The Manhattan 11 – CIA False-Flag Operations ?
by Trowbridge H. Ford
As the Cold War was ending, the scientific establishments of Moscow and Beijing were most desirous of letting the world know what they had been able to achieve regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) since their inception.
They invited Danny Stillman, the former director of the Technical Intelligence Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to visit Chinese facilities on many occasions, and former Soviet ones once in December 1991.
His hosts were most eager to let the world know what they had been able to achieve on their own in these various fields.
However, Washington was not only most interested to learn for itself what had been accomplished, but also engage in a good bit of spying to be on the safe side regarding current relations with the world powers which were seemingly losing much of their expansive punch.
Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates had just been confirmed to make sure that Washington was finally up to speed about their remaining potential. The world’s only superpower, though, could not be complacent about what the future might have in store.
While Stillman’s visits to China were by far the main interest of President Bush’s decision-makers, his single trip to Russia was not without importance, especially if Moscow’s counterparts were to revert, it seems, to their former Soviet ways.
The Soviet Union had just experienced the previous summer the hardliners’ unsuccessful coup, led by KGB Chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, to save it despite Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, and President Boris Yeltsin did not manage to fully secure power until he defeated Vice President General Alexander Rutskoi and parliamentary speaker Russlan Khasbulatov in their attempt to seize power.
This was do to his calling in Vladimir Putin and remnants of the security services to help out.
No one could be sure how the struggle would finally work out, and whether it could provide serious problems for the West. After all, it was because of a lack of similar concern when Josef Stalin was gaining power that the original Cold War developed.
Thomas Reed, in telling of Stillman’s Russian visit the following December in The Nuclear Express, juxtaposed it with the meeting Yeltsin and the new elected Presidents of the Ukraine and Belarus were holding in Brest to finally abolish the Soviet Union.
It was there that Leon Trotsky signed the armistice with the Germans back in 1918 which started the Bolsheviks on their way to world power.
Regarding the substance of the meeting that Stillman had with former Soviet nuclear physicists, Reed took some liberties in discussing the role of his host, Yuliy Khariton, acting as if he was the grand old man of the Soviet atomic project when, in fact, he was only dragged into it by its real father, Igor Kurchatov, and had outlived many on its more important scientists.
“He wanted recognition for all,” Reed explained,” including credit to certain Americans for unknowingly giving help, but he also wanted to mark the boundary between espionage and Soviet science, and he wanted to be the one who drew that line.” (p. 27)
Reed then reported that Khariton only admitted that German physicist Klaus Fuchs had helped the Soviets in designing their atomic bomb, adding quite erroneously that Fuchs was sending messages by “…the Greenglass-Rosenberg courier system” (p. 30) – obviously to implicate the executed couple in the most serious Soviet espionage when his handler was chemist Joseph Arnold Robbins aka Raymond. (Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, The Rosenberg File, p. 21)
Communist physicists Ted Hall, George Koval and several other unnamed spies of various sorts were mentioned to remind Khariton of what dedicated Americans had contributed to Moscow’s program.
“Thus,” Reed added, “the Soviet claim that Fuchs ‘was our only spy’ remains an article of Soviet cant, but it is not true.” (p. 32)
Then, when it came time for the Soviets to come up with their own thermonuclear bomb, he added sarcastically, they showed the same “impeccable physical intuition” (p. 37), so characteristic of Kurchatov’s secret work, in discovering radiation implosion to trigger one which they had shown in coming up with a successful atomic bomb in the first place.
Reed got so carried away by the level of Soviet spying – what really got nuclear proliferation started – that he invented one, the alleged efforts of a Mr. Arthur Fielding (code name PERSEUS), another alleged American spy at Los Alamos who kept Moscow abreast of nuclear developments for years, only suspending connections for a few years because apparently of so many of his fellow spies being caught, and the Cold War really getting started.
PERSEUS, well-connected to all the American nuclear scientists like Edward Teller and Stanislaus Ulam assigned to build a thermonuclear, was allegedly obliged to rejoin KGB spying efforts by playing up to his vanity, offering financial rewards, threatening him with exposure, and the like.
Thanks to his spying, Teller, according to Stillman and Reed, became the father of both the American and Soviet H-bombs.(p. 41) Moreover, Andrei Sakharov did not originate the two-stage, radiation-imploded, thermonuclear bomb – only thought it worth looking into – what seasoned Soviet physicists German Goncharov and Lev Feoktistsov apparently corroborated – though Reed did not consider the possibility that they were just telling him tales to make him feel superior.
The same goes for Stillman and Reed accepting Lona Cohen’ s deathbed confession to KGB operative Anatoly Yatsov aka Anatoly Yakovlev that PERSEUS was recruited by her husband Morris, and was indeed, the Soviet spy working all those years at Los Alamos. (p. 30, n. 10)
The claim is obviously intended to make former communist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the chief science advisor to and one-time director of the Atomic Energy Commission, and the vigorous opponent of building any H-bomb, America’s chief traitor, but there are all kinds of problems with doing so.
The Cohens almost certainly did not recruit him, as books on Venona with this title by Nigel West (pp. 175-6), and John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr (pp. 317-21) show, and whose identity the Russians are most committed to keeping secret even now.
The apparent reason is that PERSEUS was a far more effective spy than Oppenheimer ever could have been, though he would have been a great catch, and the disclosure of this true identity would have been a great embarrassment to the West, especially the special arrangement between Washington and London.
PERSEUS, it seems, is Peter Wright aka ‘K’ and SCOTT, the one-time Oxford recruiter in the days leading up to WWII.
He became so well-established by the time Germany invaded the Soviet Union, thanks to his discovery of the way to demagnetize ships against torpedoes, that he had access to all the secrets of the Manhattan Project in Britain.
Recently, a memo, dated July 1941, by KGB chief Vsevolod Merkulov was found, identifying SCOTT as civil servant Arthur Wynn, but this was just a convenient cover for Wright.
His candidacy for the role had always been Wynn (Spy Catcher, pp. 265-7) – who the Soviets hoped would soon be rejoining them as ‘K’ since the Non-Aggression Pact with the Nazis was over.
It was while he was working with Gordon Lonsdale’s spy ring well after the war’s end that he got to know of the Cohens, then known as the Krogers, and now his courier for stolen material, and little wonder that Lona finally did what her Soviet masters wanted by not revealing his identity.
[Editor’s Note: Heritage TV has a one hour studio show with Harvey Klehr on Venona and we hope to have highlights of it posted on VT and linked to this article as we bring our video archive material on board. Jim W. Dean]
In the process, Moscow was doing Britain a favor by not divulging his identity, and Reed and Stillman took advantage of the gap at Oppenheimer’s apparent expense.
Stillman still kept up the threat of Wright’s possible exposure by reporting to the FBI in Santa Fe in the mid-1990s his suspicions about PERSUES but the investigation of him soon got sidetracked by the Bureau checking on another Stillman charge of communist spying – that allegedly of Los Alamos’s Wen Ho Lee for the Chinese (p. 38).
Certainly, PERSEUS could not have been Oppenheimer since he was long dead, and Stillman said that the Soviet spy was still alive. Peter Wright was still alive.
After PERSEUS finally died, Stillman and Reed still refused to identify who they thought he was “…since he can neither defend his family nor refute our arguments…” Then one can only wonder why they did make the claims while he was still alive, and they then incredibly added:
“The actual identity of PERSEUS does not matter – his fingerprints are what count.” The point seems to be to make people a bit paranoid about the possibility of spying
If anyone has any doubts about their believing that other unidentified Americans are still spying for Moscow in large numbers – what continues to fuel the runaway nuclear express which is threatening the destruction of the civilized world, they should just read more carefully what they have written.
When Stillman and Reed were making their farewells from Moscow, Khariton still repeating the alleged myth that only Fuchs had helped it with its program, they reminded readers that he “…also neglected to mention Khrushchev‘s decision, in April 1957, to pass on Khariton’s sophisticated nuclear technology to the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) an aid package that was to include an atomic bomb.”(p. 44)
For anyone who had any doubts about where this could lead, they said this at the book’s outset: “Certain parts of the Chinese government may have decided it would be in their best interest to accept, or even encourage, multiple nuclear events (or wars) within the Western world: thus the apparent Chinese tolerance of North Korean, Pakistani, and Iranian nuclear ambitions.” (p. 4.)
To meet this apparent threatening challenge, Stillman and Reed urged the West, especially Washington, to gear up for a new Cold War with its new enemies.
The Presidents of the United States and Russia must see that existing safeguards against nuclear proliferation are observed.
Their scientists, engineers, and technicians must not be allowed to obstruct, divert, or interfere with the process. There must be no return of either Maoists or Leninists to positions of power in either China or Russia.
To know what is really on the minds of our new enemies, the American intelligence community must know that it “…can only be accomplished on the ground, with great effort, training, and by the recruitment of Muslim and North Korean agents in place.” (p. 327)
America needs, according to them, a good, independent DCI – unlike what it has received from recent, politically-minded ones. “Divisive efforts,” they concluded, “will surely bring about the greatest train wreck in the history of mankind.(p. 330)
The trouble with these Cassandra-like calls is not that they have been ignored but rather that they have been taken too seriously.
Since Obama’s election as President, Washington has essentially done what they called for – e. g., using its vast lead in space weapons to help stop nuclear proliferation, increasing dramatically the funding of its intelligence community and seeing that the Director of National Intelligence gets out of the covert intelligence business.
This put a new emphasis upon humint and a DCI who will see to its use in spades, attempting to determine what important possible adversaries are thinking about doing and developing networks to learn how what has been decided is being executed, etc.
Of course, these are admirable aims – what almost all intelligence communities have contended they were doing – but they must be done in the right context, and with a due sense of proportion.
A go-for-broke mentality – where anything goes, cost is not an important consideration, all kinds of agencies to do it, and there is no concern about unexpected blowback – can only lead to more and more unexpected surprises.
These operations are carried out in the real world – not some secure laboratory – and the more they are engaged in, the more America’s opponents will see what is going on, and adopt appropriate countermeasures.
In the post-Soviet period, the alarms raised against Moscow et al.- what Stillman and Reed have almost made an avocation of – have generally proven quite overblown. Weapons systems – whether they be missiles, nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction, and the whereabouts of scientists who know how to make and use them – have often been overstated, and when finally determined, the Cassandras only come up with new claims, like Putin being a kind of intelligence dictator.
While he is no Hitler, they remind readers, “…he does describe the dissolution of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century’.” (p. 200)
The latest scare, according to Stillman’s and Reed’s “highly placed Russian sources” (p. 200), is Moscow’s development of domes of light which will incapacitate intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) by nonnuclear means while still outside the atmosphere, and well away from their intended targets, rendering the INF treaty meaningless.
They even included photographs of these mysterious light rays to help raise alarm about what they say the Russians are up to.
Little wonder that the Agency began focusing its intelligence gathering on such mysterious projects, hoping through efforts in Russia and China especially, and through talent-hunting for potential spies in the States, Washington could determine what was afoot.
It was the Soviets’ Great Illegal agents during the 1930s – such as Arnold Deutsch who was so successful in recruiting Cambridge University graduates, Nazi-posing journalist Richard Sorge who gave Stalin just what he needed to know about what the Japanese were planning before Pearl Harbor,
And it was Ruth Kuczinski, aka SONYA, who recruited the Oxford spies, especially Fuchs and Wright – who gave the Soviets such insights into what they might be facing, and what they must do if they hoped to prevail.
Illegals, particularly due to their talent-hunting, have a long-range potential which no other spies can match.
Of course, the problems are finding ones in the right places, who are willing and able to do the job, and will always be most careful about their role, particularly not saying anything unnecessary to those recruited.
A ‘false-flag’ one is an easier job, at least at first, as it is easy to misrepresent who one is really working for, and to entice naive youngsters, eager to try out something exciting with few questions asked.
This, it seems, is what happened with the Manhattan 11, a group recruited by the Agency in Russia while largely youths. under the impression that they would be on the lookout for SVR illegals in West, working for the mysterious Putin people, while living comfortable lives there, particularly in the USA.
The paymaster was Christopher Metsos who received considerable funds from his alleged Russian handler, and buried it in a Northern Virginia park for his agents to retrieve. Richard Murphy, husband of fellow spy Cynthia, then dug up a good bit of it, and took it to New Jersey where Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, living near the Agency’s headquarters in Northern Virginia, went to pick up sizeable sums, and valuable assets on at least four occasions.
They, and Michael Semenko, conveniently turned themselves in to US authorities when they heard of other arrests.
Another Russian in Cambridge stole the identity of Canadian Donald Heathfield – what Soviet agents like Colonel Rudolf Abel aka Gordon Lonsdale and Colonel Vasili Gordievsky had used to such great advantage – and spoke to an employee of the US government about nuclear weapons research in 2005, alerting the Bureau to his bogus status as so many false Canadian passports were being used then by covert agencies, especially the Mossad.
I must add that this all reminds me of what was intended to happen two years ago when I went to California to help in the rehabilitation of my girl friend’s son.
This, according to the Agency, was just a pretext for my going to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to learn what was going on there from employees and/or calling or visiting Reed himself who lives in nearby Healdsburg to discuss the latest in America’s nuclear weapons research.
An alleged woman spy in the Manhattan 11 case, Peruvian-born journalist Vicky Pelaez, was offered a £1,300 monthy stipend, and a chance to live the rest of her life in Russia by apparently recruiting her husband, retired CUNY Baruch College Professor Jaun Lagaro, as a fellow spy, but he successfully denied the charge, and his wife refused the offer.
Last but not least, this group’s alleged Mata Hari was Anna Chapman, who is as likely to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine than in any intelligence agency. It all seems much lost time, trouble and expense for absolutely nothing.
To top it all off, domestic paymaster Metsos, the only operator who could shed serious light on the whole matter, jumped his puny bail after having been arrested in Cyprus, and has gone ever since conveniently missing.
As spy games go, the whole operation was a success, with Moscow having to go along with the set up for fear to becoming the world’s laughing stock if it didn’t, though it still only acknowledged originally that all but one of the alleged spies were Russians.
In return, Washington received back four of its own real, low-level spies. In strategic terms, though, it just caused more problems than it solved. Washington is still having to pay a price in the long run for making such an essentially pointless mess.
And to prevent this, the FBI just posted yesterday a video of its most belated, decade-long surveillance of the eleven spies.
What is really interesting, though, is that all the encounters are shown with the alleged Russian spies, particularly Chapman, Murphy and Metsos, clearly shown while only the backs or the blurred faces of their handlers or contacts are shown.
It would seem most telling if they were really Russian agents in Washington or at the UN who were involved in making the drops, and picking up others. It would prove most embarrassing and difficult for those in Moscow.
Instead it is just more disinformation by the Bureau to suit the making of Russian spies by the CIA, especially while Leon Panetta was DCI, like all those stories about sexy Anna getting all those top jobs and publicity for being a Mata Hari who Putin was obliged to take back under his wing.
He must still be laughing
… editing by Yanira Farry and Jim W. Dean
Trowbridge Ford (1929 – 2021) was the son of William Wallace Ford, the father of the US Army’s Grasshoppers.
He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, and Columbia University where he received a Ph.D. in political science after a stint in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps as a draftee during the Korean War, and after being discharged, worked as the sports editor and a reporter for the now-defunct Raleigh Times.
Thought academia was the thing for him. He was quite satisfied teaching all kinds of courses about European and American politics while writing his dissertation about an under-appreciated British politician, Henry Brougham, who became the Lord Chancellor of the famous Reform Government (1830-34).
At the same time, Trowbridge became most interested in the role that A. V. Dicey, a famous Oxford legal professor, played in settling the Irish question – another figure that historians didn’t think did much about. It was while he was doing research on the dissertation at the British Museum in London that President Kennedy was assassinated, and it slowly led him to take a dimmer view of academic life, especially when joined by campus protests over the growing Vietnam War. He was fired by two institutions of higher learning because of his protests against the war.
When the Vietnam War finally ended, he got involved in researching the Dallas assassination, and his first serious efforts about it appeared in Tom Valentine’s The National Exchange in 1978 – what Fletcher Prouty thought was quite good, just urging him to go higher in the Agency and the political world for the main culprits.
He slowly started doing this, ultimately deciding to retire early in 1986, planning on finishing his Brougham biography while living in Portugal. While he did this, he had made too many enemies with the White House not to be punished – first by attempts to establish that he maliciously tried to destroy Richard Nixon during Watergate by libeling him, and when he died, DCI George Tenet tried to have me killed by poisoning – what would make his death look like a suicide or a natural one.
As a result of this, once he had finally determined the cause, he moved to Sweden to not only save his skin but also investigate and write about assassinations, covert operations, ‘false flag’ deceptions, preventive wars, weapons development, and their use, etc. He passed away in 2021.
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