Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Commentary: The Secret History of the CIA

This was Trento's second book, the first having been co-authored with his wife, Susan Trento, and former CIA officer William Corson. When he came to CIA to say that he was writing about Artamonov/Shadrin, l was assigned to advise him, and met several times with him and his wife. Some of the information he acquired then was used in this book.

One report on Berlin operations refers to a request to HQ for a book on a German religious sect, the Weisenbergers, who dominated a town where air defense personnel lived. I spent all day at the Library of Congress looking for the book and never found it, which left the case officer believing that there had been no effort to find it.

When he came to me at headquarters to say why he had needed the book, and called attention to some reports relating to the Soviet SA-2 system, I told him that we already had the SA-2 manual (and parts) from an asset in Indonesia, as the Soviets had sold the system to Indonesia. The case officer was stunned , considering all of his assets who had been lost trying to collect on the system. The problem, of course, was that the Eastern European Division had never revealed to the Soviet Division that they were running such an operation.

Trento makes an odd mistake in reference to the defection of Artamonov/Shadrin. Instead of the information I gave him regarding getting Artamonov out of Sweden quickly to avoid his being returned to the USSR during an imminent visit by Khrushchev, and get him into American hands, he invents the explanation that we did not want the U.S. navy to control him. First of all, defectors are CIA responsibility, and the coordination with the navy was going on from the beginning of the defection. Trento then comes up with the fantasy out of nowhere that Artamonov was sent to us by the Soviet Navy commander as a messenger to calm our anxieties that the Soviet Navy wanted to start a war with us! Trento attributes this to Soviet Minister of Culture Furtseva, whom he identifies as directing the KGB to support a group of Soviet leaders planning to unseat Khrushchev. This theory was never confirmed in any respect throughout CIA collection of information on the Soviet Union to date!

Trento then comes up with another totally unfounded theory—that Soviet KGB defector Golitsyn was dispatched by the KGB in December 1961 to convince Cl Staff chief Angleton of a number of theories and allegations, which were to handicap CIA operations against the Soviet Union for over 12 years. That happened, but the cause was Golitsyn's paranoia and Angleton's wish to dominate Soviet operations and become the counterintelligence leader of Western intelligence and security services. It is difficult to imagine the unfounded origins of these Furtseva and Golitsyn theories, but in the Golitsyn case, it is also hard to imagine his having been able to do more damage than he could have done if he had been sent out. He produced very little useful information, but Angleton fell into Golitsyn's paranoia for his own professional reasons, the real problem being that Angleton was not supervised by Helms or any other 00/0 or director, even when he denied the existence of a Sino-Soviet split.

In his comments on the Penkovskiy case, Trento refers to Penkovskiy's mentor and protector, Chief Marshal of Artillery Varentsov (not Varentov) as commander of the Soviet ICBM program, which he never was. Once again,Trento comes up with a theory that Penkovskiy was sent out by “conservative elements of the Soviet power structure" to help get Khrushchev removed from power. The information he provided supposedly was controlled by that "Soviet power structure", when it was in fact determined by the requirements which we gave him to provide us information responding to our national intelligence objectives. There was never the slightest indication that Penkovskiy was being controlled by anyone in the Soviet leadership, all the way to his trial and execution in May 1963.

More nonsense on Penkovskiy is the assertion that we asked the DOD for all of its questions on the Soviet strategic missile program. There is no way on earth that we could have expected to answer such questions, and as the officer who prepared all questions and requirements guidance for Penkovskiy's information collection, such questions would never have been on the list which I provided to Kisevalter and the other officers who met with Penkovskiy. He had no contact whosoever who could answer any such questions; this additional invalid identification of Varentsov as chief of Soviet ICBM. And supposedly, Penkovskiy gave us information which helped to guide U-2 flights over Cuba—totally false—what he gave us told us which missiles were being deployed in Cuba and when they would be ready for launch. The account of State Department security officer Abidian becoming involved in passing of information from Penkovskiy also is false; Abidian checked one deaddrop—as Trento states, but that was all he had to do with the case. Again, the unsupported theory that Penkovskiy may have been sent out to deliver a message to the West has no factual support whatsoever. Trento treats Nosenko as an agent dispatched by the KGB, with no special explanation —just assuming that he was sent out to deny that the USSR/KGB was behind the killing of President Kennedy by Oswald.

Following the removal of Angleton, rather, his decision not to be reassigned, Trento states that we, the new CI Staff, wanted to reactivate the KITTY HAWK operation, the FBI operation involving Artamonov being run by a KGB officer who volunteered to cooperate with CIA in 1966 if we would have Artamonov serve as his agent. That is not true. The Soviet Division was unaware of the operation—it had been run by the FBI with the participation of a CIA Security officer—Angleton refused to bring in the Soviet Division because he suspected there was a mole there. The new CI Staff was completely surprised to learn of the operation, that Artamonov had met with the KGB once in Montreal in 1971 and once in Vienna . The latter meeting had been in 1972, and there had been no meetings since. We then found that the Montreal meeting was used by CIA and the RCMP to check whether RCMP C/CI Bennett was a KGB agent, as Angleton had said—Bennett was to be told about the operation, then RCMP surveillance would watch to see if any KGB officers appeared to observe the operation. Bennett was told the meeting was to take place, but afterwards, no decision about the operation was made—even though the RCMP C/CI remained in place, theoretically knowing that the FBI /CIA were running Artamonov. When we found out about the operation in March 1975, we learned that a meeting of Artamonov with the KGB was to take place in Vienna in December 1975. We met with the FBI to work out a plan for monitoring the meeting. They refused to allow surveillance, not unreasonable, but accepted that we could send out an officer to maintain contact with Artamonov and his wife during the meeting. In spite of the exposure of Artamonov to the suspect RCMP CI chief, the latter was still considered an asset of the KGB.

Trento then comes up with another fairy story, that Artamonov was returning home on purpose, and the KGB was giving him its assistance for cover purposes. That does not quite explain why they chloroformed him to death on the way to Bratislava after picking him up at the Vienna Votivkirche meeting place. Trento repeats the assumption that the US consulate was located in view of the Votivkirche, so surveillance was not needed. While the consulate is only a couple of hundred yards across the square, its windows are not on the square. Not that surveillance would have been of any help. Trento goes on to claim that his nonsensical story about the Artamonov meeting with the KGB in Vienna was a KGB-Mossad scheme. The bottom line to his imaginative tale is that the KGB officer who ran the KGB office which was handling the Artamonov case, and had gone to Vienna to help kidnap Artamonov (after "promoting" him to colonel and giving him $1,000) has actually been a US citizen for about nine years, and contradicts Trento in every respect. The KGB defector of 1985 who identified the RCMP DC/CI as a KGB agent (not C/CI Bennett), also told the story of Artamonov's death, exactly as known from the naturalized KGB officer who was involved in the kidnapping/murder of Artamonov.

Another truly unfortunate aspect of the Artamonov case involves the CIA accusation against Bennett. That was one of the first cases which came to the new CI Staff attention, as we attended a meeting of the Anglophone CI group, CAZAB, just before moving into the staff, and the accusation against Bennett came up in that meeting. We immediately started a review of that accusation, found it unfounded, and went to Ottawa to advise the RCMP chief and deputy. However, they said that they had started their own investigation, and were very suspicious, but when CAZAB met again in Melbourne the following year, they said they had ended their investigation. The suspicion ended completely when a KGB officer who defected in 1985 said that the KGB penetration of the RCMP had been Bennett's deputy—Brunet. The new CI Staff mistake is not having followed up the operational losses which the RCMP had suffered and come up with another suspect—hopefully Brunet. Even had we done so, of course, the possibility of convincing the FBI that their operation was compromised was not that likely. A significant fact which our limited CI Staff experience had kept from us was that the KGB had met only one of their other sources in Canada, an army recruit who appeared to be under KGB suspicion. Had we known that, we might have speculated that the KGB had a special reason for meeting someone in Canada—an RCMP penetration (but not Bennett).

Trento's worst departure from the truth probably is his account of the CI Staff after Angleton's retirement several months later. The new CI Staff did not undertake any action intended to discredit Angleton, and certainly the commissioning of Cleve Cram to do the Angleton CI Staff history had no such purpose. In fact, Cram worked directly with Angleton to acquire accurate information on Angleton's involvement in particular actions of the CI Staff. And the new staff officers had nothing to do with Cram's work except to provide him whatever we could find relating to past CI Staff activities in which he was interested. We never saw his long history of the Angleton CI Staff. It was handled on an “Eyes Only" basis. The study on Angleton by Petty was done well before we new staff officers got into the staff, and we were not involved in evaluating the study, Trento wrong again. Contrary to Trento, we had nothing to do with the Boyce and Kampiles cases. Trento makes a common mistake, confusing the responsibilities of Security, the FBI, and CIA counterintelligence.

The Secret History of the CIA, Joseph J. Trento, 2001

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