McCarrick’s rising profile drew the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and even the KGB. In the early 1980s, a KGB agent who enjoyed diplomatic cover as the Deputy Chief of Mission to the United Nations for the Soviet Union approached McCarrick, apparently to attempt to befriend him. McCarrick, who was initially unaware that the diplomat was also a KGB agent, was contacted by agents of the FBI, who asked him to serve as a counterintelligence asset with respect to the activities of the KGB. Though McCarrick believed it was best to decline such involvement (particularly because he was immersed in the organization of the new Diocese of Metuchen), the FBI persisted, contacting McCarrick again and encouraging him to allow a relationship with the KGB agent to develop.
Given the delicate nature of the situation, McCarrick reported in detail the FBI’s request to Nuncio Laghi in January 1985, seeking Laghi’s advice as to how to proceed. Laghi thought that McCarrick should “not be negative” about the possibility of serving as an FBI asset and described McCarrick in an internal note as someone who “knows how to deal with these people and be cautious” and who was “wise enough to understand and not be caught.” It is not clear, however, whether McCarrick ultimately accepted the FBI’s proposal, and no record reflects further contact with the KGB agent.