As a young man he had a strong desire to become a musician and in 1940 left university and worked as a trumpet player with bandleaders such as Ray Noble, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. (2) "As a jazz band musician I earned top dollar (for that era I mean), and even the admiration of my colleagues. I enjoyed playing big band jazz more than I've ever enjoyed any vocation or avocation before or since." (3)
After Pearl Harbor, Copeland joined the United States Army. A family friend, John Sparkman, introduced him to William Donovan. Soon afterwards he joined the Corps of Intelligence Police, which became the Counterintelligence Corps in January 1942. (4) He joined the Office of Strategic Services in 1945. While based in London he met and married Lorraine Adie, the daughter of a Harley Street surgeon, who later became a significant archeologist. (5)
Copeland joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947 and for the next three years was a political attaché at the United States Embassy in Damascus. Copeland was one of only 200 agents at the time and "likened his comrades-in-stealth to innocent kids given a new toy and a license to steal." (6) In March 1949 he helped support the Syrian coup d'état. In 1953 he took part in Operation Ajax, the overthrow of the Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh. (7)
Copeland officially left the CIA in 1953 and joined the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. However, he remained a non-official cover operative for the agency. According to Priscilla L. Buckley: "Miles Copeland was a great bear of a man, six foot two or three, blond, genial, loose-limbed, casually dressed, with a good-ole-boy Alabama drawl that fluency in Arabic and a half-dozen other languages." (8)
In July 1957 he arrived in Beirut as a partner in an industrial consultancy and public relations firm, Copeland and Eichleberger. However, he also worked as an agent for James Jesus Angleton. (9) He was also very close to Wilbur Crane Eveland, the CIA agent in the city. It has been claimed that his main task was to spy on Kim Philby. Angleton had told Copeland that "if I would keep an eye on Philby, he'd pay all the costs - costs being in the form of entertainment expenses, since it was under the cover of social contact that I was to do my counter-espionage work." Copeland claims that both the FBI and MI5 had asked him "to report signs that Philby might be spying for the Soviets." (10)
Philby was working as a Soviet agent and when he fled to Moscow, Copeland, who was a close friend, was devastated. He later commented that CIA agents, including Angleton, had given Philby too much information. "What Philby provided was feedback about the CIA's reactions. They (the KGB) could accurately determine whether or not reports fed to the CIA were believed or not... what it comes to, is that when you look at the whole period from 1944 to 1951, the entire Western intelligence effort, which was pretty big, was what you might call minus advantage. We'd have been better off doing nothing." (11)
After leaving the CIA Miles Copeland wrote two books about his spying activities, Without Cloak or Dagger: The Truth About the New Espionage (1974) and The Game Player: Confessions of the CIA's Original Political Operative (1989). He also wrote for The National Review and supported George H. W. Bush in his campaign to be president. The only man in the presidential field that year "with the wisdom, discretion, and ability to grasp the facts of our situation on the international gameboard." (12)
In January, 1976, Miles Copeland caused considerable controversy when he told the The Times newspaper, that CIA agents were operating inside Britain's trade unions. CIA officials, he explained, believe that Britain's current labour unrest is motivated by a more sinister objective than better pay. The newspaper reported "Militant trade unionists are in direct confrontation with authority... Seen from abroad, Britain could be moving into a pre-revolutionary situation." According to Time Magazine "The implication was that some known Marxist sympathizers within the more militant unions were out to topple the government." (13)
Seumas Milne, the author of The Enemy Within (1994) has claimed that in the spring of 1990 Copeland warned Arthur Scargill that he had "reliable information that both the domestic security service, MIS, and the CIA had been closely involved in kick-starting the media campaign" against him. He told Scargill "I don't like your views, Mr Scargill, and I never have, but I don't agree with the way you're being treated. You are being set up." (14)
Miles Copeland died at Padocks Hospital in Oxfordshire, on 14th January, 1991. (15)
Foreign observers often attribute to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency more power and influence than Ian Fleming's infamous SMERSH. But a story front-paged in the Times of London - that a beefed-up force of CIA agents was on the trail of subversives in the British labor movement - seemed almost a Mission: Preposterous. The chief source was an American named Miles Copeland, who says that he advises overseas U.S. firms on security problems. Copeland told the Times that there was "no doubt at all" that CIA agents were operating inside Britain's trade unions. CIA officials, he explained, believe that Britain's current labor unrest is motivated by a more sinister objective than better pay. The implication was that some known Marxist sympathizers within the more militant unions were out to topple the government.
Indignant readers deluged the Times with letters protesting U.S. meddling. The American embassy in London, which houses the local CIA staff, hotly denied the allegation. Last week the Times printed a front-page article by Deputy Editor Louis Keren suggesting that the embassy's denial, while understandable, should not be taken too seriously; the CIA was only doing its duty "Militant trade unionists are in direct confrontation with authority," wrote Keren. "Seen from abroad, Britain could be moving into a pre-revolutionary situation." The Times and Keren were unprepared for Copeland's next bombshell. In a follow-up letter to the Times, Copeland backed off his story, admitting: "I had no facts of my own with which to corroborate the information." His statements, he suggested, were more a case of wishful thinking.
Perhaps Copeland's reputation as a former CIA employee who has ostensibly kept abreast of agency affairs impressed the Times. Other acquaintances describe Copeland, 57, as a man who has acquired some status as a CIA expert by trading on his intelligence background. He is readily accessible to journalists seeking material on the CIA. Recalls one: "Miles is the only man I know who uses the CIA as a cover." Nonetheless, Editor Keren insists: "We still believe the Times account to be correct."
In the spring of 1990, Arthur Scargill received an unexpected phone call at his Sheffield headquarters. Miles Copeland, a retired senior CIA officer and latter-day intelligence pundit, was anxious to speak to the embattled miners' leader. It was only a couple of days since the launch of one of the most savage media and legal campaigns against a public figure in Britain in recent times. The National Union of Mineworkers' president, the country's best-known trade unionist and unrepentant class warrior, stood accused of flagrant embezzlement and corruption. The man described even by opponents as "ferociously principled" was said to have lined his pockets with hardship funds intended for striking miners, and salted away millions of pounds secretly procured from the Soviet Union and Libya. Peter Heathfield, the union's general secretary, faced similar charges. The allegations were becoming daily more outlandish. Scargill had demanded not only cash from Colonel Gaddafi, it was claimed, but guns. With Robert Maxwell's Daily Mirror - as cheerleader, Scargill's enemies crowed for his head. Some predicted he would be in jail by Christmas. What had erupted in the tabloid press and on prime-time television was being enthusiastically seized on by hostile trade-union leaders and politicians from both Tory a and Labour parties, with calls for criminal prosecutions and public inquiries. Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced in the House of Commons that the police stood ready to act.
Scargill was on nodding terms with Copeland - better known to some as father of the drummer in the rock band The Police. The two men had met informally on a couple of occasions in television chat-show studios. But this time, the American dispensed with hospitality-room small talk and came brutally to the point. "I don't like your views, Mr Scargill, and I never have," he said, "but I don't agree with the way you're being treated. You are being set up." Copeland had made repeated attempts to track down the miners' leader, even calling the NUM's barrister, John Hendy QC, at his Lincoln's Inn chambers in London, to leave an urgent message. Now he explained why. The former CIA man warned Scargill and Heathfield - who listened in to the discussion on a conference phone - that he had reliable information that both the domestic security service, MIS, and the CIA had been closely involved in kick-starting the media campaign. They had, Copeland said, in different ways helped to frame the corruption allegations against the miners' leadership. However, he refused to expand on his remarks and promptly disappeared into the ether. Copeland was well known to have maintained close connections with the CIA's powerful London station after his retirement. Whether the crusty old spy was genuinely drawing on inside knowledge or instead relying on informed guesswork - or whether he simply wanted to fuel the NUM president's growing paranoia - must remain a matter for speculation. Copeland died shortly afterwards.
The news of Miles Copeland's death reached us as Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm. In his day Copeland had been a major player in U.S. intelligence operations in the Middle East. A veteran of Wild Bill Donovan's wartime OSS, and a founding father of CIA, Miles Copeland was posted to Damascus in the late Forties when the former British and French protectorates in the Middle East and Africa were gaining their independence. He believed in working within a target country with whatever forces and interests could be used to further American objectives. He and his CIA sidekick, the late Archibald Roosevelt, are credited with engineering the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran, with tempering Nasser's hostility to the United States, and with facilitating the ouster of Nkrumah when the Oseyfago's sense of his own importance became intolerable. (Many of their other operations were so successful they never surfaced.) Within the Agency, Copeland opposed major paramilitary operations such as the Bay of Pigs because of the basic incompatibility of bigness and secrecy.
Miles Copeland entered the National Review orbit when his book The Game of Nations attracted James Burnham's attention and admiration. He wrote a number of ground-breaking articles for National Review in the Seventies when his beloved CIA and the intelligence community in general had come under devastating attack from the press and from Senator Frank Church's intelligence committee. In one glorious piece he took us for a briefing to "Mother's" (Jim Angleton's) comfortable paneled office at Langley, with its roaring wood fire, trophies on the walls, and window overlooking the Virginia countryside which was not a window at all. Assembled are the "top dirty-trick specialists" of the Firm (not one of whom, Copeland noted with glee, had Jack Anderson properly identified)... During the conversation Copeland asks whether the CIA hadn't been remiss in failing to have a plan to sabotage the Chilean economy in order to embarrass Allende. Jojo replies: "We couldn't improve on what Allende was doing without our help."
Miles Copeland was a great bear of a man, six foot two or three, blond, genial, loose-limbed, casually dressed, with a good-ole-boy Alabama drawl that fluency in Arabic and a half-dozen other languages, and nearly fifty years of living in London, had done nothing to erase. Born and brought up in Alabama, the son of a doctor, he never finished college. He played the trumpet in the Ray Noble and Glenn Miller bands, and did some arranging for them before World War II led him to his subsequent love, intelligence. He would sit across the table at Paone's, a glass of good red wine in hand, and recount wonderful tales.... Like the time John Foster Dulles and the boys were sitting around on a Saturday morning wondering how to explain to the press the Syrians' discovery of an exiled Syrian military officer being smuggled into the country in the trunk of the car of a CIA man with diplomatic cover. A number of suggestions had been made and dismissed, Miles told us, when a young aide cleared his throat, and, timidly his fear of his superiors showing in his voice, said: "Mr. Secretary, why don't we just tell the truth?" Miles leaned back in his chair, his eyes crinkling in anticipation: "The look of Machiavellian cunning that the suggestion brought to the Secretary's kindly old face," he said, "was an inspiration to us all." Miles Copeland's last piece for National Review was written during the 1988 campaign. He called it, with his usual flair, "Spooks for Bush," an impassioned plea for George Bush's election as the only man in the presidential field that year "with the wisdom, discretion, and ability to grasp the facts of our situation on the international gameboard." Pray God he was correct in this appraisal as he was in so much else in life.
Miles Copeland Sr., a political consultant on the Middle East, writer and one-time spy, died Monday at Padocks Hospital in Oxfordshire, England. He was 74 years old and had homes in Oxfordshire and Washington.
Mr. Copeland, a native of Birmingham, Ala., died of heart failure, according to The Birmingham News.
While in his 20's, Mr. Copeland was an arranger and trumpet player for the Glenn Miller Orchestra. He began his career as a spy after he joined the Army in 1940 and was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Copeland served in the counterespionage branch of the O.S.S. and then joined the C.I.A. when that agency was founded after World War II. He worked primarily in the Middle East and from 1947 to 1950 was a political attaché at the United States Embassy in Damascus, Syria.
After working in several Foreign Service posts, he left the Government in 1957 to form a Washington consulting firm. Friend of Mideast Leaders
Mr. Copeland was fluent in 10 languages, including French and Arabic, and had an innate shrewdness that won him friends like President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and the Shah of Iran.
He was able to maintain good relations with leaders who were often at odds with each other and explained his success this way: "I respect and like each of these men as individuals but I disagree with the political views of each of them openly and strongly so much that none of them can suspect me of political cooperation with any other."
He wrote several books, among them "The Game of Nations," "Without Cloak or Dagger," and his autobiography, "The Game Player."
He also wrote a pamphlet with restricted distribution to Arab government leaders entitled, "Organizational Problems of the Revolutionary Government, a portrait of the modern Arab leader trying to bridge the ancient and modern world," which was published in book form as "The Lion and the Lizard: Problems of Leadership in the Middle East."
He is survived by his wife, Lorraine, an archeologist; three sons, Ian, a rock-music booking agent; Miles Jr., manager of the rock performer Sting, and Stewart, former drummer with the rock group The Police and now a composer, and a daughter, Lennie, a film producer.