Philip Agee worked as a case officer for the United States Central Intelligence Agency from 1957 to 1968. In 1975 he published a book about covert operations in Latin America entitled Inside the Company: CIA Diary in order to inform the public about what the U.S. government was secretly doing on behalf of the American people.
“When I was writing my first book, I concluded in the book that the CIA is nothing more and nothing less than the secret political police of international foreign policy: that is the foreign policy of the United States.”
“It was nothing unusual for a young man like me, patriotic, conformist from a very comfortable family to go into government service so I went into the CIA for adventure. I was only 22 and had romantic views towards things …I left the CIA with the idea of forgetting it all and starting a new life but you don’t forget these things.”
“We were right to do it then, because the U.S. policy at the time, executed by the CIA, was to support murderous dictatorships around the world, as in Vietnam, as in Greece, as in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil. And that’s only to name a few. We opposed that use of the U.S. intelligence service for those dirty operations. And I’m talking about regimes now that tortured and disappeared people by the thousands.”
ThirdWorldTraveler.com has a summary with the following excerpts:
… what the Agency [CIA] does is ordered by the President and the NSC [National Security Council]. The Agency neither makes decisions on policy nor acts on its own account. It is an instrument of the President.
… the question of Congressional monitoring of intelligence activities and of the Agency in particular. The problem resides in the National Security Act of 1947 and also in its amendment, the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949. These laws charged the DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] with protecting the ‘sources and methods’ of the US intelligence effort and also exempted the DCI and the Bureau of the Budget from reporting to Congress on the organization, function, personnel and expenditures of the CIA – whose budget is hidden in the budgets of other executive agencies. The DCI, in fact, can secretly spend whatever portion of the CIA budget he determines necessary, with no other accounting than his own signature. Such expenditures, free from review by Congress or the General Accounting Office or, in theory, by anyone outside the executive-branch, are called ‘unvouchered funds’.
By passage of these laws Congress has sealed itself off from CIA activities, although four small sub-committees are informed periodically on important matters by the DCI. These are the Senate and House sub-committees of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, and the speeches of their principal spokesman, Senator Richard Russell, are required reading for the JOT’S.
There have been several times when ClA autonomy was threatened. The Hoover Commission Task Force on Intelligence Activities headed by General Mark Clark recommended in 1955 that a Congressional Watchdog Committee be established to oversee the CIA much as the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy watches over the AEC. The Clark Committee, in fact, did not believe the sub-committees of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees were able to exercise effectively the Congressional monitoring function. However, the problem was corrected, according to the Agency position, when President Eisenhower, early in 1956, established his own appointative committee to oversee the Agency. This is the President’s Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities, whose chairman is James R. Killian, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It can provide the kind of ‘private citizen’ monitoring of the Agency that Congress didn’t want. Moreover … the more Congress gets into the act the greater the danger of accidental revelation of secrets by indiscreet politicians. Established relationships with intelligence services of other countries, like Great Britain, might be complicated. The Congress was quite right at the beginning in giving up control – so much for them, their job is to appropriate the money.
In addition to discovering ordinary state secrets, the CS is responsible for obtaining the most complete and accurate information possible on the global manifestations of Soviet imperialism, that is, on local communist parties and related political groups. The exceptions to the world-wide operating charter of the CS is the agreement among the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand whereby each has formally promised to abstain from secret operations of any kind within the territory of the others except with prior approval of the host government. The governments of all other nations, their internal political groups and their scientific, military and economic secrets are fair game.
The most important liaison operation of the CIA is with MI-6, whose cryptonym is SMOTH. It has been almost ten years since Burgess and Maclean disappeared, and SMOTH has apparently tightened its loose, ‘old boy’, clubby security practices. The inner club also includes the services of Canada, Australia and New Zealand although the CIA receives relatively little from these. Liaison with the Dutch is considered excellent because they facilitate support operations against targets of mutual interest, as do the Italians who tap telephones and intercept correspondence for the CIA station in Rome. The West German services are considered to be thoroughly penetrated by the Soviets while liaison with the French has become difficult and sensitive since the return of de Gaulle.
Psychological and paramilitary, known as PP or KUCAGE, operations differ from those of PI or CI because they are action rather than collection activities. Collection operations should be invisible so that the target will be unaware of them. Action operations, on the other hand, always produce a visible effect. This, however, should never be attributable to the CIA or to the US government, but rather to some other person or organization. These operations, which received their Congressional charter in the National Security Act of 1947 under ‘additional services of common concern’, are in some ways more sensitive than collection operations.
They are usually approved by the PP staff of the DDP, but when very large amounts of money are required or especially sensitive methods are used approval may be required of the OCB (Undersecretary level), the NSC or the President himself.
PP operations are, of course, risky because they nearly always mean intervention in the affairs of another country with whom the US enjoys normal diplomatic relations. If their true sponsorship were found out the diplomatic consequences could be serious. This is in contrast to collection operations, for if these are discovered foreign politicians are often prepared to turn a blind eye – they are a traditional part of every nation’s intelligence activity.
Thus the cardinal rule in planning all PP operations is ‘plausible denial’, only possible if care has been taken in the first place to ensure that someone other than the US government can be made to take the blame.
PP programmes are to be found in almost every CIA station and emphasis on the kinds of PP operations will depend very much on local conditions. Psychological warfare includes propaganda (also known simply as ‘media’), work in youth and student organizations, work in labour organizations (trade unions, etc.), work in professional and cultural groups and in political parties. Paramilitary operations include infiltration into denied areas, sabotage, economic warfare, personal harassment, air and maritime support, weaponry, training and support for small armies.
The CTA’S role in the US propaganda programme is determined by the official division of propaganda into three general categories: white, grey and black. White propaganda is that which is openly acknowledged as coming from the US government, e.g. from the US Information Agency (USIA); grey propaganda is ostensibly attributed to people or organizations who do not acknowledge the US government as the source of their material and who produce the material as if it were their own, black propaganda is unattributed material, or it is attributed to a non-existent source, or it is false material attributed to a real source. The CTA is the only US government agency authorized to engage in black propaganda operations, but it shares the responsibility for grey propaganda with other agencies such as USTA. However, according to the ‘Grey Law’ of the National Security Council contained in one of the NSCID’S, other agencies must obtain prior CIA approval before engaging in grey propaganda.
The vehicles for grey and black propaganda may be unaware of their CIA or US government sponsorship. This is partly so that it can be more effective and partly to keep down the number of people who know what is going on and thus to reduce the danger of exposing true sponsorship. Thus editorialists, politicians, businessmen and others may produce propaganda, even for money, without necessarily knowing who their masters in the case are. Some among them obviously will and so, in agency terminology, there is a distinction between ‘witting’ and ‘unwitting’ agents.
In propaganda operations, as in all other PP activities, standard agency security procedure forbids payment for services rendered to be made by a CIA officer working under official cover (one posing as an official of the Department of State, for instance). This is in order to maintain ‘plausible denial’ and to minimize the danger of embarrassment to the local embassy if anything is discovered by the local government. However, payment is made by CTA officers under non-official cover, e.g. posing as businessmen, students or as retired people; such officers are said to be working under non-official cover.
Officers working under non-official cover may also handle most of the contacts with the recruited agents in order to keep the officer under official cover as protected as possible. Equally, meetings between the two kinds of officer will be as secret as may be. The object of all this is to protect the embassy and sometimes to make the propaganda agents believe that they are being paid by private businesses.
Headquarters’ propaganda experts have visited us in ISOLATION and have displayed the mass of paper they issue as material for the guidance of propaganda throughout the world. Some of it is concerned only with local issues, the rest often has world-wide application. The result of the talks was to persuade most of us that propaganda is not for us – there is simply too much paperwork. But despite that, the most interesting part of propaganda was obviously the business of orchestrating the treatment of events of importance among several countries. Thus problems of communist influence in one country can be made to appear of international concern in others under the rubric of ‘a threat to one is a threat to all’. For example, the CIA station in Caracas can cable information on a secret communist plot in Venezuela to the Bogota station which can ‘surface’ through a local propaganda agent with attribution to an unidentified Venezuelan government official. The information can then be picked up from the Colombian press and relayed to CTA stations in Quito, Lima, La Paz, Santiago and, perhaps, Brazil. A few days later editorials begin to appear in the newspapers of these places and pressure mounts on the Venezuelan government to take repressive action against its communists.
There are obviously hosts of other uses to which propaganda, both black and grey, can be put, using books, magazines, radio, television, wall-painting, handbills, decals, religious sermons and political speeches as well as the daily press. In countries where handbills or wall-painting are important media, stations are expected to maintain clandestine printing and distribution facilities as well as teams of agents who paint slogans on walls. Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty are the best known grey propaganda operations conducted by the CIA against the Soviet bloc.
Youth and Student Operations
At the close of World War II, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union began a major propaganda and agitation programme through the formation of the International Union of Students (IUS) and the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), both of which brought together national affiliates within their respective fields in as many countries as possible. These organizations promoted CPSU objectives and policy under the guise of unified campaigns (anti-colonialism, anti-nuclear weapons, propeace groups, etc.), in which they enlisted the support of their local affiliates in capitalist countries as well as within the communist bloc. During the late 1940s the US government, using the Agency for its purpose, began to brand these fronts as stooges of the CPSU with the object of discouraging non-communist participation. In addition to this the Agency engaged in operations in many places designed to stop local groups affiliating with the international bodies. By recruiting leaders of the local groups and by infiltrating agents, the Agency tried to gain control of as many of them as possible, so that even if such a group had already affiliated itself to either the IUS or the WFDY, it could be persuaded or compelled to withdraw.
The Agency also began to form alternative youth and student organizations at local and international level. The two international bodies constructed to rival those sponsored by the Soviet Union were the Coordinating Secretariat of National Unions of Students(COSEC) with headquarters in Leyden, and the World Assembly of Youth (WAY) situated in Brussels. Headquarters’ planning, guidance and operational functions in the CTA youth and student operations are centralized in the International Organizations Division of the DDP.
Both COSEC and WAY, like the TUS and WFDY, promote travel, cultural activities and welfare, but both also work as propaganda agencies for the CTA – particularly in underdeveloped countries. They also have consultative status as non-governmental institutions with United Nations agencies such as UNESCO and they participate in the UN special agencies’ programmes.
One very important function of the CTA youth and student operations is the spotting, assessing and recruiting of student and youth leaders as long-term agents, both in the PI and PP fields. The organizations sponsored or affected by the Agency are obvious recruiting grounds for these and, indeed, for other CTA operations. It is particularly the case in the underdeveloped world that both COSEC and WAY programmes lead to the recruitment of young agents who can be relied on to continue CTA policies and remain under CTA control long after they have moved up their political or professional ladders.
Apart from working through COSEC and WAY the Agency is also able to mount specific operations through Catholic national and international student and youth bodies (Pax Romana and the International Catholic Youth Federation) and through the Christian Democrat and non-communist socialist organizations as well. In some countries, particularly those in which there are groups with strong communist or radical leaderships, the Catholic or Christian Democratic student and youth organization are the main forces guided by the Agency.
Agents controlled through youth and student operations by a station in any given country, including those in the US National Students Association (NSA) international programme run by headquarters, can also be used to influence decisions at the international level, while agents at the international level can be used for promoting other agents or policies within a national affiliate. Control, then, is like an alternating current between the national and international levels.
Largely as a result of Agency operations, the WFDY headquarters was expelled from France in 1951, moving to Budapest. The TUS headquarters, on the other hand, was never allowed to move to the free world after its founding at Prague in 1946. Moreover, the WFDY and TUS have been clearly identified with the communist bloc, and their efforts to conduct conferences and seminars outside the bloc have been attacked and weakened by WAY and COSEC. The WFDY, for example, has been able to hold only one World Youth Festival outside the bloc, in Vienna in 1959, and then it was effectively disrupted by CIA-controlled youth and student organizations. The TUS has never held a congress in the free world. More important still, both WAY and COSEC have developed overwhelming leads in affiliate members outside the communist bloc.
Communist expansion brought forth still another type of PP operation: political action. Operations designed to promote the adoption by a foreign government of a particular policy vis-a-vis communism are termed political-action operations. While the context of these operations is the assessment of the danger of communist or other leftist influence in a given country, the operations undertaken to suppress the danger arc pegged to specific circumstances. These operations often involve promotion through funding and guidance of the careers of foreign politicians through whom desired government policy and action can be obtained. Conversely, these operations often include actions designed to neutralize the politicians who promote undesirable local government policy regarding communism.
Although political-action operations after World War II began with electoral funding of anti-communist political parties in France and Italy in the late 1940s, they are now prevalent in the underdeveloped countries where economic and social conditions create a favourable climate for communist advance. The obvious human elements in political-action operations are political parties, politicians and military leaders, although agents in other PP operations including labour, student and youth, and media are often brought to bear on specific political-action targets.
In order to obtain political intelligence as well as to develop relationships with potential political-action agents, most stations have continuing programmes for cultivating local politicians from opposition as well as from government parties. Making acquaintances in local politics is not usually difficult because CTA officers under diplomatic cover in embassies have natural access to their targets through cocktail parties, receptions, clubs and other mechanisms that bring them together with people of interest. Regular State Department Foreign Service Officers and Ambassadors as well may also facilitate the expansion of station political contacts through arranging introductions. When a local political contact is assessed favourably for station goals, security clearance and operational approval is obtained from headquarters, and the station officer m contact with the target begins to provide financial support for political campaigns or for the promotion of the target’s political group or party. Hopefully, almost surely, the target will use some of the money for personal expenses thereby developing a dependency on the station as a source of income. Eventually, if all goes well, the local politician will report confidential information on his own party and on his government, if he has a government post, and he will respond to reasonable station direction regarding the communist question.
A station’s liaison operations with local security services are also a valuable source of political-action assets. Because of frequent political instability in underdeveloped countries, the politicians in charge of the civilian and military security forces are in key positions for action as well as for information, and they are often drawn into an operational relationship with the station when they enter office merely by allowing ongoing liaison operations to continue. They are subjected to constant assessment by the station for use in political action and when deemed appropriate they may be called upon for specific tasks. Financial support is also available for furthering their political careers and for a continuing relationship once they leave the ministry.
As final arbiters of political conflicts in so many countries, military leaders are major targets for recruitment. They are contacted by station officers in a variety of ways, sometimes simply through straightforward introduction by US military attaches or the personnel of US Military Assistance Missions. Sometimes the liaison developed between the Agency and local intelligence services can be used for making these contacts. Again CTA officers can make contact with those military officers of other countries who come to the US for training. As in the case of politicians, most Agency stations have a continual programme for the development of local military leaders, both for the collection of intelligence and for possible use in political action.
The political actions actually undertaken by the Agency are almost as varied as politics itself. High on the list of priorities is the framing of Soviet officials in diplomatic or commercial missions in order to provoke their expulsion. Politicians working for the Agency are expected to take an active part in working for expulsion of ‘undesirables’. Similarly, where the Soviet Union tries to extend its diplomatic or commercial activities, our politicians are expected to use their influence to oppose such moves. They are also expected to take a hard line against their own nationals engaged in left-wing or communist activities. In the last of these instances success means the proscription of the parties, the arrest or exile of their leaders, the closure of their offices, publications and bookstores, the prohibition of their demonstrators, etc. Such large-scale programmes call for action both by anticommunist movements and by national governments – where possible the Agency likes to use the same political action agents for both purposes.
But it is not just a matter of financing and guiding local politicians. In situations regarded as dangerous to the US, the Agency will conduct national election operations though the medium of an entire political party. It will finance candidates who are both ‘witting’ and ‘unwitting’. Such multi-million-dollar operations may begin a year or more before an election is due and will include massive propaganda and public-relations campaigns, the building of numerous front organizations and funding mechanisms (often resident US businessmen), regular polls of voters, the formation of ‘goon-squads’ to intimidate the opposition, and the staging of provocations and the circulation of rumours designed to discredit undesirable candidates. Funds are also available for buying votes and vote counters as well.
If a situation can be more effectively retrieved for US interests by unconstitutional methods or by coup d’etat, that too may be attempted. Although the Agency usually plays the anti-communist card in order to foster a coup, gold bars and sacks of currency are often equally effective. In some cases a timely bombing by a station agent, followed by mass demonstrations and finally by intervention by military leaders in the name of the restoration of order and national unity, is a useful course. Agency political operations were largely responsible for coups after this pattern in Iran in 1953 and in the Sudan in 1958.
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