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WASHINGTON (AP) — Somewhere in the United States live a few former spies from the communist government of Czechoslovakia, which passed into history in 1989.

When officials of the new Czech Republic tried to recall them, they simply refused. They had grown accustomed to their lives in America, they said, and did not want to leave.

The Czech government decided to leave them alone.

The spies were sleeper agents who had never been activated. The communist government, a hard-line treaty ally of the Soviet Union, had planned to order them to duty in the event of a crisis or a major war with the West.

After the spies refused to go home, the FBI and the CIA allowed them to stay since none had ever harmed U.S. interests.

The story is told by former CIA official Milt Bearden and New York Times reporter James Risen in their new book, "The Main Enemy," a chronicle of East-West spy activities during the waning years of the Cold War.

Bearden and Risen also tell of a Soviet colonel who was assigned to a Soviet base in East Germany, near Berlin, in 1990. They write that he was "ready to do anything he could to get out to the West." Time was of the essence because he was due to be shipped back to the Soviet Union soon.

The CIA officer handling the case told the colonel during a clandestine meeting that his value would be greatly enhanced if he were to defect with some Soviet weapons. The colonel promised to try to steal an SA-19 surface-to-air missile, an item coveted by the Pentagon.

The colonel made his move one afternoon. He ordered a surprise muster of his battalion, and as his men lined up, he went to the base arms depot. He ordered clerks to load an SA-19 and several other items onto a truck.

"With virtually all of the base's personnel now standing in formation near the front gate, the colonel gunned the truck engine and barreled to the back of the base, crashing through the perimeter fence and out into the farmland," the authors say.

After a rendezvous with his American contacts, the weapons were loaded onto a U.S. Army truck. Within 15 minutes they had crossed the border into West Germany.

"The colonel got out, pulled off his Soviet Army greatcoat, threw it on the ground and angrily stomped all over it in his Army boots," according to the book.

"He then got back into the truck and they sped on, making only one more stop before arriving at a U.S. Army base near Frankfurt: dinner at McDonald's."

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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