Former CIA Agent To Share Story Of Life As A Spy

Posted: September 12, 2013

Martha Peterson never imagined she would join the Central Intelligence Agency.

At 3 p.m. Sept. 14, Valley locals will have the chance to hear her speak at the New Market Area Library. Her presentation is part of an on-going adult learning program coordinated by library volunteers Beverly Butterfield and Bonnie Flick.

Though her adventurous spirit had no qualms about joining her first husband — CIA agent John Peterson — on his assignment in Laos during the Vietnam War, she insists she had no ambitions to become an agent herself.

“It was nothing I ever thought of doing,” she remarked.

After her husband was killed in a helicopter crash in Laos, Peterson was determined to fulfill his legacy.

Peterson, who has a Master’s Degree in sociology, submitted an application to the CIA, and was soon assigned to be a spy in the Soviet Union.

Before heading off on her assignment, the then 27-year-old attended officer training, which involved 44 weeks of Russian language class.

Though Peterson knew the Cold War was a “very intense time,” she wasn’t afraid of the challenges that awaited her.

While Peterson was officially sent to work for a “government unit” in Moscow, her secret responsibility was communicating with a Soviet Union official dubbed “Trigon.”

Though they never met in person, the pair communicated for 21 months via a hollow rock they would fill with photos, messages and secret documents.

While Trigon was compensated for supplies he bought, such as a miniature spy camera, Peterson says the CIA did not offer bribes in exchange for information.

In the summer of 1977, Peterson was arrested while heading to the hollow rock. Due to diplomatic immunity, Peterson was jailed for a few hours before being sent back to the United States, and forbidden to ever return.

Months later, she learned that Trigon had been arrested and committed suicide in jail soon after.

Though her CIA career continued for another 25 years, Peterson never forgot Trigon or his contributions to the United States success in the Cold War.

After her retirement in 2003, she wrote and published “The Widow Spy,” an account of her experiences in Laos and the Soviet Union. Peterson, who was given permission by the CIA to write about her experience, says she wrote the book as a tribute to two men she considers heroes: John and Trigon.

“They made a difference in this world, and I felt I needed to write their stories,” she said.

Peterson, who now lives in North Carolina, travels around the country to discuss her book at various clubs, schools, and libraries.

Butterfield, who believes life-long learning keeps one “vital,” says the program provides locals with an opportunity to increase their knowledge about a variety of areas.

“Interesting people live all around us,” Butterfield points out. “When these people are willing to share what they know, great things can happen.”

NDN Video News