The Central Intelligence Agency: its crimes.(1987)
"Our Presidents should not be able to conduct secret
operations which violate our principles, jeopardize our rights,
and have not been subject to the checks and balances which
normally keep policies in line."
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of
Defense for International Affairs
"In its consideration of covert action, the Committee was
struck by the basic tension--if not incompatibility--of covert
operations and the demands of a constitutional system. Secrecy
is essential to covert operations; secrecy can, however, become a
source of power, a barrier to serious policy debate within the
government, and a means of circumventing the established checks
and procedures of government. The Committee found that secrecy
and compartmentation contributed to a temptation on the part of
the Executive to resort to covert operations in order to avoid
bureaucratic, congressional, and public debate."
The Church Committee. U.S. Senate
"The nation must to a degree take it on faith that we too
are honorable men, devoted to her service."
Richard Helms, then DCI
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
CHAPTER TWO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
CIA Proprietaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Propaganda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Political Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Economic Covert Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Paramilitary Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
CHAPTER THREE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Project NKNAOMI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Project MKULTRA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
LSD Experimentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Project BLUEBIRD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Project ARTICHOKE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
CHAPTER FOUR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
The National Security Act of July 1947 . . . . . . 19
Radio Free Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Radio Liberty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Taiwan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Operation Mongoose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Guatemala . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
The Bay of Pigs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Laos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
The Phoenix Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Chile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
CHAPTER FIVE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Plausible Deniability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
CIA Case Officers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Congress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
United States covert actions abroad. 1946-1986
The Congo 1960: State Terrorism and Foreign Policy
On January 22, 1946, President Harry S. Truman issued an
executive order setting up a National Intelligence Authority, and
under it, a Central Intelligence Group, which was the forerunner
of the Central Intelligence Agency. Truman recognized the need
for a centralized intelligence apparatus in peacetime to help
ensure that nothing like the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl
Harbor would ever again happen. The organization that was to
become the CIA took on a life of its own and over the past four
decades has become the secret army of the President of the United
States. Presidents from Truman to Ronald Reagan have used this
secret army whenever they found it impossible to achieve their
policy goals through overt means.
Over the years, the CIA has evolved from an agency whose
primary assignment was to gather intelligence into a powerful
entity whose help is enlisted to help attain American foreign
policy goals. Since 1947, the Agency has been involved in the
internal affairs of over fifty countries on six different
continents. Although an exact number is impossible to determine,
there are over 20,000 employees affiliated with the organization.
Of these, more than 6,000 serve in the clandestine services, the
arm of the CIA that is responsible for covert operations.
The purpose of this work will be to survey the covert
operations that have been undertaken by the CIA in the past forty
years and to assess the effectiveness of a number of these
activities. We shall begin by examining the various shapes that
covert operations may take. They are propaganda; political
action; economic activities; and paramilitary operations. After
surveying the various types of covert operations, we will look at
examples of CIA involvement around the world. Since there have
been eighty-five or so such operations since 1948, we will not
attempt to look at every one (See Appendix I). However, we will
examine a number of covert operations to get an idea of what
exactly the CIA does and continues to do. We will evaluate both
the particular operations examined in this work and covert
operations in general. Afterwards, we should be able to
establish a number of criteria that separate good covert
operations from bad ones. Finally, we will look towards the
future and try to see what it has in store for the Central
According to the CIA's own definition, covert action means
"any clandestine or secret activities designed to influence
foreign governments, events, organizations, or persons in support
of U.S. foreign policy conducted in such manner that the
involvement of the U.S. Government is not apparent." Before we
explore the various types of covert operations in which the
Agency engages, we should examine one of the methods that the CIA
uses to mask its activities. What is being referred to is the
establishment of "front" organizations, better known as
CIA proprietaries are businesses that are wholly owned by
the Agency which do business, or appear to do business, under
commercial guise. Proprietaries have been used by the CIA for
espionage as well as covert operations. Many of the larger
proprietaries are also, and have been in the past, used for
The best-known of the CIA proprietaries were Radio Free
Europe and Radio Liberty. The corporate structures of the two
radio stations served as a prototype for later Agency
proprietaries. Each functioned under the cover provided by a
board of directors made up of prominent Americans, who in the
case of Radio Free Europe incorporated as the National Committee
for a Free Europe and in the case of Radio Liberty as the
American Committee for Liberation. However, CIA officers in the
key management positions at the stations made all of the
important decisions regarding the activities of the station.
Other CIA proprietaries, organized in the 1960s, were the
CIA airlines--Air America, Air Asia, Civil Air Transport,
Intermountain Aviation, and Southern Air Transport--and certain
holding companies involved with the airlines or the Bay of Pigs
project, such as the Pacific Corporation and Double-Chek
corporation. In early 1967, it became known that the CIA had
subsidized the nation's largest student organization, the
National Student Association. This revelation prompted increased
press interest in CIA fronts and conduits. Eventually, it became
known that the CIA channeled money directly or indirectly into a
multitude of business, labor, and church groups; universities;
charitable organizations; and educational and cultural groups.
Propaganda is any action that is "intended to undermine the
beliefs, perceptions, and value systems of the people under the
rule of the adversary government..." The ultimate aim of
propaganda is to convert the people under the opposition
government into accepting the belief system of the country which
is distributing the propaganda. Half of the battle is won if the
people of the target country begin to question the belief system
of the government under whose authority they live.
Propaganda is among the oldest of techniques employed by
governments in dealing with their foes. There are many different
propaganda methods that are used by governments to undermine the
political machinery in other countries, some of which are overt.
One of these is the use of radio broadcasts. Radio provides a
way to reach the people of the adversary country that cannot be
kept out by building walls.
In addition to the overt means of distributing propaganda
that have been mentioned, there are covert means that are
sometimes employed. Covert action is used and becomes relevant
when a country attempts to control the media of the enemy state.
This control is accomplished by influencing writers, journalists,
printers, publishers, and so forth through money, exchanges of
favors, or other means. In the case of radio, covert action
involves the operation of "black radio" which will be discussed
in a moment.
In their book The Invisible Government, authors David Wise
and Thomas B. Ross make the following observations about the
radio activities of the Central Intelligence Agency:
United States radio activities have ranged all the way from
overt, openly acknowledged and advertised programs of the Voice
of America to highly secret CIA transmitters in the Middle East
and other areas of the world. In between, is a whole spectrum of
black, gray, secret and semi-secret radio operations. The CIA's
Radio Swan, because it became operationally involved at the Bay
of Pigs, never enjoyed more than the thinnest of covers. But
Radio Swan was a relatively small black-radio operation. Other
radio operations, financed and controlled in whole or in part by
the Invisible Government [The CIA and the U.S. Intelligence
Community as a whole], are more skillfully concealed and much
It may now be helpful to examine exactly what is meant by
black and white propaganda. Black propaganda conceals its origin
while white propaganda is an open, candid charge against an
opponent. An example of black propaganda would be the CIA's
circulation of a supposedly Soviet anti-Islamic pamphlet in Egypt
in October 1964. The effort was intended to hurt the image of
the Soviet Union in that country.
"Black radio", in the specialized language of the
intelligence community, is generally understood to mean the
operation of a radio broadcasting system which, after being
captured by the intelligence network of the adversary nation, is
operated in the name of the original owner to conduct hostile,
but subtle, propaganda against the owner while pretending that
the station is still in the original hands. Sometimes "black
radio" simply means radio operations controlled directly or
indirectly by any intelligence apparatus. "Black radio"
operations of this sort have been conducted by both super-powers
on a large scale in every form since the beginning of the Cold
War. U.S. activities have ranged from the open Voice of America
broadcasting station to secret CIA transmitters in different
parts of the world.
One more type of propaganda effort which deserves further
mention here is printed propaganda. Every year, the CIA engages
in publishing slightly misleading newspaper and magazine
articles, books, and even occasionally the memoirs of Soviet
officials or soldiers who have defected. The Agency also wages
a silent war through disinformation and various other
counterespionage techniques. The distribution through this
method sometimes proves to be more difficult than conducting
Another type of influence that may be exerted through covert
means is political action. Such action may be defined as
attempts to change the power structure and policies of another
state through secret contacts and secret funds by means which are
stronger than mere persuasion (propaganda) and less severe than
military action. Following the Korean War and the shift in the
perception of the Soviet threat as more political and less
military, the CIA concentrated its operations on political
action, particularly in the form of covert support for electoral
candidates and political parties.
Covert political action may be carried out in the form of
support of a friendly government or against its domestic
opposition, a type of covert action known as subversive. It may
also manifest itself in the form of support to a group that is
the domestic opposition of an unfriendly government. The latter
type of covert action is known as benign.
Another and somewhat darker form of covert political
activity is assassination. From time to time, a dictator
unfriendly to the United States or its interests will take
control of a country that the U.S. deems to be of vital
significance. Perhaps the leader has a heavy Marxist bent like
Fidel Castro or a somewhat unpredictable tendency to cause
turmoil in the world like Moammar Gadhafi. In cases where such a
person has seized power, the U.S. is often interested in removing
the dictator by any means available. In cases where the leaders
in the United States feel that the immediate removal of an
unfriendly dictator is absolutely necessary if the U.S. is to
enjoy continued security, U.S. leaders may resort to the
unpleasant option of assassination.
In 1975, in light of questions about the conduct of the CIA
in domestic affairs in the United States, the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence, headed by Senator Frank Church of
Idaho, began hearings on the CIA and its activities. The Church
Committee (as it become known) issued a report in 1975 entitled
"Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders" which
provided a unique inside account of how such plans originate.
The CIA was allegedly involved in assassination plots against
Fidel Castro of Cuba, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, and Ngo Din
Diem of South Vietnam. The Agency also allegedly schemed to
assassinate President Sukarno of Indonesia and Francois "Papa
Doc" Duvalier of Haiti. The Agency had provided arms to
dissidents within Indonesia and Haiti, but witnesses before the
Church Committee swore that those weapons were never given for
the purpose of murdering either man.
In addition to plotting to assassinate foreign leaders, the
CIA often supplied dissidents within foreign countries controlled
by unfriendly governments with arms and ammunition. In Chile,
the CIA passed three .45 calibre machine guns, ten tear-gas
grenades, and five-hundred rounds of ammunition. For Castro
dissidents, the Agency prepared a cache composed of a rifle with
a telescope and silencer and several bombs which could be
concealed in a suitcase. Finally, in the Dominican Republic,
where the United States disliked Rafael Trujillo, the CIA
prepared to drop twelve untraceable rifles with scopes. That
drop was never executed.
In all of the plots in which the Agency was involved, it
made sure that its role was indirect. Never once did an American
CIA agent actually make any of the assassination attempts.
According to Loch Johnson in A Season of Inquiry:
In no case was an American finger actually on the trigger of
these weapons. And even though the officials of the United
States had clearly initiated assassination plots against Castro
and Lumumba, it was technically true--as Richard Helms had
claimed--that neither the CIA nor any other agency of the
American government had murdered a foreign leader. Through
others, however, we had tried, but had either been too inept...or
too late to succeed.
Economic covert operations are those in which an attempt is
made to affect the economic machinery within a country with the
aim of achieving a desired result. An example would be the CIA's
involvement in trying to contaminate part of a cargo of Cuban
sugar that was bound for the Soviet Union. This type of activity
might also come in the form of helping a country become more
economically efficient and hoping that the success will be
noticed by other countries who will then embrace the democratic
ideals and methods through which the "model" country has become
Perhaps the most tangible type of covert action engaged in
by the CIA is in the form of paramilitary operations. This
category of covert operations is also potentially the most
politically dangerous. With the onset of the Cold War and the
proliferation of nuclear weapons, military operations became both
necessary and dangerous at the same time. In countries where
other forms of persuasion did not seem to be working, it often
seemed necessary to use military forces to further the foreign
policy goals of the United States. The perceived threat of
Soviet domination of the Third World served to increase the
pressure for military intervention. It was thus decided by U.S.
leaders that the nation should have paramilitary capabilities.
The responsibility for devising and carrying out these operations
naturally settled upon the shoulders of the CIA.
Though the United States began to work on developing a
paramilitary capability after World War II, with the exception of
an operation in Guatemala in 1954, the scale of activities was
minimal before 1961. When President John F. Kennedy took office
in 1961, he and his closest advisors were convinced of the need
for the U.S. to develop an unconventional warfare capability to
counter the growing evidence of communist guerilla activities in
Southeast Asia and Africa. The aim of "counterinsurgency" (as it
became known) was to prevent communist supported military
victories without causing a major U.S./Soviet confrontation.
Simultaneously, Kennedy directed the CIA to develop and use its
paramilitary capabilities around the world. Thus, in the decade
of the 1960s, developing a paramilitary capability became the
primary objective of the CIA's clandestine activities, and by
1967, spending on paramilitary activities had surpassed both
psychological and political action in the amount of budgetary
In the early 1960s, the decolonization of Africa sparked an
increase in the scale of CIA clandestine activities on that
continent. CIA activities there paralleled the growing interest
within the State Department and the Kennedy Administration in
Third World Countries, which were regarded as the first line of
defense against the Soviets. The U.S. Government assumed that
the Soviets would attempt to encroach upon the newly independent
states. Thus the African continent, which prior to 1960 was
included in the CIA's Middle-Eastern Division became a separate
division. In addition, between 1959 and 1963, the number of CIA
stations in Africa increased by 55.5%. Also, the perception of a
growing Soviet presence both politically and through guerilla
activity in Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia, resulted in a 40%
increase in the size of the Western Hemisphere Division between
1960 and 1965.
Throughout the 1960s, the CIA was involved in paramilitary
operations in a number of countries. Its involvement included
efforts in Angola, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba. Many of the CIA's
undertakings were either unsuccessful or without any clear result
and some of them will be discussed later. Before leaving this
category of covert operations, it is interesting to consider a
story recounted by Fred Branfman, in a book entitled Uncloaking
the CIA by Howard Frazier.
There are many stories I could tell about him, but I will tell
just one. In the late 1960s a friend of mine was a pilot for a
private CIA airline. The agent threw a box on the airplane one
day and said "Take this to Landry in Udorn". (Pat Landry was the
head of the CIA in Udorn, coordinating the Burma-Thailand-Laos-
North Vietnam theatre). My friend started flying the plane and
noticed a bad odor coming from the box. After some time he could
not stand it anymore and opened up the box. Inside was a fresh
human head. This was a joke. The idea was to see what Pat
Landry would do when someone put this box on his desk. You
cannot throw a human head in the wastepaper basket, you cannot
throw it in the garbage can. CIA paramilitary activities were
and are being carried out by people, like this agent, who have
gone beyond the pale of civilized behavior. There are hundreds
of these people now working in the Third World. This fact is, of
course, not just a disgrace, but a clear and present danger.
In the first two decades following its establishment, the
CIA initiated a number of programs to develop a chemical and
biological warfare capacity. Project NKNAOMI was begun to
provide the CIA with a covert support base to meet its
clandestine operational requirements. This was to be
accomplished by stockpiling several incapacitating and lethal
materials for specific use by the Technical Services Division of
the CIA. Under this plan, the TSD was to maintain in operational
readiness special and unique items for the dissemination of
biological and chemical materials. The project also provided for
the required surveillance, testing, upgrading, and evaluation of
materials and items in order to assure the absence of defects and
the complete predictability of results to be expected under
operational conditions. In 1952, the Special Operations
Division of the U.S. Army was asked to assist the CIA in
developing, testing, and maintaining biological agents and
delivery systems for the purposes mentioned above.
The SOD helped the CIA develop darts coated with biological
agents and different types of pills. The two also devised a
special gun which could fire darts enabling an agent to
incapacitate guard dogs, enter the installation the dogs were
guarding, and return the dogs to consciousness upon departure
from the facility. In addition, the CIA asked the SOD to study
the feasibility of using biological agents against crops and
animals. Indeed, a CIA memo written in 1967 and uncovered by the
Church Committee gives evidence of at least three methods of
covert attack against crops which had been developed and
evaluated under field conditions.
Project NKNAOMI was discontinued in 1970, and on November
25, 1969, President Richard Nixon renounced the use of any form
of biological weapons that could kill or incapacitate. Nixon
also ordered the disposal of existing stockpiles of
bacteriological weapons. On February 14, 1970, Nixon clarified
the extent of his earlier order and indicated that toxins--
chemicals that are not living organisms but produced by living
organisms--were considered bacteriological weapons subject to his
previous directive. Despite the presidential order, a CIA
scientist acquired around 11 grams of a deadly shellfish toxin
from SOD personnel at Fort Detrick and stored it in a little-used
CIA laboratory where it remained, undetected, for over five
Another project, MKULTRA, provided for the research and
development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials
which could be employed in clandestine operations to control
human behavior. According to the Church Committee, a CIA memo
was uncovered which stated the purpose of the project. The memo
indicated that MKULTRA's purpose was
to develop a capability in the covert use of biological and
chemical materials...Aside from the offensive potential, the
development of a comprehensive capability in this field of covert
chemical and biological warfare gives us a thorough knowledge of
the enemy's theoretical potential, thus enabling us to defend
ourselves against a foe who might not be as restrained in the use
of these techniques as we are.
Eighty-six universities or institutions were involved to some
extent in the project.
As early as 1947, the CIA had begun experimentation with
different types of mind-altering chemicals and drugs. One
Project, CHATTER, involved the testing of "truth drugs" for
interrogation and agent recruitment. The research included
laboratory experiments on animals and human volunteers involving
scopolamine, mescaline, and Anabasis aphylla in order to
determine their speech-inducing qualities. The project, which
was expanded substantially during the Korean War, ended in 1953.
Another, more controversial, program involved testing the
hallucinogenic drug LSD on human subjects. LSD testing by the
CIA involved three phases. In the first phase, the Agency
administered LSD to 1,000 soldiers who volunteered for the
testing. Agency scientists observed the subjects and noted their
reactions to the drug. In the second phase of research, Material
Testing Programme EA 1729, 95 volunteers received LSD to test the
potential intelligence-gathering value of the drug. The third
phase of the testing, Projects THIRD CHANCE and DERBY HAT,
involved the interrogation of eighteen unwitting non-volunteers
in Europe and the Far East who had received LSD as part of
operational field tests.
A tragic twist in the LSD experimentation occurred on
November 27, 1953. Dr. Frank Olson, a civilian employee of the
U.S. Army died following participation in a CIA experiment with
LSD. He unknowingly received 70 micrograms of LSD which was
placed in his drink by Dr. Robert Lashbrook, a CIA officer, as
part of an experiment. Shortly after the experiment, Olson
exhibited the symptoms of paranoia and schizophrenia.
Accompanied by Lashbrook, Olson began visiting Dr. Harold
Abrahamsom for psychological assistance. Abrahamson's research
on LSD had been funded indirectly by the CIA. Olson jumped to
his death from a ten-story window in the Statler Hotel while
It was disclosed by Senate Committees investigating the
activities of the CIA in 1977 that the Agency was involved in
testing drugs like LSD on "unwitting subjects in social
situations". In some situations, heroin addicts were enticed
into participating in order to get a reward--heroin. Perhaps
most disturbing of all is the fact that the extent of
experimentation on human subjects cannot readily be determined,
since the records of all MKULTRA activities were destroyed in
January 1973 at the instruction of then CIA director Richard
At least one project undertaken by the CIA in 1950 was aimed
at finding ways to protect the security of agents in the field.
Project BLUEBIRD attempted to discover means of conditioning
personnel to prevent unauthorized extraction of information from
them by known means. The project investigated the possibility of
controlling an individual by employing special interrogation
techniques. BLUEBIRD also looked into memory enhancement and
ways to establish defensive means against the hostile control of
Agency personnel. As a result of interrogations conducted
overseas during the project, another goal was established--the
evaluation of the offensive uses of unconventional interrogation
methods, including the use of hypnosis and various drugs.
In August 1951, the project was renamed ARTICHOKE. Project
ARTICHOKE included "in-house experiments on interrogation
techniques, conducted 'under medical and security controls which
would ensure that no damage was done to the individuals who
volunteer for the experiments'". Although the CIA maintains that
the project ended in 1956, evidence indicates that the Office of
Security and Office of Medical Services use of "special
interrogation" techniques continued for several years thereafter.
The National Security Act of July 1947 established the CIA
as it exists today. Under the Act, the CIA's mission was loosely
defined, since any efforts to flesh out its duties in specific
terms would have unduly limited the scope of its activities.
Therefore, under the Act, the CIA was charged to perform five
general tasks. The first is to advise the National Security
Council on matters relating to national security. The second is
to make recommendations to the NSC regarding the coordination of
intelligence activities of the various departments. The third
duty is to correlate and evaluate intelligence data and provide
for its appropriate dissemination. Fourth, the CIA is to carry
out "service of common concern". Finally, the CIA is authorized
"to perform all other functions and duties related to
intelligence affecting the national security as the NSC will from
time to time direct...".
It is from this final directive that the wide-ranging power
to do everything from plotting political assassinations and
government overthrows to buying off local newspaper owners and
mining harbors has come. The wording of that final directive has
allowed presidents of the United States to organize and use
secret armies to achieve covertly the policy aims that they are
not able to achieve through overt means. It allows presidents
both present and future to use the resources of the nation's top
intelligence agency as they see fit.
Now that we have become more educated regarding the Central
Intelligence Agency and some of its numerous activities, we shall
proceed to the main purpose of this analysis. This work is
intended to give the reader a clear understanding of the types of
covert operations in which the CIA involves itself. We will then
assess the effectiveness of various techniques used by the
Agency. Doing so will help us draw conclusions about the proper
scope of CIA activities and will enable us to address questions
about areas of legitimate involvement by the CIA. We shall begin
by looking at a number of CIA covert operations since 1947.
RADIO FREE EUROPE AND RADIO LIBERTY
In 1949, the CIA founded the National Committee for a Free
Europe and the Committee for the Liberation of Peoples of
Russia. The immediate result of the establishment of these two
committees was the founding of two broadcasting stations, Radio
Free Europe in Munich and Radio Liberation. These stations were
staffed with emigres who broadcast to their countrymen in their
native languages. Radio Liberation, which became Radio Liberty
in 1956, was targeted mainly at the Soviet Union and broadcast in
fourteen different languages. The main target of Radio Free
Europe was the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. The
primary advantage of the emigre staffs was that the broadcasters
were able to keep abreast of recent developments in their former
homelands by communicating to recent emigres and direct contacts
inside their native countries. As a result of the close contact,
broadcasters were able to speak knowledgeably and intimately to
their fellow countrymen.
The initial broadcasts by Radio Free Europe and Radio
Liberation were designed to intensify the passive resistance of
the people in the target countries in hopes that such action
would undermine European regimes by weakening the control of the
Communist party. The broadcasts were also intended to give the
targeted listeners the strength to hold on to their hope for
ultimate freedom. Later, after Stalin died and relations between
the East and West began to improve, U.S. leaders began to realize
that slow change was more likely than a dramatic shift in power.
Therefore, the messages which were broadcast dwelt less on
liberation and more on themes involving political and social
In addition to broadcasting in Europe, the CIA used this
persuasive propaganda technique elsewhere, most notably, in Cuba.
In 1961, the Agency used a broadcasting station in conjunction
with other arrangements that were made to support the invasion at
the Bay of Pigs. The CIA used Radio Swan to mislead the Cuban
government, encourage the rebels, and to make it seem like there
was massive support for a rebellion within Cuba.
ECONOMIC COVERT ACTIVITIES: TAIWAN
A good example of the positive type of economic covert
action is the success story of Taiwan. The Republic of China is
an example of the successful use of economic assistance
(especially in agriculture) to further the interests of the
United States. In Taiwan, early land reform gave ownership of
the land to those who worked it. Coupled with technological
guidance on modern farming techniques, the system provided a
praiseworthy model for other developing countries. The
introduction of miracle seeds and chemical fertilizers helped to
make Taiwan an economic showcase. Around 1960, the U.S. came up
with the idea of helping the Chinese Nationalists set up food-
growing demonstration projects in Africa, the Middle East, and
Latin America, where both their techniques and personnel were
suited to the task of helping primitive agricultural societies.
The project in Taiwan was not only an economic aid program
helping to build prestige and political contacts for the
Nationalist Chinese, it also provided a demonstration of what
Chinese people working under a free market system were capable of
doing. The prosperity of the Taiwanese as seen against the
backdrop of the economic shortcomings of Mao's programs on the
mainland was the kind of creative propaganda campaign that
supported U.S. policies and principles. The CIA's role was to
use its contacts in the other developing countries to explain the
mutual benefits and get the undertaking going. The economic
assistance program that was implemented could have been an overt
one, but acknowledged U.S. sponsorship would have caused some
governments to shy away from it. Furthermore, an overt pushing
of the program by the United States might have embarrassed Taiwan
by giving the impression that it was forced to do the job by the
Ray Cline, then a touring case officer for the CIA,
explained the project in "off the record talks with Chiang Ching-
kuo, the savvy son of Chiang Kai-shek, who was perhaps the most
far-sighted political leader in Taiwan." Cline added,
Ching-kuo grasped the concept immediately and saw the benefits,
as did other Taiwanese Foreign and Agricultural policy officials.
The program was organized by the Chinese with a minimum of
American help and it worked well for about ten years. In some
regions, it continued to work even longer, and everyone has
profited from the program.
Thus, the success of the program in Taiwan was a testimonial to
the potential for success for well planned economic covert
actions conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency.
In order to get a better idea of the kind of planning that
went into the assassination schemes devised by the CIA, we will
look at the case of Fidel Castro. In addition, at the end of
this work appears a number of messages that were transmitted
between the CIA station chief in Leopoldville and headquarters in
Washington regarding the CIA attempts to assassinate Patrice
Lumumba (Appendix II). Now let us look at the story behind
Operation Mongoose, the CIA plan to eliminate Fidel Castro.
When Castro took power in Cuba in 1959, U.S. leadership made
it a top priority to remove him. According to Ray Cline, former
Deputy-Director of the CIA,
The CIA had advocated the 'elimination of Fidel Castro' as early
as December 1959, and the matter was discussed at Special Group
meetings in January and March of 1960. At an NSC meeting on
March 10, 1960, terminology was used suggesting that the
assassination of Castro, his brother Raul, and Che Guevara was at
least theoretically considered.
Describing the political climate by the time Kennedy took office,
Cline comments in his book Secrets, Spies, and Scholars, "There
was almost an obsession with Cuba on the part of policy matters"
and it was widely believed in the Kennedy Administration "that
the assassination of Castro by a Cuban might have been viewed as
not very different in the benefits that would have accrued from
the assassination of Hitler in 1944." It should also be noted
that after the failure at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, the pride of
the United States was hurt and U.S. leaders wanted more than ever
to dispose of Castro.
The number of strategies devised by the CIA to carry out the
deed and the diversity of their applications illustrates the
creativity and shrewdness of planners within the agency. Johnson
points out a number of ingenious plots that were at least
considered by planners within the agency at one time or another.
This brief excerpt from his book is by no means an exhaustive
The several plots planned at CIA headquarters included treating a
box of Castro's favorite cigars with a botulinum toxin so potent
that it would cause death immediately upon being placed to the
lips; concocting highly poisonous tablets that would work quickly
when immersed in just about anything but boiling soup;
contaminating a diving suit with a fungus guaranteed to produce a
chronic skin disease called Madura foot and, through and
intermediary, offering the suit as a gift to Castro; constructing
an exotic seashell that could be placed in reefs where Castro
often went skin-diving and then exploded at the right moment
from a small submarine nearby; and providing an agent with a
ballpoint pen that contained a hypodermic needle filled with the
deadly poison Black-leaf 40 and had so fine a point it could
pierce the skin of the victim without his knowledge.
Perhaps more frightening than any of the above plots was the
revelation that the CIA also attempted to launch a plot against
Castro through its contacts with underworld figures with
connections in Cuba. The fact that the agency was willing to
resort to such desperate action illustrates the desire of the men
in charge in Washington to eliminate Castro. One source told a
reporter in 1962 that then Attorney-General Robert Kennedy had
stopped a deal between the CIA and the Mafia to murder Fidel
The CIA asked a mobster named Roselli to go to Florida on
its behalf in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of
Cuban exiles who would infiltrate their homeland and assassinate
Castro. Rosselli called upon two other crime figures, Sam
Giancana, a mobster from Chicago, and the Costra Nostra chieftain
for Cuba, Santos Trafficante, to help him. Giancana, using the
name "Sam Gold" in his dealings with the CIA, was on the Attorney
General's "Ten Most Wanted Criminals" list.
Castro was still permitting the Mafia gambling syndicate to
operate in Havana, for tourists only, and Trafficante traveled
back and forth between Havana and Miami in that connection. The
mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would
kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.
Giancana was to locate someone who was close enough to Castro to
be able to drop pills into his food while Trafficante would serve
as courier to Cuba, helping to make arrangements for the murder
on the island. Rosselli was to be the main link between all of
the participants in the plot.
Fortunately for the CIA, the Attorney General intervened
before the plan was carried out. Had the plan succeeded and it
then become public knowledge that the CIA and the Mafia worked
together intimately to murder Castro, the startling revelation
might have been too much for the American public to stomach. It
most likely would have done serious damage to the credibility of
an agency which was already beginning to rouse public suspicion.
GUATEMALA: THE OVERTHROW OF ARBENZ
In 1951, leftist leader Juan Jose Arevalo was succeeded by
his minister of defense, Jacobo Arbenz, who continued to pursue
Arevalo's hard leftist policy both domestically and in Foreign
Affairs. The United States Government found Arbenz's policy
objectives unacceptable and cut off all military aid to
Guatemala. President Eisenhower encouraged the CIA to overthrow
the Arbenz government in 1954.
Arbenz had angered the Eisenhower Administration by
legalizing the Communist party and inviting it to join his
government. The real trigger for the action in Guatemala,
however, was Arbenz's brazen rejection on September 5, 1953, of
an American protest denouncing Guatemala's proposed
"expropriation " from the American owned United Fruit Company of
355,000 acres on the Pacific and 174,000 acres on the Atlantic
side of the country. The protest said that the $600,000 in
agrarian bonds proposed to be paid for these acres "bears not the
slightest resemblance to a true evaluation." In addition, John
Foster Dulles, who by that time realized there would be no roll-
back of communism in Eastern Europe, was determined to block
communist regimes from taking power elsewhere in the world, and
especially in the Western Hemisphere. As a matter of fact, the
Eisenhower administration had earmarked $20 million for an
operation against Guatemala.
The U.S. put political and economic pressure on the Arbenz
government at the public level while the CIA diligently worked
behind the scenes. On the covert level, the CIA began trying to
convince top Guatemalan military officers to defect while
simultaneously launching a campaign of radio and leaflet
propaganda against Arbenz. The CIA engineered a brilliant
campaign (considered as much a propaganda success as a
paramilitary one) using small-scale military action along with
psychological warfare to cause quite a disturbance in the Latin
The main attempt by the CIA was to support a military plot
to overthrow the government that was already in progress.
Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas had begun plotting a coup against
the Arbenz regime in 1952 with the help of leaders in Nicaragua
and Honduras, and the encouragement of the United Fruit Company.
The CIA action was aimed mainly at alienating the Guatemalan Army
from Arbenz. CIA operatives sought to attain this goal by
inciting the Army through radio broadcasts and other propaganda,
and by supplying arms to the insurgents.
The operation began on May 1, 1954, a Guatemalan holiday.
Steadily escalating psychological pressures were brought to bear
on the Arbenz government. It was no secret that Castillo Armas
was training an army of several hundred men in Honduras, and the
United States officially denounced the Arbenz regime, leading the
Guatemalan dictator to believe that a large-scale U.S. effort to
help overthrow him was underway. Since the poorly equipped
Guatemalan Army was no match for a U.S.-backed invasion, Arbenz
was alarmed and his top advisors were divided over how to deal
with the situation.
On June 17, 1954, Colonel Castillo, using about 450 troops,
initiated a paramilitary operation against Arbenz which ended on
the 18th. Castillo and his men crossed over into Guatemala from
Honduras to attack the Arbenz government. Castillo set-up camp
six miles inside Guatemala, and his Air-Force, a mixed handful
of B-26s and P-47 fighters, dropped leaflets, made strafing runs
in outlying districts, and dropped a few bombs. The attacks were
militarily insignificant, but they contributed to the wide-spread
fear of all-out raids.
Meanwhile, the Voice of Liberation, the CIA-run broadcasting
station, was active around the clock, reporting phantom "battles"
and spreading rumors. Arbenz was bombarded with conflicting
reports. Without even one serious military engagement having
occurred, Arbenz found himself confused, excited, undecided, and
In mid-campaign, Castillo Armas had lost two of his three P-
47s without which he would be incapable of maintaining a show of
force. The United States negotiated the "sale" of a number of
planes to the Nicaraguan Air-Force. Sorties were flown in the
planes for Castillo Armas by CIA pilots.
Arbenz was forced to flee, and on June 25, 1954, he sought
asylum in the Mexican Embassy. Two days later, he resigned. A
few days later, Castillo Armas, having taken charge, arrived
victorious in Guatemala on the plane of U.S. Ambassador John
Peurifoy. Peurifoy's wrote the following jingle which appeared
in Time magazine July 28, 1954, which seemed to sum up nicely the
U.S. attitude about the CIA-sponsored operation in Guatemala:
Sing a song of quetzals, pockets full of peace! The junta's in
the palace, they've taken out a lease. The Commies are in hiding,
just across the street; To the embassy of Mexico they beat a
quick retreat. And pistol-packing Peurifoy looks mighty
optimistic For the land of Guatemala is no longer Communistic.
CUBA: THE BAY OF PIGS
As surely as the successful operation in Guatemala was an
example of how to conduct a covert action, the debacle in Cuba
was a primary example of what not to do. The disaster at the Bay
of Pigs in Cuba seriously altered the perception of the CIA's
ability to plan and conduct covert paramilitary operations.
Indeed, as Satish Kumar pointed out in his book The CIA in the
Third World: A Study in Crypto-Diplomacy, "it is certain that
the Cuban operation cast serious doubts as to the efficacy of
large-scale para-military operations as an instrument of covert
action." Says Harry Rositzke, a former CIA operative,
Para-military operations are the "noisiest" of all covert
actions. When they fail, they become public fiascos, and no
official denials are plausible. The history of American para-
military operations as an element of America's containment policy
is one of almost uniform failure.
Such was the case with the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation in
The idea of a Soviet-oriented communist dictatorship a mere
ninety miles from the United States was a grave concern for U.S.
leaders in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Neither President
Eisenhower nor his predecessor John Fitzgerald Kennedy were
pleased to have a neighbor with such undemocratic ideals. As
early as 1959, the CIA had advocated the elimination of Castro,
and as has already been pointed out, the Agency began an
operation (Operation MONGOOSE) aimed at accomplishing just that.
The alternative of initiating guerilla operations against
Castro had been abandoned by the CIA in 1960. Instead,
Eisenhower set-up a CIA-run program for training hundreds of
highly motivated anti-Castro Cuban refugees in the arts of
guerilla combat, planning to possibly use the force to overthrow
the Castro government. Vice President Richard Nixon was a strong
supporter of a program to topple the Castro regime, and
Eisenhower, upon the advice of the NSC Subcommittee responsible
for reviewing covert action schemes, approved the paramilitary
training project as a contingency plan, leaving the decision of
whether or not to execute it up to the incoming Kennedy
President Kennedy decided to go ahead with the plan after
taking office. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman William
Fulbright, upon learning of plans for the proposed invasion, sent
a memorandum to the White House that said that if American forces
were drawn into the battle in Cuba,
We would have undone the work of thirty years in trying to live
down earlier interventions...To give this activity even covert
support is of a piece with the hypocrisy and cynicism for which
the United States is constantly denouncing the Soviet Union in
the United Nations and elsewhere. This point will not be lost on
the rest of the world nor our own consciences. And remember
always, the Castro regime is a thorn in the side but not a dagger
in the heart.
The Senator's views were no doubt on Kennedy's mind when he later
declined to commit American troops after the invasion began to
The CIA trained some 1400 Cuban emigres for action against
Castro. Some of the Cubans were trained as ground forces and the
remainder as pilots. It was eventually decided that the guerilla
brigade would make an amphibious landing in the Bay of Pigs. Air
support for the operation was to be supplied for the operation by
emigre pilots flying in American B-26s made up to look like Cuban
Air Force planes. This would help create the illusion that
Castro's own men were rebelling against him. On April 15, 1961,
eight U.S.-made planes conducted air strikes against three Cuban
air bases with the intention of destroying the Cuban Air Force
on the ground. These attempts proved to be unsuccessful. The
events that followed spelled disaster for the Cuban guerrillas
and the CIA.
When the invasion force landed at the Bay of Pigs, it met
considerably more resistance than had been expected. Despite
broadcasts by the CIA run Radio Swan, the Cuban militia and
citizens were not incited to rebel against the Castro regime as
the CIA had estimated. Instead, the Cuban forces fought
valiantly against the exile force. The Castro Air Force, which
had not been completely destroyed, began to inflict severe
damages on both the rebel air and ground forces. For all intents
and purposes, the invasion was over almost as quickly as it had
begun, with Castro's forces easily quashing the rebellion.
Fatal to the operation were a number of bad breaks. U.S.
air cover that was to be provided for one hour at the onset of
the invasion never materialized because of a miscommunication
between the rebels and the U.S. Air Force. The rebel Air Force
sustained such heavy casualties that CIA pilots had to fly
missions in a futile attempt to salvage the operation. As has
already been mentioned, the Cuban people did not react as had
been expected, and without popular support, the invasion had
little chance of success. Even before the operation was a
confirmed failure, the CIA cover story began to fall apart and
later revelations about U.S. involvement in the fiasco greatly
embarrassed the United States.
The Castro forces took more than eleven-hundred prisoners
during the fighting. Most of them were traded on Christmas eve
of 1962 to the United States for $10 million in cash and $53
million in medicines, baby foods, and other supplies and
equipment exempted from the American embargo on shipments to
Cuba. Of the approximately 1300 guerrillas that actually had
gone ashore, 114 were killed during the three fatal days of the
LAOS: THE SECRET ARMY
The CIA was involved in what has been regarded by many
experts as the most outstanding example of the depth and
magnitude of the clandestine operations of a major power in the
post-war period. What is being referred to is the CIA's
operations in Laos, known as the "secret army". The CIA's
"secret war" in Laos went on for over a decade, involving "a
military force of over 100,000 men, and in which were dropped
over two million tons of bombs, as much as had been loosed on all
Europe and the Pacific Theatre in World War II".
The CIA involvement in Laos began with a presence in the
country in the late 1950s. Initially, the operation involved air
supply and paramilitary training of the Meo tribesmen to help
them defend their country against the North Vietnamese. However,
the operation gradually evolved into a full-scale management of
the ground war in Laos by the CIA.
According to Fred Branfman, what the CIA did in Laos was
It created an army of its own, an army paid, controlled, and
directed by American CIA officials entirely separately from the
normal Laotian government structure...Some troops from every
people in Southeast Asia were bought into Laos as part of what
became known as "the secret army". The CIA trained the secret
army; directed it in combat; decided when it would fight; and had
it carry out espionage missions, assassinations of military and
civilian figures, and sabotage.
As was mentioned earlier, the U.S. dropped over two-million
tons of bombs on Laos. The majority of those raids were targeted
by CIA officials, not Air Force officials. The CIA officials
worked at Udorn Air Force base. They were a special team of
photo reconnaissance people who, because the CIA had men at Udorn
and on the ground, bureaucratically decided which targets would
In Laos, the CIA put a great deal of emphasis on
psychological warfare. Americans were told in the early '60s
that the core of our program in Laos would be to win the "minds
and hearts" of the people. Indeed, a tremendous attempt was made
to do just that through land reform, education, and economic
assistance. However, by the time President Nixon took office,
winning the "hearts and minds" of the people had failed and the
emphasis was shifted to controlling their behavior. The
reasoning behind the shift in emphasis was simple. Although the
United States might not be able to change the way the people
thought, it could certainly control their political behavior.
SOUTH VIETNAM: THE PHOENIX PROGRAM
Another country in Asia in which the CIA found itself
heavily involved was Vietnam. From 1962-1965, the CIA worked
with the South Vietnamese government to organize police forces
and paramilitary units. After 1965, the CIA became engaged in a
full-scale paramilitary assistance program to the South
Vietnamese Government. The CIA commitment paralleled the growing
U.S. commitment to South Vietnam.
Perhaps one of the most grisly of all CIA paramilitary
operations in any country was the Phoenix Program, which was
initiated in South Vietnam in 1968. The program was originally
designed to "neutralize", assassinate, or imprison members of the
civilian infrastructure of the National Liberation Front (NLF).
Offices were set up from Saigon all the way down to the district
level. CIA advisors were present at every level. The function
of the Phoenix offices was to collate intelligence about the
"Vietcong infrastructure", interrogate civilians picked up at
random by military units carrying out sweeps through villages,
and "neutralize" targeted members of the NLF. The task of
"neutralizing" NLF members was carried out by CIA-led South
Vietnamese soldiers, organized into Provincial Reconnaissance
The original concept of the Phoenix Program was quickly
diluted for two major reasons. One was that the pressure from
the top to fill numerical quotas of persons to be neutralized was
very great. The second was the difficulties encountered at the
bottom levels in identifying members of the NLF civilian
infrastructure who were often indistinguishable from the general
population. The end result of these two problems was an increase
in the numbers of innocent persons rounded up, detained,
imprisoned, and murdered in an effort to show results.
William Colby, the director of the Phoenix Program,
testified before Congress in 1971 that Phoenix was an American
The Americans had a great deal to do with starting the program...
we had a great deal to do in terms of developing the ideas,
discussing the need, developing some of the procedures, and so
forth...maybe more than half the initiative came from us
According to Fred Branfman, high-ranking American officials
in South Vietnam bear the sole responsibility for the practice of
setting quotas of civilians to be rounded up under the program
each month. Branfman continues, "The United States clearly set
quotas in an attempt to force the GVN (Government of South
Vietnam) officials into something they preferred not to
undertake". As a matter of fact, Vietnam Information Notes,
published by the U.S. State Department in July 1969 reported
that, "The target for 1969 calls for the elimination of 1800 VCI
per month" as fulfillment of the quotas set by those running the
The CIA-backed Phoenix Program assassinated and jailed large
numbers of Vietnamese civilians without evidence of judicial
procedure. This fact was confirmed by Colby in an admission to
Representative Reid in his July 1971 testimony before Congress.
According to Colby, the Phoenix Program had resulted in the
deaths of 20,587 persons as of May 1971. That number,
proportionate to population, would have totaled over 200,000
Americans deliberately assassinated over a three-year period had
Phoenix been conducted in the United States.
CHILE: ACTIVITIES AGAINST ALLENDE
A good example of the CIA's use of the type of political
action mentioned above is the Agency's involvement in the
internal political affairs of Chile beginning in 1963 and
reaching a climax in 1973. In 1964, the United States became
involved in a covert assistance program to Eduardo Frei in his
campaign for the presidency of Chile. Frei was running against
Salvador Allende, a candidate disliked by U.S. leaders for his
leftist leanings. The CIA had judged previously that Frei would
come to power regardless, with a plurality of the vote, and the
assistance given by it to Frei was supposedly to help strengthen
the Democratic process in Chile. Although Frei won the election,
the United States continued to meddle in the internal affairs of
Chile for another nine years.
The largest covert operation in Chile from 1963-1973 was
propaganda. The CIA station in Santiago placed materials in the
Chilean media, maintained a number of assets or agents on major
Chilean newspapers, radio, and television stations, and
manufactured and disseminated "black" propaganda. Examples of
CIA activities ranged from support of the establishment of a
commercial television service in Chile to the placement of anti-
Soviet propaganda on eight radio news stations and in five
provincial newspapers. The most significant contribution in this
area of covert activity was the money provided to El Mercurio,
the major Santiago daily newspaper during the Allende regime.
The CIA spent over $12 million on the Chilean operation.
Another category of CIA involvement in Chile was that of
political action. The most impressive of these actions
undertaken was the massive effort made from 1963 to 1974 to
influence elections. The CIA spent over $3 million in election
programs alone. In addition to attempting to influence
elections, the Agency combatted the principle Communist-dominated
labor union in Chile and wrested control of Chilean university
student organizations from the Communists.
As was discussed earlier, the United States never liked
Salvador Allende, and in 1970, the CIA began covert political
operations against the government of Allende under express orders
from President Richard Nixon and his National Security Assistant,
Dr. Henry Kissinger. Both the CIA and the State Department were
apparently reluctant to become involved in what appeared to be an
infeasible program to keep President Salvador Allende out of
office, even though he had won by plurality in the September,
Nevertheless, the President and Mr. Kissinger directed the
CIA, much against its officers' better judgments, to stage a coup
in Chile. The project never developed into anything substantial.
However, the CIA provided large sums of money (around $8 million)
to support parliamentary opposition to Allende and to keep alive
an opposition press. For all its efforts, the CIA was
unsuccessful in defeating Allende although on September 11, 1973,
he was overthrown in a coup which, though not under U.S. control,
may well have been caused by U.S. anti-Allende pressures.
A major requirement of covert operations over the years has
been that in the event something goes wrong, the president, as
head of state in the U.S., should be able to believably deny any
knowledge of the clandestine activity. This concept is known as
plausible deniability and it has been a cornerstone in the
foundation of presidential decisions to authorize covert
operations. The misconception that plausible deniability is a
valid method of concealing U.S. involvement in covert activities
has led to a number of problems over the years.
The doctrine of plausible deniability led to many of the
widespread abuses of power that occurred in the CIA before the
Intelligence Reform Era in the mid-1970s. It led the agency to
believe that CIA officers had a green light to conduct almost any
actions they saw fit to reach their goals. McGeorge Bundy, a
former Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to
President's Kennedy and Johnson, has stated:
While in principle it has always been the understanding of senior
government officials outside the CIA that no covert operations
would be undertaken without the explicit approval of "higher
authority", there has also been a general expectation within the
Agency that it was proper business to generate attractive
proposals and to stretch them, in operation, to the furthest
limit of any authorization actually received.
It is easy to see how this misperception on the part of the
CIA developed. A president, hoping to pursue his goals, would
communicate his desire for a sensitive operation indirectly,
thereby creating sort of a "blank check". CIA officers,
intending to carry out the wishes of the president, would then
set about furthering the expressed desires of the Commander in
Chief. However, instead of informing the president of the
progress of the covert planning, the officers would be tempted to
keep him unaware of it, thereby enabling him to "plausibly deny"
any knowledge of the scheme.
Darrel Garwood, the author of a comprehensive work on CIA
activities entitled Under Cover writes,
"Plausible deniability" could be regarded as one of the most
wretched theories ever invented. Its application...was based on
the idea that in an unholy venture a president could be kept so
isolated from events that when exposure came he could truthfully
emerge as shiningly blameless. In practice, whether he deserved
it or not, a president almost always had to take the blame for
Also, as the Senate Intelligence Committee pointed out about
plausible deniability, "this concept...has been expanded to mask
decisions of the President and his senior staff members."
A recent example of how problems linked to this concept can
occur is the so-called "Iran-Contra Affair" which made the
headlines in late 1986 and earlier this year. The fiasco was an
embarrassing illustration of the example which was discussed
above. Although the CIA itself was not directly implicated in
the scandal, Colonel Oliver North and other members of the
government were discovered to have been carrying out the aims of
the President--by channeling funds from arms sales to Iran to the
Contras in Nicaragua-- supposedly without his knowledge. Whether
or not President Reagan actually knew about the diversion of
funds is unclear, but in any event, top level planners of the
operation believed that the President would be able to plausibly
deny any knowledge of the diversion of funds. However, because
of the intense scrutiny placed upon the operation by the media
and Congress, President Reagan was unable to convince them and
the country as a whole that he had no knowledge of the diversion.
As the president and his men learned the hard way, "inevitably,
the truth prevails and policies pursued on the premise that they
could be plausibly denied in the end damage America's reputation
and the faith of her people in their government".
One of the major reasons that the CIA has gone astray over
the last forty years is the veritable freedom from any type of
control or restriction that it has enjoyed. Though Congress
investigated the activities of the Agency in 1975 and
subsequently instituted more stringent oversight procedures, the
CIA of today is once again an agency that is able to do almost as
it pleases. The strictures placed on the CIA by the Ford and
Carter Administrations were relaxed in 1981 when Ronald Reagan
took office. To understand how the Agency has become so
omnipotent since 1947 will require a look back to a time when the
Agency really did as it pleased.
To get an idea of the characteristics of the men in the
Agency during its first three decades, we shall look at a
description of CIA case officers.
CIA men abroad were called case officers within the organization.
As individuals, they were generally efficient, dedicated, highly
motivated and incorruptible. The trouble in the CIA was likely
to be that, for anything short of the meanest of all-out wars,
they were too highly motivated. A severe beating administered to
a reluctant informant, or the assassination of a would-be left-
wing dictator, could seem trivial to them in the light of their
goal of outscoring the nation's potential enemies. And
naturally, until one happened, they could not imagine a
nationwide furor over actions which to them seemed unimportant.
In a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in
April, 1971, then DCI Richard Helms said, "The nation must to a
degree take it on faith that we too are honorable men, devoted to
CIA officials were not the only ones who believed that the
CIA could be trusted to carry out the objectives of the United
States Government. The Agency had a number of champions in the
Congress of the United States as well. Feelings about the
sanctity of sensitive information dealt with by the Agency led to
wide support for a laissez faire policy in Congress regarding the
CIA. For example, Richard Russell, the Democratic Senator from
Georgia, once gave the following explanation of why he led the
fight against a resolution to provide for closer Congressional
surveillance of the CIA.
Russell noted that the statement had been made on the floor that
the Armed Services subcommittee of which he was a member had not
revealed to the country what it had learned about CIA operations.
"No, Mr. President," Russell said, "we have not told the country,
and I do not propose to tell the country in the future, because
if there is anything in the United States which should be held
sacred behind the curtain of classified matter, it is information
regarding the activities of this agency...It would be better to
abolish it out of hand than it would be to adopt a theory that
such information should be spread and made available to every
member of Congress and to the members of the staff of any
With such a powerful man and others like him on its side, it is
small wonder that the CIA got away with the things that it did
prior to 1975.
CIA officers cleverly played upon the fears of Congress to
consolidate the power of the Agency. Former CIA director Allen
Dulles, speaking before a Congressional committee, warned, Any
investigation, whether by a congressional committee or any other
body, which results in disclosure of our secret activities and
operations or uncovers our personnel, will help a potential enemy
just as if the enemy had been able to infiltrate his own agents
right into our shop.
Such statements led Senators like John Stennis to comment, "If
you are going to have an intelligence agency, you have to protect
it as such...and shut your eyes some, and take what's coming".
The following is a partial list of United States Covert action
abroad to impose or restore favorable political conditions, 1946-
1983. The list was prepared by Tom Gervasi of the Center for
Military Research and Analysis in 1984, and it was compiled using
information available in the public domain.
1946: GREECE. Restore monarch after overthrow of Metaxas
1946-1955: WEST GERMANY. Average of $6 million annually to
support former Nazi intelligence network of General
Reinhard Gehlen. Successful.
1948-1968: ITALY. Average of $30 million annually in
payments to political and labor leaders to supportanti-
Communist candidates in Italian elections. Successful.
1949: GREECE. Military assistance to anti-Communist forces
in Greek civil war. Successful.
1949-1953: UKRAINE. Organize and support a Ukrainian
resistance movement. Unsuccessful.
1949-1961: BURMA. Support 12,000 Nationalist China troops
in Burma under General Li Mi as an incursion force into
People's Republic of China. Unsuccessful.
1950-1952: POLAND. Financial and military assistance for
Polish Freedom and Independence Movement. Unsuccessful.
1950: ALBANIA. Overthrow government of Enver Hoxha.
1951-1954: CHINA. Airdrop guerilla teams into People's
Republic of China. Unsuccessful.
1953: IRAN. Overthrow Mossadegh government and install
Zahedi. Cost: $10 million. Successful.
1953: PHILLIPINES. Assassination and propaganda campaign to
overcome Huk resistance and install government of Ramon
@Copyright 1984 by the Center for Military Research and Analysis
1953: COSTA RICA. Overthrow government of Jose Figueres.
1954: SOUTH VIETNAM. Install government of Ngo Dinh Diem.
1954: WEST GERMANY. Arrange abduction and discreditation of
West German intelligence chief Otto John, and replace
with Reinhard Gehlen. Successful.
1954: GUATEMALA. Overthrow government of Jacobo Arbenz
Guzman and replace with Carlos Castillo Armas.
1955: CHINA. Assassinate Zhou Enlai en route to Bandung
1956: HUNGARY. Financial and military assistance to
organize and support a Hungarian resistance movement,
and broad propaganda campaign to encourage it.
1956: CUBA. Establish anti-Communist police force, Buro de
Represion Actividades Communistas (BRAC) under Batista
1956: EGYPT. Overthrow Nasser government. Unsuccessful.
1956: SYRIA. Overthrow Ghazzi government. Aborted by
Israeli invasion of Egypt.
1956-1957: JORDAN. Average of $750,000 annually in personal
payments to King Hussein. According to United States
government, payments ceased when disclosed in 1976.
1957: LEBANON. Financial assistance for the election of
pro-American candidates to Lebanese Parliament.
1958: INDONESIA. Financial and military assistance,
including B-26 bombers, for revel forces attempting to
overthrow Sukarno government. Unsuccessful.
1958-1961: TIBET. Infiltrate Tibetan guerrillas trained in
United States to fight Chinese Communists. Unsuccessful.
1959: CAMBODIA. Assassinate Prince Norodum Shianouk.
1960: GUATEMALA. Military assistance, including the use of
B-26 bombers for government of Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes
to defeat rebel forces. Successful.
1960: ANGOLA. Financial and military assistance to rebel
forces of Holden Roberto. Inconclusive.
1960: LAOS. Military assistance, including 400 United
States Special Forces troops, to deny the Plain of Jars
bad Mekong Basin to Pathet Lao. Inconclusive.
1961-1965: LAOS. Average of $300 million annually to
recruit and maintain L'Armee Clandestine of 35,000 Hmong
and Meo tribesmen and 17,000 Thai mercenaries in support
of government of Phoumi Nosavan to resist Pathet Lao.
1961-1963: CUBA. Assassinate Fidel Castro. Six attempts in
this period. Unsuccessful.
1961: CUBA. Train and support invasion force of Cuban
exiles to overthrow Castro government, and assist their
invasion at the Bay of Pigs. Cost: $62 million.
1961: ECUADOR. Overthrow government of Hose Velasco Ibarra.
1961: CONGO. Precipitate conditions leading to
assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Successful.
1961: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Precipitate conditions leading to
assassination of Rafael Trujillo. Successful.
1961-1966: CUBA. Broad sabotage program, including
terrorist attacks on coastal targets and bacteriological
warfare, in effort to weaken Castro government.
1962: THAILAND. Brigade of 5,000 United States Marines to
resist threat to Thai government from Pathet Lao.
1962-1964: BRITISH GUIANA. Organize labor strikes and riots
to overthrow government of Cheddi Jagan. Successful.
1962-1964: BRAZIL. Organize campaign of labor strike and
propaganda to overthrow government of Joao Goulart.
1963: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Overthrow government of Juan
Bosch in military coup. Successful.
1963: SOUTH VIETNAM. Precipitate conditions leading to
assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem. Successful.
1963: ECUADOR. Overthrow government of Carlos Julio
1963-1984: EL SALVADOR. Organize ORDEN and ANSESAL domestic
intelligence networks under direction of General Jose
Alberto Medrano and Colonel Nicolas Carranza, and
provide intelligence support and training in
surveillance, interrogation and assassination
1963-1973: IRAQ. Financial and military assistance for
Freedom Party of Mulla Mustafa al Barzani in effort to
establish independent Kurdistan. Unsuccessful.
1964: CHILE. $20 million in assistance for Eduardo Frei to
defeat Salvador Allende in Chilean elections.Successful.
1964: BRAZIL, GUATEMALA, URUGUAY, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.
Provide training in assassination and interrogation
techniques for police and intelligence personnel.
1964: CONGO. Financial and military assistance, including
B-26 and T-28 aircraft, and American and exiled Cuban
pilots, for Joseph Mobutu and Cyril Adoula, and later
for Moise Tshombe in Katanga, to defeat rebel forces
loyal to Lumumba. Successful.
1964-1967: SOUTH VIETNAM. Phoenix Program to eliminate Viet
Cong political infrastructure through more than 20,000
assassinations. Infiltrated by Viet Cong and only
1964-1971: NORTH VIETNAM. Sabotage and ambush missions
under Operations Plan 34A by United States Special
Forces and Nung tribesmen. Inconclusive.
1965-1971: LAOS. Under Operations Shining Brass and Prairie
Fire, sabotage and ambush missions by United States
Special Forces personnel and Nung and Meo tribesmen
under General Bang Pao. Inconclusive.
1965: THAILAND. Recruit 17,000 mercenaries to support
Laotian government of Phoumi Nosavan resisting Pathet
Lao. Successful. 1965: PERU. Provide training in
interrogation techniques for Peruvian police and
intelligence personnel, similar to training given in
Uruguay, Brazil and Dominican Republic, in effort to
defeat resistance movement. Unsuccessful.
1965: INDONESIA. Organize campaign of propaganda to
overthrow Sukarno government, and precipitate conditions
leading to massacre of more than 500,000 members of
Indonesian Communist Party, in order to eliminate
opposition to new Suharto government. Successful.
1967: BOLIVIA. Assist government in capture of Ernesto Che
1967: GREECE. Overthrow government of George Papandreou and
install military government of Colonel George
Papadopolous after abdication of King Constantine.
1967-1971: CAMBODIA. Under Projects Daniel Boone and Salem
House, sabotage and ambush missions by United States
Special Forces personnel and Meo tribesmen.
1969-1970: CAMBODIA. Bombing campaign to crush Viet Cong
sanctuaries in Cambodia. Unsuccessful.
1970: CAMBODIA. Overthrow government of Prince Norodom
1970-1973: CHILE. Campaign of assassinations, propaganda,
labor strikes and demonstrations to overthrow government
of Salvador Allende. Cost: $8,400,000. Successful.
1973-1978: AFGHANISTAN. Military and financial assistance
to government of Mohammed Duad to resist rise to power
of Noor Mohammed Taraki. Unsuccessful.
1975: PORTUGAL. Overthrow government of General Vasco dos
Santos Goncalves. Successful.
1975: ANGOLA. Military assistance to forces of Holden
Roberto and Jonas Savimbi to defeat forces of Popular
Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) during
Angolan civil war, and prevent MPLA from forming new
1975: AUSTRALIA. Propaganda and political pressure to force
dissolution of labor government of Gough Whitlam.
Successful. 1976: JAMAICA. Military coup to overthrow
Michael Manley. Unsuccessful.
1976-1984: ANGOLA. Financial and military assistance to
forces of Jonas Savimbi to harass and destabilize Neto
and succeeding governments. Inconclusive.
1979: IRAN. Install military government to replace Shah and
resist growth of Moslem fundamentalism. Unsuccessful.
1979-1980: JAMAICA. Financial pressure to destabilize
government of Michael Manley, and campaign propaganda
and demonstrations to defeat it in elections.
1979: AFGHANISTAN. Military aid to rebel forces of Zia
Nezri, Zia Khan Nassry, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Sayed Ahmed
Gailani and conservative mullahs to overthrow government
of Hafizullah Amin. Aborted by Soviet intervention and
installation of new government.
1980-1984: AFGHANISTAN. Continuing military aid to same
rebel groups to harass Soviet occupation forces and
challenge legitimacy of government of Babrak Karmal.
1979: SEYCHELLES. Destabilize government of France Albert
1980: GRENADA. Mercenary coup to overthrow government of
Maurice Bishop. Successful.
1980: DOMINICA. Financial support to Freedom Party of
Eugenia Charles to defeat Oliver Seraphim in Dominican
1980: GUYANA. Assassinate opposition leader Walter Rodney
to consolidate power of government of Forbes Burnham.
1980-1984: NICARAGUA. Military assistance to Adolfo Colero
Portocarrero, Alfonso Robelo, Alfonso Callejas, Fernando
Chamorro Rappacioli, Eden Pastora Gomez, Adrianna
Guillen, Steadman Fagoth and former Somoza National
Guard officers, to recruit, train and equip anti-
Sandinista forces for sabotage and terrorist incursions
into Nicaragua from sanctuaries in Honduras and Costa
Rica, in effort to destabilize government of Daniel
1981: SEYCHELLES. Military coup to overthrow government of
France Albert Rene. Unsuccessful. 1981-1982: MAURITIUS.
Financial support to Seewoosagar
Ramgoolam to bring him to power in 1982 elections.
1981-1984: LIBYA. Broad campaign of economic pressure,
propaganda, military maneuvers in Egypt, Sudan and Gulf
of Sidra, and organization if Libyan Liberation Front
exiles to destabilize government of Muammar Qaddafi.
1982: CHAD. Military assistance to Hissen Habre to
overthrow government of Goukouni Oueddei. Successful.
1982: GUATEMALA. Military coup to overthrow government of
Angel Anibal Guevara. Successful.
1982: BOLIVIA. Military coup to overthrow government of
Celso Torrelio. Successful.
1982: JORDAN. Military assistance to equip and train two
Jordanian brigades as an Arab strike force to implement
United States policy objectives without Israeli
1982-1983: SURINAM. Overthrow government of Colonel Desi
Bouterse. Three attempts in this period. Unsuccessful.
1984: EL SALVADOR. $1.4 million in financial support for
the Presidential election campaign of Jose Napoleon
The Congo 1960: State Terrorism and Foreign Policy*
A 1975 report of the Church Committee entitled "Alleged
Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders" provides a rare
inside account of how such operations are planned and carried
out--in this case, the CIA's attempt to assassinate Patrice
Lumumba in the Congo in 1960. Lumumba, a popular politician
considered pro-Soviet by U.S. policymakers, had briefly served as
prime minister after the Congo gained its independence from
Belgium in June of that year. According to the Senate report,
"It is likely that President Eisenhower's...strong...concern
about Lumumba...was taken by [CIA director] Allen Dulles as
authority to assassinate Lumumba." CIA officials ordered a staff
scientist (code-named "Joe") to prepare "toxic biological
materials" that would "produce a disease...indigenous to that
area [of Africa]" and to deliver the poison to the CIA station
chief in Leopoldville, who was to assassinate Lumumba. But
before the station chief could carry out his orders, Lumumba was
captured by the forces of Joseph Mobutu, the U.S. supported
nationalist leader who is still dictator of the country, and
delivered to his archenemies in Katanga, where he was murdered.
Following are excerpts from the cables, published by the
committee, that were exchanged by CIA headquarters in Washington
and the officers in the Congo.
August 18, 1960. Station chief, Leopoldville, to CIA
EMBASSY AND STATION BELIEVE CONGO EXPERIENCING CLASSIC COMMUNIST
EFFORT TAKEOVER GOVERNMENT...DECISIVE PERIOD NOT FAR OFF. WHETHER
OR NOT LUMUMBA ACTUALLY COMMIE OR JUST PLAYING COMMIE GAME TO
ASSIST HIS SOLIDIFYING POWER, ANTI-WEST FORCES RAPIDLY
INCREASING POWER CONGO AND THERE MAY BE LITTLE TIME LEFT IN WHICH
TO TAKE ACTION TO AVOID ANOTHER CUBA.
August 26. Headquarters to Leopoldville:
IN HIGH QUARTERS HERE IT IS THE CLEAR-CUT CONCLUSION THAT IF
[LUMUMBA] CONTUNUES TO HOLD HIGH OFFICE, THE INEVITABLE RESULT
WILL...AT WORST PAVE THE WAY TO COMMUNIST TAKEOVER...WITH
DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES..FOR THE INTERESTS OF
*This excerpt appeared in Harper's Magazine in October 1984. THE
FREE WORLD GENERALLY. CONSEQUENTLY WE CONCLUDE THAT HIS REMOVAL
MUST BE AN URGENT AND PRIME OBJECTIVE...OF OUR COVERT ACTION...TO
THE EXTENT THAT AMBASSADOR MAY DESIRE TO BE CONSULTED, YOU SHOULD
SEEK HIS CONCURRENCE. IF IN ANY PARTICULAR CASE, HE DOES NOT
WISH TO BE CONSULTED YOU CAN ACT ON YOUR AUTHORITY...
September 19. Headquarters to Leopoldville, announcing the
arrival of the poison:
["JOE"] SHOULD ARRIVE APPROX. 27 SEPT...WILL ANNOUNCE HIMSELF AS
"JOE FROM PARIS"...URGENT YOU SHOULD SEE ["JOE"] SOONEST...HE
WILL FULLY IDENTIFY HIMSELF AMD EXPLAIN HIS ASSIGNMENT TO YOU.
ALL CABLE TRAFFIC THIS OP...HOLD ENTIRELY TO YOURSELF.
October 7. Leopoldville to headquarters:
[JOE] LEFT CERTAIN ITEMS OF CONTINUING USEFULNESS. [STATION
OFFICER] PLANS CONTINUE TRY IMPLEMENT OP.
October 15. Headquarters to Leopoldville:
POSSIBLE USE COMMANDO TYPE GROUP FOR ABDUCTIOM [LUMUMBA]...VIA
ASSAULT ON HOUSE...
October 17. Leopoldville to headquarters:
NOT BEEN ABLE PENETRATE ENTOURAGE...RECOMMEND HQS POUCH SOONEST
HIGH POWERED FOREIGN MAKE RIFLE WITH TELESCOPIC SCOPE AND
SILENCER. HUNTING GOOD HERE WHEN LIGHT IS RIGHT.
November 14. Leopoldville to headquarters:
TARGET HAS NOT LEFT BUILDING IN SEVERAL WEEKS. HOUSE GUARDED DAY
AND NIGHT...TARGET HAS DISMISSED MOST OF SERVANTS SO ENTRY THIS
MEANS SEEMS REMOTE.
January 13. Fearing that Lumumba, who had been imprisoned by
Mobutu's forces in December, would soon be freed by his
supporters and seize power, Leopoldville cables headquarters:
THE COMBINATION OF [LUMUMBA'S] POWERS AS DEMAGOGUE, HIS ABLE USE
OF OF GOON SQUADS AND PROPAGANDA AND SPIRIT OF DEFEAT WITHIN
[GOVERNMENT]...WOULD ALMOST CERTAINLY INSURE [LUMUMBA] VICTORY IN
PARLIAMENT...REFUSAL TAKE DRASTIC STEPS AT THIS TIME WILL LEAD TO
DEFEAT OF [UNITED STATES] POLICY IN CONGO.
January 17. Mobutu and his ally Joseph Kasavubu send Lumumba to
his enemies in Katanga province, the forces of local leader Moise
Tshombe. Two days later, the CIA base chief in Elizabethville
THANKS FOR PATRICE. IF WE HAD KNOWN HE WAS COMING WE WOULD HAVE
BAKED A SNAKE.
A U.N. inquiry later concluded Lumumba was killed by his enemies
on or shortly after his arrival in Katanga. The Church Committee
investigation found that "the toxic substances were never used.
But there is, however, no suggestion of a connection between the
assassination plot and the events which actually led to Lumumba's
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