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Diplomat's Cold War panic over microwave 'attacks'

Ireland's ambassador to Moscow sent his children for medical tests during a Cold War panic over an alleged Soviet microwave attack on foreign diplomats, state papers show.

High levels of radiation were detected in the US Embassy in the then Soviet Union in 1976 sparking fears that officials were being deliberately targeted with a secret radioactive weapon.

The Irish ambassador, Edward Brennan, sent two of his children for blood tests with a US doctor who was examining the American community in Moscow at the height of the scare.

Both were given the all-clear but other ambassadors, meeting in a special bug-free bunker in the Russian capital, continued to express concern, according to the just-released files.

Mr Brennan told the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin that he called a meeting with US Ambassador Walter Stoessel to get some answers amid the uncertainty.


"In confidence, he could mention that the sudden rise was due to the effort by the Soviets to overcome US anti-listening devices,'' he wrote on February, 1976.

"The Soviet devices were beamed against the chancery part of the embassy and also a certain part of the south west wing. Their listening devices utilised the whole glass area of a window as a microphone.''

The US Ambassador then showed Mr Brennan their "counter measures'' including fine mesh metal screens installed between the double-glazed windows which reduced radiation by more than 90pc.

Mr Brennan reported that he was investigating any health hazard at the Irish Embassy that might be emanating from high-energy Soviet spy devices. But he was assured by Mr Stoessel that the problem was "localised'' at the US compound.

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"I raised the matter at a meeting of the Nine Ambassadors held (as is the custom) in a special bug-free chamber,'' wrote Mr Brennan.

It has been widely assumed that the Russians used microwave energy to bug the US Embassy from the 1950s. But others have suggested unproven alternative theories, including a possibility that it was a radiation experiment to see if human behaviour could be modified.

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