Spartacus Blog

The Secret Files of James Jesus Angleton

Wednesday, 12th November, 2014

John Simkin

In December, 1954, Allen Dulles appointed James Jesus Angleton as the first chief of the CIA's newly created Counter-Intelligence Staff. Another CIA senior officer, Tom Braden, recalls that Angleton often reported privately to Dulles: "Jim came in and out of Dulles's office a lot. He always came alone and had this aura of secrecy about him, something that made him stand out-even among other secretive CIA officers. In those days, there was a general CIA camaraderie, but Jim made himself exempt from this. He was a loner who worked alone." Braden claims that Dulles gave Angleton permission to secretly bug important Washington dinner parties. "One time, Jim secretly bugged the house of the wife of a very senior Treasury Department official, who entertained important foreign guests and diplomatic corps people. Dulles got a big kick from reading Jim's report. Dulles was told about the bugging, but had no objection." (1)

Angleton spent his time protecting the security of CIA operations through research and careful analysis of incoming information. "The task meant that considerable amounts of paper must be acquired, read, digested, filed, and refiled. Ironically, although Angleton had helped develop the CIA's central registry (where names, reports, and cases were indexed), his staff had one of the worst records of any CIA component for contributing data into the main system after 1955. This was because of Angleton's obsession with secrecy and his inability to trust the security of the CIA's main filing system. He believed there was nothing to prevent someone from stealing from the CIA's storehouse of secrets. Keeping the best files to himself also helped consolidate his bureaucratic power." (2)

The only man Angleton shared this information with was Raymond Rocca, his head of the staff's new Research and Analysis Department. "Rocca's friends say he was well suited for the job. He had an excellent memory, and was considered a plodding, thorough scholar who usually provided Angleton with more detail than was needed.... Rocca reviewed the past with the devotion of an archeologist rediscovering an ancient tomb. Nearly every old Soviet intelligence case, dating back to the Cheka (the first Bolshevik secret police), was dutifully stored in the historical archives, and analyzed repeatedly... Critics of Angleton's methodology say that both he and Rocca wasted enormous quantities of time studying the gospels of prewar Soviet intelligence operations at the very moment that the KGB had shifted the style and emphasis of its operations against the West." (3)

Angleton became convinced that the CIA had been penetrated by a "mole" working for the KGB. He ordered, Clare Edward Petty, a member of the ultra-secret Special Investigation Group (SIG), to carry out a study into the possibility that a Soviet spy existed in the higher levels of the CIA. Angleton suggested that Petty should take a close look at David Edmund Murphy. The Soviet defector, Anatoli Golitsyn, had suggested that Murphy might have been recruited as a spy when working in Berlin in the 1950s. Angleton's suspicions were increased by Murphy speaking fluent Russian and marrying a woman who had previously lived in the Soviet Union. (4)

Murphy had been accused of being a Soviet spy by one of his own officers, Peter Kapusta. He originally expressed this opinion to Sam Papich, the FBI's liaison man with the CIA. "Kapusta called in the middle of the night. It was one or two o'clock in the morning. The FBI did not investigate. From the beginning, the bureau looked at the Murphy matter strictly as an internal CIA problem. We received certain information, including Kapusta's input. By our standards, based on what was available, FBI investigation was not warranted." (5) This information was passed to Angleton and he became convinced that he was a Soviet mole.

Petty investigated Murphy's wife and found that her family had fled from Russia after the Russian Revolution. They moved to China before settling in San Francisco. Petty could find no evidence that she was pro-communist. Newton S. Miler, a member of SIG had investigated Murphy in the early 1960s. He discovered that a large number of his operations had been unsuccessful: "Just a series of failures, things that blew up in his face. Odd things that happened. The scrapes in Japan and Vienna. They (the KGB) may have been setting up Murphy just to embarrass CIA. But you have to consider these incidents may have been staged to give him bona fides." (6) Petty came to the conclusion that Murphy was "accident prone".

Petty eventually produced a twenty-five-page report that concluded that there was a "probability" that Murphy was innocent. Petty felt that Murphy may have been targeted by the KGB, but was never recruited. (7) However, Angleton rejected the report as he was convinced he was a spy. In 1968 Angleton arranged for Murphy to be removed from his job as head of the Soviet Division and assigned to Paris as station chief. Angleton then contacted the head of French intelligence and warned him that Murphy was a Soviet agent. (8)

James Jesus Angleton now asked Petty to investigate his close colleague, Tennant Bagley, who had been the case-officer dealing with Yuri Nosenko. This was a surprising suggestion as Bagley had always been a loyal supporter of Angleton and told the Warren Commission that “Nosenko is a KGB plant and may be publicly exposed as such some time after the appearance of the Commission’s report. Once Nosenko is exposed as a KGB plant, there will arise the danger that his information will be mirror-read by the press and public, leading to conclusions that the USSR did direct the assassination.” (9)

However, Angleton believed that Bagley had deliberately mishandled the attempted recruitment of a minor Polish intelligence officer in Switzerland. "Petty fastened on an episode that had taken place years earlier, when Bagley had been stationed in Bern, handling Soviet operations in the Swiss capital. At the time, Bagley was attempting to recruit an officer of the UB, the Polish intelligence service, in Switzerland. Petty concluded that a phrase in a letter from Michal Goleniewski, the Polish intelligence officer who called himself Sniper... the KGB had advance knowledge that could only have come from a mole in the CIA." (10)

James Jesus Angleton
James Jesus Angleton

Petty spent a year investigating Bagley, who had remained one of Angleton's strongest supporters. Petty's 250 page report on Bagley concluded that he "was a candidate to whom we should pay serious attention". However, Angleton rejected the report and told Petty: "Pete's not a KGB agent, he's not a Soviet spy." As Tom Mangold, the author of Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) has pointed out: "A lesser man than Petty might have given up at this stage. He had investigated, on his master's behalf, a former chief and deputy chief of the Soviet Division - incredible targets in themselves - and had failed to prove either case. But Petty remained convinced that a mole existed." (11)

Clare Edward Petty continued to search for the Soviet mole and eventually reached the conclusion that it was the man who had ordered the investigation, James Jesus Angleton, who had penetrated the CIA, and was in league with Anatoli Golitsyn, who was not a genuine defector: "It was at that point that I decided I'd been looking at it all wrong by assuming Golitsyn was good as gold. I began rethinking everything. If you turned the flip side it all made sense. Golitsyn was sent to exploit Angleton. Then the next step, maybe not just an exploitation, and I had to extend it to Angleton. Golitsyn might have been dispatched as the perfect man to manipulate Angleton or provide Angleton with material on the basis of which he (Angleton) could penetrate and control other services.... Angleton made available to Golitsyn extensive sensitive information which could have gone back to the KGB. Angleton was a mole, but he needed Golitsyn to have a basis on which to act.... Golitsyn and Angleton. You have two guys absolutely made for each other. Golitsyn was a support for things Angleton had wanted to do for years in terms of getting into foreign intelligence services. Golitsyn's leads lent themselves to that. I concluded that logically Golitsyn was the prime dispatched agent." (12)

In 1971 Petty began "putting stuff on index cards, formulating my theory". Petty later told David C. Martin: The case against Angleton was a great compilation of circumstantial material. It was not a clear-cut case." However, an unnamed senior CIA officer explained to Martin that his investigation of Angleton was deeply flawed: "There was a lot of supposition, factual situations which were subject to varying interpretations. You could draw conclusions one way or the other, and we felt the conclusions by the fellow who was making the case were overdrawn... Petty was a very intense person. He was seized with this theory, and like all people in this field, once they get seized with this thing, you wonder whether they're responsible or not." (13) Newton S. Miler, a member of SIG supported this view: "Petty... would decide on a bottom line before he started and then fit everything to his conclusions. He wanted recognition, he wanted to be seen as a spycatcher. In the end, he turned against everyone, and even had disputes with Ray Rocca and myself. I always thought Ed a bit odd." (14)

Petty told James H. Critchfield, the CIA head of the Eastern European and Near East divisions about his suspicions. As he later pointed out: "I reviewed Angleton's entire career, going back through his relationships with Philby, his adherence to all of Golitsyn's wild theories, his false accusations against foreign services and the resulting damage to the liaison relationships, and finally his accusation against innocent Soviet Division officers." As a result of his investigation, Petty concluded that there was an "80-85 percent probability" that Angleton was a Soviet mole.

Clare Edward Petty decided not to tell his boss, Jean M. Evans, about his investigation. "Petty worked in absolute secrecy, never revealing to anyone except Critchfield that he was gathering information to accuse his own boss, James Angleton, as a Soviet spy. By the spring of 1973, after toiling for some two years, Petty felt he could not develop his theory any further. He decided to retire." (15)

In February, 1973, James Schlesinger replaced Richard Helms as Director of the CIA. Angleton immediately went to see Schlesinger and gave him a list of more than 30 people that he considered to be Soviet agents. This list included top politicians, foreign intelligence officials and senior CIA officials. Those named included Harold Wilson, the British prime minister, Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, Willy Brandt, chairman of the West German Social Democratic Party, Averell Harriman, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Lester Pearson, the Canadian prime minister, Armand Hammer, the chief executive of Occidental Petroleum Corporation and Henry Kissinger, the National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon. (16)

Schlesinger listened to Angleton for seven hours. After consulting with other senior figures in the CIA he concluded that he was suffering from paranoia. However, he liked Angleton and decided against forcing him into retirement. Schlesinger later recalled: "Listening to him was like looking at an Impressionist painting... Jim's mind was devious and allusive, and his conclusions were woven in a quite flimsy manner. His long briefings would wander on, and although he was attempting to convey a great deal, it was always smoke, hints, and bizarre allegations. He might have been a little cracked but he was always sincere." (17)

Schlesinger discovered that Angleton had been running Operation Chaos since 1967. President Lyndon B. Johnson had ordered the CIA to determine whether the anti-Vietnam War movement was being financed or manipulated by foreign governments. Angleton put Richard Ober in charge of the project that collected information on the peace movement, New Left activists, campus radicals and black nationalists. The CIA joined forces with the FBI to spy on these people: "The agencies buried their long-standing rivalries to cooperate on mail intercepts, phone taps, monitoring meetings, the use of LSD to pump people for information, and surveillance of... expatriates as well as travelers passing through certain select areas abroad." (18)

James Jesus Angleton was ordered to attend a meeting in his office. Schlesinger demanded to know what this large and expensive project had yielded. When he was given the answer, "Not very much," he ordered Angleton to stop the entire operation. Apparently he told him: "Jim, this thing is not only breaking the law, but we're getting nothing out of it." (19) On 9th May, 1973, James Schlesinger issued a directive to all CIA employees: “I have ordered all senior operating officials of this Agency to report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or might have gone on in the past, which might be considered to be outside the legislative charter of this Agency. I hereby direct every person presently employed by CIA to report to me on any such activities of which he has knowledge. I invite all ex-employees to do the same. Anyone who has such information should call my secretary and say that he wishes to talk to me about “activities outside the CIA’s charter”. (20)

In early 1973, James Schlesinger appointed William Colby as head of all clandestine operations. Colby was now Angleton's direct superior. One of his first actions was to take a close look at HT-LINGUAL, a huge secret mail-opening scheme, that Angleton had been running since November 1955. Angleton's staff were intercepting letters between the United States and the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. Angleton thought that it was "probably the most important overview that counter-intelligence had" because the "enemy regarded America's mails as inviolate, mail coverage was likely to provide clues to the identities of Soviet agents". Angleton was aware the mail-operating operation was illegal and that if it were ever exposed "serious public reaction in the United States would probably occur." (21)

Colby investigated HT-LINGUAL and discovered that over the last twenty years over 215,000 letters were opened in New York City alone. "Each morning three CIA officers reported to a special room at New York's LaGuardia Airport, where a postal clerk delivered from two to six sacks of mail... Working with a Diebold camera, the three officers photographed the exteriors of about 1,800 letters each day. Each evening they stashed about 60 of the letters in an attaché case or stuffed them in their pockets and took them to the CIA's Manhattan Field Office for opening." (22)

Colby later commented: I couldn't find it had produced anything... I wrote a memo saying it should be terminated." (23) Angleton questioned this decision and pointed out that they had been able to find out "whether illegal Soviet agents hidden in the United States were communicating to and from the USSR through the U.S. mails." (24) Schlesinger decided to "suspend it but not terminate it".

In July 1973, James Schlesinger became President Nixon's Secretary of Defence and William Colby was appointed as the new Director of the CIA. Colby was a strong critic of Angleton's activities: "Colby had long believed that the true function of the agency was to collect and analyze information for the President and his policymakers. He maintained that it was not the CIA's function to fight the KGB; the KGB was merely an obstacle en route to scaling the walls surrounding the Politburo and the Central Committee. In Colby's mind, his concept of the CIA's mission was an article of faith. But in Angleton he saw only a KGB fighter and a failed spycatcher." (25)

Colby pointed out: "I couldn't find that we ever caught a spy under Jim. That really bothered me. Every time I asked the second floor about this question, I got 'Well, maybe' and 'Perhaps,' but nothing hard. Now I don't care what Jim's political views were as long as he did his job properly, and I'm afraid, in that respect, he was not a good CI chief. As far as I was concerned, the role of the Counterintelligence Staff was basically to secure penetrations into the Russian intelligence services and to debrief defectors. Now I'm not saying that's easy, but then CI was never easy. As far as this business of finding Soviet penetrations within the CIA, well, we have the whole Office of Security to protect us. That is their job... The isolation of the Counterintelligence Staff from the Soviet Division was a huge problem. Everyone knew it. The CI Staff was so far out on its own, so independent, that it had nothing to do with the rest of the agency, The staff was so secretive and self-contained that its work was not integrated into the rest of the agency's operations. There was a total lack of cooperation."

Colby told David Wise that he feared that Angleton would commit suicide if he was removed from his post. He therefore decided to gradually ease him out. He took away Angleton's control over proposed clandestine operations. This was followed by removing his power to review operations already in progress. As each of these roles were removed, the size of Angleton's staff dwindled from hundreds to some forty people. However, Angleton refused to resign: "Taking away FBI liaison and the other units was designed to lead him to see the handwriting on the wall. He just wouldn't take the bait." (26)

On 17th December, 1974, William Colby called James Jesus Angleton into his office and told him that he wanted him to retire. He offered him a post as a special consultant, in which he would compile his experiences for the CIA's historical record. "I told him to leave the staff to write up what he had done during his career. This reflected my desire to get rid of him, but in a dignified way - so he could get down his experience on paper. No one knew what he had done! I didn't! I told him to take either the consultancy or honorable retirement. We also discussed that he would get a higher pension if he accepted early retirement... He dug in his heels. I couldn't get him to leave the job on his own. I just couldn't edge him out." (27)

The following day Seymour Hersh, who worked for the New York Times, phoned Colby and told him that he had an important story about the CIA. The two men met on 20th December. Hersh revealed that he had discovered both of the domestic operations run by Angleton - HT-LINGUAL and Operation Chaos. "Hersh told Colby that he intended to publish the news that the CIA had engaged in a massive spying campaign against thousands of American citizens (which violated the CIA charter). Colby tried to contain the damage, and he attempted to correct some of the exaggerations Hersh had picked up. But, in so doing, he effectively confirmed Hersh's information." (28)

Colby now had a meeting with Angleton and told him that Hersh was about to publish a story about his illegal operations. As a result he was forced to sack him. Angleton went to a public pay phone and called Hersh. He begged him not to run the pending story. as an inducement, he promised to give the journalist other classified information to publish instead. "He told me he had other stories which were much better. He really wanted to buy me off with these leads. One of the things he offered sounded very real - he said it was about something the United States was doing inside the Soviet Union. It could have been totally poppycock, who knows. I didn't write it." Angleton later accused Colby of giving information about the illegal operations to Hersh. However, in his interview with Tom Mangold he denied it. (29)

On 22nd December, 1974, Seymour Hersh published his story in the New York Times. Angleton was identified as the head of the CIA's counter-intelligence staff and the man responsible for these illegal operations. David Atlee Phillips, saw him soon after the article was published: "We talked for a few minutes, standing in the diffused glow of a distant light. Angleton's head was lowered, but occasionally he glanced up from under his brim of his black homburg... We then rambled on about nothing particular. I thought to myself that I had never seen a man who looked so infinitely tired and sad." (30)

George T. Kalaris was appointed to replace James Jesus Angleton. William Colby pointed out: "I put George in there because he's a very good, straightforward fellow. He wasn't flashy. He knew how to run stations, and I had trust and faith in him. The situation needed a sensible person like him to put the place together again after all the chaos. I also needed someone who had not taken a side on any of the major issues.... I wrote George a very basic memorandum of instruction. I ordered him to go to it - to go get agents, to go penetrate the enemy." (31)

Angleton went to see Kalaris on 31st December, 1974. He told the new head of counter-intelligence that he intended to "crush" him. "It's nothing personal. It's just that you are caught in the middle of a big battle between Colby and me. I feel sorry for you. I studied your personnel records, and I repeat, you are going to be crushed." Angleton then went on to criticize the choice of Kalaris to run the department: "To qualify for working on my staff you would need eleven years of continuous study of old cases, starting with The Trust and the Rote Kapelle and so on. Not ten years, not twelve, but precisely eleven. My staff has made detailed study of these requirements. And even that much experience would make you only a journeyman counter-intelligence analyst." Angleton then went on to say that the Soviets had not been successful in compromising the CIA's Counter-intelligence Staff, because he had been there to protect it. "But this is not true of the Soviet Division". (32)

Kalaris now instigated an investigation into Angleton's filing system. His team found "entire sets of vaults and sealed rooms scattered all around the second and third floors of CIA headquarters". They came across over 40 safes, some of them had not been opened for over ten years. No one on Angleton's remaining staff knew what was in them and no one had the combinations anymore. Kalaris was forced to call in a "crack team of safebusters to drill open the door". The investigators found "Angleton's own most super-sensitive files, memoranda, notes and letters... tapes, photographs" and according to Kalaris "bizarre things of which I shall never ever speak". This included files on two senior figures in MI5, Sir Roger Hollis and Graham Mitchell. There were also files on a large number of journalists. (33)

The investigators also found documents concerning Lee Harvey Oswald and on 18th September, 1975, George T. Kalaris wrote a memo to the executive assistant to the deputy director of Operations of the CIA describing the contents of Oswald's 201 file. "There is also a memorandum dated 16 October 1963 from (redacted but likely Winston Scott) to the United States Ambassador there concerning Oswald's visit to Mexico City and to the Soviet Embassy there in late September - early October 1963. Subsequently there were several Mexico City cables in October 1963 also concerned with Oswald's visit to Mexico City, as well as his visits to the Soviet and Cuban Embassies." (34) As John Newman, the author of Oswald and the CIA (2008) has pointed out: "the significance of the Kalaris memo is that it disclosed the existence of pre assassination knowledge of Oswald's activities in the Cuban Consulate, and that this had been put into cables in October 1963." (35)

The investigators discovered that James Jesus Angleton had not entered any of the official documents from these safes into the CIA's central filing system. Nothing had never been filed, recorded, or sent to the secretariat. "Angleton had been quietly building an alternative CIA, subscribing only to his rules, beyond peer review or executive supervision." Over the next three years "a team of highly trained specialists another three full years just to sort, classify, file, and log the material into the CIA system." Leonard McCoy, was giving the responsibility of inspected the most important files. McCoy was advised "to retain less than one half of 1 per cent of the total, or no more than 150-200 out of the 40,000." The rest of Angleton's files were then destroyed. (36)



(1) Tom Braden, interviewed by Jeff Goldberg (29th April, 1989)

(2) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) page 54

(3) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) page 59-60

(4) David C. Martin, Wilderness of Mirrors (1980) page 198

(5) Sam Papich, quoted by David Wise in Molehunt (1992) page 219

(6) Newton S. Miler, quoted by David Wise in Molehunt (1992) page 220

(7) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) page 298-299

(8) David C. Martin, Wilderness of Mirrors (1980) page 198-199

(9) Tennant H. Bagley, testimony to the Warren Commission (24th July, 1964)

(10) David Wise, Molehunt (1992) page 234

(11) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) page 299

(12) Clare Edward Petty, quoted by David Wise in Molehunt (1992) page 235

(13) David C. Martin, Wilderness of Mirrors (1980) page 212-213

(14) Newton S. Miler, interviewed by Tom Mangold (25th June, 1989)

(15) David Wise, Molehunt (1992) page 237

(16) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) pages 303-308

(17) James Schlesinger, interviewed by Tom Mangold (16th May, 1989)

(18) Deborah Davis, Katharine the Great (1979) page 241

(19) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) pages 309

(20) James Schlesinger, directive to all CIA employees (9th May, 1973)

(21) Mark Riebling, Wedge: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 (1994) page 148

(22) David C. Martin, Wilderness of Mirrors (1980) page 69

(23) David Wise, Molehunt (1992) pages 238-239

(24) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) pages 312

(25) William Colby, interviewed by Tom Mangold (12th June, 1989)

(26) David Wise, Molehunt (1992) pages 239-240

(27) William Colby, interviewed by Tom Mangold (12th June, 1989)

(28) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) page 317

(29) Seymour Hersh, interviewed by Tom Mangold (20th June, 1989)

(30) David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch (1977) page 264

(31) William Colby, interviewed by Tom Mangold (12th June, 1989)

(32) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) pages 324-325

(33) Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (1991) pages 328

(34) George T. Kalaris, memo to the executive assistant to the deputy director of Operations of the CIA (18th September, 1975)

(35) John Newman, Oswald and the CIA (2008) page 415

(36) Leonard McCoy, interviewed by Tom Mangold (5th October, 1989)

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