From the Archives

Soviet Moles in the CIA, part 2:
The High-Level Coverup

(The Inside Story: World Report v2:1, September 1995)
– Continued from Part 1 –

When KGB Major Anatoliy Golitsyn defected to the United States in 1961, he brought a message that was most unwelcome. Not only did he prove the existence of large networks of Soviet spies operating in all Western intelligence agencies, but he also showed that the Soviets were using our own intelligence apparatus against us. While the CIA and other services were chasing after Soviet state secrets, the KGB was carefully leaking “secrets” that were carefully concocted disinformation. According to Golitsyn, the Communists placed higher priority on deceiving the West into gradual surrender than on protecting their own secrets. In other words, the Soviets were not playing the “Cold War game”; they were fighting to win.

To carry out a successful long-term deception, as Golitsyn explained, the Soviets had to restructure the KGB itself. After all, any disinformation scheme would inevitably be exposed through the very process of delivering the deception. A percentage of those KGB agents in contact with Western agents would defect or otherwise betray the plan. To prevent this from happening, the Soviets had to make sure that only a tiny core of personnel — those not in contact with the West — would actually know the plan. The rest of the KGB would implement the strategy without understanding it.

Golitsyn had not only observed the KGB restructuring first-hand, he had actually participated in it. The process had begun in 1953 upon the death of dictator Joseph Stalin, whose violent purging of fellow Communists had left behind a leadership vacuum. A power struggle ensued, threatening to destabilize the entire Communist system. Stalin’s successors quickly decided to reinstitute V. I. Lenin’s concept of “democratic centralism,” in which no single individual holds the fulcrum of power. If the Communists could be re-united under an all-powerful central committee, the Communist Bloc could launch a long-term offensive against the West.

Party leader Nikita Khrushchev decisively beat all opposing factions in 1957, and immediately began building democratic centralism. Factional infighting was ended, and coordination between Communist governments was re-established. Suddenly the Soviet leadership turned its attentions toward creating a new strategic deception policy. The top intelligence officials began studying the writings of Lenin and ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu.

Quickly the entire Communist structure in the Soviet Union was rebuilt, though in secret. From 1958 to 1960, the Communist Party Central Committee created such new agencies as the Department of Foreign Policy and the Department of Active Operations to coordinate international deception. The Committee of Information, which carried out operation to influence Western political leaders, was shifted to the authority of the Central Committee. And the KGB was put under a new chairman, Aleksander Shelepin.

The KGB underwent the largest and most important rearrangement. Not only did its counterintelligence directorate expand, but a special top-secret new “inner level” was created to coordinate strategic deception. Known as Department D, it was immediately staffed with some fifty or sixty intelligence specialists, all highly experienced and trusted officers of the Soviet secret police. These men had special access to the highest state secrets, and were given the authority to coordinate the most powerful agencies of the Soviet government. Department D was designed to be the high command of the Communist disinformation campaign.

This “inner” KGB has remained so secret that no Soviet defector, other than Golitsyn, has known of its existence. Golitsyn himself was not a member of it, but he was intimately involved in creating it. In 1952 to 1953, he had been appointed to a small team of experts who planned the restructuring of the KGB; Golitsyn’s plan was adopted by Shelepin in 1959, by which time the 32-year-old Golitsyn was studying at the KGB Institute in Moscow — and therefore was privy to the details of the KGB reorganization. Later that year, Golitsyn helped implement the deception strategy as a new senior analyst in the KGB’s Information Department.

Golitsyn was astonishingly young for his high position, a result of his intellectual acumen. Had the Soviets been more careful, they would not have promoted him so soon, for by 1956 the young Golitsyn had become thoroughly disillusioned with Communism. The launching of the new deception strategy finally convinced him he had to defect to warn the West, and he spent the next few years carefully gathering information that would expose the Communist plans.

Using his position, Golitsyn managed to be assigned with his wife and daughter to the Soviet embassy in Finland. In December 1961, when he received orders to return to Moscow, he realized he had run out of time. He took his family and the few documents he could carry, and defected to the United States embassy. Thus began the controversy that would eventually split the CIA.1

Through the looking glass

Golitsyn’s message was not popular within the CIA. Although he proved himself by helping expose Soviet spy rings in the highest levels of Western intelligence services [see Part 1 in the Nov. 1994 issue — Eds.], he was telling the CIA that much of its hard-earned intelligence data was merely disinformation concocted by the KGB’s Department D. He also shattered all hopes that Communism might disintegrate spontaneously. According to Golitsyn, the Soviet reorganization after Stalin had destroyed all opposition to the regime while permanently healing all factions, splits, and power struggles within the government. Evidence of infighting among the Communists, of popular resistance against Communism, or even of “democratization” in Communist Bloc nations, was an illusion being created by the KGB.

Golitsyn told his CIA debriefers that the Soviets, knowing that Western agencies would not believe propaganda published in the official Soviet news media, used more clever methods to deliver disinformation. The Soviets might allow rumors to “slip” during off-the-record conversations with Western political leaders. Or they might leak special documents or communiques, allowing Western intelligence officers to believe they had stolen it without Soviet knowledge. Or they might pay phony “dissidents” or create illusory “opposition movements” behind the iron curtain, who would pass along “information” that would seem more credible.

But most startlingly of all, Golitsyn revealed that the Soviets understood well the Western dependence on KGB defectors. Department D played on this vulnerability by dispatching phony defectors — double agents who would pretend to expose KGB “secrets” that would now be wholly accepted by gullible Western intelligence services. Meanwhile, KGB spies inside the CIA or other agencies would quietly monitor Western reactions to specific items of disinformation, thus completing the “feedback loop” for the Soviets.

Thus deception could not only be engineered on a grand scale, but could even be fine-tuned for maximum believability.

None of this was idle speculation. In January of 1962, days after escaping to the West, Golitsyn predicted that his own defection would force the Soviets to send false defectors from the KGB and the GRU (military intelligence) to contradict his information.

Within weeks, he was already proved correct. The KGB dispatched a “diplomat” who tried to defect to the CIA in Paris, followed by a similar attempt at the American embassy in Moscow. The Soviets bungled both efforts. Finally two Soviet agents working at the United Nations — one from the GRU, the other from the KGB — almost simultaneously contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and offered to leak Soviet secrets. The FBI assigned them the codenames TOP HAT and FEDORA; the CIA named them SCOTCH and BOURBON. In June yet another such officer, this time from the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate, approached the CIA in Switzerland and also began providing secrets. His name was Yuri Nosenko; he was labeled AE/FOXTROT in CIA files (he subsequently defected to the United States in early 1964).2

“Suddenly, in the spring of 1962, the CIA was awash with penetrations of Soviet intelligence — more at one time than during its entire history,” wrote journalist David C. Martin years later.3

And, exactly as Golitsyn had predicted, all three “defectors” began providing information that directly contradicted his own. Where Golitsyn had warned of high-level penetrations of the CIA by Soviet spies, Nosenko instead blamed the leaks of information on a low-level code clerk in the US embassy. Golitsyn’s charge that Soviet moles had betrayed CIA spy Petr Popov was also contradicted by Nosenko, who claimed that the Soviets had traced Popov’s handler merely by spraying an invisible chemical tracer on his shoes. Eerily, TOP HAT and FEDORA were coincidentally able to confirm Nosenko’s key allegations. All three confirmed Golitsyn’s less important information, but directly contradicted his evidence of top moles in the CIA.4

If Nosenko, TOP HAT, and FEDORA were right, then the Soviets had failed to infiltrate the CIA, and could not pull off sophisticated deception campaigns. If Golitsyn was right, the CIA was already dominated by the KGB, and these other “defectors” were themselves part of the disinformation. CIA officials rapidly polarized into two warring camps on this issue, precipitating a fight that would tear the agency apart for the next decade.

Agents of deception

Into the fray stepped James Jesus Angleton, the venerated chief of the CIA’s Counterintelligence Division. A brilliant spymaster with a penchant for detecting disinformation, he immediately recognized in Golitsyn a profound source of intelligence. And when Nosenko made his appearance to discredit Golitsyn, Angleton smelled a rat.

Angleton persuaded key members of the Soviet Bloc Division, the branch of the CIA responsible for handling defectors, that Nosenko was a phony defector. By 1963, Angleton had Golitsyn transferred to his authority, and together the two men launched a series of investigations into Nosenko and other suspect defectors, as well as searching for Soviet spies in the CIA.

It was not long before Nosenko’s story began falling apart. Although he claimed to be a lieutenant colonel in the KGB with access to high-level secrets, he could not remember important details of his operations. Under interrogation, he admitted the contradiction but then began changing his story repeatedly. When intelligence experts determined that Nosenko could not have held the rank of lieutenant colonel, he admitted having merely been a captain; when confronted with evidence that he had not, as previously claimed, received a particular communication from Moscow, Nosenko again admitted lying. Further interrogation caused him to admit having lied about numerous facts, including his reason for defecting in the first place.

More disturbingly, however, the documents Nosenko had brought from the Soviet Union had themselves been fabricated to back up his false identity. This could mean only one thing: the KGB itself had doctored the items as part of a deception.5

TOP HAT and FEDORA were also caught participating in the game. FBI surveillance convinced Assistant Director William C. Sullivan that both “defectors” were false, although he was unable to persuade his boss, J. Edgar Hoover, who angrily refused to believe that the Soviets had deceived the FBI. Furthermore, FEDORA independently “confirmed” Nosenko’s lies about his rank and communications — again proving KGB involvement. The final evidence surfaced in 1978, when the FBI discovered that the KGB had already long known about FEDORA’s leaking of information to the West. FEDORA returned to Moscow — and was enthusiastically promoted by the KGB! TOP HAT was exposed in a similar way.

In more recent years, the Soviet embassy itself has recommended Nosenko as a source of accurate information for at least one American journalist.6

The Soviets did not, of course, stop with these double agents. In 1966, the KGB dispatched yet another supposedly important defector, Igor Kochnov. Codenamed KITTY HAWK by the CIA, Kochnov also insisted that the Soviets had no spies in the CIA or FBI, while he again tried to “confirm” the claims of Nosenko. Once Angleton identified KITTY HAWK as a phony defector, the Soviet returned to Moscow and provided no more “information.”7

Oleg Gordievsky, an officer in the KGB’s First Chief Directorate, joined this growing list of double agents in 1974, when he first began leaking secrets to England’s MI6. In 1985, he defected to the West under suspicious circumstances. Although supposedly arrested by the KGB on suspicion of spying for England, he was not executed. “A generation earlier he would simply have been liquidated,” writes Gordievsky (with a co-author) of himself. “Nowadays the KGB had to have evidence.”8 Starting with this obvious lie, Gordievsky’s story becomes even more absurd. Despite his arrest for treason, he claims the KGB nevertheless allowed him enough freedom that he could repeatedly make contact with British agents and even escape the Soviet Union itself — on foot.9 To top it all off, his family was subsequently released from the Soviet Union.10

Unlike Golitsyn, who still remains under deep cover to prevent assassination by the Soviets, Gordievsky maintains a high-profile life in London. Gordievsky insists that the KGB has had no spies in British intelligence since 1961, and ridicules former MI5 officer Peter Wright for fingering over 200 suspects — including former MI5 director Sir Roger Hollis — as a result of investigations under project FLUENCY. Gordievsky also bitterly denies Golitsyn’s revelation of the existence of Department D in the KGB, while he staunchly defends Nosenko as a genuine defector. Gordievsky has advised such prominent individuals as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and his 1990 book, KGB: The Inside Story, has been published widely.11

Desperate to cover up the Golitsyn revelations at any cost, and unable to assassinate him, the Soviets have adopted a saturation approach to drown out his information with a torrent of disinformation. Since 1962, the Soviets have sent at least 15 “defectors” to contradict Golitsyn and support Nosenko, including those listed above. The staggering quantity of such deception tends to obscure the paradoxes in each defector’s story.

The battle for the CIA

Yet despite all the clear evidence of a vast Soviet deception program using false defectors, and despite growing evidence of Soviet spies in the highest ranks of the CIA, Angleton and Golitsyn ultimately lost the struggle to save the agency.

Virtually every investigation Angleton initiated was either blocked, terminated, or undermined. He was never allowed to uncover a single major spy or false defector. Angry CIA officers in every department frantically derailed his probes, and howled protests every time he questioned the reliability of a defector. Gradually Angleton’s enemies closed ranks to destroy him.

The purge began in 1969, on orders from above, by phasing out Golitsyn’s advisory relationship with the CIA. President Richard Nixon, who in the early 1950s had blocked an investigation by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Communist spies in the CIA [See Part 1 — Eds.], wanted nothing to interfere with his program of détente.12

Then came William E. Colby, who in 1973 was promoted to Executive Comptroller, the number three position in the CIA. His career had certainly raised eyebrows. He had come from the CIA’s covert action wing in Vietnam, rather than involvement in true intelligence work. As chief of the CIA’s Rome station in the 1950s, Colby had fought hard to provide covert CIA support to Communist front organizations in Italy — over Angleton’s vigorous opposition. During the Vietnam War, Colby vetoed Angleton’s plan to use counterintelligence to weed out Communist infiltrators in the South Vietnamese government, thus ensuring that hundreds of Communists would continue to paralyze the war effort from within. Most suspiciously of all, Colby met several times with a Soviet GRU agent in Vietnam — without notifying the CIA. Colby even managed to shut down a CIA program to investigate Communists in American labor unions. Although CIA officials constantly overlooked Colby’s actions and promoted him, the Counterintelligence Division had long suspected Colby of being a Soviet mole.13

In January of 1973, Colby issued a new directive to all CIA stations worldwide. These orders permanently changed the operational methods of the CIA, effectively overturning every warning Golitsyn and Angleton had ever given. Any information provided by defectors was henceforth automatically to be accepted, so long as it was basically consistent with the majority of other defectors’ stories. Thus Nosenko, FEDORA, TOP HAT, and many other phony defectors were legitimized. The new policy assumed that the Soviets do not send false defectors, and that the Soviets are only interested in stealing secrets, not in carrying out strategic deception. Even the word “disinformation” was redefined as Soviet attempts to place propaganda in the Western news media, not as attempts to deceive intellligence agencies. And all searches for Soviet moles were ended.

In the wake of the 1974 Watergate scandal, Colby became Director of the CIA. Within months, he had carefully severed Angleton’s connections in the intelligence world, mobilized most of the agency’s personnel in a united front against Angleton, and then fired him. All of Angleton’s top staffers departed with him. To make matters worse, Nosenko himself was officially rehabilitated — and brought in as a consultant to help train the new counterintelligence staff. The new CIA policy remains in effect today.14

In the years since the purge of Angleton and Golitsyn, the CIA has been wracked with scandals of Soviet spies and false defectors. The recent case of Soviet mole Aldrich Ames was preceded in the 1970s by William P. Campiles, who gave the Soviets an extremely sensitive spy satellite manual, and in the 1980s by Edward Lee Howard. Presumably these represent merely the tiny tip of the iceberg.

The CIA still refuses to admit that any Soviet “defectors” may be phony, but one case in particular turned into a public relations disaster for the agency. Vitaliy Yurchenko, who had held such top positions as chief of the KGB’s counterintelligence department, suddenly defected to the United States in July of 1985. Among other operations against the US, he had been in charge of sending “dangles” — Soviet double agents who would approach the FBI and offer “secrets” so as to mislead American intelligence gathering. One of Yurchenko’s CIA debriefers was none other than Aldrich Ames, who would not be discovered as a Soviet spy for another nine years.

Like Nosenko two decades earlier, Yurchenko insisted that the Soviets had no spies inside the CIA. Indeed, he specifically backed up Nosenko as being a genuine defector, and he told the CIA that the Soviets had blown Western spy operations using invisible chemical tracers and ex-agents of the CIA. Officials at the agency, including Director William Casey, enthusiastically promoted Yurchenko to the news media and Congress.

But three months after Yurchenko’s defection, he surprised his handlers by redefecting to the Soviets, who welcomed and promoted him. To embarrass the CIA, Yurchenko held a press conference for American reporters, at which he alleged that the CIA had kidnapped and drugged him. In other words, the Soviets were openly laughing at the CIA’s gullibility.

Unwilling to admit that Golitsyn and Angleton might have been right in the first place, the CIA planted a phony story in the news media that Yurchenko had been captured and shot by the Soviets; shorty thereafter, Yurchenko appeared live on Soviet television to refute the charge. Nevertheless, to this day the CIA blindly insists that, somehow, Yurchenko really had been a genuine defector. After all, CIA policy dictates that the Soviets do not send false defectors.15

So desperate has the CIA been to cover up Soviet deception operations from the public that the agency has resorted to a full smear campaign against Golitsyn and the now-deceased Angleton. In his 1984 book, New Lies For Old, Golitsyn drew on his personal knowledge from within the KGB to predict that Department D would orchestrate the “death” of Communism, starting no later than 1989. The Berlin Wall would be torn down, Solidarity would be allowed to achieve power in Polish elections, the Soviet Union would break up, and a crisis would be manufactured in Yugoslavia. Point for point, Golitsyn predicted the events of Europe since 1989 with chilling accuracy, and warned that the Soviets would be using the deception to prepare for a takeover of Western Europe.

As if to neutralize Golitsyn’s warnings, the CIA has recently planted numerous stories in the media to discredit him. Articles in major national news magazines and a special documentary on PBS in 1990 have been followed by such books as Tom Mangold’s Cold Warrior and David Wise’s Molehunt, both books savagely attacking Angleton and Golitsyn as “paranoid cold warriors.” Both Mangold and Wise masquerade as independent journalists, but both acknowledge that the information for their books came directly from large numbers of helpful CIA officials. As author Edward Jay Epstein has pointed out, the CIA frequently plants its own books in the public domain under false cover. This is done by cultivating certain authors, providing them complete manuscripts (or at least sufficient material to write books), and using connections in the publishing industry to arrange for the books’ distribution and promotion by major companies. This method allows the CIA to publish viewpoints that appear to come from independent sources.16

Both the Mangold and Wise books present the Golitsyn/Nosenko debate in a severely lopsided way. Mangold’s book even goes so far as to ignore completely Golitsyn’s accurate predictions of “change” in Eastern Europe, declaring brazenly that “History has dealt harshly with Anatoliy Golitsyn the prophet.… As a crystal-ball gazer, Golitsyn has been unimpressive.” Mangold continues by carefully skipping over Golitsyn’s already-fulfilled predictions, quoting a few sentences out of context so as to change their meaning altogether.17

But in light of the evidence that the CIA is riddled with Communist spies, it is little wonder the agency strains so hard to convince Americans that Communism is truly “dead.”


1. The story of Department D is told in Golitsyn, A., New Lies for Old, Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1984, esp. chapter 6; see also Epstein, E.J., Deception, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1989, esp. chapter 5.

2. Martin, D.C., Wilderness of Mirrors, Harper & Row, New York, 1980, pp. 110-114; Mangold, T., Cold Warrior, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1991, pp. 410-411; Epstein, Op cit., pp. 74-75.

3. Martin, Op cit., p. 114.

4. Ibid., pp. 112-114; Epstein, Op cit., pp. 47-49, 74-75.

5. Martin, Op cit., pp. 161-162, 164, 172-174; Epstein, Op cit., p. 60; Mangold, Op cit., pp. 163, 397.

6. Epstein, Op cit., pp. 13, 48-49, 60, 96; Martin, Op cit., pp. 161-162; Mangold, Op cit., p. 411.

7. Martin, Op cit., pp. 191-192; Mangold, Op cit., pp. 409-410.

8. Andrew, C. & Gordievsky, O., KGB: The Inside Story, Harper Collins, New York, 1990, p. 13.

9. Ibid., pp. 8-16.

10. Story, C., Soviet Analyst, vol. 22:7-8, March 1994, p. 15.

11. Andrew & Gordievsky, Op cit., pp. 7-8; Mangold, Op cit., pp. 111, 204; Story, Op cit., p. 12.

12. Epstein, Op cit., p. 98.

13. Ibid., pp. 98, 100; Martin, Op cit., pp. 183-184, 217; Mangold, Op cit., pp. 309-315; Epstein, E.J., Legend, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1978, pp. 272, 329.

14. Epstein, Deception, Op cit., pp. 90-91, 100-101, 196-199; Epstein, Legend, Op cit., p. 273; Mangold, Op cit., pp. 205-206, 313-317.

15. Epstein, Deception, Op cit., pp. 199-214; Story, Op cit., p. 24; Mangold, Op cit., p. 402.

16. Mangold, Op cit.; Wise, D., Molehunt, Random House, New York, 1992; Epstein, Deception, Op cit., pp. 12-20.

17. Mangold, Op cit., pp. 355-356.