SAN FRANCISCO -- The Soviet consulate general in San Francisco, located in the wealthy Pacific Heights residential neighborhood, has frequently been accused of harboring a den of spies.
In the latest report, U.S. officials named Vice Consul Aleksandr Grishin as part of a spy ring uncovered in Los Angeles with the arrest last week of an FBI agent accused of passing secrets to Soviet agents. Grishin is one of 11 vice consuls among the staff at the seven-story fenced building.
In recent years there have been frequent reports that 50 or more spies report to the San Francisco consulate general.
Experts on electronic warfare say the consulate is the collection base for extensive electronic surveillance gear operated by spies at work in California, especialy in the high-technology Silicon Valley south of San Francisco.
Small antennae in vans or at other locations can pick up telephone traffic and search it for key words or names. The spy equipment can then home in on those lines which might be fruitful in spying.
Such firms as Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. in Sunnyvale, where U.S. Poseidon missiles are built, Ford Aerospace, Hewlett-Packard and many other major defense contractors are located on the San Francisco Peninsula.
The magazine Electronic Warfare said in a recent issue the material gathered at the consulate is unloaded daily to a Russian satellite passing overhead.
The publication said 35 percent of the personnel at the San Francisco consulate are electronic experts specifically engaged in high-tech espionage.
The consulate has had a running battle with neighbors in the 'Cow Hollow' section of the Pacific Heights neighborhood.
Two years ago a neighborhood organization complained that the Russians had raised an instant penthouse on its roof during the Christmas holidays. They complained it was an eyesore and violated city building regulations.
Consul General Alexander Chikvaidze told San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein that the structure was built to cover leaks in the roof.
'In this country, we do not repair a roof by putting a building on top of it,' Feinstein commented. The conulate later took down the penthouse, which raised suspicions it was built to protect electronic spy gear.
The consulate is the scene of almost daily picketing by groups and individuals protesting against wrongs blamed on the Soviet Union, including the refusal of the Russians to permit Jews to leave the country.
When Soviet warplanes shot down a Korean airliner over the Soviet waters in Asia last year, the consulate was the target of demonstrations by Koreans and others.
San Francisco police protect the consulate against violence.
Visitors are seldom admitted to the building, and never without careful screening by the Russians.
In one incident at the time of the Korean airliner protests, a staff member at the consulate seized the press credential of a television producer who was filming the arrival of the Soviet consul general there in a limousine.
The press card was returned through police.
Activities at the consulate are closely monitored by the FBI.
A year ago some of this counter-spy activity was disclosed inadvertently in a court document in which ex-FBI agent David Castleberry said he had participated in the digging of a tunnel under the consulate in the early 1970s. He described the work as 'ultra secret' spying on the Russians.