Monday, December 27, 2010

The CIA in Crisis: Part One

The tightly knit old boy school at the core of the agency began to feel under siege when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger implemented a policy of détente with the Soviet Union. They felt betrayed by this policy and were in sympathy with the Joint Chiefs of Staff s efforts to undermine it. The military even develop-ed a spy ring, known as the “Admirals Plot” to spy on the Nixon White House as though it was the Politburo in Moscow. On the other hand, Kissinger willingly consented to the wiretapping of his subordinates.

All round, Washington had became a’sewer”, and neither common morality nor the law restrained behavior. It is not known if the C.I.A. helped the JCS, but agency insiders were clearly sympathetic with the military’s lawlessness. As Nixon tottered and fell, Paul Wolfowitz tried to sink Salt II by lobbing for a new ballistic missile system. Corporate interests pumped money into fairly right-wing think tanks in an effort to force Gerald Ford into abandoning détente. An alliance of interests defending cold war orthodoxy took shape: the defense intellectuals who would become the Neocons, the C.I.A. old boys, the military, and corporate.

A C.I.A. contribution to the effort was to intensify Cold War activities in Latin America. Robert Gates, working on the Nixon and Ford National Security staff clearly opposed détente, but it is unclear if he was responsible for some of the leaks that so damaged détente from 1973 through the Ford years. Most of these allies hoped that the GOP would nominate Ronald Reagan in 1976 and that the Dems would pick cold warrior Henry’scoop” Jackson.

They were to be disappointed, but they continued funding their think tanks and attempting to revive the cold war. All was not lost as Dick Cheney, a cold warrior, was Ford’s chief of staff and Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor was to be Zbigniew Brzezinski Robert Gates continued in power as a Brzezinski aid. They persuaded Carter to bring in reactionary Samuel Huntington as a consultant and the three of them persuaded Carter to begin a new arms buildup.

In 1973, the C.I.A. entered turbulent years that extended through the directorships of James Schlesinger and Stansfield Turner, in which many so-called “Cowboy” agents were sacked because they were suspected of illegal behavior. Schlesinger replaced Richard Helms, who was fired for refusing to pay blackmail money to E. Howard Hunt. Schlesinger said, “The clandestine service was Helms’s Praetorian Guard. It had too much influence in the Agency and was too powerful within the government. I am going to cut it down to size.” He promptly fired 7% of the case officers. He then issued an order that all employers were to cease illegal activities and report those illegal actions they knew about.

Agent Cord Myer noted that the directive was was “a hunting license for the resentful subordinate to dig back into the records of the past in order to come up with evidence that might destroy the career of a superior whom he long hated.” Some senior agents decided to punish Nixon by leaking information about Watergate. A thousand covert agents and 500 analysts were fired. There were threats on Schlesinger’s life.

After six months, Schlesinger was replaced by William Colby, who alienated many by releasing damaging information to Congress. Before he gave a Congressional committee a 600 page report on C.I.A. abuses, he insisted that the hearing room be swept for bugs and that only electedofficials be present, without their assistants. Helms hated Colby for what he did and hinted that Colby was a soviet agent. James Jesus Angleton flatly said this was the case. Colby was probably murdered April 28, 1996.

These were the years when the C.I.A. was teaching young people the methods of terrorism but not counter terrorism. At the Border Patrol School at Los Fresnos, Texas. The “Bomb School” was abolished in 1974 but the agency just carried on the training elsewhere, including military bases. Someone should have asked why the agency was training terrorists and looking into other matters. When the Pike and Church Committees began their rather gentle probes, the agency simply went on as before. In one operation a Cuban plane was blown up in October, 1976 under Director George H.W. Bush, and even in 2007 nothing was done to resolve the case.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s potential for wrong doing does not rest so much on its budget—about 10% of the nation’s total intelligence budget-0- but from the fact that it is considered the president’s private army and hass a license to engage in all sorts of black operations. Allen Dulles knew covert action was a very powerful weapon and that it acted “like a damn good drug.” But he added, “if you take too much of it, it will kill you.” Presidents became dependent upon the agency because almost all of them seemed to want hidden means of accomplishing things. Some, like Colonel Fletcher Prouty, have suggested that the agency has sometimes directed the nation’s foreign policy in a manner independent of the White House. Prouty has offered little proof of that, but there was Richard M. Nixon’s comment that “I don’t want the goddamn C.I.A. to make policy anymore.” . DCI Richard Helms told the president he agreed.

A report on C.I.A. abuses was compiled for Director James Schlesinger in 1973. It ran to 693 pages and was Called “Potential Flap Activities,” or informally the “family jewels.” Its contents were were not partially revealed until June, 2007, but William Colby did brief Congress on it. As a result of the report, Schlesinger fired nearly 1000 people and left the agency. Richard Nixon believed the agency was bloated and ineffectual and he was angry that it had not helped to coverup White House involvement in Watergate .

1 comment:

Andres Pope said...

Another great article very well written, would like to no more, here in the U.K are intelligent services actions are never told & as the U.S & MI6 are close they must get up to allsorts.