Was James Angleton a KGB mole?

I get this question a lot, most recently from reader Peter.

Peter actually asked three questions about my forthcoming book on Angleton.

The Ghost by Jefferson MorleyA. Did you consider the possibility that Angleton himself may have been the mole as Clare Petty and Douglas Valentine suspected

A. I did, very carefully.

Q. If you did consider the possibility what evidence or argument caused you to either accept or reject their hypothesis.

A. There were at least four internal CIA studies that look at the issue of the mole after Petty made his allegation (Cram, Goodpastur, Fischer, and Hart). None came to the conclusion that Angleton was not the mole, and all came to the conclusion that there was no mole during Angleton’s tenure. Petty’s report has never been declassified so the details of his argument are unknown and impossible to judge.

While Cleveland Cram’s voluminous study of Angleton has not been made public, there is nothing in Cram’s public comments to indicate that Cram saw evidence suggesting Angleton was the mole.

(Cram’s personal papers on the subject were withdrawn from public view by the CIA when I began to research the issue. See my piece in The Intercept last year.)

Christopher Andrew

In addition, I consulted the work of Christopher Andrew, semi-official historian of the British services and custodian of the Mitrokhin archive, the most complete collection of Soviet intelligence files available in the West.  Andrew does not believe that Angleton was the mole. Nothing that has been published about the Mitrokhin archive supports the notion that Angleton was the mole.

In addition, I reviewed the memoirs of Soviet intelligence officers actively engaged in trying to penetrate U.S. intelligence during Angleton’s tenure such as Mitrokhin and Nikolai Leonov. None allege a relationship between Soviet intelligence and Angleton.

Independent Scholars

I also reviewed the works of dozens of independent intelligence scholars, from a wide variety of political perspectives, who have written about Angleton. None have made the claim aside from Valentine. I don’t know the particulars of Valentine’s argument so I can’t comment on them.

The Soviet intelligence officers who seem to suggest that Angleton was an asset are, in my view, simply commenting on the well-known fact that Angleton’s mole hunt shut down anti-Soviet operations from 1964 to 1969. In this way, Angleton’s actions helped the KGB.  Calling Angleton a “useful idiot” is very different than than saying he was an agent in place.

Q. If Angleton was a mole, what can we then conclude about a possible Soviet role in the JFK assassination?

A. Since I don’t believe Angleton was the mole, I think the question of a possible Soviet role has to be judged separately from such speculation. I see no evidence that the Soviet Union was behind the assassination. The most credible sources cited above, particularly Andrew and Mitrokhin, make no such claim.



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