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28 August 2014

Snowden: The Deception Question

Epstein, Edward Jay. James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right?

The Deception Question

Even Angleton’s 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. Angleton’s 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 CIA’s 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 KGB’s 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, America’s anti-espionage service, had also been doubly penetrated The KGB had two moles, Earl Edwin Pitts and Robert Hanssen, with access to the FBI’s 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 KGB’s 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 KGB’s 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 base.

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 their offices.

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 narrative—designed by Mr. Snowden himself—he 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 it—based on the number and nature of documents Mr. Snowden took, and the dates when they were taken—is 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 others—until now not often quoted in news accounts—see 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 officials."

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 Sino-Russian operation.

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 NSA—the job he took on March 15, 2013, with outside contractor Booz Allen Hamilton—gave 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 operation—in May—that 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 foreign targets.)

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 26, 2013.

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. Snowden—involving both espionage and the theft of government property—has 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 House, 2013).