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How The Stories Of These Soviet Cold War Defectors Reveal The Intelligence Abyss pt. 5

Photo of Anatoliy Golitsyn

As the calendar fell upon the days of late 1962, the mole hunt inside Western intelligence began to expand within the United States. Fears of disinformation, false defectors, and the assumption of a traitor within its ranks began to internally damage the Central Intelligence Agency. Official attempts to discover and track disloyal intelligence employees had yet to render any solid leads or suspects. The effort to seek turncoats within the US intelligence community gained momentum with each new accusation and it began to spread. Other nations soon would be influenced by America’s search for penetration agents based upon the claims of a single defector.

Multiple case officers of the CIA’s Soviet Division sought greater detail regarding the claims of defector Anatoliy Golitsyn. Yet Anatoliy began to grow tired of such questioning, by the fall of 1962, and this was likely due to all the past accusations offered since his defection. One accusation Golitsyn offered to case officer Donald Deselyna in that period was the KGB developed a prior “contingency plan” to assassinate Richard Nixon if he was elected in 1960. The details, however, were vague and Deselyna, a later advocate for Golitsyn, could not offer verifiable evidence to corroborate the purported conspiracy.[i] Deselyna was seemingly a true believer in the KGB defector, akin to James Angleton, and even claimed that “none of the information ever provided by G had been disproven”. This is clearly false, as just one of several disproven claims by Golitsyn was that Israeli Prime Minster Golda Meir served the KGB. What Golitsyn claimed, and others believed, compared to his proven allegations were two entirely separate things. 

Amidst this earlier period the defector, turned adviser, further told related officials not just that the US had a problem with unseen traitors, but France did as well. Golitsyn alleged that spies had entered the French government and lurked in two of France’s intelligence groups. Golitsyn asserted that the Direction de la Surveillance du Territorie (DST) responsible for internal French security and Service de Documentation Exterieure et dec Contre-espionnage (SDECE) conducting foreign operations were breached. These allegations were heeded by officials and the KGB defector was debriefed by French intelligence, but they did not follow up on several of his allegations. The official response appears due to some claims by Golitsyn lacking evidence, but others were ignored because of potential damage to US and French political relations. Finding this intolerable, James Angleton began to directly accuse members of France’s intelligence community of being traitors. Despite the attempts of French officials, Angleton’s claims led to some internal political backlash and damaged intelligence relationships for a time, but no moles were discovered.[ii]

Harold Kim Philby

Anatoliy Golitsyn’s further alleged that the British government and intelligence agencies had been infiltrated by the KGB. Indeed, British moles, such as members of the Cambridge Five, and compromised officials, were revealed during the 1950’s, and widespread suspicion was palpable in that era. To address these allegations James Angleton contacted Security Service (MI5) counterintelligence officer Arthur Martin and he debriefed the KGB defector. As 1963 began, Harold “Kim” Philby confirmed his past decades of betraying Western Intelligence and defected from Beirut to Moscow.

James Angleton subsequently was consumed with apprehending Golitsyn’s purported mole, in part due to his prior friendly associations with Kim Philby. Angleton, because like so many others, he had been convinced by the facade of this devious past British intelligence operative before his unmasking. This grand failure was a harsh reminder to several officials in Western intelligence and many were determined to never allow it to happen again. Golitsyn reportedly was exhausted from continued Agency debriefings, but was provided a welcome diversion months later. MI5’s Arthur Martin invited Anatoliy and his family to England for additional intelligence debriefings amid the spring of 1963. Golitsyn’s allegations spread to a third nation and the mole hunt within England’s intelligence groups had begun.

Harold Wilson

The British political landscape was already rife with political scandals and intelligence failures following the arrival of Anatoliy Golitsyn. Agency officials later confirmed the KGB defector informed English intelligence that Labour Party opposition leader Harold Wilson served Moscow. Based on rumor, speculations, and Golitsyn’s own contrivances he deemed the KGB had assassinated Wilson’s predecessor to empower him. Thus Wilson, according to some in MI5, had been tainted by Soviet intelligence and this claim would affect the English government for several years.[iii] Many people in the English politician’s social circles fell under suspicion after Golitsyn’s accusations spread including some who fled Soviet held areas following WWII. Wilson’s second term resignation was reportedly due to his paranoia and the continuing intervention of his own government’s intelligence group.

Despite the enormity of his charge, Golitsyn after further collaboration with British intelligence claimed MI5’s leader Sir Roger Hollis and others connected to him were also Russian pawns. Following these declarations. staff within MI5 began surveil and investigate their own leaders in search of additional moles akin to Kim Philby. One investigating member of MI5 regarding Hollis stated, “I had faith in his treachery as another man might have faith in God.” Yet the faith demonstrated by some in US and British intelligence was often misplaced without evidence to prove their assumptions. This series of claims would haunt the British landscape beyond the retirement of both MI5 suspects without any mole discovered. Golitsyn’s stay in England was cut short after his name was leaked to the international media and he returned to American in the summer of 1963. British and US intelligence relations were damaged after each accused the other of publicly revealing the defector’s identity to further their own interests.

As Golitsyn returned to James Angleton’s supervision, the hunt for moles ended the career of Serge Peter Karlow.[iv] Angleton now would begin allowing Golitsyn to search for the elusive mole code named “Sascha” within classified materials and Agency employee files. The mole hunt was managed then by Counterintelligence Staff’s Special Investigations Group (CISIG) Chief Birch O’Neal, with roughly seven other agents. O’Neal was a Californian with a law degree and was employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the 1930’s. He was the chief of multiple Agency stations amongst the next decade, and by 1954, he was supporting operation PBSUCCESS to overthrow the government of Guatemala. He was reassigned to headquarters and became part of the Counterintelligence Staff, amidst the 1960’s, but he could not manage the endeavor alone.

Now armed with classified employee files, and the support of CISIG, Golitsyn decided he found a new suspect with necessary traits, Richard Kovich. He possessed a Slavic background, his name began with the letter K, and he supported defector operations. These details were seemingly enough for the CISIG to begin operations targeting the latest mole suspect and Kovich’s days were numbered. Despite the endless faith invested within Golitsyn, by the CISIG, other groups, such as West German intelligence, were not impressed or convinced of his bonafides during this period.[v] They contemplated the possibility that Golitsyn was responsible for compromising some of their agents and operations with his vast array of claims.

The KGB officer’s prior allegation that defectors following him were provocation agents increased official paranoia and fueled James Angleton’s pursuit of a presumed traitor. As these men widened the field of suspects, the rift amongst officials became an expanding intelligence abyss. A preemptive mistrust of nearly anyone, conforming to Anatoliy Golitsyn’s vague biography of Sasha, began to destabilize some operations and morale. By these standards, if a suspect had any ties to Russia, or even have traveled to the Soviet Union, it was indicative of guilt. Peter Karlow was the first lost career inside the abyss of suspicions, but its first seeming victim was Russian intelligence employee Alexsandr Cherepanov.

Amidst November of 1963, KGB Second Chief Directorate officer Alexsandr Nikolaevich Cherepanov gave a package of documents to a couple for delivery to the US Moscow Embassy. The visiting couple did as he requested and this seeming intelligence boon was the source of friction among American officials. The Chief of Moscow Station, Paul Garbler, was embroiled in a heated exchange with embassy diplomatic staff concerning the documents sent by Cherepanov. Legally ranking diplomatic officials believed the documents should be returned to Russian authorities but Garbler utterly disagreed and believed their return would cause whomever sent them to be killed. American diplomats allowed Garbler to copy the documents but returned them and Russian officials sent the files to the KGB for review.

Upon a late November morning within the city of Dallas that same year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. His alleged murderer was killed two days later. Desperate Agency leaders without evidence were quick to internally blame Russian intelligence a mere day later.[vi] Lee Harvey Oswald had been to Russia and thus anyone in that period with Soviet connections was a possible CISIG suspect. The next month Alexsandr Cherepanov was arrested fleeing the Soviet Union,, because the papers he gave American diplomats were returned to the KGB.[vii] The documents led Russian intelligence to Cherepanov and he was subsequently executed for the attempt to collaborate with US officials.


C.A.A. Savastano

[i]. House Select Committee on Assassinations, August 26, 1978,  Security Classified Files, Contact Report with Donald Deneslva, United States National Archives and Records Administration Number: 180-10110-10145, pp. 1-3, archives.gov

[ii]. David Wise, 1992, Molehunt: The Secret search for Traitors that Shattered the CIA, Random House, New York, pp. 106-112

[iii]. Malcolm Gladwell, July 20, 1994, Trust No One: Kim Philby and the hazards of mistrust, The New Yorker, newyorker.com

[iv]. C.A.A. Savastano, How The Stories of These Soviet Cold War Defectors Reveal The Intelligence Abyss pt. 4, TPAAK Historical Research, tpaak.com

[v]. Central Intelligence Agency, October 6, 1963, Dispatch from Chief of Munich Base, archives.gov, p. 2, National Archives and Records Administration Number: 104-101272-10217

[vi]. CIA, November 23, 1963, Cable from Chief, SR Division, re possible KGB role in Kennedy Slaying, archives.gov, p. 2, NARA ID: 104-10431-10060

[vii]. Frank J. Rafalko, (n.d.), A Counterintelligence Reader Volume 3, Chapter 2: Counterintelligence in the Turbulent 1960s and 1970s, Federation of American Scientists Intelligence Research Program, fas.org, pp. 195-196