Feklisov, Aleksandr Semenovich

(1914– )
   As a student in one of the first classes at the NKVD’s foreign intelligence school (later named the Andropov Institute), Feklisov was prepared to serve as a case officer under legal cover. From 1941 until 1946 he served in New York, where he was Julius Rosenberg’s case officer, and he produced some of the most important scientific and technical intelligence to reach Moscow during the Great Patriotic War. Through Feklisov, Rosenberg managed several engineers with access to top secret military and scientific information. Feklisov had great admiration for the Rosenbergs and other American volunteers who worked for Moscow out of ideological affinity. He believed that Moscow should have made more of an effort to save the Rosenbergs from execution.
   Following service in New York, Feklisov served in London, maintaining contact with Klaus Fuchs, his service’s most important source of nuclear intelligence. As the Soviet services lost contact with many of their most productive agents in the British and American nuclear programs, Fuchs’s information became increasingly critical. Feklisov was a careful street case officer. He first met Fuchs in a British pub. Longer meetings took place in pubs and on the streets of the British capital, where the case officer and Fuchs could walk and talk with little fear of being overheard. Feklisov was later informed by Moscow that Fuchs’s information saved the Soviet Union 200 million rubles. Feklisov served a tour in Prague as an advisor to the Czechoslovakian intelligence service, and then was for many years head of the American department of the First Chief Directorate. Feklisov’s next incarnation as an intelligence officer came in the early 1960s when he served as KGB rezident in Washington under the name “Fomin.” Feklisov’s rezidentura was very successful in collecting scientific and intelligence information. He was unable, however, to replicate the success of Soviet intelligence chiefs during the 1940s, when they had spectacular sources of political intelligence. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Feklisov was used as a back channel between Moscow and the John F. Kennedy administration. His role in the crisis is still controversial: while some believe it opened a channel of communications at a difficult time, others believe it further confused a perilous situation.
   In retirement, Feklisov wrote one of the best memoirs of a Cold War intelligence officer. Originally published in French as Confessions d’un agent sovietique, it was published in the United States as The Man behind the Rosenbergs. The book, which deeply angered some in Moscow, confirmed that Julius Rosenberg had indeed been a Soviet agent—though he had had little to do with nuclear espionage— and that the Anglo-American decryption of the Soviet intelligence messages was genuine. Feklisov remains deeply proud of his and his service’s achievements, especially the collection of nuclear intelligence.
   See also Enormoz; Venona.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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