Survey of Secret Operations by CIA
Results of the 1973 Church Committee Hearings, on CIA misdeeds, and the 1984 Iran/Contra Hearings….
“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.”
– Morton Halperin
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
“The nation must to a degree take it on faith that we too are honorable men, devoted to her service.”
– Richard Helms, then DCI
- CIA Proprietaries
- Political Action
- Economic Covert Operations
- Paramilitary Operations
- Project NKNAOMI
- Project MKULTRA
- LSD Experimentation
- Project BLUEBIRD
- Project ARTICHOKE
- The National Security Act of July 1947 19
- Radio Free Europe
- Radio Liberty
- Operation Mongoose
- The Bay of Pigs
- The Phoenix Program
- Plausible Deniability
- The Iran-Contra Affair
- CIA Case Officers
Appendix I, Timeline of CIA Operations
Appendix II, 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 Intelligence Agency.
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 proprietaries.
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 paramilitary purposes.
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 bigger.
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 radio broadcasts.
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 became 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 prosperous.
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 allocation.
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 years.
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 receiving treatment.
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 Helms.
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 change.
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 U.S.
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 list.
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 Castro.
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 American country.
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 alone.
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 Cuba.
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 administration.
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 fall apart.
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 operation.
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 very simple.
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 be bombed.
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 Units.
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 responsibility:
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 originally.
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 Phoenix Program.
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, 1970 election.
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 whatever happened.
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 her service.”
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 committee.
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 government. Successful.
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. Unsuccessful.
1951-1954: CHINA. Airdrop guerilla teams into People’s Republic of China. Unsuccessful.
1953: IRAN. Overthrow Mossadegh government and install Shah Zahedi. Cost: $10 million. Successful.
1953: PHILLIPINES. Assassination and propaganda campaign to overcome Huk resistance and install government of Ramon Magsaysay. Successful.
1953: COSTA RICA. Overthrow government of Jose Figueres. Unsuccessful.
1954: SOUTH VIETNAM. Install government of Ngo Dinh Diem. Successful.
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. Successful.
1955: CHINA. Assassinate Zhou Enlai en route to Bandung Conference. Unsuccessful.
1956: HUNGARY. Financial and military assistance to organize and support a Hungarian resistance movement, and broad propaganda campaign to encourage it. Unsuccessful.
1956: CUBA. Establish anti-Communist police force, Buro de Represion Actividades Communistas (BRAC) under Batista regime. Successful.
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. Successful.
1958: INDONESIA. Financial and military assistance, including B-26 bombers, for rebel 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. Unsuccessful.
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. Successful.
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. Unsuccessful.
1961: ECUADOR. Overthrow government of Hose Velasco Ibarra. Successful.
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. Unsuccessful.
1962: THAILAND. Brigade of 5,000 United States Marines to resist threat to Thai government from Pathet Lao. Successful.
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. Successful.
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 Arosemena. Successful.
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 techniques. Successful.
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. Inconclusive.
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 partially successful.
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 assassination and 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 Guevara. Successful.
1967: GREECE. Overthrow government of George Papandreou and install military government of Colonel George Papadopolous after abdication of King Constantine. Successful.
1967-1971: CAMBODIA. Under Projects Daniel Boone and Salem House, sabotage and ambush missions by United States Special Forces personnel and Meo tribesmen. Inconclusive.
1969-1970: CAMBODIA. Bombing campaign to crush Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia. Unsuccessful.
1970: CAMBODIA. Overthrow government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Successful.
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 government. Unsuccessful.
1975: AUSTRALIA. Propaganda and political pressure to force dissolution of labor government of Gough Whitlam. Successful.
1976: JAMAICA. Military coup to overthrow government of 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. Successful.
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 Rene. Successful.
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 elections. Successful.
1980: GUYANA. Assassinate opposition leader Walter Rodney to consolidate power of government of Forbes Burnham. Successful.
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 Ortega Saavedra.
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. Unsuccessful.
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. Inconclusive.
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 assistance.
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 Duarte. Successful.
@Copyright 1984 by the Center for Military Research and Analysis
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 headquarters:
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:
*This excerpt appeared in Harper’s Magazine in October 1984.
IN HIGH QUARTERS HERE IT IS THE CLEAR-CUT CONCLUSION THAT IF [LUMUMBA] CONTINUES TO HOLD HIGH OFFICE, THE INEVITABLE RESULT WILL…AT WORST.. PAVE THE WAY TO COMMUNIST TAKEOVER…WITH DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES..FOR THE INTERESTS OF 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 THE 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 ABDUCTION [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 cables headquarters:
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 death”.
Civil Intelligence Association
Defense Oversight Group