The "outer" KGB
was made up of personnel who, out of necessity, had to be
in contact with foreigners, and were therefore vulnerable
to being compromised. It included KGB recruiters and spotters
posted to embassies and missions ,military attaches, disinformation
and propaganda agents and illegal case officers who worked
abroad. Since they had to be in touch with Westerners, if
only to attempt to recruit them as spies, they were assumed
to be "doomed spies". A certain percentage would, by the
law of probability would be caught. These "doomed spies"
were the equivalent of pilots sent on raids over enemy territory.
They were not only restricted from knowing any state secrets
(other than what was necessary for their mission), but they
were purposefully briefed on what it was useful for the
enemy to learn if they were captured.
The "inner" KGB was the real repository
of secrets. It was limited to a small number of trusted officers,
under the direct supervision of the Politburo, who planned,
orchestrated, controlled and analyzed the operations. ( According
to Golitsyn, all potential security risks, which included
most of the officers of Jewish descent, were transferred into
the outer service in preparation for the reorganization).
A "China wall" existed between these
two levels. No personnel from the outer service would ever
be transferred to the inner service, or vice versa. Nor would
any personnel in the outer service ever be exposed to strategic
secrets other than what had been prepared for them to divulge
Angleton realized the implications
of this reorganization. If Golitsyn was correct, it meant
that the CIA knew virtually nothing about its adversary's
capacity for orchestrated deception. To be sure, it had received
fragmentary clues from other sources that Soviet intelligence
was undergoing shifts in its personnel in 1959 but it had
not been able fit these developments into any meaningful pattern.
Seen through the new perspective provided by Golitsyn, the
KGB turned out to be a different and much more dangerous instrument
of Soviet policy. Its principle objective was to provide information
to the CIA that would cause the United States to make the
wrong decisions. Such information would appear to be credible
because it would be fashioned to dovetail that U.S. intelligence
received from other sources.
It meant, moreover, that very targets
the CIA was going after as recruits-- diplomats, military
attaches, journalists, dissidents and intelligence officers--
were the carriers of this disinformation. They were all in
the outer KGB. Even if they were persuaded to work in place
as moles for the CIA, their information would be of dubious
value. All they would have access to, aside from trivial details
about their own espionage apparatus, was disinformation.
Nor would any microphones the CIA
planted in Soviet embassies be of any use. The chatter they
would eavesdrop on would come from those excluded from the
real strategic secrets of the inner KGB. They would thus only
reinforce the disinformation.
The Golitsyn thesis went further than
invalidating the present tactics of the CIA and FBI. It impeached
many of their past successes-- at least since the reorganization
in 1959. This reassessment would be particularly damaging
to double-agents and defectors who claimed to have access
to strategic secrets. If they could not have had such access,
as Golitsyn asserted, they had to be redefined as either frauds
or dupes. In this new light, heroes became villains,and victories
became defeats. It was the equivalent for the CIA of stepping
through a looking glass.
When Angleton presented the Golitsyn
thesis to CIA and executives on the operational side, it aroused
fierce resistance. Neither CIA nor FBI recruiters were willing
to accept the idea that they were going after the wrong Soviet
personnel. This would make them the accomplices, albeit unwitting,
of Soviet deception-planners. They also were not receptive
to a concept of the CIA that discredited valued sources, such
as Oleg Penkovskiy, on whom many of them had built their careers.
There was also the practical problem that the conclusions
drawn from these sources had been forwarded over the years
to the National Security Council and the President. The inference
that this CIA product was based on KGB disinformation was
not therefore not attractive to most of the executives of
At the FBI, the Golitsyn thesis was
rejected out of hand by J. Edgar Hoover. He had a very powerful
motive since FBI agents had recruited a number of Soviet diplomats
at the U.N., such as Fedora and Tophat, as sources. They not
only claimed that they had access to secrets from the decision-making
level of the Politburo, but they furnished them on demand
to the FBI. Hoover had personally passed some of this material
directly to the President. He was not about to accept an interpretation
that would render this data KGB disinformation.
In 1967, he ended the issue, at least
within the FBI, by branding Golitsyn a Soviet-controlled "provocateur
and penetration agent" . He advanced the theory that the KGB
had staged his defection to discredit the FBI. He then refused
any further cooperation with the CIA aimed at substantiating
Golitsyn's story. For example, he pointedly withdrew a FBI
surveillance team which had been watching a suspect round-the
clock on behalf of the CIA. And, as the tensions over this
case increased, Hoover broke off all liaison relations with
the CIA. (In 1978, after Hoover's death, the FBI acknowledged
that Fedora and Tophat were KGB-controlled disinformation
By 1968, American intelligence was
, as Helms described the situation, "a house divided against
itself". Angleton's staff, and others executives who accepted
Golitsyn's thesis, saw the need to take precautions against
a reorganized KGB. Instead of targeting Soviet bloc embassy
personnel, as it had done before, they wanted to find new
ways of penetrating the heart of Soviet intelligence. They
also had to make sure that their decisions were not being
fed back to the KGB-- even if this meant disturbing careers
paths in the CIA.
Those involved in the gathering of
intelligence saw the situation in very different terms. The
attempt to validate the thesis of a Soviet defector had prevented
the CIA's Soviet Russia Division from going after promising
Soviet recruits. It had also led to defectors being held offshore
to avoid another "Nosenko" incident. And it kept reports officers,
whose job it was to extract information from agents' reports,
from extracting valuable information from sources who had
already been recruited. It had, from their point of view,
all but paralyzed normal intelligence operations.
The frustration of these officers
was intensified by the secrecy surrounding the dispute. Few
of them were briefed on the Golitsyn thesis. All they knew
was that their work was being called into question by Angleton
and his staff. As the years dragged on, the mysterious investigation
appeared to them as nothing more than "sick think".
What neither side in the CIA could
see was the other's logic. It was like the celebrated experiment
in Gestalt psychology in which one can either see two faces
or a wine cup in a picture , but not both. Similarly, the
CIA could not deal two mutually exclusive concepts of its
enemy. What its operational officers and analysts looked at
as valid information, furnished by Soviet sources who risked
their lives to cooperate, counterintelligence officers saw
as disinformation, provided by KGB dispatched and controlled
Finally, Helms decided that Gordian
knot had to be cut. He suggested that the test of Golitsyn's
thesis should be its utility. Could it be used to identify
the deceptions of the Kremlin? If not, what good was it to
the CIA? Helms asked, what had 7 years of debriefing Golitsyn
produced in practical terms: " an elephant or a mouse?."
Golitsyn had never claimed to have
participated in any of the actual deceptions planning. He
had only seen the mechanism for executing them being put in
When pressed by Angleton's staff as
to what these deceptions might be, Golitsyn could only extrapolate
from clues a decade old. They were, at best, unproven theories.
For example, he speculated that many of the apparent divisions
in the eastern bloc, including the split between China and
the Soviet Union, had been staged to throw the West off balance.
When he presented them in 1968 to
the special committee Helms had assembled, he was unable to
convince its members, especially since they directly contradicted
the CIA's picture of world events. When skeptic pressed him
about his evidence, he became extremely defensive, and demanded
their evidence for disputing his theories. The meeting ended
acrimoniously, with Golitsyn shouting back at the CIA experts
as they subjected him to a cross-fire of objections.
Helms concluded that whatever the
value of the "vintage" information that he supplied, Golitsyn's
speculations about current KGB operations, to which he had
no direct access, was worthless to the CIA. He had failed
Angleton, who had survived in the
CIA bureaucracy for twenty years, understood that this meant
that ~Golitsyn was to be "put on the shelf". A patient man,
he was willing to wait to see if future evidence developed.
In the meantime, he encouraged Golitsyn to set down all the
details of the KGB reorganization in a manuscript.
The issue of Soviet deception was
not settled until 1973. While Helms was willing to tolerate
the doubts of Angleton, the new Director William E. Colby,
was not. Colby, the son of a Jesuit missionary, whose main
experience in the CIA had been in paramilitary and political
activities, rejected out of hand Angleton's complicated view
of KGB strategic deception. He saw the job of the CIA as a
straight forward one of gathering intelligence for the President.
He considered "the KGB as something to be evaded" . It was
not to be the "object of the CIA's operations". Whereas Angleton
had encouraged a policy of suspecting "walk in" defectors
and double-agents, he decided to encourage their recruitment.
"We spent an inordinate amount of
time worried about false defectors and false agents. I'm perfectly
willing to accept if you try to go out and get ten agents
you may get one or two that will be bad. You should be able
to cross check your information so that you are not led very
far down the garden path... at least you'll have eight good
This conceptual change was reflected
in a top secret order that went out to all CIA stations in
1973. Rather than rejecting REDTOPS who made contact, until
their bona fides could be established, it advised:
" Analysis of REDTOP walk-ins in recent
years clearly indicates that REDTOP services have not been
seriously using sophisticated and serious walk-ins as a provocation
technique. However, fear of provocations has been more responsible
for bad handling than any other cause. We have concluded that
we do ourselves a disservice if we shy away from promising
cases because of fear of provocation... We are confident that
we are confident of determining whether or not a producing
agent is supplying bona fide information."
Angleton had lost the battle. It was
only a question of time before Colby formally got rid of him.