Cleveland Cram

Cleveland Cram

Cleveland Cram, the son of a farmer from Waterville, was educated at St. John's University, a Benedictine in Minnesota. He obtained a master's degree in history at Harvard University before joining the United States Navy. He served in the South Pacific during the Second World War.

After the war Cram returned to Harvard for his Ph.D. He intended to become an academic but in 1949 was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1953 he was sent to work in London where he got to know Kim Philby. In 1958 Cram returned to head office where he ran the British desk. This was followed by a second spell in England before serving as chief of station in Canada.

Cram was appointed Deputy Chief of Station in Europe. After nine years he became Chief of Station in the Western Hemisphere. He retired from the CIA in 1975. The following year he met George T. Kalaris and Ted Shackley at a cocktail party in Washington. Kalaris, who replaced James Angleton, as Chief of Counterintelligence, asked Cram if he would like to come back to work. Cram was told that the CIA wanted a study done of Angleton's reign from 1954 to 1974. "Find out what in hell happened. What were these guys doing."

Cram took the assignment and was given access to all CIA documents on covert operations. The 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 the books written by David C. Martin (Wilderness of Mirrors), David Wise (Molehunt) and Tom Mangold (Cold Warrior). Cram points out that these authors managed to persuade former CIA officers to tell the truth about their activities. In some cases, they were even given classified documents.

Cram is particularly complimentary about the Wilderness of Mirrors, a book about the exploits of William Harvey and James Angleton. He 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 (the book was republished in 2004).

In Of Moles and Molehunters, Cram is highly critical of the work of Edward J. Epstein (Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald and Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA). Cram makes it clear that Epstein, working with James Angleton, was part of a disinformation campaign. Cram writes: “Legend… gave Angleton and his supporters an advantage by putting their argument adroitly – if dishonestly – before the public first. Not until David Martin responded with Wilderness of Mirrors was an opposing view presented coherently.”

Cleveland Cram died on 8th January 1999.

Primary Sources

(1) David Wise, Molehunt (1992)

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.

(2) Cleveland C. Cram, Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature (1993)

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.

(3) Cleveland C. Cram, Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature (1993)

The year 1974 was a watershed in literature about the CIA. Before that time, only a few outsiders, usually professional journalists, had written books critical of the Agency. Most of the others were neutral or even positive, especially those written by former Agency officials like Allen Dulles and Lyman Kirkpatrick. But in 1974 a disgruntled former Agency employee, Philip Agee, published his highly critical book Inside the Company: CIA Diary. Books by other ex-employees - J. B. Smith, John Stockwell, Victor Marchetti (with J. D. Marks), and R. W. McGehee - followed in quick succession, each exposing highly confidential material.

These authors usually wrote about subjects of which they had special knowledge, and the cumulative effect was to breach the walls of confidentiality that had protected Agency operations and personnel. Although the net effect was damaging - especially in the case of Agee, who disclosed the identities of officers serving abroad under cover - information about sensitive operations against the Soviet Union and its intelligence organs was not compromised.

A Turning Point

The change that occurred in the mid-1970s began when Edward J. Epstein published a series of articles that later, in 1978, were the basis for his book Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald. The articles, and especially the book, publicized for the first time clashes that had occurred within the Agency between the Counterintelligence Staff and the Soviet Division over the bona fides of a KGB defector named Yuriy Nosenko.

Because Epstein's writings contained so much information about sensitive CIA and FBI operations, it was generally assumed he had a willing and knowledgeable source, either a serving officer (considered doubtful) or a retired senior person with wide knowledge of anti-Soviet operations overseas and in the United States. Neither the articles nor the book was annotated, however. Epstein stated that he had spoken occasionally with James Angleton, the retired chief of CIA's Counterintelligence Staff, but did not acknowledge that he was the source.

(4) Cleveland C. Cram, Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature (1993)

Epstein, Edward J. Legend: The Secret World of Le Harvey Oswald. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1978 (382 pages)

Epstein is a bright and able writer who took his M.A. at Cornell and his doctorate in government at Harvard. He made a name for himself with his book Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth, his master's thesis at Cornell. It was one of the first serious works to expose the shortcomings of that Commission. Epstein became aware of the Yuriy Nosenko case through The Reader's Digest, and this led to his acquaintance with James Angleton. Their association flourished, and Angleton became Epstein's major source on Nosenko and the controversy surrounding his defection. Eventually The Reader's Digest sponsored Epstein's research to the tune of $500,000. Legend, the book that resulted, was a bestseller, projecting the author to the forefront of those who were proponents of Angleton's theories. Following its publication, Epstein wrote numerous articles for New York, Commentary, and other publications, mostly - though not always - supportive of the Angleton theories.

Legend has two parts: the first is about Nosenko and Angleton's belief that he was part of a KGB deception operation; the second is about Oswald's sojourn in the Soviet Union following his service with the Marine Corps in Japan. While in Japan the book suggests that Oswald acquired information about U-2 flights flown from the airfield at which he was stationed.

In brief, Epstein accepted Angleton's conclusion that "Nosenko was a Soviet intelligence agent dispatched by the KGB expressly for the purpose of delivering disinformation to the CIA, FBI, and the Warren Commission." In this scheme, Oswald, the supposed lone assassin of President Kennedy, probably was working for the KGB. (Nosenko said this was not true.) Oswald, having defected to the USSR in 1959 and returned three years later, had been living a "legend," a false biography concocted for him by the KGB.

A central theme in both parts of the book, carefully stated and always present, was that the highest level of the Intelligence Community, and certainly the CIA, was penetrated by a "mole" working for the KGB. Although this mole had not been found by 1978, the best "proof" that one existed, according to the book's argument, was Nosenko's assertion that he knew of no penetration, thereby contradicting statements made by a "Mr. Stone," who subsequently proved to be Anatolelbolitsyn. Epstein thus promoted the twin beliefs of deception and penetration by the KGB, Angleton's theory that came to be called derisively "the monster plot."

Epstein's source notes state that his work is based on interviews with Nosenko and retired CIA and FBI officers. He lists Gordon Stewart, Admiral Turner, Richard Helms, James Angleton and members of his CI Staff, William Sullivan and Sam Papich of the FBI, and others connected with the Golitsyn and Nosenko cases. Epstein carefully camouflaged his sources by never quoting them directly, but clearly a number of CIA officers provided an immense amount of classified information. This leaking about sensitive Soviet cases was on a scale the CIA had not experienced before. But, because Epstein so cleverly refrained from pinpoint sourcing, exactly which CIA or FBI officers provided classified information could not be determined.

In 1989 the mystery was solved when Epstein published a second book, Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA, which again dealt with the contentious old cases, including Nosenko and Golitsyn. Angleton, his major source, by then was dead, and Epstein revealed who his informants had been. Although the presentation of these highly classified cases shocked most observers, within a year the entire Nosenko case was opened to the public by the US House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Legend sold well, and conspiracy buffs found it a welcome addition to the growing literature on the Kennedy assassination. Many others, however, found the book confusing, its claims extravagant, and its conclusions unsupported by evidence. One of the chief critics, George Lardner of The Washington Post, wrote: "What Epstein has written... is a fascinating, important, and essentially dishonest book. Fascinating because it offers new information about Oswald, about the KGB, and about the CIA. Dishonest because it pretends to be objective, because it is saddled with demonstrable errors and inexcusable omissions, because it assumes the KGB always knows what it is doing while the CIA does not. It is paranoid. It is naive."

Nevertheless, Legend unquestionably set the tone for the debate that subsequently ensued in the media about the Nosenko affair. It gave Angleton and his supporters an advantage by putting their argument adroitly - if dishonestly - before the public first. Not until David Martin responded with Wilderness of Mirrors was an opposing view presented coherently.

(5) Cleveland C. Cram, Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature (1993)

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."'

(6) Cleveland C. Cram, Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature (1993)

Epstein, Edward J. Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989 (335 pages).

Epstein published Deception in mid-1989, just as the Soviet Union was on the verge of its demise in the autumn of 1991. The concurrent dismantling of the KGB, its major intelligence arm, led almost overnight to the disappearance of what was once a small industry in the West employing dozens of self-appointed experts in universities and think tanks who were devoted to the study of Soviet deception, disinformation, and subversion. Their endeavors, and Epstein's book, now have the smell of attic dust.

Like its predecessor Legend, Deception has two parts. The first 105 pages explain Angleton's theories, as developed by Epstein, largely from lengthy interviews with Anatole Golitsyn. The remainder of the book describes various forms of deception. One chapter is devoted to another Soviet defector, Vitali Yurchenko, who Epstein believes is a KGB provocateur similar to Nosenko. The conclusion is a long chapter on glasnost, which Epstein dismisses as simply another massive KGB deception.

The most arresting information in the book is the author's confession regarding his sources for this book and Legend. After Angleton died on 11 May 1987, Epstein apparently felt free to admit that the former chief of CIA counterintelligence had been his major source since 1976 when they first met.

Most astute observers had concluded that Angleton was leaking classified information to Epstein and others, but nothing was officially done to caution the discredited cold warrior. On the other hand, when CIA found that Clare E. Petty had been leaking classified material to the press, he received an official warning letter. Even in forced retirement, Angleton enjoyed protected and special status, as he had when he was at the Agency.

In Part One, Epstein recites again, as in Legend, the Angleton belief in the KGB program of deception and penetration, which the former CI Staff chief had heard about from Golitsyn and then embellished. One of Golitsyn's major claims, made almost immediately after his defection, was that the KGB would soon send another defector to "mutilate" Golitsyn's leads, as Angleton invariably put it. Thus when Nosenko defected to the CIA in 1964, Angleton viewed him as the predicted plant. This in turn ensured that Golitsyn would maintain his primacy as the CI Staff's resident expert on the subject.

When Nosenko did not confess that he was a false defector, CIA incarcerated him for three years under severe conditions. Epstein blames this action entirely on the management of the Soviet Division in CIA's Directorate of Operations, and he portrays Angleton as agonizing helplessly on the sidelines. This is patently absurd. Angleton was aware of all the legal considerations associated with such action and of the construction of the prison quarters but never raised an objection. If he had, as Epstein claims he did, one word from him to Director Richard Helms would have prevented Nosenko's detainment.

This is but one of many errors and misinterpretations in the book. Like Legend, it is propaganda for Angleton and essentially dishonest. The errors are too many to document here, but one more example will give the flavor. On page 85, Epstein cites Golitsyn's assertion that Soviet intelligence was divided into an "outer" and an "inner" KGB to support the deception program. Nothing, however, can be found in any of Golitsyn's debriefings that remotely supports this. Moreover, no other Soviet source or defector has ever reported the existence of two KGBs, including the most senior defector of recent times, Oleg Gordievsky.

Golitsyn probably developed this fiction after visiting England, when other evidence indicates he began to embroider and fabricate. One exasperated senior FBI officer wrote to Director J. Edgar Hoover: "Golitsyn is not above fabricating to support his theories." Epstein, who makes considerable pretensions to scholarship, should have been more conscientious in checking such stories with more responsible sources before labeling them as fact.

In summary, this is one of many bad books inspired by Angleton after his dismissal that have little basis in fact. An interview with Epstein in Vanity Fair magazine in May 1989 suggests he too has had second thoughts about Angleton and even about Golitsyn, his pet defector. Epstein admitted that Golitsyn shaped Angleton's views and possibly was a liar. The interview ended with the remark: "Actually, I don't know whether to believe Angleton at all!"

(7) Cleveland C. Cram, Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature (1993)

Wise, David. Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA. New York: Random House, 1992 (325 pages).

David Wise, sometimes described as the dean of espionage writers, has produced a readable and accurate account of the molehunt in CIA under James Angleton in the 1960s. It seems a slight exaggeration, however, to describe it as an event that "shattered the CIA." Although he writes that the hunt involved more than 50 cases, just eight of them are discussed in the book and only three in detail. He also mentions Angleton's atrocious accusation that David Murphy, another senior Agency officer, was a Soviet agent, but Murphy's refusal to talk to Wise limits his treatment of that issue. The molehunt and its victims are the centerpiece of the book, but the author gives the reader a fascinating overview of Angleton's multifold activities in collaboration with Anatole Golitsyn, his defector-turned-mentor.

When Wise began his research for this book, he probably intended to produce a full biography of Angleton but soon learned Tom Mangold had beat him off the mark by over a year in preparing his Cold Warrior. Wise had to regroup, and he decided instead to concentrate on the molehunt. This proved to be a worthy topic. Using the testimony of several former CIA officers whose careers suffered because of Angleton's suspicions of them, the author provides an exceptionally interesting narrative. His stories of Peter Karlow, Paul Garbler, Richard Kovich, Vasia Gmirkin, George Goldberg, and others are an appalling testament to Angleton's paranoia and CIA management's failure to bring him under control.

The fact that so many senior officials were willing to be quoted reflects the depth of their feelings, which were suppressed for years, regarding the many injustices perpetrated under Angleton's direction. Wise did careful and extensive research on the events he describes, using footnotes to amplify and document his story, although he does not provide the kind of supportive detail that is the hallmark of the Mangold book.

While Molehunt is highly critical of Angleton, his supporters did not attack it as viciously as some did Mangold's work. Cold Warrior had appeared one year earlier and was like a heavy douse of cold water on the former counterintelligence chief's conspiracy theories. Many reviewers perhaps were becoming accustomed to Angletonian mischief by the time the Wise book appeared with more evidence of it. Among the pro-Angletonians, two such dousings in rapid succession did much to dampen their enthusiasm for further verbal combat.

Wise devotes considerable attention to Igor Orlov, who was thought to be the Soviet penetration molehunters were seeking on the advice of Golitsyn. At KGB headquarters Golitsyn had heard of "Sasha," which he thought was the codename for an important source. Later, after studying classified CIA files in Washington, he concluded Sasha was Igor Orlov. Orlov, indeed, was a likely candidate; he was never a CIA officer but had served the Agency in Germany as a contract agent doing operational support work. As such he would have been a useful source for the KGB, although he never had access to the kind of intelligence Golitsyn claimed an agent in Germany had produced. About that time the Soviets did have a valuable American military source in Germany. Golitsyn probably had seen material received from both sources and concluded that the product from the military officer, which often contained CIA finished intelligence, had come from Orlov. The simple fact is the two sources were confused in Golitsyn's mind.

His confusion persisted throughout the molehunt and thwarted its effectiveness, despite available evidence that should have clarified the issue. Not the least of this evidence was Golitsyn's own lead on that military officer plus one from Nosenko on the same person. Because Nosenko was not thought to be genuine, however, his vitally important lead was never followed up by the Agency's counterintelligence staff and matched with the Golitsyn lead. If the two leads had been considered together, investigators would very likely have been led to the military officer, who was not associated with CIA but passed Agency material to the KGB whenever he had the opportunity. The molehunt would at least have been a partial success and, with the apprehension of the true spy, Angleton would have been a hero.

The officers associated with the molehunt who knew the whole story would rather forget this embarrassing failure. Thus it seems likely Wise never heard from them the complete tale, causing him to make more of Orlov than he deserves." None of this, however, diminishes Wise's well told story about Orlov, on whom Golitsyn and Angleton had concentrated so much attention.

Wise's Molehunt is an important addition to the literature of the Angleton period. It is the last of a trilogy of books critical of Angleton that includes David Martin's Wilderness of Mirrors and Tom Mangold's Cold Warrior.