Entry dated :: November 14, 1983
Washington DC
Angleton's Assassins

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 shuttle flight.

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 Burmese security.

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 obliterated.

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 death."

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 intelligence."

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.

This is a totally commerce-free site. No charges, no advertising.
To enhance its labyrinthical concept, it contains no site map.

The webmistress can be reached at june@jooon.com