Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Commentary: James Angleton: le Contre-Espion de la CIA

One wonders why the author, a French PhD in modern history, would write on this subject at all. He may have realized that there would be no great demand for the work, so he put Matt Damon, who played Angleton in the movie "The Good Shepherd”, (Raisons d’Etat) on the cover. That may mean that the movie played well enough in France to encourage viewers to buy the book. His last chapter discusses the movie, and also various books, articles, and even novels, based on Angleton’s career, identifying the characters by their true names.

The bibliography he consulted is extensive, ranging from the most reliable, like Mangold, Winks, Martin and Powers, to the largely unreliable, like Trento and journalists Hersch and Epstein. He cites no interviews of former CIA officers that might have been conducted to confirm their accounts of various aspects of Angleton’s life and career. Actually, as one considers the individuals he refers to as having been associated professionally with Angleton, up to his retirement in September 1975, at age 58, one finds very few names of individuals still alive to tell their stories.

In his 173 pages, Arboit starts with a chapter on the formation of CIA in 1947 out of the scattered elements and survivors of OSS, before going into the biography of Angleton. He devotes a good deal of space to Angleton’s early life in Idaho and Ohio, as his father moved about as an employee of National Cash Register, before becoming the founder and manager of the NCR business in Italy. Much of the description of Angleton’s early years deals with his effort to play down the Mexican element in his descent, and, especially, the middle name he got from his Mexican grandfather, “Jesus”.

Much of the time his family lived in Italy, Angleton was in school in England, visiting Italy during school vacations, and attending Boy Scout events in Holland. By the time he finished his four years in England, 6 came away with something of a British accent, and subsequently was accepted at Yale University. Arboit devotes many pages to these university years, which were a scholastic disaster, as Angleton spent practically all of his few waking hours on poets and poetry, founding a poetry magazine which published the poems of most well-known American poets. He drank and smoked heavily, and slept seldom, working on his poetry contacts and magazine through the night. Meanwhile, his grades after his freshman year were almost entirely “D”s and and the awarding of his degree seems to have been a pure gift, out of sheer exasperation of the university administration.

Soon after, he then entered Harvard law school, WWII started for the US, and after a year, Angleton enlisted, was then accepted into the OSS, and was sent to London after training, where he worked the Italian desk for 088, in liaison with MI-5 and MI-6. The real significance of this assignment was that it made him one of the few Americans who needed, and were given, access to British decryption of German communications transmitted on the so-called Ultra machine. When the Allies invaded and captured substantial parts of Italy, Angleton was assigned there as head of X-2, the CI element of the OSS station in Rome, where he remained from late 1944 until late 1947. His continued access to Ultra was an indispensable contribution to his continued awareness of German actions and plans as background to his own.

The most positive chapter of this book, in fact, of Arboit’s description of Angleton’s entire career, is his reporting of Angleton’s performance in Italy. He cites the favorable comments of officers of the newly formed CIA who were on the headquarters end of his reporting and operations. In retrospect, this would appear from Arboit’s account to have been the most substantial contribution Angleton ever made to CIA operations, the highlight of his 27-year long CIA career. However, there is also another side to this part of his career, a side which has not been recorded elsewhere.

When we started working with MI-6 in April 1961 on the Penkovskiy operation (“The Spy Who Saved the World”), MI-6 assigned a senior operations officer named Shergold as their representative on the joint team. After the operation ended, in October 1962, Shergold came to headquarters twice (March 1998...) and addressed a full house on the subject of the Penkovskiy operation in the CIA auditorium. Shergold and I met many times in London and Paris during and after the operation, as we collaborated on exploitation of Penkovskiy’s voluminous production. As fate would have it, he had been the MI-6 counterpart of Angleton in Italy, a minor part of his assignment being to pass the Ultra material to Angleton. His evaluation of Angleton’s operational performance, when we met for lunch once during the delay of Penkovskiy’s arrival in Paris, was totally negative. With no background at all in the matter, all I could do was listen as he cited continuous mistakes Angleton made in the recruitments, bona fides assessments, and financial support, which were part of his operational program. My respect for Shergold, developed during the intensive joint effort to prepare for, cooperate in, and evaluate continuously the Penkovskiy operational meetings and their products, left no doubt in my mind that the saving grace of Angleton’s career as described by Arboit in Italy was actually invalid.

Angleton’s association with Philby is covered quite well by Arboit, emphasizing that even the thirty or so memos Angleton did write following his long liquid lunches with him were destroyed by Angleton after he realized that Philby had been debriefing him and toying with him for three years. As Arboit points out, only Angleton’s special relationship with former OSS colleagues, particularly Helms and Dulles, could be the explanation as to why he was not removed from his position for having done that. The so-called “molehunt” which Angleton initiated in cooperation with Golitsyn is also well covered, with appropriate emphasis on the drastic damage which that action caused to CIA priority clandestine operations and the careers, the lives, of numerous dedicated and capable officers operating against the Soviet target. The damage to our liaison with the French and the Norwegians which the Angleton-Golitsyn blundering caused is also well covered. From several meetings with French DST chief Chalet, serious counterintelligence coordination involving leads by an FBI source, I find Arboit quite wrong in calling Chalet a friend of Angleton, as every comment he made to me when Angleton’s name came up was strongly negative. Arboit’s reference to the French SDECE chief’s criticism of Angleton for allowing his nomination as a supposed KGB agent, a senior CIA officer with whom he sometimes worked to remain in that position was echoed to me by Chalet, who felt quite strongly about it, and claimed independent evidence. This was not borne out by subsequent investigation.

When Arboit does get to Angleton’s assignment as Chief, CI, taking over from Harvey in late 1953, the detail and positive evaluations of the Italian assignment disappear. After a brief summary of the first few, mostly operationally uneventful, years, the series of disastrous mistakes which began not long after Golitsyn’s defection in 1961 is described very well. He correctly points out that every decision or judgment about the few major Soviet and East European cases we had, or charges against supposed Soviet agents in the US or allied countries, which Angleton made from then until his replacement in December 1974, was wrong. And beyond that, as he points out, Angleton’s position on our Soviet operational program, which was shared by the Soviet Division leadership, practically brought CIA’s clandestine operations against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to a halt. Not only counterintelligence, but clandestine intelligence collection, in CIA was completely off track.

The cases which were affected, and constituted the base of Angleton’s/Golitsyn’s distorted analyses, are presented correctly in synopsis, and revolve to a large extent around the false accusations against Nosenko. In fact, had Golitsyn not defected, security of Western countries, even of Western intelligence services, would hardly have suffered. One of his first interviews with senior American officials, after having demanded several million dollars and an interview with the President, was with DCI Dulles. At this dinner, Dulles asked him if he knew of any penetrations of the American government, and particularly, of CIA. Golitsyn said that he did not. However, he did then go on later and make a strong accusation against a supposed CIA officer identified by the KGB codename “Sasha”, who had served in Germany. In his later “analyses” and accusations, he often referred to that case as a CIA penetration. It was in fact a low-level support officer who had worked in Berlin, had done some operational damage, but had little knowledge of Berlin operations, and had already been removed from Germany, and CIA employment, by the time Golitsyn defected. Golitsyn claims to have given a lead to a British Admiralty agent of the KGB, but his information did not lead to an arrest, until Nosenko identified the agent specifically. He claims to have compromised the microphones throughout the American Embassy in Moscow. A search following his statements found nothing—we knew already that they were there, but where? Nosenko pointed out precisely where they were hidden, and that discovery also led to the discovery of the wiring leading to the much better concealed microphones in the new embassy then under construction. Golitsyn claims to have informed us that Gagarin’s interpreter, Radio Moscow announcer Belitskiy was not really reporting to us, but was under KGB control. Not so, Nosenko did, as Belitskiy was meeting with us in Geneva when Nosenko walked in in June 1962. Behind that event was a development in London during the time Gagarin was there, and we were meeting Penkovskiy there. While the CIA case officer and polygrapher were there meeting Belitskiy for the first time since he walked in at the Brussels Fair in 1958, HQ sent a cable telling me to work with them and MI-5 on that case. Having done that, I sent a 19-page cable to HQ, concluding that Belitskiy was under KGB we returned to HQ, division chief Maury had Joe Bulik, Kisevalter and me accompany him to report to Helms on the Penkovskiy meetings. At the end of that report, Maury unexpectedly commented that I had concluded that Belitskiy was under KGB control. Helms became quite irritated, threw up his hands, and said that he did not have time to discuss that. After Nosenko reported almost a year later, which I did not know about, Maury called me in and asked why I thought Belitskiy was under KGB control. When I made my case, he still did not admit that Nosenko had confirmed that. Curiously, no doubt as another shot at the Soviet Division, Angleton had accepted my evaluation at once.

The hopeless defense of Angleton attempted by well-intentioned officers includes a monograph, which argues that he was not responsible for the solitary confinement of Nosenko for over three years. In fact, he was. The very fact of his having espoused and sponsored Golitsyn’s false accusation that Nosenko was dispatched by the KGB to neutralize his information was the underlying cause of the entire mishandling of the Nosenko case. This was made crystal clear to me soon after my assignment to the CI Staff in early 1975. Prior to my arrival in the CI Staff in February 1975, I had met Angleton twice, once to ask him to call Dulles to assure that Artamonov was accepted as a defector, the second time, at his request, to report my evaluation of the Belitskiy case, both quite successful and positive meetings. After Angleton declined DCI Colby’s offer of a new assignment, and opted for retirement, Angleton remained camped out in the CI Staff until September 1975 (actually, in his own office for over three months). Several times, he asked me to come see him, as he had something to tell me. During this first meeting in 1975, he was as emotional as I ever saw him, as he related to me how he convinced Pete Bagley, then chief of Soviet Division counterintelligence, that Nosenko was a KGB agent sent to discredit Golitsyn. He was very proud of that, and commented derisively how naive and gullible Bagley had been when he came into Angleton’s office after the meetings with Nosenko in June 1962 to announce enthusiastically that he had just returned from meeting with the most valuable asset CIA had ever had. He said that he then asked Bagley to come back when he had some time, as there were some papers he wanted Bagley to read. He said that Bagley then came back, sat outside Angleton’s office (other reports say—in the CI conference room), for three days, and read Golitsyn’s analysis. When he finished, he came in and stated that Nosenko was obviously a KGB plant. It is not clear to what extent Angleton consulted with the Soviet Division on Nosenko’s handling after that, but the memos on his transfer from confinement in the Washington area to the Farm, and photographs and reports of his behavior and treatment there, were in Angleton’s private safe once we broke into it in early 1975.

Arboit’s summary of the developments in the case of Soviet illegal Loginov ties it more directly to Golitsyn/Angleton, but leaves the ending as ominous as did Mangold (“Cold Warrior”). We have learned since Mangold’s book that Loginov’s likely execution following his being handed over to the KGB did not take place, and that a legal technicality (l) led to his only being exiled to Gorkiy, teaching English. This operational catastrophe was also directly and entirely Angleton’s doing, based, again, on Golitsyn’s analysis, particularly his case against Nosenko. Loginov had lived in the same building as Nosenko in Moscow, and reported that Nosenko’s defection had sent a shockwave through the KGB. The Soviet Bloc Division leadership (Murphy and Bagley) accepted the Angleton/Golitsyn evaluation of Loginov, and agreed with Angleton’s plan to compromise him to the South Africans, eventually to be turned back to the KGB, which was what was done. A few days before the South Africans were to be informed, Loginov’s case officer called me, having concluded that the positive evaluation of Nosenko’s bona fides that I had delivered to the DD/P was correct, and advised me of the Loginov plan. The next day, I called (now DCI) Helms and stated that this was a terrible mistake, that Loginov was bonafide, falsely accused because of his support of Nosenko. Helms reacted impatiently, replying: “The matter is out of my hands, Jim (Angleton) is handling that”. Later, when I was conducting the CI Ops course in 1987, and invited MI-6 to bring their former asset/defector, KGB London rezident Gordiyevskiy, to speak to the group, I asked him about Loginov, and learned for the first time that Loginov had survived the ordeal that CIA (Angleton) had subjected him to.

Simultaneously, Angleton was conducting equally disastrous counterintelligence activities against several liaison services, all of them based on Golitsyn’s “analyses”, all of them eventually found false, after the damage was done. The Canadian RCMP was advised that its counterintelligence chief was a KGB agent. The RCMP accepted the accusation, took a number of security actions, including one of their first polygraph tests, and eventually retired Bennett prematurely on “medical’” grounds, still considering him suspect. One of my first actions in the CI Staff in 1975 was to have the case reviewed, then went to Ottawa with my deputy, who had done the review, and advised that CIA was wrong, Bennett was innocent. RCMP rejected the finding, saying they were still investigating the matter. In the CAZAB meeting in 1976 in Melbourne, I presented the CIA reversal of analysis of Bennett, but the RCMP still would not accept his innocence. It was not until 1985 that we learned from KGB defector Yurchenko that it was actually Bennett’s deputy who had been the KGB penetration. Unfortunately, we had gotten so involved in clearing Bennett that we neglected to use the evidence falsely used against him to look for the real traitor.

Then there was the case of the secretary of the Norwegian security service chief, who had served in Moscow. Reluctantly, the Norwegians came to CIA to hear Angleton’s/Golitsyn’s case against Lygren and were convinced enough to arrest and imprison her. We reviewed the case (ten years later) and found her innocent, but the Norwegians had released her a few months after her arrest in 1965, and when my deputy went to Oslo in 1976, to apologize and offer to compensate her, she refused the offer. Then the Norwegians learned a year later that the real traitor had been the predecessor of the woman CIA had falsely accused. She was then arrested and imprisoned.

In the end, none of Golitsyn’s “leads” was sufficiently detailed or accurate to lead to the arrest of a Soviet agent in the West. When he raised the possibility of a French national in NATO being a KGB agent, the French investigated, but ended up arresting a press officer who was not in NATO until a year after Golitsyn’s defection. The actual NATO penetration turned out to be a Canadian, but it took so long to find him that he was able to continue reporting to the KGB for twenty more years! Other alleged KGB penetrations of us and our allies which Arboit correctly cites as Angleton/Golitsyn leads were Ambassador to Moscow Harriman, industrialist Hammer, Secretary of State Kissinger, British prime minister Wilson, MI-5 chief Hollis, the British Labor Party leader, various French, Canadian, German and other Western government leaders, and officers of the Dutch and other liaison services. All of these were false charges, but in the process of CIA’s developing the charges, MI-5 officers Arthur Martin and Peter Wright (“Spycatcher”) , and the MI-5 and MI-6 chiefs in Washington after Angleton’s departure, subscribed to his (Golitsyn’s) analytical methods and major elements of his conclusions. At lunch in 1976 in the club on “K” Street frequented by the MI-6 station chiefs, I undertook to convince the MI-6 station chief that Angleton had been entirely wrong about Nosenko and that Golitsyn’s charges were all false. He did not accept my argument, and subsequently became chief of security for MI-6 before being assigned as their chief in Paris.

Having essentially destroyed the Clandestine Service effort against the Soviet Union by declaring defectors and assets (including Penkovskiy) to be Soviet deception agents, Angleton also attacked the personnel of the Soviet Division most qualified to conduct those operations. Those officers who had capability in the Russian language were the primary, but not the only, targets of that intensive investigation, fourteen being singled out for special attention of Angleton/Golitsyn. The first to be charged and fired was Karlow, later “pardoned” and compensated for the false accusations against him. Arboit cites case officer Kovich as a major case in this travesty, and, following the disruption of his career at Angleton’s behest, he was given access to the CIA and FBI documents drawn up in the investigation against him, then retired prematurely. Kovich had been in Berlin when the individual known as “Sasha” in Arboit’s account was actually working for the KGB while we were using him as a low-level support asset, and Kovich had been the case officer of the Norwegian secretary falsely accused, which made him guilty by association, in Golitsyn’s analysis. The final clue—Kovich had been Loginov’s original case officer, having persuaded Loginov to stay in place and cooperate with us instead of defecting, as he had planned. While “on the shell" in our training facility at the Farm, Kovich learned of Nosenko’s confinement there, and provided me the impetus and the information needed to review Nosenko’s case and draw up the memo supporting his bonafides which eventually brought Helms to pay enough attention to the case to have the D/DCI, Director of Security, and Inspector-General review and reject the case against him. In my twenty years in the Soviet Division, working with every case the Clandestine Service had in Soviet and East European operations, it is my firm conclusion that Kovich was the best case officer CIA had throughout the Cold War. Kisevalter (“CIA Spymaster”) had no equal in terms of establishing a personal relationship and handling the two cases he personally managed (Popov and Penkovskiy), but he never recruited anyone, was far too empathetic to suspect or accuse a fellow human being of anything, and even made excuses for those whom he knew to hold anything against him. Arboit names him as supporting Nosenko’s bonafides, but he never took any initiative to do so, (nor did the other person Arboit cited), and George generously “understood” why anyone would hold the opposite opinion.

Arboit has much to say of Angleton’s relationship with Philby, and there has been much speculation that Angleton’s intense focus on suspicion and hostile presence all around him throughout most of his CI career is a consequence of his profound disappointment in himself as a CI officer, not to have discovered the KGB agent right across the table from him day after day. Arboit touches on this, but emphasizes mostly Angleton’s shock that came with Philby’s flight from Lebanon to Moscow in January 1963, removing all doubt of his loyalties. When Angleton was working the Italian desk for us in London in the later years of the war, he had little contact with Philby, who was then responsible for the Iberian Peninsula. However, after Philby moved to the Soviet desk of MI-6, he went to Turkey in September 1945 to paper over his compromise of a prospective Soviet defector, the deputy KGB resident. On the way home, he stopped to visit Angleton in Rome, and described the entire incident to him. Still there was no reason to suspect him. However, considering Angleton’s later ultra-sensitive CI outlook, it is a little odd that he did not give more thought to Philby’s loyalties in September 1950, when the head of Israeli Mossad saw Philby in Angleton’s office, and questioned his presence there, advising Angleton that Philby had married a leading Austrian Communist female leader, and had never divorced her, marrying again in England later.

There is considerable misunderstanding of the role of the CI Staff, most writers assuming that it was responsible for monitoring the entire Agency to look for enemy penetrations. That has practically no validity as far as the standard functions of the staff were concerned. Rather, it was charged with collecting and analyzing information on foreign intelligence services for preparation of studies for reference by the operating divisions. It maintained liaison relations with allied counterintelligence and security services. Special CI investigations which involved several Agency elements were assigned to it. In the past, at least, the Staff was responsible for reviewing clearance requests for agent prospects. There are occasional comments in books and articles to the effect that there were no penetrations of the Agency on Angleton’s watch. Actually, there was a Chinese penetration throughout Angleton’s career, Larry Te Wat Chin, and another came on in 1972, Karl Koecher. Neither had to do with the CI Staff responsibilities, one being in a part of the Agency to which the CI Staff had no access or responsibility, and the other in an element of the Soviet Division that the Staff would know little about. In the first place, every division had its own CI referent or branch to monitor operational developments and the behavior of its officers, and, more important, it was the Office of Security that had primary responsibility for personnel security as a Whole, and the relationship with the FBI and CIA Office of Legal Counsel in the event that indications, or suspicions, of treason or other criminal violations, in CIA, occurred.

Arboit finds little positive in Angleton’s marriage or family life, observing several times that the marriage was scarcely worthy of the name, as Angleton spent little time with the wife and family, primarily taking advantage of his wife’s contacts and social talents. Very little is said about his relationship with his son and two daughters, both of whom left the family to follow a yogi.

Arboit’s handling of the case of the French foreign intelligence (SDECE) chief in Washington, De Vosjoli, is surprisingly restrained. He makes it clear that Angleton was fundamentally responsible for De Vosjoli’s treason and defection to the US, but makes no major issue of that event.

None of the events described in the book, or commented on above, can be blamed on officers of the CI Staff. Those officers, as of the time of Angleton’s departure, were highly capable, experienced Clandestine Service officers, and they were loyal to Angleton and responsive to his direction. There were times when one or the other of them questioned some aspect of their assignments or analytical findings, such as Arboit’s statement that in 1967, when the Staff Communism analyst advised him that the Israelis were mobilizing for war, Angleton countered with the comment that it could not be so, as the Israelis had not said anything about that to him. Then there was war.

Arboit has little to say about Angleton’s handling of our liaison with the Israeli services, beyond their honoring him following his death by naming certain areas in Israel after him. He does point out that responsibility for Israel belonged properly in the Near East Division, but that Angleton had convinced Dulles to let him manage it personally. Arboit concludes that there was practically no advantage to our relationship with the Israelis, and correctly reports the vicious Israeli attack on the US SIGINT vessel Liberty. When our liaison With the Israelis resumed after Angleton’s departure, I went to Tel Aviv in 1976 and met with them. At the official dinner with half a dozen senior officers toward the end of that visit, they were unanimous in agreeing that they were glad Angleton was no longer in charge of our liaison with them. My reaction was that this was simply their way of welcoming one of their new CIA liaison officers.

Another topic Arboit discusses, an operation directly attributable to Angleton, is the intercept of mail between the US and the Soviet Union (HTLINGUAL). He has no positive comments to make, focusing more on the unenthusiastic reaction of the US Postal Service to CIA having access to personal correspondence of US citizens. A substantial amount of that mail was still stored in a room across the hall from the CI Staff front office when we got there in 1975, and DCI Colby shut down the project and directed disposition of the files. Whatever CI or security information resulted from that operation, the actual intelligence production was minimal, as was clear to me as one of those in the Soviet Division responsible for its dissemination.

In the three references to me in the book, each is slightly off the actual facts. He is quite wrong, for example, to say that, after Angleton left in December 1974, I was assigned to replace him until Kalaris arrived from overseas. Far from it, as it was not until February that I was assigned as his deputy for Research and Analysis, and transferred from the Soviet Bloc Division. From time to time, in the absence of Kalaris, I did act in his stead, or moved into the empty office of the previous deputy, who was temporarily replaced at first by an executive officer.

The ultimate consequence of the perpetually far-fetched “analysis” by Golitsyn, almost entirely a combination of his imagination, hostility toward anyone who opposed him or had recent KGB and GRU background, and, especially, the vast amount of information he gained from reading CIA, British, Canadian, and French intelligence files, was his naming almost all of our best sources, and case officers, as KGB agents. These included Nosenko, Penkovskiy, Popov, Artamonov, FBI assets TOPHAT and FEDORA, Gordiyevskiy, Mitrokhin, Goleniewski, Kisevalter, Kovich, Garbler, and Shergold. Perhaps the strangest finding of all was toward the end of Angleton’s tenure, when one of his key analysts used the Angleton/Golitsyn methodology to “prove” that Angleton himself was the KGB penetration of CIA that he had been looking for! Such a totally unfounded case was also made by a CI Staff officer against Bagley, completing the circle of worldwide false accusations, which Angleton/Golitsyn had launched by persuading Bagley to make a case against Nosenko. My own best evidence against the Angleton methodology came during a lunch with Cleve Cram, a friend of Angleton appointed by Kalaris to write the history of Angleton’s tenure as CI Staff chief. In an interview of Angleton as Cleve got ever deeper into his long, detailed history, Angleton told him that he had now determined who the KGB penetration of CIA was that he had been looking for. It was Leonard McCoy, because it was McCoy’s paper on Nosenko that had convinced Colby to move Angleton out of the CI Staff. Since I definitely knew him to be wrong about that, the other charges he/Golitsyn had made could be disputed with a good deal more confidence.

Once again, the painful account of Angleton’s diversion of the CIA counterintelligence responsibility into a hopeless tangle of false accusations against American and foreign intelligence officers and government officials, coupled with unjustified and personally destructive investigations, and the undermining of intelligence collection during the most vulnerable period in the history of our country, are presented by Arboit in a substantially complete and accurate manner. By this time, the attempts of some of our colleagues to justify, even commend, some of Angleton’s actions should be transparent to any objective observer as totally unfounded. It is difficult to comprehend Why there is any such attempt, except for the possible explanation that Angleton was exceptionally personable and had a genuinely magnetic personality. That hardly excuses his disastrous professional behavior, much less his being awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. The most logical explanation for that final inexplicable oversight of the tremendous damage he did to intelligence collection, and to his country, is the same as the explanation as to how he succeeded in attaining and holding the assignments he was given, and why he was never reprimanded or removed from his position when his mistakes and failures, starting at least with destruction of the Philby memos (1963?), became known—had he been censured or removed from the assignments he had chosen , his protectors dating back to 08$ comradeship, Helms and Dulles, would have felt and earned, the bulk of the blame. At this late date, their fault is obvious and it is regrettable that they are no longer here to suffer for it, but it is high time to set the record straight, accepting the fact that we, as a crucial national security organization, placed our trust in officers who served themselves and their friends primarily, and violated the Agency’s trust, to the unequivocal detriment and peril of their country.

James Angleton: le Contre-Espion de la CIA, Gerald Arboit, 2007

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Commentary: The Man Who Kept the Secrets

This book, by a former CIA officer, is a mostly accurate and positive history of CIA during the assignments of Richard Helms between the founding of CIA in 1947 and Helms' reassignment from the DCI position to ambassador to Iran in 1973.

The first issue raised as controversial in his career is the defection in February 1964 and bona fides evaluation of KGB officer Yuriy Nosenko. It is described here as a continuing dispute in CIA. Whatever some former officers may believe, CIA properly approved the bona fides of Nosenko in 1969, in a meeting chaired by Helms.

It is stated here that Nosenko claimed to have handled Oswald's case when he defected to the USSR in 1959—not so, Nosenko claimed to have recovered Oswald's file from Minsk after President Kennedy was killed in 1963. In 1964, Helms told the Warren Commission not to trust Nosenko’s bona fides, an evaluation he received from CI Staff chief James Angleton, thus discounting Nosenko's evidence of lack of KGB/Soviet involvement in the assassination.

As for the statement here that no one knew of Angleton’s "deeper operations"- no doubt there are some missing details about those operations, as in the case of the total lack of the numerous memoranda for the record of Angleton’s countless meetings with Kim Philby, but Angleton's operational and evaluative actions are generally known, and the DD/P’s Richard Bissell and Desmond FitzGerald were entirely justified to want to dispose of him, but failed, before DCI William Colby finally took that action.

The statement that there was little doubt about Philby's bona fides in CIA is quite untrue. After he was declared persona non grata by CIA in 1951, he continued to have the confidence of Angleton until he defected to the USSR from Beirut in January 1963.

The comment here that CIA has never been penetrated was untrue when it was made—Larry Wu Tai Chin having been working for China in CIA from 1951 to 1985, Czech/KGB agent Karl Koecher 1972-1978, but none of that was known in 1979. In view of those two cases, the comment that Angleton had kept the KGB out of GA for 20 years makes no sense, but that was not Angleton's job at all. He did made several attempts to do that, all of them totally unjustified and eventually disproven, resulting. Among other things, in congressional compensation to three staff officers falsely accused by him.

The description here of a supposed significant lead from Anatoliy Golitsyn is entirely inaccurate. First of all, there was no contact with Golitsyn before he defected in December 1961. Soon after his defection, he was asked by DCI Allen Dulles if CIA was penetrated by the KGB. Golitsyn said it was not, but later raised a case which he said was a penetration, supposedly a high- level CIA officer who had served in Germany. After a good deal of investigation, and interviewing of Golitsyn, it turned out that it had been a low- level contract support officer who had been fired some months before Golitsyn defected. He is given credit for having identified KGB assets in several European countries—entirely untrue, as the closest he came to actually identifying one, in the UK, was by providing misleading information about him until Yuriy Nosenko defected in February 1964 and provided details leading directly to the British Admiralty penetration. If any (unjustified) charge was to be made that Angleton was responsible for keeping the KGB out , Kim Philby was the obvious evidence that he had utterly failed.

The removal of Angleton by DCI Colby is described as a feud having a lot to do with Colby's dislike of Angleton, but at least there is reference to Colby’s believing (correctly) that Angleton's (Golitsyn's) suspicions were close to paranoia. It is alleged that nobody could know what Angleton suspected, but that is directly contradicted by the false charges he made against numerous CIA officers, and officers of foreign intelligence services which surfaced in the CI Staff and were corrected after his departure.

In the commentary on the Nosenko case, Angleton is described as uncertain of his bona fides—in fact, he is entirely responsible for the false CIA decision that Nosenko had been dispatched by the KGB. After Nosenko was released from solitary confinement and his bona fides was certified in a 1969 meeting of senior CIA officers, chaired by DCI Helms, Angleton, Helms, and the Soviet Bloc Division continued to doubt his bona fides (Tennent Bagley, "Spy Wars").

The Man Who Kept the Secrets, Thomas Powers, 1979