In a great compliment to me, personally and professionally, that 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. Gee, thanks.
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-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 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. He may not have been a “miracle worker” but he had that reputation, at least with his friend Winks.
Robarge says “no persuasive evidence shows that Angleton had a “supporting role” in the MK/ULTRAproject,”
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 described himself as Angleton’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. THE GHOST I report that the memo was not sent to 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 say of the assassination of JFK, “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 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 male fides although portions of it have long been declassified.”
Robarge does 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 now 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 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 is 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.