David Robarge, the CIA’s chief ‘historian’.
I don’t envy academic gate-keepers: their job is to cover up really big lies, which is almost always impossible. In fact, in their attempt to mislead the public, they often hoist themselves on their own petard, which is exactly what CIA historian David Robarge did when he called Tom Mangold’s Cold Warrior: “the most factually detailed, thoroughly researched study of Angleton.”
Cold Warrior is factually detailed, the problem for Robarge is that most of the facts run against the CIA’s official interpretation of Angleton’s career. The facts given in Cold Warrior suggest that Angleton was, in fact, on to something when he spoke about a ‘Monster Plot’ of deep Soviet penetration into the CIA. Far from showing Angleton to be a completely incompetent boob, Mangold’s book gives evidence of Angleton’s counterintelligence insights, insights which ought to look pretty damn smart to the post-Snowden CIA:
When the computer age dawned over Langley, Anglton rejected the idea of computerizing his files. He was fearful that information technology would allow his staff’s precious secrets to be distributed to terminals throughout the CIA building.
I’ve spoken with someone who worked on installing Langley’s current computer system, and like any competent IT expert, they know computers are designed to replicate information quickly and will therefore always be a liability for spies– no matter how many system admins are fired.
But Angleton’s IT insights are not the crux of what I want to talk about today. Tom Mangold’s book is, on the surface, a hatchet-job against Angleton’s career and personality. The facts Mangold uses to back his claims do not support the conclusions he draws. As part of this deception, Mangold relies heavily on the testimony of three men who were tasked with bringing Angleton down and burning his files: William Colby, George Kalaris and Leonard McCoy.
Burning Angleton’s files on Soviet penetration of the CIA and other American institutions was a really weird thing for the CIA to do. For an exploration of this topic, please see my post Jesus, Jimmy!, which explains why CIA leadership are still interested in shepherding the public’s perception of Angleton.
But back to Colby, Kalaris and McCoy. Mangold’s attitude towards these three men, and to post-Angleton CIA leadership, is fawning and largely uncritical. However the information Mangold gives us about the trio, when viewed dispassionately, suggests that Colby was probably a KGB asset and had a long standing feud with Angleton; it suggests McCoy had reason to hate Angleton for stymieing his career (McCoy was part of the CIA’s distrusted Soviet Division); and it also suggests that Kalaris was ignorant of Washington politics and had a stagnant career in a South American backwater before the Angleton take-down. Colby’s three big sources have their own reasons for distorting Angleton’s legacy.
History, as Cleveland Cram well knows, is written by the victors.
I’ll let Mangold’s own words make my point that these three men are untrustworthy. As background, William Colby served in the OSS (which was ripe with Soviet plants) in Italy alongside Angleton. Colby became chief of the CIA’s Far East Division, where he actively frustrated Angleton’s counterintelligence efforts, ostensibly to protect his own turf.
Mangold on Colby’s KGB ties:
During the Vietnam era, Angleton even went so far as to harbor doubts about Colby’s loyalty, suspicions that were raised after Colby had become the subject of an Angleton-directed security investigation.
While serving in Saigon, Colby had casually met a French medical doctor on three or four social occasions. According to the CIA’s book of rules, a station chief like Colby should have reported all substantive meetings with potentially useful foreigners, but he appears not have done so in this case. He had been unaware at the time that the Frenchman was suspected of being a Soviet GRU agent. Later, the CIA picked up some of the doctor’s incriminating radio transmissions from Vietnam. Years later, the doctor was caught in Paris by French security officials passing intelligence documents to his GRU case officer.
Colby quashed the investigation of his meetings with the French GRU agent after he became Executive Director-Comptroller of the CIA. At best, Colby was incompetent and sloppy– but you know what I think– Colby was recruited by the GRU in Saigon. Colby later became Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).
Mangold describes McCoy as, “a young Soviet Division reports officer who later rose to become deputy chief of the Counterintelligence Staff after Angleton.” From bête noire to deputy fox in the counterintelligence hen-house at Angleton’s expense!
Finally, Mangold on George Kalaris’ background: “George Kalaris could not have been more neutral to the Angleton controversies had he come from halfway up the Amazon– which, in effect he did.” Mangold adds this tidbit about Kalaris’ early career: “In the course of a notable career in the clandestine side of the house, he [Kalaris] became one of Colby’s trusted Far East specialists.” Kalaris may have been an ignorant castaway in Brazil, but was definitely not “neutral”!
It always amazes me how American ‘experts’ can switch regions of ‘expertise’ from one side of the globe to another at the drop of a hat. (This isn’t just a CIA-proper phenomenon, but a think-tank and academic problem too. Hmmm.) Something went wrong for Colby’s boy in the Far East: Kalaris was shunted off to Brazil before being called to Washington D.C. for Angleton’s undoing. Kalaris orchestrated the burning of Angleton’s files and oversaw the creation of Angleton’s ‘official history’ at the CIA.
So these three men are Mangold’s primary sources, a.nolen readers. It’s impossible for Mangold to completely sweep their biases under the rug; he tries to deflect criticism of his analysis by mentioning these biases and finding excuses why they don’t matter– a common trick that didn’t work on this reader.
While the characters of Kalaris, McCoy and Colby are fascinating, I am particularly interested in what Mangold accuses Angleton of doing, because these accusations shed light on Colby, and his superiors’, motives.
According to Mangold and his sources, Angleton was doing unprofessional work that didn’t follow acceptable business practice. Specifically, Angleton was using data from the 1920s and 1930s to try to ‘catch spies’ in the 1960s. He came up with theories that didn’t make sense to any of his superiors, THEREFORE the files which Angleton believed supported these theories had to be immediately burned, with a new, official history of Angleton’s research created to replace them. The lack of Soviet agents who were caught is evidence of Angleton’s incompetence. So says Mangold.
I don’t believe that story and I can use Mangold’s own evidence to counter it.
First of all, it wasn’t Angleton’s job to ‘catch’ spies. His job was to monitor them, as described by Mangold: “His [Angleton's] department was expected to collect information and to monitor clandestine operations aimed at disrupting and neutralizing the Soviet intelligence services.”
‘No spies being caught under Angleton’s watch,’ is only evidence of a lack of political will from his superiors, like James Schlesinger, to act on the information Angleton presented to them. It doesn’t necessarily mean Angleton was giving bad information– and we’ll never know if he was, because his files were burned by his replacement.
An anonymous source gives Mangold this description of how CIA leadership reacted when they found out about Angleton’s ‘Monster Plot’ investigations: “My God, if we had only known this was going on, we could have stopped it years ago. We just didn’t know; the seventh floor didn’t pay close attention to what Angleton was doing.”
This means, anolen.com readers, that CIA brass hired Angleton then pretty much ignored him, and everything he was doing, for twenty years. I believe ‘The Seventh Floor’ was so remiss because Angleton was hired to be a fig-leaf, someone to show Congress and to convince representatives that the sprawling CIA tumor was actually acting in the nation’s interests. ‘The Seventh Floor’ chose Angleton because they believed he wasn’t good enough to sniff out their conflicting loyalties. They didn’t see Angleton as a threat; therefore he was ignorable. You can find my reasoning here.
As a corollary to the ‘Floor Seven Didn’t Know’ story, Mangold belabors his point that Angleton’s superiors, the men Angleton reported Soviet-spy-evidence to, ‘just didn’t understand any of Angleton’s ramblings’. (Yet Angleton stayed on staff 20 years!)
For instance, Mangold quotes James Schlesinger:
“Listening to him was like looking at an Impressionist painting,” Schlesinger explains. “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… if it had gone on much longer, and I had stayed, I would have seen there was nothing behind the curtain and I would have moved him.”
Uh, okay James, whatever you say. Colby’s press source Seymour Hersh (a Michael Hastings predecessor?) tells it this way:
“After talking to Angleton, I then called Colby up to tell him that I thought his man was totally off the reservation– that, in essence, he was totally crazy.”
If that wasn’t enough, lefty Mangold brings out the big guns: George H. Bush.
The following day, the future President of the United States telephoned George Kalaris to tell him about the meeting [with Angleton]. “Geroge, I listened very carefully to Jim Angleton yesterday, ” Bush said frankly. “But I’m afraid I couldn’t really understand what he was talking about. It all sounded very complicated.”
And of course, Mangold’s readers are inundated by a barrage of “Crazy! Incompetent! Nonsense!” from Kalaris, Colby and McCoy.
Personally, I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about the ‘Monster Plot’: ‘At least one CIA division, and dozens of public figures, have been infiltrated/recruited by the Soviets.’ We now know from the Venona files that the OSS, the CIA’s feeder-pool, was heavily infiltrated by Soviets. Since the 1970s, a lot of information has come out about celebrities and politicians who worked with Soviet agents; enough information to make authors like M. Stanton Evans question if McCarthy wasn’t too tame in his red hunts.
But Angleton’s insights were just too hard for Schlesinger, Bush, Colby, etc. to get their heads around. (Though they understood the Monster Plot well enough to know that Angleton’s work had to be burned!)
In reality, ‘The Seventh Floor’ understood what Angleton was on to so well that no dissent was tolerated once Angleton had been removed:
“Virtually everyone volunteered damaging appraisals of Angleton’s work. There was near unanimity that Colby had made the correct decision to fire him. Many officers said that Angleton’s retirement was the best thing that could have happened to the agency’s counterintelligence program.
Finally– this is the most interesting bit– Mangold says Angleton was incompetent in his research methods:
According to former CIA general counsel Lawrence Houston, “Jim’s [Angleton's] staff spent too much time reviewing old historical cases which had little relevance to current affairs. They would go over and over old cases like ‘The Trust’ and Rote Kapelle. They spent weeks and months on it. To me it seemed like a waste of time.”
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. Leonard McCoy points out that “The Trust” was largely irrelevant to the counterintelligence work of the 1960s because it had existed in a “totally different KGB and a totally different world.” He explains: “This was a world in the 1920s and early 1930s in which there were one and a half million refuees from the Soviet Union, and it was easly enough for Soviet officials to penetrate and manipulate a large group like that. No such group existed by the 1950s…”
Kim Philby, the rogue British spy who Angleton is criticized for not seeing through, had been recruited by the Soviets in the 1930s. He wasn’t outed until the 1960s. Angleton’s historical methods were not foolish, they were smart.
Here’s the thing about the 1920s and 1930s: the political climate in the US was such that influential Soviet sympathizers could be open about their allegiance. Much publicly-available– and vetted– information on likely Soviet agents exists from this period. Investigations surrounding Rote Kappelle and ‘The Trust’ are two notable sources, HOWEVER, The Lusk Report and the Palmer Raids are two even more likely sources for Angleton to have used. (Mangold is careful not to mention these *highly probable* sources.)
The Lusk Report and the Palmer Raids were the result of the US Department of Justice’s efforts to undermine foreign spies’ political machinations through the labor movement. The Palmer Raids were dragnet raids on suspected Soviet front operations, and while some Americans’ rights were violated, the raids broke up Trotsky’s henchman Ludwig Martens’ US spy networks. Being an outspoken American, I’m glad this happened on balance, because neither Trotsky, Lenin nor Stalin had any respect for anyone’s rights and Palmer had strong reasons to suspect certain East Coast labor organizations of being Bolshevik fronts. (Not all labor organizations were raided.)
The fall out from the Palmer Raids is interesting, because many prominent people in the Woodrow Wilson administration spoke out on behalf of the socialist ‘victims’. Famous names like Felix Frankfurter, Roscoe Pound, Ernst Freund joined forces with the newly-flegded ACLU to lambast Palmer, and even Harvard professor Zechariah Chafee jumped on the bandwagon. Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis Freeland Post canceled more than 2,000 of Palmer’s warrants as being illegal. In effect, The Wilson Administration came down on the side of Martens, though Palmer had disrupted operations enough to prevent a Bolshevik Revolution happening on American soil– for the time being.
The Wilson Administration’s actions are only surprising if you haven’t read Anthony Sutton’s Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, in which Sutton documents the close working relationship between investment bankers, mining magnates and Lenin’s regime. This collaboration was better known at the time than it is now.
The political backlash from Wilson’s administration became so vicious that Attorney General Palmer’s career was ruined; but his second-in-command, J. Edgar Hoover, had his career made. (Readers will remember that Hoover worked with Stephenson and FDR to set up what became the CIA. Hoover was an expert in manipulating Congress and undermining political opposition to the Executive Branch.)
Angleton would have gleaned a lot of useful information from reading about who opposed Palmer in Wilson’s cabinet, then looking into which other careers were fostered by these ‘broad-minded’ men.
Regular readers will know that I’m not adverse to historical revisionism. Having read Mangold’s book, this is what I think really went on with Angleton:
At some time during Angleton’s twenty-year tenure, perhaps after the Philby incident, Angleton realized there was a strong pro-Soviet current running through the Anglophile circles he was used to. This current was culturally alien to him and it didn’t sit well. The open secret of Soviet sympathies amongst some of the UK and the USA’s most well-heeled and powerful citizens looked more sinister to Angleton than it originally had back in the 1920s. Angleton’s buddies from Cambridge University had been recruited in the 1930s and were only just being outed as spies. Quietly, Angleton began to open files and pay more attention to dinner talk. He began to check the public record for powerful people who spoke out in support of known soviet agents like Ludwig Martens in the 1920s and 1930s, back when Philby was recruited.
Angleton’s inquiries lead him to suspect people close to the White House and CIA leadership. Angleton uncovered Soviet spy networks that had been in place since the OSS, and a rash of informants at the CIA’s Soviet Division. Angleton’s discoveries were so pervasive that he started to distrust the entire CIA structure, and began to segregate his files from those of the rest of the organization. None of Angleton’s activities raised red flags with CIA leadership because the leadership wasn’t paying attention to their stooge in counterintelligence.
When Angleton began to talk to his superiors, testing the water with names of 30 world leaders suspected of working with the Soviets, his superiors showed no political will to pursue Angleton’s claims. Men like James Schlesinger didn’t respect Angleton enough to take what he was doing seriously, until something happened, and they realized Angleton had information that was deadly to them. Suddenly Angleton was ‘crazy’, his records had to be burned, and he would be sent as a sacrifice to the Church Committee. The CIA’s history would need to be rewritten by Colby and Kalaris through the Cram Report, something career-minded CIA professionals accept as gospel.
Now, I’m not claiming that everything Angleton did was smart. I’m not saying that Angleton was completely right or that he didn’t have emotional problems. I’m not saying Anatoliy Golitsyn wasn’t a troublemaker. I’m not saying that there weren’t serious cultural problems in Angleton’s counterintelligence division.
In fact, in light of all the ‘intelligence community’ pundits who have screamed “KGB!” since the beginning of Snowden’s revelations, I find this quote from Angleton about the Church Committee quite amusing:
The former Counterintelligence chief turned up at Langley sweaty, tired, and deeply distraught. As he calmed down, Angleton began to explain to Elder in quiet and measured tones that he had uncovered a “diabolical plot”.
“The Church Committee has opened up the CIA to a frontal assault by the KGB,” he said. “This is the KGB’s chance to go for the jugular. The whole plan is being masterminded by Kim Philby in Moscow. The KGB’s only object in the world is to destroy me and the agency. The committee is serving as the unwitting instrument of the KGB.”
Clearly, Angleton was capable of the same tunnel-vision as his sucessors are today.
However, if you have access to enough information, perhaps you don’t have to be very smart or balanced to realize that something is wrong at the CIA. I ask readers not to look to Angleton’s character for proof of vast Soviet infiltration, but to look to the reactions of Angleton’s enemies at the CIA. Forty years later and the CIA is still protecting traitors who feared Angleton.
Tom Mangold’s book, the CIA’s favorite Angleton book, does more to uncover the ‘Monster Plot’ than Angleton could ever have hoped to do in his lifetime. I encourage the public, and CIA employees, to read Cold Warrior and ask themselves if this is an organization they want to have access to their health records, financial records and personal communications.
P.S. Why Tom Mangold? Tom is a product of the BBC, an organization that was set up by the same people who set up the British Security Coordinate (BSC)– the BBC and BSC were both set up by Bill Stephenson and his supporters. The BSC worked with the OSS, which became the CIA. So you could say that the BBC and the CIA were birthed from the same mother.
P.P.S. If you’d like to learn more about why J. Edgar Hoover was the darling of America’s anti-democratic elite, and how he undermined ‘undesirable’ — not illegal– grass-roots political movements on the left and right, read The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI, by