TODAY   |  February 18, 2014

Moscow’s history of spies and secrets revealed

From spy films to novels to its real-life chilly atmosphere during the Cold War, the Russian capital has long been shrouded in intrigue. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> 8:43. we welcome you back to sochi, russia . and for decades, the russian movies and novels centered on the cold war and spies. we sent keir simmons to the heart of the russian intelligence agency. what did you find there?

>> that's right, matt. this is about spying, but also about russian-american rivalry. you've seen it here in the medal count. but it's a rivalry that goes way back. when the u.s. and russia faced off in a cold war that was often fought through spying and in fiction, a certain british spy got involved, too.

>> reporter: the name, simmons, keir simmons . a city of spies and secrets. at least that's how we thought of moscow a few years ago.

>> get in, mr. simmons.

>> reporter: giving me the tour, security expert andre --

>> this building, the central one is the main headquarters of the kgb . the kremlin is also a fortress.

>> reporter: in the bond movies , there's always a man in the kremlin on the end of a phone.

>> yes, of course, we'll send our best agent in immediately.

>> reporter: real russian agents like allegedly ana chapman have even been discovered in the heart of america . but the year that inspired a thousand spy thrillers was a frightening time. there was the threat of nuclear destruction. russia and america locked in a cold war divided by a so-called iron curtain . and for westerner russia , the soviet union was full of mysterious places. you know, you can really imagine spies meeting here.

>> kgb decided what interest kgb .

>> reporter: a country controlled by the kgb and the russians made their own spy movie , best-selling thriller writer knows all about the trade craft of spying. he experienced firsthand the chilly atmosphere of cold war moscow.

>> you can see the guys in the gray coats coming out behind you. you will follow it all the way. the hotel room was bugged. you knew this thing the size of a bumblebee was in the telephone.

>> yes. the gadgets used by both sides.

>> something hidden inside a shoe there.

>> it's a weapon.

>> a weapon like a lipstick.

>> it was discovered by the kgb , by the national security agency .

>> only a few years back, the russians accused the british of hiding listening devices in a plastic rock. and last year, an alleged cia agent was caught in the city disguised in a wig. technology is more advanced. look at the nsa. but --

>> how much really has changed?

>> not a lot. not a lot.

>> russian and america are still spying on each other.

>> yep.

>> there are still code names, midnight rendezvouses and glamorous agents prepared to use anything, even love. or secrets.

>> reporter: and that report is very likely putting me at the top of the russian intelligence agency's list of targets. so they're probably going through my e-mails as we speak. thank you very much for that assignment, matt.

>> when you walk by the mini bar in your room, speak loudly, all right. you'll be fine. thank you very much. we appreciate it.