During the Vietnam War Martin served in the United States Navy. He later covered defence and intelligence matters for Newsweek (1977-83). In 1980 he published Wilderness of Mirrors, a book about the CIA careers of James Jesus Angleton and William Harvey.
Cleveland C. Cram, the former Chief of Station in the Western Hemisphere, was asked by George T. Kalaris, Chief of Counterintelligence, to investigate CIA covert operations between 1954 and 1974. Cram took the assignment and his study, entitled History of the Counterintelligence Staff 1954-1974, took six years to complete. As David Wise points out in his book Molehunt (1992): "When Cram finally finished it in 1981... he had produced twelve legal-sized volumes, each three hundred to four hundred pages. Cram's approximately four-thousand-page study has never been declassified. It remains locked in the CIA's vaults."
Cram continued to do research for the CIA on counterintelligence matters. In 1993 he completed a study carried out on behalf of the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI). Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature. This document was declassified in 2003. In this work Cram looks at the reliability of information found in books about the American and British intelligence agencies. Cram praises certain authors for writing accurate accounts of these covert activities. He is especially complimentary about David Martin's Wilderness of Mirrors. Cram points out that Martin does “not name his sources, footnote the book, or provide a bibliography and other academic paraphernalia” but is invariably accurate about what he says about the CIA. Cram adds that luckily Martin’s book did not sell well and is now a collectors item.
In 1988 David C. Martin published Best Laid Plans: The Inside Story of America's War Against Terrorism (with John Walcott). Publishers Weekly claimed that: "This is at once a survey of terrorist incidents involving U.S. citizens and a review of the Reagan administration's attempts to formulate a coherent and effective counterterrorist policy. The authors show "the American Gulliver being run ragged by Lilliputian terrorists" and charge the president with confusing the war against terrorism with the war against Communism, as well as confusing the emotionalism of the phenomenon with its true significance. They contend that the damage caused by terrorist activity, aside from the suffering of its victims and families, has been slight, and that its power lies "almost exclusively in the fear it creates." Martin and Walcott express skepticism that the Pentagon can devise an effective military counter to terrorism and suggest that terrorism does not threaten our national security although it does menace international law and order. "Diplomacy and law enforcement," they argue, "must be the cornerstones of any successful attempt to contain international terrorism."
How could the KGB even dream of pulling off so convoluted a scheme? "Helms and I have talked about this many times," a high-ranking officer said. "I do not believe that any son of a bitch sitting in Moscow could have any conception that he could dispatch Golitsin here and disrupt the Allied intelligence services to the extent he did. Nobody could have expected Angleton to buy it, lock, stock, and barrel." And no one sitting in Moscow could have predicted with any certainty that Nosenko would be fingered as a plant and thereby build up Golitsin. Furthermore, it seemed incredible that the KGB would entrust to an agent whose mission was to be discovered as a fraud the message that the Soviet Union had not had a hand in Kennedy's death. Such a plot could only fuel suspicions of Soviet complicity. It was true that Angleton's counterintelligence staff, although convinced that Nosenko was lying, had concluded that there was no evidence to support the contention that Oswald was working for the Russians when he killed Kennedy. But surely the KGB could not control the workings of the counterintelligence staff with so fine a hand.
Could not - unless they already had a man inside the counterintelligence staff who could influence the handling of the case. Who controlled the counterintelligence staff? Who had directed the handling of both Golitsin and Nosenko, championing Golitsin, denigrating Nosenko, yet stopping short of the conclusion that the KGB had ordered Kennedy shot? Who but James Jesus Angleton?
In 1975, after twenty-six years in the agency, Cram had retired. In the fall of 1976, he was attending a cocktail party in Washington given by Harry Brandes, the representative of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian security service. Theodore G. Shackley, the assistant DDO, called over Kalaris, and the two CIA men cornered Cram.
"Would you like to come back to work?" he was asked. The agency, Cram was told, wanted a study done of Angleton's reign, from 1954 to 1974. "Find out what in hell happened," Cram was told. "What were these guys doing?"
Cram took the assignment. For the duration, he moved into a huge vault down the hall from what had been Angleton's office. It was a library like room with a door that had to be opened by a combination lock. There many of the materials he needed were at hand-the vault, for example, contained thirty-nine volumes on Philby alone, all the Golitsin "serials," as Angleton had called the leads provided by his prize defector, and all of the Nosenko files.
But even this secure vault had not been Angleton's sanctum sanctorum. Inside the vault was another smaller vault, secured by pushbutton locks, which contained the really secret stuff, on George Blake, Penkovsky, and other spy cases deemed too secret for the outer vault.
Kalaris thought Cram's study would be a one-year assignment. When Cram finally finished it in 1981, six years later, he had produced twelve legal-sized volumes, each three hundred to four hundred pages. Cram's approximately four-thousand-page study has never been declassified. It remains locked in the CIA's vaults.
But some of its subject matter can be described. Cram obviously spent a substantial amount of time reviewing the history of the mole hunt that pervaded the era he studied. In doing so, he had considerable difficulty. The names of the mole suspects were considered so secret that their files were kept in locked safes in yet another vault directly across from Angleton's (then Kalaris's) office.
Even though Cram had carte blanche to conduct his study, he had trouble at first gaining access to this most sensitive material. In part, he was hampered as well by the chaotic and often mysterious nature of Angleton's files.
Eventually, Cram got access to the vaulted files on individuals kept in the locked safes. But among Kalaris and his staff, Cram detected an edginess that Angleton, in Elba, might somehow return and wreak vengeance on those who had dared to violate his files by reading them.
This monograph has two parts. The first is an essay on the counterintelligence literature produced from 1977 to 1992. The second contains reviews of selected books from that period. The essay and reviews concentrate on the major counterintelligence issues of the period. Highlighted are the controversial views of James Angleton, former head of CIA's Counterintelligence (CI) Staff, about the threat posed by Soviet intelligence operations. Also featured is Soviet defector Anatole Golitsyn, whose claims about Soviet operations had a compelling influence on Western counterintelligence services beginning about 1962 and until 1975.
The study focuses mainly on books about the American, British, and Canadian intelligence and security services as they dealt with the Soviet intelligence threat, although it also mentions the services of other West European countries such as France, West Germany, and Norway. Not every book on espionage and counterintelligence published between 1977 and 1992 is reviewed; only those that are historically accurate, at least in general, and were influential are assessed. Excluded are some recent works like Widows, by William R. Corson and Susan and Joseph Trento because they are not reputable by even the generally low standards of most counterintelligence writing.
No study exists on Angleton's efforts in retirement to spread his conspiracy and other theories through writers such as Edward J. Epstein. Nor has there been any substantial analysis of the impact in Britain of revelations such as the Blunt case, the false charges made against Sir Roger Hollis and his deputy, Graham Mitchell, nor of the events that led eventually to the famous Spycatcher trial in Australia. The books reviewed in this monograph appeared during these difficult times, and an effort has been made to put them in their historical perspective. Some of these publications, with their extreme assertions, distracted intelligence and security services from important challenges they faced in the last years of the Cold War. That they overcame these diversions reflects the common sense and decency exercised by leaders of intelligence services in the post-Angleton years.
Martin, David C. Wilderness of Mirrors. New York: Harper and Row, 1980 (228 pages).
This is the best and most informed book written about CIA operations against the Soviet target during the 1950s and 1960s. It includes a penetrating critique of two of the most prominent CIA officers involved, William K. Harvey and James Angleton. Citing interviews with retired CIA officers, material acquired under the Freedom of Information Act, and open sources, including evidence derived from the House Committee Hearings on Assassination, Martin crowds an exciting and generally accurate story into 228 pages.
During his research for the book, Martin became convinced that, while Harvey was an important figure, Angleton was the subject around whom major controversy swirled; furthermore, substantial evidence indicated that he had damaged CIA severely (especially its counterintelligence operations) and that his forced resignation by CIA Director William Colby had been necessary and long overdue. After his dismissal, Angleton continued a guerrilla action against the Agency, the new CI Staff, and Colby, launching a minor propaganda campaign which he fueled with calculated leaks, playing one journalist against another.
Martin did not name his sources, footnote the book, or provide a bibliography and other academic paraphernalia. In his foreword he noted that Angleton was one of his principal sources and that he "...was a marvelous education in the ways of the CIA. Over time, he explained to me its organization, its personnel, its modus operandi, and its internal rivalries." It was from Angleton, Martin continues, that he first heard some of the more colorful stories about Bill Harvey. When Martin called Harvey, however, the latter always hung up.
Angleton refused to continue his cooperation after learning that Martin was in touch with Clare Edward Petty, who had become suspicious of Angleton's motives when working for him and had begun to speculate that perhaps Angleton was the mole for whom the Agency searched. It appears likely that Petty generously contributed information about his former boss, the molehunt, the Golitsyn-Nosenko controversy, and many other subjects covered in the book. Martin identifies few other ex-CIA sources, although he claims they were legion.
The book was well received by almost every reviewer, sold out quickly, and is now a collector's item. Many readers found it especially interesting because the enigmatic Angleton had become a well-known figure by 1980. Epstein's Legend had painted him as a counterintelligence genius wrongly dismissed at the height of the Cold War, an act many observers hinted was close to treasonable.
Martin took a different tack, revealing Angleton as self-centered, ambitious, and paranoid, with little regard for his Agency colleagues or for simple common sense. Epstein, the lone critic of the book, responded by writing a long review for The New York Times Book Review that was filled with vituperative comments, loose charges, and what some might consider character assassination. Angleton himself entered the fray with a three-page public statement denouncing Martin and accusing him of having stolen his phrase "Wilderness of Mirrors."'
Why is it that the ostentatious hard-liners of the Reagan Administration proved much more eager to cut a deal for the release of American hostages in the Middle East than the alleged tenderfoots around President Carter? David C. Martin and John Walcott, correspondents for CBS News and The Wall Street Journal, respectively, attempt to answer this question by recounting the spectacular violent incidents involving United States citizens in the Middle East in the 1980's. They provide a thorough accounting of the failure of the Iranian hostage rescue mission in 1980, the Beirut Marine barracks bombing in 1983, the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in 1985 and the arms-for-hostages deals of 1985-86. If the authors scant the politics of counterterrorism, it is in favor of reporting previously undisclosed operational details.
As Mr. Martin and Mr. Walcott tell it, America had a serious terrorism problem by about 1980, and only a handful of officials were willing to face the ugly fact. ''An informal counterterrorist network lost in the complacency of the federal bureaucracy'' had to struggle for the obvious but politically unpalatable solution: a policy of ''swift and effective retribution'' against terrorists. Ronald Reagan's election gave the counterterrorists the opportunity to vindicate themselves.
Progress was slow. In 1981 Brig. Gen. James Dozier was kidnapped in Italy by the ultra-left Red Brigades. Among other things, the Pentagon, according to the authors, contacted psychics who claimed to know the general's whereabouts. The counterterrorism experts in the Pentagon and the White House were almost as credulous. A gung-ho assistant at the National Security Council privately raised $500,000 from the Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot. Oliver North seriously considered having Mr. Perot's gold given to an informant who turned out to be a fraud. Eventually, the Italian police sprang General Dozier on their own.
The ambitions of Iran and Israel vastly complicated the efforts of the counterterrorists. Each country believed that it should prevail in the Middle East, and each was willing to resort to violence to achieve its goals. Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982. The authors remind us that, as Israeli troops drove toward Beirut, the Israeli Air Force ''laid siege to the city in earnest, killing hundreds of civilians.'' In the next 18 months, armed Shiite fundamentalist groups in Lebanon responded. They blew up the United States Embassy and the Marine barracks, killing 17 American civilians and 241 servicemen.
The question was: Who would suffer swift, effective retribution for their role in terrorist violence? Not Israel, even though, as the authors note, the embassy in Beruit had predicted repeatedly and accurately that an Israeli invasion would trigger an Islamic response. Not Syria or Iran. Those two countries had sufficient violent recourse to deter American retaliation and, in the court of world opinion, they had a veneer of what counterterrorism experts like to call ''plausible deniability'' about their role in the violent actions of their surrogates. The Lebanese Islamic fundamentalists were thus most at risk - but they lived in densely populated neighborhoods. Any American raid would almost certainly kill civilians too.
Cold feet, complacency and frustration prompted the Reagan Administration to abandon swift, effective retribution for terrorism, according to the authors. The decisive moment, they suggest, came in 1985 when the United States received a credible report that the entire high command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was meeting in Lebanon with its local allies. Aides to the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed firing a non nuclear submarine-launched cruise missile at the meeting place. The Joint Chiefs rejected the idea. ''Instead of attacking Iranian terrorists, the Reagan administration decided to try to make friends with them.''