Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

James Jesus Angleton: CIA Spy Hunter

The Black Knight

On the evening of December 15, 1961, the CIA chief of station in Helsinki, Finland, heard his doorbell ring as he was dressing for a cocktail party that night. When he answered the door, he found a short, stocky man with dark hair and unmistakably Slavic features standing on his porch. In heavily accented English, the man introduced himself as "Anatole Klimov," but the station chief recognized him. "Klimov's" real name was Anatoliy Golitsyn, a KGB staff officer who was working undercover at the Russian Embassy in Helsinki. Golitsyn explained that he was disillusioned with his own country and had come seeking asylum.

Anatoliy Golitsyn
Anatoliy Golitsyn

The CIA soon spirited Golitsyn out of Finland, taking a deliberately circuitous route through Stockholm, Frankfurt, and London. He proved to be a difficult acquisition for the CIA. Code-named AELADLE, Golitsyn was cranky and demanding, insisting that he speak directly with President John F. Kennedy about the Soviet threat and asking repeatedly for $15 million to fund an operation aimed at toppling the Soviet government. A psychological evaluation labeled him paranoid; in fact, Golitsyn refused to speak to any CIA officers who spoke fluent Russian, reasoning that they could be Soviet moles. Officers who interviewed him reported that his stories weren't always consistent, and they questioned his truthfulness.

Those who doubted Golitsyn's value pointed out that he had only been a KGB intelligence analyst whose main duties were translating and editing reports for operations officers who ran the spies who worked in the field. They felt that Golitsyn probably wasn't privy to the most crucial information and that even if it had crossed his desk, he might not have understood its importance. Nevertheless, he did prove his worth by contributing evidence that eventually uncovered two Soviet moles in Canada and one in England. He also pinpointed the locations of secret listening devices inside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow— behind radiators where they wouldn't be painted over.

But Golitsyn's most stunning revelation was his belief that there had to be a Soviet mole within the CIA. The quality of the classified information he had seen in Moscow had to have come from someone highly placed inside CIA headquarters, he reasoned.

Angleton and the Counterintelligence Staff were given the task of investigating this allegation. By this time, Angleton had alienated himself from the Soviet Division and was without a valuable source of his own, so for Angleton, Golitsyn was a godsend. In time, he would proudly refer to Golitsyn as his "black knight," regarding him as the most valuable Soviet agent ever to defect to the West. Golitsyn's paranoid worldview of Communist spies lurking around ever corner fit in perfectly with Angleton's own philosophy. The CI chief saw Golitsyn as a treasure chest filled with all kinds of valuable information about KGB operations, and he treated the defector accordingly.

The CIA paid Golitsyn thousands of dollars for his ongoing cooperation, the equivalent of millions today. They gave him a new identity, and he lived well in America as "John Stone." He was able to buy a townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and a farm in upstate New York. Angleton personally set him up with a lawyer and a Wall Street stockbroker and gave him his own safe at the Counterintelligence Staff offices.

Golitsyn protected his privileged status with the CIA by declaring that every Soviet defector who came after him would be a fake sent by the KGB to discredit him. No one took this warning more seriously than Angleton.

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