CIA Activities in Albania

In October, 1949, British covert action operators led by Col. David Smiley of the Blues regiment, sent several small commando teams into Albania. At the time, CIA did not have its own covert action capability, but had hired on ex-OSS field operative Mike Burke to set up an American project to parallel the Brits' Operation VALUABLE. British insertion of their exiled Albanian agents - some of whom entered Albania three and four times by sea or afoot - continued until 1952 in spite of casualties and a nearly total lack of success. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and other U.K. foreign policy mandarins had hoped to build an armed resistance movement against the rule of Enver Hoxha inside Albania as a manageable paramilitary counteraction to feared Soviet Union efforts to set up Communist governments in western nations such as France and Italy. (1) With only limited pounds available, Bevin turned to Washington, where U.S. national leaders were developing their own anticommunist policies, such as the 1947 Central Intelligence Agency and Office of Policy Coordination, the latter intended to wage political and psychological warfare deniable by the national government. As the MI6 agents went ashore in Albania, Americans set up an Albanian national political committee and Mike Burke sought training bases and some jobs for Albanian exiles the Americans might use as agents for their BGFIEND project. Burke conferred with CIA intelligence officers to keep Italian Navy-run CHARITY agents from interfering with OPC agents inside Albania. (2) The OPC, later CIA/OPC project ran until 1954 when its last best operatives were captured. Much blame for both U.S. and U.K. operational failures is mythologically set on H.A.R. "Kim" Philby, an MI6 liaison to the CIA and OPC, who passed VALUABLE - and some say, BGFIEND - details on to the Soviet KGB, which forwarded the materiel to Albania. While other nations' traitors are suspect, Albanian Sigurimi (security) counterinsurgency units inside the nation, and covert intelligence officers sent overseas, were impressively successful in defending their homeland.

(1) Bethell, Nicholas, "Betrayed", Times Books, New York, 1984. (2) Burke, Michael, Diaries, Datebooks (1949, 1950, 1951, 1952), Gottlieb Special Collections Department, Mugar Library, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

. All of these operations were betrayed to the Soviet Union by Kim Philby.

OPC was an interim organization before it was absorbed by the CIA when the CIA Directorate of Plans was formed. See Clandestine HUMINT and Covert Action for the history of the OPC and how it became part of CIA, under DCI Walter Bedell Smith.

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