The request appeared reasonable enough. The Soviet Union wanted to send a relatively small team of scientists to an island in the Pacific administered by New Zealand ahead of an upcoming eclipse to conduct some harmless experiments.

But it was 1956 and in those early days of the Cold War, anything the Soviets wanted to do — especially involving space — was met with deep suspicion by American intelligence.

“The CIA was particularly paranoid certainly about anything that might have a positive benefits for the Soviets. This is a time period where we’re in a zero-sum world where anything that’s good for them is bad for us and vice versa,” intelligence historian Vince Houghton told Code and Dagger. “Even if we had no idea what was going on, if they said, ‘Hey we’d really like to do this,’ we’re like, ‘Well, why? Why would you want to do that?’ So I think certainly in the 1950s people were focused on that.”

True to form, the CIA tasked an analyst with trying to figure out what the Soviets might really be up to.


Read the whole story from Code and Dagger.

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