A "traveler" holds special meaning to people associated with intelligence and national security. This does not simply indicate a person on a journey but someone who holds unseen loyalties to group without being an official member. The Central Intelligence Agency used the term referring to Communist sympathizers during the Cold War. Yet some people might appear to be a Communist supporter, seeking to serve a foreign intelligence organization. Some attempt to claim Lee Harvey Oswald was a singular occurrence, some claim no one else was like him, he was the aberration and not a product of official use. Yet such methods were common among others seeming to bear a resemblance to Oswald's circumstances and actions. The evidence reveals a person whose activities and early background were quite similar. Someone who was verifiably used by American and Russian intelligence organizations.
May 9, 1934 Marvin Kantor was born in New York City, New York; he was the son of Russian parents Irving and Sarah Kantor who had prior become US citizens. He attended Dewitt Clinton High school in the Bronx; then served in the US Marine Corps for over two years attaining the rank of Corporal and received aviation mechanic training. Kantor attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey; the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and Kantor received a master's degree at Fordham University in New York. Subsequently he worked lecturing about Slavic languages at the University of Michigan where he would eventually gain a Philosophy Doctorate.
During 1957 and 1958, Kantor develops a friendship with Boris Fedorovich Khryachkov, a "Soviet diplomatic official in Copenhagen". Khryachkov contacted Kantor several times and made one failed attempt to recruit Kantor with a monetary gift. Khryachkov urged Kantor to be an active part in the "peace struggle" and that he could help the "peaceful forces" by providing them with advanced information of potential Western military threats. Kantor leaves in July without instructions or assignments.
Kantor met Khryachkov again at the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen during September of 1958. When Kantor stated his desire to return to Russia in 1959 his official friend promised to help him get a visa. Thus began a series of meetings between the two men as Kantor provided information to the Russian official about his "...friends and student acquaintances in Copenhagen" and a series of topics without relation to his visa renewal. "Kantor reluctantly admitted he submitted four or five written 'statements' in his own handwriting to Khryachkov during this period."i
In 1958, Kantor visits the Soviet Union for a trip to Minsk, and spent three days in Moscow.ii In June of 1959, a Russian official named Yevgeniy Kahn asks Kantor to meet him the next day to discuss his visa extension. Kantor essentially is debriefed about his background and purpose of visiting Russia. Kahn asks Kantor about biographical information ranging from his family members to his military career. Kahn offered Kantor money that he again claimed to refuse and a contact address. He also continues the "political indoctrination" speeches began with Kantor by his predecessor. In August, Kantor was able to renew his visa extension. Early the next month Russian officials summoning him stated he was a "bad boy". They instruct Kantor to leave Minsk in three days. Kantor assumed his refusal to collaborate with Russian Intelligence caused his expulsion. Later the same year a different seemingly apologetic Soviet official approached Kantor in Copenhagen and Kantor has another series of meetings with his original Soviet contact Khryachkov.
KGB agent and Soviet press correspondent Dzhavad Azizovich Sharif reportedly contacts Kantor and commissioned him to write a report about his impressions of Minsk.iii Sharif paid Kantor 500 rubles and obtained a signed receipt the KGB feasibly intended to use for blackmail. Regarding this period Kantor later informed a CIA interviewer he visited "...the USSR twice, in 1958 and 1959, for protracted visits with his uncle in Minsk; that he had been in contact with Soviet Embassy officials and RIS (Russian Intelligence Service) representatives, both in Copenhagen and Minsk, since fall 1957 until February 1961 that he had been subject to a RIS recruitment attempt in Minsk in Summer of 1959, which he allegedly refused; and that he still planned to visit his relatives in Minsk, in May or June, before returning to the United States in September."
Kantor possibly after being an unwitting asset for the KGB then becomes a witting asset for the CIA. One document reveals CIA interest began in 1959 with Kantor's visit to Minsk. "Kantor was instructed by American Intelligence to proceed with his application for a Soviet visa, make no effort to revive his semi-dormant contact with his RIS contact in Copenhagen, and to report his visit to the Soviet consular officials."iv He is passed to another Soviet official named "Georgiy". After four meetings, he breaks contact with the Soviets during the spring of 1960.v In the final days of 1960, Kantor meets an informant of the CIA for dinner.vi
In January 1961, Kantor's uncle Kalmin Brodsky who lives in Minsk asks if Marvin can visit again. When Kantor returned to Minsk, he again encountered Georgiy and refused to provide required information to him. Kantor later identifies Georgiy Mochalov, Second Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Copenhagen as one of his contacts and two other Soviet officials he prior observed. February 10, 1961 CIA officials considered Kantor "ripe for a direct approach" and the possibility of his use in multiple ongoing CIA projects. February 17, 1961 the Agency grants provisional operational approval to further investigate and assess Kantor.vii March 6, 1961 the Agency's Central Cover Group concurred, he was appropriate for intelligence use.viii
Agency employees debrief Kantor multiple times during April 1961. "Under the pretext an inquiry connected with a survey of American scholars and graduate students engaged in Slavic studies in Scandinavian universities, Kantor was interviewed by a CIA officer on 11 and 12 April 1961. Although Kantor was first interviewed under academic cover, as the discussion reached the point of his contacts with Soviet citizens and officials in USSR in 1958 and 1959, he was informed of American Intelligence interest. Kantor was interviewed in depth (for hours)...The next day Kantor ascertained the interviewer's bona-fides without divulging intelligence connection and met again at 1500 as directed. The second debriefing lasted 4 hours."ix Regarding Kantor's political ideology an official document states, "On economic questions, Subject appears to be a strict Marxist..."x The Agency instructs Kantor to pursue a Soviet visa and report what information that can be gathered from "Soviet consular officials".xi Yet the Agency states due to Kantor's visa denial by Russian officials he was not used operationally and they reportedly ceased contact with him in August that year.
The FBI interviews Kantor in 1962, the Department of State sends a name check request on Kantor in 1963, and in 1964, the Civil Service Commission receives information on him.xii During 1964, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency were inquiring about Kantor again. Kantor had shared biographic traits with a Melvin Kantor who was recruited by the KGB; this led to an investigation that produced no certain links to Marvin Kantor. Kantor further shared traits with other notables that drew additional official interest.
March 2, 1965 a CIA memo points out "...coincidences in the backgrounds of Kantor and Lee Harvey and Marina Oswald." Kantor was in Minsk for six weeks during 1958 and a few months in 1959. While Oswald did not arrive in Minsk until 1960, Marina arrived during Kantor's stay in August. Kantor like Oswald was "something of an oddity in Minsk since he was the only American...he claimed to have attracted a group of young Soviets..." Among these young people was a friend of Kantor whose father was reportedly a Soviet general, just as Oswald "...listed among his close friends in Minsk a young Soviet named Pavel Golovachev, who father ostensibly was a Soviet Army general."xiii
Marina Oswald enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for a special English language course during March of 1965. Kantor was still at the University of Michigan when he returns to the Moscow in 1965 with a student tour group during August.xiv Two years later the National Security Agency receives a summary on Kantor.xv
By 1969, Kantor returns to the Soviet Union while on a year of study in Europe. He advises the Federal Bureau of Investigation "...that at no time since his return to the United States in 1969, and also after his visit to the Soviet Union in 1965, have any Soviet personnel contacted him other than the communications he has had with relatives in Minsk."xvi The meetings went on until May of the next year. In August, the FBI believed Kantor's prior connections were exploitable for "counterintelligence purposes".xvii
Kantor embarks upon a fifth Russian trip in April 1970. Months following his return, the FBI contacts Professor Kantor for a report on the trip. Kantor now appears to add informant to the FBI to his list of official connections. Kantor reveals discussions with Russian 18th Century scholar Ilya Serman who sought to visit the United States in the near future. Kantor additionally provided the details of his trip and visiting friends in Finland. It was in Helsinki that Oswald chose to begin his Russian defection.xviii
Lee Harvey Oswald was schooled in New York, a Marxist, former Marine technician, who stayed in Minsk, attracting a young following in Russia that possessed important relatives in the Soviet military. Oswald provided information to Soviet and US officials, attempted the infiltration of intelligence related groups, and displayed seemingly divided loyalties. Marvin Kantor was exactly what some have alleged Lee Harvey Oswald could have been, a minor asset caught between the intelligence operations of two superpowers.
Similar actions, backgrounds, locations, and social connections in common provide alternate possibilities to official denials. It supports that officials might use someone of divided loyalties, with Soviet affiliations, and full of naive ideas. The evidence regarding Kantor verifies an important fact; the CIA repeatedly sought to use travelers for gathering intelligence in Russia.
i. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Segregated CIA file, Marvin Kantor aka Melvin Kantor, Box 43, March 16, 1972, pp. 8-9, National Archives and Records Administration Identification Number: 104-10250-10283
ii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Marvin Kantor aka Melvin Kantor, Box 43, March 16, 1972, p. 2
iii. Ibid, p. 12
iv. Ibid, 1972, pp. 7-8
v. Ibid, p. 11
vi. HSCA, Segregated CIA file, Microfilm Reel 9, Hernandez-Loganov, Folder K, Marvin Kantor, December 20, 1960, NARA ID: 1994.04.07.11:56:13:710005
vii. HSCA, Segregated CIA file, Marvin Kantor aka Melvin Kantor, Box 43, p. 16
viii. HSCA, Segregated CIA file, Microfilm Reel 9, Hernandez-Loganov, Folder J, CCG Concurrence of Subject, March 6, 1961
ix. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Marvin Kantor aka Melvin Kantor, Box 43, March 16, 1972, pp. 7
x. HSCA, Segregated CIA file, Microfilm Reel 9, Hernandez-Loganov, Folder K, Subject: Marvin Kantor, p. 3
xi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Security File on Marvin Kantor, Box 43, Marvin Kantor, (n.d.), p. 8
xii. Ibid, pp. 8-9, NARA ID: 1993.07.24.08:44:28:250310
xiii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Marvin Kantor aka Melvin Kantor, Box 43, March 16, 1972, pp. 14-15
xv. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Security File on Marvin Kantor, Box 43, Marvin Kantor, (n.d.), p. 9
xvi. Ibid, p. 2
xvii. HSCA Subject Files, K-L, Marvin Kantor, [Restricted), August 21, 1969, p. 3, NARA ID: 124-90062-10021
xviii. CIA, Russ Holmes Work File, Marvin Kantor, FBI Report on Marvin Kantor, November 12, 1970, pp. 1-2, NARA ID: 104-10418-10062
Edited: December 2017