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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CIA Defector Wanted Revenge

Edward Lee Howard, the first CIA officer to defect to the Soviet Union, fled to Moscow out of a desire for revenge after he was fired from the U.S. intelligence service, a former KGB handler disclosed in an interview published Thursday.

Viktor Andrianov also told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that Howard, who died July 12 aged 50 after a fall near his dacha outside Moscow, had a weakness for alcohol that often made him lose self-control.

He said Howard, who escaped from the United States in 1985 while under FBI surveillance, had provided the KGB with information that allowed them to identify CIA agents living in Moscow and "covers used by American spies."

Howard became the focus of an international manhunt after his 1985 escape until Soviet authorities disclosed in August 1986 that Moscow had granted him asylum.

Andrianov, one of Howard's former KGB handlers, said he had been bitter toward the CIA for firing him.

"[The reason for his defection] was revenge on the CIA," Andrianov said. "He could not forgive his colleagues from Langley."

Howard worked for the CIA from January 1981 to June 1983 when he was fired for drug abuse, mental instability and failing to pass a lie detector test.

Andrianov said Howard, whom he described as an "explosive and emotional personality," had never denied violating the code governing intelligence agents while working for the CIA.

"And unfortunately, Edward could not overcome the fondness for alcohol that he had acquired in America," Andrianov said. "He would quickly get drunk and in that state would get out of control."

Before he was fired, Howard had been training for a posting in Moscow and so had knowledge of Soviet citizens working as agents for the United States. U.S. authorities have said Howard gave information to the Soviet Union that led to one agent's arrest and execution.

"Through Howard, we succeeded in verifying the names of the then-CIA residents in Moscow, and the covers used by American spies," Andrianov said.

"We also received from him information on super-secret American intelligence operations in the U.S.S.R."

The FBI had put Howard under surveillance at his home in New Mexico after Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB agent who defected to the United States but later returned to the Soviet Union, fingered him as a Soviet agent.

Andrianov said Howard had managed to travel to the United States at least once after his escape to see his family, and subsequently met his wife several times in an unspecified European country and in Moscow.