Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Commentary: Wilderness of Mirrors

This very early work about CIA, focusing to a large extent on Angleton, starts off with a quite favorable report on Angleton's work as our chief in Italy at the end of World War II. This is generally how his activity there is evaluated, and served to qualify him for advancement in GA by his former OSS colleagues. However, very much an opposite assessment of his behavior in Italy was provided by his MI-6 counterpart in Rome, Harold Shergold. Shergold was the senior MI-6 officer on the Penkovskiy case with us, having spoken about the operation to a full house in the CIA auditorium in March 1998. When Angleton's name came up in one of our discussions in Paris between Penkovskiy meetings, he said that he was quite surprised that Angleton was given such a significant position as C/CI, as practically everything Angleton did in Italy was operationally or politically disastrous. Shergold also was the MI-6 officer who got George Blake to confess—about a week before Penkovskiy arrived in London for our first meetings with him.

The complete surrender of Angleton to Golitsyn's paranoid theories is described, as well as Bagley's fragile argument that the embassy bugs and Vassall would have been found eventually on the basis of Golitsyn's information. The mishandling of Nosenko is described, and he is reported to have said that a KGB officer had come to Washington to meet with a former "motor pool mechanic”, rather than the cipher machine mechanic Nosenko actually reported. As was later determined, the "Sasha" case was not Igor Orlov, the KGB asset in our Berlin operations which Golitsyn's vague report eventually led to, but an army officer, as Nosenko had correctly reported. The KGB documents turned over to the US embassy in Moscow (returned by the embassy to the Soviets) by KGB officer Cherepanov are then called disinformation—another seriously inaccurate evaluation by the Soviet Division and CI Staff . Bagley's theory that Nosenko's defection was false, indicating the presence of a KGB spy in CIA, is accepted as valid by the author.

The false charges of Golitsyn against various CIA officers and government officials in the US and UK are discussed superficially, and Helms' and Angleton's acceptance of those as valid investigations are cited. The eventual clearing of Nosenko by CIA is reported.

Wilderness of Mirrors, David C. Martin, 1980

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