Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

James Jesus Angleton: CIA Spy Hunter

Opening the Safes

CIA Director William Colby chose George Kalaris to be Angleton's replacement. Kalaris had been chief of station in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, when he got the call from headquarters. The unstated message in the selection of Kalaris was clear: CIA brass wanted someone far removed from the internal politics at Langley to head the agency's most controversial department.

Angleton was less than gracious to his successor, warning Kalaris that he was making a huge mistake in taking the job and that it would ruin him. Undaunted, Kalaris took the reins, with little help from Angleton in the transition. What Kalaris found when he took over Angleton's office was a massive and intricate puzzle, but he was determined to unravel it. When he started to delve into the activities of the Counterintelligence Staff, he couldn't figure out exactly what the department had been doing for the past 10 years. Angleton had been so secretive and stealthy, he left no clear records of what he had been up to.

Kalaris inherited the responsibility for some 40 safes in the department. Many of them hadn't been opened in years, and Angleton did not leave the combinations. A team of safe crackers had to be brought in to drill the safes in order to open them. According to author Tom Mangold, the largest vault held 40,000 files in racks eight feet high and forty feet long, but ultimately no more than 200 of these files were saved. The rest were deemed useless and burned.

Because Angleton had refused to allow his materials to be logged into the CIA's central computer system, only he and select members of his staff had ever read them. It took a team of analysts three years to sort through the mountain of paper and decide what was worth keeping. In all that material, they did not find one shred of hard evidence that Angleton had ever discovered a mole within the CIA.

Kalaris also learned that Angleton had given a large number of classified CIA files and personnel records to Anatoliy Golitsyn. This was a clear violation of CIA policy, and Kalaris wanted those documents back as soon as possible. Golitsyn, however, believed that his work was not done and said that he needed the files. The CIA then initiated Operation White Knuckle to retrieve the documents from Golitsyn. The defector resisted until he was told that if he did not cooperate, the CIA would inform the FBI that he had some of their classified files as well and they would send a SWAT team to storm his house. Golitsyn relented and turned over twelve cardboard boxes of files, but he did not give them everything. A CIA team had to break into his Manhattan townhouse to recover the rest.

The CIA's final verdict on Golitsyn was that he was a bona fide defector, but the information he provided was "limited" and his value to the agency was "mediocre." Of the 173 leads he provided, only two proved to be useful. An internal CIA report on the Angleton years stated that the information Golitsyn offered until 1962 was genuine, but then he mostly regurgitated morsels he had culled from the CIA and foreign-intelligence files that Angleton had let him read.

The CIA officially deemed the Ingeborg Lygren case a "big mistake." Lygren was in fact the innocent victim of Angleton's witch-hunt and Golitsyn's half-baked revelations. Indeed, there had been a KGB mole in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Gunvor Haavik, the woman Lygren had replaced as the ambassador's secretary. Like Lygren, Haavik was middle-aged and unmarried. She was having an affair with a married Soviet, and the KGB had used her indiscretion to blackmail her into working for them. Golitsyn had confused the two women.

Twelve years after Lygren's false arrest, the CIA sought to recompense her. Kalaris was empowered to offer her $250,000, the equivalent of her salary for all the years since her arrest. But Lygren was not the same person she had been. The experience had broken her and turned her into a recluse. She responded to Kalaris's offer through a third party, saying that she had no interest in the CIA's money or in meeting anyone from the CIA.

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