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Of Moles and Men : MOLEHUNT: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA By David Wise , (Random House: $22; 304 pp.)

March 15, 1992|Tom Mangold | Mangold is senior correspondent for BBC TV's "Panorama" and author of "Cold Warrior--James Jesus Angleton , the CIA's Master Spyhunter," published last June

Pity the poor secret policeman inside a democracy: anonymous, unloved, encouraged to be paranoid, then condemned for screaming at his own reflections as they close in upon him for the final vengeance. Pity him, and then let's give him his gold watch and pension. He's history.

During the '60s, James Jesus Angleton, America's most celebrated spy-catcher, spent more than a decade failing to find a KGB mole within the CIA, mainly because there was none. David Wise in "Molehunt" (a secondhand title; Nigel West used it first) shows how in the course of his investigations, Angleton destroyed scores of CIA officers' careers and almost brought the Soviet intelligence-gathering side of the agency to a full stop. He formed a close working relationship with a dotty Soviet KGB defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn, who had been formally diagnosed as paranoid by a CIA psychologist. For reasons that have never been made clear, this diagnosis fell through the cracks in the CIA's floors and was never filed. Together this folie a deux did their best to contaminate not only the confidence of the CIA but also most other Western intelligence agencies with their neurotic Angst that the KGB had somehow gained a half nelson on all its counterparts in the course of the twilight struggles between the intelligence services.

In fact, the reverse was the truth, and with some notable exceptions, the CIA was so far ahead it was virtually a no-contest. The human damage inflicted 30 years ago by this idiocy remains etched in the heartbreaking stories told by the victims today. Loyal CIA operators whose only crime was to have been born in the old White Russia, or sport a surname beginning with the letter K, or speak Russian, or to have been student socialists in the '30s, fell victim to the paranoia that rolled like a poisonous fog bank through the corridors of Langley.

David Wise peers through the gloom to trace the now familiar path beaten by Angleton and his Sancho Panza in pursuit of the shadows cast by their own delusions and blinkered view of the CIA's true strengths. So this unattractive duo rode from Washington to London to Paris to Oslo to Ottawa, the unspeakable chasing the untraceable (to paraphrase Wilde). Like two deranged bounty hunters operating at the very edge and often outside the law, they struck spitefully at the innocent, specializing in the back-shot and out of town before anyone knew they'd been around.

They remained shamefully blameless for their terrible mistakes, finding succor and protection from Establishments that believed then--and now--that counterintelligence has some great magik that gives it immunity from morality, decency, efficiency or accountability. Their by now well-documented list of victims remains no less poignant for the retelling, a black marble wall of CIA veterans who were destroyed by not-so-friendly fire:

Pete Karlow and Paul Garbler, two officers who were politely ordered to resign and who remain tortured to this day by the memory of the disgrace and humiliation. Jim Bennett, the RCMP officer unceremoniously kicked out of the service and, when I last saw him, only just on the right side of sanity. Yuriy Loginov, a KGB defector who was talked into staying in place to work as a CIA agent--a risk equivalent to attempting a triple somersault on the high trapeze after four pints of beer; for his pains, Angleton and the mole-hunters had him hurled back to the U.S.S.R. and almost certain execution. (Here, incidentally, I disagree with Wise. Loginov, unbelievably, is still alive.) Yuriy Nosenko--as sane and prolific a KGB defector as Golitsyn was cracked and infertile--arrested, mentally tortured, physically abused, held in solitary for two years in a CIA prison in Virginia before an embarrassed agency released him and placed him on its "consultancy" payroll for life. The list is endless.

In Britain, the Golitsyn/Angleton virus soon infected the paranoids within MI5, and Prime Minister Harold Wilson fell early victim, as did Sir Roger Hollis, loyal director-general of MI5 itself.

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