Anatoli Golitsyn

Anatoli Golitsyn

Anatoli Golitsyn was born in in Piryatin, Ukraine, on 25th August, 1926. After leaving college he joined the KGB. He worked in the strategic planning department and eventually the rank of Major. According to a KGB report "in the mid-1950s he reacted painfully to a demotion in his position; he could not tolerate having his mistakes and blunders pointed out and commented on." Golitsyn said that only bad luck had prevented him from becoming a highly successful senior officer during the Joseph Stalin period. (1) Golitsyn became disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union and spent six years at Moscow Center making notes of high-level files. (2)

In 1961 under the name "Ivan Klimov" he was assigned to the Soviet embassy in Helsinki, Finland, as vice counsel and attaché. In December of that year he walked into the American embassy and asked for political asylum. (3) Golitsyn was immediately flown to the United States and lodged in a safe house called Ashford Farm near Washington.

Anatoli Golitsyn - Soviet Defector

CIA officers found him as being "unpleasant and egotistical". They also commented that as a major in the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, he was "almost too fortunate and too high up to have a reason to defect". He demanded that he be interviewed by James Angleton. He insisted that no one else in the CIA was smart enough or knew enough to question him. Attorney General Robert Kennedy went to see Golitsyn and was told that the CIA was deliberately keeping him away from Angleton. He promised to take up the case with President John F. Kennedy. (4)

As a result of President Kennedy's intervention, Golitsyn was interviewed by Angleton. A fellow officer, Edward Perry, later recalled: "With the single exception of Golitsyn, Angleton was inclined to assume that any defector or operational asset in place was controlled by the KGB." Angleton and his staff began debriefing Golitsyn. He told Angleton: "Your CIA has been the subject of continuous penetration... A contact agent who served in Germany was the major recruiter. His code name was SASHA. He served in Berlin... He was responsible for many agents being taken by the KGB." (5) In these interviews Golitsyn argued that as the KGB would be so concerned about his defection, they would attempt to convince the CIA that the information he was giving them would be completely unreliable. He predicted that the KGB would send false defectors with information that contradicted what he was saying.

Judith Coplon
Anatoly Golitsyn and his wife Svetlana at Coconut Grove in Los Angeles (1961)

James Jesus Angleton later told a Senate Committee: "Golitsin possesses an unusual gift for the analytical. His mind without question is one of the finest of an analytical bent... and he is a trained historian by background. It is most difficult to dispute with him an historical date or event, whether it pertains to the Mamelukes or Byzantine or whatever it may be. He is a true scholar. Therefore, he is very precise in terms of what he states to be fact, and he separates the fact from speculation although he indulges in many avenues and so on."

Peter Wright, the author of Spycatcher (1987) has argued that Angleton believed Golitsyn: "A string of senior CIA officers, most notably Dave Murphy, the head of the Soviet Division, unfairly fell under suspicion, their careers ruined. In the end, the situation became so bad, with so many different officers under suspicion as a result of Golitsin's leads, that the CIA decided the only way of purging the doubt was to disband the Soviet Division, and start again with a completely new complement of officers. It was obviously a way out of the maze, but it could never justify the damage to the morale in the Agency as a whole." (7)

Interviewed by Arthur Martin

Stephen De Mowbray, was the MI6 liaison officer in Washington and in March 1962 he arranged for Arthur Martin, head of MI5's D1 Section, to interview Golitsyn. Golitsyn claimed that Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess were members of a Ring of Five agents based in Britain. He also provided material that helped to establish the guilt of George Blake and John Vassall. Other information suggested that Alister Watson was a spy. However, Golitsyn was unable to provide any new evidence that would be acceptable in a court of law. (8)

According to a document prepared by MI6 for the Home Secretary, a summary was given about the information provided by Golitsyn: "In 1962 a defector (Golitsyn) from the Russian Intelligence Service stated that in the 1930s there was a very important spy network in the United Kingdom called the Ring of Five because it originally had five members all of whom knew each other and had been at the university together. He knew that Burgess and Maclean were members of the ring. He thought that the network had expanded beyond the original five." (9)

Yuri Nosenko

In June 1962 Yuri Nosenko made contact with the CIA in Geneva. Nosenko was deputy chief of the Seventh Department of the KGB. In his autobiography, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003), Richard Helms explained why he believed Nosenko was a good source: "From a security viewpoint, Nosenko's alleged background and Moscow assignment - he served in the American Department of the internal counter-intelligence service of the KGB - made him an extremely attractive source." (10) Nosenko's main responsibility was the recruitment of foreign spies. In return for a small payment, Nosenko began to give CIA officer, Tennant H. Bagley, valuable information. He revealed that he served in the Far East and specialized in the recruitment of tourists in Tokyo and other cities. (11)

In July 1963, Golitsyn travelled to London to be interviewed by Arthur Martin. He like Nosenko, provided evidence that John Vassall was a Soviet agent. "The problem was Golitsin's obsession with his methodology. He claimed that if he was given access to the files of Western intelligence service it would trigger associations in his memory which could lead him to spies. (12) Soon afterwards a senior MI5 officer leaked information to British newspapers that they were interviewing a KGB defector in London. As soon as this story appeared in the press, Golitsyn returned to the United States and refused to give any more information to MI5.

In January 1964, Yuri Nosenko defected. He claimed that he had been put in charge of the KGB investigation into Lee Harvey Oswald. He denied the Oswald had any connection with KGB. After interviewing Oswald it was decided that he was not intelligent enough to work as a KGB agent. They were also concerned that he was "too mentally unstable" to be of any use to them. Nosenko added that the KGB had never questioned Oswald about information he had acquired while a member of the U.S. Marines. This surprised the CIA as Oswald had worked as a Aviation Electronics Operator at the Atsugi Air Base in Japan. (13)

Members of the Warren Commission were pleased to hear this information as it helped to confirm the idea that Oswald had acted alone and was not part of a Soviet conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. CIA chief of intelligence, James Jesus Angleton, did not believe parts of Nosenko's story. He was supported by Golitsyn. He had worked in some of the same departments as Nosenko but had never met him. After being interviewed for several days Nosenko admitted that some aspects of his story were not true. For example, Nosenko had previously said he was a lieutenant colonel in the KGB. He confessed that he had exaggerated his rank to make himself attractive to the CIA. However, initially he had provided KGB documents that said Nosenko was a lieutenant colonel.

Richard Helms, the CIA's Deputy Director of Plans, was not convinced that Yuri Nosenko was telling the truth: "Since Nosenko was in the agency's hands this became one of the most difficult issues to face that the agency had ever faced. Here a President of the United States had been murdered and a man had come from the Soviet Union, an acknowledged Soviet intelligence officer, and said his service had never been in touch with Oswald and knew nothing about him. This strained credulity at the time. It strains it to this day." (14)

Evan Thomas, the author of The Very Best Men (1995), points out that James Jesus Angleton also did not believe Nosenko. "Angleton never got over suspecting that the Russians or Cubans plotted to kill Kennedy. He thought that the Russians or Cubans plotted to kill Kennedy. He thought the Russian defector, Yuri Nosenko, who claimed that the Kremlin was innocent, was a KGB plant to throw the CIA off the trail. But most reputable students of the Kennedy assassination have concluded that Khrushchev and Castro did not kill Kennedy, if only because neither man wanted to start World War III." (15)

Soviet Penetration

In 1964 Golitsyn was interviewed once more by James Angleton. Golitsyn claimed that Hugh Gaitskell had been murdered in January 1963 to allow Harold Wilson, a KGB agent, to become leader of the Labour Party. Angleton believed Golitsyn but few senior members of the CIA agreed with him. They pointed out that Gaitskell had died after Golitsyn had left the Soviet Union and would have had to know in advance what was about to take place.

Golitsyn also suggested that W. Averell Harriman had been a Soviet spy, while he was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Angleton was convinced by this story as he knew someone was involved in spying the negotiations that took place between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, other CIA officers thought the story ridiculous and Harriman was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as ambassador-at-large for Southeast Asian affairs. (16)

James Angleton created CAZAB in 1964. It was a highly classified forum in which selected counterintelligence personnel from Canada, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Great Britain to met periodically to exchange counter-intelligence information relating to the KGB and GRU. Golitsyn was invited to address the CAZAB conference in Melbourne in 1967. During his speech Golitsyn criticised the Western intelligence services: "I know of more spies, why are you not willing to cooperate with me."

The following spring he was invited for further interviews by British intelligence. He was set up in a safe house near Brighton and every week he was given a fresh batch of secret files to study. For the next four months he gave information based on the information in the files: "He studied the VENONA, and was able to fill in a few groups using his knowledge of KGB procedure... But in the crucial area - whether or not he could shed any light on the penetration problem - he was a complete loss... He spent weeks studying the VENONA traffic to see if he could help us identify the unknown cryptonyms." He did claim that "David" was probably Victor Rothschild, but MI5 rejected the suggestion. (17)

James Jesus Angleton, chief of the CIA's counter-intelligence section, believed that Anatoli Golitsyn was a genuine double-agent but argued that Nosenko was part of a disinformation campaign. However, Richard Helms (CIA) and J. Edgar Hoover (FBI) believed Nosenko and considered Golitsyn was a fake. In 1984 Golitsyn published a book about Soviet foreign policy called New Lies For Old. This was followed by The Perestroika Deception.

Primary Sources

(1) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987)

After the initial debriefing, the CIA sent to MI5 a list of ten "serials," each one itemizing an allegation Golitsin had made about a penetration of British Security. Arthur initially held the complete list. Patrick Stewart, the acting head of D3 (Research), conducted a preliminary analysis of the serials, and drew up a list of suspects to fit each one. Then individual serials were apportioned to different officers in the Dl (Investigations) section for detailed investigation, and I was asked to provide technical advice as the investigations required.

Three of the first ten serials immediately struck a chord. Golitsin said that he knew of a famous "Ring of Five" spies, recruited in Britain in the 1930s. They all knew each other, he said, and all knew the others were spies. But Golitsin could identify none of them, other than the fact that one had the code name Stanley, and was connected with recent KGB operations in the Middle East. The lead perfectly fitted Kim Philby, who was currently working in Beirut for the Observer newspaper. He said that two of the other five were obviously Burgess and Maclean. We thought that a fourth might be Sir Anthony Blunt, the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, and a former wartime MI5 officer who fell under suspicion after the Burgess and Maclean defections in 1951. But the identity of the fifth was a complete mystery. As a result of Golitsin's three serials concerning the Ring of Five, the Philby and Blunt cases were exhumed, and a reassessment ordered.

(2) Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy (1990)

In a remarkable attempt to resolve the issue, Nosenko underwent "hostile interrogation." He was kept in solitary confinement for 1,277 days under intense physical and psychological pressure.

He was put on a diet of weak tea, macaroni, and porridge, given nothing to read, a light was left burning in his unheated cell twenty-four hours a day, and his guards were forbidden to speak with him or even smile. His Isolation was so complete that Nosenko eventually began to hallucinate, according to CIA testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Toward the end of this ordeal, Nosenko was given at least two lie detector tests by the CIA. He failed both. But Nosenko did not crack.

The believers of Nosenko, headed by the CIA's Richard Helms and J. Edgar Hoover, took his intransigence to mean that he was telling the truth but the KGB having no interest in Oswald.

But doubts remained. So at the CIA's request, the Warren Commission obligingly made no reference to Nosenko. Angleton retired from the CIA and later wrote: "The ... exoneration or official decision that Nosenko is/was bona fide is a travesty. It is an indictment of the CIA and, if the FBI subscribes to it, of that bureau too. The ramifications for the U.S. intelligence community, and specifically the CIA, are tragic."

The counterintelligence faction, led by Angleton, still believes that Nosenko's defection was contrived by the KGB for two purposes: to allay suspicions that the Soviets had anything to do with the JFK assassination to cover for Soviet "moles," or agents deep within US intelligence.

(3) Arkady Shevchenko, Breaking With Moscow (1985)

In November 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Everyone in the (Soviet) mission was stunned and confused, particularly when there were rumors that the murder had been Soviet-inspired... Our leaders would not have been so upset by the assassination if they had planned it and the KGB would not have taken upon itself to venture such a move without Politburo approval. More important, Khrushchev's view of Kennedy had changed. After Cuba, Moscow perceived Kennedy as the one who had accelerated improvement of relations between the two countries. Kennedy was seen as a man of strength and determination, the one thing that Kremlin truly understands and respects. In addition, Moscow firmly believed that Kennedy's assassination was a scheme by "reactionary forces" within the United States seeking to damage the new trend in relations. The Kremlin ridiculed the Warren Commission's conclusion that Oswald had acted on his own as the sole assassin. There was in fact widespread speculation among Soviet diplomats that Lyndon Johnson, along with the CIA and the Mafia, had masterminded the plot. Perhaps one of the most potent reasons why the U.S.S.R. wished Kennedy well was that Johnson was anathema to Khrushchev. Because he was a southerner, Moscow considered him a racist (the stereotype of any American politician from below the Mason Dixon line), an anti-Soviet and anti-Communist to the core. Further, since Johnson was from Texas, a center of the most reactionary forces in the United States, according to the Soviets, he was associated with the big-time capitalism of the oil industry, also known to be anti-Soviet.

(4) Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian (6th October 2009)

The extent to which the Security Service suspected trade union leaders and protesters of being potential subversives during the cold war has been revealed with the publication of the official history of MI5. Targets for surveillance included Jack Jones, the doyen of the Labour movement, and the Greenham Common women's peace camp.

The book, The Defence of the Realm, suggests that leaders of both main political parties were often more keen than MI5 to monitor the activities of their MPs or trade union leaders.

The authorised history, by the Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew, says Jones, who the Guardian has been told was the subject of more than 40 volumes in MI5 archives, was not "being manipulated by the Russians". But Andrew says MI5 was "right to consider the possibility that he was".

Britain's top spy in the KGB, Oleg Gordievsky, said Moscow "regarded Jones as an agent" and he provided it with Labour party NEC documents, Andrew writes. He adds that Jones received some money from the KGB, though the trade union leader broke contact with Moscow after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Three Labour MPs are named as Soviet bloc agents: John Stonehouse, who became postmaster general in Harold Wilson's government, Bernard Floud and Will Owen. The three were "outed" by a Czech defector but there is no evidence they passed over sensitive information.

MI5 opened a file on Wilson under the name Norman John Worthington. Officials were alerted by his east European friends and his role in trade with the Soviet Union. Andrew dismisses claims of a "Wilson plot" under which MI5 tried to smear the Labour prime minister and destabilise his administration. However, a footnote in the 1,000-page history says that claims Wilson was a Soviet agent derive from conspiracy theories perpetuated by a KGB defector, Anatoli Golitsyn. Andrew adds: "Sadly, a minority of British and American intelligence officers … were seduced by Golitsyn's fantasies."


(1) Mitrokhin Archive (Volume 6, Chapter 1)

(2) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 582

(3) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 435

(4) Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA (2001) page 232

(5) Edward Perry, interviewed by Joseph Trento (21st July, 1988)

(6) James Angleton , testimony before the Senate (5th October, 1978)

(7) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 315

(8) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 583

(9) Quoted in Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 435

(10) Richard Helms, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003) page 238

(11) Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA (2001) page 232

(12) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 314

(13) Richard Helms, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003) page 240

(14) John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (1987) page 320

(15) Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA (1995) page 308

(16) Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA (2001) page 307

(17) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 316-17