James Jesus Angleton was born in Boise, Idaho, on 9th December, 1917. His father, James Hugh Angleton, was a former cavalry officer who met his wife, Carmen Mercedes Moreno, while serving in Mexico.
Angleton's father worked for NCR. In 1933 he was sent to represent the firm in Europe. The following year he took over the NCR franchise in Italy. According to a close friend, Max Corvo, Angleton was "ultra-conservative" and a fascist sympathizer.
James Angleton was sent to be educated at Malvern College, a public school in Worcestershire. In 1937 Angleton enrolled at Yale University. He was a poor student but managed to graduate in the autumn of 1941 with a BA.
After marrying Cicely d'Autremont he joined the United States Army. During the Second World War Angleton served with the Office of Strategic Services and in March 1943 was sent to London to be trained by MI5 officers such as Dick White and Kim Philby. He later served as a counter-intelligence agent in Italy.
After the war Angleton worked for the War Department's Strategic Services Unit. He became the chief counter-intelligence officer for Italy but in 1947 he returned home to join the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1951 he was sent to Israel where he helped establish Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.
In May 1951, two senior British officials, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, fled to the Soviet Union. Senior figures in the CIA were investigating Burgess and Maclean at the time and suspected that Kim Philby, a MI6 agent working in Washington had tipped off his two friends. The CIA director, Walter Bedell Smith, asked Angleton and William Harvey to write up separate reports detailing what they knew about Philby. Harvey came to the conclusion that Philby was a Soviet spy. However, Angleton claimed that Philby had been "honestly duped" and warned Smith against taking the matter further. Smith took the advice of Angleton and Philby was able to continue his work until escaping to the Soviet Union four years later.
In 1954 Allen Dulles appointed Angleton as chief of the CIA's counter-intelligence section. Two years later Angleton had his greatest success when he obtained a transcript of the speech Nikita Khrushchev made to the 1956 Soviet Party Congress denouncing Joseph Stalin. Angleton leaked doctored versions of the speech to numerous foreign government in a disinformation campaign.
In December 1961, Anatoli Golitsin, a KGB agent, working in Finland, defected to the CIA. He was immediately flown to the United States and lodged in a safe house called Ashford Farm near Washington. Interviewed by Angleton, Golitsin supplied information about a large number of Soviet agents working in the West.
In these interviews Golitsin argued that as the KGB would be so concerned about his defection, they would attempt to convince the CIA that the information he was giving them would be completely unreliable. He predicted that the KGB would send false defectors with information that contradicted what he was saying.
In June 1962 Yuri Nosenko made contact with the CIA in Geneva. He was deputy chief of the Seventh Department of the KGB. His main responsibility was the recruitment of foreign spies. He like Golitsin, provided evidence that John Vassall was a Soviet agent. However, most of his evidence undermined that given by Golitsin. This included Golitsin's claim that a senior figure in the Admiralty was a spy.
In July 1963, Golitsin traveled to London to be interviewed by Arthur Martin. Soon afterwards a senior MI5 officer leaked information to British newspapers that they were interviewing a KGB defector in London. As soon as this story appeared in the press, Golitsin returned to the United States and refused to give any more information to MI5.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Richard Helms was given the responsibility of investigating Lee Harvey Oswald and the CIA. Helms initially appointed John M. Whitten to undertake the agency's in-house investigation. After talking to Winston Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexico City, Whitten discovered that Oswald had been photographed at the Cuban consulate in early October, 1963. Scott had not reported this matter to Whitten, his boss, at the time. Nor had Scott told Whitten that Oswald had also visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico. In fact, Whitten had not been informed of the existence of Oswald, even though there was a 201 pre-assassination file on him that had been maintained by the Counterintelligence/Special Investigative Group.
John M. Whitten and his staff of 30 officers, were sent a large amount of information from the FBI. According to Gerald D. McKnight "the FBI deluged his branch with thousands of reports containing bits and fragments of witness testimony that required laborious and time-consuming name checks." Whitten later described most of this FBI material as "weirdo stuff". As a result of this initial investigation, Whitten told Richard Helms that he believed that Oswald had acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
On 6th December, Nicholas Katzenbach invited John M. Whitten and Birch O'Neal, Angleton's trusted deputy and senior Special Investigative Group (SIG) officer to read Commission Document 1 (CD1), the report that the FBI had written on Lee Harvey Oswald. Whitten now realized that the FBI had been withholding important information on Oswald from him. He also discovered that Richard Helms had not been providing him all of the agency's available files on Oswald. This included Oswald's political activities in the months preceding the assassination.
John M. Whitten had a meeting where he argued that Oswald's pro-Castro political activities needed closer examination, especially his attempt to shoot the right-wing General Edwin Walker, his relationship with anti-Castro exiles in New Orleans, and his public support for the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Whitten added that has he had been denied this information, his initial conclusions on the assassination were "completely irrelevant."
Helms responded by taking Whitten off the case. James Jesus Angleton was now put in charge of the investigation. According to Gerald McKnight (Breach of Trust) Angleton "wrested the CIA's in-house investigation away from John Whitten because he either was convinced or pretended to believe that the purpose of Oswald's trip to Mexico City had been to meet with his KGB handlers to finalize plans to assassinate Kennedy." Over the next few months Angleton worked with William Sullivan of the FBI in providing information to the Warren Commission.
During this period Angleton continued to interview Anatoli Golitsin. He now claimed that Hugh Gaitskell had been murdered in January 1963 to allow Harold Wilson, a KGB agent, to become leader of the Labour Party. Angleton believed Golitsin but few senior members of the CIA agreed with him. They pointed out that Gaitskell had died after Golitsin had left the Soviet Union and would have had to know in advance what was about to take place.
Golitsin also suggested that W. Averell Harriman had been a Soviet spy, while he was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Angleton was convinced by this story as he knew someone was involved in spying the negotiations that took place between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, other CIA officers thought the story ridiculous and Harriman was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as ambassador-at-large for Southeast Asian affairs.
In January 1964 Yuri Nosenko contacted the CIA and said he had changed his mind and was now willing to defect to the United States. He claimed that he had been recalled to Moscow to be interrogated. Nosenko feared that the KGB had discovered he was a double-agent and once back in the Soviet Union would be executed. Nosenko also claimed that he had important information about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He insisted that although Lee Harvey Oswald had lived in the Soviet Union he was not a KGB agent.
Nosenko arrived in the United States on 14th February, 1964. However, soon afterwards, Nosenko was undermined by the US National Security Agency who had been monitoring communications between Moscow and Geneva. It discovered that Nosenko had lied about being recalled to the Soviet Union. He was now taken to a CIA detention cell and after extensive interrogation he admitted the story about him being recalled was untrue.
Angleton believed that Anatoli Golitsin was a genuine double-agent but argued that Nosenko was part of a disinformation campaign. However, other CIA officers believed Nosenko and considered Golitsin was a fake.
Some researchers have claimed that Angleton was involved in covering up CIA's involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. H. R. Haldeman, President Nixon's chief of staff, claimed in his book, The Ends of Power: "After Kennedy was killed, the CIA launched a fantastic cover-up. The CIA literally erased any connection between Kennedy's assassination and the CIA... in fact, Counter intelligence Chief James Angleton of the CIA called Bill Sullivan of the FBI and rehearsed the questions and answers they would give to the Warren Commission investigators."
For example, Winston Scott, was CIA station chief in 1963. He retired in 1969 and wrote a memoir about his time in the FBI, OSS and the CIA. He completed the manuscript, It Came To Little, and made plans to discuss the contents of the book with CIA director, Richard Helms, in Washington on 30th April, 1971.
Scott died on 26th April, 1971. No autopsy was performed, and a postmortem suggested he had suffered a heart attack. His son, Michael Scott told Dick Russell that he took away his father's manuscript. Angleton also confiscated three large cartons of files including a tape-recording of the voice of Lee Harvey Oswald. Michael Scott was also told by a CIA source that his father had not died from natural causes.
Michael Scott eventually got his father's manuscript back from the CIA. However, 150 pages were missing. Chapters 13 to 16 were deleted in their entirety. In fact, everything about his life after 1947 had been removed on grounds of national security.
Angleton became convinced that the CIA had been penetrated by a "mole" working for the KGB. He ordered his assistant, Clare Edward Petty, of the ultra-secret Special Investigation Group (SIG), to carry out a study into the possibility that a Soviet spy existed in the higher levels of the CIA. Angleton suggested that David Murphy, a former chief of the Soviet Division, was a spy. Petty eventually produced a 25 page report on Murphy that concluded that he was "probably innocent". Angleton disagreed and insisted he was a spy.
Petty also investigated Pete Bagley, another former chief of the Soviet Division. His report on Bagley ran to over 250 pages and concluded that he was a "good candidate for the mole". Angleton disagreed and insisted that his friend was a loyal CIA officer.
Petty now became suspicious of Angleton and decided to carry out a private investigation into his past. As he later pointed out: "I reviewed Angleton's entire career, going back through his relationships with Philby, his adherence to all of Golitsyn's wild theories, his false accusations against foreign services and the resulting damage to the liaison relationships, and finally his accusation against innocent Soviet Division officers."
As a result of his investigation, Petty concluded that there was an "80-85 percent probability" that Angleton was a Soviet mole. Petty showed his report to several senior CIA officials including William Colby, William Nelson and David Blee. Colby instructed Bronson Tweedy, another senior CIA officer to review Petty's findings. After several months of study, Tweedy argued that there was no justification whatsoever for assuming Angleton to be a Soviet agent.
In February, 1973, James Schlesinger replaced Richard Helms as Director of the CIA. Angleton immediately went to see Schlesinger and gave him a list of more than 30 people that he considered to be Soviet agents. This list included top politicians, foreign intelligence officials and senior CIA officials. Those named included Harold Wilson, the British prime minister, Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, Willy Brandt, chairman of the West German Social Democratic Party, Averell Harriman, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Lester Pearson, the Canadian prime minister and Henry Kissinger, the National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon. Schlesinger listened to Angleton for seven hours. After consulting with other senior figures in the CIA he concluded that he was suffering from paranoia. However, he liked Angleton and decided against forcing him into retirement.
In July 1973, James Schlesinger became President Nixon's Secretary of Defence and William Colby became the new Director of the CIA. Angleton now presented his list of suspected agents to Colby. He reacted by carrying out an investigation into Angleton. He later recalled that he could not find any evidence "that we ever caught a spy under Jim". He added: "That really bothered me... Now I don't care what Jim's political views were as long as he did his job properly, and I'm afraid, in that respect, he was not a good CI chief."
Colby was also concerned about Angleton's mental health. However, he found it difficult to sack him. On 20th December, 1973, Seymour Hersh contacted William Colby and told him that he had evidence that Angleton had organized a massive spying campaign against thousands of American citizens. This action had violated the CIA charter. Hersh informed Colby that he planned to publish the story a few days later. Colby immediately called Angleton to his office and was ordered to resign.
In March, 1976, James Truitt gave an interview to The National Enquirer. Truitt told the newspaper that Mary Pinchot Meyer , who had been murdered on 12th October, 1964, was having an affair with John F. Kennedy. He also claimed that Meyer had told his wife, Ann Truitt, that she was keeping an account of this relationship in her diary. Meyer asked Truitt to take possession of a private diary "if anything ever happened to me".
Ann Truitt was living in Tokyo at the time of the murder. She phoned Ben Bradlee at his home and asked him if he had found the diary. Bradlee, who claimed he was unaware of his sister-in-law's affair with Kennedy, knew nothing about the diary. He later recalled what he did after Truitt's phone-call: "We didn't start looking until the next morning, when Tony and I walked around the corner a few blocks to Mary's house. It was locked, as we had expected, but when we got inside, we found Jim Angleton, and to our complete surprise he told us he, too, was looking for Mary's diary."
Angleton admitted that he knew of Mary's relationship with John F. Kennedy and was searching her home looking for her diary and any letters that would reveal details of the affair. According to Ben Bradlee, it was Mary's sister, Antoinette Bradlee, who found the diary and letters a few days later. It was claimed that the diary was in a metal box in Mary's studio. The contents of the box were given to Angleton who claimed he burnt the diary. Angleton later admitted that Mary recorded in her diary that she had taken LSD with Kennedy before "they made love".
In 1976 Cleveland Cram, the former Chief of Station in the Western Hemisphere, met George T. Kalaris and Ted Shackley at a cocktail party in Washington. Kalaris, who had replaced Angleton as Chief of Counterintelligence, asked Cram if he would like to come back to work. Cram was told that the CIA wanted a study done of Angleton's reign from 1954 to 1974. "Find out what in hell happened. What were these guys doing."
Cram took the assignment and was given access to all CIA documents on covert operations. The study entitled History of the Counterintelligence Staff 1954-1974, took six years to complete. As David Wise points out in his book Molehunt (1992): "When Cram finally finished it in 1981... he had produced twelve legal-sized volumes, each three hundred to four hundred pages. Cram's approximately four-thousand-page study has never been declassified. It remains locked in the CIA's vaults."
On 16th May, 1978, John M. Whitten appeared before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). He criticised Richard Helms for not making a full disclosure about the Rolando Cubela plot to the Warren Commission. He added " I think that was a morally highly reprehensible act, which he cannot possibly justify under his oath of office or any other standard of professional service."
Whitten also said that if he had been allowed to continue with the investigation he would have sought out what was going on at JM/WAVE. This would have involved the questioning of Ted Shackley, David Sanchez Morales, Carl E. Jenkins, Rip Robertson, George Joannides, Gordon Campbell and Thomas G. Clines. As Jefferson Morley has pointed out in The Good Spy: "Had Whitten been permitted to follow these leads to their logical conclusions, and had that information been included in the Warren Commission report, that report would have enjoyed more credibility with the public. Instead, Whitten's secret testimony strengthened the HSCA's scathing critique of the C.I.A.'s half-hearted investigation of Oswald. The HSCA concluded that Kennedy had been killed by Oswald and unidentifiable co-conspirators."
John M. Whitten also told the HSCA that James Jesus Angleton involvement in the investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was "improper". Although he was placed in charge of the investigation by Richard Helms, Angleton "immediately went into action to do all the investigating". When Whitten complained to Helms about this he refused to act.
Whitten believes that Angleton's attempts to sabotage the investigation was linked to his relationship with the Mafia. Whitten claims that Angleton also prevented a CIA plan to trace mob money to numbered accounts in Panama. Angleton told Whitten that this investigation should be left to the FBI. When Whitten mentioned this to a senior CIA official, he replied: "Well, that's Angleton's excuse. The real reason is that Angleton himself has ties to the Mafia and he would not want to double-cross them."
Whitten also pointed out that as soon as Angleton took control of the investigation he concluded that Cuba was unimportant and focused his internal investigation on Oswald's life in the Soviet Union. If Whitten had remained in charge he would have "concentrated his attention on CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami, Florida, to uncover what George Joannides, the station chief, and operatives from the SIG and SAS knew about Oswald."
James Angleton died of lung cancer at Washington's Sibley Memorial Hospital on 11th May, 1987, and was buried in his hometown of Boise, Idaho.
In 1993 Cleveland Cram completed a study carried out on behalf of the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI). Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature. This document was declassified in 2003. In the document Cram reveals that several senior CIA officers, including Clare Edward Petty, Angleton's assistant, were convinced that the former Chief of Counterintelligence, was a KGB agent.
In his book, Oswald and the CIA (2008), John Newman argued: "In my view, whoever Oswald's direct handler or handlers were, we must now seriously consider the possibility that Angleton was probably their general manager. No one else in the Agency had the access, the authority, and the diabolically ingenious mind to manage this sophisticated plot. No one else had the means necessary to plant the WWIII virus in Oswald's files and keep it dormant for six weeks until the president's assassination. Whoever those who were ultimately responsible for the decision to kill Kennedy were, their reach extended into the national intelligence apparatus to such a degree that they could call upon a person who knew its inner secrets and workings so well that he could design a failsafe mechanism into the fabric of the plot. The only person who could ensure that a national security cover-up of an apparent counterintelligence nightmare was the head of counterintelligence."