When Martha Peterson Shogi arrived in Moscow in early November 1975, she felt more than the cold and snow around her. She felt like people were watching her.
Did they know she was a spy for the CIA, she wondered.
“You get instantly paranoid in a situation like that,” said Shogi, the first female CIA agent assigned to work in the Soviet Union.
About 30 students and Gainesville residents filled a Pugh Hall room on Tuesday night to hear Shogi talk about how she got to her high-level position in an agency dominated by men. Shogi was invited by the UF Bob Graham Center and was not paid for her speech, said spokesperson Shelby Taylor.
She said she knew her whole life that she wanted to serve her country and felt that the CIA would be the best fit.
“The person who interviewed me for the job wanted to make me a secretary,” Shogi said. “I told her that I wanted to be an operations officer.”
Shogi spent nearly a year learning Russian and and new FBI technology used to tap into conversations between Soviet officials. She spent hours of her own time in karate classes to learn how to defend herself in case she was captured by members of the KGB, the Soviet Union security agency.
The former spy held up a fake log while she talked about her days spent delivering secret packages, called “dead drops,” to a Soviet diplomat recruited by the CIA.
Shogi stashed pens with small cameras and letters from the CIA inside the log while the diplomat delivered packages shaped like gloves and milk cartons containing film and notes.
Although her career in the CIA, which she retired from in 2003, was stressful and treacherous, Shogi said it was an honor to to serve her country.
“I believe our system at the CIA represents a belief in the better good,” she said.
Hannah Townley, an 18-year-old UF political science freshman, decided to attend the event to learn more about how the CIA affects national security.
“I enjoyed getting an in-depth look at how the world really runs,” she said.
Martha Peterson Shogi holding a package shaped like a log, also known as a dead drop, that the CIA used to deliver materials to a Soviet diplomat who sent secret information to the CIA.