The proverbial intelligence abyss expanded with the revelations of each new defector, exposure of double agents, and fed a growing suspicion of hidden moles within Western clandestine groups. Due to a nearly perfect storm of facts, mixed with paranoid speculations, a significant expansion in hunting for such agents would commence following the appearance of two final related defectors. As familiar intelligence officers dealt with the latest defectors and longstanding suspicions mounted over the prior years, it was a matter of time before the right defector and claims inspired certain intelligence leaders to adopt the belief that a hidden traitor likely existed within their own group. The 1960’s had just begun and before that decade ended several careers, some lives, and multiple intelligence group operations would lay in shambles.
Three years before the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Oleg Vladimirovich Penkovsky was born within the imperial territory of Vladikavakaz, Russia on April 23, 1919. By 1937, Penkovsky had joined the Soviet Army and served during WWII until suffering a critical shrapnel wound amid 1944 w,hich took four of his teeth. During his recovery, Oleg befriended a fellow injured veteran Red Army General Sergei S. Varentsov and in time earned the older man’s friendship and loyalty. After dealing with a painful family episode for Varentsov the thankful general had arranged for Penkovsky to attend a prestigious Russian military academy. This led to a military intelligence reassignment and by 1955, Oleg served in Russia’s GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie) military intelligence group under military attache cover in Turkey.
However, Russian political leadership in time uncovered that Oleg’s father had died in battle serving the imperial White Russian army and this affected Penkovsky’s advancement. Upon his subsequent return to Moscow, Oleg attempted multiple times over the following years to contact and offer intelligence to both US and Canadian covert groups.[i] During this period, he provided information via third parties and drew the notice of CIA officer George Kisevalter, but the CIA had not yet created a Moscow Station.
Additionally, some Western intelligence leaders were suspicious that Penkovsky’s attempts to make contact were a Soviet provocation, until the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, MI6) using its contact Greville Maynard Wynne, accepted the Russian’s overtures around 1961. A collaborative operation between the Central Intelligence Agency and MI6 would emerge to oversee Lieutenant Colonel Penkovsky and the trove of photographic and documentary information he offered. Among those repeatedly debriefing this important defector in place was Agency case officer George Kisevalter, who also served as case officer to the formerly betrayed Pytor Popov.
During a cold night months later on December 15, 1961 a largely unseen shift in the conduct Western intelligence began at the doorstep of a home within Finland. Helsinki Chief of Station Frank Friberg encountered an unexpected Russian family at the door of his residence that wintry evening. The man claimed initially that his name was Anatoliy Klimov, bore a family, and unveiled a package of documents purloined from his KGB office to provide American intelligence. Eventually the Russian man told Friberg his real name was Golitsyn and time would reveal his path to defection was a long one frought with endless suspicions. The accusations of this single defector emerging from Helsinki in time would change hundreds of people lives across the globe for decades.
Anatoliy Mikhaylovich Golitsyn was born August 25, 1926 inside the city of Piryatin within the Ukrainian territory of Poltava Oblast. Following Golitsyn’s primary education he served as an organizer for the local Communist Party Youth and would attend the Frunze Artillery School, the same military academy that Oleg Penkovsky had attended. Following his military training, Golitsyn would request and be transferred to serve in Soviet military counterintelligence. During the 1940’s, Golitsyn was trained in counterintelligence and became a desk officer supervising related activities in China under the authority of the First Chief Directorate of the Committee for State Security or Ministerstvo Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (MGB).[ii] Subsequently, Anatoliy requested and was granted a transfer to the Anglo-American Section, Counterintelligence Department of the First Chief Directorate at the MGB’s Moscow headquarters in the course of 1951.
After his operations that spanned from Europe to the United Sates were largely successful, Golitsyn was promoted later the same year to Senior Operational Case Officer. Additionally he was among those summoned by Joseph Stalin and his spymaster Lavirenity Beria to discuss a reorganization of Russian intelligence. One year later, Stalin was dead and Beria was attempting to unify the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) to become the most powerful intelligence group within the Soviet Union. Among the MVD’s ranks was the newly appointed Deputy Chief of the Russian Emigre Desk of the Counterintelligence Department Anatoliy Golitsyn. His years of counterintelligence training and continued service to Russian leaders allowed his seamless transfer to the KGB Rezidentura in Vienna, during 1954, where he focused on the “penetration of foreign intelligence services.”[iii] This early posting allowed Golitsyn a view of Russian attempts to penetrate Western services and likely influenced his growing paranoia that such things had occurred many times already. By 1960, after multiple reassignments he was serving the KGB’s First Chief Directorate within the American Section inside the Helsinki Soviet Embassy under the alias Klimov.
During the exfiltration of the Golitsyn family from Finland to the United States, Frank Friberg noted certain traits of Golitsyn that troubled him. Golitsyn had a tendency to make large unproven claims that if taken seriously would have serious implications for those who believed them. As they traveled, Golitsyn would claim that Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir was a KGB agent based on his ideas regarding the timing of her visit to Russia amid the 1950’s. This, and several other claims reportedly made in this period, convinced the Helsinki Station Chief that Golitsyn had a tendency to observe spies whenever he chose to see them. Friberg was also concerned with Golitsyn’s eternal suspicion of those who spoke Russian, including CIA employees, and the defector’s tendency to confuse similar names when making accusations.[iv] Yet all these concerns were sidelined by the success of having recruited a valuable defector and the handling of Golitsyn’s defection was anything but usual.
Normally, the Soviet Division of the CIA would handle its own defectors and Golitsyn was during his early days greeted by Deputy Director Charles Cabell and Soviet Division Chief John Maury. Yet this would change because Golitsyn had attracted the interest of CIA Counterintelligence James J. Angleton, who quickly gained access to Golitsyn’s tapes and transcripts. Within this mixture of proven intelligence and wild accusations, Angleton discovered a fertile ground for his own long held suspicions. James Angleton was a fixture of American intelligence and Golitsyn’s claims were not just valuable to security if true, but further provided a way for the counterintelligence leader to expand his base of power and influence.
James Jesus Angleton was born during 1917 in the Idahoan city of Boise to James and Carmen Angleton and his middle name was chosen to honor his Mexican grandfather. James and his siblings were raised in both the United States and Italy, after his father’s service in WWI, and the elder Angleton later undertook a role in various financial businesses that included government commerce. Amidst the 1930’s, James attended the English preparatory school Malvern College and was enrolled at Yale by 1937. Angleton majored in English Literature, graduated from Yale in the course of 1941, and went on to attend Harvard Law School. He left Harvard to enlist within the US Army infantry by 1943 and was recruited to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS was America’s second attempt to create a premier intelligence group that had formed out of the Coordinator of Information’s Office. Angleton’s days within X-2, the Counterespionage arm of the OSS, inside occupied Italy, were filled with cultivating sources and operations to assist Allied force collaborations. His undertakings even included using Mafia criminal groups to fight Fascist groups and by the end of the war he was the Counterintelligence Chief of Italy. However, similar to Soviet intelligence groups, American intelligence organizations underwent further transformations that ended his OSS appointment, but Angleton cultivated extensive resources and connections developed in the war. This allowed him to find a comfortable place in the final incarnation of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency.[v]
Angleton was devout in his Cold War beliefs and served varying CIA leaders well, but thrived most under the administration of Allen Dulles. During the 1950’s, James Angleton would be appointed the Agency’s Counterintelligence Chief and be placed in charge of all Israeli operations. It was from the second floor of CIA headquarters that he constructed a foundation of significant power and cadre of adherents, which no other officer, but perhaps the Director themselves might possess. He reportedly was brilliant and wielded immense operational acumen that frightened both enemy and friend alike, but this was accompanied by a deep unrelenting suspicion of betrayal and unreasonable blinding hatred of all things Soviet. When a prior discussed Polish defector Micheal Goleniewski spoke of Russian dezinformatsiya (disinformation) campaigns this appealed to Angleton’s sense of the great Soviet threat.[vi] [vii]However, when his fears were confirmed by Golitsyn and even greater claims were made that piqued the mind of Angleton, the Counterintelligence Staff was allowed to assume control of Golitsyn from the Soviet Division.
Anatoliy Golitsyn had reported to his case officers, and subsequently to the Counterintelligence Staff, that a grand plot was active and that all following defectors that would come after him were likely false to discredit him. Helsinki Station Chief Frank Friberg stated that Golitsyn had fed the existing fears of a high level CIA penetration Agent working for Moscow. The defector claimed observing material in KGB possession that was from a sensitive area of the Agency that only a mole could have produced. Yet, Friberg’s prior concerns were confirmed by Golitsyn having no clear identity, but claiming instead the mole had Slavic ancestry and his last name began with the letter K. Upon these parameters a dangerous hunt began and woe to those within Angleton’s reach that fit Golitsyn’s unclear description.
[i]. Central Intelligence Agency, (n.d.), Lt. Col. Oleg Penkovsky: Western Spy in Soviet GRU, Doc is letter to be passed to appropriate authorities of the United States, Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room, Document Number: 0000012268, pp. 1-2, cia.gov
[ii]. CIA, (n.d.), Subject: Golitsyn Biographical Highlights, National Archives and Records Administration Identification Number: 104-10172-10190
[iii]. Ibid p. 3
[iv]. David Wise, 1992, Molehunt: The Secret search for Traitors that Shattered the CIA, Random House, New York, pp. 4-9
[v]. David Robarge, 2009, The James Angleton Phenomenon, Studies in Intelligence, Volume 53, Number 4, Central Intelligence Agency, cia.gov
[vi]. C.A.A. Savastano, How The Stories of These Soviet Cold War Defectors Reveal The Intelligence Abyss pt. 2, TPAAK Historical Research, tpaak.com
[vii]. CIA, March 25, 2011, James Angleton: Master Spy Hunter, Intelligence and Operations, cia.gov