41. Memorandum From Vice President Rockefeller to President Ford 1


  • Report by James J. Angleton, former Chief of Counterintelligence for the CIA

During the course of the inquiry of the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States we received testimony from James J. Angleton.

Among the matters he discussed with the Commission was his belief that the counterintelligence activities of the CIA had been seriously undercut by certain organizational changes instituted by Director Colby.

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Angleton’s presentation so impressed the Commission members that he was asked to prepare a special memorandum on the subject.

Unfortunately, that memorandum was not delivered until the day before the Commission’s Report was due,2 and so could not be included in its Report.

However, I think the information in the memorandum should be brought to your attention, and I am attaching a copy to this memo for that purpose.

Nelson A. Rockefeller


Report by the Former Chief of the Counterintelligence Staff, Central Intelligence Agency (Angleton) to the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States 3


Mr. Vice President and Members of the Commission:

In accordance with the Commission’s request, my former colleagues and myself submit herewith a critique of the counterintelligence function in the Agency. We welcome the Commission’s interest in this matter because it will be the first review of U.S. counterintelligence at such a responsible level in Government. In any event, it is urged that authoritative attention, beyond the life of the Commission, be given to the scope and role of counterintelligence in the Intelligence Community. This action is imperative because the current leadership is almost totally uninformed and inexperienced in the specialty of counterintelligence, and its authority for changes is being permitted to go unchallenged. The result is reflected in the failure to maintain continuity in this function. We believe that unless there are some enforceable guidelines set forth by a higher authority, the conduct of effective counterintelligence by the Government will be lost for years to come.

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[Omitted here is general discussion of the value of counterintelligence and the bona fides of Soviet defectors.]

Given the inability of the Intelligence Community to come to grips with the problems raised by counterintelligence, it is suggested that the only solution to the very unsatisfactory situation today would be the appointment of an ombundsman who would be authorized to act directly on behalf of the National Security Council on serious interagency problems which have a direct bearing on the plans and capabilities of the Communist Bloc and involve the more sensitive operations of counterintelligence. Alternatively, consideration could be given to the responsibilities of the Chairman of PFIAB, which might be enlarged to satisfy this need.

As Attachment A,4 I submit a letter and attachment which was submitted to the Secretary of Defense on 31 January 1975. Given the march of events and the uncertainties involved, in addition to the responsibilities of his high office, it is understandable, perhaps, that the Secretary has not wished to become entangled in disputations on this subject matter as long as the Agency and its various Directors are being subjected to investigation. Nevertheless, in our view, the issues involving Soviet strategic disinformation and our defense posture go to the heart of national security insofar as they relate to estimates affecting the world balance of power. Additionally, we believe it to be most misleading for one to assume that estimates derived from technical collection alone justify the negotiation of finite disarmament and other treaties with the Soviet Bloc governments unless there is corresponding high-level covert intelligence production which supplements and confirms the findings of technical collection.

This view argues against the philosophy now being aired with Olympian aplomb that technical coverage alone is a substitute for clandestine sources or that it gives a reliable data base which justifies a super power to bargain away its strength. (Attachment B sets forth the views of Mr. Paul Nitze and his first-hand impression of the SALT talks.5 Of particular interest is his description of the atmospherics: [a] the peculiar role of the KGB among Soviet negotiators, and [b]6 how an uninformed U.S. representative learned from the Soviet delegation of changes in the U.S. negotiating positions arrived at in Washington. The KGB attempted similar ploys during the Johnson Administration with a former high official of President Kennedy’s on the Vietnam issue.)

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If there be validity to the information derived from Golitsyn,7 then it would follow that détente and estimates derived therefrom are misleading with regard to the events in Portugal, Vietnam and other areas where we are in competition with the Soviets and the Bloc. A more accurate picture could be obtained if the structure of the Intelligence Community, in its processing of information, were less concerned with public or overt data regarding the Soviet Bloc intentions, such as the reporting of Ambassadors and other representatives, and instead give full faith and credit to secret information from bona fide sources who are or were within the Soviet Bloc system and whose warnings regarding disinformation have been universally ignored. To repeat, it is the opinion of these sources that the bulk of information available to the West through Soviet Bloc contacts, regarding the strategy and aims of the Eastern Bloc, is, on the whole, spurious and represents little more than coordinated handouts which advance the interests of Soviet Bloc strategic disinformation at many levels of communications.

The remainder of this report represents the status, as of March 1975, of U.S. counterintelligence, primarily within the CIA, but also, as the perspective requires, at the national level. The discussion consists of four parts:

  • The authority under which CIA conducts counterintelligence activities.
  • The nature of those activities.
  • A summary of critical developments in the history of U.S. counterintelligence from 1945 to 1975.
  • Recommendations which we respectfully urge the Commission to submit to the President for his consideration.

I. The Authority

The current version of National Security Council Intelligence Directive No. 5, U.S. Espionage and Counterintelligence Activities Abroad, effective 17 February 1972, is the charter for the conduct of foreign clandestine activities by CIA and by the other members of the U.S. intelligence and counterintelligence community.8 NSCID/5 defines counterintelligence as “. . . that intelligence activity, with its resultant product, devoted to destroying the effectiveness of inimical foreign intelligence activities and undertaken to protect the security of the nation and its personnel, information and installations against espionage, sabotage and subversion. Counterintelligence includes the process of procuring, developing, recording and disseminating information con[Page 101]cerning hostile clandestine activity and of penetrating, manipulating or repressing individuals, groups or organizations conducting such activity.”

As defined, counterintelligence consists of two parts, security and counterespionage. Security is essentially the static defenses erected against the clandestine activities of adversaries of the U.S., whereas counterespionage is aggressive activity of engaging the adversary clandestinely.

NSCID/5 stipulates that the Director of Central Intelligence shall undertake specified actions in order to ensure centralized direction of all clandestine activities within the scope of the Directive. It also charges CIA with primary responsibility for U.S. clandestine activities abroad and permits other departments and agencies to conduct such foreign clandestine activities as are supplementary or are necessary to their security. Departmental counterintelligence is brought together through two Director of Central Intelligence Directives, one which requires coordination in advance with CIA on clandestine counterintelligence operations abroad, and the other which stipulates that CIA shall serve as a central repository of foreign counterintelligence data to the Intelligence Community.

The flow of authority is from the National Security Council to the Director of Central Intelligence to the Deputy Director for Operations to the central counterintelligence unit of CIA or to an area division to provide whatever assistance the Director may require to discharge his obligations under NSCID/5 and its assignment to him of responsibility for the protection of methods and sources or under other laws, orders and directives. The immediate mandate of the counterintelligence component, however, is derived from those responsibilities assigned directly to CIA (and thus chiefly from paragraphs 1b, 3b, 3c, 3d and 9 of NSCID/5, the chief provisos of which have been noted above).

In our view the DCI is not exercising under NSCID/5 responsible centralized direction of counterintelligence clandestine activity. As indicated to the Commission in verbal testimony, the current Director has spent less than four to five hours with the Counterintelligence Staff from the moment he became the Deputy Director for Operations until the present. His knowledge of the activity during the period when he was Chief of the Far East Division was one of failure and is reflected in an Inspector General’s report of the period. This and some of his communications to the field are a matter of record in the FE Division. Instead of exercising leadership in resolving the serious problems of penetration and disinformation, which are of prime importance to the security of the country, under his aegis there has been a decentralization and mutilation within the Agency and, therefore, within the Community of high-level counterintelligence activity. We believe that sub[Page 102]stantial changes are needed and that these changes should be effected with and through an understanding of our counterintelligence mission, capabilities and needs. In setting forth our collective views on these matters, we do so, drawing on our professional experience as to what needs to be set right and how it may be done. The primary cause of the present vulnerability of our national security is the inadequate attention and serious lack of understanding of the counterintelligence function.

[Omitted here are Parts II and III, describing the nature of counterintelligence activities and summarizing the history of the CIA counterintelligence service.]

IV. Recommendations

The following recommendations are presented for the consideration of the Commission with the sole intent of revitalizing national counterintelligence and enabling it to discharge its assigned responsibilities in furtherance of national security. To this end we propose the following changes:

1. That the Operational Directorate of CIA assign not less than one-tenth of its component to counterintelligence.

2. That of this total about half be assigned to a central counterintelligence unit in Headquarters and that the remaining half be divided among the various Area Divisions and branches in Headquarters and selected Agency stations abroad.

3. That CIA provide this cadre with counterintelligence training in depth.

4. That selected counterintelligence personnel be rotated through Headquarters and field assignments of growing responsibility in accordance with career plans that afford them opportunities for advancement which equal those of their Agency colleagues.

5. That counterintelligence designees abroad work under the nominal command of Chiefs of Station but that they engage in counterintelligence work full time and that they have privacy channels of communications with the Headquarters counterintelligence unit which will ensure that access to their sensitive information remains on a compartmented, need-to-know basis.

6. That close operational liaison between the FBI and the counterintelligence unit be fostered, and that direct, operational, domestic liaison with other U.S. departments and agencies by the counterintelligence unit be maintained to whatever extent the national interest requires.

7. That the U.S. establish a single central organ to formulate policy for national strategic deception and to deal with adversary deception, specifically including disinformation. Further, that this body have the [Page 103] necessary access to policy-creating levels of the U.S. Government and that it have the necessary measure of jurisdiction over Governmental components engaged in deception and counterdeception.

8. That CIA counterintelligence liaison abroad be improved through a judicious augmentation of exchange of counterintelligence information, including penetration leads, by augmentation of U.S. capacity for leadership in dealing with the common adversary, and the expansion of the cadre of counterintelligence liaison officers abroad.

9. That CIA undertake a more vigorous program to obtain further data about the intelligence and counterintelligence services of China, Cuba and Eastern Europe, so that our knowledge of them becomes fully comparable with our knowledge of the Soviet services, and that these increased holdings be placed in machine records as rapidly as their size warrants.

10. That the U.S., and especially the FBI and the CIA, intensify counterintelligence work against Soviet and other illegals.

11. That within the expanded counterintelligence unit in CIA headquarters a defector section be created and that this section be responsible for supervising the operational handling and continuing debriefing of designated defectors, both abroad and in the U.S., the latter responsibility to be assigned in agreement with the FBI and other affected departments and agencies.

12. That the chief of the counterintelligence unit have direct and frequent access to the Director of Central Intelligence and other Deputy Directors and members of the Intelligence Community engaged in security and counterintelligence to ensure that counterintelligence considerations are given due weight in the formulation of policy and that counterintelligence capabilities are fully utilized in defending CIA and other U.S. departments and agencies against clandestine activity, including penetration operations, carried out by our adversaries.

James Angleton
  1. Source: Ford Library, Richard B. Cheney Files, Box 7, General Subject File, Intelligence Subseries, Report by James J. Angleton. No classification marking.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 42.
  3. Secret; Sensitive; [handling restriction not declassified].
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attachment B is attached but not printed. Nitze was a member of the delegation to the SALT II negotiations.
  6. Brackets in the original.
  7. KGB officer Anatoly Golitsyn defected from the Soviet Union in 1961.
  8. Revised on February 17, 1972, NSCID No. 5 governed the conduct of U.S. espionage and counterintelligence activities abroad. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. II, Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 248.