C-SPAN Video of Ray Batvinis Speech
On November 8, 2007, Dr. Raymond J. Batvinis discussed his book, The Origins of FBI Counterintelligence, in a lecture at the Library of Congress hosted by the Center for the Book and co-sponsored by the Manuscript Division, which Batvinis consulted extensively in his research about the FBI’s response to the world crises of the 1930s and 1940s.
Foreign spies and the theft of military and industrial secrets were real threats during the 1930s as the United States faced the impending war. The nation’s lack of security on those fronts was also a problem. Enter J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Batvinis, a former FBI Special Agent, presents an early history of the FBI.
He also draws on newly declassified documents and interviews with former FBI agents in his reconstruction and analysis of how the FBI, before World War II, grew from a small law enforcement unit into America’s first organized counterespionage and counterintelligence service.
Click here to watch the video (must have RealPlayer installed)
TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEO:
John Cole: Well, good afternoon. Welcome to the Library of Congress [the Library]. I’m John Cole. I’m the director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. That means my job is to be the reading promoter for the Library of Congress along with my colleagues in the Center for the Book office. We were created in 1977 to help the Library of Congress use its resources to promote books and reading. We do this largely through a couple of external networks. One, our state centers for the book which exist in every state now to help promote books, reading, literacy and libraries in the state.
Secondly, we have reading promotion partners which are nonprofit organizations that we have projects with. And third, we do events here at the Library of Congress such as this one, the “Books and Beyond” author series, where we bring authors who have used the resources of the Library of Congress and help bring those resources to life by producing books, something we approve of very strongly, and try to provide the opportunity for the fruits of the author’s research in the Library of Congress to be made more public and to be distributed.
Today’s talk, as are all “Books and Beyond” talks, are filmed for later cybercast on the Center for the Book’s Web site. And with that in mind I’d like to remind everyone to turn off all electronic devices, beepers and others. And secondly, we will have a chance for a question and answer session with our author towards the end of the hour. And if you do have questions, and I hope you do — I know that our author has lots of answers — when you ask the question you are giving the Library permission to include you as part of our telecast. And I think that’s a fair warning, but it also — I’m going to ask Ray to make certain that he repeats the question so we get the full conversation into our Web site.
We are co-sponsoring today’s talk with the Library’s Manuscript Division. You will learn that our speaker has used resources all over the Library of Congress, but in fact, in particular he made wonderful use of the Manuscript Division. And John Haynes, who is the 20th century political specialist in the Manuscript Division, is going to introduce our speaker. John?
John Hayes: Thank you, John. A few years ago I received a e-mail from a historian I know at CIA who recommended that I take a look at a dissertation that had just come out from Catholic University on the early years of FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] involvement in counterintelligence. One of the pleasures of working at the Library is it’s fairly easy to get such things. And so I did get the dissertation. And reading dissertations is always — not always a pleasure. Some young Ph.D.s cannot write.
One of the pleasures of reading this dissertation was it was well-written and enjoyable to read as well as the substance being of considerable interest to me, it being on the early involvement of FBI in counterintelligence operations. Because one of the concerns I have long had as I in my own research got involved with the area of espionage is that a great many historians do not understand the distinctions between what you might call ordinary criminal justice and criminal investigations and the special techniques and the special goals of counterintelligence and internal security operations. The two are rather distinct. There is some overlap. But there are many historians who write about it without seeming to realize the different purposes and the different techniques that are involved. But one of the pleasures of reading this dissertation by Mr. Batvinis was to see that he certainly, clearly, understood it.
And one of the themes of his dissertation, which has now become the book which we are here to discuss, is the FBI’s own learning of the distinction between counterintelligence and internal security operations and its more traditional criminal justice operations. As I said, it is a well-written, extremely well-researched dissertation and book. There is a great deal to be learned by it. Let me also mention in terms of Mr. Batvinis’s own background, he was a Special Agent of the FBI from 1972 to ’97. Is that right? Yes?
Dr. Raymond Batvinis: Yes, that’s right.
John Haynes: And then after leaving the Bureau he then went to Catholic [University] and is now Dr. Batvinis who is the author of this book. So now, Dr. Batvinis.
Raymond J. Batvinis: Thank you very much. I appreciate those lovely comments, John. Coming from you I’m very, very honored. I mean that absolutely sincerely. I want to thank the Library of Congress for inviting me here today. It’s a really a great honor.
I’m probably one of the only people in this room who can honestly say that I parked exactly where we’re sitting today. I started out at Catholic University in 1969, and those were the days when the Madison library [Building] didn’t exist and this was one great big grassy field and I could take my small Mustang and just park right here. No longer. But at that time when I was much younger, almost 40 years ago, if I even remotely thought that I was going to be here today speaking I probably would have — I don’t know what I would have done. I would have been absolutely — I wouldn’t have believed it. Let’s put it in that fashion.
I want to particularly thank Anne Boni and John Cole for the invitation today. It’s very kind of you to have me here and I appreciate it. Today I particularly want to thank the Center for the Book and the Manuscript Division for this lovely opportunity. And ultimately Dr. Billington, who is the head of the Library.
I also want to thank the technical staff, Shenada and Catherine, who actually are the go-to people in terms of trying to make sure that everything runs technically. But most importantly I want to thank you folks. Many of you in this room are government employees and you work very, very hard. And to take time out of your busy schedule to come here and to listen to me prattle on about my book is really above and beyond and I thank you. I tip my hat to you.
What I want to do is just very, very briefly summarize, summarize the book and then maybe give you a little bit of background, if I can. What I did was, in terms of setting the book up — and what I have up here, obviously this is Hoover. You don’t normally see this image of Hoover. You always see that rather austere looking figure. But we — I work for the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, which is a philanthropic organization, and we give scholarships to needy students who are specializing in some type of a discipline, academic discipline, that has a nexus to law enforcement, forensic science, law science, et cetera. And we have a collection of very, very valuable material from Mr. Hoover’s personal and professional life. Among those items are photographs just like you see up there which are rare and don’t normally see the light of day when it comes to the popular image of Hoover.
So, what I tried to do is to sort of set the tone in terms of the period itself by showing you some, a couple of different photographs. The man on your left, upper-left, is Earl Connelley. He was a very senior special agent in the FBI and he figured prominently in my story.
And below him is a gentleman named Percy Foxworth. He had the name Percy, came from Mississippi, he didn’t like the name Percy. He thought that was a little bit “sissified” as he used to say. So, you would know him and everyone who ever knew him knew him as Sam Foxworth. And he made sure that Sam was how you regarded — if you wanted to enhance your career, you never referred to him as Percy. So, those are some of players that I’m going to introduce you to.
What I argue – this grew out — as John indicated, this grew out of a dissertation. And I was shopping around for a dissertation, trying to figure things out. And of course, the standard, the standard mantra is “write about what you know.” And I decided that I’d spent almost my entire 25-year career on the counterintelligence side of the house.
I joined the FBI to put bad guys in jail and there aren’t many people in jail today thanks to me. I worked on the CI [Counterintelligence] side of the house where we do it — where things are very, very different. So, I decided to write about the early days of the FBI.
And what I write about is the period just before the Second World War. Actually, we telescope back into the interwar period between the First World War and leading up to the Second World War. But I concentrate, for the most part, on about four or five or six years before American entry into the Second World War.
And what I argue is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was a small federal law enforcement organization that, beginning in 1938 because of a series of issues and criminal discoveries and revelations that were emerging in 1938 and 1937, the FBI moved from a very small federal law enforcement organization — to illustrate that point, we know that as of October 1939 there were only 890 FBI agents in the entire Bureau at that point. So it was a very small federal law enforcement organization with narrowly defined criminal responsibilities.
And it evolved into America’s very first counterespionage organization, organized civilian counterespionage organization. And then evolved, from there, into America’s very first organized civilian foreign counterintelligence organization. And then evolved quickly into America’s very first foreign intelligence organization.
That is to say, it was an organization that was tasked by the president, secretly, to send agents abroad, in this particular case Latin America, to conduct foreign espionage, to do exactly what the CIA does today, to go to South America and to collect information — intelligence, economic, military, political, industrial secrets — in order to send them back for the use of policymakers.
I set the , I set the benchmark, or I should say the demarcation mark, from counterespionage into counterintelligence beginning with — starting in May of 1940. May of 1940 is a very critical point. I go into this in some depth because in May of 1940, the president had — President Roosevelt made a very critical decision and that decision was to authorize the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin warrant-less wire-tapping. And with wire-tapping, the organization literally overnight went from counterespionage into counterintelligence. We don’t have time to discuss it. I discuss it in the book what electronic interception gives to a counterintelligence service in terms of their ability to get out in front of the adversary.
So that is really in summary what the book is all about. It really begins in 1938 and it ends at Pearl Harbor. And what I argue is that all of this was up and in place before the first shot was fired at Pearl Harbor. I don’t in any way suggest that it was running well. I don’t in any way suggest that it was running smoothly. But it was up and it was operating before we actually — before America actually entered the Second World War.
Now, the back-story in this is kind of interesting how one gets to this particular point. It really began for me when I was a new second office agent. I did my first office right out of training school in Cleveland. And, in typical Bureau fashion, I got to my first office and we were told, “You’re only going to be there 18 months so please don’t buy a house because it’s just not worth it for you.” So after 18 months the Bureau said, “You’re going to be in your first office now for the next five to seven years.” So my wife and I went out, we looked for a home, and we put a down payment on a home on a Saturday. On Monday I was transferred.
I was transferred to the Washington Field Office and at that time the Washington Field Office was right down the road here at 12th and Pennsylvania in the old Post Office Building. We occupied the two top floors of the Old Post Office Building. And I was on an applicant squad. And on that squad — these were big, big squads because we were doing a lot of background investigation work with the Atomic Energy Commission, the Justice Department, our own people, and the White House.
And I looked around and I saw these people, these men, who had been around a long time and they were sort of positioned to begin to phase into retirement. And I’d heard stories about how they had been to South America and they had worked undercover. They’d posed as businessmen. They’d posed as journalists. They’d posed in a wide, wide variety of covers. One was a playboy, actually went down there posing as a playboy who was trying to avoid the war.
It’s an amazing story, the different covers that they had. And to my everlasting frustration I never really sat down and talked to them about it. And I rue that day that I, that I failed to do that. But what it did was it planted the seed in my mind about going forward and I never lost my interest in that.
And of course it took another 25 years of professional life and raising a family and getting to the point where I was ready to go back and look at it. So, that’s what I did. I had to have a doctoral dissertation. Write what you know about. And my dissertation advisor said to me, “Why don’t you write about, about the history of the Bureau?”
And I went back — because I was always interested in this, as I say. I thought to myself, “I’d worked in counterintelligence. I’d bumped into these people. I’ve met them over the years. Why not go back and take a hard look at the genesis of FBI involvement in this business? How did it start? Where did it come from? I mean, how did we get to the point where we got involved in this?” And that is really the early story about this. And it’s a story that I’ve had great fun telling.
Just to start off, I want to break this up by giving you a little bit of a sense of the resources that I used. I’ve used — and this is not necessarily in any particular order. I was the recipient, thankfully, of a Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute grant, and I made a lot of use of the Roosevelt Library up in Hyde Park, New York. Someone — and I always say a prayer of thanksgiving for this person, whoever it is — actually created an index in addition to everything else that the Library has.
The Library created an index of over 2,500 reports that were sent to the White House by Hoover and the Bureau during the Second World War. They are a gold mine of information. Among the other ones, the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park.
I also used the Federal Records Center in New York. I used the Churchill College, Cambridge University in England for the information that is in the early part of the book about a particular senior MI-5 official who came to the United States and met with Hoover on a case that you’ll read about when you have a chance to look at the book. And then finally and again certainly not least, but very, very important to me was the Library of Congress.
This is a wonderful institution. I certainly don’t have to tell you. And we’re blessed, I’m blessed anyway, to be so close to it. I live right in the Washington Metropolitan Area and it’s only — for me, it’s only a Metro ride away to be able to come here for a full day. As far as the Library of Congress, these are just some of the samplings of what I’ve used. I used obviously the general [Main] Reading Room. Please forgive me if I’m not using the right terminology or the right parlance, but I used the wonderful facilities of the [Main] Reading Room.
I used the Prints and Photograph room [Division] very, very extensively, particularly in connection with getting photographs for the book. But it was also very, very interesting to go back and look at some of these old photographs in order to get your mind into that time period. It was very, very important to me.
I also used very extensively the Newspaper and Current Periodical room [Division for my research. The “Hartford Current,” the “New Orleans Times-Picayune,” the “Los Angeles Times,” the “New York Herald Tribune” — I could go on ad nauseum, but I think you get my point. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful resource. The Prints and Photograph Room I’ve also used. Oops, I hit that point, I’m sorry.
And then the Manuscript Reading Room was probably the one that I used most extensively. And if you notice up there I put a little x and that for a trigger for me because in my dotage I begin to forget things. And I put that up there because there’s a great little sidebar story.
One of the manuscript collections that I used was the Frank Murphy Collection. And Frank Murphy was governor of Michigan. He was also the consul general to the Philippines under the, in the Roosevelt Administration. And in 1939 he was nominated and confirmed as the attorney general. He and Hoover got along very, very well. At that time, as you may recall, the FBI Headquarters and the Department of Justice were co-located in the old Justice Department Building. So their offices were only about a corridor away from one another.
I used the –I went to the Frank Murphy Collection here, went into the finding aid, and I found that — let’s say for the sake of discussion, I don’t recall today — that there were 150 boxes in the Frank Murphy Collection. And then I noticed that Boxes 40 through 55, we’ll say, deal with FBI-Hoover, Murphy dealing with FBI and Hoover. So, obviously those were the ones that I was interested in. You go there. They are not available. So, sometimes you’re better off being lucky than good. And these were all on microfilm, by the way.
So, the originals are actually at the Bentley [Historical] Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. So, I went home. I got on the phone. I telephoned the Bentley Library and I explained my situation. And of course, what do people tell you today? “Send us an e-mail.” So I sent them a quick e-mail thinking, “I’ll never hear from them again.” About a day or two later — explaining why I wanted them, the fact that this is over 60 years old, this stuff should be released to the public, blah, blah, blah. About a day or two later, I get a telephone call saying, “Yeah, that makes sense. Why don’t we just release that to you?”
Well, about a week later my wife says to me, “Where have you been?” You know, because I got in the car that day and I just left because I didn’t want them to change their mind. Well, I got up there. It was a gold mine of material, just an absolute gold mine of material for this story. And it just fills in a point that I’m going to make in a few minutes.
The other story that I love to tell, very quickly, is one of the protagonists in my book is Adm. Walter Stratton Anderson, who was the head of ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence]. And I won’t go into it in any detail, but I was always interested in whether he had papers. I learned by accident that the Naval Historical Institute had his papers, but had donated them or given them to the Library of Congress Manuscript [Division] Reading Room.
For the sake of time I can’t go into my efforts to get here this one particular morning. It was like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” It was terrible. I finally get here and the gentleman in the Manuscript Division says, “Mr. Batvinis, we don’t have it.” By the way, manuscript people are great. They are helpful and they are infinitely patient with people like me. I can tell you that. But he had looked all over the place and he couldn’t find it.
So I went back. I telephoned the Naval Historical Institute and got a very, very nice person. She said to me, “Oops, we never gave them to the Manuscript Division.” So she says, “I’ve got all of those boxes sitting on my desk.” I said, “Don’t move.” I said, “I’ll be there.” And it was a wonderful collection, but it actually confirmed what I had always suspected about the relationship between Hoover and Adm. Anderson. It’s just a remarkable story. So those are some of the collections that I used.
To actually get into the story, what I want to do is, for the sake of time, is briefly put this up here. And you can read this. We’re talking about the issue — this is Hoover’s testimony before the Senate in 1950. And what he’s talking about here is true counterintelligence, true counterespionage. And it puts the lie to the myth. Historians will argue that the enemy of the truth is not the lie. The enemy of the truth is the myth. And it puts the lie to the assertion that Hoover was merely interested in putting people in jail and prosecuting people.
Now, what you see up here is classic, conventional counterespionage and counterintelligence not as practiced by the FBI, but as practiced by counterintelligence services around the world. So, what he’s saying is, in effect, as I’ve underlined, arrest and public disclosure only a matter of last resort. To know, to immobilize espionage agents who remain in the country for only a short period of time to avoid detection. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get full knowledge of their operation.
Now, very briefly, this is in 1950 when Hoover is now 55 years old. Did he suddenly come to this realization? The answer to the fact is no. And where it starts is in the beginning of my book. And I put this up here to symbolize the fact that all of this was occurring when? During the Depression, when we were refocused in another direction. And now, with the second Roosevelt Administration, with these espionage cases that are beginning to occur, with the realization that we were ill-prepared to handle foreign espionage, this is when the — this is when the game really begins to change.
What I’d like to do in the time remaining to me is just touch on about four items very, very briefly that are illustrated in the book. What I discuss is, as you can see there on your right, the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference. This was established in 19–, in June of 1939. And my book is not about cases. I want to make that crystal clear. There are cases and cases make a difference because cases are the diagnosis, so to speak. They’re the recognition that there is a problem. And through investigation we realize where our strengths are and where our weaknesses are.
What happens is in June of 1939 there’s a major power struggle within the U.S. government over who is going to control counterintelligence policy. Counterintelligence policy before June of 1939 was actually controlled by the U.S. State Department.
With the formation of the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference in June of 1939, counterintelligence policy is really wrested, pulled away from the absolute control of the State Department and is placed in the hands, not completely, but to a large extent, is placed in the hands of this Conference.
And as you can see, who were the members? The members of the FBI. Hoover sits as ex officio chairman of the conference. Military Intelligence Division [MID] of the War Department — Brigadier General Sherman Miles is the first official head of the MID sitting on the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference; and, the Office of Naval Intelligence [ONI] of the Navy Department.
Remember, there was no Department of Defense at this time. We had a separate War Department; we had a separate Navy Department. So this was your intelligence community. And I argue that this is really — not to any great extent, but I argue when I talk about the book this is really the genesis of the U.S. intelligence community. You can trace it right back to this date. You can trace it right back to this agency.
Other point that I go into in some depth is a British education to the FBI. That story is yet to be told in its entirety. What I talk about in the book is the original effort by the FBI to learn from the British, to study their tactics.
If you recall Sir William Stephenson — he wasn’t Sir William Stephenson at the time — William Stephenson comes to the United States in July of 1940. He develops a very, very strong bond. It collapses later on in war. But before the war there was a very, very strong, close relationship. Both men needed each other. And in the late summer, early fall, Stephenson offers an invitation to Hoover to send two individuals over to London to study British wartime policing, is the way it was generally phrased to the public.
The man on your right is Hugh Clegg. Hugh Clegg was a longtime colleague and friend of Hoover’s. He was a senior special agent. He was an assistant director for many years in the Bureau, but he was sent over. And what was he? Was he a specialist in counterintelligence? No. He was a specialist in training, which is very interesting, because I’d perceived that Hoover was going to use him to do what? To train his own people in the techniques that he was going to learn.
The smoking gun here to this is what I referred to a little while ago when I talked about those 2,500 reports. When he returned, he and another deputy of his, Larry Hince, when they returned — now, they were going to wartime London. The Blitz was on. So they were just getting real first-hand experience.
When they returned they provided an extensive report to Hoover and that report was later distilled down to about 30 pages and that report went to the White House. And that report, when you look at it and you read between the lines, the Bureau was exposed to everything, literally everything. And the only thing they were not exposed to, that the British rightly so, probably, held back was what?
The work that they were doing on Enigma, and the work that they were doing in SIGINT and cryptography and cryptology. But it goes into MI-5 actions, MI-6 actions, how they operated, tactics, techniques, wartime policing. It’s a marvelous document. And it is one of the cornerstones, that and another piece that I got later on that I just don’t have time to discuss, were cornerstones. But it really begins to demonstrate the genesis of the relationship between the British and U.S. intelligence, and U.S. and British counterintelligence services.
Again, moving forward, I discuss in some detail the Frederick Duquesne case. Now, I don’t have time to go into it this afternoon. It’s a very, very lengthy case. But what I have up here, ladies and gentlemen, are the benefits that accrued from this. And I would phrase it in such a way because I start the book with a case that the Bureau handled abysmally.
And they handled it horribly because why? They had no experience. And I always use the illustration of “This will never happen to me again.” And I throw this out to you. Have you ever been in a situation where something has happened because you’ve goofed up or you’ve made a mistake or because of a lack of information or a lack of education? Something has happened to you and you say in your own mind, “This will never happen to me again.” You just make that commitment to yourself.
Well, this institutionally is what happened. I can see Hoover’s wheels clicking. And he’s saying, “This’ll never happen to me again.” This case was handled brilliantly. Brilliantly. But it would never have been handled brilliantly had they not gone through this trial by fire early on.
And what did we learn about, about tactics and methodologies in the area of counterintelligence and counterespionage? Well, we developed an understanding of hand-generated ciphers. We had never really been exposed to that. We learned about the German, Italian and Japanese intelligence coordination.
We learned this — we actually learned this, I learned this through the Federal Records Center in New York because the actual trial transcripts and the prosecutor’s notes and all of his material are right there at the Federal Records Center and it gives a full description of how this thing played out.
We learned about the use of double agents. This is really the very first sophisticated double agent, because it was a double agent involved in this matter, a fellow by the name of William Sebold, and how they used a double agent.
We learned about the concept of passage material, material that is designed — the British call it chicken feed. But it’s passage material that a double agent will pass to the enemy service in order to convince the enemy service that he or she is actually working for them, is actually valid. And it’s a groundwork for my next book, which I simply – I want to call the next book “American Garbo.” But it’s the story about the Bureau’s role in deception, in deceiving the Germans, which we can probably talk about offline.
Finally what I want to touch on in the time remaining that I have is the Special Intelligence Service [SIS]. Now, you’ve probably heard — you’ve probably all heard of the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, which was headed up by William Donovan. That actually began in the summer of 1942 and came to an end in the fall of 1945.
The Special Intelligence Service was established very, very secretly. And this is why Franklin Roosevelt is one of my great heroes. Because during the period of neutrality, May of 1940, when the German military is invading Western Europe, we suddenly came to the realization that we had no foreign intelligence service.
So Roosevelt turns to Hoover and he essentially says, “Set one up.” Hoover had no background in this. None. He was a Washington, D.C. guy. He was a lawyer. He was an investigator. He was a bureaucrat. He was not an intelligence officer. He had no foreign experience. He had no language experience. And suddenly this big lump is dropped on his lap.
And what emerged out of this is the Special Intelligence Service, which I’ve just generally described to you where young agents — they had to all be single because they didn’t have any concept for sending spouses down — went to South America posing as businessmen with the goal and objective of penetrating foreign governments. They had no experience.
Number 1 was arrested later on, a year or two later because of the fact that he had actually recruited a secretary — it’s an interesting story in five seconds. He actually recruited in Argentina the secretary to a senior minister in the Argentine government. Argentine counterintelligence found out about it and arrested him. And, essentially, it took the U.S. government about three or four days to get him out of jail. He was declared persona non gratis. Sent back to the United States. And when the war was over he went back and he married that secretary. It’s a lovely story. You couldn’t make this up. And about three months ago I had a conversation with their son, who is just retired from the Philadelphia office of the FBI. He later became a special agent. But these are great stories.
But they’re not just stories. It tells us — the SIS was set up, the SIS was set up in July of 1940 and actually came to an end in 1947. And we can talk about this during the Q&A. It’s a lot of very interesting stories, and particularly about the role that the FBI agents who worked in the SIS later played in the formation of the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency]. So we can talk about that if you wish.
What I want to do now is just kind of conclude with my findings. What I believe is that the – what I believe is the U.S. was much, much better prepared than people conventionally believe in terms of counterintelligence at the cusp of the war. With the arrest of the Duquesne ring and the arrest of another individual that I don’t discuss in this presentation, a fellow named Fred Ludwig who is the Joe K. case, the Bureau had actually shut down all German espionage here in the United States. So, when Pearl Harbor occurred the Germans had absolutely no capability here in terms of conducting foreign espionage here in the United States. It’s a very, very interesting point.
The other point is I talk about counterintelligence. Some of you, maybe all of you at some point, have had a background investigation for a government position. Maybe you’ve even had to take a polygraph examination. Well, during the early — at the start of my book, there was no such thing as a background investigation. There was no such thing as inquiry into your origins to get a sense of risk management in terms of giving you a security clearance. But as we begin to move through the book you begin to see the recognition that foreign governments are not trying to subvert us. What they’re trying to do is what? Steal our most valuable national secrets.
And it now becomes incumbent upon us to develop what you and I today know as the industrial security program where if you go for a job in the government you may have to get a security clearance. You may have to undergo a background investigation. You may have to undergo a polygraph examination. This all begins during the period of time that I talk about in my book.
The other point that I make, and I think you’ve seen this, is what I call sort of the twilight period. It was very, very useful in terms of preparing the FBI and preparing the government at large for the prosecution of the war for the reasons that I’ve just talked about. There were educational programs in place. There were training programs in place. We were beginning to surge agents into South America. We were beginning to learn by our mistakes as a consequence of these actions. And we were much better prepared to really accelerate when the war actually began.
And finally, the final point I want to make is this, and I think I’ve touched on this a little bit, this set the groundwork for the Anglo-American relation that was to begin, actually begin during this period but was to jumpstart during the Second World War. And it’s really the genesis of the Anglo-American — a piece of the Anglo-American relation that is so much — and so important to our ability to fight the war against terrorism today. You can almost draw a straight line right through.
One of the last things I want to talk about very briefly in the one or two minutes, I was asked to talk about my next project. And my next project is tentatively entitled “Hoover’s War,” I call it. And it’s really a discussion and examination never before done in any kind of detail of the Bureau’s activities during the Second World War. And tentatively what I’m doing is I’m starting — I’m jumpstarting it with Pearl Harbor. I start off right with Pearl Harbor. And I actually end it, you can see the collection at the end, I end it in May of 1947 with the shutting down of the Special Intelligence Service, the creation of the CIA, and the passage of the National, of the National Security Act.
So, that in substance is what my book is all about. I hope you’ll have an opportunity to read it and I thank you very much for allowing me to be here with you this afternoon.
In the few minutes that we have remaining does anybody have any questions that they would like to share? Anything. Yes, sir?
Male Speaker: Was the FBI so focused on German espionage during this period that they sort of dropped the ball on the Soviet espionage and [inaudible] Rosenbergs [inaudible], is that [inaudible]?
Raymond J. Batvinis: The question is — it’s a very valid question. And correct me if I don’t phrase this correctly. The question is, was the Bureau so focused on German espionage during this particular time that they dropped the ball with regard to Soviet activities? Is that essentially what the question is?
Yeah, you know, it’s hard to quantify. It’s very hard to quantify. It’s very clear that the national threat, the threat at the international level, was not necessarily from the Soviets. The international threat was fascism, and that was the focus of what you and I today would call National Command Authority. And we learned through the case that I talk about in the beginning, we learned how to begin to do this work. And on the eve of the Second World War, of course, we had the Duquesne case.
But I also point out in terms of balancing this off, the Bureau actually was very involved in a number of investigations with regard to the Soviets. I refer you to the Golos case, Jacob Golos, who was later the handler, or even the handler at that time, of Elizabeth Bentley. Golos was prosecuted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act [FARA].
Mikhail Gorin, who was a KGB — actually we just call him KGB — the NKVD at that time. He was an NKVD officer who out in California had recruited a aircraft industry employee to get secrets. There was that prosecution. He was later released. He never spent time in jail. He was in that limbo status. But when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union the decision was made to let him go back to the Soviet Union so that we could develop a more positive relationship with the Soviet Union.
The other one I talk about is Gaik Ovakimian . Gaik Ovakimian was a very important NKVD officer and we were able to charge him under the FARA statute. We were also looking very hard at that time at Amtorg [Trading Corporation]. Amtorg was one of the major platforms of espionage at that particular time. But then again I always argue it’s always a question of time and money and resources. How many resources do you have? How much money do you have? How much can you devote to it? So, the answer is sort of in that mix. I hope that helps you a little bit in terms of…
Anybody else have any questions? Sir?
Male Speaker: [inaudible] sort of interwar period to the post-Cold War period. Lots of individuals post-9/11 argued, whether it was the WMD Commission or the 9/11 Commission, looked at it — and you had mentioned sort of this theme of American learning from the British. The extent to which MI-5 has been mentioned as a panacea, that we need an American MI-5, so to speak, lots of arguments against that and arguments in favor of that — As someone who spent their entire career at FBI working counterintelligence, I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.
Raymond J. Batvinis: I assume you’re referring to the debate over whether we should have a separate MI-5? Would that be fair? The gentlemen’s comment is about should we have a separate MI-5? Should the counterintelligence account be within the Federal Bureau of Investigation — or the counterterrorism account be within the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
I’ve got to be frank with you. I’ve gone full circle on this, literally full circle on this. And I have the luxury of having time to seriously think about this, which most practitioners don’t because with people like yourself you’re always concerned with that next piece of paper in your inbox. So you don’t have the time to necessarily reflect. It’s one of the downsides of being in, sometimes being in the government that you just, you know, one step ahead. But I believe — I’ve gone full circle on this for a variety of reasons which I don’t have time to get into. But I believe the best, right now, the best solution is to have it within the FBI, with one proviso.
And that proviso is that the intelligence and counterintelligence element within the FBI be nurtured. That it be dedicated exclusively to that. Part of the problem that the Bureau has experienced over the years is that it is subject to, and this is the reality of our government, it is subject — it is within the Executive Branch. And whoever the president is has the ultimate authority to say, “I want you to reprogram agents because I see this as a higher priority.” We saw this — and I’m not criticizing anybody, don’t get me wrong. But I mean it’s the example that I use.
When the wall came down, when the Berlin Wall came down and Communism disappeared, what did America declare? The “Peace Dividend” — do we remember the “Peace Dividend?” When we declared the “Peace Dividend,” the decision was made to take five or six hundred FBI agents who had devoted their career to counterintelligence and reprogram them into violent crime. So, there was this dip in terms of resources.
And then suddenly — and we were still seeing, even after the wall came down, even after the KGB disappeared, we were still seeing active operations here in this country. And then when we explained it the answer we got back, “Well, they just haven’t gotten the word yet.” That’s true. They just haven’t gotten the word yet. Okay?
So, what happens then? Aldrich Ames in 1994. Bob Hansen 1997. Harold James Nicholson. Ana Montez. You see where I’m going with this?
We should, in my view, as a nation, make the commitment and force our politicians to keep their feet to the fire in terms of a professional, fully-dedicated, highly trained, committed cadre of men and women in this particular. But I think the flexibility that it gives our government in terms of going after somebody — I don’t mean to belabor this, but we may have somebody who is a terrorist. We know that they’re a terrorist not because they’ve committed an act, but because we found clear illustration, clear evidence from material received over in Afghanistan or in the Middle East someplace. But yet they’re committing no crime here.
We can’t arrest somebody for being suspected of being of terrorist. But they may be committing crime — they may be smuggling cigarettes. Okay? They may be committing a conventional crime. And if you can pull them off the street, although you’re not getting them necessarily for terrorism, you’re getting them for something mundane, they’re off the street. And they’re going to be put in prison. So, it’s a complex issue. But I would argue that probably the best place for it right now, in my view, would be to remain exactly where it is. We’re lucky to have it.
Anybody else? Yes, sir?
Male Speaker: In the period before December 1941, what was the FBI’s efforts focused at the Japanese?
Raymond J. Batvinis: What was the efforts against the Japanese?
Before December of 1941, the effort against the Japanese was really ramping up. You see that second to last slide in the Duquesne case. As of 1939, we were beginning to look at the Japanese. We were beginning to study Japanese activities as we were studying German activities. And then, with the Duquesne case, when you read the book you’ll see the Japanese connection in this.
It was a very enlightening — it was like a bright light that exposed the intelligence relationship. It wasn’t just sharing of information with the Japanese. It was actual use of actual networking here in this country of German and Japanese agents right here in this country. There’s another major case out in California that the Bureau was involved in called the Tachibana case. The Bureau and ONI were involved. So, it was beginning to heat up. It was getting quite extensive.
Somebody else had a question. Sir, in the back?
Male Speaker: I was just wondering what the distinctions are between your type of FBI and the FBI police, the FBI police. What exactly —
Raymond J. Batvinis: Yeah. What you see — it is. It’s an odd term. FBI police, if I — the gentleman asked what’s the difference between the FBI and the FBI police?
The FBI police as I understand it, again not being — is really the security force, the uniformed security force that provides physical security for the building surrounding the FBI. Forgive me, [laughs] provides physical security for the FBI Building itself. That’s where you see the uniformed officers. You see they have their own car. As well as providing physical security for the FBI Academy at Quantico. They are FBI employees. And it’s just one particular physical security component that’s simply called the FBI Police. That’s the best answer that I can give you. But they are all FBI employees and all under the rubric of the FBI. Does that answer your question? Is that — okay, good.
Anybody else have a question? Okay. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Have a good day.
John Cole: Well, I’d like to thank Ray for sharing his extensive knowledge of not only the FBI but of the whole intelligence scene with us. I think that it was a wonderful overview and kind of a hint of more work to come on your part and I hope more work on our part in learning about this whole situation.
We now have a chance to spend more time with our author. There’ll be a book signing out in the foyer. If you’d like to buy one of the books, they’re on sale for discount through the LC [Sales] Shop. And you’ll have a chance to get it signed and also to have a final word with Ray Batvinis, our speaker for today. Let’s conclude with a final round of applause and thanks from the Library.
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