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Oswald and the CIA Defection Program

John Simkin

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Lee Harvey Oswald was not the only American who defected to the Soviet Union in the years 1959-60. Others included Joseph Dutkanicz, Vladimir Sloboda, Robert E. Webster, Bruce Frederick Davis, Nicholas Petrulli and Libero Ricciardelli. A CIA SR/6 soft file was set up in 1960 entitled “American Defectors to the USSR”. John Newman (Oswald and the CIA) discovered a memo from this file that stated that “basic information” had been “extracted for the US Defector Machine Program”. It goes on to say: “In all instances in which the material was unique, or represented a valuable collation effort, it has been incorporated into the appropriate 201 file, along with a copy of this memorandum.”

Libero Ricciardelli, who had served in the US Air Force, defected in August, 1959. He lived in Kiev until returning to the United States in June, 1963.

Robert E. Webster had been working for the Rand Development Corporation as a plastics technician at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, when he disappeared in September, 1959 emerging a month later on Oct. 17 at the U.S. Embassy, where he attempted to renounce his citizenship. Webster returned to the United States in May, 1962.

On Sept. 5, 1959, Nicholas Petrulli of Long Island renounced his American citizenship in Moscow but after being turned down for Soviet citizenship decided to return to the U.S. on Sept. 21.

Lee Harvey Oswald was the next to go in October, 1959. He was followed by Bruce Frederick Davis. After serving 5 years in the U.S. Army, Davis left his post in West Germany and defected to the Soviet Union in August 1960. He lived in Kiev before returning to the United States in July, 1963.

Joseph Dutkanicz and his wife defected in May, 1960. A few days later Vladimir Sloboda and his wife also defected. Both men had a lot in common. As John Newman points out: “Both had been in Germany, in the Army, in Military Intelligence Branch, had defected within days of each other, and had been recruited by the KGB prior to their defections”.

Sloboda later told an American Embassy official in Moscow that he had been blackmailed and framed in going to the USSR. His wife, who was English, managed to leave the Soviet Union.

Dutkanicz applied to return to the United States. His wife arrived back in America in March, 1962 but the Soviet authorities prevented him from leaving the country and it is reported that he died in November 1963.

For further information on this subject see:

John Newman, Oswald and the CIA (1995)

The Defector Study: Staff Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations U.S. House of Representatives (March 1979)


AJ Weberman, CIA Reaction to Oswald’s Defection


Peter R. Whitmey, Did Oswald Come Back?


Libero Ricciardelli Papers


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As to defectors, there was another one in the late 1950's named Martin Greendlinger. He was a mathematician I believe.

A mathematician at New York University, Martin Greendlinger attended the World Youth Festival held in Moscow in 1957. He met Yelena Ivanovna Pyatnitskaya, nee Kapustina, a student at the Lenin Pedagogical Institute. Greendlinger returned to the Soviet Union in April 1958, and within a month had married Yelena. He returned to the United States in July 1959. I did not include Greendlinger in the original list because it was outside my timeframe of defectors (1959-1960). Nor was he included in the CIA soft file of defectors.

Nor do I believe Greenlinger was part of the CIA "US Defector Machine Program". The objective was to discover how the KGB dealt with defectors who had important information about the US. That is why the CIA sent men who had been working for Military Intelligence (Joseph Dutkanicz and Vladimir Sloboda) or had been members of the US armed forces (Bruce Frederick Davis and Lee Harvey Oswald).

Oswald was the only one who got back out fairly quickly. The State Department actually provided money for him to return home. Yet we are told the CIA made no attempt to question him on his return. When he arrived in New York on 5th June, 1962, he was met by Spas T. Raikin. He also provided Oswald with money to get him to Fort Worth. Officially, Raiken was working on behalf of the New York Travelers Aid Society. It is possible that he was really a CIA contract agent.

Raikin later testified that Oswald did tell him some information about his past. This included the story that he had been a marine stationed in the American Embassy in Moscow and that when he defected he renounced his US citizenship. Both these stories are untrue. Why would Oswald lie about these points? Maybe Raikin was trying to portray Oswald as an unreliable witness.

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You might be interested in the Kammer memorandum.



FROM: Kammer



1. On this date Subject's case was coordinated with Mr. McCord of SRS in connection with Subject's operational use within the US by WH/4/Propaganda. The implications of a CI operation within the States by this agency and the possibility Subject might come to the attention of the FBI through association with Court Wood were discussed.

2. Mr. McCord expressed the opinion that it is not necessary to advise the FBI of the operation at this time. However, he wishes to review the case in a month. The file of Subject, along with that of the WH man who is supervising the operation(David Atlee Phillips #40695) will be pended for the attention of Mr. McCord on 1 March 1961.

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FWIW theres also the story of the "re-defectors"


New York Times Jun 11, 1957; pg. 22


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  • 13 years later...

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