Miles Copeland

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This article is about the jazz musician and CIA operative. For his father, the physician, see Miles Copeland Sr. For his son, the band manager and record executive, see Miles Copeland III.
Miles Copeland

Miles Axe Copeland Jr (born July 16, 1916 in Birmingham; died January 14, 1991 in Oxfordshire, England) was an American musician, businessman, and CIA officer who was involved in foreign-policy operations from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Copeland was born in Birmingham, the son of physician Miles Copeland Sr. He attended Ramsay High School where he was president of the Session Room and worked on the yearbook staff. His class nickname was reported as "Arsène Lupin," after the fictional gentleman thief, and he was voted "wittiest" in his senior class, edging out Mary Virginia Pounds for the honor.

Copeland did not graduate from college, instead pursuing jazz performance. He claimed to have played trumpet for bandleaders such as Erskine Hawkins and Ray Noble. He has been mentioned as performing and arranging for Glenn Miller, but those rumors are undocumented.

At the outbreak of World War II, Copeland joined the Alabama National Guard and posted a superior score on the Stanford-Binet intelligence test. He contacted Representative John Sparkman, who arranged a meeting with Office of Strategic Services (OSS) chief William "Wild Bill" Donovan. The two hit it off immediately, and Copeland was attached to the Army's Corps of Intelligence Police, which became the Counterintelligence Corps in January 1942. Copeland was stationed in London and reportedly gained top-secret "Bigot" clearance, allowing him to take part in discussions about Operation Overlord.

After the conversion of the OSS into the Strategic Services Unit in October 1945, Copeland joined what would become part of the Central Intelligence Agency. Serving in London, he became a lifelong Anglophile and married Lorraine Adie, a Scottish-born archeologist he had met while she was serving in the Special Operations Executive. They raised four children: record producer Miles Copeland III, booking agent Ian Copeland, writer/film producer Lennie Copeland and composer Stewart Copeland, best known as the drummer for The Police.

CIA career

Among Copeland's first postings was Damascus, Syria (September 1947) beginning a long career in the Middle East. Together with Stephen Meade he played a role in supporting the March 1949 Syrian coup d'état. Working closely with Archibald Roosevelt (son of Theodore Roosevelt), and his nephew Kermit Roosevelt, Jr, he was instrumental in arranging Operation Ajax, the 1953 technical coup d'état against the Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh.

In 1953, Copeland returned to private life at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, while remaining a non-official cover operative for the CIA. He traveled to Cairo to meet Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had overthrown King Farouk and taken power in Egypt, advising Nasser on the development of the Mukhabarat and becoming Nasser's closest Western adviser. In this role he offered U.S. economic development and technical military assistance. At the time, the U.S. considered regional instability adverse to U.S. interests. The "new postwar era witnessed an intensive involvement of the United States in the political and economic affairs of the Middle East, in contrast to the hands-off attitude characteristic of the prewar period.... The United States had to face and define its policy in all three sectors that provided the root causes of American interests in the region: the Soviet threat, the creation of Israel, and petroleum."

In 1955 Copeland returned to the CIA. During the Suez Crisis, in which the United States blocked the collusion of France, the United Kingdom and Israel to invade, the US backed Egypt's independence and control of the Suez Canal. The move is said to have been advocated by Copeland with the goal of ending British control of the region's oil resources, and forestalling the influence of the Soviet Union on regional governments by placing the U.S. behind their legitimate national interests. After the crisis Nasser, nevertheless, moved closer to the USSR and accepted massive military technology and engineering assistance on the Aswan Dam. Copeland, allied with John and Allen Dulles, worked to reverse this trend at the time, which included "Copeland's involvement in schemes to assassinate Nasser..."

In 1958, Syria merged with Egypt in the United Arab Republic and King Faisal II was deposed by Iraqi nationalists. Copeland oversaw contacts with the Iraqi regime and with internal opponents, including Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party.

Copeland opposed major paramilitary CIA operations such as the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961, on the grounds that they were impossible to keep secret due to size.

From 1957 to 1968 Copeland was stationed with his family in Beirut where his children grew up attending the American Community School.


After retirement from the CIA, Copeland wrote foreign policy books and an autobiography, and articles for publications including the National Review. He was active in 1970s political efforts to defend the CIA against critics including the Church Committee. In 1988, Copeland wrote an article titled "Spooks for Bush" which asserted that the intelligence community overwhelmingly supported George H. W. Bush for U.S. President; Bush had run the CIA during the 1970s under Gerald Ford. In the introduction to his book 'Enemy Within', Guardian journalist Seumas Milne wrote that in the Spring of 1990, Copeland warned British miners' union leaders Arthur Scargill and Peter Heathfield that the CIA and MI5 had been involved in kickstarting a media campaign against them and helped to frame corrupt allegations against them.

Copeland also wrote later of his suspicions that a drug from the CIA's MK-ULTRA program similar to LSD may have been slipped to Democratic presidential candidate Edmund Muskie, causing his well-publicized emotional response to verbal attacks on his wife, through either E. Howard Hunt or G. Gordon Liddy. Copeland would continue to make bold assertions about CIA operations, both in interviews and his own books.

Also in retirement he created the board game "Game of Nations." Copeland died of heart failure at Padocks Hospital in Princes Risborough, Oxfordshire in 1991. He was buried at St Peter and St Paul's Church Cemetery in Oxfordshire.


  • Copeland, Miles Jr (1970) The Game of Nations: The Amorality of Power Politics, New York: Simon & Schuster
  • Copeland, Miles Jr (1974) Without Cloak or Dagger: The Truth About the New Espionage, New York: Simon & Schuster
  • Copeland, Miles Jr (1975) Beyond cloak and dagger: inside the CIA, New York: Pinnacle Books
  • Copeland, Miles Jr (1978) Real Spy World, London: SPHERE
  • Copeland, Miles Jr (1989) The Game Player: Confessions of the CIA's Original Political Operative, London: Aurum Press