James Jesus Angleton: CIA Spy Hunter
The Spinster and the Swan
The morning of September 14, 1965, started like any other for Ingeborg Lygren. Fifty years old, plain, and never married, Lygren worked as a secretary at the Norwegian Intelligence Service in Oslo. She dressed for work and prepared breakfast for herself as she always did before setting out for the office. But on her way to work, she was stopped by the police and arrested. They took her to a local jail and put her in solitary confinement for three days without access to a telephone before she was formally charged with spying for a foreign nation. Numb with fear, Lygren was then transferred to Bredtvedt Women's Prison and held without bail.
Government officials questioned her relentlessly, delving into every aspect of her life. Guards watched her 24 hours a day, and the lights in her cell were never turned off. The authorities were particularly interested in the time she spent in the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. Lygren, who was fluent in Russian and Polish, had been recruited by the American Central Intelligence Agency to act as a "mailman," delivering secret messages to CIA operatives working in the Soviet Union. As an ally of the United States, the Norwegian government cooperated with the plan and sent her to the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow to replace the ambassador's secretary who had served in that position for the past nine years.
During her three years in Moscow, Lygren became acquainted with several Soviet citizens, including a young female art student, a male artist, and a handsome, 49-year-old driving instructor named Aleksey Filipov. She suspected that each of them actually worked for the KGB, the Soviet civilian CHECK intelligence agency, and that they had befriended her only to convince her to spy for them. Lygren dutifully reported these overtures to her CIA case officer, Richard Kovich, who cautioned her to beware of these three people. She admitted that she was an affair with Filipov, the driving instructor, and Kovich explained that Filipov was probably a CIA "swan," a attractive man trained to seduce vulnerable foreign employees and compromise them. But Lygren told Kovich that "he had no right to ask her to stop seeing Filipov and Kovich acknowledged her point," as author Tom Mangold writes in Cold Warrior. Lygren had been diligent worker for the CIA, and Kovich considered her an asset. She felt she could handle the situation, and he trusted her to continue with her assignment.
In August 1959, Lygren was transferred to another government job and returned to Oslo. Her involvement with the CIA was over... or so she thought. Unbeknownst to her, at CIA headquarters in Washington, the agency's Counterintelligence Staff was slowing building a case against Richard Kovich. A KBG defector working with the CIA had pinpointed him as a Soviet mole. Since Kovich had been Ingeborg Lygren's case agent, the chief of the Counterintelligence Staff came to believe that Lygren possessed essential information that would expose Kovich, and that it was necessary to "break" her in order to extract that information. Norwegian authorities did the dirty work for the Americans, but the puppet strings were being pulled from the offices of the Counterintelligence Staff across the Atlantic. Ingeborg Lygren was not an isolated case. She was just one of many suspected spies targeted by America's most powerful spy hunter, James Jesus Angleton.