28 August 2014
Snowden: The Deception Question
Epstein, Edward Jay. James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right?
The Deception Question
Even Angletons harshest critics at the CIA, such as William Colby,
recognized that the KGB planted misleading clues in intelligence channels.
But they believed, as Colby wrote in directives, that the CIA was able to
weed out such tactical disinformation by considering it in the context of
intelligence gathered by satellites, communications intercepts, and other
sources. This view held that while it might be possible to temporarily confuse
CIA field officers, disinformation would never be passed up the chain to
the White House. Angletons view that it could be used to manipulate
a President was peremptorily dismissed. Colby termed it sick think.
In 1995 , however , the CIA Inspector General found that in the 1980s and
early 1990s the KGB had dispatched at least half-dozen double agents who
provided disinformation cooked up in Moscow to their CIA case officers. It
further discovered that this concoction of bogus and factually true information
had routinely been passed between 1986 and 1994 to three Presidents
President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.
The disinformation, according to the Inspector General, became part of one
of the CIA's most highly classified products, with each report signed personally
by the CIA director, provided with a distinctive blue stripe to signify their
importance , and sent directly to the President, Secretary of Defense and
Secretary of State. When the CIA Inspector General retrospectively traced
out the path of this disinformation in the blue border reports, he found
that the senior CIA officers responsible for these reports had known
that some of their sources were controlled by Russian intelligence.
These CIA officials apparently continued to forward the Russian disinformation
to the White House because it would be too embarrassing for them to admit
that they had been so badly deceived. Whatever their motive, the CIA officers
who had been gulled by the KGB found a common interest with the KGB in not
revealing on-going deception. The CIA Director John Deutch, who had received
these blue border reports when he was deputy director of the Department of
Defense, told Congress that the CIAs failure to disclose that the
intelligence was from KGB-controlled agents was "an inexcusable lapse in
elementary intelligence practice."
So Angleton proved to be right about the KGBs capabilities to penetrate,
deceive, and use the CIA to deceive its own government.
By the time Angleton died, in 1987, the term Angletonian had become
an adjective used to describe something conspiratorial, overly paranoid,
or bizarre. Even though every Director of Central Intelligence from Allan
Dulles to James Schlesinger kept Angleton as their key advisor on
counterintelligence, his critics ridiculed his idea that KGB moles could
infiltrate the FBI and CIA. In the media, the notion of moles was treated
as evidence of his paranoia. Simply put, in 1987, Angleton's thesis that
the KGB could use the CIA to deceive Presidents was viewed by almost every
commentator on the subject as an excursion into paranoia.
In Russia, however a handful of people in the KGB and Kremlin had a very
different appreciation of the situation. They knew in 1987, as the FBI would
only learn many years later, that the CIA had been successfully penetrated
. The KGB had advanced its mole Aldrich Ames to a key position in the heart
of its counterintelligence. They also knew that the FBI, Americas
anti-espionage service, had also been doubly penetrated The KGB had two moles,
Earl Edwin Pitts and Robert Hanssen, with access to the FBIs computer
files. They also knew that these moles were reporting back to Moscow the
thinking of American counterintelligence. So the KGB had installed the feedback
part of the deception loop. They also knew that the KGB had no fewer than
six disinformation agents. From their feedback, they knew that the CIA and
FBI had accepted them as reliable sources. These agents formed the disinformation
part of the loop. They also knew that their Moscow-prepared disinformation
was moving from the CIA case officers, to the Reports section. And that it
was included in the reports signed by the National Intelligence Officer for
Soviet Russia and Director of Central Intelligence William Casey (and then
William Webster) for the eyes of President Ronald Reagan, Secretary of State
George Shultz, and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
After the Cold War ended, the CIA learned more about this vulnerability.
In 2004, KGB Col. Victor Cherkashin, spoke at a dinner in his honor at the
Spy Museum in Washington about how the KGB duped the CIA. He recounted to
former US intelligence officers how he helped run two KGB moles -- one
well-placed in the CIA's Soviet Russia Division, the other in the FBI --
when he was deputy KGB chief at the Soviet Embassy in Washington in the 1980s.
They were of course Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. He explained how this
helped facilitate the KGBs disinformation operations to further delude
the CIA even after leaks were detected by the CIA. Of course, by this time,
the CIA Inspector General had already found out about the KGBs success
in deception. Cherkashin could gloat in 2004 over the KGB's prior successes
because the CIA leadership had not seen that Angleton had been right.
Behind a ring of three barbed-wire electrified fences at Fort Meade in Maryland,
the headquarters of America's most secretive intelligence service the National
Security Agency (NSA) was a prime target of the KGB during the Cold War.
Even though it had more employees and a larger budget than any other American
intelligence service, its very existence had been classified a secret in
the mid 1950s. It was responsible for protecting the security of the channels
through which the leaders of the United States Government, military forces
and intelligence services communicate with one another and designed the ciphers,
encoding machines and protected lines through which the nation's most closely
guarded secrets are transmitted. Aside from protecting the nation's secret
communications, the NSA also intercepted the secrets of foreign governments.
Such signal intelligence includes intercepts of telephone and radio signals,
telemetry from missiles and electrical impulses from radar and sonar.
Despite its aura of secrecy, NSA has had multiple penetrations by Soviet
intelligence. On July 22, 1963, Victor Norris Hamilton, a Syrian-born research
analyst at NSA headquarters, turned up in Moscow and announced that he was
defecting. He had been presumably an agent of the KGB in Moscow. He joined
two other former NSA employees, Bernon F. Mitchell and William H. Martin,
who had defected to the Soviet Union three years earlier. While working as
KGB moles at NSA headquarters, they had provided the Soviet Union with
information about the technical capabilities and locations of the super secret
sensors that the NSA had employed against it, and also with data about the
NSA's code-breaking techniques.
One day after Hamilton defected from the NSA, Jack E. Dunlap, an employee
of the NSA since 1958, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. It was
ruled an apparent suicide. One month later, when Dunlap s wife found sealed
packets of Government documents in the attic of their house, it was determined
that he had been a Soviet agent.
Col. Thomas Fox, the chief of counterintelligence of the Defense Intelligence
Agency at the time of the investigation, told me that Dunlap, a native of
Bogalusa, La. had been recruited by the KGB while employed at the NSA base
at Sinop, Turkey. He had met there Major General Garrison Coverdale the chief
of staff of the NSA. General Coverdale then selected Dunlap to be his personal
driver at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. General Coverdale further arranged
for Dunlap to receive top-secret clearance and a position in the NSA's
traffic-analysis division. Since the general's car had "no inspection" status,
Dunlap could drive off the base with documents hidden in the car and then
return without anyone knowing that the material had been removed from the
Moreover, Dunlap made other high-level connections in the NSA The Carroll
Report, a secret Defense Department document (part of which I received through
a Freedom of Information Act request). named after General Joseph F. Carroll,
who headed the investigation, noted that Dunlap had helped a colonel
at the NSA base pilfer some "expendable items of Government property" from
his office. From this incident, the report concluded, "Dunlap had already
had experience in circumventing NSA procedures under relatively high level
tutelage." The implication was that he had expanded his access to secret
files by offering to help officers steal furniture and other articles from
When General Coverdale left Fort Meade in August 1959, Dunlap was reassigned
as a driver to the new NSA chief of staff, General Watlington. By continuing
his chauffeuring, Dunlap retained access to the "no inspection" vehicle necessary
for smuggling documents on and off the base. The Carroll Report makes it
clear that Dunlap was interrogated by NSA investigators just before he died.
According to Colonel Fox, the Defense Department investigating team did not
establish any connection between Dunlap and the three NSA employees who fled
to Moscow. Since four KGB moles had been uncovered in the NSA. the agency
found it necessary to change its secret codes, encoding machinery, security
procedures and entire modus operandi.
While Dunlap was chauffeuring around the NSA chief of staff at Fort Meade,
the KGB developed another mole at the pinnacle of American military intelligence
Lieut. Col. William Henry Whalen, who was the intelligence advisor to the
Army Chief of Staff. Since Colonel Whalen, as intelligence adviser, could
demonstrate a "need to know," he had access to virtually all military planning
and national intelligence estimates. In return for money, he regularly supplied
secrets to his Soviet case officer over a three-year period, even after he
had retired from the Army because of a physical disability. According to
his subsequent indictment, the highly classified data sold to the KGB included
"information pertaining to atomic weaponry, missiles, military plans for
the defense of Europe, estimates of comparative military capabilities, military
intelligence reports and analyses, information concerning the retaliation
plans by the United States Strategic Air Command and information pertaining
to troop movements. He gave away, in short, a wide range of national secrets
available to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (After pleading guilty in 1966 to
charges of conspiring with a Soviet agent to divulge national defense documents,
Colonel Whalen served six years in prison.)
Through the services of Dunlap and Whalen, the KGB succeeded, as Angleton
put it, in "opening the window" on virtually all American intelligence-gathering
activities in the Soviet bloc. Just as the CIA was able to ferret out KGB
moles by tracing the documents that Goleniewski provided from Moscow to their
source, the KGB could presumably trace the military intelligence reports
and analyses that Whalen provided to whatever traitors existed in the Soviet
intelligence apparatus. During this period, 1958 to 1963, the KGB did in
fact succeed in catching the CIA's two prize moles in Moscow, Peter Popov
and Oleg Penkovsky. Both were executed.
Even in the light of these past Soviet successes in penetrating the NSA and
Defense Department, there was considerable resistance in the intelligence
community to confronting the possibility that the KGB has used the same
techniques and resources to establish new and undetected moles in American
intelligence. For one thing, the search can prove damaging. If it is a failure,
it will be viewed by those investigated as a demoralizing witch hunt; if
it is successful, it will undercut trust in the past work of the intelligence
service. Just as the British Secret Service resisted the idea that it had
been infiltrated by KGB moles even after it had received the incriminating
documents from Goleniewski, the FBI elected not to pursue evidence of a mole.
For example, William C. Sullivan, Assistant Director of the FBI for Domestic
Intelligence until 1971, describes in his autobiography how J. Edgar Hoover,
the FBI Director, refused to allow him to move against what he was convinced
was a Soviet mole in the FBI's New York office. He writes that after the
FBI discovered a leak, he proposed transferring, one by one, all personnel
out of the suspected section. Hoover replied, "Some smart newspaperman is
bound to find out that we are transferring people out of the New York office,"
and flatly rejected the request. The source of the leak had not been removed
from the office, or further identified, when Sullivan retired. Similarly,
the CIA has relied on polygraph examinations to uncover moles, even though
there is no empirical evidence that they work. In 1978, for example, a
23-year-old watch officer in the CIA named William Kampiles sold to the KGB
a top-secret manual explaining the technical operations of the KH-11 satellite
system that is used over the Soviet Union. When the CIA investigated , it
discovered that there were at least 13 other missing KH-11 manuals. Yet Kampiles
had passed all his polygraphs.
The war of the moles demonstrated that the secret services of both America
and Russia could be penetrated.
Was Snowden's Heist a Foreign Espionage Operation?
Those who know the files he stole think he was working for a foreign power,
perhaps Russia, where he now lives.
By Edward Jay Epstein
May 9, 2014 6:50 p.m. ET
Edward Snowden's massive misappropriations of classified documents from the
inner sanctum of U.S. intelligence is mainly presented by the media as a
whistleblowing story. In this narrativedesigned by Mr. Snowden
himselfhe is portrayed as a disgruntled contractor for the National
Security Agency, acting alone, who heroically exposed the evils of government
surveillance beginning in 2013.
The other way of looking at itbased on the number and nature of documents
Mr. Snowden took, and the dates when they were takenis that only a
handful of the secrets had anything to do with domestic surveillance by the
government and most were of primary value to an espionage operation.
So far, only the whistleblower version has had immense international resonance.
The Washington Post and Britain's Guardian, the newspapers that initially
published the purloined documents, won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize. The journalists
who assisted Mr. Snowden in this enterprise were awarded the 2014 Polk Award
for national-security reporting. Former Congressman Ron Paul organized a
clemency petition in February for Mr. Snowden, stating: "Thanks to one man's
courageous actions, Americans know about the truly egregious ways their
government is spying on them."
Yet othersuntil now not often quoted in news accountssee Mr.
Snowden as neither a hero nor a whistleblower. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to the House Armed Services Committee
on March 13, 2014, that "The vast majority of the documents that Snowden
. . . exfiltrated from our highest levels of security had nothing to do with
exposing government oversight of domestic activities." Time magazine on April
3 quoted Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), the head of the House Intelligence
Committee, as saying Mr. Snowden was "definitely under the influence of Russian
On June 10, 2013, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), the head of the Senate
Intelligence Committee, described Mr. Snowden's theft of documents as "an
act of treason." A former member of President Obama's cabinet went even further,
suggesting to me off the record in March this year that there are only three
possible explanations for the Snowden heist: 1) It was a Russian espionage
operation; 2) It was a Chinese espionage operation, or 3) It was a joint
Mr. Snowden's critics regard the whistleblowing narrative as at best incomplete,
at worst fodder for the naïve. They do not believe that it explains
the unprecedented size and complexity of the penetration of NSA files and
records. For one thing, many of his critics have intelligence clearance.
They have been privy to the results of an NSA investigation that established
the chronology of the copying of 1.7 million documents that were stolen from
the Signals Intelligence Center in Hawaii. The documents were taken from
at least 24 supersecret compartments that stored them on computers, each
of which required a password that a perpetrator had to steal or borrow, or
forge an encryption key to bypass.
Once Mr. Snowden breached security at the Hawaii facility, in mid-April of
2013, he planted robotic programs called "spiders" to "scrape" specifically
targeted documents. According to Gen. Dempsey, "The vast majority of those
[stolen documents] were related to our military capabilities, operations,
tactics, techniques and procedures."
Rick Ledgett, the NSA executive who headed the NSA's damage-assessment task
force, said on the Dec. 13, 2013, edition of "60 Minutes" that this data
contains "the keys to the kingdom." Keys, he told the CBS show, that could
provide "adversaries with a road map of what we know, what we don't know."
Many of the documents concerned secret operations against the cyber capabilities
of adversaries. But only a minute fraction of them have anything to do with
civil liberties or whistleblowing, former NSA Director Keith Alexander says
in the Australian Financial Review published May 8.
The chronology of Mr. Snowden's thefts suggests that a top priority was lists
of the computers of U.S. adversaries abroad that the NSA had succeeded in
penetrating. Mr. Snowden confirmed this priority in October 2013, when he
told James Risen of the New York Times that his "last job" at the NSAthe
job he took on March 15, 2013, with outside contractor Booz Allen
Hamiltongave him, as Mr. Snowden said, "access to every target, every
active operation" mounted by the NSA against the Chinese. Soon after Mr.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong in May 2013, he told Lana Lam of the South China
Morning Post that his new job gave him access to the lists of machines in
China, Hong Kong and elsewhere that "the NSA hacked. That is why I accepted
that position about three months ago."
Mr. Snowden took the Booz Allen Hamilton job in March of 2013, but it was
only at the tail end of his operationin Maythat he copied the
document (possibly the only one) that specifically authorized the NSA's
controversial domestic surveillance program. This was a Foreign Surveillance
Intelligence Act court order, instructing Verizon to provide metadata on
U.S. phone calls for 90 days, that Mr. Snowden gave to the Guardian newspaper
in London on June 3, 2013. (He also leaked a secret presentation in slides
about the NSA's Prism Internet surveillance. This program, operated with
the FBI, targeted only foreigners, though it could be extended, with the
approval of the attorney general, to suspects in the U.S. in contact with
Contrary to Mr. Snowden's account, the document he stole about the NSA's
domestic surveillance couldn't have been part of any whistleblowing plan
when he transferred to Booz Allen Hamilton in March of 2013. Why? Among other
reasons, because the order he took was only issued by the FISA court on April
The suspicions that whistleblowing was a cover for espionage by Mr. Snowden
are further heightened by his winding up under the protection of the Russian
security service, the FSB, in Moscow. Whether or not Mr. Snowden took the
1.7 million stolen documents to Moscow or stored them in cyberspace, the
theft effectively compromises all the sources and methods in them.
What accounts for the extraordinary divide between the Snowden and anti-Snowden
camps is a disparity in the available information. The pro-Snowden camp's
view is largely informed by Mr. Snowden himself. In the anti-Snowden camp
are administration officials and the members of the House and Senate intelligence
oversight committees who have been at least partially briefed on the continuing
investigations of the Snowden affair.
In short, the media and Mr. Snowden's admirers have only his word as to what
went on. His detractors are the people who know enough about what happened
to conclude that far from being a whistleblower, Mr. Snowden was a participant
in an espionage operation and most likely steered from the beginning toward
his massive theft, whether he knew this at first or not.
Little, if any, of this classified data has reached the public or the news
media. The evidence backing up the government's criminal complaint against
Mr. Snowdeninvolving both espionage and the theft of government
propertyhas been sealed since June 22, 2013. Even Mr. Snowden's legal
standing is unclear. President Obama said on Dec. 20, 2013, that he was "under
indictment"and then a spokesperson corrected the president, saying
that the grand jury had not in fact indicted him.
Until there is an indictment by a federal grand jury, and the state's evidence
against Mr. Snowden is unsealed, his portrait as a crusader will persist.
Mr. Epstein's most recent book is "The Annals of Unsolved Crime" (Melville