Biggest & Most Popular Spying Incidents: Real Life

From ancient times, kingdoms and nationstates have spied on each other. With the advancement of technology, physical surveillance was often complemented with spy gadgets. Here’s a look at some of the biggest espionage dramas where bugging devices played a key role:

Big Popular Spying Incidents

  • The Great Seal saga | 1952 In 1946, Soviet school children presented a two-feet wooden replica of the Great Seal of the United States to the American ambassador. He hung the seal at his residence. A bald wooden eagle, which was part of the seal, had been bugged. In 1952, an inspection revealed that the eagle contained a microphone and a passive resonant cavity that could be stimulated from an outside radio signal. The equipment had no power source or transmitter making it much harder to detect. The cavity had a metallic diaphragm that moved in unison with sound waves from a conversation in the room
  • Schwirkmann’s story | 1964 | In Moscow, the West German embassy was extensively bugged by the KGB. German engineer Horst Schwirkmann uncovered the plot leading to an attack on him
  • Spy labourers | 1970s During the construction of the US embassy in Moscow in the 1970s, Soviet agents posed as labourers and bugged it. When discovered in the early 1980s, it was found that even the concrete columns were riddled with bugs. The building eventually had to be torn down and replaced with a new one, built with US materials and labour
  • Watergate scandal | 1972-75 In June of 1972, five men were arrested for trying to break into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters, located in the Watergate office complex in Washington. Soon it became apparent that the break-in was probably the tip of the iceberg of illegal activities undertaken by the Nixon administration. During the Congress-ional investigation, it came to light that there was a listening devise in place that recorded everything in the Oval office on tape. The political scandal prompted Nixon’s resignation in 1974
  • Bugs in Boeing | 2001 | The People's Republic of China announced it had discovered 27 bugs in a Boeing 767 purchased as an official aircraft for President Jiang Zemin
  • Scandal in EU Hq | 2003 Electronic bugging devices were found at offices used by French and German delegations at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. The state-ofthe-art listening equipment had been placed back in 1993-94. Devices were also discovered at offices used by other delegations. The plot was first reported by Le Figaro newspaper. Fingers were also pointed towards Israel, Russia, the US and England
  • MI5 in action | 2003 | Pakistani embassy building was found bugged. Contractors hired by MI5 had planted bugs in the building in 2001
  • Campbell’s soup 2003 | British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s high-profile spin doctor Alastair Campbell claimed in his memoirs, The Blair Years, that two bugs were discovered in a New Delhi hotel room meant for Blair during his 2001 India visit. The bugs had allegedly been planted by Indian intelligence agencies. Security services supposedly informed him that the bugs could not be removed without drilling the wall, therefore Blair changed to another room
  • Samovar saga 2008 | An electric samovar presented to Elizabeth II in about 1968 by a Soviet aerobatic team was removed from Balmoral Castle as a security precaution amid fears that its wiring could contain a listening device