Thomas Lessing Black

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Secret apparatus
National Bureau of Standards

Thomas Lessing Black was an American who worked as a chemist during World War II and was engaged in industrial espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union starting in late 1933 or early 1934. Black had been recruited by Gaik Ovakimian and did secret work for Amtorg. Black recruited Harry Gold into espionage for the Soviet Union in 1935. In 1940 Joseph Katz became his chief KGB contact. His last contact with Katz was in 1946. Black is the subject of seven Venona project messages. Black's cover names as with Soviet intelligence as deciphered in the Venona project are "Black" and "Peter". Black was employed by the United States Government in the Bureau of Standards.


Thomas Lessing Black is referenced in the following Venona project decrypts:

  • 1370 KGB New York to Moscow, 27 September 1944
  • 1403 KGB New York to Moscow, 5 October 1944
  • 1429 KGB New York to Moscow, 9 October 1944
  • 1430 KGB New York to Moscow, 10 October 1944
  • 1557 KGB New York to Moscow, 6 November 1944
  • 1055 KGB New York to Moscow, 5 July 1945
  • 83 KGB Moscow to New York, 28 January 1945
  • 259 Moscow to New York, 21 March 1945


  • Thomas Black testimony, 17 May 1956, part 21, 1113–1124, “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,” U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act, 84th Cong., 2d sess.
  • Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 20–47.
  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, New Haven: Yale University Press, (1999), pgs.267, 277, 288, 290–291.