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...

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