The Washington Post obituary for Tennent H. ‘Pete’ Bagley, noted CIA officer, recounts his central role in the CIA’s investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination.
Bagley was the CIA handler of Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who defected to the United States with information about accused presidential assassin Lee Harvery Oswald.
Fifty years later, the CIA’s files on Nosenko’s interrogation are among the Top 7 JFK files that the CIA still keeps secret.
From the Post:
“Bagley embarked on what would become his most noted work in 1962, when, at a Geneva safe house, he met KGB agent Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko. Nosenko would become one of the most controversial figures in the history of U.S counterintelligence, and Dr. Bagley was described as his chief handler.
“In time, according to published reports, Nosenko disclosed to his U.S. interlocutors key information about Soviet infiltration of Western embassies and about his country’s intelligence-gathering practices.
“Regarded as more impressive were Nosenko’s later revelations about Lee Harvey Oswald, whom Nosenko said he had interviewed during Oswald’s stay in the Soviet Union in the years before the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Nosenko told CIA officers that Oswald had no connection with the KGB — a significant assertion at a time when many officials feared that the assassination could be linked to the Soviets.”
The defunct ‘KGB did it’ theory
Along with Counterintelligence chief James Angleton, Bagley suspected Nosenko was not telling the truth, indicating that Nosenko was a plant whose purpose was to convey false information about Oswald.
Bagley’s handling of Nosenko is important because if Nosenko was plant, perhaps the KGB was seeking to hide a relationship with Oswald.
Bagley “prepared what were described as 900 pages of material about Nosenko. The report noted that Nosenko never “broke” under interrogation, which included tactics that bordered on torture.
Nosenko passed numerous lie-detector tests, and the CIA determined in 1969 that he had been a genuine defector. The agency later employed him as a consultant. He died in 2008 in an undisclosed location in the United States.”
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.
One JFK researcher and self-admitted conspiracy theorist who knew Bagley recalled that he “hated conspiracy theorists and conspiracy theories” yet spent “hundreds of hours talking to me, someone who sees conspiracies around every corner. We had our moments,but each of us gained mutual respect for the other;in the end it was a real strong friendship.”
RIP Pete Bagley.
2 thoughts on “Pete Bagley, CIA officer who probed JFK case, passes at 88”
Yuri Nosenko was never able to tell a consistant story about his claimed involvement with Lee Harvey Oswald. 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.
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.
I’m more interested in Nosenko. Bagley was a garden variety CIA agent.
I’ve no idea whether Nosenko was telling the truth. If I had to guess, based on the record, I’d say he was.
The way the CIA screwed him over is remarkable. But I believe the CIA treatment of Nosenko is a dead end.