In from cold, they'll sell a spy game Cloak and CD-ROM: Top veterans of the KGB and CIA play themselves in a computer game that they hope will make spies look good again.

February 06, 1996|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

Twenty years ago, William E. Colby and Oleg D. Kalugin were ideological adversaries, directing CIA and KGB agents around the globe in a deadly serious espionage war.

But times change, and so do spymasters.

Now the graying Cold War veterans have found a common cause: They have collaborated on a computer game called "Spycraft."

Mr. Colby, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1973 to 1976, and Mr. Kalugin, KGB chief of foreign counterintelligence from 1973 to 1980, play themselves in the interactive CD-ROM. The espionage-simulation game is to be released this month by a California company whose usual fare includes such games as "Return to Zork" and "MechWarrior 2," which portrays "31st-century combat."

While they will receive fees and royalties from sales of the game, both Mr. Colby and Mr. Kalugin profess a higher purpose: to polish the image of the spook, considerably tarnished in both Russia and the United States.

"We wanted to show that there really is a need for intelligence after the Cold War," Mr. Colby said from his Georgetown home.

Mr. Kalugin and Mr. Colby, who had to get CIA approval for his participation, appear in video clips in the game as senior consultants to their respective intelligence agencies in the post-Soviet era. They advise the player, who takes on the role of a CIA case officer traveling the world to foil a plot to assassinate the Russian president. They also visited the Los Angeles offices of Activision to review the script, written by James Adams, a British journalist, for authenticity.

"We sat around a table and went over the story line," Mr. Colby said. "We said, 'This makes sense.' 'This is too outlandish.' "

Mr. Kalugin considered the first draft "a bit trashy," but now considers the plot realistic.

"It really rings true to what goes on at the KGB and CIA," he said from his office in Washington, where he moved after his defeat in the December elections to the Russian parliament. He is teaching at Catholic University and working for a Russian-American telecommunications venture.

Mr. Colby, 76, and Mr. Kalugin, 61, both say they have never played a computer game. They were wowed by the technical capabilities of a state-of-the-art CD-rom, a silvery plastic disc that can hold the equivalent of a half-million pages of printed text or an hour-long movie.

"It's a whole new world, like the first stirrings of television," Mr. Colby said.

Mr. Kalugin took over the KGB's operations against the CIA outside the Soviet Union the same year Mr. Colby became America's top spy. The two men first met in East Berlin just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have since crossed paths at international conferences, and Mr. Kalugin entertained the former CIA chief in his Moscow apartment a few months ago.

"One of the attractive things about this game is that Bill Colby and I are no longer adversaries," Mr. Kalugin said. Another thing he likes, he added, is that "there's not too much violence."

In the old, real-world spy business, there was violence enough.

Mr. Colby directed CIA operations during the Vietnam War, including the Phoenix project, which targeted Viet Cong agents for assassination. Mr. Kalugin helped supply the poison-tipped umbrella used to murder Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in London in 1978.

Such grim history has always been the counterpoint to --ing, James Bond fantasies about espionage. But in recent years the spy services in both countries have been disgraced by very public, if very different, revelations.

The KGB, heir to Stalin's murderous NKVD, has been subjected to intense scrutiny in the Russian media for its infiltration of every Soviet institution from the factories to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The CIA has been pilloried for its failure to expel Aldrich Ames, the drunken case officer who sold secrets to the KGB for years before his arrest in 1994, and for complicity in brutality in Central America and elsewhere.

Both agencies have been reorganized and watched their budgets shrink.

"Spycraft," Mr. Colby said, may sell the importance of spying to a skeptical American audience. "It's a way of educating the public about the value of intelligence," he said. "And it's a way to deflate some of the myths and misconceptions and absurdities out there about intelligence."

According to Activision, "Spycraft" incorporates video and still photography to place the player in cities from New York and London to Heidelberg, Germany, and Moscow. Simulated spy gear allows agents to trace bullet trajectories, intercept radio transmissions and identify people's locations by analyzing the sounds in the background of phone calls.

One innovation will allow players to gather information for the game by signing on to real sites on the Internet's World Wide Web, including the CIA's actual Web page.

Now that new-age technology has made them comrades in the campaign to make spying respectable again, the Russian and the American have only nice things to say about one another.

Said Mr. Kalugin of Mr. Colby: "I developed great respect for the man. As our chief adversary, he looked formidable."

Said Mr. Colby of Mr. Kalugin: "I'm sure he was a very professional, very effective officer." It is to the Russian spy's credit that he resigned from the KGB in 1990 and denounced its domestic abuses, he added.

Still, a spy's a spy.

"I'm sure he doesn't tell us everything he knows," Mr. Colby said. "But then, I don't tell him everything I know."

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