Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

James Jesus Angleton: CIA Spy Hunter

The "Monster Plot"

By all indications, relations between the Soviet Union and Red China had started to deteriorate in 1959 and worsened through the early 1960s. Photographs that showed large numbers of Soviet advisors leaving China supported the prevailing intelligence that there had been an ideological split between the two Communist governments. But Golitsyn  did not believe it, calling it a massive disinformation campaign designed to lull the West into believing that the Communist giants were at odds. He was shown U-2 aerial photographs of a huge military buildup along the Soviet-Chinese border, but he said that just showed how far the KGB's Disinformation Directorate would go to deceive their enemies. Angleton supported his assessment and set up a conference so that Golitsyn could present his views to a panel of experts in Sino-Soviet relations. Most remained unconvinced, and Golitsyn's critics nicknamed the group the Flat Earth Committee. Angleton needed something to convince the CIA community that Golitsyn was right.

President Kennedy
President Kennedy
On November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, President Kennedy was assassinated, shot in the back of the head as he rode in a convertible limousine. The nation went into a state of shock, unable to comprehend how such a horrible event could have happened within American borders. Authorities in Dallas apprehended a suspect a little over an hour after the assassination, an ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald. Then, two days after his arrest, Oswald himself was shot dead, compounding the mystery of the President's murder.

Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald

In checking Oswald's background, government investigators learned that he had spent 3 years in the USSR, had married a Soviet citizen, and had tried to become a citizen himself. Oswald's Soviet connection was too obvious to ignore. The United States and the Soviet Union had become bitter enemies. Kennedy had stared down Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Had the KGB recruited Oswald to assassinate the American president?

A year and a half before the assassination, a KGB operations officer named Yuri Nosenko  approached the CIA, wanting to defect. Among other things, Nosenko claimed to have been a member of the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, which handled the surveillance and recruitment of foreigners inside the Soviet Union. His claims were closely scrutinized, and CIA interrogators came to the conclusion that he was who he said he was. Nosenko was brought to the United States, and over time he gave his CIA handlers a wealth of inside information, including the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald had not been sent by the KGB to assassinate Kennedy. Nosenko said that he had read the KGB's file on Oswald, which judged him undesirable and too unstable to be of any use. The Soviet Union wanted no part of him.

Yuri Nosenko
Yuri Nosenko

Nosenko appeared to be fount of information, and the CIA officers who had brought him in hoped that he would continue to be a reliable source. But some of the information Nosenko provided contradicted Angleton's prized source, Anatoliy Golitsyn. In his debriefings, Nosenko had unwittingly challenged the Black Knight, and Angleton and the Fundamentalists, who were promoting their vision of a Communist "monster plot," did not want to hear any alternative theories. Unfortunately for Nosenko, the consequences of challenging the world according to Golitsyn would be severe.

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