‘The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven. Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.’
Extract from: “Art, Truth & Politics”, speech presented by British playwright Harold Pinter, upon receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2005
‘Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to any thing but power for their relief.’
Edmund Burke, author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, statesman, 1791
‘It is inconceivable that a secret arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government.’
Sever for us all ties/Between the now and what is to be/We will act as your sword, oh Great Itzamna/….And you will know us by the trail of dead*.
We are the Hollow men, the stuffed Men/Leaning Together, Headpiece filled with Straw…/Our dried voices, when/We whisper together/Are quiet and meaningless/As wind in dry grass/Or rats’ feet over broken glass…/In our dry cellar/Shape without form, shade without colour/Paralysed force, gesture without motion…/Those who have crossed/With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom/Remember us-if at all-not as lost/Violent souls, but only/…As the hollow men/The stuffed men.
‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ John VIII-XXXII
Inscription etched into the foyer wall of the original CIA building, presumably a mission statement of sorts.
To all those CIA officers who died in the line of duty believing in the righteousness of the cause, and for whom the truth arrived too late to set them free.
Brief: For Americans inclined to reflect on such matters, it must be disquieting in the least that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—ostensibly established to protect and preserve their country’s national security—has done more than any other entity to compromise that security, and devalue the international good-will and moral capital that America enjoyed at the end of World War Two. The CIA must not only shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for the position in which the U.S. finds itself within the geopolitical order; with little sign the agency has learned any lessons from its nefarious past, it appears self-evident for all but its most ardent apologists, the ‘Company’ can no longer be trusted—or for that matter, lay claim—to act in the national interest or in the interests of global stability, peace and security.
In paraphrasing TS Eliot’s Gerontion (see Part One), as Capitalism’s Invisible Army–whose core business is serving the Corporate Interests of America–we might argue [that] the degree of success the CIA have enjoyed ‘protract[ing] the profit of their chilled delirium’ for their ultimate overlords and masters should be best viewed then evaluated via the prism of the cost they’ve exacted from the rest of humanity in the process.
In this the second instalment of this series, we continue to explore some of the reasons why.
— Trilbies, Trenchcoats and Winklepickers —
Before embarking on more revelations of the adventures and exploits of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and some of its better known personalities, it is perhaps timely we briefly revisit Mad Magazine‘s iconic Spy v Spy cartoon strip, not only as an exercise in nostalgia but also one of light relief from the more serious aspects of our subject.
As the strip’s name suggests, both sides in the simple character construct were represented by either a Black Spy or White Spy alternately trying to get the drop on each other by whatever means possible—usually engaging in highly ludicrous, surreal, bizarre, physically impossible and/or logically challenged machinations to achieve this. The ‘writer’/cartoonist generally left it up to readers to choose which one was the good guy/spy and the bad guy/spy, and also left it to readers to choose which spy they were rooting for.
It didn’t really matter, because neither spy ever really got the upper hand, at least not for long. Indeed, in Spy v Spy world, the divide between “good ” and “bad” was always hopelessly blurred from the off. Which one suspects was the point of the exercise.
Playing a zero-sum game, each day they kind of lived their version of Spy Groundhog Day, except that in this case whilst each spy relived his day in authentic Groundhog tradition, only every second one was a good one. In any event apart from the distinctive ‘colour’ of their respective uniforms— each featuring a large trench coat, dark shades, ‘winklepickers’ and distinctive trilby hat—they were more or less interchangeable characters, which one guesses again was another point of the exercise.
Written by Cuban pre-Revolution exile Antonio Prohias and first appearing in 1961, the strip was so popular the phrase ‘spy v spy’ entered the vernacular and became shorthand for anyone referencing well, the “highly ludicrous, surreal, bizarre, physically impossible and/or logically challenged machinations” of the Cold Warriors on both sides of the ideological fence. It captured the Zeitgeist in much the same way that Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip had done years earlier with his ‘We have met the enemy and he is us!’ line in relation to the McCarthy HUAC hearings in the previous decade. It’s no coincidence that these iconic comical constructs have much in common, and if nothing else they both do much to dispel the notion that Americans don’t do irony.
Flushed with the success of the Iranian coup in 1953, the CIA the following year refined their ‘We have chaps for that’ approach to persuading foreign – and in many cases, popularly elected or sanctioned—governments they don’t have a mandate for rule anymore (which is not to suggest that they always did have such a mandate), and inform their rulers and power elites that their services are no longer mandated by American foreign policy and [they] should begin their emigration planning immediately. These were the lucky ones.
Others however weren’t so fortunate, and were terminated with extreme prejudice, either by the CIA themselves or by those backed by The Company, who in fairness it has to be said, always made available their innovative, unique retirement proposition for those not predisposed to accepting the new order of things and making themselves scarce.
It is with this intro in mind we proceed, as the next adventurous exploit concocted by Dulles and his Spy v Spy posse after Iran was Guatemala.
— And you Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead —
Of all the anecdotes one might recall in the head spinning annals of the CIA’s malevolent, blood-drenched history, the following stands out as an immediate front-runner for the most comical, absurd, thigh slapping, surreal and inept in an organisation that has an almost unsullied record of exploits befitting such a description, a record that rivals its more sinister ‘portfolio’ of dubious achievements. This episode makes Austin Powers look like Jason Bourne. And it’s difficult to imagine that Prohias himself could have dreamed up something as ludicrous as this.
In the late Chalmers Johnson’s excellent collection of essays called Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope, he cites in a 2007 piece titled “America Right or Wrong”, the case of the then newly appointed US Ambassador to Guatemala Marilyn McAfee.
For her part McAfee was an old-school American envoy in that she was an apparent believer in human rights, democracy, liberty, justice, the rule of law, self-determination, political freedom and the sanctity of the constitutional sovereignty of the country, along with other such quaint notions that as indicated have rarely been major considerations in the CIA’s overall modus op. This stance alone would have marked her out as unique, given the historical propensity of U.S. ambassadors to cooperate with the CIA and align themselves with its objectives in their host countries.
(Such is the nature of this anecdote, some readers may be inclined to view it as apocryphal. But Tim Weiner also records it for posterity in his book Legacy of Ashes – The History of the CIA.)
No doubt McAfee was fully aware of her host country’s tragic history and the factors contributing to how it all played out, much of which David Talbot lays bare in his Allen Dulles bio (See Part One). By practicing what she believed in carrying out her ambassadorial duties, she presumably was determined to make some small amends for her own country’s self-serving, imperial machinations which had brought the hapless Guatemalans so much existential grief over so many decades.
Needless to say the liberal-minded McAfee’s diplomatically egalitarian conduct was not viewed favourably with the folks down in the Langley bunkers—and doubtless had there been a spook on the ambassadorial selection panel, she would never have been offered the gig from the off. They decided inevitably she was not a team player. In the CIA’s worldview, such notions as those McAfee held were naive, and for her, proved career limiting.
In response the spooks then bugged every room in US Embassy building in the capital Guatemala City, including in the Ambassador’s bedroom, in order to get some dirt on her. The CIA station chief and his cohorts were immediately ‘rewarded’ with the recorded sounds of the Ambassador engaging in what sounded like ‘steamy’ love-talk with—they surmised—her personal assistant, a Ms Carol Murphy. From this they concluded the two were having a love affair, as no doubt (ahem) any reasonable person would surmise of course.
To discredit her in the eyes of the Washington establishment with the view to having her removed from the post, the CIA spread the rumour that she was indeed a lesbian. However much to their surprise, the spooks later discovered the recipient of all the verbal lovemaking all the time was in fact—wait for it—McAfee’s dog, a two year old black standard poodle whose name was—you guessed it—“Murphy”. As it turned out McAfee was a happily married woman who notwithstanding her politically liberal inclinations was from a relatively conservative family, the details of which we can presume somehow escaped the intrepid spooks in their diligent, righteous endeavours to despoil the reputation and career of an otherwise loyal, professional and effective diplomat.
From liberal minded diplomats, government employees and congressional members to morally/ethically inclined CIA employees, to law abiding, American citizens—much like the numerous targets of regime change over space and time—they were were all fair game. And in this respect, even 4o years on, the CIA was ill-prepared to allow anyone to make any concessions or proffer any regrets of any kind for their past deeds, or do or say anything that might place those “past deeds” into sharp relief.
As amusing as this anecdote might seem to some folks, it does of course mask the much more serious and catastrophic fallout that emanated from the Agency’s interference in Guatemalan affairs and all the tragedy and chaos that accompanied it. This, to say nothing of providing another pointer to the legacy of the rampant megalomania, contrived paranoia and unbridled amorality that ‘law-into-himself’ Allen Dulles and much of his out-of-control spook cohort brought to this task.
As Talbot noted in his Dulles bio, ‘[T]he Dulles brothers assured multinational firms Washington would stop at nothing to protect their overseas investments’, with the Guatemalan coup like so many others, the very epitome of the brothers making good on their word. When George W Bush uttered that immortal phrase “You are either with us or against us”, he was simply echoing the time-honoured worldview that Dulles and his motley crew, if they didn’t actually invent it, certainly fine-tuned and perfected.
In the process they solidified it as the de facto foundation of not just their MO in relation to foreign policy and national security, but their actions in enforcing that mindset in the Homeland, posse comitatus notwithstanding.
It also entrenched such thinking into the DNA of the Company’s culture. The CIA’s contemptuous disregard for the right of sovereign countries to determine independently their own political affairs without interference from Uncle Sam—a predisposition indelibly reflected in the Pinter epigraph—has always been its raison d’être. This is of course one not clearly encoded in its mission statement.
After the Iranian coup in 1953, the following year Allen Dulles—the man who personified and embodied that “predisposition”—again played the CIA’s version of pin the tail on the donkey (albeit sans blindfold) and decided that the Guatemalan ‘situation’ required his attention. Translated: regime change was once again in order, this time well south of the border. As he was with numerous corporations throughout his tenure as DCI, Dulles was a board member of the United Fruit Company (UFC), a major US corporate entity with interests so considerable in the South American nation (and many others), it virtually owned it.
(For additional background on the long and sordid history of this company and its involvement–with or without the CIA’s support–in Guatemala, along with numerous other Latin American countries such as Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia, see here.)
At the behest of UFC—interestingly his former clients during his time at law firm Sullivan and Cromwell where he worked before the war broke out and then prior to embarking on his full-blown career in espionage in the US—Dulles initiated his next successful coup, which ousted the democratically elected government of Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
This incited almost four decades of bitter social conflict, violent upheaval and political unrest involving a vicious, brutal civil war that itself resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of nationals with everything that goes with such, something which the CIA has never acknowledged nor has it apologised for.
If the CIA had anything resembling what marketing and advertising folks like to term a positioning statement, it could be best summed up by “and you will know us by the trail of dead“. And it is in Guatemala where the statement would still resonate loudly with the local population and everyone else less than enamoured with this organisation’s past history, over 60 years after that fateful intervention.
By employing the same pretext used so effectively to justify the Iranian intervention in 1953—and which they would use time and time again throughout the Cold War (and with some minor reengineering, trot out again in the Age of Terror)—espio maestro Dulles and his fellow el hombres siniestros had convinced themselves Guatemala’s democratically elected government was cozying up to the Soviets a little too close for comfort, and—perish the thought—was introducing (allegedly) Soviet-inspired political, social and economic reforms.
Most obvious amongst these were land reforms, and curtailing the influence and power then enjoyed by UFC and other US corporations. This to all intents and purposes was ‘collectivisation’ and nationalisation, concepts immediately linked with the fundamental tenets of socialism, communism, Stalinism and all things red. At the very least it would have been viewed as anathema to the inviolable free-market principles the CIA lived and died by, and for which it was created. In Langley, this would have gone over like a vivisectionist waving a red rag at a wounded bull at a convention for animal rights activists.
Now nothing unusual there of course; the CIA’s rap sheet on regime change is an impressive one, with Guatemala again one of the most notable of the Company’s ‘success’ stories in its clandestine and covert efforts to protect the corporate interests of America as capitalism’s invisible army. Or if one prefers, export American-style Freedom™, Democracy™, Justice™, Liberty™, Peace™, Love™, and Understanding™ and other touchy-feely commodities to the four corners of the Big Blue Ball whether the targeted recipients wanted it or not. It was either one of the other, and readers may need to make up their own mind.
As they would with any other of the scores of coups the Company has concocted. Right up until the present day.
The preceding of course provides only a snapshot of the Guatemalan coup and its aftermath, and space herein prevents further elucidation. But Talbot’s book along with many other sources vividly portray the aftermath, once again underscoring for those who still like to retain some semblance of belief that America is the global go-to good-guy, as the Pinter epigraph so succinctly declares, it is nought but a ‘highly successful act of [mass] hypnosis’.
— The Hollow Man (Reflections In the Wilderness) —
At this point in any discussion of espionage in general and the CIA specifically, mention should be made about the fine art of counter-intelligence, if only because it reinforces the fact that the Company didn’t always get it right here either. And into the bargain, it again showcases the aforementioned culture and mindset that prevails within the CIA, a culture that is constantly at odds with the fundamental tenets of liberty, democracy, freedom, and international law.
When examining the netherworld of CI within the agency, the first and last cab off the rank is none other that the incongruously ‘branded’ James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s legendarily notorious chief of counter-intelligence—its ‘brain’ for years. Of course the purpose herein is not to provide a blow-by-blow of Angleton’s life and times—aside from space issues, this has been covered very well by Michael Holzman in his 2008 tome, James Jesus Angleton, the CIA, and the Craft of Counterintelligence, along with many other writers.
And David Talbot‘s bio of Allen Dulles (See Part One) by necessity also references Angleton, since both men from their first meeting shortly after the war were joined at the hip. In any event, such is Angleton’s significance and impact across both space and time—certainly rivalling if not exceeding that of his former boss Dulles—space herein necessarily limits us to a much redacted recollection of the man himself and his legacy, one whose singular influence permeates the culture of the CIA now, and the broader national security and foreign policy milieu.
Like Dulles, Angleton (aka The Kingfisher), had previously worked in Europe in intelligence with the OSS and various offshoots and joint ventures, and was that agency’s station chief in Italy around the end of the war and for a time thereafter. He began his actual CIA career shortly after the formation of the agency in 1947.
Here Angleton was instrumental in undermining of the bourgeoning communist movement taking root in the later 40s in the aftermath of the demise of Mussolini and the collapse of fascism. Amongst the tactics he used was eliciting the support of Italy’s Mafia, in particular America’s capo di tutti capo of the era, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, who was ‘imported’ from the US for just such a purpose. In doing so, he thereby set a long-time precedent for the agency that was a regular feature of the agency’s clandestine, indeed frequently criminal, operations for decades to come.
By most accounts he was amongst the most out-there of spies: a poetry-loving, TS Eliot quoting, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, orchid-growing, fly-fishing, gem collecting, insomniac raconteur who burned the spy-candle at both ends and then some. By all accounts exceedingly well read and (counter?) intelligent, he was something of a polymath.
In his day many considered JJ the sharpest tool in the spy shed, bar none! His personal positioning statement: ‘absolute security at any cost’, one that would prove to be his undoing, as we will see. The term ‘Angeltonian’ even entered the espionage vernacular to become a byword in spy circles for overly conspiratorial and/or obsessively paranoid behaviour.
Angleton was like Allen Dulles’ alter ego—he was the uber-counter-spy, the spookiest of spooks in the spookier end of the business. He was once quoted as saying that: ‘Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state’. If Dulles was the Dagger in the Cloak and Dagger business, JJ was the Cloak! His spycraft was considered second to none, certainly in the non-communist world.
Yet even the Soviets reportedly had a fan club of sorts going with JJ; he was that good at what he did, they even copied his methods, proving that even in the spy world, the ‘imitation as the sincerest form of flattery’ thing still applies.
Which is to say, if there is such a thing as spy heaven (a safe house or waiting room in the afterlife maybe for one of the World’s Oldest Professions?), most of them—including possibly some of his former KGB opponents—be coming up to the Kingfisher, high-fiving his avian-eyed ass and be saying how much they ‘love his work’. The man was considered that good.
After firstly defining counterintelligence as ‘the spy craft’s deepest mind game’, and that it was not just about ‘figuring out the enemy’s next moves in advance and blocking them’, [but actually] ‘learning to think like him’, Talbot adds this in relation to Angleton’s rise in the ranks and by way of describing his unique, enigmatic character type:
‘Not yet thirty, Angleton was already being talked about in American and British intelligence circles as one of the masters of the field. He had been educated at British prep schools and at Yale, where he edited [avant-garde poetry magazine] Furioso and courted the likes of e.e. cummings and Ezra Pound as contributors, and he seemed to bring an artist’s intuition to his profession. But he could get lost in the convolutions of his own fevered mind, which drove him to prowl the streets of Rome late at night in a black coat so big it looked like a cape, on the hunt for clues about the growing Communist menace, and to crawl around on his on his office floor….in search of hidden bugging devices’.
The origin of his nick-name The Kingfisher is uncertain, but interestingly they are a bird species that have evolved unique visual faculties whereby they can see equally well in polar opposite environments, in their case air and water. A nice metaphor one suspects given his line of work, especially if it was not intended. On a more mundane level his nick-name may have been because of his striking features, which were a tad bird-like, if not ‘kingfisherish’.
After his ‘stay-behind’ stint in Europe in the post war years—during which time he played a key role in the establishment of the notorious NATO/CIA joint venture Operation Gladio and with it the roll-out of what came to be known as the Strategy of Tension (a story for another time)—he eventually returned to the States and rose to the position of chief of Counter-intelligence at the Company.
Throughout, he and Dulles remained joined at the hip, and shared wholly mutual views on the emerging Cold War world and the purported perils it posed for the United States. Interesting, after Dulles himself was forced into retirement, there were at least two opportunities where he may have qualified for the top job. It’s uncertain if he ever sought the position or was even offered it, but in principle he would have been a prime candidate for the role Director of Central Intelligence either way. Along with being able to conduct his own security checks, he could have interrogated and interviewed himself for the job, a bonus one imagines.
He served loyally under Dulles—beginning in 1953, the year also of Dulles appointment by president Dwight Eisenhower as DCI—and then later on under Dulles’s successors, including the better known ones such as John McCone, Richard Helms, and for a brief time William Colby, until his management initiated retirement in 1975.
A cryptographer by training and (presumably) a cryptophile by inclination, as indicated he was as paranoid as they come. For the most part this was a truly valuable character trait in the counter-spy business, given that the counter espionage and counter intelligence business is all about stopping the targets of your spying from doing what you’re trying to do to them, which is to spy on them; this, by definition, means maintaining oneself in a semi-permanent state of paranoia, or something close to it.
Or more accurately, the counter spy/espionage/intelligence ‘schtick’ is more about ensuring that the operatives on the other side of the spy v spy divide enjoy minimal success at recruiting your own spies to spy on you and not them as you’d prefer them to continue doing without you finding out about it until it is too late.
In the end, counter intelligence is the world of double and triple agents, and by definition, double and triple crosses, a world where one man’s illusion one day is another man’s reality the next, but even that could change on a dime. Which it frequently did. A wilderness of smoke and mirrors indeed!
However, like JJ often did, I digress!
— Intermission —
The Top 4 Most Mind-Blowing CIA Operations You’ve Never Heard Of | by Abby Martin, Big Brother Watch, RT
Abby Martin goes over a few of the most outrageous CIA operations around the world, such as its efforts to destabilize Latin America through coups, assassinations and even an attempted character assassination through a CIA produced porno film.
— In the Convolutions of our Fevered Minds —
And if Angleton trusted anyone, it is not known whether it worked to their advantage or not, and we’re not even talking about the Soviets here. We’re talking his own—indeed, especially his own—CIA colleagues. He was one of the coldest and most calculating of the Langley Cold Warriors. A strong pro-war hawk on Vietnam (natch!), amongst many other dubious achievements he was also notorious for his surveillance of anti-war protesters, political activists and domestic dissidents (of which there were no shortages) during the Vietnam War and throughout the 60’s and early 70’s.
He has also been frequently mentioned as having involvement in, knowledge of, and/or connections to the JFK hit and the Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe) suicide/accidental death/murder (you decide).
As good as Angleton was, he wasn’t good enough though to pick up on arguably the biggest spies in the West before they defected to the USSR, who were operating out of the august Cambridge University. The Cambridge Five as they were branded for posterity, comprised Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Anthony Blunt (there apparently was a fifth member, who was infamously never identified, itself a mystery within a mystery).
This spy ring worked at the highest levels within British intelligence and passed highly classified information to the Soviets throughout the war and into the 1950s and early 60s, at which point several folks on both sides of the pond—including Angleton himself and the redoubtable William “Bill” Harvey, another legendarily notorious CIA affiliated Cold Warrior of the era—began to smell a rat.
Of the “Five”, Philby—who worked with Angleton in London during the war, and indeed, was Angleton’s mentor—is believed to have done the most damage to Western intelligence, with the top secret information he passed to the Soviet Union resulting in the deaths of scores of agents.
The Cambridge Five episode is a useful pointer to the CIA’s relationship with the UK’s premier spying services MI5 and MI6. As the counterintelligence chief, part of Angleton’s responsibility involved liaison with foreign intelligence and security agencies, including Israel’s Mossad, Iran’s SAVAK, and West Gernany’s BND.
Although some say he had his suspicions about the Cambridge group before anyone else did including the British—yes, he was that paranoid—he failed to act on these in time to prevent their subsequent defection. By all accounts this was an outcome from which he never recovered, and indeed amongst many other missteps, it brought about his downfall eventually, but not for some time to come.
After the belated discovery of the aforementioned Cambridge Five, Angleton became even more paranoid, seeing spies all over the Langley complex and beyond. To an extent this was understandable. Philby and Angleton—both men, borderline dipsomaniacs—would ‘get pissed’ together whenever Philby visited Washington, and both would enthusiastically talk ‘spy-shop’ and exchange information.
To say there was a strong bond between the men is an understatement. From this we can safely surmise herein such secrets as they were revealed contributed to the premature demise of at least some of those Western agents. Or put another way: whatever information Angleton provided Philby was of more value than that which Philby provided to him.
Either way, this born-again paranoia fuelled by Cambridge Five revelations began to irritate a lot of people, managing to piss off not only then DCI Richard Helms (one of Angelton’s closest associates), but also J Edgar Hoover over at the FBI HQ as well. Hoover—admittedly not someone difficult to “piss off”, along with being no stranger to paranoid delusions of his own—by some accounts thereafter became wary of any further cooperation with the super-spook.
History tells us that paranoia is occasionally proven most justified when it is the most ignored (and this was certainly one of those ‘occasions’). But most would argue the lessons of history in general don’t appear to have been embraced warmly as collective political wisdom in the West, and especially some might say in Washington D.C., or for that matter in Langley.
His increasingly pathological paranoia eventually brought him unstuck. By the time William Colby took over as DCI, he had even begun accusing foreign leaders and their close friends of espionage, and few were above suspicion. Many more were pissed off. He even had old Hank “The Hunk” Kissinger on his ‘watch’ list, and he was the goddamned US Secretary of State for chrissakes. Colby eventually forced him in 1975 to hang up his trenchcoat and trilby.
— Spy in the Ointment (Would you Like Spies With That?) —
Interestingly, the FBI’s Robert Hanssen and the CIA’s Aldrich Ames—two of America’s most notorious and damaging spies, and both of whom divulged information that contributed to numerous agents’ deaths—were outed well after Angleton’s time. The man’s paranoid imaginings may have contributed to his forced retirement, but given the belated discovery of Ames and Hanssen he may not have been so paranoid after all. Another fascinating what-if counterfactual maybe.
On the other hand, Angleton would’ve been less than human if he hadn’t been extremely pissed off after being duped by the Cambridge spies, arguably the most infamous and embarrassing security breach in Cold War history. Viewed in this light, the “Molehunter” would have been determined that that was an experience never to be repeated.
Given Angleton’s love of all things TS Eliot then, he certainly would have been familiar with one of his most famous poems—The Hollow Men. No doubt JJ fully appreciated how this poem might have been viewed as an allegorical portrait of the business he was immersed in. In his own way Angleton was indeed the consummate, quintessential Hollow Man of Espionage. One might opine after all it was his gig to be ‘hollow’. By his own admission reportedly, he lived in a ‘wilderness of mirrors’, another telling Eliot reference.
For twenty-five years then in the global intelligence community, this guy was the ‘go-to’ guy for the ‘go-to’ guys in the business, even for the Soviets, and sometimes even for people nominally on the same side. He was both White Spy and Black Spy. Fortunately, for all the cloak ‘n dagger skulduggery, plausibly deniable thuggery and spy v spy huggermuggery that characterised it, and as practiced by Dulles, Angleton and their ilk, the Cold War eventually ended with a whimper and not a bang….to paraphrase once again from Eliot’s poem Gerontion!
Putting aside his fall from grace for a moment, like his near namesake, he walked on spy water for the best part of 30 years of the Cold War. But in doing so he scared the fish underneath once too often, only this time they hadn’t been fed for awhile. He wasn’t that good in the end one supposes then! But he did live to tell the spy-tale. Which in true spy/counter-spy tradition, he declined to do. He was a loyal Company Man to the end. And if indeed he ever got around to writing his memoirs an appropriate subtitle might have been An Unauthorised Autobiography!
There was always the possibility no one would’ve believed him in any event. It may or may not be the most apt metaphor for the cloak and dagger shtick, but JJ as the ‘hollow man in a wilderness of mirrors’ surely comes close. In Angleton’s world though, the mirrors were all two-way, and everyone in it, it might be argued, was a hollow mirror image of the original. Who knows, like his counter-spy counterparts, he may have been spying on his own ass the whole time, although it’s hard to say with any certainty what any of us have to show for it though.
Having said that though, if JJ were still around, I for one would love to hear what he might have to say about it all. Again, I’m sure, he probably wouldn’t say much anyway. Fortunately, for all the cloak ‘n dagger skulduggery etc. that characterised it, and as practiced by Dulles, Angleton and their ilk, along with those that followed them, the Cold War eventually ended—to paraphrase once again from Eliot—with a whimper and not a bang….an outcome for which one supposes we can all be grateful.
And the cosmic irony herein is that the Soviets were in the end ‘defeated’, not by the machinations of the Langley crew and the national security apparatus of which is was the key element, but by the “whimper” of enemy within! Yet, try and promulgate that proposition on either side of the Potomac today or anywhere within the Western world, and it’s unlikely you’ll get much joy.
And one final revelation to round things out here in relation to Angleton in particular and all things Spy v Spy is this. If JJ had any serious competition, it might have been Markus “Mischa” Wolf (aka The Wolf), the legendary East German spy chief. This guy was an undisputed legend in spy circles, especially in the Eastern Bloc.
The Wolf—as he was known—was generally considered to be the best spy in the business, and had great success deploying a vast international spy network for themselves, the Soviets and other Warsaw Pact countries.
Mischa was actually a Russian citizen, a protégé of Stalin’s, and was probably the single most successful spy in the business, East or West. He wreaked havoc on West German and the West’s intelligence services for 30 years. He even tapped the phones of the West German Chancellor, who ended up making calls via public phone booths, which were also bugged by The Wolf and his winkle-pickered pack.
He himself was quite innovative in some of his approaches, pioneering 007-type techniques such as ensuring his agents were especially trained in seducing and romancing the often busy but lonely personal assistants of noted West German spymasters, politicians and bureaucrats. The resultant ‘pillow talk’ meant Wolf knew everything there was to know about anyone and everyone that mattered or moved in, across and between the East and West for three decades, during which he remained so elusive that the CIA did not even know what he looked like until such time as it virtually didn’t matter what he looked like anymore.
Although a story for another time, it is instructive to note the Langley lads eventually tried to engage his undoubtedly widely admired expertise in the service of the West by offering The Wolf a new ID, cosmetic surgery, and enough money to establish a new life in America. In short, in order to engage his services in the interest of the West (or at least encourage him to retire), the Langley lads offered The Wolf the whole Bavarian bratwurst so to speak.
There was however a couple of big catches with the deal.
The Wolf would have had to spill his spy guts all over the floor in the Langley bunkers, and in particular ID the source of the (then unknown) Aldrich Ames instigated leaks. (See Above.) He apparently didn’t trust his CIA counterparts not to renege on any deal once he was inside the tent. Whether or not this realisation that their word was treated less than their bond might have offended the Virginian Cowboys’ collective sensibilities is unknown, but Wolf was presumably using his past experience with them to base such doubts on. It’s not known how long he deliberated on this deal because of these doubts if he did so at all.
Perhaps not surprisingly Wolf was unable in the end to reconcile his issues with ‘trust’ and ‘CIA’ being in the same sentence, much less written into a deal like this. He of course declined the CIA’s offer, presumably one imagines also that by defecting he’d have to betray a lot of people he knew, which we can only surmise was akin to honour amongst spies.
Honour amongst spies?? Who’d have thunk it? Certainly not this writer?!
Readers, what about you? Backatcha!
— End of Part Two —
© Greg Maybury, 2011-2015
Editor / Publisher.
*[The origins of this phrase are somewhat uncertain. Either a Mayan ritual chant or an Egyptian burial text. Or both. Elucidations welcome!]
Jay Dyer’s Esoteric Hollywood: Mark Hackard on Spy Films
Writer and translator Mark Hackard of SouloftheEast.org and EspionageHistoryArchive.com joins Jay Dyer for this early episode of Esoteric Hollywood on TalkNetwork.com. In this episode they cover World War 2 films, as well as Cold War classics and some of Hollywood’s campy, crappier B films like Red Scorpion. Mark and Jay delve into his translation work and how many spy films actually come very close to being reality!