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An Interview with Richard Helms

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and some big sea shell and so forth are just pipe dreams. There were fellows trying to figure out if some device could do this, but the idea was never seriously considered, and the gadgets never left the laboratory.
  
As for the Mafia, that is one of the great regrets of my life. We were under great pressure to make contacts in Cuba. I let the pressure to do something-because we didn't have very many contacts-overwhelm my judgment. We never should have gone forward the second time with that Roselli thing.
  
When I found out about it, I should have corked it off then and there. I am genuinely sorry that I didn't. It was a case of poor judgment.
  
I was told Roselli was attempting to find out if there were Mafia elements or organized crime elements still in Havana. That was all I authorized, but I shouldn't even have authorized that, and I am sorry.
  
On the other hand, let's not exaggerate what was involved. There isn't the slightest creditable evidence that any poison pellets ever reached Havana. We have only the word of a gangster that they did, and I don't believe him. I think he and his case officer grossly exaggerated what they were trying to accomplish.
  
What about the testimony of Nosenko the Soviet defector who is referred to in the Epstein book? You told Earl Warren there were two opinions about Nosenko. Do you believe his claim that the KGB had no contact with Lee Harvey Oswald while he was in the Soviet Union?
  
I went to Chief Justice Warren because I didn't know what to believe then; and I don't know what to believe now. I don't know what the facts are today. But it did strike me at the time that it would be a great mistake for the Warren Commission to shape its findings on the basis of a statement made by a man whose bona fides we could not establish.
  
I told Justice Warren that I did not know what the truth was but that we could not vouch for Nosenko, and the Commission should take this into very serious consideration in their conclusions. I think that was the right thing to do.
 
When Nosenko was given a new identity, after three years of hostile interrogation, had you decided on his bona fides?
  
By this time, the issue was what to do with him. Obviously, I recognized we couldn't keep him in durance vile, as we had, against the laws of the United States. Lord knows what would happen if we had a comparable situation today, because the laws haven't been changed, and I don't know what you do with people like Nosenko.
  
We sought guidance from the justice Department at the time. It was clear we were holding him in violation of the law, but what were we to do with him? Were we going to release him and then a year later have it said "Well, you fellows should have had more sense than to do that. He was the whole key to who killed President Kennedy."
  
The controversy has been bad enough without our having done that, but everything would have come down on our heads, I am sure, if we had released him before we did, and we would have been bitterly criticized. So, we did the best we could, but eventually it became necessary to give him a chance to go on about his life. There were those who felt he was bona fide, and others who felt that he was not. As far as I know, that controversy endures. May I say one of the most difficult things about counterintelligence is that it tends to be very untidy. There is no answer to the Lee
  
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM