The Reagan Administration, unhappy with the CIA's handling of Soviet KGB agent Vitaly Yurchenko, may reduce the CIA's role in defector cases and give primary responsibility to the FBI, informed sources say.
"I think it's a great move," said a senior White House official, who contended that defectors invariably have been able to establish much closer relations with FBI personnel than CIA officers.
The official, who insisted on anonymity, said that the proposal has been under consideration for some time and was given additional impetus by Yurchenko's surprise decision to return to the Soviet Union last November after three months in CIA custody, it was reported Sunday.
White House spokesman Edward Djerejian acknowledged that the procedures for dealing with defectors are being reviewed, but he refused to comment on the options under consideration. FBI and CIA spokesmen would not discuss the issue.
Other experts, all of whom refused to be identified by name, said that the government is considering a variety of proposals to entice disillusioned Soviet-Bloc agents to defect and to avoid another embarrassment similar to the one involving Yurchenko.
The options include granting high-ranking defectors an automatic permanent income, reducing the five- to 10-year waiting period for conferring American citizenship and the creation of a "think tank" composed exclusively of defectors, the sources said.
Such an institution, they said, would provide a pool of wisdom that government policy makers could draw on.