Washington Post disputes Time's charge linking correspondent to KGB

December 21, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Time magazine and the Washington Post engaged in a dispute yesterday over a report in Time asserting that a former Moscow bureau chief for the Post took $1,000 from the KGB and may have been co-opted by Soviet agents.

The magazine published an article in this week's issue saying that the assertion about the correspondent originated in statements made by a Soviet intelligence agent, Col. Vitaly Yurchenko, who apparently defected to the West in August 1985, then made statements to U.S. intelligence officers that came under suspicion when he returned to the Soviet Union three months later.

Time reports that the CIA and the FBI had both extensively investigated allegations that the correspondent, Dusko Doder, who was head of the Post's Moscow bureau from 1981 to 1985, took money he knew came from the Soviet spy agency. The article says that William H. Webster, then director of the FBI, expressed his suspicions to Benjamin C. Bradlee, then the Post's executive editor, that Mr. Doder may have been co-opted by the KGB.

The investigations were eventually dropped, and the Post said yesterday that it had given Mr. Doder a "clean bill of health."

Mr. Bradlee said he could not believe Time would publish a "hearsay charge" by "a double defector."

Mr. Doder, asked about the report when reached by phone in London yesterday, said: "It's sheer nonsense and I'm quite sure it's a vendetta."

Mr. Doder left the Post in 1987 and is now a free-lance journalist based in Europe. He has been a contributing writer for The Sun from Belgrade since June 1991, when the crisis in Yugoslavia began with the secession of Slovenia and Croatia.

The Time article suggests that Mr. Doder, who obtained a number of major exclusive articles during his Moscow tenure, had unparalleled sources, adding that "the FBI believed that Doder had an unusually close relationship to the KGB."

He and editors at the Post flatly denied yesterday that there was any improper behavior. Mr. Doder also contended that he was the target of a vendetta by U.S. intelligence officials who were embarrassed because he obtained better information faster than they did on several occasions.

Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of the Post, said in a statement issued yesterday that the newspaper had investigated the report and had "concluded there was no evidence that Doder had done anything improper or had any connection to the KGB."

Mr. Yurchenko, the Soviet agent who was the source of the assertions, told officials that he had been told Mr. Doder took $1,000 from a KGB officer. The Time article notes

that Mr. Yurchenko returned to the Soviet Union a few months later, raising doubts about whether he had ever been a true defector.

Mr. Doder, who was born in Yugoslavia, was regarded as one of the best U.S. reporters in Moscow and a man who sometimes learned about major developments well before U.S. intelligence officials did.

On Feb. 10, 1984, for example, he reported that Yuri V. Andropov, then the Soviet leader, had died. Mr. Doder based his article on the fact that Moscow radio stations had abruptly switched their programming.

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