The CIA’s Dirty Tricks from Then … to Now
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David Corn | Where’s the CIA’s Missing Jewel?
The CIA’s Dirty Tricks From Then … to Now
By Pierre Haski http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Haski
Wednesday 27 June 2007
Controversial documents declassified, a hostile vote in Strasbourg, trials in Germany and Italy … the Agency is in distress.
The CIA, its life, its work…. This week, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has made public some 700 pages previously classified “Eyes only,” that is, top secret, which relate some of its most controversial clandestine operations. At the same time, the American intelligence agency is at the center of altogether current controversies concerning its recent activities in Europe.
The document, dubbed “the Family Jewels,” covers a period that extends from the beginning of the Cold War to the early 1970s, a history that, by the admission of its own director, Michael Hayden, “is not flattering.” There one finds – all jumbled up – assassination attempts against Fidel Castro (with the active support of Bobby Kennedy, John’s brother), against the first president of the former Belgian Congo, Patrice Lumumba, or against the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo; illegal wiretapping of journalists; indiscriminate psychological control experiments …
There we also learn that the CIA sequestered Yuri Nosenko, a Soviet spy who had defected to the United States and was suspected of being a double agent, for over three years before paying him a $150,000 indemnity for damages and making him … an adviser to the CIA and FBI! For The New York Times, these 700 pages provide a picture “of paranoia and occasional incompetence” at the time when the CIA began to launch itself into espionage operations designed to connect Communist governments and the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States.
Paradoxically, these revelations about these clandestine operations in the past – some already known or suspected – coincide with new controversies over much more current operations. Thus, at the Parliament of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, a report adopted Wednesday critically blames Poland and Rumania for having harbored secret CIA detention centers between 2003 and 2005. The document also reproaches other European countries, including Germany and Italy, with having obstructed an investigation of the truth by invoking the notion of “state secrets.” The text adopted invites those governments “no longer to play any role in the future in the authorization of transportation through their territory of either people still detained in Guantanamo, or in the detention of such persons for however long a period.” The resolutions of the Assembly of the Council of Europe have, however, a consultative consequence only …
Also this week, Munich prosecutors requested the extradition of 13 CIA agents. According to the German justice system, those agents participated in the kidnapping of Khaled al Masri in 2003. That German of Lebanese origin asserts he was transferred by plane from Macedonia to Afghanistan, where he was imprisoned and tortured for months. An affair that follows the opening at the beginning of this month of a historic trial in Italy conducted against 26 CIA agents and former leaders of the Italian military secret services, accused of the 2003 kidnapping in Italy of an Egyptian former imam. The CIA agents will be judged in absentia.
No doubt we’ll have to wait until 2040 for the CIA to declassify documents covering its turpitudes during the opening years of the twenty-first century. No doubt also that, between now and then, that list will have grown significantly….
Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.
Where’s the CIA’s Missing Jewel?
By David Corn
Wednesday 27 June 2007
What’s the missing jewel?
Today, the CIA released its infamous “Family Jewels” file. This is a set of internal memos compiled in the mid-1970s after press reports revealed numerous CIA dirty tricks. In 1973, CIA director James Schlessinger, having learned that Watergate burglars E. Howard Hunt and James McCord (each a CIA veteran) had been in contact with the Agency while carrying out illegal activities for President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign, ordered divisions within the CIA to report any activities they had engaged in since 1959 that might be outside the CIA’s authority. Deputy Director William Colby then assembled a loose-leaf notebook of the memos that poured in. The whole package totaled 700 pages. And though its existence has been known for years-congressional investigators of the 1970s had access to these documents-this secret file has never before been made public. It was considered to hold the agency’s darkest secrets.
Many of these secrets did emerge during the congressional investigations of the 1970s: the joint CIA-Mafia attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro; CIA surveillance of American reporters and political dissidents; the CIA’s secret jailing for three years of a suspected Soviet agent (who was not a Soviet agent). The newly-released documents are full of fresh details about some of these notorious episodes. But at least one of the “Family Jewels” seems to be missing.
The first document in the packet is a 1973 memo from Howard Osborn, then the CIA’s director of security, to the CIA top management, and it summarizes the “jewels” compiled by his office. It lists eight problems-including the recruitment of mobster Johnny Roselli for the Castro hit. But blacked out from this document is the first item on Osborn’s list. And a two-and-a-half page description of this operation is also redacted from the “Family Jewels” file.
In a recent speech, General Michael Hayden, the CIA’s director, hailed the declassification of the “Family Jewels.” He remarked, “The documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and very different Agency.” Yet the very first secret in these papers has been deleted.
“The No. 1 jewel of the CIA’s Office of Security is probably a pretty good one-especially since the second jewel in this list is the Roselli/Castro assassination program,” says Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a public interest outfit that filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the “Family Jewels” fifteen years ago. There are many other deletions in the “Family Jewels” file, and in most instances there’s no telling exactly what has been excised. But much of the censored material seems to be related to how the CIA has created cover and fake documents. “This is probably justifiable,” says Blanton, because such operational secrets may still be relevant today. But the missing jewel? Assassination? Domestic spying? Something unimaginable? “We just don’t know,” says Blanton.
All in all, Blanton notes, the file is not as explosive as CIA-watchers might have anticipated. “These are the ‘Family Jewels’?” he asks sarcastically. “Much of this came out years ago. So how could the CIA justify keeping this stuff secret for 30 years? This is not really as informative as the [previously released] inspector general’s report on the Castro assassination plots.”
There are, however, intriguing tidbits scattered throughout these hundreds of pages. Here are a few:
•In a June 1, 1973 memo written to Colby, Walter Elder, who had been executive assistant for John McCone, the CIA director in the early 1960s, outlined “activities which to hostile observers or to someone without complete knowledge…could be interpreted as examples of activities exceeding CIA’s charters.” One such activity, he noted, “involved chemical warfare operations against….” The target is redacted. This operation, according to Elder, never went beyond the planning stage.
•In the same memo, Elder reports that discussions within the CIA chief’s offices were recorded and transcribed: “I know that any one who has worked in the Director’s office has worried about the fact that conversations within the offices and over the telephones were transcribed. During McCone’s tenure, there were microphones in his regular office, his inner office, his dining room, his office in East Building, and his study at his residence on White Haven Street. I do not know who would be willing to raise such an issue, but knowledge of such operations tends to spread, and certainly the Agency is vulnerable on this score.” Secret transcripts of conversations involving CIA directors? According to Blanton, there’s never been any public indication that McCone or other CIA directors bugged themselves. Transcripts of such discussions could contain plenty of jewels. The National Security Archive is already filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
•One memo notes that CIA had a Project OFTEN that collected “data on dangerous drugs from U.S. firms” until the program was terminated in the fall of 1972. Another memo reports that commercial drug manufacturers “passed on” to the CIA drugs “rejected because of unfavorable side effects” These drugs were then tested using volunteers from the U.S. military.
•During the internal review that led to the creation of the “Family Jewels” file, a top CIA official suggested that the CIA director keep himself in the dark about MKULTRA-the Agency’s mind control program run by Sidney Gottlieb, a psychiatrist and chemist. As part of this program, the CIA slipped LSD and other psychoactive drugs to unwitting subjects. (Gottlieb, according to another document in the file, was supposed to have provided poison in for an assassination attempt against Patrice Lumumba, the anti-colonial prime minister of the Republic of Congo. After being deposed in a 1960 coup, Lumumba was shot and killed by Kantangan forces.)
•CIA employees assigned to MHCHAOS-the operation that conducted surveillance against American opponents of the Vietnam war and other political dissidents-expressed a “high degree of resentment” about being given such a mission.
•The CIA “performed image enhancement techniques” on video footage of the television show of columnist Jack Anderson, who had received leaks of top-secret CIA documents. “The purpose was to try to identify serial numbers of CIA documents in Anderson’s possession”-presumably documents he held up or that were on his desk. The memo on this operation does not say if the effort succeeded.
Hayden, the CIA chief, deserves some credit for releasing the “Family Jewels,” and he wants the public to believe that his CIA is not your father’s CIA, which plotted assassinations, illegally opened mail, and spied on American political dissidents. But the CIA in recent days has run secret prisons and used interrogation methods that either involve torture or border on torture. (The details are sketchy.) And the National Security Agency has used warrantless wiretaps to eavesdrop on American citizens and residents. Moreover, as the release of the “Family Jewels” demonstrates, there still are secrets from the past the CIA will not disclose. Are these legitimate secrets that ought to be kept from the public to protect national security, or are they embarrassments the Agency is not willing to face? Only the secret-keepers of the CIA know which jewels remain buried.
The entire “Family Jewels” file and related documents can be found at the website of the National Security Archive