Born in 1916 in Boise, Idaho, moved to Italy in 1933 when his father was transferred for business. Graduated from Yale University in 1941, when the Ivy League Schools were seen as military friendly colleges, and entered the U.S. Army in 1943, placed in the Office of Strategic Services.
While working in London, was transferred into X-2, OSS’ counter-intelligence division. Was later transferred to Italy to head up the Italian desk of X-2. During and after the war, cultivated friendships and contacts throughout Europe, including relationships with Kim Philby and a priest who would later become Pope Paul VI. More importantly, became friendly with members of the Jewish underground in Europe, the forerunners of Mossad, Israel’s chief intelligence service.
Joined the CIA in 1947, one of its original officers. He also helped to establish the counterintelligence office of the CIA. He was designated to head up the Italian desk of the CIA. Helped to finance the defeat of the Communist Party in the 1948 Italian general election. Was considered obsessed with the KGB and the possibility that it had infiltrated the CIA. Russian defector Anatoli Golytsin had made this claim and Angleton followed up on it by searching for the mysterious mole from 1961 to 1974. During this time, he often dined with Kim Philby. Philby believed that Angleton was unaware that he was a Soviet spy. Angleton, however, had reported his suspicions to his superiors years before Philby was exposed.
Colby and Angleton had had a strained relationship from the days when both worked for the OSS. Colby, in a final attempt to run Angleton out of the CIA, whispered accusations that Angleton was engaged in spying on CIA agents who were not active suspects.
After resigning from the CIA after 20 years heading up the counter-espionage division, Angleton retired to a life of fly-fishing. Was awarded the CIA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal in 1975 and was called the “most professional counter-intelligence officer” in the OSS.
Angleton died in 1987.