Chapter 19: Son of Sasha
In mid-April 1987, James Angleton had only a month to live when he granted an interview to David Binder of the New York Times. The former counterintelligence chief had been diagnosed as having lung cancer five months earlier, but he smoked filter cigarettes throughout the interview. 
Although Angleton had told the newspaper he would not discuss intelligence matters, he could not stay away from the subject of moles. It was clear that with time running out, Angleton consoled himself with the belief that he had at least identified one mole.
Although he did not reveal the man's name, it was equally clear that he was talking about Igor Orlov, who Angleton was convinced was Golitsin's "Sasha." There was a case, Angleton told Binder, where the Soviets had infiltrated a man into the CIA.
The article, paraphrasing Angleton's words, said, "In an elaborate ruse in WWII, he was parachuted behind German lines. ... The Germans picked him up and made him into a double agent. But his true loyalty had remained with the Russians. After the war, he was employed by the C.I.A., working under cover in Soviet emigre organizations based in Berlin and was eventually taken on" -- and here the article quoted Angleton directly -- "'as a full-fledged intelligence officer.'" 
Referring to Golitsin without naming him, Angleton said that a high-level KGB man had defected and alerted American counterintelligence, which became convinced that the CIA operative in question was a Soviet agent. Again paraphrasing Angleton, the interview continued: "Ultimately, through a number of clumsy bureaucratic actions, the suspect was able to avoid prosecution and, as far as Mr. Angleton knew, lived quietly in the Washington area. 'The man was a genius,' Mr. Angleton recalled with genuine professional respect."
The reference to "clumsy bureaucratic actions" may have been Angleton's way of saying that the FBI had been unable to build a case against, or arrest, Igor Orlov. Angleton's conviction of Orlov's guilt was undoubtedly reinforced by information provided to American intelligence in 1985 by the controversial defector Vitaly Yurchenko.
Yurchenko, a high-ranking KGB man in charge of operations in the United States and Canada, defected in August 1985. Before he redefected in November he provided a great deal of information to the CIA and the FBI, some of which proved accurate. Yurchenko identified Orlov as a Soviet agent. Moreover, in a statement that threw both agencies into a tailspin, he announced that Orlov had recruited one or more of his sons as a Soviet spy.
On Saturday, January 9, 1988, a whole new generation of FBI agents, none of whom remembered the investigation twenty-three years earlier, descended on the Gallery Orlov in Alexandria. Simultaneously, other FBI agents in Chicago and Boston fanned out and called on Orlov's two sons, George and Robert, in their suburban homes.
George Orlov, the younger of the two Orlov sons, remembered the agents coming to his home in Hinsdale, Illinois, that afternoon. A physicist and a nuclear engineer who once held a "Q" clearance, Orlov was working as a private consultant on nuclear power plants when the FBI came calling.
"They knocked on the door -- the bell doesn't work -- in the early afternoon," he said. "There were two agents, Vincente M. Rosado, he is Cuban, an ex-state trooper out West, and Steven Vass. They flash their ID, and announce, 'FBI. We'd like to talk to you.'"
"I've been expecting you," Orlov replied. 
"I invited them in and they said, 'We'd like to ask a few questions, but we'd rather not do it here. We have a place we'd like to take you.' We hop into their little blue Celica, drive to the Hyatt Regency in Oak Brook, and go to this nice suite. They had rented several suites.
"At the hotel they say they think I'm a Soviet agent. I said, 'Why am I working as a management consultant instead of in the technical field, missiles, something the Russians would be interested in?'" Both George and his brother, Robert, a computer expert, had graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but in 1988 neither was engaged in defense work.
The FBI continued to question George Orlov. "They offer me lunch, I ordered up a Cobb salad. They say, 'There's something we have to show you.' So they showed me a transcript and said it was Yurchenko. They said it was a transcript of Yurchenko saying that my father had recruited my brother and myself.
"It was about five pages long. It said there's a Russian agent working for us, his name is Igor Orlov, he has a frame shop, he has two sons, both of whom went to schools in the Northeast, the sons are technically oriented, he recruited them, they're working for us. He gave vague descriptions of what Robert did and I did. He said that I travel a lot. 
"Then they played the tape. He (Yurchenko] spoke in broken English, very halting English, that's why they gave me the transcript, so I could hear it and follow along at same time. I don't know if it was Yurchenko, but they said it was.
"I don't know if my jaw dropped, but mentally my jaw dropped. I looked at them in disbelief. I said this guy is confused, this is a mistake. I'll do anything I can to clear it up."
The FBI agents then asked George why Yurchenko had made these statements. There were "maybe a couple of reasons," George told the FBI men. "To keep the FBI busy investigating a family that wasn't agents. Maybe to divert from real spies. I'd read a little bit about Angleton in the sixties, and I knew how a couple of words could tie us up in knots.
"They had questions. 'Why did I go to Canada in 1978?' 'To plan an experiment on a research reactor.' 'Why did I go running at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton?' I was visiting my in-laws -- they live in Princeton -- in the mid-eighties. Apparently they followed me and found red and blue nylon strings tied to a fence post along the trail."
The FBI suspected that the nylon strings were signals that George Orlov had left for a Soviet agent. "They asked, 'You didn't put them there?' 'No.' 'You didn't know there was a Soviet scholar named so-and-so in one of the compounds?' 'No.' They said when I went for a run near Hinsdale, I crossed a bridge over a little creek, and they found some white chalk marks on the bridge. They had it chemically analyzed and figured it was surveyor's chalk, and since I was working on a construction site at the time at a nuclear power plant, they figured it was me. Of course, our surveyors use paint."
That was about the point in the interview when the FBI accused George of having received "the sign of life" from a KGB agent. It had happened when George came East and visited his mother. "I went running in Washington, and afterward I went up to the third floor of the gallery. They saw I came to the window wearing the same red jogging suit. They said they had traced some Russian spy out of the embassy who was walking up and down across the street and making the 'sign of life.' I said, 'What does that mean?' They explained that a sign of life was letting me know, 'We're around, we're still here.' They showed me the Russian's picture -- had I ever seen him before? No. They thought my driving habits were suspicious. They thought that I kept losing them, a technique used by people who are professionally trained to lose tails. At the time I had a 911 Porsche Carrera and I was driving it fast. I was not aware that I was being followed.
"They asked me if my father was a spy. I said I didn't know. They showed me a lot of pictures of people they believed had come into the gallery -- did I know these people? I said no."
More than two decades after the FBI had first searched the gallery, "they were still trying to uncover people who had visited the gallery. They asked, 'Who were his friends, who were his acquaintances?' Basically, they said they are still looking today for people who might have been associated with my father or who my father might have converted, turned. They firmly believed I was a Russian agent. My father had converted me."
The FBI also questioned George Orlov about a trip he had made to San Diego, the headquarters of Science Applications, Inc., where he had worked seven years earlier. "They do management of defense contracts. They were prime contractors for SDI, the Star Wars program, in the early 1980s."
The FBI had little choice, of course, but to take Yurchenko's information seriously. An important defector, the KGB official in charge of North America, had said that Igor Orlov, the man at the very heart of the CIA mole hunt two decades earlier, was a Soviet agent and had recruited one or more of his sons. Once Yurchenko had made that statement, the FBI was obliged to follow up by interviewing Orlov's sons.
Nor was the FBI's concern about George Orlov's previous work surprising, since after graduating from MIT in 1977 he worked for a time for a defense contractor who was developing instruments to measure the accuracy of ballistic missiles. 
After playing the Yurchenko tape and questioning George Orlov, the FBI agents asked if he would be willing to take a lie-detector test. Orlov agreed. "We went into another room, where they bring out two experts from Washington. They hooked me up and started asking questions. Did I speak Russian? I said, 'Da, nyet, maybe do svidaniya.' I don't speak Russian at all. They asked eight questions over and over again in various order. 'Is your name George Orlov? Are you working for the Soviet government? Did you ever give secrets to the Russians?' 'No.' One question I took issue with: 'Did your father recruit you?' They asked me that over and over again. I said, 'No.' It took an hour and a half. They told me I passed on seven of the eight questions. They got an anomalous response on 'did my father recruit me.' I told them the question was insulting to me. My father wouldn't do that, if he loved me, he obviously wouldn't do that. He had always told me, 'Don't get involved with the government, with the CIA. The American CIA are a bunch of no-good, unprofessional people.' He said they are a bunch of kids right out of prep school, 'cowboys without honor.' When he found I had applied to the Defense Intelligence Agency after college, he said, 'You don't want to work for them, or any of the intelligence services.'
"Recruiting me -- you can't be a loving father if you recruit your own children and put them in harm's way. It pissed me off. [FBI agent] Rosado had told me his father escaped Castro's Cuba. I said to him, 'How would you like it if I told you your father was a Commie and said your father recruited you to work for Castro.' He said, 'I'd be pretty pissed off.' They said they would take the results back to Washington and they would be in contact.
"We went to dinner that night. They were playing good guy, bad guy. Rosado was the good guy, he seemed honestly friendly. After all the things they thought I was doing, I think they realized I wasn't a big bad Soviet agent. At first, they were ready to lock me up and throw away the key."
His father, George Orlov said, "voted for Nixon. He was a conservative as far as conversation around the dinner table went. He worked twelve to sixteen hours a day. He believed people should work for what they get, no handouts. How Republican can you get? My wife is a Harvard-educated liberal and I'm a conservative. I'm to the right of Attila the Hun."
Igor Orlov, George said, had never spoken to him of the Soviet Union. "He never talked about his life there, or about the war. To this day I don't know who my grandparents were on my father's side. I haven't seen it, but my mother told me I have a false birth certificate, doctored by the CIA. That I was born under a false name.
"I'm not going to tell you my father is or isn't a spy, but I don't know. In 1963 I was six years old and had no reason to believe he was a spy. I had no reason to believe he was a spy anytime after that. He seldom left the shop, he never met with anyone. I know he had very few friends -- he was almost a recluse. I didn't see him recruiting people, I didn't see him trying to cultivate people."
Robert Orlov, who lived with his wife in Sudbury, Massachusetts, declined to comment on the FBI interview, but Richard Laurent, a close friend who grew up in Alexandria with him, said he had visited Robert around the time of the FBI inquiry. He described Robert as "pretty mad" because the investigation was taking up a lot of time and energy.
He remembered that Robert Orlov had been suspicious of a nearby vacant house, apparently believing he was being watched from it. Laurent said Robert turned up the stereo so they could talk. "He thought they might have a directional mike."
Robert Orlov told him some of the questions the FBI had asked, Laurent said. "'Isn't it true you're a photographer?' 'Yes.' 'Isn't it true you're a pilot?' 'Yes.' 'Then what's to stop you from taking pictures over Portsmouth Naval Base in New Hampshire?'
"They kept asking him the same questions over and over again. At one point, he told them, 'It's no wonder the Walkers and the Pollards did so well, because you wasted this time going after me instead of the real spies.'"
For Eleonore Orlov, the FBI visit in 1988 was, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, deja vu all over again. By now, she was an experienced hand at FBI investigations. "They came on Saturday, January 9, 1988, about five P.M.," she said. "There were two FBI agents, they gave me their cards, Stephanie P. Gleason and Charles K. Sciarini. The woman was twenty-five and the man was maybe twenty-nine. There were very young, friendly. They showed up and said what Yurchenko said, and I couldn't believe it. They had no warrant. They asked to search the house." The agents, she recalled, said they were looking for "a lot of money, and some equipment. A shortwave radio transmitter. I said the only radio we had was a Grundig and it was burned in the fire. We had a fire in January of 1987.
"They tried to dig up the backyard. They asked, 'Did your husband ever dig in the backyard? What did he dig for?' I said by a tree, for burying our cat. 'Where?' I said, 'Look, it's just a dead cat.' It was already eleven o'clock at night. They searched for five hours, opened all the drawers, found his wallet, credit cards, and took everything with them. They took a binder with my husband's English lessons. A grammar book. They left at midnight."
Her son George had called from Chicago the next morning to report his FBI visit. "Georgie said, 'Tell them everything you know about Papa. You know what they can do with me. They can put me in prison and throw away the key for twelve years and no one would ever hear from me.'
"When the FBI came to see Robert," Mrs. Orlov continued, "he said, 'Do you guys have a warrant? No? Make an appointment.' 'We can come in now,' they said, 'it's a matter of national security.' They stopped him outside his house. 'Let's call my congressman,' he said. No answer. He had just come back from sledding with his daughter."
On Sunday morning, Eleonore Orlov called her old friend Fred Tansey, the former FBI agent. "I called Mr. Tansey and said, 'I don't think these people are for real -- can you find out if they are real FBI agents?' He was here in five minutes. He said, 'Come in my car.' We drove for two hours in his car. He said, 'The best thing is to call the two agents and talk more. You have to convince them the children are not agents. Forget your husband, whatever he did he paid ten thousand times.' He called the FBI on his car phone. It was Sunday and he asked for Gleason and Sciarini. Both were in church, but they were beeped and called him back, and he said, 'I'm a friend of Eleonore Orlov and I'm sitting here in the parking lot of the courthouse in Alexandria in a black car. Please meet me there. And show me your ID.'
"In half an hour, Sciarini came in a big station wagon with the baby seat still there. He got out and said, 'I'm Sciarini and I'm working for the FBI.' Tansey said, 'If you ever go in their house, she will sue you. You ruined their business. You did this twenty-five years ago. If you would like to talk to Mrs. Orlov, go to a hotel or anyplace, but not her house.'
"They made a reservation for the Holiday Inn. I went to the hotel. Gleason and Sciarini met us there and they started asking me about Berlin, who I met, and they started showing me pictures. They showed me a lot of pictures of people, did you meet this guy or that guy. They showed me pictures of both Kozlov and Mrs. Kozlov. After all those years I didn't recognize them. I had worked with her in the censorship office, but that was thirty years ago. They wanted to know a lot about Kozlov. I only knew my husband hated him, that's all I could say.
"They came back on Tuesday to the basement and went through the children's things. They came back in blue jeans -- I warned them the basement was full of soot and oil, from the fire. They went through games, toys. They packed everything in big cartons. I'm a citizen since '76. Sasha became a citizen in 1971, approximately. They said, 'We don't need a search warrant. This is a matter of national security.'
"It was eerie. It was like a bad dream. They asked if my husband did carpentry during the restoring of the house. He could have put in some secret compartments. I asked, 'Could he? For what?' 'For the money he got from the Russians.' They said they were looking for a place where Sasha could hide hundreds of thousands of dollars. I said, 'Let's search for it. May I help you? For whom did he hide it? He would have told me, he knew he was dying.'
"They came to the gallery twice a week for three months. The FBI found no money, no secret compartments, no clues. Finally, I agreed to a polygraph. They got me -- they said, 'If you do a lie-detector test for us we will leave your boys alone for twenty years.' 'And if I don't?' They just smiled. But I got the message.
"Thirty years ago, when I took the polygraph in Germany, before I started the letter-translating business they gave me one. It was the first time I worked for the CIA. The CIA asked sex questions which bothered me. So I made one condition, no sex questions."
The polygraph took place in the Morrison House, an Alexandria hotel. "There was a polygraph operator from New York and Gleason and Sciarini. The polygraph took place in the bedroom, five hours, from six to eleven p.m. Gleason and Sciarini were in the living room. They asked twenty-seven questions. 'Was your husband a spy for Soviets? Did he have connections with KGB?' And so on. 'Why did Robert take flying lessons?' I said, 'He liked it.'"
And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. The FBI faded away, and the Orlov sons resumed their normal lives. Eleonore went back to running the gallery. It kept her busy, but sometimes at dusk, when the last customer had gone, and there were only the cats to keep her company, she had time to wonder whether she would ever know the truth about the man she had met on streetcar No. 8 in Schwabing a lifetime ago.
James Angleton never lived to see the second unsuccessful investigation of Sasha, his nemesis. On the morning of May 11, 1987, he died of lung cancer at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington at the age of sixty-nine.
He was mourned by his friends, if not by his enemies. But even those who admired him the most, and there were many, seemed to realize that his obsession with moles and his fascination with Anatoly Golitsin had become a fatal flaw.
Rolfe Kingsley, who had taken over the Soviet division at the height of the mole hunt, had valued his close relationship with Angleton and admired him personally as a Renaissance man. But even Kingsley saw Angleton's limits. "Jim was one of the most brilliant officers I've ever worked with until Golitsin appeared," he said. "I won't say any more."
Mrs. Angleton shared Kingsley's view. She told a former CIA station chief, who had known her husband well, that in part she blamed Richard Helms: "The worst thing that happened to Jim was Golitsin. Why didn't Dick take him away from him?"
They held the memorial service on Friday, May 15, at the Rock Spring Congregational Church in Arlington. There were hymns and scripture readings, and the poet Reed Whittemore, Angleton's old friend and Yale roommate, gave a reading from T. S. Eliot. The closing hymn was "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."
Daniel Schorr, who had interviewed Angleton for four hours thirteen years earlier and had had some contact with the former counterintelligence chief since then, decided to attend the service. He was struck by the fact that no one had spoken about Angleton's life and work.
Walking up the aisle afterward, Schorr remarked, to no one in particular, "Gee, there was no eulogy."
Someone in front of Schorr turned around and snapped: "It's classified."
1. David Binder, "A Counterspymaster's View: Assessing Intelligence Breaches," New York Times, Apri1 10, 1987, p. A18.
2. Orlov was never a CIA officer. He was always a contract employee of the agency.
3. Orlov said he had been expecting the FBI because "they left a trail." The FBI ran a credit check, he said, and he discovered that when he applied for a mortgage; and "one day my mail came along with a xerox copy of two pieces of mail addressed to me. So it was obvious somebody was copying my mail. Then two days later the actual pieces of mail came in. The third clue was my brother had noticed he was being followed. He ran a check on the license plates and found they were FBI vehicles. This was just a few weeks before."
4. Igor Orlov had died six years earlier, and Yurchenko should have known this. Had he really spoken of Orlov as a current agent? "He said they have an agent in the U.S. with an art gallery," George Orlov replied, "but I don't remember whether he used the past or present tense. There was no doubt he was talking about us. I remember he did not say my father was no longer alive, he made no reference to that. He definitely did not say he is no longer working for us, or he has died. His grammar was not the best in the world, so it could be that explains it."
5. "We were looking for ways to measure the ablation of nose cones as they reentry," he said. "The burning off of the nose cone material. You want to know the shape of the nose cone because it will tell you the course of the reentry vehicle. You will know your CEP [Circular Error Probable, a measure of ballistic-missile accuracy]. The better you know the shape, the more accurate the reentry vehicle."