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Probe May Explain Arrest of KGB Agent

WASHINGTON — For years, former CIA officer Jack Platt has been burdened by doubt about the case of his onetime adversary-turned-friend and business partner, a former major in the KGB named Gennady Vasilenko.

At the height of the Cold War, Platt was part of a team of Central Intelligence Agency officers and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents trying to lure Vasilenko into spying for the United States.

While working for the KGB in Washington and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, Vasilenko repeatedly rebuffed the American entreaties, offering little more than office gossip. In CIA parlance, Vasilenko was a "developmental" agent, singled out for recruitment but still out of reach. Platt grew to like his quarry, and ultimately the two men became friends.

But the KGB somehow found out about the relationship, and in January 1988, Vasilenko was arrested in Havana and sent back to the Soviet Union. He was questioned and imprisoned for about six months. After being cashiered from the KGB, he went about quietly trying to rebuild his life in Moscow.

Platt said in an interview last week that he had long felt a sense of guilt that Vasilenko was arrested even though he had never become a spy. He suffered only because a mole in the United States intelligence community had told Moscow that Vasilenko was the target of recruitment efforts.

Vasilenko's betrayal was thought to have been the work of Aldrich Ames, a senior CIA officer arrested for spying in 1994.

But new evidence points to Robert Hanssen, the FBI counterintelligence agent arrested on espionage charges last month.

Platt, 65, who left the CIA in 1988 soon after he learned of Vasilenko's arrest, has long wondered how Vasilenko was betrayed.

The arrest of Ames in 1994 seemed to provide an answer. Ames' betrayal of Russian agents working for the CIA and the FBI was sweeping, and many observers believed that Vasilenko, whom the CIA had referred to by the code name Glazing, was one of the Russian agents fingered by Ames.

Platt was always skeptical about that explanation. After talking with Vasilenko following the end of the Cold War, he became convinced the KGB had questioned Vasilenko about information from an October 1987 report that Platt wrote about a meeting the two men had in Guyana, where Vasilenko was then stationed. Ames was assigned to the CIA's Rome station at the time that Platt wrote the report, and Platt believes that he was unlikely to have gained access to it.

"I have had my own suspicions about whether Ames did it or not," Platt said, "because at the time that my contact with Vasilenko was betrayed to the Russians, Ames was in Rome, and possibly out of the loop."

Now, Platt says he thinks the arrest of Hanssen provides new clues about how the Soviets found out about his relationship with Vasilenko.

An FBI affidavit filed in federal court after Hanssen's arrest last month says that Hanssen, using the code name B, left a package for the Soviets at a drop site in suburban Virginia that included a "cable-type report about a meeting in October 1987 with a valuable source, whom the KGB referred to as M." On Feb. 8, 1988, the KGB left a package for Hanssen at a drop site containing $25,000 in cash and "a letter conveying thanks of the KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, for the information about the valuable source M," according to the affidavit.

Platt said he believed that the affidavit referred to Vasilenko and their October 1987 report. He also noted that while the CIA's internal code name for Vasilenko was Glazing, the code name that the FBI and CIA used jointly for the case started with the letter M.

He declined to give the full code name.

A law enforcement official confirmed that the reference in the affidavit was to the Vasilenko case.

Platt lost contact with Vasilenko after his arrest in 1988 and did not learn that Vasilenko had survived his imprisonment until after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

But the two men eventually reestablished contact, as well as their friendship.

Today, they are in business together, through a joint venture providing security services for foreign businesses operating in Moscow.

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