Vice-president and wife exposed to ‘massive dosages’ of ionising radiation at US ambassador’s residence, declassified files show
Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, were exposed to potentially harmful radiation while staying at the US ambassador’s residence in Moscow in 1959, according to declassified Secret Service documents.
Nixon, who was vice-president at the time, was not informed of the threat, and the state department was only informed in 1976, when a member of his Secret Service detail, James Golden, revealed that detection equipment had measured significant levels of radiation in and around the Nixons’ sleeping quarters at the residence, Spaso House.
Golden said he was later told by the state department that he had been exposed to “massive dosages” of ionising radiation produced by an atomic battery used by Soviet spies to power bugging devices hidden in the building. However, Golden had doubts about that explanation and it was not confirmed.
The incident was reported after Golden’s revelations in 1976, but this is the first time the underlying documentation has been made available online, after a request to the Nixon presidential library from the National Security Archive at George Washington University. One of the archive’s senior analysts, William Burr, who made the request, said “this unusual and virtually unknown cold war episode deserves more attention so the mysteries surrounding it can be resolved”.