In a great compliment to me, personally and professionally, CIA historian David Robarge has attacked my new biography of James Angleton, THE GHOST.
Robarge’s review is a compliment because it shows how my account of Angleton’s career is disturbing the CIA’s preferred narrative of Angleton, and especially the agency’s enduring cover story that Angleton was not paying close attention to Lee Harvey Oswald in the summer of 1963. In fact, he was paying attention to Oswald, as I show in THE GHOST.
Robarge is discomfited by the JFK facts as I have presented them. He should be.
Robarge’s review does not up live up to the usual editorial standards of the CIA, which is why I suspect it was not published by Robarge’s employer but by Max Holland on his personal site Washington Decoded.
Let it be said that while Holland and Robarge harbor an animus against me, I do not return the favor. Robarge’s published views on Angleton are fair and judicious. Holland did pioneering work on the story of Deep Throat/Mark Felt. When it comes to THE GHOST, however, their professionalism falters.
This does not surprise me. When I started researching THE GHOST, I sought out Robarge’s expertise. In the summer of 2015, I requested an interview with him. On August 21, 2015, CIA Public Affairs Office informed me that the agency could not support the request.
Robarge now criticizes me for not sharing his views of Angleton, after passing up the opportunity to share his views with me.
Robarge says THE GHOST is “erratically organized.”
Readers will observe that the 50-plus chapters in THE GHOST are organized chronologically.
Robarge says that I have “insufficient discernment among sources.”
In THE GHOST I relied heavily on on-the-record interviews with retired CIA officers, and others who knew and worked with Angleton including Bill Hood, Jane Roman, Peter Jessup, Ann Goodpasture, Bill Gowen, Peter Sichel, as well as State Department officials, Tom Hughes and Tom Pickering, and former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy.
I drew from on the private papers and records of retired CIA officers including Richard Helms, Roscoe Hillenkoetter, James McCarger, and John Hadden.
I also relied on CIA’s biographies of Richard Helms, John McCone and William Colby. David Robarge is quoted favorably on pp. 86 and 123.
Robarge taxes me for quoting an anonymous blogger.
I quoted one blogger who described Angleton’s reign at the CIA as a “Panopticon rendered in paper.” I thought that was a nice turn of phrase. Robarge says the blogger did not have any citations. I had the same problem with this blogger, which is why I do not cite him as the source for a single fact in the book, only his quote.
Robarge says “Morley overstates Angleton’s part in the Italian election operation—he hardly was its ‘miracle worker.’”
My account of Angleton’s role in the 1948 election is based in part on Cloak & Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961, by Robin Winks, p. 351-388. “It was in Italy that the ‘legendary Jim Angleton’ was born,” Winks wrote. Angleton may not have been a “miracle worker” in Italy but he had that reputation, at least according to his friend Winks.
Robarge says “no persuasive evidence shows that Angleton had a “supporting role” in the MK/ULTRA project.”
My account is based primarily on the diary of Angleton’s friend, George Hunter White, which is held in the Stanford University Library. The diary records six meetings between Angleton and White in the summer and fall of 1952, including phone calls, meals, and office meetings.
The diary shows the two men met in 1952 with Sidney Gottlieb, the Technical Services Division scientist who later ran MKULTRA. White would go on to run two CIA safehouses where unwitting persons were dosed with LSD.
White’s diary is persuasive evidence of Angleton’s supporting role in the early days of MKULTRA.
An Israeli diplomat is alleged to have been “Angleton’s man in Havana.” But they met only a few times,
Baruch Nir was Angleton’s man in Havana. Late in life, he spoke in detail to Israeli journalists about how he helped Angleton with intelligence missions in Cuba. He was described as the CIA’s man in Havana.
Robarge disagrees that the United States had “two divergent Cuba policies” in mid-1963 represented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s “engineered provocation” plan called NORTHWOODS and the White House’s “autonomous operations” using Cuban exiles, possibly in conjunction with the assassination of Castro.
Reasonable people can differ. But Robarge adds “NORTHWOODS was never carried out, and the CIA’s integrated covert action program codenamed AM/WORLD became the focus for the rest of Kennedy’s presidency. “
How do we know NORTHWOODS “was never carried out”?
I cited the proceedings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on May 1, 1963. The JCS unanimously approved of NORTHWOODS approach for provoking war with Cuba. And that is where the declassified paper trail ends. There is nothing in the public record that states whether NORTHWOODS was executed or discontinued. If Robarge has evidence that NORTHWOODS was cancelled after May 1963, I hope he will share it.
Robarge says that Morley “asserts that Angleton stressed Lee Harvey Oswald’s Cuban ties so the White House would activate NORTHWOODS.“
I don’t know what passage in THE GHOST Robarge is referring to. All I can say is that I did not write, and I do not believe, this claim as stated.
Angleton did not stress Oswald’s Cuban ties after JFK’s assassination. The CIA’s psychological warfare agents in Miami and New Orleans publicly stressed Oswald’s Cuba ties. Angleton himself did not.
I did not write, and I do not believe, that the White House “activated” NORTHWOODS. Robarge is drawing conspiratorial conclusions from the evidence. I do not draw this conclusion in THE GHOST.
Robarge accuses me of a “fundamental misunderstanding” of Angleton’s “Cuban Control and Action Capabilities”— an assessment of the Castro regime’s counterintelligence apparatus, issued in May 1963. In THE GHOST I report that the memo was not sent to the White House, the National Security Council, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the administration’s point man on Cuban affairs.
“The recipients on the paper’s distribution list were the USIB’s [United States Intelligence Board] members and other US departments with equities in Cuban affairs,” he writes, all of which is true. Then he writes. “The White House, the NSC, and the attorney general would not have received it as a standard practice.”
But, of course, JFK’s Cuba policy in 1963 did not follow “standard practice.” Attorney Robert Kennedy, as the administration’s point man on Cuba, did have equities in Cuba policy. So did the NSC. But they didn’t get the memo.
“Angleton did not leave them off as some devious tactic to influence policy behind the scenes or in a show of antagonism toward them,” Robarge writes.
No, Angleton left them off because he, like Dick Helms, disdained the amateurish AMWORLD approach favored by RFK and the White House. Angleton’s May 1963 memo shows that he trying to do something more serious: forge an inter-agency consensus around a more robust policy aimed at what we now call “regime change.”
Robarge accuses me of a “gross misrepresentation” when I describe the assassination of JFK as, “an epic counterintelligence failure culminated on Angleton’s watch.”
We can agree that counterintelligence chief Angleton was responsible for detecting threats from U.S. enemies seeking to penetrate the government’s intelligence agency and American institutions.
Robarge does not dispute that Angleton, and his aides Jane Roman and Betty Egerter, received multiple reports about the movements, politics and foreign contacts of Lee Harvey Oswald from November 1959 to Nove
Robarge does not dispute that in late 1963, Angleton’s staff was informed about Oswald’s contacts with KGB and DGI officers, one of whom had been identified as a possible KGB assassination specialist.
Robarge does not dispute that Angleton and his staff also knew about Oswald’s pro-Castro politics and his recent arrest in October 1963.
We agree that Angleton’s people did not take any action to heighten scrutiny of Oswald.
That’s why I describe their actions as a “failure,” and I think the consequences were “epic.”
“By Morley’s logic, Angleton and the Counterintelligence Staff supposedly were, or should have been, preoccupied with one person—Oswald—to the exclusion of everyone else caught up in the sweep.”
I never say that Angleton should have been preoccupied with Oswald.
What I document in THE GHOST is that Angleton was interested in Lee Harvey Oswald from 1959 to 1963 and that he used Oswald for intelligence purposes–in his hunt for the mole and in watching the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City.
Robarge says “Morley unskeptically draws on CIA station chief Winston Scott’s memoir for details about what the Agency knew of Oswald’s doings in Mexico City without noting the errors in it that were pointed out in a publicly available CIA critique.”
I saw the CIA critique of Scott’s memoir when I wrote Scott’s biograpy, Our Man In Mexico. The author, who did not know Scott well, wrote six or seven years after Scott’s death. He claimed that Scott had “gone to seed” by the time he wrote the memoir in 1969-1970.
In fact, in those years Scott received the CIA’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal and ran an international consulting business with former London station chief Al Ulmer. He had not “gone to seed,” according to his colleagues, friends and family. I did not cite the memo because it is not factual.
Robarge says my reporting reaches “a low point” when I quote Tom Hughes, the head of the State Department’s Intelligence and Research division in the 1960s.
As a senior State Department official, Tom Hughes is a credible source. As I noted in the text, Hughes “speculated” about Angleton’s role in the events of June 1967.
Robarge says Morley “does not appear to have actually read Agency counterintelligence officer Tennent H. Bagley’s report arguing for Nosenko’s mala fides although portions of it have long been declassified.”
Robarge does not appear to have read my book. On p. 168 of THE GHOST I cite this document, summarize its contents, and note Bagley’s authorship.
I weighed Bagley’ memo for Nosenko’s mala fides against the case made by CIA officers John Hart, George Kisevalter, Cleveland Cram, and Benjamin Fischer. I concluded the latter had the much stronger case.
Robarge says MI-5 scientist Peter Wright is “routinely derided by critics as semi-paranoid.”
Robarge cites no names of these critics and disputes none of Wright’s facts, so it is hard to know what he is talking about.
I find Wright’s Spycatcher to a credible source because Wright collaborated professionally with Angleton for a decade. He shared his anti-communist politics, subscribed to his penetration theories, and admired him personally, at least up until 1970. I relied on Wright precisely because he did not have an ideological animus against Angleton.
“According to Angleton’s former colleague John Hadden, Angleton was guilty of ‘either treason or incompetence’ in his handling of a suspected Israeli theft of nuclear material from a US facility. No alternatives exist?”
Sure, there are alternative explanations of Angleton’s behavior. My point is that his colleague and deputy John Hadden did not think so.
I’m accused of “bad sourcing” because I “overuse” books by Joseph Trento, Michael Holzman and Tim Wiener.
In THE GHOST’s 824 footnotes, these three authors are cited a total of nine times. The articles and books of David Robarge are cited eleven times.
“Angleton ‘cooperated’ in quelling the outcry against Israel after it attacked the [Liberty] ship, but Morley does not say how or offer any proof that he did.”
I write on p. 183 that Angleton cooperated by endorsing the Israeli claim, later withdrawn, that the attackers mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian steamer. Angleton made this claim in the first CIA cable about the attack. My proof is the memo reproduced in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War 1967, Document 284.
Robarge says Morley’s “information about Angleton and the MK/ULTRA program comes mostly from H. P. Albarelli’s A Terrible Mistake.”
Actually, my account mostly comes from George White’s diary and the declassified MKULTRA papers at the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which corroborate Albarelli on key points.
An account of Angleton’s relationship with an Israeli intelligence (Shin Bet) officer is taken from an imagined after-death conversation between the two men.
False. My account of Angleton’s friendship with Amos Manor comes from my interview with Efraim Halevy, former chief of Mossad, who was close to both men for decades. It also comes from Israeli journalists Yossi Mellman and Dan Regev who interviewed Manor extensively. Reuel Marc Gerect, the man who wrote the imaginary after-death conversation, knew Manor personally. I cited only his assessment of Manor’s abilities. The friendship of Angleton and Manor is not disputed by anybody in the Israeli security services.
Nor–if you read this tricky attack carefully–is it disputed by Robarge himself.
“Morley ignores reliable sources whenever they contradict his speculations, such as Samuel Halpern’s and Hayden Peake’s article on who ordered Nosenko’s detention (Angleton did not).”
I read Halpern and Peake’s article, and found it supported my conclusion. It was division chief David Murphy who ordered the detention, but he was urged on by Angleton. If Angleton had objected, Murphy, by far the junior official, would have relented. On p. 161, I quote Pete Bagley who said, accurately, “Angleton never opposed incarceration.”
“Alleged connections between Angleton and World War II war criminals, for example, come mainly from an interview conducted 70 years after the events with an Army intelligence officer who was barely 20 years old at the time.”
False. My account of Angleton’s dealings with Italian fascist Valerio Borghese comes entirely from an interview that Angleton gave to the Italian newspaper EPOCA in 1976 and from declassified CIA records on PLAN IVY available in the agency’s electronic reading room.
My account of Angleton’s dealings with Nazi Eugen Dollmann is mainly based on the CIA’s voluminous declassified file on Dollman where Angleton (“Major O’Brien”) is frequently mentioned. The story that Army officer Bill Gowan told me was amply corroborated by the Dollman file.
“References to unsourced blog postings, some of a conspiracist nature, abound, and other citations are bizarre.”
They do not “abound.” Robarge does not identify any “conspiracist” web sites that I supposedly cited because there are none.
Then Robarge goes on to list my alleged errors, some of which do not appear in the published version of the book.
- OSS Director William Donovan was not known for “aerial heroics” in World War I; he led an infantry unit.
- I stand corrected
- Bletchley Park was not an OSS training school.
- Bletchley Park was a British intelligence installation where all OSS officers were trained. I guess Robarge’s point is that the OSS didn’t formally designate the place a training school. I called it an OSS training school because all OSS officers were trained there.
- According to Morley, Angleton arrived in London in March 1944 amid destruction from the German’s V weapons. But the V-1 and V-2 surface-to-surface rockets were not used until June and September, respectively.
- The missile attack that I dated to March 1944 happened later that year.
- DCI Roscoe Hillenkoetter was not “brought on” to CIA when it was created; he already was there as head of the Agency’s predecessor agency.
- Robarge’s strain is showing. He is restating what I wrote; The CIA was created in 1947 and Hillenkoeter was brought on to run it.
- DCI Walter Bedell Smith, not Allen Dulles, merged the Agency’s early espionage component, the Office of Special Operations (OSO), with the Agency’s covert action element, the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), to create the Directorate of Plans.
- Bedell Smith ordered the OSO/OPC merger; Dulles implemented it. My source is CIA historian Anne Karalekas.
- Angleton had no authority to allow NSA spy Sidney Joseph Petersen, Jr. “to plead guilty and avoid a public trial,” nor does Morley’s source (an article by historian Cees Wiebes) suggest that.
- Wiebes says that Angleton’s finding that Petersen was not guilty of espionage allowed him to plea to lesser charges, which is what I wrote.
- The Soviet spy ring called the Rote Kappelleo operated during World War II, not in the 1920s; Morley confuses it with the Trust deception operation.
- Point well taken
- The star-shaped batteries seen in aerial photographs of Cuba in August 1962 were for launching SAMs, not MRBMs.
- Contrary to Robarge’s false claim, this mistake does not appear in THE GHOST. I suspect Robarge is quoting from the galley copy of the book. If so, he failed to extend the professional courtesy of checking against the published version. This failure of professionalism may be symptomatic of bias.
- The reporting of GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky was not called the “Penkovsky Papers”; his documentary material was codenamed IRONBARK, and reports of his debriefings were labeled CHICKADEE.
- More pedantry. Robarge knows full well that the published version of Penkovsky’s reporting was called the “Penkovsky Papers.”
- Public Law 110, which allows the CIA to admit up to 100 persons into the United States each year for national security reasons, is not “a secret arrangement”—it is part of the CIA Act of 1949 (specifically, section 7 of 50 US Code section 403h) that established the Agency’s special administrative authorities.
- It was secret to 99.9 percent of Americans.
- MH/CHAOS did not—could not—“spy on and infiltrate the entire antiwar movement.”
- According to Frank Rafalko’s account, MH-CHAOS indexed the name of 300,000 Americans, and opened files on 7,000 people individuals and 100 antiwar organizations. If Robarge can identify a segment of the antiwar movement Angleton did not spy on, he should share his insights.
- Nosenko was not given LSD during his detention. Administering it and truth serum was discussed, but DCI Helms refused to authorize using either.
- CIA psychologist John Gittinger told PBS Frontline that the agency “decided to try some kind of drugs.” Nosenko said that he was dosed with LSD.
- “Former KGB officer Igor Orlov was not “blameless” of spying against the United States. He was a penetration of the CIA in the 1950s but was inactive when the FBI surveilled him as part of Angleton’s molehunt in the 1960s. The fact that he was never caught doing anything operational is irrelevant to his earlier espionage.”
- Again Robarge unprofessionally cites an alleged mistake (“blameless”) that doesn’t appear in the book.
- KGB officer Yuri Loginov was not executed by a firing squad after Angleton arranged for his turnover to the Sovlets (see Tom Mangold’s interview with Oleg Gordievsky in Cold Warrior).
- I wrote that it was “rumored” that Loginov was executed, which is true. It is also true that Loginov was not executed.
Robarge objects to my descriptions of Angleton, saying they are “sensationalistic.’ He does not dispute their accuracy.
- “Angleton had become a lethal man.”
- I said this because a 1944 OSS memo credited him with developing the intelligence that resulted in the “liquidation” of 16 German spies in Italy.
- “ . . . Angleton and [American labor official Jay] Lovestone effectively controlled what American labor unions had to say about US foreign policy.”
- This is the conclusion of Ted Morgan, Lovestone’s capable and sympathetic biographer.
- “Then his power became unparalleled.”
- Dulles thought Angleton’s obtaining of the secret speech was one of the CIA’s greatest coups and gave Angleton unparalleled freedom of action in the years that followed.
- “By the mid-1960s, Angleton reigned as the Machiavelli of the new American national security state, a thinker and strategist of ruthless clarity.”
- My source for this was CIA officer George Kisevalter, It was he who likened Angleton to Machiavelli. In 1997 Kisevalter was honored as one the top 50 CIA officers in the agency’s first 50 years. Does Robarge think he is not a credible source?
- “Angleton was a man unbound. His empire now stretched from Mexico City to London to Rome to Jerusalem.”
- This is a factual description of the range of Angleton’s contacts. In Mexico City, he had Win Scott and Ann Goodpasture. In London, he had Maurice Oldfield, Peter Wright and Arthur Marti. In Rome, he had Valerio Borghese and security chief Vito Miceli; in Jerusalem he had the Mossad’s Meir Amit, and Isser Harel, Shabak’s Amos Manor, as well as retired prime minister David Ben-Gurion.
- “Angleton was a ghoul, a specter who showed up around the time of death.”
- Win Scott’s widow Janet Scott thought Angleton was a ghoul when he showed up to seize her husband’s personal papers less than two days after Win Scott died.
- “Morley’s use of the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the National Archives, along with his interviews with Angleton’s family and associates, add a small measure of insight.”
- I take this grudging statement to mean that Robarge does not dare dispute one of the most important findings in THE GHOST: that Angleton monitored Lee Harvey Oswald from 1959 to 1963, used him for intelligence purposes in the mole hunt and Mexico City, and then, after Oswald allegedly killed Kennedy, covered up what he knew about him, committing perjury and obstruction of justice.