determined that the Soviets turn off the microwaves altogether.
The briefing paper said Embassy staffers need not be concerned about the health impact at the reduced levels since “biomedical changes” caused by the waves reduced once exposure ended. The Embassy had protective screening on hand, which could be installed if the efforts to eliminate the signal were not successful. The screening had a “prospect for success,” and if staffers wanted it, they could request installation. But they could not “reveal the reason” for such measures to non-officials. An Embassy doctor would contact anyone with “special medical problems,” such as pregnancy.
Having deemed the microwaves a “major foreign policy problem,” Kissinger insisted on secrecy, because the Soviets would see leaks as a “means of embarrassing them.” And if diplomacy was to succeed at turning off the microwave, the secrecy had to continue.
The Embassy staff was displeased with the restricted nature of the briefing. The Embassy had a classified briefing paper for distribution, but the staff <> refused to accept it if the information could not be shared with spouses.
< gram-1835-state-department-moscow-signal-6>
Document 17
< gram-1835-state-department-moscow-signal-6> US Embassy Moscow, telegram 1835 to State Department, “Moscow Signal,” 6 February 1976 [Misdated as 5 February], Secret
Feb 5, 1976
Nicholas Steneck Papers, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library
Once Embassy staffers received the briefing, < ory-from-fsos-james-schumaker-and-william-a-brown/> some may have been angered enough to leak it to the press. Robert Toth of The Los Angeles Times, who published one of the first stories, called the Embassy to report that his article discussed the tie-in between the microwaves and Soviet surveillance, and the health risks, including danger to pregnant women and the risk of leukemia. < 9-15/moscow-signals-declassified-microwave?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a3dd3 4fd-a58a-45e9-9206-674a8a6d709c#_edn3> [3] Stoessel recommends that the Embassy provide local correspondents with a “fact sheet” and brief “dependents” to counter the sensational reporting. More leaks led to reports in other newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
< ram-033097-moscow-embassy-department-spokesmans>
Document 18
< ram-033097-moscow-embassy-department-spokesmans> State Department telegram 033097 to Moscow Embassy, “Department Spokesman’s Statement at Noon Briefing, February 10,” 11 February 1976, Confidential
Feb 11, 1976
With press stories about the Moscow Signal appearing, Kissinger’s special assistant for press relations, Robert Funseth, said that when he made “no comment” responses to questions, “I was not denying that there is a problem involving our Chancery in Moscow. Let me just say it is a complicated and delicate problem and would not be helpful to discuss in public at this time.” A few days later, during a press conference, Kissinger received <> questions and refused to discuss this problem of “great delicacy.”
< gency-moscow-signal-activity-10-february-1976>
Document 19
< gency-moscow-signal-activity-10-february-1976> Central Intelligence Agency, “Moscow Signal Activity,” 10 February [1976], attached to note from [Name excised], Deputy Legislative Counsel, to Kempton Jenkins, Congressional Relations, State Department, 13 February 1976, Secret
Feb 10, 1976
CIA FOIA Website
This CIA paper provided an overview of developments after the detection of a strengthened Moscow Signal in May 1975. The medical expert sent to the Embassy by the State Department could not rule out the possibility that the signal was hazardous but believed that, at the current level, the probability was low. When a signal with similar characteristics was detected in October 1975, the expert, along with a physician and an electronic expert, returned to the Embassy and determined that the possibility of a health hazard was “increased due to the increased exposure duration, certain changes in signal characteristics, and other medical considerations.” The findings led to a recent State Department “effort to get the signal shut off.”
< ent-defense-department-view-soviet-electronic>
Document 20
< ent-defense-department-view-soviet-electronic> Brent Scowcroft to the President, “Defense Department View on Soviet Electronic Signals,” 12 February 1976, Top Secret, excised copy
Feb 12, 1976
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office File, box 31, USSR “D” File [Dobrynin], Items # 166- #170
In early February, Scowcroft’s deputy, William Hyland, met with Soviet diplomat Yuli Vorontsov to discuss the Moscow Signal problem. The conversation remains classified, but a declassified conversation in November 1977 [Document 32] provides the essence of the arrangements: the U.S. would turn off microwave equipment kept in a shack on top of the Chancery and further expected the Soviets to “turn off their radiation,” including that “emanating from installations in the U.S.” More specifically, the U.S. would tear down the source of its microwaves, the special intelligence “shack” on top of the Chancery-probably used for tracking Soviet communications-while the Soviets would do something about the microwave signals directed at the U.S. Embassy and also tear down the “shack” on top of their Embassy on 16th St, N.W., in downtown Washington.
What can be gleaned from this heavily excised memorandum is that the Defense Department, perhaps speaking for the National Security Agency and military intelligence, dissented from the proposed arrangement on the grounds that it would result in “unnecessary restrictions” on U.S. activity. The Defense Department also commented on proposed countermeasures that Scowcroft had discussed in a previous memorandum to Ford, which are also still classified. The proposed countermeasures may have been similar to those considered in 1969 [See Document 4].
The memorandum also illuminates an element of U.S. thinking about the purpose of the microwaves: the Soviets may have been trying to “activate” or “interrogate” bugs that they had planted in the Chancery
< n-president-ford-13-february-1976-1120-am-secret>
Document 21
< n-president-ford-13-february-1976-1120-am-secret> Memorandum of Conversation with President Ford, 13 February 1976, 11:20 a.m., Secret
Feb 12, 1975
Despite Pentagon objections, during a meeting with Kissinger and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Ford approved the basics of the proposal made by Hyland to Vorontsov. The U.S. would “turn off” its equipment at the U.S. embassy, and the U.S. expected the Soviets to do the same, while also reducing radiation emanating from their installations in the U.S.
< randum-handed-kissinger-dobrynin-16-february-1976>
Document 22
< randum-handed-kissinger-dobrynin-16-february-1976> Soviet Government memorandum, handed to Kissinger by Dobrynin, 16 February 1976, no classification marking
Feb 16, 1976
RG 59, Office of the Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Subject Files, Entry A1-5339B, POL 2 USSR MUTS
A memorandum from Dobrynin indicated the status of the conversations between Hyland and Vorontsov. Blaming the U.S. for the controversy over the microwaves, the Soviets protested the news stories and the U.S. position generally, further arguing that the “electromagnetic field of an industrial nature in the area of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow” posed no health risk. In addition, various installations on the U.S. Embassy building increased the “general level” of microwave radiation. On a settlement of the problem, the Soviets said they had already “laid down our considerations” during a discussion with Hyland, but the U.S. side had not yet taken any “practical” follow-up steps.
< tant-secretary-state-col-robert-mcfarland-nsc-st>
Document 23
< tant-secretary-state-col-robert-mcfarland-nsc-st> Note from “Wes” [Special Assistant to the Secretary of State] to Col. [Robert] McFarland [NSC Staff], with memo to Vorontsov attached, 8 March 1976, no classification
Mar 8, 1976
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office File, box 31, USSR “D” File [Dobrynin], Items # 171- #174
The U.S. took the “practical” steps mentioned by the Soviets. Referring to Dobrynin’s “presentation,” presumably at the February 16 meeting with Kissinger, this U.S. note, drafted at the State Department, rejected the interpretation that the microwaves had an “industrial” source and was comparable to “background” microwave radiation typical of industrial cities. It further noted that the Soviet side had not been interested in serious discussion until February 4, the date of a scheduled (and then delayed) briefing for Embassy employees and the day on which the Embassy planned to begin the installation of protective screening. To avoid further problems, the U.S. government had only made the “briefest” of comments in response to press queries.
The U.S. had recently taken “unilateral” measures, “which we assume the Soviet side has observed.” That referred to the taking down of the communications “shack” on top of the Chancery and the installation of protective screening. The note further advised the Soviets to stop their “unilateral actions”-the microwave signals-that violated “international norms” and were inconsistent with “efforts to relax tensions.” Otherwise, the Soviets would have to “bear the full and inevitable consequences in terms of the inevitable deterioration of the atmosphere in which our relations are conducted.”
< elor-helmut-sonnenfeldt-memorandum-secretary>
Document 24
< elor-helmut-sonnenfeldt-memorandum-secretary> State Department Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt Memorandum to the Secretary, “Conversation with Vorontsov,” 25 March 1976, Secret
Mar 25, 1976
RG 59, Office of the Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Country and Subject Files, Entry A1-5339A, Soviet Union- Jan-April 1976
In a meeting with Vorontsov, State Department counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt urged a “positive response” from Moscow. The problem, Vorontsov explained, was that Moscow was so upset over recent attacks on Soviet diplomats in New York that it could not focus on the microwave problem. Sonnenfeldt observed that there had also been harassment against U.S. diplomats in Moscow, but that the Soviets needed to address the microwaves. The U.S. was at the point where “further publicity would be unavoidable.” Soon the Department would have to tell Embassy staffers that the attempts to get the radiation turned off had failed. Plainly agitated, Vorontsov pleaded: “Don’t do that . We will reply.” Sonnenfeldt observed that “time was getting short.” Whether Vorontsov made a further reply is unclear.
< -national-security-adviser-gen-scowcroft-3-april>
Document 25
< -national-security-adviser-gen-scowcroft-3-april> Telephone Conversation with [National Security Adviser] Gen. Scowcroft, 3 April 1976, 12:50 p.m., not classified
Apr 3, 1976
The Soviets refused to do what Kissinger expected and turn off the microwaves altogether. According to Scowcroft, the Soviets found the press coverage infuriating, making it “impossible [for them] to do anything.” With the microwave signals continuing, Kissinger and Scowcroft agreed that they had no “choice” but “to take retaliatory measures.” That involved “jamming” Soviet facilities, such as the apartment building in Riverdale, the Bronx. While there was some concern about an impact on local TV reception, no one was sure what would happen.
Scowcroft observed that the “NSC [National Security Council] is philosophically against jamming” and was “moving very slow,” but he probably meant or said the NSA [National Security Agency], and the notetaker misheard. That objection infuriated Kissinger who said, “Tell them to go screw themselves,” and “Order it immediately.” While jamming was an option, it is not clear whether it ever happened.
< service-association-presidents-report-6-april-1976>
Document 26
< service-association-presidents-report-6-april-1976> AFSA [American Foreign Service Association] President’s Report of 6 April 1976 to the Board, “Radiation and UHF and Electro-Magnetic Dangers,” n.d.
Apr 6, 1976
Nicholas Steneck Papers, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library
No statements made by Moscow Embassy staffers at the time have surfaced, but this report by AFSA president John Hemenway made a worst-case interpretation of the microwave signals. His report nevertheless reflected the state of mind of some U.S. diplomats who < ory-from-fsos-james-schumaker-and-william-a-brown/> considered such possibilities. Heavily influenced by Project PANDORA-type thinking, the report assumed that the Soviets intended the microwave to have a “physiological effect” and had nothing to do with intelligence operations. Moreover, the impact was not temporary and could have permanently deleterious effects. According to the statement, the Soviet microwaves were only part of the problem, and electronic devices deployed at U.S. embassies around the world had related effects on embassy staff. Suggesting the possibility of an “official cover up,” Hemenway proposed further investigation of the problem.
< ram-166451-embassy-moscow-release-moscow-signal>
Document 27
< ram-166451-embassy-moscow-release-moscow-signal> State Department telegram 166451 to Embassy Moscow, “[R]elease of Moscow Signal Fact Sheet,” 3 July 1976, Confidential
Jul 3, 1976
In early July 1976, the State Department made available a “Fact Sheet” for use by Embassy staff and family members for use in private medical consultations. Aside from this, the document was “administratively controlled” and not for distribution to other U.S. or foreign nationals. It included detailed information on the history of the Moscow Signal, its technical characteristics, safety standards for microwave radiation, and the effects of exposure. According to the Fact Sheet, State Department medical experts had found that “there is at present no cause for concern about health hazards and that no causal relationship had been established between these microwave transmissions and any health problem experience[d] by embassy personnel, past or present.”
< ram-005110-embassy-moscow-muts-measurements-10>
Document 28
< ram-005110-embassy-moscow-muts-measurements-10> State Department telegram 005110 to Embassy Moscow, “MUTS Measurements,” 10 January 1977, Confidential
Jan 10, 1977
In early January 1977, the State Department levied a requirement on the Moscow Embassy to produce measurements every weekday of MUTS power levels. The Embassy had been providing measurements before but not on a tight schedule. If power levels measured using a Rustrak (Company) recorder were “unusually high,” the Embassy was to make additional measurements. By April 1977, if not earlier, the Embassy was sending regular “Special Measurement” messages that provided daily power levels for the Moscow Signal. Dozens of those messages can be found in NARA’s Access to Archival Databases (AAD) platform.
IV. The Carter Administration

< m-2951-state-department-increased-levels-microwave>
Document 29
< m-2951-state-department-increased-levels-microwave> Embassy Moscow telegram 2951 to State Department, “[Increased] Levels of Microwave Signals,” 4 October 1977, Secret
Oct 4, 1977
The measurements of Moscow Signal power levels eventually produced diplomatic action. On October 4, 1977, the Embassy reported that levels were “higher than any we have measured for more than one year”: power density levels varied from 3.15 to 5.70 microwatts per square centimeter on the Embassy’s ninth and tenth floors and on the rooftop. Previous levels had been in the 2-microwatt range. According to Deputy Mission Chief Jack Matlock, “We are at a loss to explain this unusual development.” He recommended informing Ambassador Malcolm Toon so that a decision could be made on whether to bring up the matter with the Soviet government.
< m-16276-state-department-message-brezhnev-9>
Document 30
< m-16276-state-department-message-brezhnev-9> Embassy Moscow telegram 16276 to State Department, “Message to Brezhnev,” 9 November 1977, Secret
Nov 9, 1977
The Carter administration took the microwave issue to the highest levels in the Soviet government. With meetings with Ambassador Dobrynin going nowhere, the Carter administration did not bother with an approach to Gromyko; instead, President Carter raised the problem in a <> letter to Leonid Brezhnev. The letter, which also concerned SALT and anti-satellite issues, among other topics, mentioned “certain conditions”-the “repeated exposure to unwarranted doses of directed radiation”-“which adversely affect the well-being of the U.S. Embassy’s personnel in Moscow.” Carter did not want to make the issue a public one but thought that Brezhnev “can well understand the reason for our deep concern.”
When Ambassador Toon went to the Kremlin to discuss the letter, his mention of the microwave problem made Brezhnev “visibly angry and disturbed.” Claiming that “there’s no need to return to this” issue on which “we have set forth our position exhaustively,” he argued that U.S. “agencies” were using the matter for “unseemly purposes.” Taking exception to that, Toon declared that the Soviet “replies . had not been satisfactory.” After Brezhnev “thump[ed] the table” and said, “this is stupidity,” Toon brought out photographs of the “microwave projection both east and south of the Embassy.” Toon declared that the radiation beams aimed at the Embassy were of “great importance not only to me but to all in the Embassy,” but Brezhnev observed that “not one person had fallen sick or will fall sick. These stories are put about by ill wishers who want to worsen relations.” Toon rejected Brezhnev’s characterizations, saying that the microwave radiation was a “fact of life” that he hoped Brezhnev would “study,” to which Brezhnev agreed.
< ram-269477-embassy-moscow-text-noon-briefing>
Document 31
< ram-269477-embassy-moscow-text-noon-briefing> State Department telegram 269477 to Embassy Moscow, “Text of Noon Briefing on Microwaves, November 9,” 10 November 1977, Unclassified
Nov 10, 1977
Triggered by Brezhnev’s negative response, the State Department made its first public statement about the problem of the microwave radiation. According to the briefer, “we are continuing to press the Soviets to turn off the signals and are taking.all possible measures meanwhile to protect our employees.” When asked about the health impact, the briefer said, “there is no evidence to date that these signals.have adversely affected the health of our employees,” but the Department has contracted Johns Hopkins to “undertake an exhaustive epidemiological study.” Protective screening had been installed in the Embassy to reduce the anxiety of employees. Blood count analysis detected higher lymphocyte readings for as many as one-third of employees whether they have been exposed to the radiation or not, but the blood counts returned to normal a few weeks after departing Moscow.
< ty-national-security-adviser-david-aaron>
Document 32
< ty-national-security-adviser-david-aaron> Memorandum for the Record by Deputy National Security Adviser David Aaron, “Conversation with Minister Counselor Vladillen Vasev of the Soviet Embassy, 9:00 a.m., Friday, November 11, 1977,” 11 November 1977, Top Secret
Nov 11, 1977
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, National Security Affairs Subject File, box 33, Memcons: Aaron, David, 2/77-12/78
This memorandum by Zbigniew Brzezinski’s deputy, David Aaron, provides the key to the 1976 Hyland-Vorontsov negotiations. Meeting with Soviet diplomat Vladillen Vasev, Aaron proposed building on those negotiations to prevent the microwave problem from having “potentially adverse consequences [for] our relationship.”
The U.S. and the Soviets had taken some of the steps discussed by Hyland and Vorontsov, but, Aaron said, the Soviets had not torn down the electronics shack on top of their 16th Street embassy, which “we understood to be [the] arrangement.” And they later increased the power of the microwave signal. Aaron suggested that the Soviets turn off the microwave beams aimed at the U.S. Embassy and tear down the “shack” on the top of their embassy.
Vasev acknowledged that the problem was a “sensitive” one, and he could not be sure of Moscow’s response. He observed, not accurately, that the “whole problem had started when someone in the United States had found it necessary to brag about how good U.S. intercept capabilities were in Moscow.” Aaron noted parenthetically that Vasev may have had in mind Jack Anderson’s revelation of “our ‘Gamma Guppy’ operation against [the Soviet official limousine’s] radio phone system.” (The Washington Post, September 16, 1971). Apparently, Aaron and Vasev did not have a follow-up meeting and the microwave problem remained unresolved.

< 9-15/moscow-signals-declassified-microwave?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a3dd3 4fd-a58a-45e9-9206-674a8a6d709c#_ednref1> [1]. Barton Reppert (Associated Press), “Zapping An Embassy; Thirty Five Years Later, The Mystery Lingers,” Times Daily, 22 May 1988.
< 9-15/moscow-signals-declassified-microwave?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a3dd3 4fd-a58a-45e9-9206-674a8a6d709c#_ednref2> [2]. The lead-up to the briefing is recounted in Nicholas H. Steneck’s important book, The Microwave Debate (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984), 181-182.
< 9-15/moscow-signals-declassified-microwave?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a3dd3 4fd-a58a-45e9-9206-674a8a6d709c#_ednref3> [3]. For the leaks, see Steneck, The Microwave Debate, 182-183.