CIA Pioneer Helped Revive Agency's Soviet Division

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rolfe Kingsley, 91, a CIA grandee who helped revive the agency's troubled Soviet division in the late 1960s after a paranoia-fueled molehunt had decimated morale, died Feb. 25 at Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville. He had cancer.

Mr. Kingsley was among the earliest employees of the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II precursor to the CIA where he distinguished himself in operations in the Middle East and in Germany.

He joined the Central Intelligence Agency after its formation in 1947 and served the directorate of operations in Turkey and as chief of the European division, among other prominent Cold War assignments.

The Soviet division he inherited in 1968 was in shambles, he said. He faulted James J. Angleton, the agency's powerful chief of counterintelligence who was convinced a double agent existed in the division and passed along valuable information to the Soviets.

Angleton's fears were encouraged by KGB defector Anatoly M. Golitsin, who sent the CIA on a highly destructive hunt for an alleged Soviet mole within its own ranks. Many careers were destroyed by Golitsin, whose reliability was increasingly found dubious.

"When I took over, the place had simply quit working," Mr. Kingsley told Mangold in the book "Cold Warrior." "The division, the heart and soul of the CIA, simply wasn't functioning, it was only going through the motions. . . . The atmosphere was one of defeat. The morale had been beaten down by the Golitsin thing."

"The molehunt was still continuing after four years, and we were getting the blame for everything," Mr. Kingsley added. "Every time a new Soviet defector came along and said he had seen such and such in Moscow, it was invariably assumed that the information had leaked from the division. But this simply was not the case."

Mr. Kingsley became a leading voice working to discredit Golitsin in favor of a far-more-reliable defector named Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko.

Mr. Kingsley planted serious doubts about Golitsin with CIA director Richard Helms after the defector had played down concerns about Soviet intentions toward Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Golitsin had reportedly claimed the Russian military maneuvers were merely an effort to draw the West into conflict. The inability to better predict the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that August proved one of the worst U.S. intelligence failures of the era, according to a hearing later conducted by the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Kingsley said he eventually persuaded Helms to shut off Angleton's access to the Soviet division reports -- a major blow to Angleston's credibility.

The chief of counterintelligence was dismissed a few years later on grounds of domestic spying. Meanwhile, Mr. Kingsley retired in 1973 after serving in a plum assignment as chief of station in London.

Rolfe Kingsley Jr., whose father was a surgeon, was born in Manhattan, N.Y., and graduated in 1939 from Yale University. During World War II, he served in the Marine Corps before joining the OSS. His honors included the CIA Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He spent much of his retirement in Haymarket with his wife of 59 years, Shirley "Tocky" Roadstrum. She died in 2004. A son, Rolfe, died in infancy. Survivors include a son, Scott Kingsley of Virginia.

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