William King Harvey

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William King "Bill" Harvey (September 13, 1915 – June 9, 1976) was a Central Intelligence Agency officer, best known for his role in Operation Mongoose. He was known as "America's James Bond", a tag given to him by Edward Lansdale.[1]


Harvey was born September 13, 1915 in Cleveland, Ohio.[2] He was the son of Sara King Harvey, professor at Indiana State Teachers College in Terre Haute, now Indiana State University.[2] He graduated from Wiley High School in Terre Haute in 1931, eventually enrolling at Indiana University, then graduating from Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington. He married Libby, the daughter of a lawyer from Maysville, Kentucky, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1954.[3]


Harvey joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in December 1940. One morning in July 1947 he broke an FBI regulation on being available on two-hour call due to sleeping off heavy drinking at a party the night before. He refused the resulting demotion and reassignment to Indianapolis, preferring to resign. He joined the CIA shortly thereafter where his FBI knowledge proved to be invaluable, and where he plotted to reduce the FBI's overseas powers. Along with James Angleton, he became one of the foremost operatives in the secret war against the KGB during the Cold War. Journalist David Martin reported that despite Harvey gaining a reputation as consuming more alcohol than any other person in the United States government, no one ever saw him drunk.[1]

Harvey's CIA career began with his founding of Staff D, the electronic surveillance branch of the Clandestine Service Division.[1] In 1951 Harvey's investigation of the career history of Kim Philby, noting suspicious coincidences that suggested he had long been a Soviet agent, saw the CIA demand that Philby be kept out of his position as MI6 liaison; Philby was fired. Six months earlier, Harvey had got into a fight with Guy Burgess at a party after Burgess had drunkenly drawn a lewd cartoon of Harvey's wife Libby.[4]

From 1952 to 1960 Harvey was posted to West Berlin as Chief of Base, where he led the operation that built an underground tunnel to the Soviet sector, to spy on their communication channels. This operation was called PBJOINTLY.[1] On his return to CIA headquarters, Harvey was tasked with a project to organise "Executive Action" - assassination of foreign political leaders, under the codename ZR/RIFLE.[1] To get at Fidel Castro, Harvey decided he needed Mafia links, and drew on the connections of CIA agent Robert Maheu, who had links with Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante, Jr., Johnny Roselli and others.[1] Finding Maheu's operation chaotic, Harvey cut everyone but Roselli out, and ran the operations against Castro himself.[1] Harvey was also involved in Operation Mongoose, a CIA operation run from Miami, Florida that ran various attempts to undermine or overthrow the Cuban Revolution.[5] At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Harvey sent ten intelligence operatives into Cuba to gather intelligence and prepare for an invasion Harvey thought inevitable. The operation was unauthorised, and resulted in Harvey being exiled to Italy as Rome station chief (Harvey had wanted to go to Laos).[1] 1964 Harvey recommended Colonel Renzo Rocca, Chief of the Italian Military Intelligence Division R as liaison for building up the Italian Gladio network. [6] In Rome, Harvey's drinking and health deteriorated, and he was ultimately relieved.[1] After returning to head a CIA headquarters unit on possible countermeasures to electronic surveillance, Harvey retired in 1969, his drinking and health still problematic.[1]

In 1975, he testified before the Church Committee on some of the CIA's past operations.[1]

Harvey died in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 9, 1976 from a heart attack.[2]

Allegations of involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy[edit]

After the death of former CIA agent and Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt in 2007, Saint John Hunt and David Hunt revealed that their father had recorded several claims about himself and others being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy.[7][8] In the April 5, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, Saint John Hunt detailed a number of individuals implicated by his father including Harvey, as well as Lyndon B. Johnson, Cord Meyer, David Sánchez Morales, David Atlee Phillips, Frank Sturgis, and an assassin he termed "French gunman grassy knoll", who many presume was Lucien Sarti.[8][9] The two sons alleged that their father excised the information from his memoirs, "American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond", to avoid possible perjury charges.[7] Hunt's widow and other children told the Los Angeles Times that the two sons took advantage of Hunt's loss of lucidity by coaching and exploiting him for financial gain. The newspaper said it examined the materials offered by the sons to support the story and found them to be "inconclusive."[7]

Further reading[edit]


In fiction[edit]

  • Norman Mailer (1992). Harlot's Ghost: A Novel. New York: Random House. 
  • Robert Littell (2003). The Company. New York: Penquim Books.  In this novel chock full of portrayals of real people, Harvey is one of the few not portrayed under his real name - but he is clearly the basis of the thinly disguised character "Harvey Torriti, a.k.a. the Sorcerer".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k David C. Martin, Washington Post, 10 October 1976, The CIA's 'Loaded Gun'
  2. ^ a b c McCormick, Mike (April 28, 2007). "HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: America's James Bond: The new biography of William King Harvey". Tribune-Star. Terre Haute, Indiana. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ Flawed Patriot, p99
  4. ^ Flawed Patriot, p29-31
  5. ^ Jack Anderson (1971-01-18). "6 Attempts to Kill Castro Laid to CIA". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ Tunander, Ola, Democratic State vs. Deep State: Approaching the Dual State of the West. Peace Research Institute Oslo, 2008
  7. ^ a b c Williams, Carol J. (March 20, 2007). "Watergate plotter may have a last tale". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Hedegaard, Erik (April 5, 2007). "The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 18, 2008. 
  9. ^ McAdams, John (2011). "Too Much Evidence of Conspiracy". JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think About Claims of Conspiracy. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books. p. 189. ISBN 9781597974899. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 

External links[edit]