Former KGB agent to publish “new data” on nuclear espionage

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Alexander Vassiliev, who worked in the American Division of the KGB from 1987 to 1990, is well known to intelligence historians. His first book, Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) included information the author claims to have copied from internal KGB records. Among several critics of the book was Rutgers University professor John Lowenthal, who dismissed it as containing a “plethora of errors, and […] strategic omissions [that] leave it demonstrably untrustworthy [and] far below minimal standards of scholarly or journalistic rigor for any serious consideration”. Now Vassiliev is preparing his return with a second book, entitled Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, which he co-wrote with John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. The book, which is scheduled for publication by Yale University Press in March, is also based on internal KGB “files, copied by Mr. Vassiliev into notebooks” before he resigned from his post at the KGB. In his new book, the former Soviet agent, who now lives in London, claims that “Julius Rosenberg played a greater role in atomic espionage than was believed”, most notably by recruiting a second nuclear spy (in addition to his brother-in-law, David Greenglass) to steal US atomic secrets. Mr. Vassiliev’s files appear to identify Rosenberg’s second recruit as Russel W. McNutt, a career engineer and purported communist sympathizer who participated in the construction of the top-secret US nuclear plant in Oak Ridge, TN. He further suggests that the mysterious code-name “Fogel”, which appears in the Soviet intelligence messages decoded under the National Security Agency’s VENONA project (pdf), actually refers to McNutt, whereas another unidentified codename, “Perseus”, was “a composite fabricated to confuse the Americans”.


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