The New York Times
Spy Warsby T. H. Bagley, Tennent H. Bagley
In this rapid-paced book, a former CIA chief of Soviet bloc counterintelligence breaks open the mysterious case of KGB officer Yuri Nosenko’s 1964 defection to the United States. Still a highly controversial chapter in the history of Cold War/b>
Chosen by William Safire in the New York Times to be the publishing sleeper-seller of the year for 2007.
In this rapid-paced book, a former CIA chief of Soviet bloc counterintelligence breaks open the mysterious case of KGB officer Yuri Nosenko’s 1964 defection to the United States. Still a highly controversial chapter in the history of Cold War espionage, the Nosenko affair has inspired debate for more than forty years: was Nosenko a bona fide defector with the real information about Lee Harvey Oswald’s stay in Soviet Russia, or was he a KGB loyalist, engaged in a complex game of deception?
As supervisor of CIA operations against the KGB at the time, Tennent H. Bagley directly handled Nosenko’s case. This insider knowledge, combined with information gleaned from dozens of interviews with former KGB adversaries, places Bagley in a uniquely authoritative position. He guides the reader step by step through the complicated operations surrounding the Nosenko affair and shatters the comfortable version of events the CIA has presented to the public. Bagley unveils not only the KGB’s history of merciless and bloody betrayals but also the existence of undiscovered traitors in the American camp. Shining new light on the CIA-KGB spy wars, he invites deeper thinking about the history of espionage and its implications for the intelligence community today.
The New York Times
- Yale University Press
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Spy WarsMOLES, MYSTERIES, AND DEADLY GAMES
By Tennent H. Bagley
Yale University PressCopyright © 2007 Yale University
All right reserved.
When the door opened in front of him, my visitor knew he was being led into a secret CIA apartment. But which of us was really being led? As he took my welcoming hand I had no idea that it was to drag me and my service into a labyrinth so complex that even today, more than forty years later, my successors have still not found their way through its twists and turns.
On that afternoon in late May 1962 Geneva was at its springtime best. Beyond the open glass door onto a narrow balcony, red flowers glowed in window boxes and the sun shone on the roofs of the picturesque Old Town-a bright contrast to the dark doings in this little apartment. The man walking in was a Soviet official taking the deadly dangerous step of making secret contact with American intelligence. I was the CIA officer to greet him.
Two days earlier, in the marble halls of Geneva's Palace of Nations, he made his move during a break in the proceedings of an arms-control conference. He eased himself to the side of an American delegate he knew to have served in Moscow, shook hands, and, after a glance around to be sure he was out of range of fellow Soviet delegates, asked urgently for contact with CIA. The startled American-call him Edwin Dodge-said he would try to arrange it.Within hours he got the message to my chief.
By the time I had given Dodge the address and hour for the meeting, a young tech had fitted the apartment with a hidden tape recorder and microphones. Dodge was reluctant to compromise his diplomatic status by involvement in our clandestine world but was willing to lead the Russian to our door.
Dodge motioned him in and followed close behind, but obviously had no desire to stay a minute longer than necessary. "This is Mr. Nosenko of the Soviet delegation," he said. "He wants to talk to you." Turning to the Soviet and making eye contact, he shook his hand and said, "I'll leave you now. And the best of luck." With this, Dodge spun on his heel and was down the stairs before I could thank him.
Dressed in a dark, Western-style suit and conservative tie befitting his status as a first secretary from the Soviet foreign ministry, Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko was in his mid-thirties, a bit under six feet tall, and strongly built with a slightly hunched posture. His light-brown hair was combed straight back from his forehead, emphasizing his wide face with its slightly hooded eyes, broad nose, and thick lips. His eyes swept the small living room, crowded with fussy, old-fashioned armchairs, a sofa, oriental rugs, and heavy draperies. He looked through the half-open door onto the balcony and seemed content that it was higher than the neighboring houses.
I said in English, "Mr. Dodge told me you want to talk to someone from American Intelligence. I'm pleased to meet you."
"Thank you," he replied in Russian, "I have important things to tell you."
I raised my hand. "Mr. Dodge said you speak good English. I understand Russian but have trouble expressing myself clearly in it, so if it's all right with you, let's speak English. If you like you can speak Russian and I'll answer in English."
He nodded and said in easy English, "No problem." And indeed there was no problem of mutual understanding from that moment on. I motioned him to a chair and offered him a drink. "Yes, please, scotch"-following familiar Soviet drinking habits, vodka at home, whiskey abroad.
As I poured the whiskey over ice and added plenty of soda he said, "I'm in trouble. I need some money urgently." I nodded sympathetically but remained silent. He went on. "I think you'll help me, because I am here to talk about my real business. I am an officer of the KGB, and I work against your people in Moscow."
It was as if a gold brick had dropped into my lap. I had dealt with defectors and sources inside Soviet Intelligence and knew how a source inside the core of the Soviet system could contribute to our mission. Though I kept a cool demeanor, my visitor surely knew the elation I was feeling because his service, too, gave top priority to recruiting sources among its adversaries' "special services."
At that moment I knew little more about Nosenko than his name, one among seventy on the list of Moscow's delegates who had flown in to Geneva in March with Foreign Minister Gromyko. Gromyko attended the opening sessions and left, but the conference went on, as foreseen, for months.
Intelligence services the world over take a routine interest in the delegates assigned to multinational conferences. Central files are checked to see if there are any potential friends or lapsed agents of ours in the group. Or hostile intelligence officers: these delegations offered ready-made cover for Moscow-based KGB and Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) officers to go out and meet important agents already in place. In the past, local security services tipped by us had shadowed such traveling spymasters and had occasionally identified their spies. We received no such traces on Nosenko and hence no details; our headquarters saw no need to clutter us with trivial information on every delegate to every conference. Even the truly interesting ones usually went unwatched for lack of time or facilities to do much about their presence-such as, in this delegation, Mikhail S. Rogov. This, we knew, was the well-worn pseudonym for Mikhail Tsymbal, the KGB's former chief in Paris, now heading a major Moscow operations division. It was only many years later that we learned he had come out this time to meet KGB spies high inside the French intelligence service.
Soviet delegations also brought along security officers assigned from the KGB "delegations department" that specialized in watching over Russians who might let themselves be tempted by life in "enemy territory," as the West was known in Soviet regime parlance.
"I am a Major in the Second Chief Directorate," Nosenko said, assuming correctly that I would know it as the KGB's huge counterintelligence and security organization. "I am responsible for the security of our delegation."
He glanced toward the whiskey bottle I had set on a sideboard, so I poured some more scotch in his glass and was just starting to add soda water when he raised his hand for me to stop. I went to the balcony door and closed it to emphasize my concern for the privacy of what he was going to tell me.
"I know what I'm doing here is dangerous, but I need money right now. I've been in too many bars-been with too many girls, drunk too much whiskey," he said, flicking his index finger against his neck in a characteristic Russian gesture. "Mostly with Yuri Guk of the rezidentura [Soviet intelligence station, or residency, of KGB] here. You probably know about him." He looked at me expectantly and I nodded; we knew of Guk's earlier KGB service in the United States. "We've been friends for years, even from university. We're having a great time together."
Nosenko said he had run out of his own money and had been paying for these revels with funds advanced to him for official expenses. Now, at the end of the delegation's three-month sojourn, he had to account for the advance. "I don't mind talking to you, because I don't believe in our system anymore. But it's this damned money problem that drove me here."
"How much do you owe?"
"Eight hundred francs." This amounted to 250 U.S. dollars, about a week's pay for him or his colleagues.
"I'll answer all your questions," Nosenko said, "but you must understand that I will never come over to your side, to live in the West-I won't ever leave my family or my country. I have two little girls."
He fished an envelope from his jacket pocket and pulled out two pictures from a folded letter. "Look, I just got these from my wife. Guk was back in Moscow for a few days and my wife asked him to bring them to me." He pointed at one. "That's my daughter Oksana," he said proudly. "She looks so much like me that my wife calls her my kopiya [image]."
I clucked approval and got back to business. "How much of a problem is it for you to come meet me? Who might notice your absence?"
"No problem," Nosenko replied. "I don't have any fixed duties in the conference and no one knows or cares when I come and go. I'm not accountable to anyone." He took a deep gulp of his whiskey and pulled a pack of American cigarettes from his jacket pocket and offered one to me. I declined but picked up a book of matches that lay on the coffee table and lit his.
"I'm not staying with the rest of the delegation. They're in the Hotel Rex but four of us are in another hotel, not even close." He identified it as the Hotel d'Allèves, a small place close to the Rhone River and at least two kilometers across town from the Rex, which I knew to be the usual habitat of visiting Soviet delegations.
"Yes, but how about those three?" I asked. "Will they notice and report your absences?"
"Absolutely not. The guy sharing my room is just a journalist with nothing to do with the KGB. Same for the other two."
"What's your roommate's name?"
"Aleksandr Kislov," he replied. I remembered having seen the name on the list of delegates as a TASS correspondent attached to the Soviet delegation. No traces had come in on him, so Nosenko's indifference seemed justified.
Nosenko continued to reassure me. He had good reason to be confident. In his routine preparation in Moscow for this stint in Geneva he had studied all the travelers' KGB files, for he was the only security officer for them all. It was his responsibility to know which delegates he should watch most closely and which others, as regular KGB informants, might help him keep an eye on the rest.
"The only person who really knows how I spend my time is Guk, but he's my friend, no problem."
"How long can you safely stay today?" I asked.
"Maybe an hour, not much longer. Guk will be waiting. We're going out again tonight."
"Tell me about your job in Moscow."
Until a few weeks before leaving for Geneva, Nosenko told me, he had been the number two man in the section operating against the American Embassy in Moscow. Just now he had become the section chief supervising KGB work against American and British tourists in the USSR. Earlier he had served in both these sections, always working against Americans. The Second Chief Directorate was trying not just to prevent their spying, he explained, but especially to recruit them as spies.
"We have a tremendous coverage of your people-surveillance, microphones, agents inside your buildings. Don't ever expect me to meet you inside the country. I'll meet you when I'm in the West but I'll never risk meeting you inside."
I shrugged and raised my hands in a gesture of regretful resignation. "Because there's so little time today, I'd like you to tell me what you think is the most important thing you have to tell us."
Nosenko thought for a moment, looking down at the near-empty glass of whiskey and soda that I had served him. "I know the most important American spy the KGB ever recruited in Moscow," he said.
Bingo! I leaned forward as he paused for effect. "He was a sergeant in your Embassy, a cipher machine mechanic. He had the code name 'Andrey.' I never knew his true name. He got involved with a Russian woman working for us in the Embassy's apartments. The old thing-it usually works-well, you know ..." He paused expectantly and I nodded. He went on. "We took compromising pictures and he cooperated to get them back and save his marriage."
"A tremendously valuable source," he added, "In fact, my boss went himself all the way to the United States just to reactivate 'Andrey' after the rezidentura lost contact with him."
"Who was that who went?" I asked. He was referring to the man for whom Nosenko had been deputy until just before coming here, the chief of KGB operations against our Moscow Embassy.
"Kovshuk, Vladislav Kovshuk," Nosenko answered.
"Can you tell me anything more, that might help us identify the sergeant? When was he recruited?"
He twisted his wrist in the air, "1949 or 1950. One or the other."
Nosenko said he himself had joined the KGB in 1952 and had recently received the "ten-year certificate" honoring that service. "The bosses know me as a real operator," he said proudly. "I speak good English so I'm called on to handle a lot of things. I've recruited ten Americans and Englishmen, and have gotten commendations."
He then named an American and a British tourist, and two American tourist agency directors cooperating with the KGB, though he did not claim to have recruited them himself.
For no apparent reason, his eyes suddenly swept around the apartment and he snapped his fingers three times. He looked knowingly at me. "Microphones?" I looked at him blankly, not answering. He shrugged. "Well, it would be natural."
With the door closed it had become stuffy in the apartment, and time for a break. Drinks in hand, we stepped out onto the still-sunlit balcony in the back, away from public view. Abruptly, without context, Nosenko asked, "Did Golitsyn tell you about the Finnish president?"
This was a surprise. A CIA visitor to Switzerland had told me that KGB Major Anatoly Golitsyn had defected in Finland a few months earlier, though this was still kept secret from the public. I shook my head and admitted that I wouldn't know. What I didn't tell him is that I was aware that Finnish President Urho Kekkonen was well known for his friendly accommodation to Soviet interests in his country. It did not take vast insight to imagine what a KGB officer there might have said about the relationship.
We stepped back into the apartment and sat down. I refilled Nosenko's glass. After some more talk he glanced at his watch. "I should go now, so Guk won't wonder where I've been. But I'll come back day after tomorrow."
I promised to have his money ready by then. We agreed to meet again in the late afternoon, the best time for him to be absent from the delegation.
We rose and were moving toward the door when Nosenko suddenly blurted, "I know how Popov was caught."
This was a jolt. Lieutenant Colonel Pyotr Semyonovich Popov, a GRU officer, had for seven years delivered the highest-level Soviet military and political intelligence to CIA. His arrest in Moscow in October 1959-and his execution afterward-was a shattering blow. In the three years since then, as far as I knew, CIA had not discovered how things had gone so wrong. The sudden, unexplained loss of a vitally important agent always ignites an extensive investigation. The most closely examined possibility was that the spy was betrayed from within the operating service.
Popov's death held special meaning for me. For the three years after he first came to us in Vienna in late 1952, I had supported the operation as one of the four officers most intimately involved.
I stopped and faced him. "Tell me how."
But Nosenko backed off just as abruptly as he had raised the subject. He shook his head. "No, no, I don't have time now. Next time."
"It won't take but a minute," I said, but Nosenko could not be moved. This was another surprise. Moments earlier he had not seemed in a hurry. Now, after exploding a bombshell, he had no time at all.
He opened the door. With a quick peek into the corridor, he whispered, "Next time," and disappeared down the stairs.
I closed the door and muttered, "Damn!"-not just because I had failed to get the answer, but because I knew only too well the chilling fact of secret operations: there may never be a "next time."
Chapter TwoGetting Under Way
When the door closed behind Yuri Nosenko I hardly caught my breath before jotting notes on highlights and my initial impressions for a priority cable to Headquarters. It would go with an extra code word to limit its distribution there. This affair was promising enough to merit special security precautions.
First, I noted, Nosenko gave every indication that he was really a KGB officer. Only an insider could have spoken so easily about secret Soviet places, KGB people unknown to the general public, and secret operations like Popov. This, to me, seemed to establish his bona fides. Second, he had not yet indicated any significant interest in or access to military or political information. I would mention some of the specifics Nosenko had reported and close with the suggestion that Headquarters pack a more fluent Russian speaker onto the next flight to Geneva. At no time had we had the slightest communication problem; he never had trouble finding words and never had to ask me to repeat anything. But I did not want to risk losing nuances when he slipped into Russian.
Headquarters' reply came within hours. The central file held no record on Nosenko other than a single trip to the Caribbean with a Soviet group. There was nothing on him personally nor had any other KGB defector ever mentioned his name.
The good news was that Headquarters was sending George Kisevalter. This burly, warmhearted case officer had the gift of rapport with strangers, and his idiomatic Russian was a notable plus in dealings with Soviet contacts like Popov, whom he had handled in Vienna (where we worked together).
Excerpted from Spy Wars by Tennent H. Bagley Copyright © 2007 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Tennent H. (“Pete”) Bagley served twenty-two years in the CIA, handling spies and defectors in Clandestine Services and rising to chief of Soviet bloc counterintelligence. He is now a writer and researcher based in Brussels, Belgium.
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