Wednesday, 15th October, 2014
In most discussions about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, it is very difficult to come to any definite conclusions. The main problem is the evidence is often incomplete and is of the type that is open to different interpretations. Therefore, the participants in any discussions, view the information mainly from their own established position on the assassination. As a result, it is very difficult to have any really meaningful discussion on the subject. However, thanks to the opening up of the KGB archives, we can look at some of this evidence and come to some definite conclusions. This includes the information provided by Yuri Nosenko, who defected to the United States in 1964.
Before I look at what the KGB archives say about Nosenko's defection I want to consider the way senior figures in the CIA and FBI, such as Richard Helms, James Jesus Angleton and J. Edgar Hoover, dealt with this evidence. In doing so, I will show that their own interpretations were overwhelmingly influenced by their own ideological views and more importantly, their own political needs, at the time. In discussing this issue I will also show that this case shows that we have very little chance of discovering who planned and carried out the assassination of President Kennedy.
In January 1964, Yuri Nosenko, deputy chief of the Seventh Department of the KGB, contacted the CIA in Geneva and said he was willing to defect to the United States. Once in custody he was interviewed by CIA officers (26th-27th February). He claimed that he had been put in charge of the KGB investigation into Lee Harvey Oswald when he defected in 1959. After interviewing Oswald it was decided by the KGB that he was not intelligent enough to work as an agent. They were also concerned that he was "too mentally unstable" to be of any use to them. It was Nosenko's department that recommended that Oswald's application for a re-entry visa be denied. Nosenko also claimed that he had the opportunity to see the KGB file on Oswald shortly after the assassination and it was clear that the Soviet Union was not involved in the death of John F. Kennedy. (1)
Richard Helms, the CIA's Deputy Director of Plans, was one of those who was not convinced by Nosenko. In his autobiography, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003), he points out that Nosenko had been providing information to the CIA since June 1962. "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. His targets were American diplomatic and consular personnel, journalists, and tourists in the USSR. As an agent, he appeared to offer an inside view of high-priority KGB operations against the United States." (2)
However, Helms and other senior figures in the CIA began to have doubts about the credibility of Nosenko. One of the reasons for this was the testimony of another Soviet defector, Anatoli Golitsyn, who had walked into the American embassy in December 1961 and asked for political asylum. (3) 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. Was this then the role of Yuri Nosenko?
Richard Helms pointed out that even before Nosenko's arrival in February, the CIA had been having severe doubts about the truth of his testimony. Nosenko's case officer in June 1962, was Tennant H. Bagley. Later that year he was appointed as chief of counter-intelligence for the Soviet Bloc Division. On 19th December, 1963, he had circulated a twelve-page memo on the subject, recommending that if Nosenko recontacted the CIA he "should be regarded as under Soviet control". (4) Helms goes on to argue: "It was nineteen months... before Nosenko returned to Geneva. To our complete surprise, and contrary to his earlier statement, Nosenko abruptly announced that he now wanted to defect immediately. He insisted that his security had been compromised, that he would be arrested if he returned to Moscow. Then, with barely a pause, he delivered another surprise. In the days following President Kennedy's assassination. Nosenko informed us, he had reviewed the entire KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald's three-year residence in the USSR. Nosenko assured us that the KGB had found Oswald unstable, had declined to have anything to do with him, and he was not in any way involved in President Kennedy's assassination." (5)
According to Thomas Powers, the author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (1979), Helms had a private meeting with Chief Justice Earl Warren in 1964, to tell him about the doubts he had about Nosenko. (6) Helms also later told a Senate Committee about the CIA's views on Nosenko in 1964: "Since Nosenko was in the agency's hands this became one of the most difficult issues 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." (7)
The main opponent of Nosenko at the CIA was James Jesus Angleton. Before looking at his thoughts on the defector it is worth looking at Angleton's state of mind at the time. 1963 had been a traumatic year for Angleton. On 23rd January, Kim Philby, had defected to the Soviet Union. Angleton was shattered by the news. Philby had been his close friend since 1942 when Angleton, an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officer, was sent to England for his training. It was the start of a long friendship: "Once I met Philby, the world of intelligence that had once interested me consumed me. He had taken on the Nazis and Fascists head-on and penetrated their operations in Spain and Germany. His sophistication and experience appealed to us... Kim taught me a great deal." (8)
In 1949 Kim Philby became SIS representative in Washington, as top British Secret Service officer working in liaison with the CIA and FBI. He also handled secret communications between the British prime minister, Clement Attlee and President Harry S. Truman. According to Ray Cline, it had been left to the Americans to select their preferred candidate and it was Angleton who was the main person advocating appointing Philby. (9) Philby wrote in My Secret War (1968): "At one stroke, it would take me right back into the middle of intelligence policy making and it would give me a close-up view of the American intelligence organisations." (10)
Philby's home in Nebraska Avenue became a gathering place for Washington's intelligence elite. This included Walter Bedell Smith (Director of the CIA), Allen Dulles (Deputy Director of the CIA), Frank Wisner (head of the Office of Policy Coordination), James Jesus Angleton (head of staff Office of Policy Coordination), William K. Harvey (CIA counter-intelligence) and Robert Lamphere (FBI Soviet Section). Philby made a point of dropping in on the offices of American intelligence officers in the late afternoon, knowing that his hosts would sooner or later "suggest drifting out to a friendly bar for a further round of shop talk." (11) As one CIA officer pointed out: "Intelligence officers talk trade among themselves all the time... Philby was privy to a hell of a lot beyond what he should have known." (12)
Philby was especially close to Angleton. Philby later explained they had lunch at Harvey's Restaurant every week: "We formed the habit of lunching once a week at Harvey's where he demonstrated regularly that overwork was not his only vice. He was one of the thinnest men I have ever met, and one of the biggest eaters. Lucky Jim! After a year of keeping up with Angleton, I took the advice of an elderly lady friend and went on a diet, dropping from thirteen stone to about eleven in three months. Our close association was, I am sure, inspired by genuine friendliness on both sides. But we both had ulterior motives. Angleton wanted to place the burden of exchanges between CIA and SIS on the CIA office in London - which was about ten times as big as mine. By doing so, he could exert the maximum pressure on SIS's headquarters while minimizing SIS intrusions into his own. As an exercise in nationalism, that was fair enough. By cultivating me to the full, he could better keep me under wraps. For my part, I was more than content to string him along. The greater the trust between us overtly, the less he would suspect covert action. Who gained most from this complex game I cannot say. But I had one big advantage. I knew what he was doing for CIA and he knew what I was doing for SIS. But the real nature of my interest was something he did not know." (13)
When Donald Maclean defected in 1951 Philby became the chief suspect as the man who had tipped him off that he was being investigated. The main evidence against him was his close friendship with Guy Burgess (they had lived together in Washington), who had gone with Maclean to Moscow. Philby was recalled to London. CIA chief, Walter Bedell Smith ordered any officers with knowledge of Philby and Burgess to submit reports on the men. William K. Harvey replied that after studying all the evidence he was convinced that "Philby was a Soviet spy". (14)
James Jesus Angleton reacted in a completely different way. In Angleton's estimation, Philby was no traitor, but an honest and brilliant man who had been cruelly duped by Burgess. According to Tom Mangold, "Angleton... remained convinced that his British friend would be cleared of suspicion" and warned Bedell Smith that if the CIA started making unsubstantiated charges of treachery against a senior MI6 officer this would seriously damage Anglo-American relations, since Philby was "held in high esteem" in London. (15)
Bedell Smith, had been convinced by the report produced by Harvey and wrote directly to Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6, and made it clear that he considered that Philby was a Soviet spy and would not be permitted to return to Washington and urged the British government to "clean house regardless of whom may be hurt". Burton Hersh, the author of The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA (1992), has claimed that the underlying message was blunt: "Fire Philby or we break off the intelligence relationship." (16) Dick White also wrote to Menzies suggesting that MI6 take action as a matter of urgency. Menzies refused to believe Philby was a Soviet spy but realised he would have to dismiss him. He agreed to give him a generous payoff, £4,000, equivalent to more than £32,000 today.
Angleton was devastated when Philby defected in 1963. Philby and Angleton had thirty-six meetings at CIA headquarters between 1949 and 1951. Every one of the discussions were typed up by Angleton's secretary Gloria Loomis. This was also true of the weekly meeting they had at Harvey's Restaurant in Washington. Angleton was so ashamed about all the CIA secrets he had given to Philby he destroyed all these documents. Angleton told Peter Wright: "I had them burned. It was all very embarrassing." (17) It was not the last time that Angleton destroyed evidence to protect his reputation.
CIA agent, Miles Copeland, was aware of these regular meetings. He later commented: "What Philby provided was feedback about the CIA's reactions. They (the KGB) could accurately determine whether or not reports fed to the CIA were believed or not... what it comes to, is that when you look at the whole period from 1944 to 1951, the entire Western intelligence effort, which was pretty big, was what you might call minus advantage. We'd have been better off doing nothing." (18)
Ted Shackley, a senior figure in the CIA, believed that the Philby case had contributed to his paranoia and had been a major contribution to his hostile reaction to Yuri Nosenko. (19) Evan Thomas, the author of The Very Best Men (1995), attempts to explain Angleton's state of mind. "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." (20)
J. Edgar Hoover held very different views to those of Helms and Angleton concerning Nosenko. "Nosenko's assurances that Yekaterina Furtseva herself had stopped the KGB from recruiting Oswald gave Hoover the evidence he needed to clear the Soviets of complicity in the Kennedy murder - and, even more from Hoover's point of view, clear the FBI of gross negligence. Hoover took this raw, unverified, and untested intelligence and leaked it to members of the Warren Commission and to President Johnson." (21) 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.
Once again we have to consider Hoover's state of mind in 1964 to show why he was so keen to accept Nosenko's story. To do this we have to go back to events that took place thirty years previously. In the early 1930s NKVD agents based in the United States began recruiting American citizens as spies. Hoover was not unaware of this. As early as 1933 the FBI identified Gaik Ovakimyan, an engineer at Amtorg (American-Soviet Trading Corporation) in New York City, as being in control of NKVD activities in the United States. Although occasionally Ovakimyan was followed, the FBI only had 50 agents dealing with Soviet espionage and for most of the time his activities went unrecorded. (22)
On 5th November 1938, Walter Krivitsky, a senior NKVD agent, defected to America. David Shub, a supporter of Leon Trotsky, put him in touch with journalist, Isaac Don Levine, who had good contacts with the American media. Levine told Krivitsky that he could get him a lucrative deal for a series of articles. The first of these articles appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in April 1939. Hoover was very angry when he read the article. He was extremely annoyed that the American public had discovered in the article that Joseph Stalin was "sending NKVD agents into the United States as if the the FBI did not exist". (23)
Krivitsky was eventually interviewed by the FBI on 27th July 1939. Krivitsky claimed that there were about 15 Soviet agents in New York City. He named Boris Bykov as one of the main agents in the country. The FBI was not convinced by Krivitsky's testimony: "Krivitsky accepts his own conclusions as facts and so relates them and that in reply to a question he would state his opinion as a fact, rather than admit a lack of definite knowledge." (24) The FBI was also concerned that Krivitsky's lawyer, Louis Waldman, was a well-known socialist. (25) The view was that Krivitsky was a disinformation agent.
Walter Krivitsky was reluctant to give the names of spies who he considered to be "ideological". Krivitsky was opposed to what Joseph Stalin was doing in the Soviet Union, he was still a Marxist and so he was unwilling to betray those who shared his beliefs. However, he was willing to name spies who were taking money for providing information. For example, he gave the names of Soviet spies, John Herbert King and Ernest Holloway Oldham, who were based in London.
Krivitsky was also invited to appear before Martin Dies and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) on 11th October, 1939. In the closed session Krivitsky explained that the American Communist Party was under the control of the Soviet Union. According to Joseph Brown Matthews, who was an investigator for the HUAC: "Krivitsky told me that the OGPU was determined to assassinate Trotsky and himself." Krivitsky added: "If I am ever found dead and it appears to be suicide, please don't accept that belief. It will just appear to be a suicide. But it really will be murder. Trotsky is to be murdered and I am too. Please go to Mexico City and warn Trotsky." Matthews later recalled: "I went to Mexico City soon after this conversation, and saw Trotsky... I told Trotsky what the General had said." Trotsky apparently replied: "General Krivitsky is right. We are the two men the OGPU is sworn to kill." (26)
In 1940 the FBI decided to take a closer interest in Gaik Ovakimyan. On one occasion he was seen meeting with Jacob Golos, who ran a travel agency, World Tourists in New York City. The FBI was aware that it was a front for Soviet clandestine work and his office was raided by officials of the Justice Department. (27) Some of these documents showed that Earl Browder, the leader of the Communist Party of the United States, had travelled on a false passport. Browder was arrested and Golos told his girlfriend, and fellow agent, Elizabeth Bentley: "Earl is my friend. It is my carelessness that is going to send him to jail." Bentley later recalled that the incident took its toll on Golos: "His red hair was becoming grayer and sparser, his blue eyes seemed to have no more fire in them, his face became habitually white and taut." (28)
According to Bentley, United States officials agreed to drop the whole investigation, if Golos pleaded guilty. He told her that Moscow insisted that he went along with the deal. "I never thought that I would live to see the day when I would have to plead guilty in a bourgeois court." He complained that they had forced him to become a "sacrificial goat". On 15th March, 1940, Golos received a $500 fine and placed on four months probation. (29)
Once again it was a botched operation. Golas was the most important Soviet spy in the United States. We now know that he ran agents that included Victor Perlo, Harry Dexter White, Nathan Silvermaster, Abraham George Silverman, Nathan Witt, Marion Bachrach, Julian Wadleigh, William Remington, Harold Glasser, Charles Kramer, Elizabeth Bentley, Duncan Chaplin Lee, Joseph Katz, William Ludwig Ullmann, Henry Hill Collins, Frank Coe, Abraham Brothman, Mary Price, Cedric Belfrage and Lauchlin Currie.
The FBI was also not doing a very good job protecting Walter Krivitsky. He was found dead on 9th February, 1941, in Bellevue Hotel in Washington. The police declared that he had committed suicide. Frank Waldrop of The Washington Times-Herald ridiculed the police investigation: "Anybody'd rather be a second-guessing citizen than Chief of Police Ernest W. Brown, with such a staff of lunkheads to do the field work in homicide matters." (30) However The Daily Worker disagreed: "The capitalist press is desperately trying to make a frame-up murder case out of what is clearly established in the suicide of General Walter Krivitsky." (31)
Louis Waldman campaigned for the FBI to treat the case as murder. "The issue is much deeper than the discovery of whether the general's death was the result of murder or suicide... When one considers that General Krivitsky was a witness, giving valuable information as to foreign espionage in our own country to a legislative committee, to the State Department, and to the FBI itself, then in my opinion, there is the clear duty of the FBI to track down those malevolent forces which were responsible for his death." (32) Waldman told the FBI that he had evidence that Hans Brusse was the killer. When the FBI reopen the case he went to the press with his evidence. Recently released documents show that in March 1941 a certain Lee Y. Chertok, a Russian living in the United States, claimed to have information on the killers of Krivitsky. J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo telling the FBI not to follow up this evidence: "The Bureau is not interested in determining whether Krivitsky was murdered or whether he committed suicide." (33)
Whittaker Chambers, a Soviet spy, who like Walter Krivitsky, was disillusioned by the policies of Joseph Stalin, definitely believed that he had been killed by the NKVD: "He had left a letter in which he gave his wife and children the unlikely advice that the Soviet Government and people were their best friends. Previously he had warned them that, if he were found dead, never under any circumstances to believe that he had committed suicide." Krivitsky once told Chambers: "Any fool can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to commit a good natural death." (34)
Chambers had for some time been trying to inform the authorities about the Soviet spy ring operating in the United States. In August 1939, Isaac Don Levine arranged for Chambers to meet Adolf Berle, one of the top aides to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After dinner Chambers told Berle about government officials spying for the Soviet Union: "Around midnight, we went into the house. What we said there is not in question because Berle took it in the form of penciled notes. Just inside the front door, he sat at a little desk or table with a telephone on it and while I talked he wrote, abbreviating swiftly as he went along. These notes did not cover the entire conversation on the lawn. They were what we recapitulated quickly at a late hour after a good many drinks. I assumed that they were an exploratory skeleton on which further conversations and investigation would be based." (35)
According to Levine the list of "espionage agents" included Alger Hiss, Donald Hiss, Laurence Duggan, Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White, John Abt, Marion Bachrach, Nathan Witt, Lee Pressman, Julian Wadleigh, Noel Field and Frank Coe. Chambers also named Joszef Peter, as being "responsible for the Washington sector" and "after 1929 the "head of the underground section" of the Communist Party of the United States. Chambers later claimed that Berle reacted to the news with the comment: "We may be in this war within forty-eight hours and we cannot go into it without clean services." Berle, who was in effect the president's Director of Homeland Security, later claimed that he raised the issue with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, "who profanely dismissed it as nonsense."
J. Edgar Hoover claims that it was not until 1943 that the FBI received a copy of Berle's memorandum. Whittaker Chambers was now interviewed by the FBI but Hoover concluded, after being briefed on the interview, that Chambers had little specific information. However, this information was sent to the State Department security officials. One of them, Raymond Murphy, interviewed Chambers in March 1945 about these claims. Chambers now gave full details of Hiss's spying activities. A report was sent to the FBI and in May, 1945, they had another meeting with Chambers.
In August 1945, Elizabeth Bentley walked into an FBI office and announced that she was a former Soviet agent. In a statement she gave the names of several Soviet agents working for the government. This included Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie. Bentley also said that a man named "Hiss" in the State Department was working for Soviet military intelligence. In the margins of Bentley's comments about Hiss, someone at the FBI made a handwritten notation: "Alger Hiss".
In 1947 Hede Massing told Robert Lamphere (FBI Soviet Section), that she was a member of a spy network that included Vassili Zarubin, Boris Bazarov, Elizabeth Zarubina, Laurence Duggan, Alger Hiss, Joszef Peter, Earl Browder and Noel Field. Massing repeated the allegations of a Soviet network in the United States at the trial of her husband, Gerhart Eisler in July 1947. During this evidence Eisler's lawyer, Carol Weiss King, pointed at Robert Lamphere and shouted, "This is all a frame-up by you." (36)
On 3rd August, 1948, Whittaker Chambers appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee. He testified that he had been "a member of the Communist Party and a paid functionary of that party" but left after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939. He explained how the Ware Group's "original purpose" was "not primarily espionage," but "the Communist infiltration of the American government." Chambers claimed his network of spies included Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Lauchlin Currie, Abraham George Silverman, John Abt, Lee Pressman, Nathan Witt, Henry H. Collins and Donald Hiss. Silverman, Collins, Abt, Pressman and Witt all used the Fifth Amendment defence and refused to answer any questions put by the HUAC. (37)
The FBI still took no action against the people. The main reason was that Hoover was unwilling to expose the fact that the FBI had completely failed in preventing Soviet espionage in the United States. Robert Lamphere worked closely with Hoover on these cases: "Director Hoover had his faults and idiosyncrasies - but he was indeed a great man." Lamphere believed that Hoover's main weakness was that he could not take criticism. "Hoover... believed that the organization he had built, the FBI, should repulse all attacks on it, whatever the source." This was especially true "in the area that he made mistakes". Hoover would do anything to stop the exposure of these mistakes. This included the destruction of documents. (38)
1948 was the year that Meredith Gardner and his team at Arlington Hall began successfully decode a backlog of over 200,000 communications between Moscow and its foreign missions. The project, named Venona (a word which appropriately, has no meaning), began identifying over 200 American citizens who had been spying for the Soviet Union since the early 1930s. (39)
The people exposed by Venona included Cedric Belfrage, Elizabeth Bentley, Marion Bachrach, Joel Barr, Abraham Brothman, Earl Browder, Karl Hermann Brunck, Louis Budenz, Whittaker Chambers, Frank Coe, Henry Hill Collins, Judith Coplon, Lauchlin Currie, Hope Hale Davis, Samuel Dickstein, Martha Dodd, Laurence Duggan, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ruth Greenglass, Gerhart Eisler, Noel Field, Harold Glasser, Vivian Glassman, Jacob Golos, Theodore Hall, Alger Hiss, Donald Hiss, Joseph Katz, Charles Kramer, Duncan Chaplin Lee, Harvey Matusow, Hede Massing, Paul Massing, Boris Morros, William Perl, Victor Perlo, Joszef Peter, Lee Pressman, Mary Price, William Remington, Julius Rosenberg, Alfred Sarant, Abraham George Silverman, Helen Silvermaster, Nathan Silvermaster, Alfred Dean Slack, Morton Sobell, Alfred Stern, William Ludwig Ullmann, Julian Wadleigh, Harold Ware, William Weisband, Nathaniel Weyl, Donald Niven Wheeler, Harry Dexter White, Nathan Witt and Mark Zborowski.
It was argued that you could not use Venona material in court as it would let the Soviets know that their secret code had been broken. However, one of the senior figures at Arlington Hall, William Weisband was also a Soviet spy. In February 1948 a Soviet official wrote an internal memorandum about the work of Weisband. "For one year, a large amount of very valuable documentary material concerning the work of Americans on deciphering Soviet ciphers, intercepting and analyzing open radio-correspondence of Soviet institutions (the Venona project), was received from (Weisband). From these materials, we came to know that, as a result of this work, American intelligence managed to acquire important data concerning the stationing of the USSR's armed forces, the productive capacity of various branches of industry, and work in the field of atomic energy in the USSR... On the basis of Weisband's materials, our state security organs carried out a number of defensive measures, resulting in the reduced efficiency of the American deciphering service. This has led to the considerable current reduction in the amount of deciphering and analysis by the Americans." (40)
To make sure that the FBI was unaware that they knew that the code had been broken, they continued to use it. The "operatives" were instructed "every week to compose summary reports or information on the basis of press and personal connections to be transferred to the Center by telegraph." As Allen Weinstein, the author of The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) has pointed out the "Soviet intelligence's once-flourishing American networks, in short, had been transformed almost overnight into a virtual clipping service." (41)
Those identified in the Venona transcripts were interviewed by the FBI but unless they broke down and confessed, charges could not be made against them. Harry Gold, David Greenglass and Ruth Greenglass did confess and this led to the conviction of Julius Rosenberg, Ethel Rosenberg (innocent) and Morton Sobell. Abraham Brothman and Miriam Moskowitz (innocent) were charged and convicted of “conspiracy to obstruct justice.” Others such as Alger Hiss and William Remington, were found guilty of perjury. Remington paid a heavy price for this as he was murdered in prison for being a "communist". William Weisband, the man who gave away the Venona secret, was convicted of contempt and sentenced to a year in prison after failing to appear before the grand jury.
Judith Coplon was one of the most important Soviet spies in the United States. She worked for the FBI in the Justice Department and was able to warn any agents under investigation. Coplon's main attention was focused on the main Justice Department counter-intelligence archive that collected information from the various government agencies - FBI, OSS, and naval and army intelligence. She passed to her NKVD contact a number of documents from this archive. This included FBI materials on Soviet organizations in the United States and information on leaders of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). A review of the data shocked NKVD. "The materials show how thoroughly the smallest facts from conversations, correspondence, and telephone talks held by our organizations, individual representatives, and workers in the country are recorded." (42)
Coplon was arrested on 4th March, 1949 in Manhattan as she met with Valentin Gubitchev, her Soviet contact. They discovered that she had in her handbag twenty-eight FBI memoranda. This included details of the intensive monitoring of individuals such as David K. Niles, Frederic March, Edward G. Robinson and Edward Condon, who were all supporting Henry Wallace in his 1948 Presidential Campaign.
Judith Coplon was charged with espionage. At her trial that began on 25th April 1949 Coplon claimed "she was meeting Gubitchev because they were in love and was not planning to give him the documents. But he was married, and prosecutors brought out that she had spent nights in hotels with another man at about the same time." (43) Coplon was helped in her defence by the decision of Judge Albert Reeves to rule that in order to convict her on the charge of unauthorized possession of classified documents, government prosecutors must produce in open court the originals of the FBI documents found in her handbag at the time of her arrest.
During the trial, Coplon's lawyer, Archie Palmer, argued that the evidence from the confidential informant was in fact from illegal telephone taps. Then, over the strenuous objections of the FBI, he succeeded in getting raw FBI data collected on many famous people admitted as evidence, although they had nothing to do with the case. At the end of her trial Coplon was found guilty of espionage.
The following year Coplon and Valentin Gubitchev were charged with conspiracy. As Hayden B. Peake has pointed out: "The alleged telephone taps became a major element in the second trial in New York, when Coplon and her case officer, Gubitchev, were convicted together. During the first trial, FBI special agents had denied direct knowledge of the taps. At the second, however, one of them admitted that taps had been used to collect evidence presented at trial. Later, the authors found a memorandum acknowledging the recordings and indicating that they had been intentionally destroyed to avoid having to reveal their existence." (44)
Both Coplon were found guilty and Gubitchev was deported. However, Coplon appealed against both convictions. "The appellant judge in New York concluded that it was clear from the evidence that she was guilty, but the FBI had lied under oath about the bugging. Moreover, he wrote, the failure to get a warrant was not justified. He overturned the verdict, but the indictment was not dismissed. In the appeal of the Washington trial, the verdict was upheld, but, because of the possible bugging, a new trial became possible." (45)
The case caused considerable embarrassment to the FBI. As Athan Theoharis, the author of Chasing Spies (2002) has pointed out : "Their public release confirmed that FBI agents intensively monitored political activities and wire-tapped extensively - with the subjects of their interest ranging from New Deal liberals to critics of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and with information in fifteen of the twenty-eight reports coming from wiretaps. And because Coplon's own phone had been wiretapped, her conviction was later reversed on appeal. The appeals judge concluded that FBI wiretapping had possibly tainted Coplon's indictment, under the Supreme Court's 1937 and 1939 rulings in Narclone v. U.S., requiring the dismissal of any case based on illegal wiretaps." (46) Once again, the FBI had failed to get a conviction of a Soviet spy.
In 1963 Hoover was petrified that it would be discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a Soviet conspiracy that assassinated John F. Kennedy. No wonder he was overjoyed to hear about the defection of Yuri Nosenko and the story he had to tell. The Warren Commission welcomed the news and enabled them to provide a report wanted by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. As he told Richard B. Russell when he asked him to serve on the commission on 29th November, 1963: "It has already been announced and you can serve with anybody for the good of America and this is a question that has a good many more ramifications than on the surface and we've got to take this out of the arena where they're testifying that Khrushchev and Castro did this and did that and chuck us into a war that can kill 40 million Americans in an hour." (47)
So who was right about Yuri Nosenko - J. Edgar Hoover or James Jesus Angleton? The Mitrokhin Archive shows us that Nosenko was indeed a genuine defector. So also was Anatoli Golitsyn (at least Angleton got that one right). The KGB gave orders for both men to be assassinated. As late as 1975 they had found a gangster willing to take out a contract on Nosenko for $100,000. But before he could do so the gangster was arrested for other crimes. (48)
(1) Gerald D. McKnight, Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why (2005) pages 388-389
(2) Richard Helms, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003) pages 238-39
(3) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 435
(4) David Martin, Wilderness of Mirrors (1980) page 153
(5) Richard Helms, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003) pages 240
(6) Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (1979) page 328
(7) John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (1987) page 320
(8) Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA (2001) page 37
(9) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 386
(10) Kim Philby, My Secret War (1968) page 145
(11) Kim Philby, letter to Leonard Mosley (April, 1977)
(12) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 131
(13) Kim Philby, My Secret War (1968) page 151
(14) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 156
(15) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) page 45
(16) Burton Hersh, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA (1992) page 321
(17) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) page 46
(18) Michael Howard Holzman, James Jesus Angleton, the CIA, and the Craft of Counterintelligence (2008) page 125
(19) Ted Shackley, Spymaster: My Life in the CIA (2005) page 93
(20) Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA (1995) page 308
(21) Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA (2001) page 284
(22) Robert J. Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War (1986) page 25
(23) Walter Krivitsky, Saturday Evening Post (April 1939)
(24) Gary Kern, A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror (2004) page 213
(25) Louis Waldman, Labor Lawyer (1944) pages 344-346
(26) The Chicago American (2nd November, 1941)
(27) Silvermaster FBI File 65-56402-1976
(28) Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, The Secret World of American Communism (1995) page 11
(29) The Washington Post (15th March, 1940)
(30) Frank Waldrop, The Washington Times-Herald (1st Aptil, 1941)
(31) The Daily Worker (2nd November, 1941)
(32) Gary Kern, A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror (2004) page 289
(33) J. Edgar Hoover, memorandum to B. E. Sackett (15th March, 1941)
(34) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 485
(35) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 464
(36) Robert J. Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War (1986) pages 59-60
(37) Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (1997) page 246
(38) Robert J. Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War (1986) page 69
(39) David Stout, The New York Times (18th August, 2002)
(40) Yuri Bruslov, memorandum on William Weisband (February, 1948)
(41) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) page 286
(42) Venona File 35112 page 131
(43) Jim Fitzgerald, The Washington Post (4th March, 2011)
(44) Hayden B. Peake, The Spy Who Seduced America: Lies and Betrayal in the Heat of the Cold War— The Judith Coplon Story (14th April, 2007)
(45) Hayden B. Peake, The Spy Who Seduced America: Lies and Betrayal in the Heat of the Cold War— The Judith Coplon Story (14th April, 2007)
(46) Athan Theoharis, Chasing Spies (2002) page 87
(47) President Lyndon Baines Johnson, telephone conversation to Richard B. Russell (29th November, 1963)
(48) Mitrokhin Archive (Volume 2, Appendix 3)
Yuri Nosenko and the Warren Report (15th October, 2014)
The KGB and Martin Luther King (2nd October, 2014)
The Death of Tomás Harris (24th September, 2014)
Simulations in the Classroom (1st September, 2014)
The KGB and the JFK Assassination (21st August, 2014)
West Ham United and the First World War (4th August, 2014)
The First World War and the War Propaganda Bureau (28th July, 2014)
Interpretations in History (8th July, 2014)
Alger Hiss was not framed by the FBI (17th June, 2014)
Google, Bing and Operation Mockingbird: Part 2 (14th June, 2014)
The Student as Teacher (7th June, 2014)
Is Wikipedia under the control of political extremists? (23rd May, 2014)
Why MI5 did not want you to know about Ernest Holloway Oldham (6th May, 2014)
The Strange Death of Lev Sedov (16th April, 2014)
Why we will never discover who killed John F. Kennedy (27th March, 2014)
The Allied Plot to Kill Lenin (7th March, 2014)
Was Rasputin murdered by MI6? (24th February 2014)
Winston Churchill and Chemical Weapons (11th February, 2014)
Pete Seeger and the Media (1st February 2014)
Should history teachers use Blackadder in the classroom? (15th January 2014)
Why did the intelligence services murder Dr. Stephen Ward? (8th January 2014)
Solomon Northup and 12 Years a Slave (4th January 2014)
The Angel of Auschwitz (6th December 2013)
The Death of John F. Kennedy (23rd November 2013)
Adolf Hitler and Women (22nd November 2013)
New Evidence in the Geli Raubal Case (10th November 2013)
Murder Cases in the Classroom (6th November 2013)
Major Truman Smith and the Funding of Adolf Hitler (4th November 2013)
Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler (30th October 2013)
Claud Cockburn and his fight against Appeasement (26th October 2013)
The Strange Case of William Wiseman (21st October 2013)
Robert Vansittart's Spy Network (17th October 2013)
British Newspaper Reporting of Appeasement and Nazi Germany (14th October 2013)
Paul Dacre, The Daily Mail and Fascism (12th October 2013)
Wallis Simpson and Nazi Germany (11th October 2013)
The Activities of MI5 (9th October 2013)
The Right Club and the Second World War (6th October 2013)
What did Paul Dacre's father do in the war? (4th October 2013)
Ralph Miliband and Lord Rothermere (2nd October 2013)