The Ghost: The secret life of CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton

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The Ghost
The secret life of CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton

By Jefferson Morley

Published by Scribe Publications
RRP $35.00 in paperback • ISBN 9781925322606

James Jesus Angleton was CIA counter-intelligence chief from 1954 to 1975. His tenure as America’s spymaster covered the period of Cold War intrigue (he grew close to Kim Philby, the UK’s man in Washington) and the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

Remarkably, as Morley notes, whatever Angleton’s reaction to the event, he did not “commit his thoughts to paper …” having generated no known reports, memoranda, or analyses on Oswald, his defection, his life or his contacts. Later it was revealed that the CIA failed to disclose their plots to kill Castro thus compromising the integrity of the Warren Commission’s investigation into the Kennedy assassination.

Angleton, says Morley, failed disastrously as counter-intelligence chief over the cover up and, says Morley, almost certainly had ‘… a granular knowledge of Oswald long before Kennedy was killed”.

By mid 1960s Morley describes Angleton as reigning as “the Machiavelli of the new American national security state”. He was unrestrained by ethics having become the “unseen broker of American power”.

Despite the shortcomings of his tenure, there was no high-level penetration of the CIA on Angleton’s watch, says Morley.

And Morley’s conclusion? He says Angleton was ingenious, vicious, mendacious, obsessive and brilliant.

Morley’s biography reminds us of an era long gone but from which the real truth is still being teased.

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