James Jesus Angleton, the CIA, and the Craft of Counterintelligence

A major biography of a legendary American spymaster

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As chief of counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, James Jesus Angleton built a formidable reputation. Although perhaps best known for leading the agency's notorious “Molehunt”—the search for a Soviet spy believed to have infiltrated the upper levels of the American government—Angleton also played a key role in the U.S. intervention in the Italian election of 1948, in Israel's development of nuclear weapons, and in the management of the CIA's investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He later led CIA efforts to contain the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, including the campaign to destroy the liberal Catholic magazine Ramparts .

In this deeply researched biography, Michael Holzman uses Angleton's story to illuminate the history of the CIA from its founding in the late 1940s to the mid-1970s. Like many of his colleagues in the CIA, James Angleton learned the craft of espionage during World War II as an officer in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), where he became a friend and
protégé of the British double agent Kim Philby. Yet Angleton's approach to counterintelligence was also influenced by his unusual Mexican American family background and his years at Yale as a student of the New Critics and publisher of modernist poets. His marriage to Cicely d'Autremont and the couple's friendship with E. E. and Marion Cummings became part of a network of cultural connections that linked the U.S. secret intelligence services and American writers and artists during the postwar period.

Drawing on a broad range of sources, including previously unexamined archival documents, personal letters, and interviews, Holzman looks beneath the surface of Angleton's career to reveal the sensibility that governed not only his personal aims and ambitions but those of the organization he served and helped shape.

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