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Counter Intelligence Operations

KGB Major Anatoli Golitsyn defected to the United States in December 1961. He proved his bonfides by exposing Soviet spies inside Western intelligence services, but he also told the CIA that much of its intelligence data was simply disinformation concocted by the KGB. Golitsyn warned that the KGB would dangle phony defectors - double agents who would claim to expose "secrets", including false defectors intended to discredit Golitsyn himself. Golitsyn also warned that the whole Sino-Soviet split was simply a Soviet "disinformation" operation to lull the West into a false feeling of security. James Angleton, who was chief of the CIA's counterintelligence staff from 1954 to 1974, belived Golitsyn.

In early 1962 two Soviets working at the United Nations - one GRU, the other KGB - almost simultaneously contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and offered to leak Soviet secrets. The FBI assigned them the codenames TOP HAT and FEDORA. Among other things, these two assets were said to have supplied intelligence deprecating Soviet strategic missile capabilities. In June 1962 an officer from the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, defected in place. "Suddenly, in the spring of 1962, the CIA was awash with penetrations of Soviet intelligence - more at one time than during its entire history," wrote journalist David C. Martin years later.

In January 1964, Nosenko unexpectedly re-contacted the CIA, and told the Americans that he had had charge of the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald, who had assassinated John F. Kennedy only a couple of months before. Nosenko subsequently exfiltrated to the United States in 1964, offering "proof" that Oswald had no ties to the KGB. Tennent Bagley, head of a section responsible for counter-intelligence against the Soviet intelligence services, thought CIA was unbelievably lucky to have found Nosenko. Bagley added, "the key word in that last sentence is 'unbelievably.'" Nosenko was subject to "hostile interrogation" and "solitary confinement" while in CIA custody. But counterintelligence staff chief James Angleton, who believed Golitsyn and doubted Nosenko, wanted to "play" Nosenko like a prize trout, and thought that key to elicitation was to keep the subject feeling secure. The CIA kept Yuri Nosenko locked up for several years under prison-like circumstances. Nosenko was freed in April 1969 and put on the CIA payroll as a contractor.

TOP HAT and FEDORA corroborated Nosenko's bona fides. The basic reason for judging Nosenko to be truthful about Oswald was that his story was consistent with what the FBI already believed about the JFK assassination. The FBI's accepted Fedora, TOP HAT, and Nosenko, who were all suspected by CIA of being disinformation agents predicted by Golitsyn. After the end of the Cold War, a long line of former KGB officers - including Vladimir Semichastny, who led the KGB from 1961 to 1967 - insisted that Nosenko was a blowhard, but a genuine defector.

In 1977 the FBI reviewed the matter of FEDORA - Aleksy Isidorovich Kulak - and concluded that Fedora had been a double agent for the KGB for the previous 15 years. The KGB claimed to have failed to have detected the treason of Hero of the Soviet Union Aleksey Kulak until after his death in 1983.v TOP HAT - Dmitri Fedorovich Polyakov - was also said by some to have been conclusively demonstrated to have been a false defector. Rotated back to Moscow to head the GRU's China section, Polyakov photographed documents tracking Beijing's split with Moscow. CIA specialists on Sino-Soviet relations drew the rich details from this Soviet source to conclude confidently that the Sino-Soviet split would persist, helping Kissinger and Nixon forge their 1972 opening to China.

Thomas Powers reports that TOP HAT - Polyakov - was exposed by Rick Ames [others say Robert Hanssen] in 1985, and subsquently executed. [Source] Some say that Polyakov was a double agent who had metamorphosed into a triple agent. In January 1990 Pravda, the Soviet Communist daily, reported that Donald F., "one of the most important" spies of recent years, had been captured on March 15, 1988, executed for espionage. Donald F. was senior Soviet Army officer, Lieut. Gen. Dmitri Fedorovich Polyakov, who last served as a lieutenant general in the Soviet Army Air Defense Command. Of all the secret agents the US recruited during the cold war, CIA director James Woolsey said, "Polyakov was the jewel in the crown."

In April 1985 CIA officer Aldrich Ames walked in to the Soviet Embassy and volunteered to go on the KGB payroll. Viktor Cherkashin was the KGB's man handling Ames. Soon thereafter, a rapid succession of losses in American human intelligence assets had to be explained. Vitaliy Yurchenko, a senior Soviet intelligence official, defected to the West on 01 August 1985. Like Nosenko, Yurchenko came with the message that there was no big mole in the CIA. Yurchenko provided information to the CIA on Edward Lee Howard, a CIA officer who worked for the KGB. Howard fled the United States after he was exposed. Yurchenko also furnished leads pointing directly to Ronald W. Pelton. In both cases Yurchenko only told US intelligence Soviet intelligence presumed it already knew. Aldrich ("Rick") Ames, as the relevant CIA counterintelligence officer, was assigned to debrief Yurchenko. According to Cherkashin, Yurchenko did not know that Ames was a KGB asset.

On 01 October 1985, FBI agent Robert Hanssen approached Cherkashin, and offered to work for the KGB. On 02 November 1985, three months after his arrival in America, Yurchenko redefected. Not only wasn't Yurchenko shot, but he wasn't even fired. Yurchenko returned home to a hero's welcome. It seemed reasonable to some to conclude that Yurchenko defected to spread disinformation as a way of distracting attention from Ames and Hanssen.

Cherkashin was awarded the Order of Lenin for his work in Washington, and returned to Moscow in 1987. Ames was arrested by the FBI in February 1994. The FBI arrested Robert Philip Hanssen on 18 February 2001, on charges of committing espionage.

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