What happens when the CIA and the FBI recruit the same person to join their ranks? Debauchery And A Mob Assassination Attempt
In 1949, Thomas Roberts unwittingly set himself on a life-long course of adventure. He probably didn’t realize what he was getting himself into when he made contact with the FBI’s Boston field office, but you can be sure he didn’t think it was going to be a career in espionage. Roberts began working with Special Agent Thomas McLaughlin Jr.
Roberts was just finishing up his undergraduate studies at Harvard at he time and he was concerned about a student movement he had joined–it came to his attention that the movement was far too sophisticated to be conducted by regular students, even ones from the Ivies. Roberts realized that there was foreign influence involved and organizing it directly.
Roberts had no clue what he was getting into–the course of his life would lead him to connections with Marxists, the Mafia, and eventually as an agent with the CIA. All this time he would maintain contact with the FBI and provide them information on all parties–including the CIA. Clandestine agencies just love to spy on one another.
This story is part of just one of many documents released in the JFK files and you can read the complete debriefing of Thomas Lee Roberts here.
A year later, Roberts had completed his Harvard studies and was working as a logger in Maine. The FBI made contact and told him about two new targets of interest: the Labor Youth League and the National Lawyers Guild.
Roberts was patriot and the Bureau was at least interested in fighting Marxism back in those days–unlike today there were famous public proclamations against the blight. Roberts quickly made efforts to join the National Lawyers Guild while at Harvard Law. He was soon the co-director of the Student Division. From his vantage, Roberts was able to constantly provide updates on the Guild to the Bureau.
In 1953, he was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar and took a job with Dodd & Greenberg. Greenberg was a member of the National Lawyers Guild, but Roberts didn’t remain at the firm long. As an FBI asset he wasn’t forced to remain anywhere–he wasn’t a full-time agent and maintained a wide range of autonomy.
Two years later, Roberts chose to leave Boston for the more exciting New York Law scene. He got a job with the firm Delson, Levin & Gordon–and this is where his life begins picking up pace.
At the firm was a man named Herbert Itkin and if you give his name the old google search, you’ll find he had quite a history of his own. Itkin was sending photocopies of the firm to a man that identified himself as “Philip Harbin” but Philip Harbin wasn’t his real name.
Itkin claims that he though Harbin was with the CIA…but that’s not entirely true. Harbin was monitoring the CIA. That much is clear. But for who? That remains anyone’s guess–the CIA insists that Harbin never worked for them. Whoever Harbin was, he was interested in keeping Itkin close to a man named Mario Brod–an actual CIA agent. Was this for Itkin to inform on Brod’s actions for a foreign intelligence agency? Or was it because they wanted to make sure Itkin was monitored closely by Brod? That remains unclear.
Back to Roberts! He and Itkin had grown quite close in New York and they weren’t being paid well. The two, along with a third, set up their own firm as a result. For some reason that was never fully explained to the Bureau or the CIA, their new firm chose to invest $100,000 into a bowling alley. Enter the New York Mob. The Mob chose to take that bowling alley over and as payment forced a number of racketeered taverns to take the young firm on as retainer.
It was at this point that Itkin began informing for the CIA and John F. Kennedy on the Mob. It would almost cost him his life. Meanwhile, Roberts was still working for the FBI while maintaining his cover work as a partner at the firm. Neither Itkin nor Roberts revealed to one another their ties to the intelligence agencies. But the two were on a crash course in their rendezvous with destiny.
Part Two Out Soon! If you can’t wait, read the FBI file!