After not hearing from Angleton for
almost a year, receiving a message on my answer machine
from Angleton to come to Washington DC, I took the next
It had been nearly eight years since
Angleton had been forced out of the CIA but his interest
in intrigue had not waned. His eyes sharpened like those
of a hawk when he fastened on the details of the event
he was describing. It was the recent assassination of
17 South Korean officials during a state visit to Burma.
On October 9, 1983, while the President
of South Korea, Chun Doo Hwan, and members of his cabinet
and staff were attending a wreath laying ceremony at
the Martyrs Mausoleum outside Rangoon, four powerful
bombs were detonated by remote control. They had been
concealed in the roof of the shrine in such a way that
they had not been detected by either South Korean or
Although President Chun escaped
injury because of a momentary delay in his schedule,
the explosion killed 13 of his top aides and four of
his cabinet ministers. In a single well planned coup,
a major part of the South Korean government had been
The assassins were caught the next
as they day attempted to leave the country. When Burmese
police challenged them, the three assassins tried to
kill themselves with explosives. One died and two survived
badly wounded. Under interrogation, the survivors admitted
that they were captains in an elite unit of North Korean
military intelligence that specialized in cover actions.
They further explained that they had entered Burma September
22 on forged diplomatic passports issued to them in
North Korea. They said that their orders included detailed
instructions on how to carry out the assassination,
they received the plastic explosives through the embassy
pouch, and, during the two weeks it took them to plant
the explosives, they had stayed at the residence of
the North Korean embassy counselor. The police investigation
confirmed their story. Their personal documents that
had been expertly fabricated were vouched for by the
Embassy . They had access to secret communications between
the South Korean and Burmese governments that could
only be intercepted by a sophisticated intelligence
service. The plastic explosives had been manufactured
in Eastern Europe, and designed especially to fit into
the roof of the shrine. The remote control detonators
used state of the art electronics. And a re-examination
of the surveillance of the North Korean Embassy showed
that they were aided and sheltered by North Korean embassy
officials in Rangoon.
To him, political assassination involved
not only the murder of an incumbent office-holder but
the intimidation of his successors. It did this latter
task by demonstrating to them that they too were vulnerable
to the reach of the assassin. He pointed out that in
this case the North Koreans had shown the South Koreans
that they could obtain their leader's travel schedule
weeks in advance, penetrate his personal security, and
secrete lethal bombs in his path that could not be detected.
It demonstrated "pure power." As in Mario
Puzo's book, The Godfather, when the Mafia chief put
a horse's head in the bed of a recalcitrant film producer,
the point of the exercise was not punishing the Koreans
who were blown up by the bombs but inducing future cooperation
from their successors.
"It is rare to find such
a clear example of a state act" Angleton delicately
said. He pointed out that states usually have the ability
to hide their assassinations. "A common thug can
kill someone, but it takes the talents of an intelligence
service to make a murder appear to be a suicide or accident
Of course, Angleton's real
concern was not what had happened Burma or what would
happen in Korea but the nature of the statecraft practiced
by Soviet bloc nations. For him, there was still the
nagging problem of what he called "the relationship."
"It may be politically
convenient to assume that Soviet bloc intelligence services
act independently of the Soviet Union, especially when
it concerns an assassination, but what we don't really
know, or perhaps want to know, is what is the nature
of the relationship between the KGB and other Communist
intelligence services." He pointed out that the
issue could not be peremptorily disposed of. Golitsyn
and other defectors had described an extraordinary degree
of coordination between these services, guaranteed by
a systematic Soviet penetration of the top ranks of
satellite services by the KGB's Second Chief Directorate.
One role assigned the satellite services, according
to these defectors, was to afford the Soviet Union cover,
distance, and deniability in potentially embarrassing
operations. In the case of North Korea, Soviet intelligence
had established, staffed, trained and supplied its service.
Moreover, using a kind of a "barium test"
in which intelligence was especially concocted so that
it could be traced as it was passed from one intelligence
service to another, the CIA had been able to determine
that the Soviets passed messages they intercepted through
their Pacific signals satellite concerning the location
of American ships in Korean waters to North Korean intelligence.
This sort of cooperation had continued, according to
Angleton's sources, up until the shrine bombing. "Remember,
The North Koreans needed, and got, very exact communication
Angleton then abruptly changed
the subject to Edwin Wilson, the former CIA officer
who had been arrested for diverting American technology
to Libya. It was less of a digression from the subject
at hand than it initially seemed.
Wilson, lured by the prospect
of making tens of millions of dollars, had gone to work
for the Libyans in the early 1970s. Among other matters,
he undertook to help organize covert activities for
the Libyan intelligence service. To this end, he used
his CIA contacts to buy the instruments of assassination,
including a special CIA mixture of plastic explosives
called "C-4," miniaturized timers used by
the CIA, and unregistered weapons stolen from special
forces arsenals, and then smuggle them into Libya. He
even imported an entire sophisticated bomb factory,
which had previously been used exclusively by the CIA
to manufacture booby-trapped ashtrays, these devices
could innocently sit on a table for months until the
target arrived and then be detonated from a remote location.
He also recruited ex-CIA assassins, explosive experts,
and couriers to work for him in Libya, leading them
to believe wrongly that they were still working for
the CIA when in fact they were works for the Libyan
intelligence service. The first three targets of Wilson's
assassins were Libyan exiles living in Egypt and France.
"It was a clever enough
false flag recruitment," Angleton continued, with
a glint of admiration for the "opposition."
Behind Wilson's bogus CIA flag was the Libyan intelligence
service, which was paying Wilson, and behind this Libyan
flag of convenience, whether or not Wilson entirely
realized it, was and old KGB hand, Karl Hanesch. Angleton
had closely followed Hanesch's career who had been working
for the KGB on deception projects for over a quarter
of a century; and who had specialized specialist in
arranging politically-embarrassing false flag assassinations
in Germany. When Quadaffi came to power in 1966, Hanesch
was transferred from the East German intelligence service
to the Libyan Intelligence Service where he became their
key security adviser. It was, according to communication
intercepts, a part of the Soviet bloc arrangement to
provide intelligence aid to Libya. Hanesch wasted little
time in developing Wilson as a plausible "flag"
for compromising others in American intelligence. One
of his first recruits was Waldo H. Dubberstein, a top
level CIA analyst who transferred to the Defense Intelligence
Agency, where he prepared the daily intelligence briefing
for the Secretary of Defense. Dubberstein, who sold
Wilson documents that were of interest to Soviet as
well as Libyan intelligence-- and who committed suicide
in 1980 after being exposed-- further demonstrated to
the coordination between the KGB and Libyan service.
Then through Wilson's CIA connections, Hanesch was able
to assemble all the necessary components for assassinating
virtually any public figure with CIA personnel and materials.
But why go to the expense and
risk of smuggling them in from the United States? These
tools of terrorism were readily available in East Germany,
Czechoslovakia, or the Soviet Union at a fraction of
the price and they were just as effective.
Angleton's answer was that
there could be only one plausible purpose for assembling
this extraordinary American-equipped apparatus: "to
ghost murder trails leading to the doorstep of the CIA.
The unique value of Wilson's C-4 explosives, timers,
detonators and ashtrays was their " signatures."
They would indicate to investigators that the assassinations
carried out with these devices was the work of the CIA.
In addition, in the event that Wilson's ex-CIA operatives
were apprehended, they would further implicate the CIA
(especially since they believed that they were still
employed by the CIA.) It would be a no win situation
for the CIA if the investigation became public, Even
if the CIA could successfully exonerate itself from
the assassination charges by showing it had been framed,
it would have to explain manufacturing exploding ash-trays
and employing free-lance assassins, which could prove
almost as embarrassing.
Angleton's fascination with this complex case, and point,
was that the Wilson Affair was not exclusively the work
of the Libyans. It was the product of well-orchestrated
and solid coordination between the KGB, the East German
security services and Quadaffi's intelligence services.
The purpose of this coordination was to use the Libyans,
who were perceived of as fanatic and wild, as a front
in case the assassinations went wrong.
Then, to my surprise, he said, with some weariness in
his voice, "It is a shame you never got those questions
answered." It took a few minutes before I realized
that he was referring to the thirteen questions he had
dictated seven years earlier for me to ask Nosenko.
Suddenly, I realized that in his mind, it was all connected.