A Look Back … George Kisevalter: Legendary Case Officer
A Look Back … George Kisevalter: Legendary Case Officer George Kisevalter is a legend at the Central Intelligence Agency. He is best known for his excellent tradecraft and working as a case officer for the Agency’s two most famous Soviet spies: GRU Col. Oleg Penkovsky and Lt. Col. Pyotr Popov. The GRU was the Soviet Union’s largest intelligence agency.
The Kisevalters Come to America
George Kisevalter was born in 1910 in St. Petersburg, Russia. George’s father was a Russian army weapons expert, and his grandfather was a Russian deputy finance minister.
In 1915, George’s grandfather was sent to the United States to purchase weapons for the Czar of Russia. George and his family accompanied him.
While the Kisevalters were in America, the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in Russia. For their safety, the Kisevalters remained in the United States, and eventually became U.S. citizens.
The Kisevalters settled in New York City, where George attended Stuyvesant High School. After graduating, George attended Dartmouth College to study engineering.
Using Language Skills to Serve the Country
When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, George joined the U.S. Army. For much of World War II, George helped support the Soviet war effort through the Lend-Lease Program, which supplied Allied nations with war materiel.
In 1944, George was introduced to the world of intelligence when he was assigned to work on Soviet intelligence projects. Since George was fluent in Russian, it was a natural fit.
After that, George was hooked on the world of intelligence and tradecraft.
Becoming a Case Officer
After a brief career in the private sector, George got a job at a place where sound intelligence and solid tradecraft were key: the Central Intelligence Agency. George quickly worked his way up the ladder at the Agency. By 1953, George became branch chief in the Soviet Division of what was then the Directorate of Plans (today’s National Clandestine Service).
In the same year, George was assigned to be the handler of a very important asset: GRU Lt. Col. Pyotr Popov. The Lieutenant Colonel had contacted an American intelligence officer in Vienna and offered to spy for the United States. At the time, Popov was considered to be the Agency’s most important asset.
For the next six years, George worked with Popov and developed a friendship. During that time, Popov provided valuable intelligence concerning military capabilities and espionage operations. Unfortunately, Popov was captured and executed in 1960.
In 1961, George was assigned to work with another important Soviet asset: GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky. For the next two years, George worked with the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6) on handling Penkovsky as an asset. The information Penkovsky provided about Soviet missile capabilities was of vital importance to President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. To this day, Penkovsky is still considered one of the most valuable assets in Agency history. In 1963, Penkovsky was caught and executed.
Life After the CIA
George’s career as a case officer didn’t end with Penkovsky. In fact, he was later assigned to work with KGB assets Anatoliy Golitsyn and Yuri Nosenko.
George retired from the Agency in 1970. He was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. During the Agency’s 50th anniversary, George was celebrated as one of its 50 Trailblazers. George died in 1997.
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