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Michael Clark

Richards Heuer: Nosenko, Five Paths to Judgement

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Note: The original of this document, linked just below here, is riddled with typos, making it a painful, slow read. I have cleaned it up extensively. It still needs work and I will continue to edit it as my time, patience and interest persist.


Nosenko: Five paths to judgement

http://intellit.muskingum.edu/alpha_folder/H_folder/Heuer_on_NosenkoV1.pdf

Richards J. Heuer, Jr., "Nosenko: Five Paths to Judgment," Studies in Intelligence, vol. 31, no. 3 (Fall 1987), pp. 71-101. Originally classified "Secret."

CIA's internecine struggle in the 1960s about counterespionage left a cloud over counterintelligence disciplines there. At the core was the chief, James Angleton, and his trusted Soviet defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn; the trigger was the distrusted defection of another Soviet intelligence officer, Yury Nosenko. The saga was Homeric. It has been told many times-but never, I think, so well as in this meticulous logical and empirical exercise. The author has been one of CIA's finest intellects. He has published trenchantly in the open literature on theories of deception and counterdeception. Yet one must now acknowledge that cogent exoneration of Nosenko contributed to permanent rejection of Angleton, and eventually to years of reluctance to suspect even Aldrich Ames. So standards for vigilance remain disputable.

Nosenko: Five Paths to Judgment
RICHARDS J. HEUER, JR.

Yuri Nosenko, a middle-level KGB officer, volunteered his services to the Central Intelligence Agency in Geneva in 1962 and defected to the United States in 1964. His defection initiated a bitter and divisive controversy over his bona fides that lasted at least 10 years, seriously impaired CIA operations against the Soviet Union, and today still simmers beneath the surface of debates about Soviet deception.
This study tells much of this important and fascinating case, but that is not its only purpose. It also explores some of the fundamental yet often unrecognized assumptions that channel our thinking as we analyze the possibility of deception. The Nosenko controversy is used to illustrate five fundamentally different criteria for making judgments about deception. Examination of the controversy shows that the analytical criterion one uses determines what evidence one looks at and possibly the conclusion one reaches. It also shows that one's preferred criterion may be strongly influenced by professional experience and organizational affiliation. It is important for anyone analyzing the possibility of deception to recognize the existence of alternative criteria for making judgments and to understand the strengths and limitations of each.

This report has three parts. Part I is an overview of the Nosenko case and the controversy surrounding it. It provides background information needed to understand the more conceptual and analytical parts that follow. Part II presents the five criteria for making judgments about deception and describes how each was applied by different parties to the Nosenko controversy. Part III draws conclusions from the previous discussion.
The report is based on two types of sources. One source is my own memory from the years 1965 to 1969. Although not personally involved in the handling or the analysis of the case, my job at that time did require that I be well informed about it and related counterintelligence cases. More recently, I re- viewed files on the case, including the six major studies of Nosenko's bona fides and many lesser reports and memorandums dealing with this issue. This is an extraordinarily rich data base for studying how counterintelligence analysis should and should not be conducted'!

I: Overview


Yuri Nosenko came from a prominent family. His father was the Soviet Minister of Shipbuilding in the 1950s, member of the Communist Party central Committee, deputy to the Supreme Soviet, and close personal friend of senior Politburo members. He had towns named after him, and his death was commemorated by a plaque on the Kremlin wall.

Son Yuri joined naval intelligence in 1949 at age 22, then transferred to the KGB in 1953. His initial KGB assignment was in the American Department of the Second Chief Directorate (Internal Counterintelligence) with responsibility’s for work against American journalists and military attaches assigned to Moscow. In 1955, Nosenko was transferred to the Tourist Department, and in 1958 became deputy chief of the section responsible for work against American and British tourists in the USSR. After spending 1961 and 1962 back in the American Department working against the U. S. Embassy in Moscow, Nosenko returned to the Tourist Department, where he became deputy chief.
In June 1962, Nosenko contacted the CIA Station in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was on temporary assignment as security officer with a Soviet disarmament delegation. In a series of debriefings, he provided information on KGB operations against the United States and Great Britain. Nosenko noted that, with a wife and child in the USSR, he had no desire or intention to defect, but he did agree to work as an agent in place and to meet with CIA officers on subsequent trips to the West. He rejected contact in Moscow, and, in any event, this seemed unnecessary as he anticipated future travel to the West.

Subsequent evaluation of information provided by Nosenko during the 1962 meetings led to the conclusion that he was acting under KGB control. It was initially believed that the purpose of the KGB-controlled operation was to divert [CIA investigators from pursuing the leads they were given about KGB agents by] another KGB officer, Anatoliy Golitsyn, who had defected to the
CIA Station in Helsinki six months before. This thesis is discussed in greater detail below.

When Nosenko returned to Geneva in January 1964, he confronted his CIA handlers with two surprises: he wanted to defect immediately, and he had been the officer responsible for the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald, a former U.S. Maline who had defected to the Soviet Union and later returned to the United States with a Soviet wife, had assassinated President Kennedy just two months earlier. Given Oswald's background, possible Soviet or Cuban involvement was one of the most burning issues faced by the Warren Commission investigation of the President's assassination.
Nosenko reported that he had personally handled the Oswald case on two occasions-first, when Oswald defected while on a tourist visit to the Soviet Union, and later when he was tasked to review the file on Oswald after the assassination. Nosenko assured the U.S. Government that the KGB had had no involvement whatsoever with Oswald or with the assassination. However, Nosenko's account of the KGB's handling of Oswald differed on several significant points from what were believed to be standard KGB policies and procedures.

These surprises obviously increased suspicion of Nosenko, but they also heightened interest in his full debriefing. If he were bona fide, the value of his information was obvious. If he were operating under Soviet direction, the KGB was clearly trying to conceal some aspect of its relationship with Oswald. A full debriefing ofNosenko in the United States offered an opportunity to break him and learn the true story, or at least to "mirror-read" his account in order to identify Soviet goals on an issue of paramount importance to the Warren Commission and the U.S. Government-possible Soviet involvement in the President's assassination.


Nosenko's defection was accepted, and he was brought to the United States as a parolee under CIA custody in February 1964. The initial debriefing was conducted with care not to reveal to Nosenko any of these suspicions. This debriefing reinforced doubts about his bona fides, so in April 1964, with the approval of the Attorney General, Nosenko was placed in confinement and hostile interrogation began. (Because Nosenko was a parolee rather than a legal immigrant, CIA bore legal responsibility for his actions. Nosenko's own legal rights were ambiguous.) At the end of 1964 Nosenko was transferred to a specially constructed confinement unit at Camp Peary. During hostile inter-rogation, he was subjected to psychological intimidation and physical hardship, but never to physical abuse.

The hostile interrogation seemed to identify many more gaps and anomalies in Nosenko's story, but it did little to clarify key questions. It was to be argued later that, to the contrary, the way Nosenko was handled during this interrogation simply muddied the waters. Nosenko's handlers were so convinced that he was under KGB control that the interrogation was designed to document guilt, rather than to obtain information or make an objective assessment . The information Nosenko provided was generally ignored, as the objective of the interrogations to force Nosenko to admit that he did not know what he should have known (according to the assumptions of the interrogators) and, therefore, he had not held the positions in the KGB he claimed. The polygraph examination was manipulated as a means of putting additional pressure on Nosenko, which invalidated its use as a test of veracity. The conviction that Nosenko was under Soviet control led to this case becoming the touchstone for evaluating other sources on Soviet intelligence. Sources who provided information supporting Nosenko's story were them- selves deemed suspect.

The theory of a "master plot" developed, subsequently called the "monster plot" by those who rejected this theory, which encompassed about a dozen counterintelligence sources. According to the master plot theory, the KGB had a very high-level penetration of CIA, comparable to the recently exposed penetrations of Kim Philby in the British Secret Intelligence Service (MIG) and Heinz Felfe in the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). Therefore, all CIA Soviet operations were at least known to, if not controlled by, the KGB. Nosenko and other defectors and sources in place in Soviet intelligence were being run by the KGB to tie up CIA and FBI counterintelligence assets in unimportant activities, divert the investigation of leads to significant Soviet agents, and protect the security and/or enhance the careers and manipulate the access of Soviet agents within CIA and the FBI- in short, to keep CIA and the FBI fat and happy and unsuspecting of the true state of affairs. The evidence and rationale for this theory are discussed at length below.

This theory led to an extensive search for the KGB penetration. CIA officers with Slavic backgrounds and the most experience in dealing with the Soviets were among the initial suspects; the careers of several innocent officers were permanently damaged. As the magnitude of the information the Soviets were alleged to be sacrificing for this operation became more apparent, the search for the penetration focused at progressively higher levels. At one time or another, the Chief and Deputy Chief of the Soviet Bloc (SB) Division, the Chief of the Counterintelligence (CI) Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence all came under suspicion in the minds of some of the principal players. This atmosphere of suspicion, and the concern that any successful recruitment of a Soviet official might be compromised by the penetration, had a serious, debilitating effect on operations against Soviet targets. It also had a serious adverse impact on morale within SB Division. 

As time passed, most division operations officers became generally aware of the theory, but were carefully compartmented from any detailed knowledge. A strong resentment and increasingly vocal opposition developed among those who saw or felt the impact of this theory but were not privy to the evidence on which it was based. As more time passed with no progress toward resolving the case, the "temporary " detention of Nosenko without due process of law became increasingly unacceptable. In August 1966, CIA Director Richard Helms gave SB Division 60 days to conclude its case against Nosenko. In February 1967, Tennant "Pete" Bagley, then Deputy Chief of the Soviet Bloc Division, submitted a report whose bulk caused it to become known as the "Thousand Pager," although it was "only" 835 pages long. The report presented reasons for believing Nosenko to be under [KGB] control and described hundreds of unexplained gaps or discrepancies in his story. The Soviet Bloc Division had been given three years to prove its case. It developed substantial circumstantial evidence but no hard proof in the form of a confession from Nosenko or identification of a KGB penetration of CIA. Operations against Soviet targets had been adversely affected, dissension and morale problems were growing, and the continued detention of Nosenko was untenable.

Now it was the critics' turn, and the pendulum began its swing. Helms assigned his newly appointed deputy, Rufus Taylor, to oversee the case and to develop a plan for the final disposition of Nosenko's case. DDCI Taylor asked Gordon Stewart, who was shortly to become Inspector General, to review the case and develop a recommendation for future action. Stewart was critical of Bagley's Thousand Pager. He said it read like a prosecutor's brief, assuming guilt and interpreting every discrepancy as evidence of this guilt. Stewart granted that SB Division had shown many of Nosenko's assertions to be blatantly false. However, the gaps and contradictions could possibly be explained by personal motives, faulty memory, and coincidence, and did not necessarily compel a conclusion of KGB control. Stewart concluded that SB Division had not proved its case against Nosenko, that certain proof might never be available, and that the time had come for CIA to start to "distance" itself from the matter. Whether Nosenko was a Soviet agent or not, he had to be removed from solitary confinement, gradually rehabilitated, and eventually given his freedom to settle in the United States.
Meanwhile, CI staff had also objected to the Bagley report. The staff strongly supported the Master Plot Theory,, but took exception to one major element of the SB Division analysis. With the help of CI staff comments, Bagley's Thousand Pager was edited down to 407 pages. This report was known as the "Green Book" and became the official SB Division position on Nosenko. By the time of its completion in February 1968, however, the case had already been taken out of SB Division and CI Staff hands, and the report was a dead letter before it even went to press.

In September 1967, DCI Helms had transferred responsibility for the Nosenko case from the SB Division to the Office of Security. In October 1967 a security officer, Bruce Solie, began a nine-month, friendly reinterrogation of Nosenko. Rather than trying to trap Nosenko into inconsistencies, the goal of this debriefing was to obtain as much information as possible and to give Nosenko an opportunity to develop a single coherent story. Nosenko "passed" a polygraph examination in August 1968. In October 1968, Solie submitted his report, the third of an eventual total of six major studies of this case. It concluded that Nosenko was a bona fide defector, not under Soviet control. Solie based this judgment primarily on the value of information provided by Nosenko, plus benign explanations for many of the anomalies and inconsistencies identified by SB Division interrogation.

By this time, the SB Division leadership that had propounded the master plot theory had been reassigned and replaced by officers who would take a fresh look at the issue. The new leadership gave three experienced SB Division officers carte blanche to examine the original debriefing reports, reassess the evidence, and recommend whether or not SB Division should change its position on Nosenko's bona fides. The three-man SB Division team, which represented different backgrounds and points of view, agreed to focus on the anomalies in Nosenko's story. The ground rule was that if any member of the team stipulated an anomaly as important, it had to be addressed by the other two members. Each officer could prepare his own analysis, but they would all address the same issues. Their report, which was finished in January 1969, became known as the three "Wise Men" report.There was easy agreement that most of the inconsistencies listed in Bagley's original Thousand Pager were really insignificant. Attention eventually narrowed to the 14 "stipulated anomalies" that anyone of the three officers had designated as important. When these were examined from the perspective of searching for the truth, rather than proving guilt, the case against Nosenko began to unravel. By this time, it was not difficult to develop non-sinister explanations. Some of the anomalies and how they were resolved are discussed later.

The SB Division team split 2 to 1 in favor of Nosenko's bona fides. The analysis moved the thinking of all three officers significantly in the direction of accepting Nosenko. One officer who had always felt that Nosenko might be bona fide felt he could now prove the case. One who started out believing Nosenko was dispatched by the KGB changed his mind as a result of the new information that was developed. The officer who continued to vote for KGB control had been one of the principal analysts and advocates of the master plot theory; he became substantially less confident of this conclusion than he had been.

In a meeting convened by Inspector Gordon Stewart, the Solie report was accepted by DCI Helms, DDCI Taylor, and the new SB Division leadership, over the strong objection of the CI Staff. Nosenko was subsequently released from confinement and, in March 1969, put on the payroll as a CIA consultant. Although Helms still had doubts about Nosenko, he awarded Solie an intelligence medal for his work in rehabilitating him. (About four years earlier, Helms had awarded Tennant Bagley an intelligence medal for his work in unmasking Nosenko as a KGB plant.) James Angleton, longtime chief of the CI Staff, remained convinced of the master plot theory and considered himself the last remaining obstacle to KGB manipulation of CIA. In December 1974, DCI William Colby's offer of another assignment preCipitated the resignation of Angleton and three other senior CI Staff officers. CI staff -which was reorganized under new management-was now convinced that the master plot was actually a monster plot that existed only in the minds of its believers.


Dismissal of the top CI Staff leadership encouraged those pushing for Nosenko's total exoneration and his recognition as an important and valuable source. In 1976, John Hart was recalled from retirement to spend six months investigating the Nosenko case and its effects on CIA. Hart became incensed by what he perceived as an inhuman approach to handling Nosenko and the prosecutorial approach to assessing his bona fides. At DCI Stansfield Turner's request, Hart gave CIA senior officers a series of lectures on lessons learned from the case, and he testified on the subject before Congress.

Hart's study, entitled "The Monster Plot," concluded that doubts about Nosenko's bona fides were of our own making. Much of his study was devoted to demonstrating that those who handled the case were "not objective, dispassionate seekers of truth," and that the case was mishandled because the goal from its inception was to obtain proof that Nosenko was guilty, not to determine whether he was or not. Hart effectively documented much of what went wrong-errors in the transcripts of the initial meetings with Nosenko, faulty assumptions about the KGB, and the preconceptions that made it virtually impossible at that time for any source on Soviet intelligence to establish his bona fides in the eyes of SB Division or the CI Staff. But Hart did not really answer the arguments of those who claimed Nosenko was dispatched by the KGB. Hart believed that those initially responsible for the Nosenko case were so thoroughly discredited by the way they handled it that it was unnecessary to answer their arguments in any detail.

The election of President Reagan and the subsequent appointment of William Casey as DCI led to the sixth full-scale study of the Nosenko case- 17 years after his defection. Tennant Bagley, who had retired nine years earlier, sought to use the opportunity of a new administration with a harder line on the Soviet Union to reopen the case. In March 1981 he sent the new DCI a lengthy study entitled "Why Nosenko Is a Plant-and Why It Matters." He argued that acceptance of Nosenko indicated continued high-level penetration and manipulation of CIA by the KGB. Director Casey named Jack Fieldhouse to investigate Bagley'S allegations.

In August 1981, Fieldhouse produced a study entitled "An Examination of the Bagley Case Against Yuriy Nosenko." Whereas previous analysts had  focused exclusively on Nosenko's statements and his handling, Fieldhouse recognized the importance of the historical context in which the case transpired. He noted at the outset, for example, that the foundation of the problem was laid before Nosenko ever arrived, as this was at a time when fear of the power of the KGB was perhaps at an all-time high. This historical context, and the reasons for the fear, are discussed in detail below. Fieldhouse's report refutes Bagley's arguments point by point; identifies what went wrong and how it was possible for so many capable CIA officers to be so wrong for so long; and describes the serious adverse impact the master plot theory had on the handling of many
other Soviet cases.

Until now, we have paid little attention to the reasons why various analysts concluded Nosenko was or was not under Soviet control. We have limited the presentation to background information for those not previously initiated into the mysteries of the secret war between the CIA and the KGB, or the secret war within the CIA itself on this subject. We turn now to the purpose of this study, an analysis of how the analysis was done.

II: Strategies


The intelligence or counterintelligence analyst seeks to determine the truth. But let's go back a step and ask, how do we know the truth? What criterion, or measuring rod, do we use for determining that something is or is not true, that something probably is or is not deception? In this section, we identify five criteria that might be used for making this judgment, and we examine which ones were employed by different analysts, at different times, to judge that Nosenko was or was not a Soviet agent.

For convenience, we have labeled the five criteria according to some salient characteristic-the motive approach, anomalies and inconsistencies approach, litmus test approach, cost accounting approach, and predictive test approach. These approaches are not mutually exclusive; any concrete case of deception analysis usually contains elements of several approaches, but one or at most two will generally be dominant and serve as the main basis for judgment. A principal point is that different criteria have different strengths and wealmesses, lead one to focus on different sorts of evidence, and may lead to quite different conclusions about the presence of deception. A second important point is that these criteria are complementary, and that a complete analysis requires all five approaches.

In this section, we take arguments used in the Nosenko case and group them under the five strategies for analyzing deception. The purpose is to gain a better understanding of the different approaches, to document conclusions about their strengths and weaknesses, and to seek a better understanding of how intelligence officers looking at the same case could arrive at opposite judgments. By comparing and contrasting each approach, we see what each magnifies and reveals, as well as what it blurs or ignores. Discussion of each approach begins by describing its basic characteristics:

Motive Approach.

Some attention to motive must be part of any deception analysis. What distinguishes this approach is a matter of emphasis. The identification of a motive for deception, and of the opportunity and the means to engage in it, becomes a driving force behind a judgment that deception is in fact present. This is similar to the approach taken by a prosecuting attorney; if the prosecutor establishes motive, opportunity, and means, then circumstantial evidence may be sufficient to prove the defendant guilty. The deception analyst taking this approach starts with a motive, then tries to view the situation as it appears to the adversary. Given the motive, how would the adversary view the opportunities, costs, risks, and means available to accomplish the task? The analyst seeks to reconstruct details of the deception plan through inference from fragmentary evidence.
The weakness of this approach is that motive, opportunity, and means alone are not sufficient for a valid inference of deception. They show only what could have happened, not what actually did happen. Most people have motive, opportunity, and means to commit many crimes-for example, cheating the government on taxes-yet they don't do it. To develop a stronger inference of deception, it is also necessary to evaluate past deception practices to show not only that the adversary could have done it, but also that the adversary makes a habit of that type of activity.

We first present, uncritically, arguments used pursuant to the motive approach to demonstrate that Nosenko was a KGB plant. This is followed by counterarguments subsequently used in refuting this view.

The origins of the master plot theory cannot be understood without an appreciation of the historical circumstances at the time. This was the era of the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile crisis. More important, it was a period of extreme and justifiable concern about Soviet penetration of Western intelligence services, as well as a time when CIA was just beginning to receive reports on increased KGB emphasis on disinformation. In January 1963, Kim Philby had finally been confronted with evidence of his KGB service, and had responded by fleeing to Moscow. He had been a KGB agent since 1933, and during those years had seen lengthy service in the British Intelligence Service (MI6). At one time, while a KGB agent, he had been chief of MI6's counterintelligence operations against the Soviet Union. As chief of MI6's Washington liaison with CIA during postwar years, he had served as a mentor to CIA in developing organization and policy during its formative years. Philby's stature was such that his colleagues had anticipated he would eventually become Chief of MI6.

Another British Intelligence officer, George Blake, had been arrested in the spring of1961. As part of his MI6 duties, he had taken the minutes of joint CIA-MI6 meetings to plan the Berlin tunnel operation to tap Soviet military phone lines. Before Blake's arrest, the Berlin tunnel had been regarded as one of the most successful operations against the Soviet target during the decade of the 1950s. Blake's arrest suggested strongly that the KGB had known about the tunnel from its inception, but had let the operation. run for 11 months to protect the penetration source who had reported it. This fueled suspicions about when and how other major operations of that era had been compromised.

Anatoliy Golitsyn, a KGB officer who defected in 1961, reported high-level Soviet penetration of the French intelligence and security services. The agents had not yet been identified, quite possibly because the agents were themselves in a position to block effective investigation. In [West] Germany, Heinz Felfe had been arrested in November 1961. With KGB assistance, he had maneuvered himself into the ideal position of chief of counterintelligence operations against the Soviet Union for the West German BND. It seemed unlikely that CIA could have been fortunate enough to avoid completely the disasters that other services had suffered as a result of high- level KGB penetration. Indeed, there were specific indications that CIA had not been spared. Golitsyn reported that the KGB had placed an agent within the highest echelons of American intelligence, but he could provide no details. Three years earlier Colonel Michal Goleniewski, a CIA penetration of Polish intelligence, who defected in December 1960, had reported a KGB penetration of CIA Soviet operations. Goleniewski knew the codename for this penetration but had little identifying data. Although a Pole, Goleniewski was knowledgeable of KGB operations because he had served as a KGB agent within the Polish service and had close personal contact with KGB officers. He confirmed his credibility by providing accurate information leading to the arrest of George Blake as a KGB penetration of British MI6 and Heinz Felfe as a KGB penetration of West German intelligence.


Another major source of concern about penetration was the arrest of two important CIA penetrations of Soviet Military Intelligence, the GRU. Pyotr Popov had been arrested in 1959 and Colonel Oleg Penkovskiy in 1962. CIA counterintelligence analysts were still trying to determine if the two men had been compromised through Soviet penetration or by operational accident or error. Given the remarkable record of successful KGB penetration of Allied services, to say nothing of specific reports of penetration ofCIA from our most recent defectors, Golitsyn and Goleniewski, Soviet penetration of CIA seemed a likely explanation.


Concern about KGB penetration of CIA was one pillar of the master plot theory. If the KGB had such a penetration, this would provide both motive and opportunity for deception. Moreover, if the KGB had a penetration in a position to compromise Popov and Penkovsldy, that same penetration probably would have been in position to report to the KGB on the 1962 meetings with Nosenko; by this reasoning, Nosenko's reappearance in the West in 1964 was itself evidence of KGB control.

The second pillar of the master plot theory was concern about KGB disinformation. Department D, the KGB's disinformation department, had been formed in 1959. Goleniewski was the first CIA source to report in detail on its anticipated functions and significance. He stated that one of the many objectives of KGB disinformation was the protection of Soviet agents by means of actions designed to mislead Western security services. He listed among specific objectives and types of disinformation operations those designed to discredit accurate information of significance received by the opposition through sources not under Soviet control, such as defectors, thus casting doubt on the veracity of the source of this true information: Goleniewski stated further that, in extreme cases, the KGB would be willing to sacrifice some of its own agent assets to enhance the reputation of an agent penetration of a Western intelligence service. Golitsyn confirmed Goleniewski's reporting on Department D and added that a KGB or GRU defector's file would be sent to this new unit. Department D would review the areas of information compromised to the opposition by the defector and search for opportunities to exploit the situation. Golitsyn elaborated on this report with his own speculation, which played a major role in development of the master plot theory. (It should be noted at this point that Golitsyn was a highly egocentric individual with an extremely conspiratorial turn of mind; after his defection, he became certifiably paranoid.) Golitsyn felt that his information was so important and damaging to the KGB that the Soviets would feel compelled to send out another source to discredit him or his information. In short, Golitsyn predicted the appearance of someone like Nosenko as a KGB plant. Golitsyn also predicted that a KGB penetration of American intelligence would be assisted by other KGB agents, false - defectors and double agents-who would provide information designed to bolster the penetration's position and access in the service. The penetration, in turn, would be in a position to help authenticate the other agents. Golitsyn's speculation became the core of the master plot theory. Circumstantial confirmation of this speculation came from an analysis of how the KGB had exploited Heinz Felfe in the West German service. They had exploited Felfe in exactly the manner Golitsyn had predicted they would exploit a penetration of CIA-with assistance from a series of double agents and false defectors. Felfe himself had been running an East German journalist, codename LENA, as a double agent against the KGB. The KGB was ostensibly running LENA as a principal agent for operations against West Germany, but was actually running him to support its operation with Felfe.

The LENA case, among others, established Felfe as a Soviet specialist and successful operations officer. It provided Felfe with cover for monthly trips from Munich to Berlin, where he met with his Soviet handlers as well as with LENA. More important, the case provided cover for Felfe to investigate any person or subject of interest to the Soviets. When LENA reported the KGB had targeted him against a West German official, for example, Felfe organized the resources of the West German Government to investigate that official to uncover the reason for Soviet interest and determine if that person might actually be susceptible to Soviet recruitment. When the KGB asked LENA to obtain specific political or technical information, Felfe would investigate the subject himself to determine what could be released to the Soviets and what was so sensitive that it had to be protected. In short, the KGB used LENA to provide cover for Felfe to make inquiries on virtually any subject of interest to the KGB. Was the KGB using the Nosenko case in some similar manner to support a penetration of CIA, as predicted by Golitsyn?


All these details of recent counterintelligence history were deeply etched in the minds of senior counterintelligence officers in the SB Division and the CI Staff. Much of this information was unknown to other Agency personnel. The differences in available information created fundamentally different view- points concerning Soviet operations and the security of CIA. Were the counterintelligence officers paranoid, or were the others simply uninformed, and perhaps somewhat naive, about the true nature of the secret war between CIA and the KGB?

Into this atmosphere of concern and suspicion came KGB officer Yuriy Nosenko. At the initial series of meetings in 1962, Nosenko prOvided information on about 10 of the same KGB operations on which Golitsyn had reported six months earlier. The overlapping information was especially noteworthy because Golitsyn and Nosenko had served in different Chief Directorates of the KGB, Golitsyn in Foreign Intelligence and Nosenko in Internal Counterintelligence. Was it pure coincidence that they should both have information on the same KGB operations? It appeared that Golitsyn's prediction might have come true, that Nosenko was prOviding information intended to divert the investigation of agents partially identified by Golitsyn.
From the KGB's point of view in planning such a deception, the overlap of information between Golitsyn and Nosenko would confirm Nosenko's bona fides, reduce the amount of new information the KGB would have to sacrifice, and provide an opportunity to deflect American investigation of those agents the KGB considered most important.

At the 1962 meetings, Nosenko also reported that Colonel Popov, CIA's first important penetration of the GRU, who had been arrested in 1959, had been compromised by postal surveillance. A maid, working for an American Embassy officer in Moscow who had been co-opted to assist CIA, treated his clothes with a so-called “thief powder” to facilitate postal surveillance. The KGB picked up three operational letters mailed by this officer [on behalf of] CIA when the powder activated a sensor in the Soviet postal system. This "innocent" explanation for Popov's compromise indicated that CIA Soviet operations were not penetrated after all. To those who already believed in the existence of penetration, this was clear evidence of deception. The KGB's motive was to protect the penetration who had actually compromised Popov, and to do this it had to prOvide CIA with an alternative explanation for Popov's arrest. Another Golitsyn prediction appeared to have come true-that the KGB would support its penetration of CIA by use of false defectors and double agents.

Thus was born the initial conviction that Nosenko was under KGB control. This conclusion, in turn, seemed to confirm that CIA must be penetrated. KGB control of Nosenko made little sense except as part of a high-stakes game involvingpenetrationofCIA. If the KGB had a well-placed penetration of CIA Soviet operations, it followed that all of CIA's Soviet sources were at least known to, if not controlled by, the KGB, as had been the case in British and West German intelligence. With this reasoning, the Nosenko case grew into the master plot -or monster plot- that eventually encompassed about a dozen sources on Soviet intelligence. Any source who claimed ability to report on Soviet intelligence matters, but could not reveal either the assumed KGB deception program or the penetration of American intelligence on which it was based, was automatically assumed to be part of the deception effort. Nosenko was but the first of many to suffer the consequences of this thinking.


As critics have accurately noted, deception was taken as a premise; it was not a finding arrived at after careful investigation of Nosenko's story. Field- house concluded ". . . there was never an honest effort to establish Nosenko's bona fides. There was only a determined effort to prove Nosenko was mala-fide and part of a KGB deception meant to mislead CIA into believing it was not penetrated-thereby covering up the 'real' reason for the compromise of Popov and Penkovskiy." Hart observed that "... at no time from June 1962 to October 1967 was Nosenko afforded the land of systematic, objective, non- hostile interrogation . . . which otherwise had been standard operating procedure in dealing with similar sources."
It is noteworthy that none of the background on assumed penetration of CIA or the Soviet disinformation program is included in the formal SB Division assessments of Nosenko's bona fides. It is documented in limited distribution memorandums of that period, but those who doubted Nosenko believed they could and should prove their case only on the basis of anomalies and inconsistencies in Nosenko's own statements, without reference to penetration of CIA or to all the other Soviet operations that were considered part of the master plot. Except for Jack Fieldhouse, those who subsequently defended Nosenko adopted these same ground rules, so systematic refutation of many master plot arguments is lacking in their analysis.


The principal counterargument was the simple assertion that the KGB would never mount such a deception because of the cost to its self in information given away (to be discussed later) and the risk that a KGB defector, penetration, or disaffected provocateur might compromise the entire enterprise at any time. It was also noted that, to obtain Politburo approval to place one of it’s own staff personnel in contact with the enemy as a false defector, the KGB would have to be able to demonstrate that this was the best and least costly, perhaps the only, way to achieve its objectives. This too seemed quite implausible. No objectives were ever suggested that could not be achieved by less costly or less risky means.

This counterargument has passed the test of time. It seems impossible that the KGB could have concealed such an extensive and all-inclusive deception for so many years, given the steady flow of new KGB defectors and sources in a position to reveal such a conspiracy had it actually existed. One may, of course, argue that many of these subsequent sources up to the present day are also part of the plot. This would imply, however, that the entire KGB as we have known it for 25 years is, unbeknownst to most of its officers, little more than a cover organization for deception, with the truly secret work being done elsewhere. Concern about high-level penetration of CIA Soviet operations has been alleviated with time. Although the exact basis for the Golitsyn and Goleniewski reports has not been clarified, several non staff (contract agent) penetrations have been identified. In any case, it appears that whatever source the KGB may have had was not in a position to compromise CIA penetrations of Soviet intelligence. Subsequent KGB defectors and penetration sources have reported no indications of the type of high-level penetration of CIA that had been suspected. The argument that compartmentation would prevent all but a very few KGB officers from being aware of such an important case is weakened by our experience with the Philby, Blake, and Felfe cases. Knowledge of the existence of these penetrations, although not the specific identity of the agents, was more widespread in the KGB than one might expect. The more important and productive the sources, the more difficult it is to prevent the gradual expansion of knowledge about [them].

One initial basis for suspicion of Nosenko in 1962, the overlap between his reporting on KGB agents and information previously received from Golitsyn, was clearly resolved in Nosenko's favor. One suspected duplication turned out to be a separate case, more important than the one Golitsyn had reported on. In three of the most important cases of overlapping information , it was the more detailed and better sourced information from Nosenko that served as a basis for effective counterintelligence action to terminate the KGB operations. Rather than prOviding disinformation to discredit Golitsyn or divert investigation of his leads, as had been hypothesized as the KGB goal, Nosenko's reporting con- firmed and supplemented Golitsyn's information and permitted effective action to be taken. Nosenko never said a bad word about Golitsyn. Golitsyn's prediction that the KGB would try to discredit him never materialized.
Golitsyn's claim that a penetration of CIA would be assisted by false defectors and double agents is also open to question. The basis for his speculation is not clear; it could have developed from seeds planted by [James Angleton as] Chief, CI staff, in discussions with Golitsyn. There is no evidence that the KGB exploited Philby or Blake in this manner. They did manipulate Felfe this way, but Felfe was an imaginative and aggressive officer who very likely master- minded his own case. The LENA operation, and the way it was used to enhance Felfe's reputation and expand his access, may well have been Felfe's own idea rather than a typical element of KGB modus operandi. Moreover, the double agents used to support the Felfe operation had little access to sensitive information, so there was little cost to the KGB; this was no precedent for KGB use of it’s own staff officers as double agents or false defectors. To the contrary, the 

Felfe case clearly indicated that the KGB could support and manipulate an important penetration of an opposition service without having to sacrifice valid information about itself. In any event, there does not appear to have been a penetration of CIA to be manipulated in this manner, so there was neither motive nor opportunity for the hypothetical deception.

Anomalies and Inconsistencies Approach.


The most common approach to counterintelligence analysis is to focus on anomalies and inconsistencies, then infer a motive or other explanation for these unusual circumstances. Counterintelligence analysis often bases judgements on "deviation from an assumed standard of what is normal," for example, security practices would normally prevent the source from obtaining access to the reported information, or, conversely, the source disclaims access to information he is expected to have.

This approach underrates the frequency of accident, coincidence, inaccurate translation, inadequate debriefing, and misunderstanding. It overrates an analyst's ability to judge what is normal or abnormal in the adversary's organization or society. Events that accompany the accidental exposure of sensitive information or the defection of a trusted official are, by definition, never normal and, therefore, invariably provide a basis for suspicion. This approach to analysis , which is characteristic of the counterintelligence officer, is very difficult to implement correctly; conclusions are frequently wrong.

The three Soviet Bloc Division studies of Nosenko's bona fides-the Thousand Pager and the Green Book that judged him a plant, and the Wise Men report that later saw him as bona fide-all used the same explicit criteria for testing bona fides. The criteria are cited here, as they are a clear statement of the anomalies and inconsistencies approach as it applies to human sources. To be judged bona fide, the information Nosenko provides about his life and related persons and events must be coherent and his accounts of important events must be consistent. Allowing for personal vagaries, such as lapses of memory and so forth, as well as for factors of accident and coincidence, the information he relates must conform within reasonable limits with that which is known from independent and reliable sources to the United States Government about Soviet realities and about the events, topics, and individuals Nosenko describes.

In short, the appropriate test of bona fides was seen as plausibility, coherence, consistency, and compatibility with known facts. Note the absence of any mention of value of information supplied to the U.S. Government or damage to Soviet interests. Also note the absence of any mention of putting oneself in Soviet shoes to evaluate motives, opportunities, and problems that might be encountered in mounting a deception operation. We have already seen that this was done in practice by the SB Division analysts, but that this discussion was largely excluded from the bona fides assessments. Following the established criteria, Nosenko's handlers concentrated on identifying inconsistencies and implausibilities in Nosenko's story, gaps in his knowledge, conflicts with known information, and suspicious coincidences. In fact, identification of such anomalies became the principal goal of interrogation, at the cost of failure to learn all the information Nosenko had to offer on KGB operations. So many anomalies were found that Bagley required 835 pages to document them all.

The interrogators had ample grist for their mill, as Nosenko did lie, exaggerated , err, and change his story, and he admitted this under interrogation. His motive was to conceal embarrassing elements of his personal background and to exaggerate his importance. Rather than accepting Nosenko's admissions as resolving some of the anomalies, however, the interrogators interpreted the admissions as further "proof" of the conclusion that he was dispatched by the KGB. The admissions were viewed as an attempt to cover up the holes the interrogators had found in his story.

We shall cite here only a few of the more significant anomalies in the Nosenko case. Again, we first present, uncritically, some of the arguments used to build the case against Nosenko, then show how these anomalies were subsequently resolved by more objective analysis and investigation.
Two months after the assassination of President John Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald, Nosenko arrived in Geneva and advised CIA that he, person- ally, was the KGB officer responsible for Oswald's file at the time Oswald defected to the Soviet Union. The KGB had never heard of Oswald, he said, until Oswald told his Intourest guide that he wanted to renounce his American citizenship and stay in the USSR. Without ever talking to Oswald or having anyone else talk with him, Nosenko, as the responsible KGB officer, judged that Oswald was of no interest. The KGB did not even want to accept Oswald's request for asylum, and relented only after he tried to commit suicide after being advised of his rejection. The KGB never debriefed Oswald on his experience as a U.S. marine radar operator as he was of “little importance," and never conducted an investigation to ascertain he was not an American agent before allowing him to stay in the Soviet Union. The KGB did not object to Oswald marrying a Soviet woman, Marina, or to Marina's subsequent departure with him to the United States, as Marina was "stupid, uneducated, and possessed anti-Soviet characteristics." In brief, the KGB had never had any contact whatsoever with either Oswald or his wife and was happy to be rid bf them both. Within hours of Oswald's identification as the presidential assassin, Nosenko personally was ordered to review the KGB's Oswald file to assess Soviet liability. At this time, Nosenko was already an American agent with incentive to collect and remember as much information as possible on this vitally important subject. Nosenko expressed absolute certainty that he had the complete and accurate story of KGB contact with Oswald.

At a time when the Warren Commission was just opening its investigation, the fact that CIA found itself in clandestine contact with the one KGB officer who on two occasions had been personally responsible for Oswald's file seemed to be an unbelievable stroke of good fortune. Nosenko's account of the Oswald case appeared equally incredible. The following elements of Nosenko's story seemed contrary to Soviet practice: that the KGB would turn down an American defector before even talking with him to assess his knowledgeability; that after accepting him for residence in the USSR, he was not debriefed on his prior military service, that he would be granted residence in the USSR with no KGB investigation of his bona fides to determine he was not an American agent; and that no obstacles were placed in the path of his wife Marina's emigration when Oswald decided to leave the Soviet Union.

Another group of anomalies identified by the interrogators related to Nosonko’s personal background and KGB career. At different times, he gave three different dates for his entry into the KGB and two different stories concerning how he came to be hired. He could not describe the normal personnel procedures a new KGB employee would go through. He admitted lying about his KGB rank. The pattern of transfers from one department to another and back again and lengthy overseas TDYs appeared unusual. He could not describe any operational activity for which he had been personally responsible that would justifY his claimed promotions and awards. He admitted that, at one time, he was probably the only officer in the KGB who was neither a Komsomol nor a party member. In short, his description of his KGB career simply did not ring true.

There were also gaps in Nosenko's knowledge of KGB operations. The positions a source has held imply he should be knowledgeable of certain events. That Nosenko was uninformed on things he should have known was viewed as evidence he did not really hold the claimed positions. The most serious gaps in Nosenko's knowledge concerned the 1960-61 period, when he claimed to be deputy chief of the KGB Second Chief Directorate's section responsible for all operations against the American Embassy in Moscow. He claimed specific responsibility for supervising the case officers working against American code clerks in Moscow during this period. This is a subject about which CIA had a great deal of collateral information against which to check Nosenko's reporting. Nosenko did provide credible detail to establish his knowledge of significant aspects of at least six cases, but he was unaware of significant developments or events he should have known if he were really the supervisor of the case officers handling these cases. And he lacked any information at all on some Operations he should have known about if he were really the deputy chief of the section.

One item concerning Nosenko's work against the American Embassy in 1961 was of particular interest, as it related to how Penkovsldy was compromised. Nosenko consistently maintained that he was the case officer responsible for covering the activities of an American Embassy officer who was ob- served in December 1961 visiting the location of what The KGB believed to be a deaddrop site in Pushldn Street. He also claimed to have received surveillance reports on this site for three months thereafter. The site is significant, as it is the place where a CIA officer was subsequently arrested while picking up a dead- drop from Penkovsldy. The problem with Nosenko's account is that at the time the American Embassy officer visited this site, Nosenko had already been transferred from the American Embassy Department to the Tourist Department. His story was interpreted as showing he did not really serve in the American Department during the dates he claimed, and that the purpose of his false account was to make CIA think Penkovsldy was discovered by surveillance rather than by penetration.

A series of gaps and conflicts of this type led interrogators to conclude that Nosenko had not actually served in the positions he claimed. In fact, Bagley's original Thousand Pager concluded that Nosenko had probably not been a KGB officer at all, that he was just an empty receptacle into which the KGB had poured a very detailed legend. This despite the fact that Golitsyn, whose bona fides were not in question, had confirmed knowing of Nosenko as a KGB officer. Any single conflict, gap, or coincidence might be explainable, but the massive compendium of anomalies compiled by SB Division seemed difficult to reconcile with any hypothesis other than KGB control. In fact, however, this analysis of Nosenko's bona fides was a prime example of Murphy's law-that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Most of the problems with Nosenko’s story have been resolved. In many cases, the explanation amounted to a clear refutation of the basis for suspicion. In many others, it was simply a plausible alternative hypothesis.

The sources of analytical error may be grouped into six main categories: biased analysis, inaccurate record of Nosenko's reporting, misunderstanding of Nosenko as a person, invalid assumptions about the KGB, honest mistakes by Nosenko, and genuine coincidences.

Biased Analysis


There was no effort to seek out alternative explanations for seemingly suspicious events. For example, one case officer who met with Nosenko in Geneva in 1964 wrote that he suspected him from the very first meeting on the basis of Nosenko's emotionless and mechanical delivery of his statement announcing his intention to defect. The statement appeared to have been rehearsed . At the time, Chief, SB Division, attributed considerable weight to this further indication of opposition control. But there are many reasons why Nosenko might have delivered the statement in this manner. Rather than being emotionless, his emotions may have been so strong that he forced himself, consciously or subconsciously, to repress them to avoid an emotional scene. Most intelligence officer defectors, under similar circumstances, probably pre- pare with great care what they want to tell us about their reasons for defection. In other words, the evidence used against Nosenko was also quite consistent with the alternative hypothesis- that he was bona fide.

Similarly, after hostile questioning began, it was noted that Nosenko "became quite erratic, contradicted himself many times, and became upset physically. . . . As a result of this session, we know that Subject can be thrown off balance by aggressive questioning in those areas which we know to be important parts of the entire KGB operation." No consideration was given to the fact that a bona fide defector whose entire future depends upon acceptance in his new homeland might react the same way when falsely accused of being a KGB plant. Some of the most important inconsistencies and gaps in knowledge that were held against Nosenko can also be interpreted as actually supporting his bona fides. The three different dates for the start of his KGB service are a case in point; surely, if it were all a KGB legend, this would have been one of the most important dates and one could expect him to remember it accurately. That he was far from consistent on this date certainly appears at least as explainable in terms of some personal idiosyncrasies as in terms of the deception theory.

Another example was Nosenko's inability to report on some KGB opera against American Embassy personnel during 1960-61. This did invalidate his claim to be knowledgeable of all such operations, but it did not necessarily support the deception theory. If the KGB wanted us to believe that Nosenko had the complete knowledge he claimed to have during this period, surely it would have researched how much CIA already knew or could be presumed to know, and it would have had Nosenko tell us about all of these operations. His failure to report on any single operation CIA knew about would discredit his claim to total knowledge. Thus, his false claim does not fit the deception hypothesis. More credible is the thesis that he was exaggerating, that he didn't have an accurate picture of the limitations of his own knowledge, or that we made false assumptions about how much a person in his position should know or remember.

A great many of the anomalies and inconsistencies cited in Bagley's Thousand pager and in the subsequent Green Book were of this type. That is, they were consistent with the deception hypotheSiS, but they were also consistent with the hypotheSis that Nosenko was not under control. Therefore, they had little analytical value.

Inaccurate Record of Nosenko's Reporting

During four of the five clandestine meetings with Nosenko in Geneva in 1962, two CIA case officers were present. The more senior officer, who took notes and wrote reports to Headquarters, spoke mediocre Russian and made many errors in his written record of the meetings. The second officer, who handled much of the discussion with Nosenko, was a native Russian speaker. After the series of meetings was completed, the tape recordings of the meetings were "transcribed" by the native speaker. The tapes were of poor quality and were difficult to follow. Therefore, the native speaker, who had little patience for detailed work, dictated from the Russian language tapes directly into English, generally following the faulty notes that the other officer had prepared. Thus, the many errors of translation and understanding were carried over from the meeting notes to the "transcripts." For example, an Army Sargent at the American Embassy who Nosenko reported was recruited by the KGB was described by Nosenko as a code machine repairman. This was trans-lated as a mechanic and generally assumed to refer to garage mechanic. When Nosenko corrected this misunderstanding in 1964, he was criticized for "changing his story."

These reports and transcripts formed the basis for the original judgment that Nosenko was a dispatched agent, but they were so flawed as to make any analysis subject to considerable error. These inadequacies were not discovered until 1965, when a faithful RUSSian-language transcript was finally prepared. The full impact of the inaccuracies was not realized until 1968-69, when the Russian was translated into English and a 35-page report was prepared on the major errors and the effects these errors had had in supporting the charge that Nosenko was a false defector.

Misunderstanding of Nosenko as a Person

CIA initially failed to understand Nosenko's background and how it af- fected his life and career. This failure was caused, in part, by questioning that was designed from the beginning to trap Nosenko rather than to understand him and by errors in the tape transcripts. It was, however, largely due to the fact that Nosenko himself was an anomaly within the KGB, so it is no wonder that his career seemed anomalous. Nosenko was the spoiled-brat son of a top leader and, in the mid-1960s, CIA had no experience with that type of Soviet official. .

A story that came to light much later, from an independent source, is illustrative of Nosenko's background. In Naval Preparatory School m 1943, Nosenko was caught stealing and was beaten up by a number of his classmates. Nosenko's mother complained to Stalin, and the whole school was subjected to strict disciplinary punishment, with some of the students being sent to the front.Nosenko lied to CIA about his date of entry into the KGB to conceal the fact that his graduation from the Institute of International Relations had been delayed a year because he flunked the exam in Marxism-Leninism. He entered the KGB through the influence of a high-ranking family friend, bypassing the normal personnel procedures. The first few years he received a poor performance evaluation and was recommended for dismissal, his job being saved only by parental intervention. He contracted a venereal disease, concealed this by using false KGB documents to receive treatment under an alias, was caught, served 15 days in prison, and was dismissed from his position as Komsomol secretary. Nosenko's father refused to intercede yet again for his wayward son, but his mother intervened with high-level friends and saved hIs KGB Job.

After several years in the KGB, Nosenko seems to have matured and settled down to an adequate performance. His frequent transfers and lengthy trips abroad may have been because his superiors considered him a hot potato-a mediocre officer and a troublemaker with political connections that could destroy his boss's career; it is understandable that his supervisors were happy to transfer him, send him abroad, or award him undeserved honors. Nosenko lied to conceal his personal weaknesses, his professional limitations, and the fact that his entire career depended upon his parents' influence and intervention. A need to enhance his own self-esteem and to ensure acceptance by CIA led Nosenko to exaggerate his responsibilities and knowledge of KGB operations.

Interrogators under instructions to obtain evidence against Nosenko, rather than to evaluate him, persisted in judging his story by malapropiate standards. They failed to recognize, or to accept, that because of his family's status and privilege, Nosenko's life and to some extent his career had developed outside many of the rules, regulations, and restrictions imposed on the average KGB officer. They also failed to recognize that a person with Nosenko’s famIly background and poor performance record is certainly not the type KGB would select for the extremely important and difficult mission of going over to the enemy as a false defector.

Invalid Assumptions About the KGB

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Edited by Michael Clark

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Inqvalid Assumptions About the KGB

Before Nosenko's defection, CIA had very little information on the KGB's Second Chief Directorate (Internal Counterintelligence), where Nosenko served. To evaluate the plaUSibility of Nosenko's reporting, his interrogators formed a stereotype of the Second Chief Directorate against which to compare Nosenko's information. That stereotype contained assumptions regarding the Second Chief Directorate against which to compare Nosenko's information. That stereotype contained assumptions regarding the Second Chief Directorate's authority in the USSR, its relations with the KGB First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence), the relative weight the Second Chief Directorate placed on the recruitment of foreign embassy officials as compared with controlling or monitoring their activities, how much the Second Chief Directorate ought to know about certain events, and how much a specific officer, such as Nosenko, should have known and recalled.

Some of these assumptions were erroneous-based on an exaggerated view of overall KGB capabilities. This made possible a series of discoveries of "duplicity" by Nosenko and other counterintelligence sources who could rarely measure up to CIA's expectations of what they ought to have known, accomplished, or said. An important example concerns the gaps in Nosenko's knowledge of operations against the American Embassy in 1960 and 1961, while he was deputy chief of the responsible section. The interrogators developed their own job description for a deputy chief of a section, then used this as a criterion for judging what Nosenko should have known. The job description was faulty, as it was based on the American concept of a deputy who is fully informed, has authority paralleling the chief, and who automatically fills in for the chief when he is absent.

The Russian word that Nosenko applied to himself was zamestitel. When the meaning of this term was researched in 1968, it was found to be broader than the American concept of deputy. It is perhaps most accurately rendered in English as assistant. This different concept of Nosenko's position, his, at-best, mediocre performance as an officer and supervisor, a tendency to exaggerate his importance, and a perhaps unconscious self-delusion as to the extent of his own knowledge all combine to explain the gaps in Nosenko's knowledge during the 1960-61 period.

Honest Mistakes by Nosenko

There are other possibe explanations for the previously noted anomaly in Nosenko's reporting on surveillance of the Penkovskiy deaddrop site on Pushkin Street. One is that Nosenko confused the Embassy officer's visit to the Pushkin Street drop with an earlier visit by this same officer to a different deaddrop site on Gorldy Street, which did occur about the time Nosenko described, and while he was responsible for covering this officer's activity. The subsequent notoriety given to the arrest of a CIA officer at the Pushkin Street site provides ample explanation for how Nosenko may have learned that his former target visited this site as well. After the publicity surrounding the arrest, it is normal that Nosenko would have discussed the background with his former colleagues. Nosenko apparently erred by confusing the two deaddrop sites, and by failing to recall when and how he learned of the Pushkin Street site. In any bona fides assessment, allowance must be made for this sort of faulty memory.

Legitimate Coincidence

The amount of overlap between Nosenko's and Golitsyn's reporting on KGB operations was, indeed, unusual. So was our good fortune in learning that the one Second Chief Directorate officer, with whom CIA was in contact, just happened to have been the KGB case officer for Lee Harvey Oswald and to report this to CIA just as the Warren Commission was beginning its investigation of President Kennedy's assassination. There were quite a few other equally fortuitous and, therefore, suspicious coincidences in other cases associated with the master plot. Coincidence is a normal part of life, but to a counter- intelligence officer it is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Nosenko's interrogators made no allowance whatsoever for the fact that coincidences are not always sinister.

Although most of the discrepancies that generated suspicion have been resolved, there are still some unexplained anomalies. This is probably inevitable, given the complexity of Nosenko’s personality, the limits of our understanding of the Soviet system, and the confusion generated by the hostIle manner in which Nosenko was initially questioned.

Nosenko's reporting on Lee Harvey Oswald is the most significant remaining mystery. As late as 1978, long after Nosenko's bona fides had been established, John Hart, in testimony to Congress, defended Nosenko as a reliable source but described his reporting on Oswald as "incredible" and suggested that it be ignored. Hart attributed the problem to compartmentation within the KGB and that Nosenko was uninformed even though he genuinely thought otherwise. Such a possibility is understandable in principle, but is hard to accept in this case because Nosenko plausibly claimed to have been inside the relevant "compartment" that would give him full knowledge. Nosenko's demonstrated tendency to exaggerate his importance and access may have played a role, but It may also be that we greatly exaggerate out own understanding of how the KGB might react to a low-level defector like Oswald.

At the start of this section, we noted that the anomalies and inconsistencIes approach is difficult to implement well. It underrates the frequency of coincidence, inaccurate translation, inadequate debriefing, and misunderstanding. It overrates an analyst's ability to judge what is normal or abnormal in an adversary’s organization or society. That assessment is certainly borne out in the Nosenko case.

Many of the problems were of our own making. Because of the a priori assumption of guilt, no attempt was made to resolve the many discrepancies; instead, the discrepancies were cherished as proof that Nosenko was dis- patched by the KGB. Even under more normal circumstances, this case would have presented difficulties for the anomalies and inconsistencies approach because of Nosenko's personality and unusual background, our limited knowledge of the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, some noteworthy coincidences, and the historical time period in which it occurred.

 

Litmus Test Approach.

The information or source to be evaluated is compared with other information or another source of known reliability and accuracy. The known information or source serves as a litmus test for evaluating the new or suspect information or source. This approach is similar to that of the finished intelligence analyst who asks: Is the information consistent with the facts as we know them from other sources? For example, a statement by a Soviet leader or an article in a military journal may be compared with information from a classified source of certain reliability. If the open source differs from the reliable classified information, it may be judged deceptive.

Use of this approach presupposes that one can be certain of the reliability and accuracy of the information or source used for comparison. Unfortunately, such certainly is seldom available. When this degree of certainty is present, and is justified, the approach yields strong inferences about deception.

This litmus test strategy played an important role in extending the master plot theory. The conviction that Nosenko was under KGB control led to his case being used as a touchstone for evaluating other sources of information on Soviet intelligence. If another source supplied information supporting questionable elements of Nosenko's story, or supporting the line that Popov and Penkovsldy were detected by surveillance rather than penetration, or support- ing any other aspect of the theme that CIA was not penetrated, then that source automatically became suspect as part of the master plot. (Recall that belief in a well-placed penetration of CIA led to the further assumption that all CIA Soviet sources were probably known to, if not controlled by, the KGB. Knowledge of which additional sources were being actively manipulated by the KGB would, it was believed, lead to better understanding of Soviet goals and possibly offer clues to identification of the penetration.)

Nosenko was only one of about a dozen sources on Soviet intelligence who eventually came to be considered part of the master-or monster-plot. To illustrate the application of the litmus test approach in this case, we discuss only two of these other sources; both of whom may have lost their lives as a result of U.S. preoccupation with Soviet deception, one through no fault of CIA, the other as a direct consequence of the master plot theory.

Cherepanov was a former officer of the American Department of the KGB Second Chief Directorate, the same department in which Nosenko had served for a time. He was known to CIA from an abortive attempt to contact the American Embassy in Yugoslavia. After his return to Moscow, he was assigned to the Second Chief Directorate. He was subsequently dismissed from the KGB and went to work for Mezhlmiga, the book distribution enterprise. In October 1963, Cherepanov gave a packet of documents to an American couple visiting Moscow to purchase books and asked that it be delivered to the American Embassy. The package, which contained KGB reports dealing mainly with surveillance techniques and operations against the American Embassy, was opened by the political counselor of the Embassy. He concluded this was a Soviet provocation and, after copying the documents for CIA, insisted they be returned to the Soviets. Nosenko reported that when the documents were returned, the KGB immediately identified Cherepanov as their source. A quick check revealed that Cherepanov had disappeared. Nosenko himself then became part of a team of KGB officers hastily organized to find and arrest him.

The legitimacy of the Cherepanov documents was questioned at the time they were first received and analyzed at CIA Headquarters, but no firm conclusion was reached. In 1962, Nosenko had reported that CIA's first penetration of the GRU, Colonel Popov, had been arrested in 1959 as a result of surveillance of an American diplomat in Moscow. This comfortable explanation deflected suspicion of a KGB penetration of CIA as the cause of Popov's demise. One of the Cherepanov documents, plus a note from Cherepanov that accompanied the documents, confirmed Nosenko's earlier report and provided additional plausible details.

A different Cherepanov document concerned another area of concern relating to Popov's compromise. It was a detailed KGB analysis of movements by FBI surveillance teams in New York City. It showed KGB awareness of a special FBI surveillance at precisely the time an illegal agent dispatched by Popov had arrived in New York City. CIA had given the FBI information on the illegal's arrival. A compromised FBI surveillance would have drawn suspicion to Popov, and there was speculation that it was a possible cause of Popov's compromise. The Cherepanov document could have been planted to exacerbate the already difficult relationship between CIA and the FBI.

The information from Nosenko and Cherepanovwas mutually reinforcing. The documents Cherepanov delivered in 1963 confirmed Nosenko's earlier report that Popov had not been compromised through penetration of CIA. Then, when the Cherepanov documents were questioned at CIA Headquarters, Nosenko came out in 1964 to confirm their authenticity. If a KGB team had been sent out to apprehend Cherepanov, then obviously the documents he provided were genuine rather than a KGB provocation. When Nosenko was judged to be under KGB control, it seemed clear that Cherepanov must have been under control as well, and that both were confirming each other's bona fides while pushing the view that Colonel Popov had not been compromised through penetration of CIA.
Yuriy Loginov was a KGB illegal who volunteered his services to CIA in May 1961 while abroad on an illegal's training mission. He came to the West again in 1962 and for a third time in 1964, shortly after Nosenko's defection. The purpose of his 1964 trip was to cultivate and prepare for recruitment an American military communicator stationed in Cairo. Loginov brought with him several items if interest, including a copy of a top secret KGB training manual, presenting KGB doctrine on the recruitment of Americans. After 15 months in the West, Loginov returned to Moscow to report that he had developed a good personal relationship with an American, but that the target did not appear recruitable and was being reassigned to the United States.


The Loginov case baffled SB Division from the start. Although the information he provided, particularly in the counterintelligence field, appeared to check out, this very fact gave rise to consternation, as Loginov did not conform to SB Division's conception of the type of man the KGB would select to train and dispatch as an illegal. Nor did the instructions Loginov received from the KGB while in the West conform to SB Division ideas of how the KGB would handle such an agent (anomalies and inconsistencies approach).

The decisive evidence that condemned Loginov, however, was his reporting that supported the bona fides of both Cherepanov and Nosenko. Loginov's father had a dacha next door to Cherepanov, and Loginov reported that, in the fall ofl963, he witnessed the KGB search of Cherepanov’s dacha. Nosenko had reported participating in this search. Loginov's story seemed to confirm the reality of Cherepanov’s flight and capture, but the coincidence of the neighboring dacha that justified his knowledge seemed extraordinary. Loginov also reported on KGB reactions to Nosenko's defection, and said that, because of the defection, his own dispatch to Canada on a new mission had been canceled. (Unbeknownst to Loginov, Nosenko knew about another illegal also being readied for dispatch to Canada, which undoubtedly persuaded the KGB that it’s would be prudent to delay sending Loginov.)

As a result of these two reports, Loginov was immediately labeled part of the master deception plot, with the role of supporting the bona fides of Cherepanov’s and Nosenko. The document on KGB operational doctrine for recruitment of Americans was judged authentic and was exploited extensively to improve the security of American installations and businesses abroad. This was considered the price the KGB was prepared to pay to support Loginov's bona fides and, thus, make him more effective in his role as a deception agent. When Loginov traveled West again, on a Canadian passport with a mission to legalize himself in South Africa before moving permanently to Canada, CIA arranged for him to be arrested in South Africa. Under questioning by the South Africans, he admitted to being a KGB illegal doubled by the Americans. After Loginov spent six months in solitary confinement, two CIA officers interrogated him for over three months in an effort to force an admission that he had been directed by the KGB to contact CIA and pass disinformation. Despite optimal interrogation conditions, Loginov refused to change his story, so the South Africans were left with the same problem that CIA originally had with Nosenko-what to do with a Soviet who was not trusted but against whom one had no juridical evidence.

A fortuitous solution to this problem appeared when East Germany claimed Loginov as an East German citizen (a common ploy in such cases) and suggested he be included in an East-West German prisoner exchange. CIA encouraged the idea despite Loginov's pleas not to be exchanged. At the exchange point, in July 1969, Loginov resisted repatriation for four hours until he was forcibly turned over to the waiting KGB officers. Subsequent reporting indicates he may have been executed.

There is every reason to believe that both Cherepanov and Loginov were bona fide sources, not under KGB control. They produced valuable intelligence consistent with their access, but they failed the master plot litmus test. Consideration of other anomalies in the cases or the value of information supplied were all subordinated to the overwhelming importance attributed to the fact that both sources supported themes considered to be part of the master deception plot.


These clear examples of the litmus test strategy illustrate the major weakness of this strategy for analyzing deception. The strategy presupposes certainty about the information or source used as a basis for the test. In this instance, the analysts were certain about Nosenko being under control, but their certainty was unjustified and led to wrong conclusions in about a dozen cases, with immense consequences for CIA in lost operational opportunities, and often with adverse personal consequences for the Soviets involved.

Cost Accounting Approach.

An analyst employing this strategy focuses on the cost incurred by the adversary to conduct a deception. If the cost is higher than any potential gain, the deception hypothesis is rejected. Most frequently considered is the cost of providing valid and valuable information to establish and maintain the credibility of a deception channel. This approach judges a source on the basis of it’s production. This is the strategy generally used by the Directorate of Operations (DO) reports officer, as distinct from the DO operations officer, who is more likely to focus on anomalies or inconsistencies in the circumstances under which the source obtained the information or passed it on to us.

The cost accounting approach assumes an accurate understanding of how much an adversary is willing to sacrifice to achieve his goals. This is difficult because, in principle, there always can be a goal that is important enough to justify any cost. Such analysis, therefore, may be correct in routine cases that follow the established pattern, but wrong in the rare, exceptionally high-stakes situation when it counts the most. Traditional theory holds that deception is most likely when the stakes are highest; for example, when an adversary would be willing to pay the greatest price to achieve his goals.


The three previous approaches, motive, anomalies and inconsistencies, and litmus test, are best used to show the presence of deception. One cannot do that with the cost accounting strategy. This strategy can be used only to prove the absence of deception, not its presence. This is because high cost may (or may not) imply the absence of deception, but low cost does not necessarily imply its presence. Cost accounting was the primary strategy employed by those who believed Nosenko was a bona fide defector. Briefly, it was argued that information provided by Nosenko was so valuable to CIA and so damaging to the USSR that it was inconceivable the KGB would willingly give it away. The KGB would never deliberately place one of its own officers into the hands of its principal adversary.

Bruce Solie, the Office of Security officer who handled Nosenko's rehabilitation, believed a source should be judged on the quality of information received. He felt that too much attention had been paid to challenging Nosenko’s story, and not enough to finding out everything he could tell us about KGB operations. Accordingly, Solie's debriefing concentrated on obtaining more information. Since the value of Nosenko's information created a presumption of bona fides, Solie's approach to anomalies and inconsistencies was to seek some plausible explanation and to recognize that, given the nature of the case, some anomalies may never be explained. Subsequently, the FBI reported that a minimum of nine new counterintelligence cases were developed as a result of Solie's reexamination, and that new information of considerable importance was developed on old cases; additional detailed information was also obtained on KGB operations in other countries, and on KGB organization, modus operandi, and personnel. Altogether, the information pointed to a valuable, bona fide source.


Nosenko provided identification of, or leads to, some 238 Americans and about 200 foreign nationals in whom the KGB had displayed varying degrees of interest, and against whom they had enjoyed varying degrees of success. He provided information on about 2,000 KGB staff officers and 300 Soviet national agents or contacts of the KGB. His information on the methods and scope of Second Chief Directorate operations against foreign diplomats and journalists in Moscow and visitors to the Soviet Union filled a large gap in our knowledge and had an enormous impact on the raising of CIA's consciousness of these operations; the result was important improvements in the physical security of U.S. installations and the personal security of U.S. officials and advisors to the USSR. The Soviet Union suffered additional costs through the adverse publicity and deterrent effect of Nosenko's defection and the arrest of several agents he identified. 

The master plot theorists also assessed the value of Nosenko's information, not as the overriding criterion for evaluating his bona fides, but certainly as a relevant consideration. They came to the opposite conclusion. They argued that KGB operations reported by Nosenko had been previously reported by Golitsyn or other sources, involved agents who had lost their access, who the KGB had reason to believe had been compromised, who were unimportant, or where the information could not be confirmed. At times, this argument was made with a stacked deck, and Nosenko always came out the loser. If Nosenko reported on a KGB operation previously reported by an- other defector, this was not counted as a plus for Nosenko, because the KGB already knew the operation had been compromised. If he reported an operation not previously known, the information was judged doubtful because it could not be confirmed.The argument that Nosenko's information was unimportant was always difficult to sustain, as it kept being contradicted by reality. For a time, various rationalizations were possible, but eventually Solie's supplemental debriefing of Nosenko, a more objective interpretation of his information, and successful investigation of the leads developed a clear record to Nosenko's credit. For example, Bagley argued that Nosenko's information on microphones in the American Embassy in Moscow was a KGB giveaway, as Golitsyn had already reported on this subject. Golitsyn's report, however, was only a general statement that the Embassy was bugged. Nosenko identified which offices, where in these offices the mikes were located, and what conversations had been monitored. It was only Nosenko's more detailed, first-hand information that persuaded the State Department to incur the significant cost and disruption involved in tearing out walls to find and neutralize the installation. They found 52 mikes, 47 of them still active, covering many of the most interesting offices in the Embassy.

Nosenko's supporters and detractors largely ignored each other's arguments, as they approached the analysis of Nosenko's bona fides from entirely different paths and used different criteria for judging the truth. In the context of the master plot, the value of information provided by Nosenko measured only the magnitude of the deception to come. To believers in Nosenko, on the other hand, the list of espionage cases the FBI had developed from his information and the many leads to KGB agents in other countries were ample proof of his bona fides. As the KGB would not willingly sacrifice this information, there must be some other explanation for the conflicts in his story. Ironically, one of the strongest points in favor of Nosenko was not made in any of the studies of his bona fides. This is because of the tacit agreement by Nosenko's detractors and supporters alike that he should be considered on his own merits, without reference to the master plot as a whole. This was an artificial limitation, as almost everyone on both sides of the issue recognized that, if Nosenko were bona fide, the master plot theory would collapse. Conversely, if the master plot theory could be disproved, the case against Nosenko would be difficult to sustain.

The point is that Nosenko's information was only a small part of the total information on Soviet intelligence being received at that time from multiple sources believed to be part of the master plot. If all the valuable information from all the supposedly controlled sources had been collected in one massive compendium to show the incredible magnitude of what was allegedly being sacrificed, it would have made a most powerful argument against the master plot theory and, therefore, against the argument that Nosenko was under control.

To the few who were informed of all these other cases and saw events from the master plot perspective, it began to appear as though the entire KGB might have become a sacrificial lamb on the altar of deception and diversion. The diehards (some would call them paranoids) rationalized this by concluding that the deception must be even bigger and more important than previously believed; as the KGB sacrifices mounted, the level and importance of the assumed penetration went higher and higher. Others, however, who initially had accepted the inherent plausibility of the master plot, began to have doubts. There had to be some limit on how much the KGB would give away.

A former Chief of the CI Group in SB Division told me, for example, that he first began to doubt the master plot theory when he learned about a senior East European military officer who had been supplying CIA with very important Warsaw Pact documents for many years. Giving away counterintelligence leads to divert opposition security services was one thing, but the wholesale sacrifice of military secrets was quite another. Continuation of this operation seemed to belie the existence of a well-placed KGB penetration of CIA, which was an essential part of the master plot theory.


In 1976, John Hart visited Tennant Bagley, who had retired four years earlier, to inquire whether, after so much time, he still rejected Nosenko's bona fides. Bagley asked if there had been any new evidence confirming Nosenko's story, to which Hart replied there had not. I believe that Hart was wrong; there was much additional evidence to refute the master plot theory. During the intervening years, old sources continued and new counterintelligence sources were developed that produced a continuous flow of very valuable information, thereby greatly increasing the total cost to the Soviets if the master plan theory were valid. The most knowledgeable new sources would have failed the master plot litmus test, for they confirmed genuine KGB distress at Nosenko's defection, reported that the KGB would be unwilling to use a KGB staff officer as a double agent or false defector, and failed to report any massive counterintelligence deception program or penetration of CIA at the level that had been feared.


In summary, this cost accounting strategy led to an accurate judgment of Nosenko's bona fides. Our discussion does, however, illustrate the principal weakness of this approach, namely, how to determine what the adversary might regard as an acceptable cost. Analysts on both sides of the issue recognized that a source's production is a useful criterion for judging bona fides, but they had radically different views on how much information and the kinds of information the KGB would be willing to sacrifice in the interest of deception.

Predictive Test Approach.

This approach is not normally used in intelligence analysis, but it could and should be used under select circumstances. It might also be called the scientific approach, for it addresses a problem the way a scientist does. The scientist develops a tentative hypothesis to explain the phenomenon under study, then devises tests to prove or disprove the hypothesis. The same approach can be used in deception analysis. A tentative hypothesis about deception can often be tested by using the presumption of deception to make a series of predictions. If the deception theory generates predictions that are borne out by subsequent experience, this suggests that the hypothesis is true. If expectations are contradicted by experience, this suggests that the hypothesis may be wrong.

The principal value of testing views in this manner is that it makes it more difficult to rationalize contradictory evidence. There is a human tendency to interpret new information in ways that do not require us to change our minds. By using a hypothesis about deception to make explicit predictions, one specifies the circumstances under which one could be proved wrong. The predictions are either confirmed or they are not. The latter outcome points to possible flaws in one's understanding of the subject and provokes thought as to where reasoning went astray. If one has not made explicit predictions, one may not concede or even recognize that the reasoning was ill founded.

The weakness of this strategy is that it presupposes some form of ongoing activity, so that one can make short-term predictions and see if they come true. Another weakness is that it requires more self-conscious introspection and willingness to question one's own assumptions than most intelligence analysts are comfortable with, and therefore is seldom used.

This strategy was not used explicitly in any of the analyses of the Nosenko case. This form of reasoning did, however, implicitly affect the thinking of some persons involved in the case. The master plot theory did lead to certain expectations, or implied predictions, and when they were not borne out in practice this did engender doubts about the theory. The most obvious expectation was that it might be possible to break Nosenko. Of course, one could never be certain Nosenko would break even if he were under KGB control, but the interrogators had important psychological advantages. They had total control over Nosenko, were "certain" he was a KGB-dispatched agent, and even "knew" the purpose of the KGB operations.Yet Nosenko did not confess to anything more than a few self-serving lies. Similar advantages existed in the CIA interrogation of Loginov in South Africa; again, the interrogation was unsuccessful.

The master plot theory assumed the existence of a well-placed KGB penetration of CIA. It predicted that KGB agents, such as Nosenko, were either being directed with guidance from the penetration, or were being used to build up or protect the penetration. This limited the suspects to a finite number of CIA officers. It was estimated that astute counterintelligence analysis and security investigation would identify the penetration, but no such penetration was discovered despite extensive investigation. Again, the theory was contradicted by events. This might logically have led the proponents of the theory to question their assumptions, but it did not. Additional expectations concerned the KGB operations on which Nosenko reported. One would expect the KGB to try to achieve its deception goals with the minimum necessary cost to itself. This led to the view that Nosenko's revelations about KGB operations were probably less important than they appeared to be. Specifically, if was anticipated that investigation of Nosenko's leads to seemingly well-placed KGB agents would show that these agents had recently lost their access or were, for some other reason, expendable to the KGB. Further, it was expected that investigation of tantalizing leads to agents who could not be fully identified by Nosenko would lead to dead ends, so the KGB would really have sacrificed nothing at all. In some cases, these expectations were accurate, but in a significant number of cases investigations did identify valuable KGB agents.

These beliefs and expectations were, in effect, logical deductions or predictions based on the master plot hypothesis.If they had been set forth explicitly as predictions, and recognized as valid if partial and imperfect tests of the hypothesis, it would have been far more difficult to ignore the implications of their being contradicted by events. Unfortunately, the advocates of the master plot theory were seeking to prove it, not to test it. They regarded the master plot as a fact, not as a hypothesis to be subjected to critical examination, so developments that seemed to contradict this view were ignored, rationalized, or misinterpreted. 

III: Conclusions

Heretofore, I have tried to present an objective account of the diverse arguments used, or in some cases not used, by those on both sides of the Nosenko issue. What follows is personal opinion. The reader is cautioned that opinions on this case are as numerous and varied as the many CIA and FBI officers who were personally involved in one or another phase of it. The opinions expressed here are certainly not the final word.

I will start by making my personal bias clear. I became a believer in the master plot theory in 1965 when first exposed to the reasoning described above under the motive approach. Although initially a believer, I never put much stock in Bagley's Thousand Pager, as I had learned from experience to be skeptical of conclusions based on the anomalies and inconsistencies approach to counterintelligence analysis. My first doubts arose when, one by one, various expectations failed to materialize, which is the reasoning described above under the predictive test approach. Subsequently, for reasons discussed under the cost accounting approach-the high volume of significant intelligence being received through multiple sources-I rejected the master plot theory and concluded that Nosenko was not acting under KGB control. This conclusion was recently reinforced when, in doing research for this study, I learned how the many anomalies and contradictions were eventually explained.

I remain firmly opposed to the view that the master plot was an irresponsible, paranoid fantasy. Given the information available at the time, as described under the motive approach, it would have been irresponsible not to have seriously considered this possibility. The mistake was not in pursuing the master plot theory, but in getting so locked into a position that one was unable to question basic assumptions or to note the gradual accumulation of contrary evidence. This type of analytical error is not uncommon, and all of us are susceptible to it. It can lead one to overlook deception as well as to perceive deception when it isn't there, as happened in the Nosenko case.

Gordon Stewart was correct in criticizing Bagley's analysis for assuming guilt and then interpreting every discrepancy as evidence of this guilt. After serious doubts began to be raised about this analysis, the Soviet Bloc Division should have assigned an officer in a devil's advocate role to do an analysis that assumed innocence, then examined how the evidence could be interpreted as being consistent with this view. By failing to give a fair shake to the opposing view, SB Division lost control of the case to another component that approached the analysis from a totally different perspective. This lesson should be taken to heart by any component involved in a serious controversy over deception .

Most important for this study is not what we learn about the Nosenko case, but what can be learned about deception analysis in general. There seem to be five quite separate and distinct paths to reaching judgments about deception. Which path one chooses is strongly influenced by one's past experience and the patterns of thought associated with one's functional responsibilities or organizational affiliation. The path one take determines, in turn, the evidence one seeks and, in large measure, the conclusion one reaches"

Generally, analysts in the Nosenko case gave greatest weight to the islands of evidence they were most familiar and most comfortable with, and this in turn determined which approach they took. Some counterintelligence personnel were very familiar with and influenced by the concern about penetration of CIA. Speaking for myself, for example, I had been the Headquarters desk officer on the Goleniewsld case at the time we received both of his reports, the one on the penetration of CIA and the one that led to identification of Felfe as a KGB penetration of West German intelligence. I had also seen first hand how much damage a well-placed penetration, such as Goleniewsld, could do to an opposition service. This personal experience made the master plot seem very real and very plausible. Other counterintelligence specialists, more directly involved in the Nosenko case than I, had personal experience with the seeming contradictions and extraordinary coincidences in his story, so this is what most influenced them.

One's professional experience and organizational affiliation play important roles in determining the strategy one employs to analyze deception. Counterintelligence officers, DO reports officers, and DI intelligence analysts look at deception through different conceptual lenses. The strategy employed, in turn, largely determines what evidence one seeks and the conclusion one reaches. Examination of Soviet motives led Bagley to review the entire history of CIA and KGB counterintelligence operations. Anomalies and inconsistencies perceived by counterintelligence personnel in the initial debriefing of Nosenko led to hostile interrogation to develop still more anomalies and inconsistencies. Solie's cost accounting approach led to friendly interrogation designed to produce as much information as possible, while playing down the anomalies. The litmus test approach focused attention on how other sources' information related to the Nosenko case, while overlooking the total value of these sources' information.

The Nosenko case vividly illustrates the weakness inherent in each of the five strategies for analyzing deception. Bagley identified a plausible motive for Soviet deception and supported it with voluminous circumstantial evidence, yet Nosenko was not under Soviet control. There was an enormous number of anomalies and inconsistencies in Nosenko's story, yet they were all produced by sloppy translation and inadequate debriefing, the unique aspects of Nosenko’s background and personality, genuine accident and coincidence, and the circumstances of his handling; they were not truly indicative of hostile control.

Comparing the value of information received from a source against some criterion of the cost the adversary would be willing to incur also leads to strong inferences about deception, but only if the putative threshold of acceptable cost is correct; in the Nosenko analysis, that threshold was itself a major point of disagreement. Comparing suspect information against some objective criterion of truth can lead to strong inferences about deception, but only If the criterion does indeed represent the truth; in the Nosenko case, it did not. Making test predictions can prompt reconsideration of one's views if they fail the test of experience, but, typically, this was not done in the Nosenko case; analysts were too busy trying to prove they were right, rather than testing their assumptions.
If there is a single lesson to be learned from this, it is that all five approaches are useful for complete analysis. Exclusive reliance on anyone strategy is dangerous. The cost accounting approach led to a correct conclusion in the Nosenko case, but it, too, has inherent vulnerabilities, and there is no guarantee it will be correct in all future cases. This places a heavy burden on the deception analyst. To do a thorough analysis of all the possibilities, one must examine the diverse bodies of evidence relevant to each of these strategies. This will often require investment of substantial time to gain understanding of previously unfamiliar fields.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Michael Clark

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For editing comments, concerns or corrections to the above transcribed Heuer document, please see this post:

 

 

Edited by Michael Clark

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