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How The Stories Of These Soviet Cold War Defectors Reveal The Intelligence Abyss pt. 7

How The Stories Of These Soviet Cold War Defectors Reveal The Intelligence Abyss pt. 7

With the passing of 1966, the hunt for traitors within the Central Intelligence Agency continued rapidly expanding. Greater targets brought a renewed vigor to assess each in a growing pool of potential victims chosen using the loose parameters set by prized KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn. The desperate search undertaken by the Counterintelligence Staff Special Investigations Group (CISIG) had now consumed significant Agency resources for years while displacing and ending the careers of multiple loyal officers. Several instances of contrived guilt were feasibly due to CISIG gazing too long at the shadows cast by legitimate defectors, employees, and officers. When a detail struck investigators as relevant they often became convinced of deviltry at work in spite of the contrary facts. All this occurred in the name of a hunt unleashed by James Angleton and his subordinates many years earlier for a forever elusive penetration agent.

Amongst the new counterintelligence staff targets appearing was Russian born CIA employee Alexander “Sasha” Sogolow. While he did have a Slavic name and served in Germany, like many others Sogolow did not fit most of the original parameters set by officials for their quarry. Sogolow’s last name did not begin with K, Sasha was not his pseudonym but the Russian moniker for Alexander other people used. Sogolow further was not a vital agent of influence but a case officer that handled some foreign agents from headquarters amid the nineteen sixties. He would confide to fellow case officer Richard Kovich that CISIG was going to come after him because of his nickname, and he was eventually proven correct in this assumption. CISIG member Newton Miler later admitted that the investigation of Sogolow produced “nothing” and was predicated on Golitsyn’s ideas connecting Sogolow to other suspects.

Anatoliy Golitsyn’s perpetual seeming intent was to discredit all following defectors and thereby render himself the CIA’s most important adviser regarding Soviet intelligence. The rumors he earlier began and fueled with Angleton’s help, such as that Soviet Russia Division leader David Murphy was a Soviet plant, crippled the ability of the CIA to recruit and use multiple viable defectors and operations. Essentially rumors of a mole lingering for nearly a decade wasted vast amounts of resources, incited staff mistrust, and damaged Agency relations with allied organizations. The very purported existence of a traitor could produce or exceed the damage of actual penetration agent if some officials failed to view the situation with great clarity. Seemingly that is precisely what occurred due to the often vague assumptions made by US officials seeking to unearth a mole.

Newton “Scotty” Miler noted at least roughly 50 officers were transferred or removed from the Soviet Division while he participated in the mole hunt. This constitutes just under a quarter of all the functioning officers in that division and surely affected a multitude of projects. Further Agency officers and employees that were damaged because of the ongoing hunt included Vasia Gmirkin, Igor Orlov, George Goldberg, and even President’s “Warren” Commission member and former Russian Ambassador William Averell Harriman.[i] Reportedly Anatoliy Golitsyn had contrived an entire scenario involving Harriman which included an illegitimate Russian child that was Soviet leverage, but none of these claims were substantiated. Apparently the prestige of an outside bureaucrat would not dissuade the seekers in CISIG from locating Sasha by any means necessary using the ideas offered by its favored defector. Ironically, Harriman was among those who saw defector Yuri Nosenko’s contending original statements and dismissed them.

Prior consultations between the CIA and Federal Bureau of Investigation leaders concerning many of the aforementioned suspects offers “CIA was informed there appears to be no basis…for a full-scale investigation of these men…on the basis of allegations by Golitzyn (sic)…based on interviews of Orlov…nothing has been developed.” Bureau officer William Sullivan further stated “…nothing was developed which would support Golitzyn’s allegations against the other two suspects, Richard Kovich and David Murphy. Furthermore, CIA has furnished no documentary material regarding Kovich or Murphy which would in any way support Golitzyn.”[ii] The Bureau rightfully had vast differences with the assumptions made by the Agency counterintelligence staff because of lacking evidence. It appeared that James Angleton’s past significant influence with Bureau leaders had drastically receded when he championed Golitsyn’s most unlikely ideas. 

Yuri Nosenko, like several other defectors, had inflated his rank and importance seeking to establish credibility with his sponsors and begin a new life for himself. Nosenko during this period was still imprisoned under brutal conditions for his denials of continued service to the KGB and prior informing US intelligence leaders the Soviets did not use Lee Harvey Oswald. Conversely, Golitsyn was rewarded for offering a vast unproven disinformation plot which included penetration agent claims, inflating his access to KGB secrets, and importance to US intelligence efforts. One insight we can gather was the obvious lack of similar treatment when comparing Nosenko to Golitsyn, despite their similar bonafides which are overlooked by some. While Golitsyn was praised and rewarded for his several postulations with access to CIA files, Nosenko was decried and illegally held for years in the closest thing to a gulag on American soil.[iii] Nevertheless, Yuri Nosenko shockingly would receive better treatment by his Agency captors than fellow defector Yuri Nikolayevich Loginov.

Yuri Nikolayevich Loginov was the son of a Soviet official and his wife born in Russia amid 1933. He was raised within the city of Kursk and later moved to the Russian capital in the course of WWII. Following his education Loginov was recruited during the 1950s by the KGB to serve in the role of “illegal” agent. Illegals were one type of agent used by the KGB that could be implanted within foreign countries to establish cover histories and conduct operations under these false identities. Loginov was assigned to Finland during 1961 and later the same year Anatoliy Golitsyn would defect in that very nation. “…Soviet intelligence suffered terrible blows from internal treason…KGB officer Yuri Loginov became an agent for U.S. Intelligence.”[iv]

Loginov similar to Nosenko was considered a legitimate defector for years until the Agency’s mole hunt caused Anatoliy Golitsyn to notice him again. Potentially it was during the period Golitsyn had access to Agency employee files that offered mole “suspect” Richard Kovich was for a time Loginov’s case officer. Yet the seeming death knell for Loginov’s credibility was his subsequent confirmation of Yuriy Nosenko’s statements that sat in stark contrast to Golitsyn’s claims. Nor was Loginov the first defector to earn the displeasure of Angleton or CISIG by reaffirming Nosenko’s statements. A different past Soviet defector to Britan’s MI5 intelligence group named Yuri Krotkov had previously affirmed Nosenko was a genuine defector. James Angleton advised English officials they should hand Krotkov back to the Soviet’s because he was an obvious plant, a suggestion to which they balked and refused. Loginov would not fare so well in the hands of the Agency’s mole hunters and the CIA revealed him publicly to South African officials amongst nineteen sixty-seven.

Yuri Loginov was quickly arrested by South African police and faced years of imprisonment without trial similar to Yuri Nosenko. He would according to one press story on the matter “Loginov, 36, was arrested in Johannesburg in 1967…He was held for two years without trial and was said to have ‘sung like a canary’ giving interrogators a list of his contacts in 23 countries.”[v] Obviously Loginov had provided CIA valid intelligence and this was later gained by South African officials under numerous interrogations. Agency officials “burned” him and South African officials did the same two years later when they traded Loginov back to the Soviets for ten West German agents. He obviously retained value for the KGB that Western intelligence failed to appreciate and his information that did not conform to desired official narratives rendered him persona non grata. Thus, Loginov was handed back against his will to Russian officials and reportedly sent to his doom via a firing squad.[vi] However the growing list of poor tradecraft decisions authored by James Angleton and CISIG would begin to have serious consequences.

An ongoing erosion of James Angleton’s influence within intelligence circles accelerated in the course of 1967. His devoutly held belief in Anatoliy Golitsyn’s claim of moles throughout Western intelligence placed enduring suspicion upon innocent defectors and numerous Agency employees. The counterintelligence leader supported theories which hampered multiple division undertakings and damaged CIA operational capability with ceaseless unproven accusations. Most of Golitsyn’s claims about varying officers from Richard Kovich to David Murphy without evidence had rightfully been disbelieved. The morale of Agency officials began to suffer and persistent doubts about employees unfairly targeted by CISIG had finally taken its toll.

By the year’s end Yuriy Nosenko would be released and compensated for his illegal captivity with eager apologies. This act was perhaps the greatest refutation yet of Golitsyn’s varying claims and his CIA sponsor. James Angleton based on the account of one related Agency officer was drinking heavily and flinging threats at his detractors in this period. Strongly worded official requests that he take a break from his duties caused the waning counterintelligence leader to spend time in a coastal part of the Middle East later that year. Angleton faced increasing setbacks that would impede his overwhelming urge to find an elusive mole hidden within the CIA’s ranks. However, similar to the creator of any monstrous situation in which all were suspects and sending men to their death was permissible to achieve its ends, the monster would in time come for those who created it.


C.A.A. Savastano

[i]. David Wise, 1992, Molehunt: The Secret search for Traitors that Shattered the CIA, Random House, New York, pp. 172-178

[ii]. Federal Bureau of Investigation, March 6, 1970, Memo from Mr. W.C. Sullivan to Mr. C.D. DeLoach, Relationships With CIA Alleged Penetrations of CIA, pp. 1-2, Mary Ferrell Foundation, maryferrell.org, National Archives and Records Administration Identification Number: 124-10185-10098

[iii]. David Stout, August 27, 2008, Yuri Nosenko, Soviet Spy Who Defected, Dies at 81, The New York Times,

[iv]. Vladislav M. Zubok, 1994, SPY vs. SPY: THE KGB vs. THE CIA, 1960-1962, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issue 4, The Wilson Center, wilsoncenter.org, p. 27

[v]. Russians Make 10-for-1 Spy Swap, August 29, 1969, Page A-10, The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com

[vi]. A Counterintelligence Reader Volume 3, Chapter 2, Intelligence Resource Program, The Federation of American Scientists, irp.fas.org, pp. 115-116