In this balanced 1976 interview with London’s Thames TV, we get a glimpse of James Angleton, slightly past his prime, but still a vintage Cold Warrior. He worried that President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had embraced an illusion in pursuing detente with the Soviet Union and excoriated the man who fired him, William Colby. His firing, he allowed, was a defeat for the free world.
Some classic Angleton:
A conspiracy theory: about the assassination of Tom Mboya, a Kenyan leader in 1969:
“My belief is that it was executive action–the KGB.”
On detente between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s.
The Soviets “can have you believe whatever they desire you to believe. If you have, as they do, control over all forms of communication with the West, be it the media, diplomats, tourists, students, culture, all playing the same theme, that becomes a very convincing agglomerate of information. ….It leads the West to think of Romania as something separate from Czechoslovakia or Poland or Yugoslavia.”
On the investigations of the CIA in the 1970s:
“In the West it is almost conceivable to be able to deceive when the very people who are your lawmakers destroy your secrets. The very people who profit from living in a democratic institution are those who have denigrated the word ‘national security.'”
On the nature of espionage:
“Counterintelligence: the queen on the board.”
The CIA in a democratic society
“There is always a question of whether a democratic country is capable of having an intelligence service of any great merit simply because of the built-in inhibitions. It usually takes a national crisis, a Pearl Harbor, to know what survival really means.”
James Angleton’s real life is the most intriguing, moving, and at time shocking spy story in American history. In The Ghost, Jefferson Morley has capture the man in all of his brilliant and sometimes delusional eccentricity. A must read’ for anyone who wants to understand just how strange and secretive the CIA was at the height of the Cold War.
–David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post and author of The Director.