Kissinger’s Back-Door Diplomacy

Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s controversial secretary of state and national security adviser, has kept his most explosive secrets under wraps for three decades – despite the publication of lengthy memoirs and the release of two batches of his telephone conversations with President Richard Nixon. The first came out in January 1999 (covering September 1973 to January 1977) and the second, on February 11 this year.

The latest batch, 20,000 pages in all, covers phone calls from January 1969 until August 1974, when the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign.

The episodes bared include the secret opening to China, Vietnam War negotiations and the deals behind the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The National Archives in Washington announced that a year would be needed to review the new Kissinger papers and open them to the public.

Even then, not all the materials from those top-level exchanges will have been declassified.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly has drawn on its private archival materials – based on interviews conducted with intelligence and counterintelligence sources worldwide and long-running investigations – to fill in a few blanks with exclusive disclosures never before published.

We shall run these disclosures in two issues – starting this week.


1. A Secret Route to Beijing Revealed

Kissinger served Nixon from 1969 to 1974 as national security adviser, doubling as secretary of state from 1973 to 1977. A single document published in February 1999 is enough to expose Henry Kissinger’s willingness to trade US intelligence information for an opening to China. This willingness marked Kissinger’s signature style of diplomacy, practiced thereafter, which was based on his opening back-door and often clandestine routes for the sake of achieving his diplomatic goals.

This style was never completely replicated by any of his successors.

Dipping into DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Archive, we find Kissinger, a new White House broom in 1969, already practicing his innovative technique, unnoticed except by one Washington insider. James Jesus Angleton, already on his way out as legendary CIA counterintelligence chief, quickly caught on to Kissinger’s game.

“By 1969, Jim Angleton’s standing in the CIA was precarious. At the highest level, only the CIA Director Richard Helms continued to support the beleaguered counterintelligence chief, consulting him and seeking his advice on operational matters, assuring him of adequate budgeting for the division’s staff that now numbered 180 officers, and blocking off poaching forays against his territory by hostile department heads. But even Helms could not still the rising disaffection, the sneering allusions to famous eccentricities, the charges of mole mania.

The calls for his blood were so sustained that Angleton did not rule out a conspiracy between Langley insiders and certain figures on the White House staff.

Angleton’s suspicions homed in on four possible conspirators.

William Colby, still in Vietnam, but obviously on his way up the CIA career ladder, was an insider and a known rival. Outside conspirators could well include Henry Kissinger, who was at the time President Nixon’s assistant for national security affairs; General Alexander Haig, Kissinger’s senior military adviser and later his trusted right hand, and James Schlesinger, the acting director of the powerful Bureau of the Budget.

Henry Kissinger’s interest in Angleton’s departure was self-evident, as Jim Angleton explained to his close confidants and later to journalists in Washington and New York. The practice of counterintelligence and the endless hunt for moles ran contrary to the spirit of detente between the blocs that Kissinger was anxious to foster. To the last minute, Angleton stood by his claim that the CIA was riddled with hostile moles.

Yet the future secretary of state consistently denied he had any such motive. “I had nothing to do with the dismissal of Angleton,” he declared in more than one interview. Indeed he denied ever having any sort of dealings, or even having met with the counterintelligence chief in any of his White House positions, claiming he dealt only with CIA directors, whether Richard Helms, James Schlesinger or William Colby.

“Of central interest, however, is the fact that during this period, from 1969 up to the early seventies, Angleton habitually referred to Kissinger as a Soviet agent.

Daniel Schor, CBS TV Evening News, January 8, 1975, quoted him as saying that Kissinger was “objectively a Soviet agent.” (That quotation was repeated by Schor in his book Clearing the Air, pp. 134-136; Houghton Miffler, 1977).

Interestingly, Angleton left the logical continuation of his assertion unstated: “objectively a Soviet agent,” – but subjectively what?

Counterintelligence insiders concluded at the time that, subjectively speaking, the CIA counterintelligence chief did not regard Kissinger as a Soviet agent. Neither did the epithet reflect personal malice.

Those insiders attributed Angleton’s comment to his knowledge of Kissinger’s ongoing ties with senior a British agent who activated a young Polish double agent called Ryszard Kuklinski, who later climbed the ranks to colonel.

[During the darkest days of the Cold War, Kuklinski, a member of top Polish and Soviet military circles, passed 30,000 top-secret documents to the West, including Soviet plans in the event of a conventional war in Europe. In 1982, he defected to the United States, becoming known as Poland’s most famous Cold War era double agent. In 1998, Kuklinski returned home for the first time. In the interview he gave the Warsaw publication Magazin, that year, he claimed to have been one of the few who, as early as 1973, signed up with the CIA to tip the scales in favor of the United States’ victory in the Cold War and Poland’s liberation from Russian hegemony. This claim drew a mixed reception from his countrymen.

In 1969, however, Kuklinski’s existence was one of the darkest counterintelligence secrets in Washington, his name known to no one except for Angleton and Richard Helms.]

Angleton chose the term “Soviet agent” rather than the pejorative “Soviet spy” with care. For him, it applied to any US official consorting directly with a British intelligence agent and indirectly with a double spy, because of the very nature of this association. A double agent must hand over genuine Western intelligence to Moscow Center as the only coin for purchasing a qui pro quo from the KGB.

“Yet Angleton did not classify Kissinger as a double agent, but a diplomat who pirated counterintelligence tools to develop policy moves.

“The Nixon-Kissinger style of decision-making was known to be solitary, centralized and opaque. It segregated itself on principle from outside perspectives and government bureaucracies, including the intelligence apparatus.

“Kissinger deliberately developed private contacts and informants of his own, which he kept to himself. Along the way, he constantly skirted the faint line dividing secret diplomacy from illicit contacts with foreign agents. Angleton was certain that in his exchanges with foreign intelligence elements, the president’s national security adviser had crossed that line, not only procuring intelligence from Moscow, but also sending something back.

That belief was fortified by one particular episode in Kissinger’s back-door efforts to initiate a rapprochement with China as well as with the USSR. “

The White House records on the two channels are mostly closed, even though they led to President Nixon’s epic Ping-Pong Summit in Beijing in February 1972 and his historic Moscow visit in May. Neither have the transcripts of Kissinger’s secret preparatory talks in Beijing in 1971 and 1972 ever been released. Therefore, the following episode sees the light here for the first time:

“… the ground for the breakthrough with Beijing was laid by prior US-Chinese meetings in Warsaw, during which American concessions were made.

As far back as February 1970, the US ambassador to Poland, Walter Stoessel, promised his Chinese colleagues that American military bases in Taiwan would be reduced as the war tension in the Far East diminished. Although Stoessel was acting on his instructions, Kissinger omitted to mention this concession in his memoirs.

“The CIA’s distrust was aroused not so much by the concessions as by the choice of the Polish capital, of all places, for the top-secret US-Chinese discussions.

“At the time, 1969-1971, both the negotiating powers were at loggerheads with the Soviet Bloc. Warsaw, East Berlin and Moscow were the three main Soviet Bloc centers of espionage against both the United States and China. The atmosphere could not have been congenial. In fact, neither the KGB nor Polish military intelligence, WSW, would have taken their eyes or ears off the conferring diplomats.

But the choice of Warsaw did make sense if Ryszard Kuklinski, by then deputy head of Polish military intelligence, WSW, brokered Kissinger’s undercover line to Beijing.

“If that was the explanation, it meant that Kissinger had appropriated a top-secret CIA counterintelligence agent, while segregating the CIA from most of the ins and outs of the Nixon-Kissinger foreign transactions. “

Soon after his first trip to the Chinese capital, when he was still angling for Nixon’s visit to Beijing, Kissinger was reported in the first batch of transcripts released in 1999 as having met the Chinese UN ambassador and offering “whatever [satellite] information we have about the disposition of Soviet forces”.

“You don’t need a master spy,” Kissinger is quoted as saying. “We give you everything.”

Here, too, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Archive supplies the name of the “master spy”: Larry Wu-Tai Chin, with details of the long an extraordinarily versatile career of this triple agent, who was most probably the object of Kissinger’s oblique reference.

The existence of Chin, like Kuklinski, was among the darkest secrets of CIA counterintelligence.

[Larry Wu-Tai Chin stands out as possibly the longest-running triple agent in counterintelligence history. Employed by the CIA for 33 years with Top Secret clearance, he served Chinese intelligence from the time he was recruited in Shanghai in the early 1940s and later Moscow as well, working all three sides throughout the Cold War from the days of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He is believed to have supplied Chinese intelligence with countless photos of Top Secret CIA reports, handing them over to Chinese couriers in many places during his travels outside the United States on behalf of CIA counterintelligence.

On November 22, 1985, Chin was arrested and accused of spying for China for 33 years. Indicted on 17 counts, he claimed he had been acting in the name of reconciliation between China and the United States. Before his sentencing, the Chinese triple agent committed suicide in his cell.]

Thirty years before the latest Kissinger documents were released, the counterintelligence experts cited in DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Archives summed up Kissinger’s back-door diplomacy as follows:

“Henry Kissinger was perhaps the first American statesman this century to grasp the essential role of counterintelligence in the successful conduct of foreign policy. He therefore made resourceful use of counterintelligence tools to further his diplomatic objectives, and was successful enough to cover himself with great international esteem. For those tools to be effective, they had to be under his exclusive control. As presidential adviser and later secretary of state, he therefore cut himself off from Washington’s regular routes and initiated his own unconventional paths of communication to Moscow and Beijing. That those paths may have traversed the most secret Moscow-Washington avenues of counterintelligence did not bother him. If those routes legitimately linked the CIA’s counterintelligence chief to Moscow Center, he saw no reason why they should not be available to him.

(The second part of the Kissinger disclosures will appear in the next issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly)

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