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James Jesus Angleton, the CIA, and the Craft of Counterintelligence

Michael Holzman

Publication Year: 2008

As chief of counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, James Jesus Angleton built a formidable reputation. Although perhaps best known for leading the agency's notorious “Molehunt”—the search for a Soviet spy believed to have infiltrated the upper levels of the American government—Angleton also played a key role in the U.S. intervention in the Italian election of 1948, in Israel's development of nuclear weapons, and in the management of the CIA's investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He later led CIA efforts to contain the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, including the campaign to destroy the liberal Catholic magazine Ramparts . In this deeply researched biography, Michael Holzman uses Angleton's story to illuminate the history of the CIA from its founding in the late 1940s to the mid-1970s. Like many of his colleagues in the CIA, James Angleton learned the craft of espionage during World War II as an officer in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), where he became a friend and protégé of the British double agent Kim Philby. Yet Angleton's approach to counterintelligence was also influenced by his unusual Mexican American family background and his years at Yale as a student of the New Critics and publisher of modernist poets. His marriage to Cicely d'Autremont and the couple's friendship with E. E. and Marion Cummings became part of a network of cultural connections that linked the U.S. secret intelligence services and American writers and artists during the postwar period. Drawing on a broad range of sources, including previously unexamined archival documents, personal letters, and interviews, Holzman looks beneath the surface of Angleton's career to reveal the sensibility that governed not only his personal aims and ambitions but those of the organization he served and helped shape.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

What really happened in his time, according to Procopius, was that the Empire had been taken over by demons who wished to inflict as much misery as possible on the human race. There are those who would argue, similarly, that the official and public history of the United States during the Cold War conceals a secret history of “what really happened,” a history which could be documented...

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Chapter 1. The Players Are Introduced

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pp. 1-6

Senator Frank Church chaired hearings in 1975 concerning “Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.” Great public trials—or their close equivalent, congressional hearings such as those of the Church Committee—are a characteristic activity of public life in the United States. The scene of these affairs is theatrical. They are entertainments, mechanisms for...

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Chapter 2. Yale English

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pp. 7-32

The poet, James Angleton, was the son of James Hugh Angleton, known as Hugh Angleton, an adventurer who alternated between careers in business and in the military. The elder Angleton had taken part in Pershing’s expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa, during which he met and married Carmen Mercedes Moreno of Nogales, in the northern Mexican state of...

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Chapter 3. OSS

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pp. 33-54

If today you walk down Duke Street or St. James’s from Piccadilly toward Pall Mall, you enter a London of art dealers, banks, and men’s clothing shops. There are paintings by Raphael on sale, if you would like to buy one, or you might wish to have a pair of shoes made for five hundred pounds; you could look into Christie’s to see what sort of antiques are on offer this week, or strike out...

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Chapter 4. Italy: Eavesdropping on the Pope

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pp. 55-74

The Centro Storico, the old center of Rome, is interestingly dominated, if you happen to be an artillery officer, by the heights of the Borghese Gardens and the Ludovisi district at the top of the Spanish Steps. The Ludovisi district was created in the late nineteenth century from a Prince Ludovisi’s then-suburban estate. Its main avenue, the Via Vittorio Veneto, is today one of Europe’s centers...

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Chapter 5. Coup d’État

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pp. 75-99

For most Americans the fires and mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki meant the end of war. The troopships reversed course in mid-voyage to Tokyo Bay; sailors pushed airplanes into the South China Sea and the victorious aircraft carriers set their course for Hawaii; the troops marched from their hometown victory parades to college campuses suddenly forced open...

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Chapter 6. Friends, Lovers, and Spies

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pp. 100-127

Much of Angleton’s career was entwined with that of his London colleague Kim Philby, now best known as one of the Cambridge spies. Where at Yale the secret society of Skull and Bones had been the incubator of establishment financial and political figures, at Cambridge the no less secretive Apostles had produced philosophers, poets, and aesthetes. For much of the first half of the...

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Chapter 7. The Business of Counterespionage

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pp. 128-143

Let us visualize James Angleton’s life in, say, the first week of May 1959, when he was forty years old and at the peak of his career. Arriving at his office in the old CIA buildings near the Washington Monument at ten or ten-thirty in the morning, he would have available the New York Times and the Washington Post and their various Agency supplements. Among the latter were ten daily reports...

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Chapter 8. Foreign Liaisons

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pp. 144-170

James Angleton is known—inasmuch as he is known—as the “Molehunter,” a story to which we will turn later. His career from 1948 to 1954 had been that of a foreign intelligence officer with line authority in a number of areas, authority he retained after returning to his métier of counterintelligence. These areas included the Israeli “account” and what was in effect his own foreign...

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Chapter 9. Illegalities: International Mail

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pp. 171-182

One of Angleton’s first tasks when he had returned to Washington from Italy had been to lay the foundations for a CIA “registry”—the heart of an intelligence organization—along X-2 lines. These efforts culminated, shortly after he became chief of the Counterintelligence Staff, in a program that computerized documents on first-generation, punch-card-driven IBM computers.2 Angleton...

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Chapter 10. Cuba, the Kennedys, and the Molehunt

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pp. 183-226

The Eisenhower administration ended, as it had begun, with covert action campaigns attempting to contain the Soviet Bloc in Europe and prevent its extension into the Third World. In Africa, the overdue and precipitous Belgian action in granting the Congo independence resulted in what might well have been well-anticipated chaos and civil war. The disintegration of the new state...

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Chapter 11. Illegalities: CHAOS

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pp. 227-278

There is a certain wholly admirable America: a world of beautiful landscapes cherished by a serious and decent people. It can be found in poems nearly forgotten now, Yvor Winters’s “California Oaks,” or some of the lines about her Pennsylvania childhood by H.D. Everyone who knows this country will have their own cherished landscape, their own memories of those gestures of loving...

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Chapter 12. Endgame

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pp. 279-323

I have narrated Angleton’s activities as chief of the Counterintelligence Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency separately: the molehunt, the private intelligence networks—Lovestone and others—the Warren Commission and the invention of that useful term of opprobrium, “conspiracy theory,” the interception of mail and telegrams, Operation CHAOS, Israel. But of course they all...


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pp. 325-359


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pp. 361-371


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pp. 373-399

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761090
E-ISBN-10: 1613761090
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558496491
Print-ISBN-10: 1558496491

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. -- Central Intelligence Agency -- History -- 20th century.
  • Intelligence service -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • United States. Central Intelligence Agency -- Biography.
  • Intelligence officers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Angleton, James, 1917-1987.
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