CIA Cold Warrior Paul Garbler; Won Payment Over Loyalty Slur
Thursday, April 6, 2006
Paul Garbler, 88, a onetime star within the Central Intelligence Agency whose career slid amid accusations of disloyalty and who eventually won financial compensation for damage to his reputation, died March 19 at Tucson Medical Center in Arizona. He had leukemia.
A Navy dive-bomber pilot with an exemplary World War II record in the South Pacific, Mr. Garbler spent the late 1940s in naval intelligence and served briefly as personal pilot to the Korean Republic's first president, Syngman Rhee.
A decade into his CIA career, after stints in Berlin and Stockholm, he won a prestigious appointment in 1961 as the first chief of station in Moscow. He was officially listed as a "naval attache."
During this period, he was a handler of Lt. Col. Oleg Penkovsky, a Soviet military intelligence official who was regarded, before his subsequent unmasking and execution by the Russians, as one of the most important double agents in CIA and British intelligence history.
Then, with no apparent explanation, Mr. Garbler began a nine-year stretch in professional doldrums. He could not better his government ranking and was sidelined in his assignments, first to the CIA training center at Camp Peary, Va., and then as chief of station in Trinidad. The latter reportedly prompted him to shout an epithet at his boss before adding, "There are no Russians in the Caribbean!"
Mr. Garbler later told the intelligence-community historian David Wise that he was aware of "something weird" happening to his career. But at the time, he did not know the degree to which James J. Angleton, the agency's mysterious and powerful chief of counterintelligence, hoped to provoke him into retirement.
Unnerved by news of high-profile moles in the British secret service, Angleton was growing increasingly alarmed that a double agent existed in the CIA. He instigated an internal mole hunt under the code name HONETOL, a notorious operation that scuttled several careers, including Mr. Garbler's.
Angleton's fears were encouraged by KGB defector Anatoly M. Golitsin, who said a Soviet double agent existed -- one of Slavic background whose code name was Sasha and whose last name started with the letter K.
Though Mr. Garbler's name alone would have seemed to clear him, Angleton kept up his suspicions because of Mr. Garbler's earlier professional contacts.
Among them were Igor Orlov, a CIA contract agent whose allegiance Angleton questioned (and whose operational name began with K), and George Blake, a onetime tennis companion of Mr. Garbler's in South Korea who later ranked with Kim Philby as one of the most damaging of all British defectors.
While visiting Trinidad, a friend of Mr. Garbler's drunkenly spilled the reason for his career slump. Mr. Garbler was furious but also cautious about how to proceed, according to an account in "Cold Warrior," journalist Tom Mangold's book about the soon-discredited Angleton.
Before his retirement in the late 1970s, Mr. Garbler met with the newly appointed director of central intelligence, Adm. Stansfield Turner, who urged President Jimmy Carter to sign a bill that provided compensation to those whose careers had been unfairly damaged by charges of disloyalty.
Mr. Garbler, who also hired a lawyer to pursue the matter, offered testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee and was among those to reap a six-figure reward under the new law.
Paul Garbler was born to a Russian father and Polish mother in Newark, N.J., on Jan. 4, 1918. He finished high school before turning 14 and in 1938 graduated from the University of Florida.
Long settled in Tucson, he sold commercial real estate and self-published political thrillers, one called "The Wages of Treason."
His wife of 63 years, Florence Fitzsimmons Garbler, died in 2004.
Survivors include a daughter, Susan Kris of McLean; and two grandsons.