WASHINGTON — American journalists working in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s were "compromised" by the KGB and recruited as possible agents, newly released documents show.
Yuri Nosenko, a former KGB agent who defected to the United States in 1964, told U.S. officials that Soviet intelligence operatives also had compromised the governess of the children of the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union after she was "seduced by two African students."
The memo detailing Nosenko's claims was part of a release of 10,744 documents in November related to the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Nosenko's connection to the Kennedy assassination came when he told U.S. officials that the KGB had passed on a chance to recruit Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's acknowledged killer, when Oswald lived in the Soviet Union.
After defecting to the United States in early 1964, Nosenko was a fountain of information about the KGB's attempts to recruit Americans to spy for the Soviet Union, according to a March 4, 1964, memo from FBI official W.A. Branigan to William Sullivan, the chief of the FBI's intelligence division.
Operations against journalists
"Information about attempts to recruit newspapermen stationed in Moscow has been given by Nosenko," Branigan wrote, including a representative of the Associated Press who had actually been recruited.
"At this time there are three representatives and we have opened cases to attempt to identify the one who has been recruited," Branigan wrote.
Nosenko said four other U.S. journalists had been approached by the KGB for recruitment, and the allegations against one, ABC correspondent Sam Jaffe, helped ruin his career.
A Sept. 9, 1979, Washington Post report said Nosenko authenticated "photographed KGB documents for which an agent had paid his life. Among those papers was a list of Americans who had allegedly collaborated with the KGB. And apparently one of the names on that list was Samuel Adason Jaffe, correspondent."
"Nosenko told of the recruitment of Sam Jaffe, American Broadcasting Company correspondent in Moscow," Branigan wrote. "We have interviewed Jaffe and he gave us this information prior to his recent return to Moscow."
Jaffe, who died at age 55 in 1985, never got another job in journalism after he left ABC in 1969. The CIA cleared him of claims Jaffe collaborated with the KGB, and eventually the FBI did, too. But the damage to his career had already been done.
Other journalists named by Nosenko include:
• Thomas Whitney, a former Associated Press correspondent in Moscow. "Nosenko also claims that Thomas Whitney had furnished nonessential information to the KGB in Moscow but refused to do so on his return to the United States," Branigan wrote. Whitney, a former diplomat who translated the works of Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, died in 2007 at age 90.
• Eddy Gilmore, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press correspondent. "He also said that Eddy Gilmore of the Associated Press was a recruitment target," Branigan wrote of Nosenko. "We also knew that Whitney and Gilmore, both married to Soviet citizens, were targets," Branigan wrote.
• Francis Stevens, a former diplomat and reporter for U.S. News and World Report magazine. Stevens, Nosenko said, "was compromised." Branigan wrote that Stevens had told the FBI of the KGB operation against him.
The document naming the journalists had been released previously by the government, but the names of Gilmore, Stevens and Whitney, as well as the governess to the U.S. ambassador, had been censored.
CIA officials led by James Angleton, the longtime head of the agency's counterespionage unit, believed Nosenko was planted by the KGB to "disrupt American intelligence work," Branigan wrote.
For more than three years, the CIA interrogated Nosenko in an attempt to force him to reveal that he was really working for the KGB, but he didn't break. By 1969, the CIA concluded that Nosenko was authentic and hired him as a consultant. He died in 2008 at age 80 under an assumed name — George Martin Rosnek.
The Branigan memo was part of an unveiling of more than 35,500 documents related to the JFK investigation that were required to be released under the provisions of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. Many had nothing to do with the actual assassination but with people, agencies and countries implicated in the various investigations of the killing and related conspiracy theories.
Branigan's memo had been released before, but the names of the journalists and governess were censored.
President Trump said he would release all of the documents without redactions, but FBI and CIA officials prevailed upon him to keep some still secret or to release others with key details blacked out.
Any information that is still redacted is subject to Trump's review and could be released in full in the coming months, the National Archives said.
The Dec.15 release was the last one this year, the National Archives said.