The CIA's 'Family Jewels'
Still evil after all these years
by Justin Raimondo
www.antiwar.com, June 29, 2007
The uncovering of the CIA's "family
jewels" - a catalog of the Agency's crimes committed at home
and abroad in the 1970s - underscores my principal objection to
the trite post-9/11 conventional wisdom, "Everything's changed."
Because, of course, nothing has changed, not really, at least
not where the unmitigated evil of the U.S. government is concerned.
What these nearly 700 pages of previously classified materials
reveal is that all the supposedly innovative techniques of torture,
domestic surveillance, and utter disregard for the rights of U.S.
citizens supposedly spawned by the "war on terrorism"
predated the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
and other illegal abuse endured by suspects now being held at
our Guantanamo gulag were prefigured, according to the documents,
by the case of Yuri Nosenko, who was held for three and a half
years after defecting in 1963. In spite of having handed over
information that led to the uncovering of hidden microphones in
the U.S. embassy in Moscow and exposing at least one West European
top official as a KGB tool, Nosenko was not believed by James
Jesus Angleton, the Agency's half-loony counterintelligence chief,
who was convinced he was a KGB plant. Nosenko was kept in solitary
confinement at a CIA facility and relentlessly tortured. Strapped
to a polygraph machine for seven hours at a time, he stoutly maintained
his innocence, and the Agency openly discussed ways to dispose
of him without raising undue notice. He was finally believed,
taken out of the crazed Angleton's custody, and given a CIA sinecure,
while the entire affair was hushed up.
What's different today is merely a question
of scale: yet the general outlines of the neocon program of warmongering,
waterboarding, and the waylaying of innocents took shape long
ago. The Bush administration has merely refined and perfected
the details. And that's the main difference: yesterday our rulers
had the decency to keep their immoral means and methods a secret,
which meant they knew they had not only broken the law, but had
done something profoundly wrong. Today, they invent elaborate
legal and political theories designed to justify and even valorize
their police-state methods.
CIA agents infiltrated and tried to destroy
the antiwar movement, they routinely spied on and harassed American
citizens engaged in peaceful, constitutionally protected activities,
and they intervened directly in the political process - a practice
we usually associate with banana republics, or, perhaps, the former
Soviet Union. A CIA listening post was set up in Miami in 1972
in order to monitor "subversive influences" on the Democratic
and Republican Party conventions; as to how else they intervened,
rather than merely observed, is for future FOIA requests and future
historians to determine. What the "family jewels" show,
however, is that the CIA acted, in effect, as America's political
police, gathering information on the opinions and activities of
thousands of Americans, and specifically targeting antiwar leaders.
For example, CIA personnel and resources were assigned to assist
the FBI in its harassment of John Lennon, against whom J. Edgar
Hoover held some kind of personal grudge.
It was Howard Hunt's request for a CIA
retiree who knew something about picking locks that set off the
alarm bells that led to the compilation of the "family jewels"
documents in 1973 at the request of then-CIA Director James Schlesinger.
He had had no idea that the Agency was involved in any way with
Watergate, and he wanted to steer well clear of it. Well, then,
he wondered, what else didn't he know?
The answer to his inquiry was contained
in 693 pages of memoranda, minutes of meetings, and other materials
outlining the history of illegal activities carried out by the
CIA, from the assassination squads sent against Fidel Castro and
Patrice Lumumba to the domestic spying and bizarre drug experiments
carried out on unsuspecting Americans, including a child as young
as four. They went after journalists, including Jack Anderson
and Brit Hume (!), spying on them in order to discover their sources.
In a textbook example of how ideology,
rather than an objective, empirical examination of the discoverable
facts, determines policy, the CIA set up a special unit employing
some 40 individuals dedicated to examining the "foreign"
origins of the domestic antiwar movement. Of course, there were
no such foreign connections: the antiwar movement of the 1960s
was an expression of pure American radicalism and Yankee cussedness.
Yet the CIA "analysts" of the time had no compunctions
about drawing their conclusions first and then cherry-picking
whatever factoids seemed to validate their thesis.
In examining the record of the CIA's war
against the antiwar movement, it's interesting to note how much
of this was undertaken in order to make an impact on the 1972
presidential election and partisan politics in general. Fourteen
members of Congress - and 7,000 other American citizens - had
CIA dossiers compiled, with the full story of how the government
used this to neutralize their political effectiveness still to
James Bamford says that what went on then
"pales in comparison" to what's going on today, and
he's right, but it's important to understand that none of this
is really very new. Much of what was "revealed" in the
"family jewels" was already known, and in detail not
recounted in the released documents. Furthermore, the history
of the FBI and other U.S. government agencies is replete with
precedents for the activities detailed in this particular document
dump. In particular, it is well known that the "liberal"
heroes FDR and Harry Truman utilized police-state methods to go
after their political opponents, the former going so far as to
order a "sedition" trial of war opponents and the latter
instituting "loyalty oaths" and greatly expanding the
domestic spying apparatus he inherited from That Man in the White
Bush's assault on civil liberties stands
on the shoulders of similar incursions initiated by such "liberal"
avatars as Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Both sought to jail,
and effectively outlaw, opponents of their war policies, going
far beyond what the Bush administration has dared attempt. Yet
when the president of the United States avers he has the "right"
to declare anyone, even an American citizen, an "enemy combatant"
and lock him up without trial for good, one can only imagine how
- and when - he will choose to exercise it. That CIA lock-picker
requested by Howard Hunt is today doubtless engaged in domestic
break-ins, only this time under color of "law," i.e.,
the PATRIOT Act and other post-9/11 legislation that gives the
Feds the "right" to search homes without a warrant and
spy to their hearts' content.
It is the very nature of government that
leads to "abuses" of power: our rulers inevitably follow
their natural inclination to try to hold on to power, and they
are certainly not above resorting to illegal means to achieve
their objective. That's why we have a Constitution, which restrains
government officials - all of them, to a man, would-be tyrants
- with the chains of the rule of law. When they burst these chains,
they become particularly dangerous - and when they aren't prosecuted,
the cancer at the heart of our "republican" form of
government grows. Until, today, it has metastasized into a malignant
and potentially fatal tumor, one that will eventually overwhelm
and poison the body politic until and unless it is excised.
How to cut out the cancer eating away
at the very vitals of our republic? We could start with abolishing
the CIA - and all the other "intelligence" agencies
that are, inevitably, political tools of whatever gang happens
to be in power. There is a legitimate role for intelligence-gathering
in terms of defending this country against terrorists and other
threats, but clearly the record shows that the agencies presently
charged with this work have been busy with other projects.