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.


— Larry












About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

6 responses »

  1. grassyknollgirl63 says:

    Re: Angleton’s suspicions of a mole in the CIA, I was just reading an article on Richard Nagell where it says he thought his contat ‘Bob’ was possibly a KGB double agent? That would be Henry Hecksher, right? Any evidence you know of that this is true? Didn’t Nagell meet him behind the iron curtain around 1968? Also, is the identity of the FBI mole known today? Thanks.

    • The problem for Nagell was that initially he was approached by an old associate who drew him into some dangle activity in Mexico City, indeed that was likely Hecksher. Nagell may have done several things but one that we do know of was to position himself as a potential defector willing to offer intel while giving up his U.S. citizenship at the American embassy. It appears the Soviets did pick up on that and recruited him, having some background on him from Japan. The reason Nagell suspected Bob (Hecksher) of being a double agent was really that all of a sudden Bob dropped him with no further contact after Nagell had started connecting with the Soviets.

      What we know now is that was probably because at just that time Hecksher got pulled out of Mexico City and back to Washington to head the AMWORLD project. Most likely he just left Nagell on his own and Nagell drew the wrong conclusion. There is nothing to suggest that Hecksher was anything but rabidly anti-Communist and anti-Russian.

      As to the FBI mole, actually there was never anything solid on him and a lot of disagreement on whether there really was one. The final suspect was an FBI agent who worked internal security – the man was confronted, denied it and was intervied by a series of CI specialists. In the end the final two highly experienced FBI CIA officers interviewed him and still had a split opinion. There was never any proof so he continued retirement under a medical disability from several years earlier.

  2. grassyknollgirl63 says:

    Thanks for the info Larry. I too had wondered about whether Nagell had meant Bob was a double agent but I had not read anything else (not that I’ve read much on Hecksher) that was of the opinion he was working for the Russians. I had just wondered why Nagell thought he was but what you say does make sense. Even if he wasn’t KGB, it seems to me he was not concerned about dropping Nagell ‘in it’ and leaving him high and dry.
    As to the FBI mole – very interesting! I did not know of the story.

  3. James Stubbs says:

    Larry, did you read WIDOWS? Interesting section on Ralph Sigler and his problems with a joint dangle operation.

    • That’s totally new to me Jim, sounds very interesting…are we talking a book or an article (as if I should not have checked Amazon before asking…grin).

      By the way everyone, Ingemar is doing some great ongoing research on the issues of command and control in regard to the Brigade landing, who didn’t tell what to whom and I’m hoping to
      see another post from him on our email exchanges. Its good stuff and might well explain once and for all why Cabell and Bissell refused to respond to JFK’s offer to get on the phone
      and justify additional air strikes.

      Now to look for Widdows and Ralph Sigler

      • James Stubbs says:

        Jopeph Trento co-wrote the book with Susan Trento and William Corson. One of the cases in the book is that of Ralph Sigler, who was a career Army man. According to the book, the operation began in 1966. It was intended as a dangle to Soviet intelligence. Army intell and the FBI ran the op, but apparently the FBI started using Sigler for another purpose as well, and he ended up whipsawed between the two agencies. It’s interesting that among Roselli’snotes on setting up ZR/Rifle, is item 11) “Silverthorn
        Keeping of files
        Legal, operational and ethical—morale problems
        Sigler not secure enough.”

        Maybe nothing. Or maybe Sigler was already involved in something for intell prior to 1966. He was stationed in El Paso, and was to do his contacts with the Soviets in Mexico and Mexico City.

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