or, From Boise, Idaho to the Inner Machinations of World Politics
Which of us has not been fascinated with tales of intrigue, spy vs. spy, and perhaps have even built a fantasy life in which we were the hero, saving the nation or the universe by dint of clever manipulation of men and ideas? Okay, boyhood fantasies perhaps.
Will the real James Angleton please stand? So much has been written about this individual that the man himself virtually disappears, vanishes, his fellow craftsmen might say, and in his place a legend has arisen, a man whose career will never be paralleled!
This is an introduction to a man whose legacy is bigger than life, and who by his own deathbed admission had many regrets, even stating that he would meet his masters in hell. Angleton served in the CIA under eight Directors from Roscoe Hillenkoelter to William Colby who dismissed him, and under six Presidents from Truman to Ford. James Jesus Angleton was Director of Counterintelligence from 1954 to 1974.
Angleton has his supporters, accolades showered upon him; he has his detractors, even to those asserting that he himself was the mole for whom he so famously searched. Much that has been written is fascinating, so much so that movies have been based upon some of these tomes-- Orchids for Mother, Honorable Men, Wilderness of Mirrors, possibly among others.
As he was a life-long chain smoker there is no irony in the fact that on May 11, 1987 the last breath of air escaped the cancer-riddled lungs of James Jesus Angleton. He was 69 years of age.
Mr. Angleton was truly a man of many parts, an amateur poet, literary deconstructionist, grower of orchids. His work with the OSS in World War II was the inception of his career in spycraft. He was one of the founding members of "The Company" when the CIA was chartered in 1947.
This man is almost always referred to by his full name, James Jesus Angleton, perhaps in part to differentiate him from his well-known father, James Hugh Angleton who was also an OSS operative during the war and the owner of the NCR franchise in Italy, James J. spent much time in Italy. After joining the army he became an OSS field agent. His mother was Carmen Moreno whom James H. met while serving as a US army officer in Mexico.
Curiously it happened that Wednesday this week I was listening to the Senate confirmation hearings for Gina Haspel's appointment as Director of Central Intelligence. She asserted that the CIA is not in the business of violating human rights or lawbreaking in general. Perhaps. And perhaps, too, it was before her time, but maybe she should read the CIA's own document referencing The Family Jewels. Abstracts and the document itself are readily available under FOIA. (By the way, I support Mrs. Haspel for the position.)
"The Family Jewels" cites eighteen "issues of legal concern" from wire-tapping, mail opening, search without warrant, and so on, to the four-year detention of Yuri Nosenko, tantamount to kidnapping, in which Angleton was complicit.
I have long thought Angleton to be a fascinating character, but keep in mind that I am not an expert on his life nor on the trade he plied. Study them yourself if you are so inclined. Whatever you read, take it with a grain of salt, or a tablespoonful, depending upon the source.
"Deception is a state of mind--and the mind of the state." - James Jesus Angleton, 1917-1987
See also The James Angleton Phenomenon, a CIA document.