Who Killed The CIA?

October 1985

by Edward Jay Epstein

ADMIRAL Stansfield Turner commanded
a destroyer, a guided-missile cruiser,
a carrier task force, a fleet, and the prestigious
Naval War College before he was shunted away to
a NATO post in Italy in 1975. When he was
abruptly summoned back to Washington in February
1977 by his former classmate at Annapolis,
President Jimmy Carter, he expected to be appointed
to a high naval position or to the Joint
Chiefs of Staff. Instead, the new President asked
him to be Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).
Although Turner had had little previous experience
in intelligence, he viewed it simply as a
problem of assessing data, or, as he described it to
his son, nothing more than "bean counting." Accepting
the position of "chief bean counter," he
assumed that he could bring the CIA, and American
intelligence, to the same standard of operational
efficiency he had brought the ships under
his command. The four-year effort to achieve this
goal is the subject of his book, Secrecy and Democracy:
The CIA in Transition.'

He quickly found, however, that the CIA was a
far more complex and elusive entity than he had
expected. To begin with, the acting CIA Director,
Henry Knoche, rather than behaving like a ship's
"executive officer," surprised Turner by refusing
his "captain's" first order: a request that Knoche
accompany him to meetings with congressional
leaders. As far as Turner was concerned, this was
insubordination (and Knoche's days were numbered).
When he met with other senior executives
of the CIA at a series of dinners, he found "a disturbing
lack of specificity and clarity" in their
answers. On the other hand, he found the written
CIA reports presented to him "too long and detailed
to be useful." He notes that "my first encounters
with the CIA did not convey either the
feeling of a warm welcome or a sense of great
competence"-an assessment that led to the retirement
of many of these senior officers.
Turner was further frustrated by the system of
secrecy that kept vital intelligence hermetically
contained in bureaucratic "compartments" within
the CIA. Not only did he view such secrecy
as irrational, he began to suspect that it
cloaked a wide range of unethical activities. He
became especially concerned with abuses in the
espionage division, which he discovered was
heavily overstaffed with case officers--some of
whom, on the pretext of seeing agents abroad,
were disbursing large sums in "expenses" to themselves,
keeping mistresses, and doing business with
international arms dealers. Aside from such petty
corruption, Turner feared that these compartmentalized
espionage operations could enmesh the entire
CIA in a devastating scandal. The potential
for such a "disgrace," as he puts it, was made
manifest to him by a single traumatic case that occurred
in the 1960's-one which he harks back to
throughout his book, and which he uses to justify
eliminating the essential core of the CIA's espionage
The villain of this case, as Turner describes it,
is James Jesus Angleton, who was chief of the
CIA's counterintelligence staff from 1954 to 1974;
the victim was Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who
began collaborating with the CIA in 1962 and
then defected to the United States in 1964, and
who claimed to have read all the KGB files on Lee
Harvey Oswald. The crime was the imprisonment
of Nosenko, which, according to Turner, was "a
travesty of the rights of the individual under the
law." It all began in 1964, after Nosenko arrived
in the United States. Turner states that Angleton
"decided that Nosenko was a double agent, and
set out to force him to confess.... When he
would not give in to normal interrogation, Angleton's
team set out to break the man psychologically.
A small prison was built, expressly for him."
Nosenko was kept in this prison for three-andone-
half years, although he never admitted to being
a double agent. He was then released and sub-
sequently put on the CIA payroll as a consultant.
After reviewing the conditions of his solitary
confinement, Turner concluded scathingly that
"the way Angleton treated Nosenko . . . was a
case of stooping to the kind of behavior we expect
from the Soviets and other totalitarian societies."
He blamed it all on "compartmentalization" within
the CIA. "I found it difficult to believe, for
instance, that DCI Dick Helms knew what was
being done to Nosenko.... I could see that Angleton
had manipulated the system by constructing
elaborate barriers around sensitive information."
THE problem with the story Turner tells
is that it is untrue. Angleton did not
order the arrest, incarceration, or hostile interrogation
of Nosenko. Nor did he, or his counterintelligence
staff, ever have jurisdiction over the case.
The Nosenko case, from its inception in June 1962
until August 1967, was the exclusive responsibility
of the Soviet Russia Division-the largest and most
powerful unit of the CIA, which was responsible
for all espionage operations against the Soviet
Union. The precise sequence of events was unambiguously
set forth in congressional testimony,
which is also the source that Turner cites for his

The full responsibility for imprisoning and attempting
to break Nosenko was acknowledged by
David Murphy, the chief of the Soviet Russia Division.
His concern was that Nosenko might redefect
as part of "a massive propaganda assault on
the CIA."3 After his deputy, Tennant Bagley, established
that Nosenko had fabricated his rank
and status in the KGB, and was lying on numerous
other matters of concern to the CIA, including
the KGB's relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald,
Murphy decided to subject Nosenko to hostile interrogation.
This meant he would be arrested and
treated as an enemy intelligence officer. Murphy
sought, and received, authorization to incarcerate
Nosenko from Richard Helms, the future DCI,
who then headed the clandestine side of the CIA.
Helms testified that he only reluctantly gave this
authorization because of the extraordinary circumstances
of the case. He explained that Nosenko's
reliability was the "key to the Warren
Commission's determination of whether or not
Oswald killed President Kennedy on instructions
from the Soviet Union."
Angleton, to be sure, had believed from the outset
in 1962 that the information Nosenko had offered
was disinformation designed to mislead the
CIA. Such judgments, right or wrong, were an integral
part of his job of providing an overall picture
of KGB strategy. He did not, however, recommend
imprisonment or hostile interrogation.
He was not even consulted by Murphy on the decision.
When Bagley was asked directly about
Angleton's relation to the Soviet Russia Division,
he testified: "They are entirely separate. Mr.
Angleton's counterintelligence staff had a staff role
as against an operational or executive role....
We would run the cases, handle the defectors." 4
Nor did Angleton have anything to do with the
conditions of the incarceration. Nosenko's prison
was designed and built by the Office of Security.
His diet and treatment, also under the auspices of
the Office of Security, were supposed to be the
equivalent of those afforded to Frederick Barghoorn,
an American professor who had been arrested
and detained in Moscow.5
Finally, Nosenko's treatment was hardly kept
secret from Helms by Angleton, as Turner suggests,
or by anyone else. Helms, as both he and
Bagley testified, was kept informed by the Soviet
Russia Division about the progress of the case,
which Helms explained hung "like an incubus"
over the CIA. Helms, concerned about the legal
ramifications of the unprecedented incarceration
of a defector, brought the problem to the attention
of Lawrence Houston, the CIA's general
counsel, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, the Deputy
Attorney General of the United States, and William
Foley of the Department of Justice. 6 Nor was
the case hidden in the recesses of the CIA: the
Rockefeller Commission, which also investigated
it, concluded: "[Nosenko's] confinement was approved
by the Director of Central Intelligence;
and the FBI, Attorney General, United States Intelligence
Board, and selected members of Congress
were aware to some extent of the confinement."

Admiral Turner of course knew all these facts,
and reviews them in the congressional testimony
he cites in his book. He certainly has every right to
disagree about the way this controversial case was
handled (and, ironically, Angleton would probably
agree with him), but by falsifying its history
he shows himself far more adept as a bureaucratic
politician than as a historian. If he had vilified
those actually responsible for the incarceration of
Nosenko, namely, the Soviet Russia Division, the
Office of Security, and the top leadership of the
CIA-the collective heart of the espionage organization-
and accused them of being no better
than "the Soviets," his own judgment, and perspective,
might well have been questioned. By instead
laying the blame on Angleton, and postulating
a phantom "empire" within the CIA which
kept the "crime" secret from the rest of the CIA
(and the Department of Justice), he plays to a
ready constituency in the press and government to
whom Angleton has become a bte noire.
Turner is not doing this out of any personal vin-
dictiveness toward Angleton (whom he has never
met, and who left the CIA in 1974); he is merely
using his name as a tactful metaphor for those in
the intelligence establishment he prefers not to
confront directly. When he writes about "Angletons
incarcerating Nosenkos," he is really condemning
a much broader spectrum of CIA activities.
The point of this exercise is not to denigrate
Angleton but to justify the radical cuts
Turner made in the espionage branch itself.
In THE summer of 1977, after setting in
motion a plan to eliminate 820 positions
in the espionage branch (and notifying the
affected case officers by a computerized form letter),
Turner reported to President Carter that "the
espionage branch was [now] being run ethically
and soundly." This was no doubt what the President
wanted to hear from his Director of Central
Intelligence. The problem was that ethical espionage
is a contradiction in terms. There are of
course forms of intelligence-gathering which violate
no laws or ethical standards. For example,
"national technical means," which includes satellite
photography and electronic interception of
data, is sanctioned by the United States and the
Soviet Union in the SALT agreements; embassy
attaches are permitted to report on what they observe;
and defectors and travelers can be debriefed.
But espionage, by definition, is illegal. It
is the theft of secrets from a foreign state. It involves
bribing, blackmailing, or otherwise persuading
a foreign national, in contravention of
the laws of his country, to supply secret material
or to plant an eavesdropping device. In addition,
it is almost invariably necessary to use false identities,
lies, and other deceptions to hide the theft
itself. The process of organizing lawbreaking, as
well as deceit, may be justified on the grounds
that it is necessary for the safety and survival of a
state, or, as it is called, raisons d'etat, but it can
hardly be elevated to an ethical plane

Consider, for example, the espionage flap that
confronted Turner early in his career at the CIA.
In July 1977 a young Soviet diplomat, Anatoli
Filiatov, whom the CIA had been grooming as a
"mole" in the Foreign Ministry, was caught by the
KGB in Moscow. Then his American case officer,
who had diplomatic cover, was entrapped-and
photographed-leaving espionage equipment, including
lethal cyanide ampules, in a "dead drop"
for the Soviet spy. After the American diplomat
was expelled from Moscow, Soviet sources reported
that a Soviet diplomat, who worked with Filiatov
in the Foreign Ministry, was killed with a similar
cyanide capsule, implying murder or suicide. In
addition to losing an agent, and having a case
officer exposed and implicated in a possible cyanide
poisoning, the CIA had to assess whether it
had been betrayed from within. Even though this
disaster did not develop into a public scandal,
Turner no doubt realized that activities such as
these could not be easily converted into ethical

The new role Turner proposed for the espionage
service was determining, through polling techniques,
public-opinion trends in such countries as
the Soviet Union, Iran, the Philippines, Saudi
Arabia, and Argentina. As he explains: "The espionage
branch is the ideal instrument . . . for
uncovering such trends, even if doing so is almost
an overt activity." Specifically, he suggested "using
either undercover case officers or agents," with
"the polling skill of George Gallup," to "take the
pulse of a foreign country." The espionage branch,
instead of illegally inducing enemy diplomats and
intelligence officers to spy for the United States,
would under such a scheme employ sociologists
and anthropologists for this ethical, if somewhat
academic, intelligence-gathering. He notes that
there was strong resistance to this radical reform
of his, explaining that it "was not considered
espionage by the professionals." Nor would Stanfield's
reform produce the enemy codes, plans, and
other secret documents for which traditional espionage
In any case, Turner offered his poll-taking idea
only as a sop. His real design for the CIA involved
effectively abolishing espionage, except as an adhoc
supplement in certain prescribed circumstances,
and replacing it with "technical collection,"
which is information gathered by electronic
and image interceptors in satellites, ships in international
waters, and other remotely-based platforms.
This is a fully understandable preference:
espionage, done by human agents who are vulnerable
to arrest, is inherently dirty, unethical, unreliable,
and potentially explosive; technical collection,
performed by machines, is clean, legal,
reliable, and invulnerable to scandal. Turner's
thesis, which he argues lucidly, is that in recent
years "the growth in technological methods of
information-gathering," such as satellites and
computers, has produced revolutionary gains for
American intelligence which render traditional
espionage all but unnecessary-except as a backstop
for technical collection.
WHILE this "revolution" has been going
on since World War I, Turner is correct
in asserting the paramountcy of technical collection
today. It supplies the preponderance of
intercepted data and reportedly accounts for well
over 90 percent of the national intelligence budget.
America's ability to suck in and "vacuum clean"
data is superb: technical collection can detect
enemy planes taking off, radar being switched on,
missiles being fueled, and even tanks starting their
engines. It can also, as Turner rightly points out,
extrapolate from these data an enemy's intentions
as well as his capacity for war.
All these marvels notwithstanding, technical
collection remains a different form of intelligencegathering
from espionage. It essentially intercepts
data that are allowed to leak into the international
ether. These data remain available either
because an enemy does not know they are leaking,
which is usually a temporary situation, or
because an enemy does not deem it worth the expense
to protect them through encryption, camouflage,
or deception. Most of what is intercepted
by technical collection therefore is not secret-at
least in the sense that the enemy knows it is being
intercepted. And nations can protect truly sensitive
data that can potentially be intercepted. If,
for example, the Soviet Union does not want secret
transmissions to be read by American intelligence,
it encrypts them in a one-time computerized
code, which cannot be broken without knowing
the constantly changing cipher. The raw data
of course are still intercepted by American antennas,
but they cannot be deciphered. Similarly, if
the Soviet Union wants to prevent an object from
being photographed by an American satellite,
whose paths are predictable, it hides or disguises
it. The picture is still taken, but the object is not
Whereas technical collection is based on the
leakage from electronic transmissions and physical
phenomena, espionage is predicated on human
leakage: it seeks to compromise individuals with
access to secrets. If successful, it not only forces the
individuals illicitly to divulge secrets, but it keeps
the enemy from knowing that his secret has been
compromised. In doing so, it often provides the
key which enables technical collection to be productive
against secret information. For example,
the breaking of the German Enigma coding machine
in World War II, which is usually regarded
as a triumph of technical collection, proceeded
from an unsung espionage triumph. In 1931,
French intelligence recruited as a spy a German
clerk in the Reich Cipher Center named Hans-
Thilo Schmidt. He provided the instruction manual
and daily key settings for the Enigma machine
over a two-month period. If these cryptography
secrets had not been obtained, the German military
codes generated by Enigma-though intercepted
by the Allies-might never have been deciphered.
Espionage, since it is based on human vulnerability,
can penetrate even the most heavily
guarded repositories of national secrets. Soviet intelligence
demonstrated this in the 1950's when it
recruited no fewer than five different American
sources in the ultra-secret National Security
Agency (NSA), the unit that supplies the codes
and ciphers used by the American government.
One of these KGB spies, Jack E. Dunlap, the
chauffeur for the NSA's Chief of Staff, organized
a number of staff officers into a larceny scheme,
which allowed him access to the highest level
cryptography, the "keys to the kingdom," as one
military investigator put it. He delivered this material
to his Soviet case officer in the Chief of
Staff's limousine (the only car which could leave
headquarters without being searched). This human
spying made it possible for the Soviet Union
to decipher the American data that had been gathered
by its technical collection, and also to ascertain
many of the targets of American technical

Espionage can also succeed over relatively long
periods of time, since an agent, once enticed into
illegally cooperating, can be blackmailed into continuing
and recruiting others. The most recent example
is the present Walker-Whitworth case. Here
the KGB induced John Walker, a warrant officer
in the U.S. Navy's submarine-operations room, to
provide it, over a twenty-year period, with cryptographic
key lists. These lists, together with naval
encoding machines that the Soviet Union's North
Korean ally had captured, allowed it to decipher
submarine codes. Walker then recruited other
family members and friends in the Navy to help
him. This espionage enabled Soviet intelligence
to decipher submarine transmissions and penetrate
electronic deceptions which otherwise would
have rendered useless whatever data its satellites,
underwater sonar buoys, and other technical collection
devices had picked up. As it turned out,
the Navy, not realizing that its codes had been
compromised, went right on using them for a
IN EACH of these cases, espionage provided
secrets that could not be garnered by
even the most powerful machines of technical collection.
But the distinction between these two
modes of intelligence-gathering-espionage is unexpected
theft from within the enemy's inner sanctum,
technical collection is expected interception
from outside-was not fully appreciated by Admiral
Turner. He was determined to make the
espionage branch a part of his technological
"team"-although acknowledging that "it is never
easy redirecting the thrust of an established,
proud, and successful organization." By the time
he left in 1981, he had not only drastically reduced
the size and mission of the espionage branch
-reassigning its case officers to such activities as
poll-taking in friendly nations and servicing the
scientific apparatus-but had radically revised the
underlying assumptions on which intelligence was

Up until Turner's reforms, for example, the
CIA depended on a concept of disinformation in
dealing with reports from Soviet espionage sources.
Since Soviet officials recruited abroad by the CIA
tended to be either intelligence officers, diplomats,
or military attaches, the possibility had to be anticipated
that some of them might report the contacts
to Soviet security. If so, it was further assumed
that these officials, known to be in contact
with American intelligence, would be supplied
with misleading messages-or "disinformation."
In the CIA, disinformation meant private messages
between adversary intelligence services that
rarely, if ever, came to the attention of the
Sifting this disinformation, which often turned
out to be an impossible task, required fitting it
into the entire mosaic of reports from the Soviet
Union and its allies over an extended period of
time. The task also implied some conspiratorial
theory of how the KGB operated. Turner rejected
this sort of inductive analysis, which he associated
with the past "paranoia of the CIA's counterintelligence
staff." Instead, Turner preferred to rely on
more scientific methods, such as the testing of volunteer
Soviet agents by polygraph machines and
CIA psychologists. He even provided multimilliondollar
allocations from the intelligence budget
for research on extra-sensory perception (ESP). All
this allowed him to redefine disinformation, as he
does in his book, as a threat to the public mediarather
than as one to the CIA. After discounting
much of Soviet disinformation as chimerical, he
asserts: "Any disinformation campaign must pass
through our own media. Because those media are
inherently probing and skeptical, and because
there are so many sources of media information in
our society, we have built-in defenses."
By abnegating the CIA's responsibility for defending
against disinformation, Turner automatically
downgraded the role of counterintelligence.
If misleading messages could be ferreted out
through scientific technology by case officers, there
was no need for a centralized staff to review the
intelligence in a synoptic context--or to supply
any sort of "institutional memory." The counterintelligence
staff, already purged of most of its
long-time staff officers by Turner's predecessor,
William Colby, now lost its conceptual raison
d'etre. What remained of the counterintelligence
function was relegated to police work. According
to Turner's redefinition: "The job of counterintelligence
is to find those Americans who do
become agents of a foreign power." This greatly
shrinks the bailiwick of counterintelligence, especially
since the FBI, not the CIA, has jurisdiction
in America for spy-catching (and the five
spies he cites in his chapter on "Counterintelligence"
were actually FBI cases).

Finally, Turner revised the concept of "operational
security," which had, up to then, ruthlessly
sealed off from any unnecessary risk data upon
which foreign agents' lives depended. When, in
1978, a senior CIA officer-a station chief-came
under suspicion after being identified by a CIA
source in Soviet intelligence as a Soviet mole,
Turner did not remove him from his position,
even though he had access to highly secret data,
or even place a warning in his file to restrict his
access to future sensitive information. He explains:
"That would have played it safe for the
country but would have ruined the man's career
without his knowing why."
Turner's presumption, which might have been
laudable in any line of work other than secret intelligence,
was that a staff officer had a right to
retain his position until legally proved guilty.
Turner therefore arranged a test for the suspected
station chief in which he would be given secret
material and placed under surveillance to see if
he passed it to the Soviets. To Turner's great relief,
the suspect did not contact the Soviets while
under surveillance. While this non-event might
have been explained in any number of ways-for
example, he, or his Soviet contact, might have
been warned or have detected the surveillance-
Turner concluded: "I decided our entrapment
effort had been sufficiently well-executed for me
to rest my suspicions. I then ordered that no
record of our suspicions and the ensuing investigation
be put in the man's personnel record." While
Turner's new concept of "security" protected
the civil rights and career tenure of CIA officers,
it left espionage agents, like Filiatov, who was compromised
and sentenced to death, out in the cold.
THE new CIA undoubtedly provided its staff
officers with a more efficient, ethical, and happier
work environment. Turner, appreciating the
need for a captain to know the "attitudes and
morale . . . on his ship," held regular group discussions
with "middle-management people like
espionage officers at mid-career, secretaries, analysts
at the desk level, minorities, and the handicapped."
By this time, however, under Admiral
Turner's command, the "ship" was something
other than a secret intelligence organization.
8 Turner's own Deputy Director for Operations, John
McMahon, testified that "'disinformation' . . . almost never
receives public attention." CIA Study: Soviet Covert Action
and Propaganda, Presented to the Oversight Committee,
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House of
Representatives, February 1980.