Memoirs, Minus The Top-Secret Tidbits
AT the memorial service in 1987 for James Jesus Angleton, the legendary CIA counter-intelligence chief and mole-hunter, I asked someone sitting next to me if he knew why there was no eulogy. The agency veteran looked at me disdainfully and said, "It's classified."
I knew Angleton some, his dark suspicions of almost everybody that led him to tell me that Henry Kissinger was "objectively, a Soviet agent." His skepticism about change in the Communist world that led him to tell me the Soviet-Chinese split was a charade meant to fool us. I didn't know his willingness to go to almost any length, including lock-picking, to keep CIA secrets from slipping away in personal diaries and memoirs.
In 1964 Mary Meyer, the estranged wife of Cord Meyer, the CIA station chief in London, was found murdered on Washington's Canal towpath. No one was ever convicted of the crime. Her sister Tony, married to Benjamin Bradlee of The Washington Post, visited her house, and they were amazed to find Angleton on the premises, having forced his way in by picking the lock. He was there, he said, to get the diary that Mary was known to have kept. They found it and they gave it to him, but not before Mr. Bradlee had read it. Whatever it contained of CIA secrets, it contained one very big secret. Mary had conducted a passionate love affair with President Kennedy from early 1962 until his assassination in November 1963.
In April 1971, Angleton, the memoir-hunter, struck again. For this story I'm indebted to Jefferson Morley's superb account in the Washington Post. Winston Scott, retired CIA station chief in Mexico City, died there suddenly. Within a day, Angleton, having flown down from Washington, was at his door, telling his widow that she had to surrender, unread, the memoirs on which Scott had been working.
Scott had presided over dozens of sensitive covert operations. He had also been in charge of surveillance of the Soviet and Cuban embassies. He had identified Lee Harvey Oswald, who visited those embassies in September 1963, as "a person of great interest" to the CIA. According to secret testimony by his deputy, Scott had obtained two surveillance photos of the future assassin of President Kennedy. The CIA had denied to the Warren Commission that it had any such photos.
The agency has refused to release most of the memoirs to Scott's son, who is suing for the record of his father's life. It is so sensitive, the agency says, that it will not even discuss the manuscript with a judge in open court. In his concluding chapter, Winston Scott said he had lived a lie. "I looked for much and, lo, it came to little for me and my country."
Thanks to Jim Angleton, we may never know what left a master spy, who knew about Lee Harvey Oswald and many other things, so deeply disillusioned.