JFK Most Wanted: the Yuri Nosenko files

Yuri Nosenko, KGB
Yuri Nosenko

Yuri Nosenko was an officer in the Soviet KGB who defected to the United States in April 1964, shortly after the assassination of JFK. Nosenko said that he had seen the files that the KGB compiled on accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in his two and a half year residence in the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1962. The Soviet intelligence service had not recruited or used him as an agent, Nosenko said.

Deputy CIA Director Richard Helms told Chief Justice Earl Warren that he could not vouch for the accuracy of Nosenko’s claims exculpating the KGB. This left open the possibility that Nosenko was a false defector sent by the Soviet Union to obscure its role in JFK’s assassination.

According to the CIA’ s website, Helm said, “It did strike me at the time that it would be a great mistake for the Warren Commission to shape its findings on the basis of a statement made by a man whose bona fides we could not establish.”

Yet most of what the CIA learned from during interrogation of Nosenko remains secret five decades  later.

According to the National Archives’ online JFK data base, the CIA has 36 files on the interrogation of Nosenko, amounting to 2,224 pages of material. None of these records have never been made public.

Was Nosenko telling the truth? Or lying? The CIA says you don’t have the right to know.


JFK Most Wanted:

David Phillips operational files (May 6, 2014)

The Bill Harvey files (April 29, 2014)


15 thoughts on “JFK Most Wanted: the Yuri Nosenko files”

  1. Samuel Browning

    The controversy over Nosenko revolved around several questions.

    1) Was he a false defector sent by the Soviet Union to “prove” several months after Kennedy’s assassination, that the USSR had nothing to do with Oswald’s actions?

    2) Since Nosenko had been a “walk in” several years previously, was he a double agent originally sent to the CIA to convince them that the KGB had discovered several of their spies through surveillance and not a KGB/GRU mole in the upper reaches of the CIA, MI5 or MI6.

    3) Was he a legitimate defector with a poor memory who told the truth the best he knew it about various KGB cases and Oswald’s defection to the USSR.

    4) Was he a legitimate defector who lied about his involvement in Oswald’s defection, to give himself greater importance to his new patrons and/or to force them to take him back to America immediately rather then having them insist he return to the USSR to spy in place.

    To quote the Report of the Select Connittee on Assassinations, US. House of Representatives, (pg 102) “the committee was certain Nosenko lied about Oswald — whether it was to the FBI and CIA in 1964, or to the Committe in 1978, or perhaps to both. (40) The reasons he would lie about Oswald range from the possibility that he merely wanted to exaggerate his own importance to the disinformation hypothesis with it’s sinister implications.

    Lacking sufficent evidence to distinguish among alternatives, the committee decided to limit its conclusion to the characterization off Nosenko as an unreliable source of information about the assassination, or more specifically, as to whether Oswald was ever contacted, or placed under surveillance, by the KGB.”

    Both the Warren Commission, and then the Select Committee on Assassinations decided to omit Nosenko’s “information” for reasons of reliability. He told the FBI and CIA in 1964 that Oswald had not been under surveilance by the KGB while in Russia, and later claimed that Oswald had indeed been subject to wiretaps, mail interception, and physical observation. Similarly Nosenko told either the CIA or FBI in 1964 that Oswald had not been the subject of a psychiatric examination after his suicide attempt in the USSR, and later reversed himself, and told the Committee in 1978 that he had read this very report. (See also page 102)

    Finally Nosenko kept insisting that as someone who had reviewed Oswald’s file, that the KGB had never interviewed Oswald prior to, or during his defection, which is simply an unbelievable statement, even if such interviewer did not identify himself to Oswald as representing the KGB.

    Why Nosenko lied about Oswald is open to debate, but his inconsistancies indicate that at the very least he lied about his involvement with Oswald’s defection and presence in the Soviet Union.

    I believe that the Nosenko records should be declassified but think that Nosenko is effectively a dead end given how untrustworthy his story was on all matters surrounding Oswald’s stay in the USSR.

    Finally, Nosenko told his story about Oswald to the FBI and CIA in 1964 prior to being interrogated under brutal conditions. He told an inconsistant version of this story in 1978 after he had been out of CIA imprisonment for close to a decade. His imprisonment, as vile as it may have been did not cause Nesenko to lie, before, and after his captivity.


    1. Agree with your assessment, Samuel Browning. It is simply not credible that Soviet intelligence–knowing that Oswald had been a radar operator on a base that served the U-2 flights–did not interview and debrief him. We’ll probably never know if he was a legitimate, if incompetant, defector, or a phony but my gut tells me he was disinformation guy.

  2. Why have you never trusted a word Angleton said?

    By the way, if you read Bagley, Wise, Mangold, etc., you’ll see that a lot of the questioning of Nosenko included stuff like a botched surveillance of Tairova in 1958(?), and a botched “drop” which blew Popov. That is “methods” stuff.

    1. “Why have you never trusted a word Angleton said?”

      The question wasn’t directed at me, but I’ll answer. Spies lie. That is their job.

  3. Hm,Angleton I have never trusted a word that man ever said.The excuse of methods and sources is wearing thin.

  4. I have and read Mangold/Cold Warrior many years ago. From primarily other readings I suspect the Soviets strongly suspected a false defector in Oswald. One they would not have trusted for such a thing as the “other” world power’s leader’s elimination.

  5. Bagley’s book (and those of Wise and Mangold) suggest that most of the effort was spent trying to discredit Nosenko on other matters, such as Popov and Tairova. It’s not unfair to speculate that a lot of those 2224 pages concern matters other than Oswald and JFK, and may contain references to “sources and methods.”

  6. Arnaldo M Fernandez

    Richard Helms wrote a seven-page-chapter (“A Bone in the Throat”)in his memoirs about his “most frustrating operation:” the Nosenko case. KGB officers Kalugin, Gordievsky, and Mitrokhin have given enough quantum of proof about Nosenko as genuine defector, but Helms told HSCA that he had rehabilitated him in 1968, but never made a decision on his bona fides. What Nosenko claimed on Oswald was self-evident: the KGB dismissed him as unstable and refused to make anything with him.

  7. I am not sure the files on Nosenko will provide much help in determining whether he was telling the truth or lying. After all Angelton and Bagley could not preferring to believe Golitson over Nosenko. Bruce Solie of the CIA’s Office of Security concluded in a 283 page report that “Nosenko is identical to the person he claims to be”. (See Wilderness of Mirrors by David C Martin. Page 176). WHAT we might find in those unreleased documents is a treasure trove of information about why the CIA would hold a defector 1,277 days in confinement subjecting him to tortuous treatment. That might not be a picture of the public’s liking and may be, in part, the reason the records remain withheld. I believe the treatment of Nosenko by the CIA is a black spot on the history of the CIA. Nothing new of course.

    1. His files might also further demonstrate Angleton’s willingness to go to extreme measures to achieve his agenda.
      I.E. if the paranoid, secretive Angleton did have a role in planning, organizing, directing or controlling of JFK’s execution, keeping open the possibility that the Soviet’s were behind it would help keep the focus off the CIA.

      1. Here is the real problem as it relates to “Executive Action” and the CIA files. “…everything must be done by word of mouth, strictly person to person, singleton ops, no projects on paper”. See page 122, Wilderness of Mirrors as set forth above. NO PROJECTS ON PAPER!

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