In past discussion of Lee Oswald and his activities, I’ve frequently used the term “dangle”. It so happens this months Smithsonian magazine has an article about FBI moles which discusses the concept of a “dangle” in the context of a counter intelligence operation. Given that Oswald was probably used as both an active and passive dangle I thought it might be helpful to post a general description of the FBI operation as described.
In the FBI example, they were trying to determine whether a KGB self declared informant was real or a plant….he had provided certain information about KGB operations in New York City but also information about an FBI officer providing information to the KGB. That sort of thing is a routine CI gambit and can tear about any intelligence agency; the classic example was Angleton’s impact on the CIA with a false mole in which he passionately believed. As it turns out the FBI mole was most likely real but very low level and it took decades to identify the suspect.
So – for the FBI dangle to the KGB they selected a “street” person, someone likely known to the KGB to have FBI association but not a regular field office agent. The dangle presented himself to the resident KGB office by blantently calling on him at his apartment, and was promptly shown the door (dangles can be pretty obvious but its also important that they have something in the other sides files to give them at least a hint of credibility). While briefly in the KGB officers apartment the dangle mentioned a meeting place and made an offer of information.
And indeed a KGB CI officer did show up and met with the dangle a few times over some six months. One of the valuable things about the article is that it stresses the point of the operation was simply to determine what questions the KGB would ask, what they were interested in, whether they might try to get more from the dangle and I suspect whether or not they put him under surveillance – watching the other guy watch you tells you a great deal about their people, capabilities, possibly their safe houses etc. The article stresses that questions asked and those not asked were equally important.
Its rather obvious that a good dangle is in no way a “spy” per se, the dangle simply has to have enough credibility to tweak the other sides interest and provoke them into engaging with the dangle in some fashion. And as far as the dangles role, its pretty minimal. Passing on questions asked or remarks made would be about the size of it. Requires little training per se but a lot of coaching in handling an interview. Which is quite interesting in regard to the Dallas Police officers remarks about how well Oswald handled himself under interrogation, almost as if he had been coached or was experienced in such give an take.