Spy Wars: 5th Raleigh Spy Conference Dates Announced
SPY WARS IN RALEIGH
Here's a spy story for you — with Raleigh connections, links to the assassination of John F.
Kennedy and the rekindling of a battle that has festered within CIA for 40 years.
Worth Bagley, commemorated by a statue on the grounds of the Capitol Building on Raleigh's
Union Square, was the first American killed in the 1898 Spanish-American War. Worth Bagley's
brother was born in Raleigh, and his son, Tennent "Pete" Bagley" — now retired and living in
Brussels, Belgium — joined the Central Intelligence Agency and rose to chief of Soviet bloc
counterintelligence before retiring after 22 years in the espionage game. (Frank Daniels
Jr., former publisher of The News & Observer, is the grandson of Pete Bagley's first cousin,
whose mother married Josephus Daniels, the paper's founder and Secretary of the Navy under
Woodrow Wilson and later ambassador to Mexico.)
Though retired, Pete Bagley is far from inactive. He has ignited a battle royale within CIA
with his new book: Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries and Deadly Games (Yale Press-Caravan Books)
over a contentious and divisive episode involving the KGB defector Yuri Nosenko. JFK assassination
buffs will remember that Nosenko, who had been working within the USSR for the CIA since 1962,
announced in 1964 — two months after the JFK killing — that he now desired to come over to the
West. The CIA officer who handled Nosenko's defection in Austria was Pete Bagley.
To complicate matters, Nosenko had a message for his new friends in the West: The Soviet Union,
he reported, had nothing to do with the killing of US President John F. Kennedy in November 1963;
and furthermore, the KGB had no contact with assassin Lee Harvey Oswald while he lived in the
USSR for nearly three years before returning to the US and taking his vantage point at the Texas
Naturally, Bagley and others in CIA had their doubts about Nosenko. It seemed suspicious that he
would suddenly pop over to assure the US about Soviet involvement in the JFK murder so soon after
the event — and it was hardly credible that the KGB would not have contact with Oswald in the
USSR. And beyond those issues, there were problems with Nosenko's bona fides: He was not actually
a colonel in the KGB, his stated career path was inconsistent with the facts and some of the
information on Soviet activities he provided was suspect. It also appeared he had another motive:
to discredit the information provided to CIA from a previous Soviet defector.
Bagley conferred with the infamous chief of counterintelligence for CIA, James Jesus Angleton, later
forced into early retirement for his supposedly paranoid pursuit of "moles" in the Agency. The badly
wrought recent film The Good Shepherd was loosely based on Angleton, and his name is legend in spy
circles for his quirky habits and relentless search for traitors.
Bagley and Angleton and others kept the heat on Nosenko, finally placing him in a stockaded safe
house in rural Virginia for three years where he was subjected to intense interrogation, lie
detector tests and deprivation tactics. Nosenko was released to find a constituency of Agency
people had become sympathetic to his plight. By the time William Colby became DCI (Director, Central
Intelligence) in the mid-'70s, Nosenko was elevated to the status of a hero, capping off his career
as an intelligence double agent delivering lectures at CIA headquarters at Langley and at the Farm
in Virginia, the training base for covert operatives.
Nosenko's treatment by Bagley and Angleton became a cause celebre at CIA, creating deep divisions
in the ranks over how he was "handled," with a majority taking his side and a strong minority
maintaining he was a KGB plant from the beginning. And lurking underneath the Nosenko affair was the
link to Oswald and the JFK assassination. Though Bagley never makes this connection the focus of his
book, it lingers on every page, begging the question: Why was Nosenko sent by his KGB masters to
deliver the message that the Soviets were not involved in the events in Dallas and had no contact
with Oswald in the USSR? Why would they feel it necessary to do so? And why would they entrust the
message to a defector who could not keep his stories straight?
Bagley's new book goes over the ground again, but with a twist, new information available from old
Soviet spy hands since the collapse of the USSR. Then all hell broke out at Langley. As Bagley was
set to deliver a talk on the book at CIA the morning of June 28, followed by a public lecture at the
International Spy Museum, both talks were abruptly cancelled. The old wounds were opened and his
enemies won the day. Since then, several articles and Web postings have been published attacking
Bagley and Angleton and their treatment of Nosenko. They include my good friend and leading intelligence
scholar Chris Andrew, his co-author and former KGB double agent Oleg Gordievsky and Leonard McCoy, former
deputy chief of counterintelligence at CIA.
In the midst of severe attacks on CIA in several new books, the Bagley affair suddenly exposes perhaps
the most divisive internal dispute in the history of the Agency, the obscure four decade long argument
over the treatment of Nosenko. Bagley's enemies feel so strongly about the issue they were willing to
violate the principles of free speech and break every rule of decency and respect for a high-ranking
colleague. What is going on here? Why would they not just let Bagley speak and let the issue fade away?
Something is going on here, so I've invited Pete Bagley — and he accepted — to be the keynote speaker for
the fifth Raleigh Spy Conference, tentatively set for March 26-28, 2008. Old friend Brian Kelley, the
former CIA officer who made his first public appearance at the inaugural Raleigh Spy Conference in 2003
after it was revealed the FBI harassed him, thinking he was the mole who turned out to be the notorious
Robert Hanssen — has agreed to serve as moderator. The full speaker line-up and details of the conference
will appear over the next few weeks, so check out
and Metro Magazine (www.metronc.com
for further details. I expect we will have quite an event.
More on Pete Bagley and the Nosenko case from David Ignatius in the Washington Post
Roll back the
tape to January 1964: America is still reeling from the assassination of
President John F. Kennedy, and investigators don't know what to make of the
fact that the apparent assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, lived for three years in
the Soviet Union. Did the Russians have any role in JFK's death?
Then a KGB
defector named Yuri Nosenko surfaces in Geneva and tells his CIA handlers that
the Soviets had nothing to do with Oswald. How is Nosenko so
sure? Because he handled Oswald's KGB file, and he knows the spy service had
never considered dealing with him.
For many spy
buffs, the Nosenko story has always seemed too good to be true. How convenient
that he defected at the very moment the KGB's chiefs were eager to reassure the
Warren Commission about Oswald's sojourn in Russia. What's more, Nosenko
brought other goodies that on close examination were also suspicious --
information that seemed intended to divert the CIA's attention from the
possibility that its codes had been broken and its inner sanctum penetrated.
case is one of the gnarly puzzles of Cold War history. It vexed the CIA's
fabled counterintelligence chief, James Jesus Angleton, to the end of his days.
And it has titillated a generation of novelists and screenwriters -- most
recently providing the background for Robert De Niro's sinuous spy film
"The Good Shepherd."
Now the CIA
case officer who initially handled Nosenko, Tennent H. Bagley, has written his
own account. And it is a stunner. It's impossible to read this book without
developing doubts about Nosenko's bona fides. Many readers will conclude that
Angleton was right all along -- that Nosenko was a phony, sent by the KGB to
deceive a gullible CIA.
That's not the
official CIA judgment, of course. The agency gave Nosenko its stamp of approval
in 1968 and again in 1976. Indeed, as often happens, the agency itself became
the villain, with critics denouncing Angleton, Bagley and other skeptics for
their harsh interrogation of Nosenko. In its eagerness to tidy up the mess, the
agency even invited Nosenko to lecture to its young officers about
It happens that
I met Angleton in the late 1970s, in the twilight of his life in the shadows. I
was a reporter in my late 20s, and it occurred to me to invite the fabled
counterintelligence chief to lunch. (Back then, even retired super-spooks
listed their numbers in the phone book. I can still hear in my mind his
creepily precise voice on the answering machine: "We are not in, at
present. . . .") Angleton arrived at his favorite haunt, the Army and Navy
Club on Farragut Square, cadaverously thin and dressed in black.
He might have
been playing himself in a movie. He displayed all the weird traits that were
part of the Angleton legend, clasping his Virginia Slims cigarette daintily
between thumb and forefinger and sipping his potent cocktail through a long,
And he was
still obsessed with the Nosenko case. He urged me, in a series of interviews,
to pursue another Russian defector code-named "Sasha," who he was
convinced was part of the skein of KGB lies. The man ran a little
picture-framing shop in Alexandria and seemed an unlikely master spy. I
gradually concluded that Angleton had lost it, and after I wrote that he
himself had once been accused of being the secret mole, he stopped returning my
"Spy Wars," should reopen the Nosenko case. He has gathered strong
evidence that the Russian defector could not have been who he initially said he
was; that he could not have reviewed the Oswald file; that his claims about how
the KGB discovered the identities of two CIA moles in Moscow could not have
been right. According to Bagley, even Nosenko eventually admitted that some of
what he had told the CIA was false.
purpose did the deception serve? Bagley argues that the KGB's real game was to
steer the CIA away from realizing that the Russians had recruited one American
code clerk in Moscow in 1949 and perhaps two others later on. The KGB may also
have hoped to protect an early (and to this day undiscovered) mole inside the
Take a stroll
with Bagley down paranoia lane and you are reminded just how good the Russians
are at the three-dimensional chess game of intelligence. For a century, their
spies have created entire networks of illusion -- phony dissident movements,
fake spy services -- to condition the desired response.
Bagley's book, I could not help thinking: What mind games are the Russians
playing with us today?