The Great CIA Molehunt

KGB Lt. Gen. Vitaly Grigorevich Pavlov (1914-2005), a senior veteran of the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence), gives his view on the “revelations” of Soviet defectors, particularly Anatoly Golitsyn, and the subsequent molehunt that paralyzed the CIA in the 1960s.

The requirements of tradecraft are necessary to carry out not only during specific operations, but also in the course of life, including ordinary life, for a man serving in intelligence. It is my deep conviction that such organization of foreign intelligence work is not only desirable, but the only possible option. And may traitors such as Anatoly Golitsyn, Stanislav Levchenko, and the like not try to attempt to prove that they “know everything.” I can assure you: in over fifty years working in foreign intelligence I learned much, but not everything about its activities. About other units of the former KGB with whom I jointly operated, I know very little concrete, not to speak of great secrets.

Lt. Gen. Vitaly Pavlov
Lt. Gen. Vitaly Pavlov

Only “experts” of the sort like Anatoly Golitsyn and Oleg Gordievsky demonstrate a universal knowledge that’s not possible for even an intelligence service with its arsenal of methods. Their “analyses” are filled not so much with concrete knowledge as with pseudo-knowledge and fabrications meant to cover up gaps in foreign intelligence services’ information on us.

How, for example, did the KGB Eighth Chief Directorate officer Viktor Sheymov, who ensured technical security of special communications lines and then defected to the West, suddenly make the assertion that the KGB supposedly was involved in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II and Pakistani president Zia Ul-Haq? The question will arise naturally with any clear-thinking person: how is an ordinary officer of an internal unit of the KGB to know not only such “terrible secrets,” but about certain operations of the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence)?

Yet however paradoxical this would look at first glance, such unrestrained “revelations” and “exposes” sometimes even played into our hands, bringing confusion and disorganization into the actions of the opposing side, in fact disorienting them. I already told how Elizabeth Bentley, having accused many dozens of Americans of working for Soviet intelligence, citizens who would never have dreamed of such a thing, essentially allowed several of our truly valuable agents to “dissolve” into the mass of the accused.

The most striking example of such a type is served by the case of traitor Anatoly Golitsyn. By his actions, he unintentionally gave us the opportunity to achieve a success that in all honesty we couldn’t have expected.

Anatoly Golitsyn was an intelligence officer, but he didn’t have practical experience in intelligence work abroad until his departure for Finland, where soon, more exactly in 1961, he deserted. So his case unfolded before me as one of the senior officers of the First Chief Directorate who was responsible for counterintelligence. I’m convinced that the CIA had a hand in his treachery, as it had earlier received a lead on him from another defector, Petr Deriabin.

The greatest damage that this traitor wreaked on us stemmed from his working sometime in the information-analytical service, where he could become acquainted with certain top-secret materials received from valued sources. It’s true, Anatoly Golitsyn himself accentuated the fact that he had come to work in the active-measures unit, the essence of whose tasks I will touch upon in connection with this somewhat later. Yet here we have his lively fantasies regarding “global disinformation” by the Soviet Union, including which was no less than the Sino-Soviet conflict, a theory that led the CIA into no minor embarrassments. They even had to resurrect Baron Munchausen, a task assumed by the defector Levchenko.

Nonetheless, Anatoly Golitsyn somehow managed to persuade the CIA’s leadership to trust his assertions, especially in relation to the claim that Soviet intelligence agents were operating everywhere in the higher echelons of their service. This brought about truly destructive consequences not only for the Americans, but also for other Western services.

Panicked “molehunts” in their own ranks took out of commission many experienced American intelligence officers. And what was especially important for us – these searches neutralized and then fully removed from operations their two most experienced and qualified counterintelligence officers, men who had given us plenty of trouble: James Angleton and King Harvey.

James Angleton headed the counterintelligence section of the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA) in Italy during the war. In 1954 he was appointed chief of counterintelligence at the CIA. In the war years, King Harvey worked in the FBI. Namely he took Elizabeth Bentley’s confession in 1946; Bentley planted within him suspicions that Soviet agents had penetrated the highest spheres in the United States, including the CIA. Although the FBI’s efforts to uncover the individuals named by her yielded rather humble results, King Harvey only hardened in his suspicions. Later, as someone with experience fighting “Russian spies,” he was transferred to CIA counterintelligence, where he became Angleton’s irreplaceable deputy.

Having believed Anatoly Golitsyn, Angleton and Harvey directed all their activity toward detecting Soviet agents in the leadership echelons of the CIA, which was wholly subordinated to the work of its counterintelligence. From day to day an atmosphere of spy mania was building in the agency. Angleton himself ultimately became the victim of this environment of universal distrust and suspicion, one ruinous for any intelligence service.

It’s quite interesting to draw a parallel here between the American counterspy’s relation to two traitors – Golitsyn and Michael Goleniewski. The Pole, as I have already recounted, exposed agent Ben to the Americans – Harry Houghton – after which followed the compromise of our London residency. He exposed our intelligence officer George Blake, who was arrested and sentenced. And he exposed, finally, still another valued source of ours, the chief of the Soviet section of the German BND Heinz Felfe. Despite all that, James Angleton didn’t trust him.

Yet he trusted Anatoly Golitsyn! He provided him access to operational matters, and the defector dove into them, at random naming CIA officers as KGB agents. There were hundreds of suspects, but he wasn’t able to establish the identity of one agent. A number of senior officers fell under suspicion, including Dave Murphy, chief of the Soviet Bloc desk, and their careers were destroyed.

Before that, though, Murphy sent a telegram to all CIA stations instructing officers to refuse use of Soviet intelligence sources, as they were all blown by KGB agents who had penetrated the CIA and were operating under Moscow’s control. Any, even the most critical intelligence materials, were rejected on the basis that it was calculated disinformation. Such an unprecedented order essentially meant one thing – the complete neutralization of the CIA’s intelligence-analytical activity against our country for a significant amount of time. Could we even dream of such a success!

The situation at Langley became so onerous that it was decided to simply disband the Soviet desk. Of course, such an outcome didn’t recompense the damage done to CIA officers’ morale.

Damage, however, was not wreaked against CIA alone. Employees of the British, French, West German, Canadian, Australian, Austrian, Greek, and other intelligence services made it into the lineup of suspects. And so after long debriefings of Golitsyn at the CIA, he more or less specifically pointed to ten possible agents of the KGB in the British intelligence services. This data was passed to the counterintelligence of the allied power. When Golitsyn arrived in England for his debriefings there, the number of suspects grew to two hundred and fifty.

He proposed that he be allowed access to the archives of MI5, British counterintelligence, with the goal of comparing the files held there with the content of the materials he was supposedly acquainted with in Soviet intelligence’s analytical service – in nameless form, which didn’t allow him to establish the source of information. Under American pressure such permission was granted. And Peter Wright, as well, was in the beginning inclined to trust Golitsyn. There were, we must admit, known bases for this: the compromise of Kim Philby and the subsequent departure to the USSR of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, members of the famed Cambridge Five.

For four months Anatoly Golitsyn sat over the files in the archive, but nonetheless didn’t produce anything. With this Peter Wright’s trust of his “knowledge” ended. In the words of the senior MI5 officer, the defector’s contribution to discovering KGB penetrations in British intelligence at the leadership level was null, not counting tremendous labor uselessly expended and the unproven accusations of a number of staff. Wright, by the way, was sharply critical of the position taken in this matter by his American colleague James Angleton.

Leaving aside the question of whether our foreign intelligence was able to infiltrate agents into the CIA or not, it stands to note that we had already managed to infiltrate the idea of such a penetration into the American consciousness. And this rendered us an invaluable service – for years the CIA was struck down by the virus of universal suspicion. This agency’s activity was largely paralyzed. Naturally, we could only be happy for that. Foreign counterintelligence, which I oversaw at that time, attentively followed the internal processes of US intelligence and didn’t fail to use them for the resolution of its main tasks, including penetration into Western intelligence services.

One of the consequences of Golitsyn’s activity was that almost all further defectors began to encounter an extremely suspicious attitude and undergo the most serious, if not to say brutal, vetting. The example of Yuri Nosenko is illustrative.

Earlier Nosenko had attempted to enter service in foreign intelligence, but he was met with refusal because of his undignified moral profile. His father, however, had long occupied the post of USSR Minister of Shipbuilding, and under the pressure of his authority, the son was brought into counterintelligence. Finding himself in the organs of state security, Nosenko in no way changed for the better. His debauched lifestyle caused unconcealed anger among his colleagues. But in those times personal ties often turned out to be stronger than principles.

Thanks to those ties, in 1962 for the first time he went abroad to Switzerland along with a Soviet delegation. There he willingly initiated contact with the CIA and expressed readiness to work with them. At the end of 1963, he again arrived in Geneva and there announced to a CIA representative his desire to receive political asylum in the United States. He refused to work for US intelligence in the Soviet Union, fearing exposure.

Having received their first information from Nosenko, who stated that he had serious connections and occupied a major leadership post in the KGB, the CIA undertook his verification. Anatoly Golitsyn gave an unconditional conclusion: this was a KGB plant with the objective of giving over some insignificant secrets to deflect attention from more valued agents. James Angleton and King Harvey agreed with this.

Yuri Nosenko’s fate was sealed. For several years he became a prisoner, and almost four of those he spent in solitary confinement with extremely harsh conditions, subject to tortuous interrogations and lie-detector tests. Only after intervention from outside was he freed and even accepted into a position in the CIA as a consultant on counterintelligence. Afterward, however, he was also under surveillance.

The fruits of betrayal are truly not sweet!

Work Cited: Павлов В. Г. Управление “С”: во главе нелегальной разведки. Яуза-Эксмо, 2006 г. Москва.

Translated by Mark Hackard.

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