Entry dated :: March 4, 1976
Washington DC
Yuro Nosenko:
Oswald's KGB Supervisor

I had no idea the maze within a maze I was about to enter with this interview. Some three months earlier, I had a drink at the University Club with two Reader's Digest editors, Fulton Oursler, Jr. and Edward Thompson. I had met Thompson when he offered to republish my New Yorker article on the Black Panthers and the Press (unfortunately, the New Yorker refused to then allow any of its writers to be excerpted in the Digest.) Both men impressed me with their political savvy, seriousness and charm. They proposed that I write a biography of Lee Harvey Oswald which the Digest would amply finance. I initially rejected the idea, explaining that the Warren Commission's documents had already been picked through by numerous writers and had not produced any new evidence.

Thompson replied, measuring his words carefully, that the Digest did indeed have new evidence. They could furnish me access to Yuri Nosenko, the KGB officer who had supervised Oswald's case in Moscow before himself defecting to the United States.

Up until point, Nosenko had been held under tight wraps by the CIA. The Warren Commission had not been permitted to see him even though he was in a position to fill in the blanks in Oswald's relationship with Soviet intelligence during the two and a half years he had spent in the Soviet Union. Now, 12 years later, the Digest was offering me the chance to examine this intriguing missing piece in the jigaw puzzle of prior. It was an offer I could not refuse.

Nosenko had been introduced to the Digest by Jamie Jamieson, a "former" CIA officer, who, still a "consultant" to the CIA, arranged media interviews with Soviet defectors. He also ghost-wrote articles for defectors and, was in the process of ghost-writing Nosenko's book. Instead, for reasons I never learned, Oursler and Thompson had decided to get an outsider writer for a book about Oswald in which Nosenko would be a source.

I arrived at the Digest offices on Rhode Island Avenue at 11 AM with Oursler. Jamieson, though on crutches, spryly greeted us. He told me that Nosenko was "as good as gold." The CIA had found him completely reliable. Since his defection in 1964, he had provided "a hundred or so" invaluable leads to Soviet agents. As far as the JFK assassination went, Jamieson said the CIA had established Nosenko had "full access" to the KGB's Oswald file.

Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko then arrived. He six feet tall, but his posture seemed to reflect the wear and tear of a secret life. He had a massive jaw and sorrowful eyes set deep in their socket. His English, though adequate, was still marked with a pronounced Russian accent.

I began by asking Nosenko about his prior life in Russia. Oursler, the only other person in the conference room, took notes.

Nosenko's answers were minimal. He rarely volunteered or expanded on them. He said he had been October 30, 1927 in the town of Nikolayev. His father, Ivan Nosenko, was part of the Communist elite, an alternate member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party who served as the Soviet Minister of Shipping. He died in 1956, when Nosenko was 29. At his funeral, important leaders of the Soviet Union, including Nikita Khrushchev, Georgi Malenkov, Nikolai Bulganin and Kliment Voroshilov, formed the guard of honor. Yuri Nosenko himself was already a rising star in the KGB.

He detailed his career with great precision. In 1953, he had transferred to from Naval Intelligence to the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, which was responsible for counterintelligence against potential enemy agents inside Russia. He became Deputy Chief of the American-British section of its Tourism Department in 1962, which monitored the activities of American visitors in Russia. At that time, Oswald was residing in Russia.

Nosenko explained that he therefore assumed supervisory responsibility for any efforts the KGB undertook to surveil, recruit or otherwise exploit Oswald. Then, after Kennedy had been assassinated, he was charged with conducting a complete after-the-fact investigation of all contacts between Oswald and Soviet intelligence officials. He said that he had a warplane put at his disposal so he could get all of Oswald's files to Moscow and send his own investigators to the city of Minsk where Oswald worked. As he described it, he was the post-assassination "inspector general" of the case. After completing his investigation, he decided to defect to America, which he did by contacting a CIA officer in Geneva.

At this point, I asked him directrly whether the KGB had recruited Oswald.

"No," he replied. Neither the KGB, or any other Soviet service, had attempted to recruit or exploit Oswald. He explained it was concluded shortly after he came to Russia that he was too unstable to be of any use to the KGB. So, although the local police in Minsk watched him, he was never drawn into any relationship with the Russians. On the contrary, Russian intelligence was relieved when he decided to return to the US with his Russian wife. He could also say from his unique access to the file that no effort was made to recruit him after he left.

I continued questioning him for six hours. I found some of his answers, which he seemed to be giving by rote, at odds with documentary evidence, but he spoke with great authority, insisting he, and he alone, was in a position to know if there had been a liaison between Oswald and the Russians. He said, "As much as I despise the KGB, and would like to implicate them, the fact is that they were blameless in this matter." As the interview wore on into the late afternoon, he said he was hungry, and suggested we break for dinner.

Ousler had made a 6pm reservation at Jean-Pierre, a posh French restuarant on K Street, so we adjourned for dinner. Nosenko consumed a great deal of wine at dinner. Finishing off the bottle, he seemed to smolder and then said, out of the blue, he wished he could confront "that man!"

"That man," the focus of his sudden hatred was the CIA's former counterintelligence chief, James Jesus Angleton. But why the anger? With more wine, it became clear that there would be no continuation of our interview after dinner. At about 9pm, he left the restaurant, a car was waiting him. A man waved to him from the back seat and they sped off.

Questions? Email me at edepstein@worldnet.att.net
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