Alger Hiss and Russia-gate

Jeremy Kuzmarov argues the Cold War case has enduring relevance to American political culture and provides clues to the motives and machinations underlying the new Russophobia.

By Jeremy Kuzmarov

In January 1950, Alger Hiss, a former State Department employee and director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was convicted of perjury and sentenced to five years in a federal penitentiary. The sentence, of which Hiss served 44 months, culminated a frenzied political trial that catapulted Richard Nixon to fame, undergirded the advent of McCarthyism and heated up the Cold War.

Today, it is worth looking back at the Hiss case because it offers important clues to the motives and machinations underlying the similarly politicized Russia-gate investigations. In both cases, powerful political players appear to have attempted to deflect acts of malfeasance by falsely accusing political adversaries of treasonous behavior while igniting anti-Russia hysteria and paranoid fears of subversion that threatened war between the major nuclear powers.

Hiss was the embodiment of the liberal, New Deal establishment, which had promoted a major expansion of domestic social welfare programs. Educated at Harvard Law School, Hiss clerked for Supreme Court Justices Felix Frankfurter and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and worked for the State Department before moving on to head the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Supportive of President Franklin Roosevelt’s policy of accommodation towards the SovietsHiss had been present at the 1945 Yalta conference, which resulted in a spheres of influence agreement.

Hiss had also worked as a legal assistant for the Nye Committee in the 1930s, a congressional investigation into war profiteering led by Gerald Nye, a Republican senator from North Dakota. The investigation exposed high-level corruption and connections between American companies and the growth of the Nazi war machine.

For instance, it revealed how United Aircraft sold commercial airplane engines to Germany for use in Luftwaffe fighter planes. It showed how Nazi troops were armed with American guns, and how Union Banking Corporation had engaged in a cartel agreement with the German chemical conglomerate, I.G. Farben, soon to be gas maker for Holocaust gas chambers.

Because of his work on the committee, Hiss made many powerful enemies. The Republican Party at the time was looking to revive its fortunes through red- baiting tactics that would deflect attention from their anti-labor program. The Justice Department also had begun to investigate alleged treasonous activities by GOP power brokers.

Among them was Thomas McKittrick, a former agent of the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the CIA) who was the wartime president of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. He was also an executive with Chase Manhattan Bank and a Marshall Plan administrator who allegedly conspired with his friend, the future CIA Director Allen Dulles, to move looted Nazi gold to Argentina.

Another official under DOJ investigation was Sen. Prescott Bush, a managing director of the Union Banking Corporation, which helped provide financing to Nazi industrialists in violation of the Trading with the Enemy Act during World War II. Bush was the father of President George H.W. Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush.

The Dulles’ Diversion’

The origins of McCarthyism predate McCarthy. In order to bury the war profiteering investigation and undermine a wartime plan adopted by FDR’s Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau to deindustrialize Germany and break the power of its banking cartel, Dulles and his associates began accusing New Deal Democrats of being spies.

The first was Harry Dexter White, liberal postwar director of the International Monetary Fund, who had pushed the German deindustrialization plan, and then came Hiss.

The GOP’s accusations of treason were part of a political counter-offensive designed to protect the real traitors while bolstering the party’s political fortune. Hiss’ alleged treason provided the “proof” that the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were “dyed pink in Moscow.” Hiss’ trial was in turn politicized as much as the Soviet show trials.

John Foster Dulles, President Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of state, and his brother Allen had worked as attorneys for Sullivan & Cromwell, which  according to journalist Stephen Kinzer, “thrived on its cartels and ties to the Nazi regime,” and kept its business with its clients all the way through the war.

After supporting Nixon’s campaign in California’s 12th Congressional district against Democrat Jerry Voorhis in 1946, the Dulles brothers began to accuse their enemies of communist subversion in order to bury investigation into their nefarious war-time activities and to undermine Morgenthau’s plan to deindustrialize Germany and break the power of its banking cartel.

The first target of their accusations was Harry Dexter White, liberal postwar executive director of the IMF and an assistant to Morgenthau who championed the German deindustrialization plan. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill adopted the plan at the second Quebec Conference in September 1944. Truman replaced it in 1947 with the Marshall Plan, a robust program of economic aid that benefited U.S. business. 

Hiss was the second major target to fall victim to Dulles’ plot. Like Russia-gate, which has deflected attention from the Democratic Party failings, Hiss’ case became a media sensation that derailed critical scrutiny into treasonous wartime activity by plutocratic interests and provided “proof” for GOP voters that the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were “dyed pink in Moscow”–much as Donald Trump is portrayed as a Moscow puppet.

Like the allegations against Trump, Hiss’ actual connection to Soviet espionage remains unproven. He never left any traces of even being a socialist. The documents Hiss is alleged to have smuggled were mundane and would have done nothing to harm national security. They included blank and illegible microfilms along with synopses about economic conditions in Manchuria, German trade policy in Braziland, unclassified manuals for operating naval rafts, parachutes and fire extinguishers; information that could have been found in the New York public library.

The Hiss case was marred by prosecutorial misconduct and illegalities. Hiss was entrapped by prosecutors who benefited from FBI surveillance of his witnesses and the sharing of that information with the prosecution’s leading witness, Whittaker Chambers, a Time magazine editor who said he had known Hiss in the mid-1930s. Allegations of biased FBI misconduct against Trump are similarly rife.

Like proponents of Russia-gate, Chambers had questionable credibility. His credibility was undermined by contradictory statements, dubious claims about the spy-craft trade and false testimony. William A. Reuben, who spent four decades researching the Hiss case, found that “the first thing to note about Whittaker Chambers’ confessions of communist underground work is that it has never been corroborated, either by documentary evidence or by the word of any other human being.”

KGB: Hiss Never an Asset

Years after the case, Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB general and longtime chief of Russia’s foreign intelligence operations, stated that “Russian intelligence service has no documents proving that Alger Hiss cooperated with our service somewhere or anywhere,” while retired KGB Maj. Gen. Julius Kobyakov said Hiss never had any relationship with Soviet intelligence.”

Hede Massing, an Austrian actress and confessed former Soviet spy inside the U.S., was another key witness for the prosecution who was threatened with deportation if she did not testify against Hiss. The government claimed that Hiss was part of an underground spy cell called the Ware Group.”

However, Lee Pressman, a labor attorney who was a law school classmate of Hiss and a member of the group, testified that this was a Marxist study group in the 1930s and that Hiss was not a member. Pressman was later accused of being a Russian spy.

It was claimed that Chambers and Hiss had been introduced by Josef Peters, alleged brain of the entire communist underground. But there is no record of this, and Peters was mysteriously deported to Hungary on the eve of the trial, so he could not testify and said he never met Chambers, except possibly once in the 1930s.

Hiss’ wife, Priscilla, allegedly typed some of the smuggled State Department documents on a typewriter that was traced back to the Hiss family. However, later it was found that the FBI had suppressed a lab report showing she could not have typed the documents. The Woodcock typewriter, serving as key government evidence, was also possibly reproduced by the CIA or U.S. military intelligence, echoing the way the CIA has been alleged to be behind Guccifer 2 in the alleged Russian hack of the DNC computers.

Nixon alluded to this when he told aide Charles Colson, as recorded in White House tapes: “The typewriters are always key. We built one in the Hiss case.”

Hiss’ opponents believed they had their smoking gun years after the trial when encrypted Soviet cables, released following the opening of the Soviet archives in 1991 (known as the Venona files), exposed a State Department spy code-named Ales, whom they believed to meanAlger.

However, a 2007 American Scholar article by Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya argued that a more likely candidate was Hiss’ colleague, Wilder Foote, because a KGB operative placed Ales in Mexico City when Hiss was known to be in the U.S and the information came from someone inside the Office of the Lend- Lease Aadministration, where Hiss never worked.

The Soviets showed little interest in the political information Hiss could provide, since the Cambridge Five (famed British spies) leaked the major secret documents related to Yalta. Ales hence does not appear to have violated the Espionage Act, which requires specific injury to U.S. national interest.

More Parallels With 2016

The Hiss case exemplifies the abuse of the judicial system and manipulation of public opinion by opportunists such as Richard Nixon and elements of the Deep State during the Cold War. One can see parallels with Russia-gate here too, with opportunists such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and his uncorroborated leaks coming from intelligence sources.

These resemblances to current events are unfortunately salient. The Deep State always has wanted Russia as an enemy so huge military-defense budgets can be maintained, and so Russia does not control Central Asia’s oil and gas wealth. The main target of its political machinations today, farcically, is a Republican president who is an arch-imperialist and embodiment of the American dream in its valorization of wealth accumulation.

During the 2016 election, the party of Roosevelt ran a divisive candidate in Hillary Clinton who undermined the progressive insurgent, Bernie Sanders, through undemocratic methods. Instead of looking in the mirror, party power-brokers sought to blame Russia for its embarrassing defeat and divert the public’s attention. They spread rumors of Russian electoral manipulation, which, as in the Hiss case, have never been corroborated and probably never could be.

The Russia-gate investigation so far has many of the footprints of a politicized disinformation campaign, an amateur one at that, given that the January 2017 “assessment” by only three intelligence agencies—released to try to prove the charge of election hacking—was bereft of any evidence and focused mainly on attacking English-language Russian television as an alleged propaganda outlet.

Gross inconsistencies also have been apparent; in the refusal by Democratic National Committee to allow the FBI to examine its computer server where the alleged hack took place and in Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s refusal to interview WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange or witnesses such as British diplomat Craig Murray who met with the alleged leaker. Mueller also refuses to engage with a study carried out by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity,  or VIPS,  that determined the DNC data was leaked, not hacked, and that the data copying was performed on the East Coast of the United States and exceeded internet capability for a remote hack.

Liberals as Rightists

The timing of the indictment of 12 Russian spies by Mueller on the eve of a summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump was also suspicious, along with the indictment being presented as proof when it is unlikely the case would ever be prosecuted.

Businessmen with ties to the Democratic Party, such as  William F. Browder, meanwhile have replaced the old Wall Street Republicans in pushing the anti-Russia hysteria. They too aim to deflect attention from their commission of white-collar crime. In Browder’s case it was tax evasion, for which Putin prosecuted him. The methods of the New Cold Warriors are generally reminiscent of the old GOP in the levying of baseless accusations and adoption of methods of clandestine surveillance and attempted entrapment to discredit or prosecute Americans suspected of collusion with Russia, as had been the case with Hiss.

The Democrats and liberal media pundits on CNN and MSNBC and in journals like The New Yorker appear to be oddly in sync with the extremist John Birch society, which accused Eisenhower in the 1950s of leading a communist sleeper cell.

As Establishment Democrats and their fellow travelers drive much of the Russophobic hysteria in an effort to undermine Trump, it has been important for them to promote a useable past and distort the original history of the Cold War. As a case in point, Seth Ackerman wrote a piece in the supposedly left Jacobin magazine denouncing Roosevelt’s vice president, Henry Wallace, who had advocated for détente with the Russians, as a communist dupe.

Ackerman then asserted in a July essay, which was at least somewhat  critical of the Democrats’ current Russophobia, that “Hiss was a Soviet spy” who was “reportedly awarded secret Soviet decorations in honor of his service to Moscow.” However, even serious scholarship of an anti-Hiss bent has acknowledged that Hiss’ guilt remains speculative, and the opening of the Soviet archives has not revealed any smoking-gun evidence apart from the Venona files whose meaning is contested.

Joan Brady, in an important recent study of Hiss, “America’s Dreyfuss,” notes that the “red scare whipped up around the case became for America what antisemitism had been to Germany [in the 1930s], a force to unify the people and deflect attention from an economic re-arrangement that could not function freely without chipping away at their rights.”

Decades after the case against Hiss, he remains a “bogeyman” who continues to serve as the embodiment what happens when we let our guard down.

These words resonate in our political climate where the Russian threat is again being invoked as a force to unify the people against false enemies and to steer attention from pernicious economic arrangements and criminal malfeasance by political donors.

Spooked by insurgencies on both the right and the left in the 2016, the Establishment is worried about growing social unrest, both of which have been smeared as being influenced by Russia. New bogeymen are again being created to sustain a dangerous confrontationist policy toward Russia whose consequences may be even worse than the first Cold War.

Jeremy Kuzmarov is an historian and author, with John Marciano, of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce.

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Distorting the Life of Bobby Kennedy

As the 50th anniversary of his assassination is being remembered on Tuesday, it is vital to have a complete and accurate picture of the complex figure of Robert F. Kennedy, explains James DiEugenio.   

By James DiEugenio  Special to Consortium News

TV commentator Chris Matthews’ book, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, has been a best seller since it was released last October, but there’s a lot of important material that Matthews left out about Kennedy, whose assassination on June 5, 1968 is being remembered on Tuesday.

In recapping his early life, Matthews tells the story of Kennedy graduating from Harvard and going on to pursue a law degree at the University of Virginia, where he was chair of the Student Legal Forum. In that role, he invited some high profile guests to speak in Charlottesville.

One guest, Nobel Prize winner Ralph Bunche, would augur Kennedy’s later support for civil rights.  Bunche, both a diplomat and professor at Howard University, was African-American, and the invitation was to a state where most of everyday life was still segregated.  When Bunche told Kennedy he would not speak before a segregated audience, RFK appealed the issue through four levels of the college administration—saying he would not back down for moral reasons—and won. Bunche ultimately addressed an overflowing, integrated audience that was about one-third African-American. As Matthews correctly notes, Bunche stayed at Bobby’s house that night, which was pelted with stones.

A Transformative Trip Abroad

In 1951, after he graduated, Bobby traveled with his brother, then Congressman Jack Kennedy, to the Middle and Far East to learn about U.S. foreign policy and raise his credentials in that area. Matthews mentions the trip, but omits the name of Edmund Gullion, a respected State Department diplomat whom the brothers contacted in Saigon to assess whether France could win its war to re-colonize Indochina.

Matthews’ excision of Gullion is inexplicable, given his importance: he told the Kennedy brothers that  France could not win, since Ho Chi Minh had inspired the Viet Minh to fight until death, rather than return under colonialism’s yoke. Guillion also said France could not win a war of attrition, because the home front would not support it.

Bobby later said Guillion deeply affected JFK’s foreign policy views. Thus, soon after, JFK attacked both parties’ positions on thwarting Communism in the Third World. That lonely campaign continued for six years, climaxing in the senator’s speech protesting Eisenhower’s second attempt to support France’s desperate effort to maintain an imperial empire, this time in Algeria.

During the next year (1958), JFK bought 100 copies of the best-selling book, The Ugly American, one for each senator, a story Matthews fails to tell. The thinly disguised novel was an unsubtle critique of America’s growing involvement in Indochina and the State Department’s incompetence in dealing with the Vietnamese.

As JFK aide Arthur Schlesinger noted, when Senator John Kennedy opposed the Eisenhower/Nixon proposed intervention at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, RFK agreed, believing one could not consider anti-Communism in the Third World without considering colonialism’s impacts.  Bobby noted this in a 1956 article for The New York Times Magazine:

. . .because we think that the uppermost thought in all people’s minds is communism….We are still too often doing too little too late to recognize and assist the irresistible movements for independence that are sweeping one dependent territory after another.”

At a talk at Fordham University, Bobby told the audience that the fatal flaw of American foreign policy was the commitment to European colonialism, noting “We supported France in Indochina far too long.” Although this is a stunning critique, Matthews does not include it in his book.

RFK and Joseph McCarthy

By leaving out such stories, it seems Matthews is trying to position Bobby Kennedy closer to Senator Joe McCarthy than he really was to paint RFK as an ardent Cold Warrior. After Bobby successfully managed his brother’s Senate campaign in 1952, his father suggested he work for McCarthy, who was Joe Kennedy’s friend. Matthews devotes seven pages to this part of the history, though he omits some key points.

For example, Bobby resigned in protest from McCarthy’s committee after only six months. During this time, he worked on what many think was the Committee’s most valuable report, about how some American allies’ trade practices benefited China and North Korea during the Korean conflict. Unlike Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s choice for chief counsel, RFK’s report did not accuse individuals of being traitors.  

Further, RFK did not participate in Cohn’s pursuit of alleged Russian spies in the State Department.  In fact, in private, he clearly admitted his dispute with Cohn, whom he found reckless and pugnacious, attracting the wrong kind of publicity to the Committee. Once he resigned, he kept a low profile for a short while and then the Democratic minority appointed him their chief counsel.

As RFK predicted, McCarthy and Cohn imploded on national television during the Army-McCarthy hearings. After this, Bobby took over the committee and retired two of its most controversial, even absurd, cases, against a Queens, NY dentist, Irving Peress and a Pentagon pastry chef, Annie Lee Moss.  Also, the RFK-run committee never filed charges with respect to McCarthy’s accusation about the infiltration of defense plants.

When the proceedings ended, Bobby wrote the minority report, which was so critical of McCarthy and Cohn that some Democrats would not sign it. It recommended the Senate take action for their abuses. The report provoked hearings on the subject of censure; which was the end result. However, Matthews spends significantly more time on RFK’s earlier Committee work than on his later role, which was longer and more important.

Matthews skims over the next part of RFK’s life, as Chief Counsel for the McClellan Committee.  Here, the 31-year-old lawyer rose to national prominence as the foe of Teamsters’ President Jimmy Hoffa and organized crime. Mathews captures little of the political complexity of this four-year drama. For example, the Committee Republicans, led by Sen. Barry Goldwater, were pleased when RFK began pursuing Hoffa since they thought it would weaken unions, in general. But they were unhappy when RFK expanded the focus to the Teamsters’ relationship with the Mafia, since the Committee now sought to clean up corrupt unions.

It got even worse for Goldwater when, while Bobby was investigating a long strike against the Kohler Company in Wisconsin, he became close to Walter Reuther, the United Automobile Workers’ president, who was running the strike. As chief counsel, RFK made him a featured witness before the Committee. This resulted in the largest fine ever levied against a corporation in a strike until that time. Again, Matthews omits this important biographical material.

JFK’s Presidential Bid

In 1960, Bobby managed his brother’s presidential campaign against Vice-President Richard Nixon. Matthews does note Bobby’s 1959 visit to Johnson’s ranch, where LBJ lied to him about his intention not to enter the 1960 race. Thus, when Johnson did enter, late in the campaign, RFK had to run a two-stage strategy: The first beating Senator Hubert Humphrey in the primaries; the second was to beat Johnson in the local and state delegations in states without primaries. Despite the extra load, Bobby held off Johnson and JFK won on the first ballot at the convention.

At this point, a group of advisors convinced JFK to abandon his original choice for vice-president, Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, and instead pick Johnson, so he could win in the south.

Matthews’ version of what followed differs from the dominant meme in the literature.  Authors like Jeff Shesol and Robert Caro concluded that, after Johnson accepted JFK’s offer, Bobby tried to get Johnson to leave the ticket.  Matthews’ interpretation is that JFK knew what Bobby was doing and supported it, since he had not thought Johnson would accept the offer.  Whichever version is correct, it made the LBJ/RFK relationship even rockier, and the two were antagonists for the next eight years—which ultimately fractured the 1968 Democratic convention.

The Kennedys and the CIA 

Matthews correctly views the Bay of Pigs operation as one that was designed to fail.  In his previous books, he didn’t admit this, which is odd, since CIA Director Allen Dulles left a handwritten confession to that effect in his Princeton archives. Peter Grose, Dulles’ biographer, discussed this in his 1994 book, Gentleman Spy. Thus, Matthews took two decades to present what Dulles admitted over 50 years earlier. So, finally, Matthews says the goal behind the deception was to have JFK send the Navy and Marines into Cuba to save the day. However, JFK refused, although Nixon–whom Kennedy defeated in 1960 for the White House—advised the President to declare a beachhead and invade. This discredits what Matthews observed in his previous book Kennedy and Nixon, where he implies there was an equivalency between the two presidents.

Matthews virtually eliminates the crucial role Bobby had soon after. The President appointed him as a member of a White House committee that was mandated to investigate the operation. During the inquiry, Bobby granted Dulles no quarter, since he already suspected what Dulles later admitted: that the CIA director had deceived JFK about the operation’s chance of success, hoping he would approve an American armada to save himself from a humiliating defeat.

Thus, the President had authorized the Bay of Pigs given false information; and when RFK understood Dulles’ deceptions, he conferred with his father, who arranged for his son to meet former Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett, who admitted he and David Bruce (at State) had tried to get Dulles fired in the 1950s.  But Dulles was protected by his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

Lovett advised JFK that he now had the perfect opportunity to do what he, himself, could not. Thus, on Bobby’s and Lovett’s advice, the President fired not just Allen Dulles, but Deputy Director Charles Cabell and Director of Plans, Dick Bissell. Feeling duped by the CIA and the Pentagon–which had also approved the disastrous project–Bobby now became JFK’s trusted advisor on foreign affairs.

Operation Mongoose

Matthews omits these episodes and then writes that 1962’s Operation Mongoose was Bobby’s idea. Mongoose was the secret campaign of sabotage and covert actions against Cuba that, after seven months of memo shuffling, was authorized in November 1961 and launched in February 1962.

The definitive record of the memoranda—Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume X—shows that it was hardly Bobby’s idea. In fact, it was Walt Rostow, Assistant to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, who began the discussion by focusing on the “Cuba problem” and suggesting a blockade or an invasion. Others, like Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and CIA officer Tracy Barnes, joined in later; and it was Barnes’ option to infiltrate and sabotage shipping that was ultimately supported.

President Kennedy appointed Bobby to be a kind of ombudsman over the project, since he did not trust the CIA.  As David Corn revealed in Blond Ghost, a biography of Ted Shackley, Mongoose’s day-to-day supervisor, Bobby insisted on seeing every plan for every foray into Cuba.  He also demanded that every plan include a detailed, written description. To put it mildly, after the freewheeling days of Allen Dulles, the Agency chafed at this studious procedure for Mongoose. This is another point Matthews’ ignores.

Battle for Civil Rights

Matthews begins the Kennedys’ battle for civil rights with Bobby’s role as Attorney General and his intervention in the Freedom Riders’ attempt to integrate inter-state busing in the south.  However, this is not the whole story. During JFK’s campaign in June 1960, he said he was prepared to win the Democratic nomination without a single vote from the south at the convention. As author Harry Golden noted, after he was nominated, he told his civil rights advisors that he would break the walls of segregation through legal actions based on three statutes that his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, did not use to any significant degree: the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board decision of 1954, and the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts.

And this is what Attorney General Bobby Kennedy did, filing more civil rights cases in his first year than Eisenhower filed during his two full terms in office. By the end of 1961, he opened 61 new investigations and by 1963, five times as many lawyers were working on civil rights cases than under Eisenhower.

This approach had been planned by the Kennedy campaign’s civil rights advisor, Harris Wofford.  Before Bobby became attorney general, Wofford had written a long memorandum on the issue, saying it was not possible to pass an omnibus civil rights bill through Congress in 1961, and probably not in 1962—since the Senate would filibuster it. Thus, the Attorney General and White House would be wise to use executive orders and legal actions to build momentum.

This happened, and faster than Wofford anticipated, because some of the things JFK had done before he was president encouraged the civil rights movement in a way that Eisenhower had not. For example, in 1957, he spoke in Jackson, Mississippi, stating that all Americans must accept the Brown vs. Board decision as the law of the land. Further, during the 1960 campaign, JFK called Coretta Scott King to comfort her about her husband’s arrest, while Bobby worked behind the scenes to get King out of prison. In May 1961, as the new attorney general, Bobby declared at the University of Georgia Law School that he would enforce the Brown v. Board decision.

Matthews ignores almost all of this. But without this information, the story of the meteoric success of the civil rights movement from 1961-1963 is incomplete. Vivian Malone, one of the first black students to enroll at the segregated University of Alabama, did so although Governor George Wallace stated he would stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent it. When Vivian’s sister was asked why Vivian did such a dangerous thing, she said her sister trusted that Bobby Kennedy would protect her. And he did, sending over 3,000 troops under General Creighton Abrams to the campus.  Matthews simply does not explain this crucial link between the civil rights movement and the Kennedys’ actions.

Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam

Nor does he shed light on the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam in 1963. As to the former, Matthews notes that Bobby proposed an air strike to destroy the missiles on the island, tracing this to the first meeting of President Kennedy’s advisors. However, I could not find this quote in the meeting’s transcript. In fact, RFK cautioned his brother against both an invasion and bombing campaign at the first meeting. Although he mentioned more aggressive actions at the second meeting, he qualified them with words like ‘if’ and ‘whether.’ Thus, these were contingencies, not commitments.

Matthews then says the brothers acknowledged former Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s view, which is completely inaccurate. In one of the most famous incidents during that two-week crisis, Acheson wanted no negotiations, and rather pushed for a sneak attack on the missile sites to eliminate them. Bobby, then attorney general, recoiled, saying it would be the equivalent of what the Japanese did to America at Pearl Harbor.

The transcripts show that JFK asked about each option—an invasion, bombing campaign, and surgical air strikes. For each, he considered the number of casualties. The President even questioned Chief of Staff Maxwell Taylor about the number of fatalities with a “surgical strike.” And when the President visited the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was appalled by their opposition to his choice of a blockade. What really startled the brothers was when the congressional leaders they called to the White House said they also thought a blockade was too meek—including liberal Senator William Fulbright, who favored an invasion.

Feeling isolated, JFK had Bobby work as his back channel to the Soviets; thus, Bobby communicated with Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and worked out a deal: the Russians would remove the atomic weapons from Cuba in return for the U.S. not invading the island and making a silent promise that JFK would later remove American missiles from Turkey.

If we understand Bobby’s role here, we understand what JFK was doing in Vietnam in 1963, and also RFK’s position on the war from 1964-1968.  Nevertheless, Matthews seems unable to deal with the ramifications of NSAM 263, President Kennedy’s October 1963 order to begin withdrawing American advisors from Vietnam; and, Bobby’s prime role in designing it.

The President had sent Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Taylor to Saigon that fall to report on the conditions that would support NSAM 263. But since he didn’t trust the two to write what he needed to justify his withdrawal plan, he summoned General Victor Krulak and Colonel Fletcher Prouty to the White House.  As historian John Newman notes, JFK asked Bobby to supervise their report, which was sent by jet to Hawaii where it was given to McNamara and Taylor to read on their flight to Washington. But you will not read one sentence about this in Matthews’ book.

LBJ and RFK’s Decision to Run for President

This omission points to a larger vacuum. One reason Bobby decided to run for president in 1968 was because he felt that though Johnson had said he wanted to continue JFK’s policies, he obviously had little intention to. As John Bohrer notes in The Revolution of Robert Kennedy, even in early 1964, the Attorney General was advising Johnson not to militarize Vietnam. His advice, of course, was ignored.

Bobby also figured that Dean Rusk, the hawkish secretary of state, would now urge Johnson to escalate the war to heights he and his brother had never contemplated.  But it was Johnson’s signing ceremony for the civil rights bill in 1964 that was a turning point: LBJ asked RFK to pass around pens, after LBJ had already given one to racist FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Bobby had had enough. He left the Administration and successfully ran for senator from New York. After this, he headed the “Kennedy wing of the Democratic party.”

In 1965, Bobby asked Johnson to fire Rusk and tell South Vietnam the U.S. would no longer fight its war. He also railed against the NRA’s influence, insisted on warning labels for cigarettes, and even asked that “right to work” laws—which weakened unions—be repealed. You can read about these courageous stands in John Bohrer’s book, but not in Matthews’.

One thing LBJ did to reverse JFK’s foreign policy was to appoint Thomas Mann to key positions on Latin America. Bobby suspected that Johnson did this to deliberately undo one of JFK’s key diplomatic creations—the Alliance for Progress. Thus, Bobby, as senator, traveled to Latin America to find out what was going on. Matthews gives one page to this central event. Yet some of the things RFK said and did before, during and after this trip are crucial to understanding who he was at the time.

After the State Department briefed him about whom he should meet and what to say, Bobby told a colleague, “It sounds like we’re working for United Fruit again.” He told a crowd in Lima, Peru they should imitate great Latin American revolutionaries like San Martin and O’Higgins.  At almost every other stop he ended his speeches by saying, “The responsibility of our times is nothing less than revolution.” He made it a point to visit the ancient capital of the Inca empire in Cuzco and, on his way back, children were cheering “Viva Kennedy.”  

In Brazil, when sugar cane workers told him they were paid only for three days while working six, the senator walked to the landlord’s house and yelled that he was swindling his workers.  After this, he visited Brazil’s president, who had been installed by a CIA-sponsored coup after JFK was killed. While driving back to his hotel room he saw soldiers striking some of the crowd and trying to keep them away from his car.  As Bohrer writes, he jumped out and shouted, “Down with the government! On to the palace!” I have to share these key incidents with the reader because they are not in Matthews’ book.

That journey south is a fitting prelude to Bobby’s last campaign.  Matthews does include a couple of important incidents in the prelude to RFK’s decision to run against President Johnson. First, he describes a meeting between Bobby and Walter Cronkite, where the CBS broadcaster told he him must run in order to end the Vietnam War. Second, he quotes Bobby saying in November 1967 that his brother would have never committed half a million men to Vietnam and, in fact, was determined not to send combat troops at all. But Matthews doesn’t write how Bobby came to that conclusion.

An Incandescent Crusade

Matthews’ description of Bobby’s remarkable 85-day campaign is fairly prosaic and doesn’t come close to capturing what was perhaps the most bold and brilliant presidential campaign in the last 60 years.  Here was the last crusade of the 1960s—the last hope of a generation that had already witnessed to this point the murders of JFK in 1963 and Malcolm X in 1965. Martin Luther King was relying on Bobby to enter the race, and when he did, was overjoyed, saying he would make an outstanding president. RFK had King, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta on his side.

At his first formal campaign appearance at Kansas State University, before Johnson exited the race, RFK called the president’s Vietnam policy “bankrupt” and “deeply wrong.” He then quoted the officer who said that after the Battle of Ben Tre, “We had to wipe out the village in order to save it.” Bobby then asked, “Where does such logic end?” Later he said, “We cannot send American troops to assume the burden of fighting for corrupt and repressive governments all the way round the globe. . . .” Then, in Indiana, he echoed King when he said black Americans were dying in the war in disproportionate numbers than whites.

King was gunned down in Memphis on April 4, 1968 during the Indiana primary campaign. Kennedy had a rally scheduled in a predominantly African-American area of Indianapolis that night, which the police told him to cancel, since they couldn’t assure his safety. Nevertheless, he went and made one of his two greatest speeches. The other had been his “Ripple of Hope” address in Cape Town, South Africa on June 6, 1966, exactly two years before his death. Bobby pleaded with the crowd in Indianapolis not to give in to racial polarization, to hatred and bitterness. As many have noted, almost every major city in America went up in smoke that night, but Indianapolis did not.

Kennedy won Indiana and Nebraska, two primarily agricultural states outside the northeast. He also won every primary he entered except for Oregon. And he climaxed his triumphant crusade with his greatest victory in the California primary. As journalist Jack Newfield and others have pointed out, something exceptional happened in California.  Chavez and Huerta got the word out about RFK all the way down to Los Angeles; and King’s followers did not forget RFK’s speeches in Cape Town and Indianapolis.

When the polls opened that morning, Kennedy’s workers drove around East LA to check the turnout and were shocked to see Hispanics and African Americans lined up before the doors opened. For the first time in the city’s history, the turnout on the poor east side surpassed the wealthy west side. Bobby had given the poor a reason to vote, which is why he beat Eugene McCarthy. A few moments after declaring his victory and saying, “On to Chicago, and let’s win there,” he was killed—the last of four major 1960s’ assassinations. Matthews doesn’t mention how they brought the end to a remarkable decade. Nor does he mention how his death caused the violent Chicago convention and how its influence led, among other reasons, to the victory of Richard Nixon, the anti-RFK candidate.

Why does Matthews continually ignore these points? If one thinks, as his employers at MSNBC do, that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the liberal ideal, then what Bobby Kennedy represented in 1968 was radical: Can you imagine either of these politicos telling Brazilian citizens to storm the palace? Not even on Saturday Night Live.

James DiEugenio is a researcher and writer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and other mysteries of that era. His most recent book is  The JFK Assassination : The Evidence Today

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Checkmate on ‘The Devil’s Chessboard’

Exclusive: Since the end of World War II, what some call the “deep state” has taken hold of the American Republic, stripping the citizens of meaningful control over national security issues, with CIA Director Allen Dulles playing a key early role, according to David Talbot’s new biography reviewed by Lisa Pease.

By Lisa Pease

David Talbot’s new book The Devil’s Chessboard is an anecdotal biography of not just Allen Dulles but of the national security establishment that he helped create. Talbot gave himself the monumental task of summing up a 25-year slice of important history.

Because Talbot has a keen eye for both the absurd and the darkly humorous, he managed to make the disturbing history of that period not only eminently readable but engaging and at times downright entertaining.

I have consumed dozens of books on Allen Dulles, the CIA and Cold War history, yet I was still surprised by numerous revelations in Talbot’s book. He often covers well-known episodes through a less well-known set of incidents and characters.

Talbot writes about the ratlines (escape routes from Europe to Latin America for Nazis), but in the context of one particularly Machiavellian character. He writes about Lee Harvey Oswald from the point of view of one of his friends who sold him down the river to the Warren Commission, likely at the behest of the CIA, a friend who later ostensibly committed suicide just as a member of the House Select Committee on Assassinations was about to interview him. Talbot talks about the CIA’s mind-control programs in the context of Allen Dulles submitting his own son to those horrors.

Talbot and his research associate Karen Croft, to whom he dedicated his book, have found all sorts of nuggets in Allen Dulles’s papers, his appointment calendar, oral histories, and other less-used sources. In addition, Talbot infuses his book with anecdotes from interviews he personally conducted. While I found some points I could nitpick in various episodes, overall this is a worthy addition and a much-needed perspective that elucidates how we came to have two governments: the elected one and the one that doesn’t answer to the elected one.

Talbot’s presentation is not linear but episodic, jumping back and forth like a checker on the chessboard in his title to keep subjects thematically together. Doing this allows him to introduce the character of Allen Dulles quickly, by showing him handing over a World War I girlfriend, “a young Czech patriot,” to British agents who suspected her of being an enemy spy, after which, Talbot tells us, she “disappeared forever.”

Talbot demonstrates that Dulles always found a way to do what he wanted, regardless of what he had been asked to do, even from his entry into the World War II’s Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s forerunner. OSS chief William “Wild Bill” Donovan had tried to assign Dulles to London to exploit Dulles’s cozy relationships with high-net-worth individuals like the Rockefellers whom Dulles served as a lawyer at Sullivan and Cromwell. But Dulles instead got himself assigned to Bern, Switzerland, at the near center of Europe and a financial Mecca for secret bank accounts.

Allen Dulles’s older brother John Foster Dulles had funneled “massive U.S. investments” into Germany post-World War I that flowed back to the U.S. as war loans were paid off. Both Dulles brothers enabled the Nazis financially and socially, with John Foster Dulles at one point defending the character of a Nazi lobbyist who threw a party in New York City to celebrate a Nazi victory in France.

Sparing the Nazis

Talbot makes the case that Allen Dulles was all but a “Double Agent” for the Nazis during World War II. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew how close Dulles was to the Germans but thought Dulles, as an American, would do the President’s bidding, serving as a lure for high-profile Nazis so they could be identified and neutralized.

In pursuing victory, FDR pushed for an unconditional surrender, but Dulles had other plans. He told an agent of SS leader Heinrich Himmler that the Allies’ declaration of the need for unconditional surrender was “merely a piece of paper to be scrapped without further ado if Germany would sue for peace.”

Roosevelt had assigned Dulles to support Project Safehaven, a program to identify and confiscate Nazi assets stashed in neutral countries. But instead Dulles, aided by his friend Tom McKittrick, the head of the Bank for International Settlements, sought to protect his German client’s accounts.

Insubordination to presidents was a running theme in Dulles’s life. But the younger Dulles brother did not yet have the power he would command later in life, so FDR’s policies won out over Dulles’s covert challenges.

Money and the power that money enabled, not ideology, was the predominant motivator for Dulles and his ilk. As Talbot noted, “It is not widely recognized that the Nazi reign of terror was, in a fundamental way, a lucrative racket, an extensive criminal enterprise set up to loot the wealth of Jewish victims and exploit their labor.”

Dulles did not appear to have a problem with the decimation of the Jews. Instead, Dulles believed the real enemy were the Communists, who had the potential to shift the balance of financial power. So Dulles found natural camaraderie with the Nazi elite, who also viewed the Soviets as their biggest threat. Dulles ignored or downplayed the reports he was receiving from escapees and journalists regarding the burning of human beings in concentration camps.

Dulles’s declassified communications showed little regard for the killing of the Jews and much more interest in psychological warfare tricks, “such as distributing counterfeit stamps behind enemy lines depicting Hitler’s profile as a death’s skull, and other cloak-and-dagger antics,” Talbot tells us.

When one reporter took a detailed report of what was happening to Dulles, the journalist said Dulles was “profoundly shocked” and thought action should be taken immediately. Yet Dulles had been receiving similar reports for more than two years and had done nothing about it, and he did next to nothing with this report as well.

Dulles wasn’t the only one keeping the atrocities from being reported, of course. First, the Nazis operated in as much secrecy as possible, so credible reports were hard to come by. But even when they came, many others in government, such as Secretary of State Cordell Hull, turned a blind eye. Hull was one of those who advised President Roosevelt not to allow the St. Louis, a ship of German Jewish refugees, to dock at an American port and who had blocked an important, detailed, first-hand account of what was going on in the camps from reaching the President.

In Italy, Dulles pursued his own secret peace agreement, which he dubbed Operation Sunrise, which flew in the face of FDR’s stated policies. And while Dulles presented himself to people as a personal representative of FDR, the absurdity of that was not lost on some of Dulles’s targets.

Launching the Cold War

During the Nuremberg trials, again, Dulles took the side opposite of what FDR had wanted, the meting out of stern justice for such egregious crimes. Where Roosevelt and other Allied leaders saw war criminals, Dulles saw potential spies to be rescued.

Talbot devotes several chapters to Dulles’s cooperation with and protection of the Nazis. One chapter is devoted to Dulles’s bringing the “Gehlen organization” into the fold of U.S. intelligence, with dubious results.

And, Talbot describes how James Angleton appeared to have blackmailed his way into his position of Chief of Counterintelligence by promising not to expose Dulles’s hiding of Nazi funds. That would explain how Angleton rose to such a key position despite his dubious fitness for the job. The paranoid Angleton ruined the lives of many intelligence officers whom he suspected falsely of being foreign spies, while missing the fact that his good friend in British intelligence, Kim Philby, was a Soviet double-agent. But Allen Dulles was ever Angleton’s protector.

Due to the scope of the topics covered, Talbot is necessarily unable to go in great depth into any of them. His coverage of the Hiss case feels superficial to one who has read a great deal on the subject. For example, Talbot speculates that Alger Hiss, a senior State Department official accused of spying for the Soviets, didn’t want to recognize Whittaker Chambers, the chief witness against him, because the two had perhaps engaged in a homosexual liaison.

While that may be true, I’ve always found Hiss’s own reasons compelling: Chambers had gone by another name when he had first known him; it had been many years since they had met; and Chambers’s weight had changed dramatically. That seems to better explain why Hiss claimed he didn’t know Chambers until he had a face-to-face meeting with him. Then, he recognized his long-ago tenant.

Talbot sprinkles a little sexual innuendo throughout the book. Personally, I find that takes away from the telling of history because anyone can say anything about someone else when the person is no longer alive to dispute it. In most cases, these suspicions are neither provable nor relevant. Fortunately, these are minimal interruptions to the overall tale.

Talbot makes a compelling argument that a lot of the abuses of the intelligence apparatus that we are dealing with now had their genesis under Allen Dulles’s version of the CIA. He traces the notion that the CIA is “above the law” and unanswerable to oversight to the McCarthy hearings, where Dulles earned the undying loyalty of the CIA by refusing to turn over Sen. Joe McCarthy’s targets for questioning.

McCarthy was clearly overreaching in his pursuit of suspected Communists and homosexuals as alleged national security threats but there should have been another way to deal with that than by claiming the CIA was above the law. That single act of defiance, perhaps more than anything else, paved the way to the egregious CIA abuses that have occurred in the years since, including the illegal wiretapping of elected officials, opening them up to blackmail.

In another part of the book, Talbot details the rise of Nixon under, in part, Dulles’s sponsorship. Most of us know that Nixon received illegal campaign donations when he was running for president. But Nixon also shook down those who wanted him to run for Congress, claiming he couldn’t afford to live on the salary of a Congressman and that he’d need supplementary income if he were to run. These are the kinds of juicy details Talbot’s book provides in spades.

As CIA Director

President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Dulles as the fifth CIA director and the first civilian director in 1953, but, as Talbot makes clear, Dulles overrode some of Eisenhower’s wishes by collaborating with his brother, John Foster Dulles, who was Secretary of State. By and large, Eisenhower was okay with letting the Dulles brothers run U.S. overt and covert foreign policy as they helped shape the worsening Cold War.

Their hard-line anti-communism and sympathy for colonialism included organizing coups in Iran in 1953 and in Guatemala in 1954 and blocking a political settlement of the Vietnam conflict that would have involved elections leading to the likely victory of Ho Chi Minh. (John Foster Dulles died in 1959. The international airport outside Washington D.C. is named in his honor.)

One chapter focuses on the killing of “dangerous ideas” in the form of a lecturer at Columbia University, Jesús Galíndéz. He and compatriots had fought in the Spanish Civil War and fled to the Dominican Republic, only to find that they had “left Franco’s frying pan and landed in Trujillo’s fire.” Galíndéz later escaped the Dominican Republic for America and wrote a damning 750-page essay called “The Era of Trujillo,” as his PhD thesis.

Talbot reveals the role of CIA operative Robert Maheu and ex-FBI agent John Frank in the kidnapping of Galíndéz and his delivery to Trujillo, who tortured him, boiled him alive and fed him to the sharks. With the help of Dulles’s CIA, Galíndéz died in 1956.

Talbot also argues that the CIA was “too modest” when it claimed it was not responsible for the death of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba who was assassinated just days before John Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961. The CIA basically handed Lumumba over to the people who killed him, making the Agency, at the very least, strong accessories to the plot, and hardly the failed-plot-bystanders, the story that CIA officials sold to the Church Committee.

Though Eisenhower had given the Dulles brothers a long leash for their foreign policy schemes, President John F. Kennedy had different ideas. As president, he wanted to run his own foreign policy, and this deeply rankled Allen Dulles. However, in his first months in office, Kennedy acquiesced to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. Furious that he let the CIA sell him on the scheme that was hatched under Eisenhower, Kennedy vowed to rein in the freewheeling CIA.

Dulles hadn’t had to answer to anyone for a long time. But his sloppy Bay of Pigs operation cost him all credibility with Kennedy, who took the high road publicly, refusing to blame the CIA outright. But in private, he made it clear the Agency was not to be trusted and that he wanted to shatter it into a million pieces. The enmity between the pair grew.

Allen Dulles also defied Kennedy’s wishes when the President promoted an opening to the Left in Italy. Under Dulles, the CIA continued working against those same forces while supporting the Right as the spy agency and its predecessor, the OSS, had done since World War II.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy was so suspicious of Dulles’s secret reach that after the Bay of Pigs fiasco he found Dulles’s sister working in the State Department and had her fired. President Kennedy ousted Dulles in November 1961, replacing him with John McCone.

But Dulles did not go quietly into the cold night, as Talbot tells it, but ran, essentially, a government in exile from his home on the Potomac. Talbot details some of the comings and goings and how Dulles may have used his own book tour to help plan and plot the assassination of President Kennedy.

The JFK Assassination

Toward the end of the book, Talbot focuses nearly as much on President Kennedy and the plot to assassinate him as he does on Allen Dulles, with mixed results. While Talbot has the facts right in the broad strokes, if not all the small details, his focus was, in my opinion, a tad misplaced in spots. For example, he appears to believe E. Howard Hunt’s deathbed “confession,” which many in the research community do not.

Hunt, a career intelligence officer who became infamous as a leader of Nixon’s Watergate burglary team, implicated President Lyndon B. Johnson in the plot to kill Kennedy, which has never made sense to me. If LBJ was so ruthless that he killed his way to the presidency, why did he decide not to run again in 1968? Historically, when people have killed their way to the throne, they do not voluntarily abdicate it.

And Hunt’s “confession” seemed motivated more by the goal of leaving his family a little money after his death than by a desire to tell the truth. Indeed, even Talbot is puzzled at things Hunt appears not to know that he would necessarily have known had he been privy to the inner workings of the plot.

Clearly, Talbot focuses on Hunt because of Hunt’s well-documented long-term friendship with Dulles. And, I do believe, from my own research, that Hunt was likely in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, presumably as paymaster, his usual role in operations, based in large part on the fuller evidence from which Talbot created his abbreviated summary on that point. But I’m not persuaded, by this presentation or my other research, that Hunt knew the details of the actual plot.

From my own 25-plus years of research into the documentary record of the Kennedy assassination, I have come to believe it more likely that Richard Helms, James Angleton and David Atlee Phillips were the top plotters, not Dulles. But, to Talbot’s point, all of these men were beholden, at different levels, to Dulles; in fact, Angleton carried Dulles’s ashes at his funeral in 1969.

David Atlee Phillips gained power in the CIA because of his successful operations during the 1954 overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala under Dulles. Helms was apparently insulated from the Bay of Pigs disaster in April 1961, perhaps by Dulles to keep a loyal person at the upper echelon of the CIA.

Given the hostility between Dulles and Kennedy, it remains a historical anomaly that Dulles managed to finagle his way onto the official investigation of Kennedy’s assassination. In that position, Allen Dulles was more responsible than anyone for the deliberate obfuscations of the Warren Commission. Dulles spent more minutes working for the commission than any other member. I agree with Talbot that the body should more appropriately have been named “the Dulles Commission.”

Talbot repudiated the recently resurfaced canard that Robert Kennedy had asked LBJ to appoint Dulles to the commission, a point lawyer and former House Select Committee investigator Dan Hardway has also recently made in detail recently with additional evidence. (See Section VIII in Hardway’s article “Thank you, Phil Shenon.”)

Dulles really did have ties to the family of Ruth and Michael Paine, the couple that housed the Oswalds in the months before the assassination. And Dulles really did monitor New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s case against Clay Shaw through the man Garrison had hired to provide “security,” Gordon Novel.

One of the most interesting people Talbot examined in the latter part of his book was JFK adviser and historian Arthur Schlesinger, who apparently had a distaste for Dulles and the CIA’s actions professionally while maintaining a personal and even warm relationship with Dulles though Schlesinger came to question that friendship in later years.

One of Talbot’s chapters, “I can’t look and I won’t look,” is named for something Schlesinger said when confronted with evidence of conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination. Here was a man so wedded to his circle that he did not want to believe someone he knew and admired could be responsible for such a heinous crime.

Toward the end of his life, Schlesinger reflected on his “truce” and friendship with Dulles’s protégé Richard Helms and later CIA Director William Casey. Talbot quoted Schlesinger as saying, “I did wonder at one’s [meaning his own] capacity to continue liking people who have been involved in wicked things. Is this deplorable weakness? Or commendable tolerance?”

The same must be asked of the public’s tolerance of secret operations that run counter to the principles of democracy in an open society. Is it commendable to tolerate assassinations and the darker deeds in the name of preserving the republic, or, more accurately, protecting the holdings of corporate leaders in the republic, or is it our weakness, as citizens of a democratic republic, that we have not raised our voices in protest of a secret, parallel government that has and no doubt will continue to pursue an independent path, out of control of our democracy?

That is the question that Talbot’s book asks between the lines. The Devil’s Chessboard gives us essential information to ponder before we make our answer.

Lisa Pease is a writer who has examined issues ranging from the Kennedy assassination to voting irregularities in recent U.S. elections.




How Wall St. Bailed Out the Nazis

From the Archive: Official Washington dismisses any reference to Ukraine’s neo-Nazis as “Russian propaganda” because everyone knows that no respectable U.S. leader would get in bed with such people. But Wall Street bankers didn’t have such qualms, Jerry Meldon reported in 2013.

By Jerry Meldon (Originally published on June 6, 2013)

Near the end of World War II, the secret collaboration between U.S. spymaster Allen Dulles and Nazi SS officers enabled many German war criminals to escape prosecution and positioned them to fan the flames of post-war tensions between the former allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.

In that way, the Old Nazis, aided by Dulles and other ex-Wall Street lawyers  prevented a thorough denazification of Germany and put the Third Reich’s stamp on decades of atrocities during the long Cold War, spreading their brutal death-squad techniques to faraway places, especially Latin America.

Though the World War II generation has largely passed from the scene and the Cold War ended more than two decades ago, the consequences of Dulles’s actions in those final days of World War II are still reverberating in Germany (and elsewhere in Europe).

One of the after-shocks was felt in a Munich courtroom in May 2013, with the opening of the trial of Beate Zschape, a 38-year-old neo-Nazi who was accused as an accessory to two bombings, 15 bank robberies and ten murders between 2000 and 2007 by the terrorist cell, the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU).

Two male fellow gang members reportedly took their own lives to avoid arrest before Ms. Zschape torched their hideout and turned herself in, in November 2011. But the back story is no less disturbing.

Nine of the NSU’s ten murder victims were immigrants, eight of them Turkish, one Greek. All ten were slain execution-style by the same Ceska Browning pistol. Yet it took more than a decade for police forces across Germany and the country’s domestic intelligence agency, the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (BFV), to connect the dots that would link the homicides to Germany’s xenophobic neo-Nazi netherworld.

Troubling Background

But the question is whether the missed connections resulted from incompetence or complicity. In summer 2012, following reports of the massive shredding of BFV’s files on right-wing extremists, the head of the agency tendered his resignation. Then in November, Der Spiegel reported:

“Four parliamentary committees [are] dissecting the work of law enforcement units four department heads have already resigned. The government’s failures in fighting rightwing terrorists have plunged [the BFV] into the worst crisis since it was set up in postwar Germany to stop precisely the kind of extremist thinking that allowed the Nazis to rise to power in the 1930s. The discovery of the NSU and its crimes has shaken the system to its core.

“The more secrets come to light, the clearer it becomes how extensively intelligence agencies had infiltrated right-wing extremist groups. The trio of neo-Nazis that made up the NSU was surrounded by informants linked with [the BFV].   One of the big questions is whether [the BFV] actually strengthened military right-wing groups.”

How the BFV worked at cross-purposes coddling neo-Nazis while supposedly constraining them is not entirely surprising in light of the circumstances surrounding the BFV’s birth.

West Germany’s first parliamentary elections in 1950 propelled into the chancellorship, Konrad Adenauer a stalwart of the same party as that of current German chancellor Angela Merkel, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

When Adenauer named Dr. Hans Globke as his Secretary of State, the West German chancellor laid his cards on the table. Globke’s checkered past included wartime service at the helm of the Nazi Interior Ministry’s Office for Jewish Affairs. He drafted the infamous Nuremberg Laws for the Protection of German Blood and wrote the “Commentary” that provided the rationale for genocide.

The Interior Minister who signed the Nuremberg Laws, Dr. Wilhelm Frick, was sentenced to death at Nuremberg and hanged in October 1946. Globke would appear to have been culpable, too, having advanced his career during Nazi rule. His immediate supervisor, Interior Ministry Legal Counsel Bernard Loesner, resigned following Hitler’s decision to proceed with the extermination of European Jewry. When Loesner stepped down, Globke stepped up and left his fingerprints on the Final Solution.

But Globke was not only spared the fate of some colleagues tried at Nuremberg but emerged as an important figure in shaping post-war West Germany. In the 1961 book, The New Germany and the Old Nazis, T.H. Tetens, a German economist who worked for the U.S. War Crimes Commission, noted that Globke controlled every department of West Germany’s government in Bonn and “has done more than anyone else to re-Nazify West Germany.”

Ex-Nazis Everywhere

Der Spiegel revisited the same subject in a March 2012 article headlined “The Role Ex-Nazis Played in Early West Germany.” It reported that two dozen cabinet ministers, a president and a chancellor had belonged to Nazi organizations.

The article reported that historians were poring through voluminous BFV files “to determine how many of the Nazi dictatorship’s helpers hid under the coattails of the domestic intelligence service in the earlier years of the Federal Republic” and whether “the protection of the young, optimistic constitution [had been] in the hands of former National Socialists.”

Berlin historian Michael Wildt told Der Spiegel he was convinced that the postwar police and intelligence services had been riddled with former Nazis. Entire government departments and agencies, he said, “covered up, denied and repressed” their murky history which evoked the following mea culpa from Der Spiegel’s staff:

“It’s a charge that doesn’t just apply to politicians and public servants, at least not in the early years of the republic. Senior members of the media, including at Spiegel, proved to be unwilling or incapable of sounding the alarm. This isn’t surprising, given the number of ex-Nazis who had forced their way into editorial offices.”

Author T.H. Tetens noted the irony in Dr. Globke, “[the] former key administrator in the Final Solution, [having] full control over the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.” Had he lived long enough, Tetens might have suggested that the BFV be renamed the Office for the Protection of Neo-Nazis.

Tetens might also feel vindicated by recently released CIA documents describing another branch of German intelligence that Globke’s controlled, the vast spy network run by Adolf Hitler’s former espionage czar, Lt. Gen. Reinhard Gehlen, a.k.a. the “Gehlen Organization,” a.k.a. “The Gehlen Org” or, simply, the “Org.”

Until 1955, when West Germany became a sovereign state, the Gehlen Org operated nominally under the aegis of James Critchfield of the CIA which paid for the Org’s intelligence product. In reality, Gehlen ran the Org from its creation in 1946 until his retirement in 1968. In 1956, the Org officially became Germany’s foreign intelligence service and was renamed the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

Recently, the BND has been declassifying its files to come clean about its postwar origins. Documents released to date by both it and the CIA confirm suspicions that, at least in the Gehlen years, the Org/BND was little more than a U.S.-bankrolled “sheep-dipping” operation for fugitive Nazis.

The U.S. Connection

And this troubling history goes back even further to the days of World War II when the American intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, fell under the control of a group of Wall Street lawyers who saw the world in the moral grays of business deals, measured less by right and wrong than by dollars and cents.

In the introduction to The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA, author Burton Hersh identifies this common denominator: “In 1941 [the year of America’s entry into the war}, an extraordinarily nimble New York antitrust attorney named William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan inveigled Franklin Roosevelt into underwriting the first encompassing intelligence instrumentality, the Office of the Coordinator of Information [OCI].

“Donovan’s profession was relevant, and it was no accident that all three [of The Old Boys’] load-bearing protagonists Bill Donovan, Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner achieved status in America by way of important Wall Street law partnerships.

“The faction-ridden [OCI] gave way in 1942 to the [OSS]. From then on a civilian-directed, operationally oriented spy service would top the wish list of America’s emerging power elite.”

These Wall-Street-lawyers-turned-spymasters brought their moral relativism and their ardor for aggressive capitalism to their World War II decision-making. Thus, they created an opening for Nazi war criminals who after Germany’s crushing defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943 saw the writing on the wall regarding the future of the Third Reich and started hedging their bets.

As the war ground on for two more years, thousands of them took steps to evade post-war prosecutions, in part, by arranging protection from British and American officials. Most of those American officials served in U.S. intelligence agencies, either Army intelligence or the civilian-run OSS, the CIA’s forerunner.

OSS spymaster Allen Dulles played into this Nazi game in spring 1945, as Soviet, British and American forces were converging on Berlin. Dulles engaged in negotiations for the separate surrender of German forces in Italy with SS General Karl Wolff.

It apparently didn’t bother Dulles that Wolff, like many of his SS brethren, was a major war criminal. After September 1943, when Italy withdrew from the Axis and made peace with the Allies, Wolff’s troops committed an average of 165 war crimes a day executing his orders to liquidate the Italian resistance and terrorize its supporters.

(In 1964, a German judge sentenced Wolff to 15 years in prison for various war crimes, including ordering the deportation of 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp.)

Pushing the Envelope

Initially, Dulles met with Wolff in defiance of orders from the dying President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The contacts also were behind the back of Soviet leader Josef Stalin, whose army had not only turned the tide of the war at Stalingrad but was still doing the bulk of the fighting. As Hitler’s Third Reich neared the end of its days, six out of every seven German divisions were lined up against the Red Army.

Ultimately, Dulles secured authorization for what was code-named “Operation Sunrise,” but his determination to consummate a deal with Wolff didn’t stop at negotiations. When the Italian resistance set a trap for Gen. Wolff, Dulles saved him in what his OSS colleague (and future Supreme Court Justice) Arthur Goldberg described as treason.

Moreover, when Soviet spies informed Stalin about the Dulles-Wolff assignations which continued even as the Red Army suffered 300,000 casualties in a three-week period the ensuing brouhaha played right into Hitler’s own game plan for survival.

Desperate to bolster the morale of his collapsing army, Der Fuehrer seized on the dissension opening in the ranks of the Allies. He gave his generals the following pep talk (as transcribed in Gabriel Kolko’s The Politics of War):

“The states which are now our enemies are the greatest opposites which exist on earth: ultra-capitalist states on one side and ultra-Marxist states on the other. [Their] objectives diverge daily and anyone can see how these antitheses are increasing.

“If we can deal it [the alliance] a couple of heavy blows, this artificially constructed common front may collapse with a mighty thunderclap at any moment.”

Indeed, Wolff’s surrender overtures to Dulles might have been an attempt to both save his own skin and help Hitler drive a wedge into the “artificially constructed common front.”

The overall value of Dulles’s negotiations toward ending the war also was dubious. Less than one week before the general armistice ending the War in Europe, Dulles offered Nazi officers an advantageous deal, letting one million German combatants surrender to British and American forces on May 2, 1945, rather than to the Russians.

By surrendering to the British and Americans, most of these Germans not only avoided harsh treatment from the Russians but high-ranking Nazi officers benefited from the Truman administration’s quick pivot from its war-time alliance with Stalin to the Cold War confrontation with Moscow.

President Harry Truman’s staunchly anti-communist advisers, including Secretary of State James Byrnes, persuaded Truman to default on FDR’s commitment to a thorough postwar denazification of Germany, one in a series of decisions which enabled thousands of war criminals to avoid justice and permitted many to assume key positions in the new West German government.

Steering the Cold War

Yet, the use of Nazis by U.S. intelligence agencies had the additional dangerous effect of letting the Nazis influence how the United States perceived its erstwhile allies in Moscow. Washington formulated much of its early Cold War policies based on information about Moscow’s intentions that originated with Gehlen’s blemished agents.

These infamous Final Solution perpetrators included:

Willie Krichbaum, reportedly the Gehlen Org’s top recruiter. As the senior Gestapo official for southeastern Europe, Krichbaum managed the deportation of 300,000 Hungarian Jews for extermination.

Dr. Franz Six, former Dean of the Faculty of the University of Berlin and Adolph Eichmann’s immediate supervisor in the Ideological Combat branch of the SS security apparatus. In 1941, according to a report he wrote (which Christopher Simpson cites in Blowback: The First Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis, and its Disastrous Effect on our Domestic and Foreign Policy), a Six-led SS commando group murdered 200 people in the Russian city of Smolensk, “among them 38 intellectual Jews.”

Wanted for war crimes, Six joined the Gehlen Org in 1946, but later was betrayed by a former SS officer working undercover for a US/UK dragnet for fugitive Nazis. In 1948, a U.S. military tribunal sentenced him to 20 years for war crimes including murder. After serving four, he was granted clemency by John McCloy, another Wall Street lawyer then serving as U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. Six then rejoined the Org.

Gestapo captain Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyon,” who escaped via the so-called “rat lines” to South America, where he then worked with right-wing intelligence services and organized neo-Nazi support for violent coups against elected and reformist governments, including the 1980 “cocaine coup” in Bolivia. After decades of spreading Nazi techniques across Latin America, Barbie was arrested and returned to France where he was given a life sentence in 1984 for ordering the deportation of 44 Jewish orphans to the death camp at Auschwitz

SS Colonel Walter Rauff, who dodged postwar prosecution for developing mobile gas vans and administering their deployment to murder some 250,000 Eastern Europeans, mostly Jewish women and children. The appearance of Rauff’s name on the list is interesting because, as the Milan-based SS intelligence chief for northwestern Italy in 1945, he was Gen. Wolff’s liaison with Allen Dulles.

According to a 1984 Boston Globe Op-Ed by former U.S. Justice Department lawyer John Loftus, Rauff, after playing his part in Operation Sunrise, calmly turned himself in and told agents of the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) that he had made surrender “arrangements [with] Mr. Dulles to avoid further bloodshed in Milan.”

In Loftus’s words, Dulles “promised that none of the [surrender] negotiators would ever be prosecuted as war criminals. When Truman and Stalin discovered what Dulles [had been up to], there were outraged orders to call off Sunrise [But] Dulles went ahead anyway, with Truman’s reluctant concurrence [Dulles] kept his bargain Rauff was released.”

Christopher Simpson confirms in Blowback that “each of the SS officers involved in Operation Sunrise [escaped] serious punishment despite the fact that each was a major war criminal. A U.S. military tribunal tried [SS intelligence chief] Walter Schellenberg, who had helped trap and exterminate the Jews of France. He was convicted but freed shortly thereafter under a clemency [order] from the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John McCloy

“Wolff was sentenced to ‘time served’ in a [British] denazification proceeding in 1949, then released without objection from U.S. authorities. Fifteen years later a West German court tried Wolff a second time. He was convicted of administering the murder of 300,000 persons, most of them Jews, and of overseeing SS participation in slave labor programs.”

Fleeing to Latin America

However, when the war ended, neither the Gehlen Org recruitment program nor Wall Street lawyer McCloy’s clemency rulings had begun, leaving tens of thousands of war criminals desperate to relocate in secure foreign outposts. SS Col. Rauff just happened to have the right connections to make that happen.

In Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and Soviet Intelligence, Australian investigative reporter, Mark Aarons, and former Justice Department lawyer Loftus reconstruct how Rauff became the mass murderers’ travel agent of choice.

Shortly after the Wolff/Dulles surrender negotiations were successfully completed on April 29, 1945, Rauff was arrested by unidentified Americans and delivered to an OSS unit led by James Angleton, the future CIA counter-intelligence chief.

From its description by Aarons and Loftus, Angleton’s team appears to have been tracking communists in the Italian underground which would have been consistent with Washington’s postwar policy of backhanding leftwing resistance leaders, from European partisans to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, irrespective of the magnitude of their contributions to the Allied cause.

Angleton’s team reportedly debriefed Rauff at length, probably about what he had learned when he carried out Wolff’s orders to liquidate the resistance. After Angleton’s team released him, Rauff established contact with his former SS colleague Friederich Schwendt who was already on the payroll of the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) and, like Rauff himself, was wanted for murder.

Schwendt was also a master counterfeiter. He laundered his product through banks, obtaining legitimate Western currency in return enough, in fact, that over the next three years, Rauff was able to furnish thousands of fellow war criminals false identities and one-way tickets to South America.

Rauff himself wound up in Chile, where he later reportedly advised Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s ruthless secret police.

As for Allen Dulles, he became director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. Under his leadership, the CIA overthrew democratically elected governments in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) and replaced them with anti-democratic dictatorships. To this day, neither country has fully regained its democratic footing.

After the CIA’s disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy sacked Dulles, but Dulles did not wander far from the centers of power. After JFK’s assassination two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Dulles to serve on the Warren Commission’s investigation of Kennedy’s murder.

Dulles died on Jan. 29, 1969. However, even today, seven decades after Dulles opened the door to U.S. collaboration with Nazi war criminals, his decision continues to infect government actions around the globe.

Jerry Meldon, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, is the English translator of The Great Heroin Coup, by Danish journalist Henrik Kruger, and an occasional contributor to ConsortiumNews.com.




Trying Not to Give Peace a Chance

Exclusive: The trust between President Obama and President Putin helped avert a U.S. war on Syria and got Iran to agree to limit its nuclear program, but the neocon-driven crisis in Ukraine has dashed hopes of building on that success for a more peaceful world, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

The unnecessary and regrettable conflict between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine brings to mind sad remembrances of important junctures at which I watched as a citizen and a CIA analyst chances for genuine peace with Russia frittered away.

How vividly I recall John Kennedy’s inaugural address when he bid us to ask not what our country could do for us, but rather what we could do for our country. Then and there I decided to put in the service of our government whatever expertise I could offer from my degrees in Russian. So I ended up in Washington more than a half-century ago.

The missed chances for peace did not wait. On April 17, 1961, a ragtag CIA-trained-and-funded paramilitary group of some 1,500 men went ashore on Cuba’s Bay of Pigs and were defeated in three days by Cuban forces led by Fidel Castro. CIA Director Allen Dulles and the senior military had intended to mousetrap young President Kennedy into committing U.S. military forces to a full-scale invasion, in order to bring what we now blithely call “regime change” to Cuba.

The planned mousetrap, shown for example in Dulles’s own handwriting on paper found in his study after his death, didn’t work. Kennedy had warned Dulles emphatically that he would not send U.S. armed forces into the fray. He stuck to that decision, and thereby created a rancid hatred on the part of Dulles, whom Kennedy fired, and from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom Kennedy should also have fired. The top generals, whom Deputy Secretary of State George Ball described as a “sewer of deceit,” had been in on the cabal.

The failed invasion prompted Castro to strengthen ties with the Soviet Union, which in turn led to the Cuban missile crisis of October of 1962. I watched with particular attention that seminal event unfold, since I had orders to report to Army Infantry Officer Orientation School at Fort Benning on Nov. 3, 1962. (When we began our training, we had to postpone the segment on highly touted, relatively new weapons grenade launchers, almost all of which had been scooped up and taken to Key West a few weeks before.)

As James Douglass details in his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable, Kennedy’s “failure” to send forces to rescue the paramilitary group on the beach at the Bay of Pigs was a sign of cowardice in the eyes of Allen Dulles; his brother, former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles; and the Joint Chiefs.

The peaceful resolution of the Cuban missile crisis disappointed Air Force General Curtis LeMay and colleagues on the Joint Staff who wished to use Moscow’s adventurism as a casus belli not only to achieve regime change in Cuba, but also to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union itself. Yes, madness but real enough. (And there’s still some of it around today.)

Kennedy and Khrushchev were acutely aware of how close they had come to incinerating much of the world and decided to find common ground in order to prevent a re-run of the near-calamity. In a stunningly conciliatory speech at American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy appealed for a re-examination of American attitudes towards peace, the Soviet Union and the Cold War, famously remarking, “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.”

The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. on Aug. 5, 1963, and further improvement in relations was expected and strongly opposed by the cold warriors among the Joint Chiefs. For them it was the last straw when President Kennedy issued two Executive Orders for a staged withdrawal of virtually all U.S. troops from Vietnam. They joined forces with Allen Dulles and others with feelings of revenge or fear that Kennedy was too soft on Communism.

And so, according to the persuasive case made by Douglass in JFK and the Unspeakable, they joined in a plot to kill Kennedy and derail for a generation the chance for real peace.

Chance #2 Reykjavik, 1986

By the next high-profile opportunity for a comprehensive peace in 1986, I had spent most of my CIA career focusing on Soviet foreign policy and was able to tell the senior U.S. officials I was briefing that Mikhail Gorbachev, in my view, was the real deal. Even so, I was hardly prepared for how far Gorbachev was willing to go toward disarmament. At the 1986 summit with President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland, Gorbachev proposed that all nuclear weapons be eliminated within ten years.

Reagan reportedly almost rose to the occasion, but was counseled to reject Gorbachev’s condition that any research on anti-ballistic missiles be confined to laboratories for that decade. “Star Wars,” the largest and most wasteful defense-industry corporate welfare program, won the day.

I know the characters who, for whatever reason, danced to the tune of “Star Wars” Reagan’s wistful wish for an airtight defense against strategic missiles, which the most serious engineers and scientists have said from the start, and still say, can always be defeated, and cheaply.

The naysayers to peace included ideologues like CIA Director William Casey and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, windsocks like CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates and one of his protégés, Fritz Ermarth, a viscerally anti-Russian functionary and former Northrop Corporation employee who was a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Soviet and European Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) during Reykjavik.

According to author Jim Mann, several years after Reykjavik, Ermarth reflected on how he had been wrong in being overly suspicious of Gorbachev and how the intuition of Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz had been more perceptive.

As for “Star Wars,” Jack Matlock, whom Ermarth replaced at the White House and NSC, attributed the President’s refusal to compromise on anti-ballistic missile work beyond the laboratory to a mistaken belief that the proposed restrictions would be detrimental to the program. Matlock argued that the restrictions would have had little effect on research that was still in its very early stages. Matlock, who later served as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, remains among the most widely respected specialists on Russia since George Kennan.

A career Foreign Service officer, Matlock missed the opportunity that Ermarth had to be initiated into the ethos of defense contractors like Northrop. According to its website: “From detection to tracking to engagement, Northrop Grumman is bringing its entire suite of expertise in systems integration, high-tech weaponry, and domain knowledge to bear on the challenge of a layered missile defense capability.”

Also, in contrast to Matlock, Robert Gates was elected a director of Northrop Grumman on April 24, 2002, during one of his private-sector breaks between top jobs in the national security apparatus.

So, the Reykjavik summit was another blown chance for real peace that would have been beneficial for the world but for Northrop Grumman, not so much.

Chance #3 The Soviet Union Falls Apart

By the late 1980s and early 1990s with the crumbling of the Soviet bloc and then the collapse of the Soviet Union, another opportunity for genuine peace and nuclear disarmament presented itself, but blowing such chances had become predictable.

The failure of the Communist regimes in the U.S.S.R. and in Eastern Europe brought with it a unique opportunity to create the kind of peace that Europe had not seen in modern times. It was an historic moment. President George H. W. Bush sensed this, even before the Berlin Wall fell, when he told a German audience in Mainz on May 31, 1989, “the time is ripe for Europe to be whole and free.”

To his credit, President Bush, the elder, refused to gloat over the historic concessions being made by Soviet President Gorbachev. Bush said he would not dance in celebration of the Berlin Wall coming down and assured Gorbachev that he had “no intention of seeking unilateral advantage from the current process of change in East Germany and in other Warsaw Pact countries.”

In early February 1990, Secretary of State James Baker told Gorbachev there would be “no extension of NATO’s forces one inch to the East,” provided that the Russians agreed that a united Germany could become a member of NATO.

As historian Mary Elise Sarotte has pointed out, “Such statements helped to inspire Gorbachev to agree, on Feb. 10, 1990, to internal German unification” a bitter pill to swallow when earlier 20th Century history is taken into account. The undertaking not to push NATO east was in the nature of a gentlemen’s agreement; nothing was committed to paper, and as the years went by, so did the gentlemen.

While U.S. media have generally ignored this sordid history, one can find chapter and verse in Steve Weissman’s recent article, “Exposing the Cold War Roots of America’s Coup in Kiev.” And Der Spiegel published an even more detailed account in November 2009 in “Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?”

Double-Cross?

It didn’t take long, however, for Official Washington’s “triumphalism” to take over. “Free-market” experts were dispatched to Moscow to apply “shock therapy” to the Russian economy, a process that gave rise to a handful of well-connected “oligarchs” plundering the nation’s wealth while poverty spread among the masses of the Russian people.

With similar arrogance, the U.S. government cast aside Russian objections to NATO expansion. On March 12, 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO. On March 29, 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia also became NATO members. (Albania and Croatia joined on April 1, 2009.)

In a major speech in Munich on security policy on Feb. 2, 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was reasserting Russian self-respect, was blunt:

“I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation to the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them.”

In no way impressed by Putin’s protestations, and having already added 12 countries on or near Russia’s borders, NATO leaders kept on looking east. On April 3, 2008, at a summit in Bucharest, the heads of state of the alliance issued a declaration that included this relating to NATO plans for Ukraine:

“NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO.  We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”

Though the timing was left up in the air, Russia reacted strongly to the prospect, as anyone with an ounce of sense could have predicted.

Regarding Ukraine, the last straw came almost six years later when the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, neocon prima donna Victoria Nuland, along with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Piatt and others with an interest in stirring up trouble in Ukraine, helped precipitate a putsch that placed U.S. lackeys in charge of a new government for Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014.

In a major speech ten days later, Putin said:

“Our colleagues in the West … have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed before us an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the east, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. … It happened with the deployment of a missile defense system. …

“They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner. … But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed the line. … If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. … Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria and refute the rhetoric of the cold war. … Russia has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected.”

Quotes Around Russia’s National ‘Interests’

Putin’s speech riled those who run the editorial section of the neocon Washington Post, who on March 20 denounced “Putin’s expansionist ambitions” and reviled those who are “rushing to concede ‘Russian interests’ in Eurasia.” The Post lamented that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were among those who have said they recognize such “interests” in Ukraine.

And the Post gave space to former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley who wants NATO to “restate its commitment of the 2008 Bucharest Communiqué to ultimate NATO membership to Ukraine,” and to “roll back the takeover of Crimea.”

Oddly, abutting Hadley’s drivel was an op-ed penned by former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. After excoriating “Russian aggression [and] Putin’s thuggish tactics,” and comparing him to “a Mafia gangster,” Hitler and Mussolini, Brzezinski nonetheless concluded: “The West should reassure Russia that it is not seeking to draw Ukraine into NATO.”

Henry Kissinger, no peacenik he, wrote the same thing in a Washington Post op-ed of March 5, 2014: “Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up.” Such suggestions from seasoned hands are not new. George Kennan, the author of the post WWII “containment policy,” was a fierce opponent of the eastward expansion of NATO.

If today’s Ukraine crisis is not to spin further out of control, President Obama needs to tell the neocons within his own administration as well as Secretary of State Kerry to cease and desist with their inflammatory rhetoric and their demands for confrontation.

If the objective of these hardliners was to poison U.S.-Russian relations, they have done a good job. However, if they had illusions that Russia would stand for Ukraine being woven into NATO, they should take a course in Russian history.

Or is it possible that some of the administration’s hawks are offended that Putin provided a path away from a near U.S. military assault on Syria last summer by getting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to agree to surrender his chemical weapons?

In a highly unusual Sept. 11, 2013, op-ed in the New York Times, “A Plea for Caution From Russia,” Putin recalled that our countries “were allies once, and defeated the Nazis together,” adding, “My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust.” [For more on this question of Obama-Putin cooperation, see Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

Not Rising to the Bait

The good news, if there is any coming from the Ukraine mess, is that Putin has avoided returning the personal invective hurled at him. He does not want to burn any bridges. It would hardly be surprising, at this stage, were Putin to badmouth Secretary Kerry, but Putin has shown some restraint, while still putting Kerry in his place.

At a news conference on March 4, Putin was asked about Kerry’s harsh attitude and whether it might be time to recall the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Putin replied:

“The U.S. Secretary of State is certainly an important person, but he is not the ultimate authority that determines the United States foreign policy. … [Recalling our ambassador] would be an extreme measure. … I really don’t want to use it because I think Russia is not the only one interested in cooperation with partners on an international level and in such areas as economy, politics and foreign security; our partners are just as interested in this cooperation. It is very easy to destroy these instruments of cooperation and it would be very difficult to rebuild them.”

Putin also fielded a question from six-year-old Albina toward the end of his marathon “Direct Line” TV conversation on April 17. She asked, “Do you think President Obama would save you if you were drowning?”

Putin: “I sure hope this doesn’t happen, but you know that there are personal relationships as well as relations between governments. I can’t say that I have a special personal relationship with the U.S. President, but I think he is a decent man and brave enough. So, I think he definitely would.”

However, as for that “growing trust” with President Obama and the chance for more progress toward a more peaceful world the U.S. hardliners who exacerbated the political situation in Ukraine, turning it into an international confrontation, appear to have succeeded in blocking the latest best hope for U.S.-Russian cooperation.

But there remains an obvious solution to at least prevent matters from getting worse. The beneficiaries of “regime change” in Kiev, who now find themselves in power at least for the nonce, need to make clear that Ukraine will not attempt to join NATO; and NATO needs to make clear that it has no intention of folding Ukraine into NATO. (Polling shows a lack of enthusiasm among Ukrainians for NATO, in any case.)

This is the most important step to be taken to rebuild trust or at least prevent the further deterioration of trust between Obama and Putin.

At his press conference on March 4, President Putin complained about “our Western partners” continuing to interfere in Ukraine. “I sometimes get the feeling,” he said, “that somewhere across that huge puddle, in America, people sit in a lab and conduct experiments, as if with rats, without actually understanding the consequences of what they are doing. Why do they need to do this?”

Putin has taken some pains to hold the door open to a restoration of trust with President Obama. From the U.S. side, this might be the right time to close down the lab where all those destructive “regime change’” experiments take place.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He has focused on Russia for half a century; he serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




When the CIA’s Empire Struck Back

Exclusive: In the mid-1970s, Rep. Otis Pike led a brave inquiry to rein in the excesses of the national security state. But the CIA and its defenders accused Pike of recklessness and vowed retaliation, assigning him to a political obscurity that continued to his recent death, as Lisa Pease recounts.

By Lisa Pease

Otis Pike, who headed the House of Representatives’ only wide-ranging and in-depth investigation into intelligence agency abuses in the 1970s, died on Jan. 20. A man who should have received a hero’s farewell passed with barely a mention. To explain the significance of what he did, however, requires a solid bit of back story.

Until 1961, U.S. intelligence agencies operated almost entirely outside the view of the mainstream media and with very limited exposure to members of Congress. But then, the CIA had its first big public failure in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

CIA Director Allen Dulles lured an inexperienced President John F. Kennedy into implementing a plan hatched under President Dwight Eisenhower. In Dulles’s scheme, the lightly armed invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs was almost surely doomed to fail, but he thought Kennedy would then have no choice but to send in a larger military force to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government. However, Kennedy refused to commit U.S. troops and later fired Dulles.

Despite that embarrassment, Dulles and other CIA veterans continued to wield extraordinary influence inside Official Washington. For instance, after Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, Dulles became a key member of the Warren Commission investigating Kennedy’s murder. Though the inquiry was named after U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, it should have been called the Dulles Commission because Dulles spent many more hours than anyone else hearing testimony.

One might say the Warren Commission was the first formal investigation of the CIA, but it was really a cursory inquiry more designed to protect the CIA’s reputation, aided by Dulles’s strategic position where he could protect the CIA’s secrets. Dulles never told the other commission members the oh-so-relevant fact that the CIA had been plotting to knock off leftist leaders for a decade, nor did he mention the CIA’s then contemporary assassination plots against Castro. Dulles made sure the commission never took a hard look in the CIA’s direction.

Fighting Exposure

In 1964, another wave of attention came to the CIA from Random House’s publication of The Invisible Government, by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, who sought to expose, albeit in a friendly way, some of the CIA’s abuses and failures. Despite this mild treatment, the CIA considered buying up the entire printing, but ultimately decided against it. That CIA leaders thought to do that should have rung alarm bells, but no one said anything.

Then, in 1967, an NSA scandal broke, but then the NSA referred to the National Student Association. Ramparts, the cheeky publication of eccentric millionaire Warren Hinckle, found out that the CIA had recruited ranking members of the student group and involved some of them in operations abroad.

By 1967, the CIA also was using these student leaders to spy on other students involved in Vietnam War protests, a violation of the CIA’s charter which bars spying at home. A reluctant Congress had approved the creation of the CIA in 1947 on the condition that it limit its operations to spying abroad for fear it would become an American Gestapo.

However, when these illegal operations were exposed, no one went to jail. No one was punished. Sure, the CIA was embarrassed again, and CIA insiders who consider maintaining the secrets of the agency as nearly a religious endeavor might have felt simply exposing such operations was punishment enough. But it wasn’t.

During the Vietnam War, the CIA ran a wide range of controversial covert operations, including the infamous Phoenix assassination program which targeted suspected Viet Cong sympathizers for death. Meanwhile, Air America operations in Laos implicated the agency in heroin trafficking. The CIA and its operatives also continued to entangle themselves in sensitive activities at home.

President Richard Nixon recruited a team of CIA-connected operatives to undertake a series of politically inspired break-ins, leading to the arrest of five burglars inside the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972. Nixon then tried to shut down the investigation by citing national security and the CIA’s involvement, but the ploy failed.

After more than two years of investigations and with the nation getting a frightening look into the shadowy world of government secrecy Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974. He was subsequently pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, who had served on the Warren Commission and had become America’s first unelected president, having been appointed Vice President after Nixon’s original Vice President, Spiro Agnew, was forced to resign in a corruption scandal.

The intense public interest about this secretive world of intelligence opened a brief window at mainstream news organizations for investigative journalists to look into stories that had long been off limits. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published revelations in the New York Times about CIA scandals, known as the “family jewels” including domestic spying operations. The CIA’s Operation Chaos not only spied on and disrupted anti-Vietnam War protests but undermined media organizations, such as Ramparts, that had dared expose CIA abuses.

Ford tried to preempt serious congressional investigations by forming his own “Rockefeller Commission,” led by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. It included such blue bloods as former Warren Commission member David Belin, Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon and California Gov. Ronald Reagan, in other words people who were sympathetic to the CIA and who knew how to keep secrets. But the commission was widely seen in the media as an attempt by Ford to whitewash the CIA’s activities.

Congressional Inquiries

So the Senate convened a committee led by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, called the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities but more commonly known as the “Church Committee,” and the House convened a House Select Committee on Intelligence Oversight led originally by Lucien Nedzi, D-Michigan.

Some House Democrats, Rep. Michael Harrington of Massachusetts in particular, complained that Nedzi was too friendly with the CIA and challenged his ability to lead a thorough investigation. Nedzi had been briefed two years earlier on some of the CIA’s illegal activities and had done nothing. Although the House voted overwhelmingly (and disturbingly) to keep this friend of the CIA in charge of the committee examining CIA activities, under pressure, Nedzi finally resigned.

Rep. Otis Pike, D-New York, took over what became known as the “Pike Committee.” Under Pike, the committee put some real teeth into the investigation, so much so that Ford’s White House and the CIA went on a public-relations counterattack, accusing the panel and its staff of recklessness. The CIA’s own historical review acknowledged as much:

“Confrontation would be the key to CIA and White House relationships with the Pike Committee and its staff. [CIA Director William] Colby came to consider Pike a ‘jackass’ and his staff ‘a ragtag, immature and publicity-seeking group.’ The CIA Review Staff pictured the Pike staffers as ‘flower children, very young and irresponsible and naive.’

“Donald Gregg, the CIA officer responsible for coordinating Agency responses to the Pike Committee, remembered, ‘The months I spent with the Pike Committee made my tour in Vietnam seem like a picnic. I would vastly prefer to fight the Viet Cong than deal with a polemical investigation by a Congressional committee, which is what the Pike Committee [investigation] was.’

“As for the White House, it viewed Pike as ‘unscrupulous and roguish.’ Henry Kissinger, while appearing to cooperate with the committee, worked hard to undermine its investigations and to stonewall the release of documents to it. Relations between the White House and the Pike Committee became worse as the investigations progressed.

“The final draft report of the Pike Committee reflected its sense of frustration with the Agency and the executive branch. Devoting an entire section of the report to describing its experience, the committee characterized Agency and White House cooperation as ‘virtually nonexistent.’ The report asserted that the executive branch practiced ‘footdragging, stonewalling, and deception’ in response to committee requests for information. It told the committee only what it wanted the committee to know. It restricted the dissemination of the information and ducked penetrating questions.”

Punishing Pike

Essentially, the CIA and the White House forbade the Pike report’s release by leaning on friendly members of Congress to suppress the report, which a majority agreed to do. But someone leaked a copy to CBS News reporter Daniel Schorr, who took it to the Village Voice, which published it on Feb. 16, 1976.

Mitchell Rogovin, the CIA’s Special Counsel for Legal Affairs, threatened Pike’s staff director, saying, “Pike will pay for this, you wait and see We [the CIA] will destroy him for this. There will be political retaliation. Any political ambitions in New York that Pike had are through. We will destroy him for this.”

And, indeed, Pike’s political career never recovered. Embittered and disillusioned by the failure of Congress to stand up to the White House and the CIA, Pike did not seek reelection in 1978 and retired into relative obscurity.

But what did Pike’s report say that was so important to generate such hostility? The answer can be summed up with the opening line from the report: “If this Committee’s recent experience is any test, intelligence agencies that are to be controlled by Congressional lawmaking are, today, beyond the lawmaker’s scrutiny.”

In other words, Otis Pike was our canary in the coal mine, warning us that the national security state was literally out of control, and that lawmakers were powerless against it.

Pike’s prophetic statement was soon ratified by the fact that although former CIA Director Richard Helms was charged with perjury for lying to Congress about the CIA’s cooperation with ITT in the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, Helms managed to escape with a suspended sentence and a  $2,000 fine.

As Pike’s committee report stated: “These secret agencies have interests that inherently conflict with the open accountability of a political body, and there are many tools and tactics to block and deceive conventional Congressional checks. Added to this are the unique attributes of intelligence — notably, ‘national security,’ in its cloak of secrecy and mystery — to intimidate Congress and erode fragile support for sensitive inquiries.

“Wise and effective legislation cannot proceed in the absence of information respecting conditions to be affected or changed. Nevertheless, under present circumstances, inquiry into intelligence activities faces serious and fundamental shortcomings.

“Even limited success in exercising future oversight requires a rethinking of the powers, procedures, and duties of the overseers. This Committee’s path and policies, its plus and minuses, may at least indicate where to begin.”

The Pike report revealed the tactics that the intelligence agencies had used to prevent oversight, noting the language was “always the language of cooperation” but the result was too often “non-production.” In other words, the agencies assured Congress of cooperation, while stalling, moving slowly, and literally letting the clock run out on the investigation.

The Pike Committee, alone among the other investigations, refused to sign secrecy agreements with the CIA, charging that as the representatives of the people they had authority over the CIA, not the other way around.

Pike’s Recommendations

The Pike Committee issued dozens of recommendations for reforming and revamping the U.S. intelligence community. They included:

— A House Select Committee on Intelligence be formed to conduct ongoing oversight of intelligence agencies. This now exists, although it has often fallen prey to the same bureaucratic obfuscations and political pressures that the Pike Committee faced.

— “All activities involving direct or indirect attempts to assassinate any individual and all paramilitary activities shall be prohibited except in time of war.” We are now in a perpetual state of war against the (so we are told) omnipresent threat of terrorism, meaning that assassinations (or “targeted killings”) have become a regular part of American statecraft.

— “The existence of the National Security Agency (which to that time had been a state secret) should be recognized by specific legislation and that such legislation provide for civilian control of NSA. Further, it is recommended that such legislation specifically define the role of NSA with reference to the monitoring of communications of Americans. As NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed last year, the NSA is collecting metadata on the communications of virtually every American and many others across the globe.

— A true Director of Central Intelligence be established to coordinate information sharing among the numerous intelligence agencies and reduce redundant collection of data. After the 9/11 attacks, Congress created a new office, the Director of National Intelligence, to oversee and coordinate the various intelligence agencies, but the DNI has struggled to assert the office’s authority over CIA and other U.S. intelligence fiefdoms.

Not all of the Pike Committee’s recommendations appeared sound. For example, the committee recommended abolishing the Defense Intelligence Agency and transferring all control of covert operations to the CIA. President Kennedy had expressly created the DIA as a way to take unregulated CIA activities out of the hands of the cowboys who ran unaccountable operations with untraceable funds and put them under the control of the (then) more orderly and hierarchically controlled Pentagon.

Possibly, the most important recommendation, because it could have such a far-reaching impact, was this: “The select committee recommends that U.S. intelligence agencies not covertly provide money or other valuable considerations to persons associated with religious or educational institutions, or to employees or representatives of any journal or electronic media with general circulation in the United States or use such institutions or individuals for purposes of cover. The foregoing prohibitions are intended to apply to American citizens and institutions.”

In other words, the Pike Committee wanted the CIA to stop paying journalists and academics to cover for U.S. intelligence and to stop providing cover for U.S. spying and propaganda operations. The committee also recommended that intelligence agencies “not covertly publish books or plant or suppress stories in any journals or electronic media with general circulation in the United States.”

Otis Pike’s final and lasting legacy may be that he tried to warn the country that the American Republic and its democratic institutions were threatened by an out-of-control national security state. He thought there might be a solution if Congress asserted itself as the primary branch of the government (as the Framers had intended) and if Congress demanded real answers and instituted serious reforms.

But the Ford administration’s successful pushback against Pike’s investigation in 1975-76 a strategy of delay and deflection that became a model for discrediting and frustrating subsequent congressional inquiries into intelligence abuses represented a lost opportunity for the United States to protect and revive its democracy.

Though Otis Pike failed to achieve all that he had hoped and his contribution to the Republic faded into obscurity the reality that he uncovered has become part of America’s cultural understanding of how this secretive element of the U.S. government functions. You see it in the “Bourne” movies, where an abusive national security elite turns on its own agents, and in ABC’s hit series “Scandal,” where a fictional branch of the CIA, called B613, is accountable to no one and battles even the President for dominance.

At one point in the TV show, the head of B613 refuses to give information to the President, saying: “That’s above your pay grade, Mr. President.” It’s a storyline that Otis Pike would have understood all too well.

Lisa Pease is a writer who has examined issues ranging from the Kennedy assassination to voting irregularities in recent U.S. elections.




Truman’s True Warning on the CIA

Exclusive: National security secrecy and a benighted sense of “what’s good for the country” can be a dangerous mix for democracy, empowering self-interested or misguided officials to supplant the people’s will, as President Truman warned and ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern

Fifty years ago, exactly one month after John Kennedy was killed, the Washington Post published an op-ed titled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence.” The first sentence of that op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, read, “I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency.”

It sounded like the intro to a bleat from some liberal professor or journalist. Not so. The writer was former President Harry S. Truman, who spearheaded the establishment of the CIA 66 years ago, right after World War II, to better coordinate U.S. intelligence gathering. But the spy agency had lurched off in what Truman thought were troubling directions.

Sadly, those concerns that Truman expressed in that op-ed — that he had inadvertently helped create a Frankenstein monster — are as valid today as they were 50 years ago, if not more so.

Truman began his article by underscoring “the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency … and what I expected it to do.” It would be “charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without Department ‘treatment’ or interpretations.”

Truman then moved quickly to one of the main things bothering him. He wrote “the most important thing was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions.”

It was not difficult to see this as a reference to how one of the agency’s early directors, Allen Dulles, tried to trick President Kennedy into sending U.S. forces to rescue the group of invaders who had landed on the beach at the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, in April 1961 with no chance of success, absent the speedy commitment of U.S. air and ground support.

Wallowing in the Bay of Pigs

Arch-Establishment figure Allen Dulles had been offended when young President Kennedy had the temerity to ask questions about CIA plans before the Bay of Pigs debacle, which had been set in motion under President Dwight Eisenhower. When Kennedy made it clear he would NOT approve the use of U.S. combat forces, Dulles set out, with supreme confidence, to mousetrap the President.

Coffee-stained notes handwritten by Allen Dulles were discovered after his death and reported by historian Lucien S. Vandenbroucke. They show how Dulles drew Kennedy into a plan that was virtually certain to require the use of U.S. combat forces. In his notes, Dulles explained that, “when the chips were down,” Kennedy would be forced by “the realities of the situation” to give whatever military support was necessary “rather than permit the enterprise to fail.”

The “enterprise” which Dulles said could not fail was, of course, the overthrow of Fidel Castro. After mounting several failed operations to assassinate him, this time Dulles meant to get his man, with little or no attention to how the Russians might react. The reckless Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom then-Deputy Secretary of State George Ball later described as a “sewer of deceit,” relished any chance to confront the Soviet Union and give it, at least, a black eye.

But Kennedy stuck to his guns, so to speak. He fired Dulles and his co-conspirators a few months after the abortive invasion, and told a friend that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.” The outrage was very obviously mutual.

When Kennedy himself was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, it must have occurred to Truman as it did to many others that the disgraced Dulles and his unrepentant associates might not be above conspiring to get rid of a president they felt was soft on Communism and get even for their Bay of Pigs fiasco.

‘Cloak and Dagger’

While Truman saw CIA’s attempted mousetrapping of President Kennedy as a particular outrage, his more general complaint is seen in his broader lament that the CIA had become “so removed from its intended role … I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. … It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government.” Not only shaping policy through its control of intelligence, but also “cloak and dagger” operations, presumably including assassinations.

Truman concluded the op-ed with an admonition that was as clear as the syntax was clumsy: “I would like to see the CIA restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.” The importance and prescient nature of that admonition are even clearer today, a half-century later.

But Truman’s warning fell mostly on deaf ears, at least within Establishment circles. The Washington Post published the op-ed in its early edition on Dec. 22, 1963, but immediately excised it from later editions. Other media ignored it. The long hand of the CIA?

In Truman’s view, misuse of the CIA began in February 1953, when his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, named Allen Dulles as CIA director. Dulles’s forte was overthrowing governments (in current parlance, “regime change”), and he was quite good at it. With coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) under his belt, Dulles was riding high by the late Fifties and moved Cuba to the top of his to-do list.

The Truman Papers

Documents in the Truman Library show that nine days after Kennedy was assassinated, Truman sketched out in handwritten notes what he wanted to say in the op-ed. He noted, among other things, that the CIA had worked as he intended only “when I had control.”

Five days after the op-ed appeared, retired Admiral Sidney Souers, whom Truman had appointed to lead his first central intelligence group, sent a “Dear Boss” letter applauding Truman’s outspokenness and blaming Dulles for making the CIA “a different animal than the one I tried to set up for you.”

Souers specifically lambasted the attempt “to conduct a ‘war’ invading Cuba with a handful of men and without air cover.” He also lamented the fact that the agency’s “principal effort” had evolved into causing “revolutions in smaller countries around the globe,” and added: “With so much emphasis on operations, it would not surprise me to find that the matter of collecting and processing intelligence has suffered some.” (Again, as true today as it was 50 years ago.)

Clearly, the operational tail of the CIA was wagging its substantive dog, a serious problem that persists to this day.

Fox Guarding Hen House

After Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the patrician, well-connected Dulles got himself appointed to the Warren Commission and took the lead in shaping the investigation of JFK’s assassination. Documents in the Truman Library show that Dulles also mounted a small domestic covert action of his own to neutralize any future airing of Truman’s and Souers’s warnings about covert action.

So important was this to Dulles that he invented a pretext to get himself invited to visit Truman in Independence, Missouri. On the afternoon of April 17, 1964, Dulles spent a half-hour one-on-one with the former president, trying to get him to retract what he had written in his op-ed. Hell No, said Harry.

Not a problem, Dulles decided. Four days later, in a formal memorandum of conversation for his old buddy Lawrence Houston, CIA general counsel from 1947 to 1973, Dulles fabricated a private retraction for Truman, claiming that Truman told him the Washington Post article was “all wrong,” and that Truman “seemed quite astounded at it.”

A fabricated retraction? It certainly seems so, because Truman did not change his tune. Far from it. In a June 10, 1964, letter to the managing editor of Look magazine, for example, Truman restated his critique of covert action, emphasizing that he never intended the CIA to get involved in “strange activities.”

Dulles and Dallas

Dulles could hardly have expected to get Truman to recant publicly. So why was it so important for Dulles to place in CIA files a fabricated retraction? I believe the answer lies in the fact that in early 1964 Dulles was feeling a lot of heat from many who were suggesting the CIA might have been involved somehow in the Kennedy assassination. Columnists were asking how the truth could ever be reached, with Allen Dulles as de facto head of the Warren Commission.

Dulles had good reason to fear that Truman’s limited-edition Washington Post op-ed of Dec. 22, 1963, might garner unwanted attention and raise troublesome questions about covert action, including assassination. He would have wanted to be in position to dig out of Larry Houston’s files the Truman “retraction,” in the hope that this would nip any serious questioning in the bud.

As the de facto head of the Warren Commission, Dulles was perfectly positioned to protect himself and his associates, were any commissioners or investigators, or journalists, tempted to question whether Dulles and the CIA played a role in killing Kennedy.

And so, the question: Did Allen Dulles and other “cloak-and-dagger” CIA operatives have a hand in John Kennedy’s assassination and in then covering it up? In my view, the best dissection of the evidence pertaining to the murder appeared in James Douglass’s 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable. After updating and arraying the abundant evidence, and conducting still more interviews, Douglass concludes that the answer is Yes.

Obama Intimidated?

The mainstream media had an allergic reaction to Douglass’s book and gave it almost no reviews. It is, nevertheless, still selling well. And, more important, it seems a safe bet that President Barack Obama knows what it says and maybe has even read it. This may go some way toward explaining why Obama has been so deferential to the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Pentagon.

Could this be at least part of the reason he felt he had to leave the Cheney/Bush-anointed torturers, kidnappers and black-prison wardens in place, instructing his first CIA chief Leon Panetta to become, in effect, the agency’s lawyer rather than leader.

Is this why the President feels he cannot fire his clumsily devious Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who had to apologize to Congress for giving “clearly erroneous” testimony in March? Is this why he allows National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander and counterparts in the FBI to continue to mislead the American people, even though the intermittent snow showers from Snowden show our senior national security officials to have lied — and to have been out of control?

This may be small solace to President Obama, but there is no sign that the NSA documents that Snowden’s has released include the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report on CIA torture. Rather, that report, at least, seems sure to be under Obama’s and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s tight control.

But the timorous President has a big problem. He is acutely aware that, if released, the Senate committee report would create a firestorm almost certainly implicating Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan and many other heavy-hitters of whom he appears to be afraid. And so Obama has allowed Brennan to play bureaucratic games, delaying release of the report for more than a year, even though its conclusions are said to closely resemble earlier findings of the CIA’s own Inspector General and the Constitution Project (see below).

Testimony of Ex-CIA General Counsel

Hat tip to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who took the trouble to read the play-by-play of testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee by former CIA General Counsel (2009-2013) Stephen W. Preston, nominated (and now confirmed) to be general counsel at the Department of Defense.

Under questioning by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, Preston admitted outright that, contrary to the CIA’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the committee included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”

That “inaccurate information” apparently is thoroughly documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report which, largely because of the CIA’s imaginative foot-dragging, cost taxpayers $40 million. Udall has revealed that the report (which includes 35,000 footnotes) contains a very long section titled “C.I.A. Representations on the C.I.A. Interrogation Program and the Effectiveness of the C.I.A.’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Congress.”

Preston also acknowledged that the CIA inadequately informed the Justice Department on interrogation and detention. He said, “CIA’s efforts fell well short of our current practices when it comes to providing information relevant to [the Office of Legal Counsel]’s legal analysis.”

As Katherine Hawkins, the senior investigator for last April’s bipartisan, independent report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, noted in an Oct. 18, 2013 posting, the memos from acting OLC chief, Steven Bradbury, relied very heavily on now-discredited CIA claims that “enhanced interrogation” saved lives, and that the sessions were carefully monitored by medical and psychological personnel to ensure that detainees’ suffering would not rise to the level of torture.

According to Hawkins, Udall complained and Preston admitted that, in providing the materials requested by the committee, “the CIA removed several thousand CIA documents that the agency thought could be subjected to executive privilege claims by the President, without any decision by Obama to invoke the privilege.”

Worse still for the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee report apparently destroys the agency’s argument justifying torture on the grounds that there was no other way to acquire the needed information save through brutalization. In his answers to Udall, Preston concedes that, contrary to what the agency has argued, it can and has been established that legal methods of interrogation would have yielded the same intelligence.

Is anyone still wondering why our timid President is likely to sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee report for as long as he can? Or why he will let John Brennan redact it to a fare-thee-well, if he is eventually forced to release some of it by pressure from folks who care about things like torture?

It does appear that the newly taciturn CIA Director Brennan has inordinate influence over the President in such matters not unlike the influence that both DNI Clapper and NSA Director Alexander seem able to exert. In this respect, Brennan joins the dubious company of the majority of his predecessor CIA directors, as they made abundantly clear when they went to inordinate lengths to prevent their torturer colleagues from being held accountable.

(Also, see “CIA Torturers Running Scared,” Sept. 20, 2009; or “Are Presidents Afraid of the CIA?” Dec. 29, 2009)

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer in the early 60s and then a CIA analyst for 27 years.  He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). 




The Mysterious Death of a UN Hero

Exclusive: More than a half-century ago at a pivotal moment in the emergence of independent African states UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold was brokering peace in a divisive civil war in Congo when he died in a plane crash, leaving behind an enduring Cold War mystery, as Lisa Pease reports.

By Lisa Pease

Fifty-two years ago, just after midnight on Sept. 18, 1961, the plane carrying UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and 15 others went down in a plane crash over Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). All 16 died, but the facts of the crash were provocatively mysterious.

There have been three investigations into the crash: an initial civil aviation Board of Inquiry, a Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and a UN Commission in 1962. Not one of them could definitively answer why the plane crashed or whether a deliberate act had been responsible.

While a few authors have looked into and written about the strange facts of the crash in the years since the last official inquiry in 1962, none did a more thorough reinvestigation than Dr. Susan Williams, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, whose book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? was released in 2011, 50 years after the crash.

Her presentation of the evidence was so powerful it launched a new UN commission to determine whether the UN should reopen its initial investigation. “It is a fact,” the current Commission wrote in its report, “that none of these inquiries was conducted to the standard to which a modern inquiry into a fatal event would be conducted.”

The Commission was formed by Lord Lea of Crondall, who assembled a group of volunteer jurists, solicitors and others from the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden and elsewhere to tabulate and review the evidence the Commission collected from past investigations, Williams’s book, and independent witnesses, such as myself.

I was one of the 28 witnesses (and one of only three Americans) who provided testimony to the Commission, based on information gathered in the course of my research into the assassinations of the Sixties.

“It is legitimate to ask whether an inquiry such as this, a full half-century after the events with which it is concerned, can achieve anything except possibly to feed speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding the crash,” the most recent Commission wrote in its report.

“Our answer, and the reason why we have been willing to give our time and effort to the task, is first that knowledge is always better than ignorance, and secondly that the passage of time, far from obscuring facts, can sometimes bring them to light.”

The Congo Crisis

The report summarized the historical situation Hammarskjöld was faced with in 1961. In June of 1960, under pressure from forces in the Congo as well as from the United Nations, Belgium had relinquished its claim to the Congo, a move which brought Patrice Lumumba to power.

Lumumba faced a near civil war in his country immediately. The military mutinied, the Belgians stepped back in to protect Belgian settlers, and local leader Moise Tshombe declared Katanga, a mineral-rich province, an independent state.

As the Commission’s report noted, “Katanga contained the majority of the Congo’s known mineral resources. These included the world’s richest uranium and four fifths of the West’s cobalt supply. Katanga’s minerals were mined principally by a Belgian company, the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, which immediately recognised and began paying royalties to the secessionist government in Elisabethville. One result of this was that Moise Tshombe’s regime was well funded. Another was that, so long as Katanga remained independent of the Congo, there was no risk that the assets of Union Minière would be expropriated.”

The U.S. government feared that Katanga’s rich uranium reserves would fall under Soviet control if the nationalist movement that brought Lumumba to power succeeded in unifying the country. Indeed, rebuffed by Western interests, Lumumba did reach out to the Soviets for help, a move that caused CIA Director Allen Dulles to initiate CIA plans for Lumumba’s assassination. Lumumba was ultimately captured and killed by forces of Joseph Mobutu, whom Andrew Tully called “the CIA’s man” in the Congo just days before President Kennedy’s inauguration.

On the southern border of Katanga lay Northern Rhodesia, where Hammarskjöld’s plane would eventually go down, Sir Roy Welensky, a British politician, ruled as prime minister. Welensky, too, pushed for an independent Katanga. Along with the resources, there was also the fear that an integrated Congo and Katanga could lead to the end of apartheid in Rhodesia which might spread to its larger and more prosperous neighbor South Africa.

The British situation was divided, with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Landsdowne, backing the UN’s efforts at preserving a unified Congo, while the British High Commissioner to the Rhodesian Foundation, Lord Alport, was upset with the UN’s meddling, saying African issues were “better left to Europeans with experience in that part of the world.”

Similarly, U.S. policy appeared split in 1961. Allen Dulles and possibly President Dwight D. Eisenhower had worked to kill Lumumba just before President John F. Kennedy took office. But President Kennedy had been a supporter of Lumumba and fully backed the UN’s efforts in the Congo.

As the report notes, “There is evidence of a cleft in policy between the US Administration and the US Central Intelligence Agency. While the policy of the Administration was to support the UN, the CIA may have been providing materiel to Katanga.”

So British, Belgian and American interests that weren’t always representative of their official heads of state had designs on Katanga, its politics and its resources. What stood in their way? The UN, under the firm leadership of Dag Hammarskjöld.

The UN forces had been unsuccessful in unifying the Congo, so Hammarskjöld and his team flew to Leopoldville on Sept. 13, 1961. Hammarskjöld planned to meet Tshombe to discuss aid, contingent on a ceasefire, and the two decided to meet on Sept. 18 in Ndola in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

 

On Sept. 17, the last day of Hammarskjöld’s life, Neil Ritchie, an MI6 officer, went to pick up Tshombe and the British consul in Katanga, Denzil Dunnett. He found them in the company of a high-level Union Minière employee.

That night, Hammarskjöld embarked on the Albertina, a DC6 plane, and flew from Leopoldville to Ndola, where he was to arrive shortly after midnight. Lord Landsdowne, the British leader opposing a unified Congo, flew separately, although the report goes out of its way to say there was nothing sinister in them flying in separate planes and that this was “diplomatically and politically appropriate.”

A large group of diplomats, Africans, journalists and at least three mercenaries waited for Hammarskjöld’s plane at the Ndola airport. The Commission found the presence of mercenaries there strange as a police inspector was on duty specifically “to ensure nobody was at the airport who had no good reason to be there.”

The Crash

Hammarskjöld’s plane deliberately circumvented Katanga, fearing interception. The pilot radioed Ndola 25 minutes before midnight with an estimate that they plane was about 45 minutes from landing. At 12:10 a.m., the pilot notified the Ndola airport “Your lights in sight” and requested confirmation of the air pressure reading (QNH). “Roger QNH 1021mb, report reaching 6000 feet,” the airport replied. “Roger 1021,” the Albertina responded. That was the last communication received from Hammarskjöld’s plane. It crashed within minutes.

The Commission found the airport gave the plane correct information, that there was no indication the plane’s altimeter had been tampered with, that the landing gear had been lowered into the proper position and locked, and that the wing flaps had been correctly set. In other words, pilot error, the verdict of the initial Rhodesian inquiry into Dag Hammarskjöld’s death in 1962, did not seem to be the likely cause.

At the crash site, several of the crash victims had bullets in their bodies. In addition, the Commission found “evidence from more than one sourcethat holes resembling bullet-holes were observed in the burnt-out fuselage.”

The Commission’s two aviation experts concluded the most likely cause of the crash seemed to be a “controlled flight into terrain,” meaning, no in-air explosion. This suggests someone deliberately or mistakenly drove the plane right into the ground. However, the report notes, this does not rule out some form of sabotage that could have distracted or injured the pilots, preventing a successful landing.

And the Commission noted contradictory evidence from a few eyewitnesses who claimed they saw the plane explode in mid-air. Another eyewitness, a member of the flight crew, found alive but badly burned, told a police inspector that the plane “blew up” and that “There was a lot of small explosions all around.”

 

The Commission interviewed African eyewitnesses who had feared coming forward years ago. One of them described seeing the plane on fire before it hit the ground. Another described seeing a “ball of fire coming on top of the plane.” Still another described a “flame on top of the plane like a ball of fire.”

Several witnesses saw a second plane near the one that crashed. One witness saw a second, smaller plane following a larger one, and told the Commission, “I saw that the fire came from the small plane” And another witness also recalled seeing two planes in the sky with the larger one on fire. A third witness noted that he saw a flash of flame from one plane strike another. Several witnesses reported two smaller planes following a larger one just before the larger one caught fire.

A Swedish flight instructor described in 1994 how he had heard dialog via a short-wave radio the night of the crash. He recalled hearing the following from an airport control tower at the time of the crash: “He’s approaching the airport. He’s turning. He’s leveling. Another plane is approaching from behind, what is that?”

In one of the more bizarre elements of the case, Hammarskjöld’s body was not burnt, yet the other victims of the crash were severely burnt. The Commission concluded the most likely explanation, though not the sole one, was that Hammarskjöld’s body had been thrown from the plane before it caught fire.

And even more strangely, the commission found the evidence “strongly suggests” that someone moved Hammarskjöld’s body after the crash and stuck a playing card in his collar before the photographs of his body were taken. (The card “or something like it” was plainly visible “in the photographs taken of the body on a stretcher at the site.”)

Given the proximity of the plane to the airport, the Commission had a hard time explaining the nine-hour
delay between the time of the crash and the Rhodesian authorities’ acknowledgement of its discovery of the wreckage.

While the Commission found a “substantial amount of evidence” that Hammarskjöld’s body had been “found and tampered with well before the afternoon of 18 September and possibly very shortly after the crash,” they also stated the evidence was “no more consistent with hostile persons assuring themselves that he was dead than with bystanders, or possibly looters, examining his body.” But the Commission also noted that “The failure to summon or send help, however, remains an issue.”

The Commission tried very hard to find the autopsy X-rays, as there were reports that a bullet hole had been found in Hammarskjöld’s head. But the X-rays appear lost forever.

Was Hammarskjöld deliberately assassinated?

Former President Harry S. Truman was convinced Hammarskjöld had been murdered. A Sept. 20, 1961 New York Times article quoted Truman as having told reporters, “Dag Hammarskjöld was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘When they killed him.’”

Years later, when the CIA was revealed to have been engaged in assassination plots, reporter Daniel Schorr speculated that the CIA may have been involved in Hammarskjöld’s death.

The report references the report of David Doyle, the chief of the CIA’s  Elizabethville base in Katanga who wrote in a memoir how three armed Fouga planes were being delivered to Katanga “in direct violation” of U.S. policy. Doyle doubted this was an official CIA operation, since he had not been notified of the delivery.

Bronson Tweedy, the head of the CIA’s Africa division, questioned Doyle about the possibility of a CIA operation to interfere with Hammarskjöld’s plane. The report notes that this could indicate a lack of CIA involvement in Hammarskjöld’s death, “unless, conceivably, Tweedy was simply trying to find out how much Doyle knew.”

It is the essence of CIA operations that they are highly compartmentalized and often kept secret between
people even within the Agency itself. Meaning, Allen Dulles or someone high up the chain could easily have ordered a single operator to take out Hammarskjöld’s plane without using any official CIA channels. Indeed, that is what one would expect were so sensitive an operation as the assassination of a UN head contemplated.

After Lumumba’s death, in early 1961, the UN passed resolution 161, which urged the immediate removal of Belgian forces and “other foreign military and paramilitary personnel and political advisors not under the United Nations Command, and mercenaries” from the Congo.

Confession from a CIA operative

When I heard such a commission was forming, I reached out to Lord Lea of Crondall to offer some evidence of my own. John Armstrong, a fellow researcher into the JFK assassination, had forwarded me a series of Church Committee files and correspondence to and from a CIA operative named Roland “Bud” Culligan.

Culligan claimed the CIA had set him up on a phony bank fraud charge, and his way out of jail appears to have been to offer the Church Committee information on CIA assassinations (which he called “executive actions” or “E.A.’s”). Culligan was asked to list some “E.A.’s” that he had been involved in. Culligan mentioned, among high-profile others, Dag Hammarskjöld.

“Damn it, I did not want the job,” Culligan wrote to his legal adviser at Yale Law School. Culligan described the plane and the route, he named his CIA handler and his contact on the ground in Libya, and he described how he shot Hammarskjöld’s plane, which subsequently crashed.

As I testified, and as the Commission quoted in its report: “You will see from the correspondence that Culligan’s material was referred to an Attorney General, a Senator, and ultimately, the Senate investigation of the CIA’s activities at home and abroad that became known as the Church Committee after its leader, Senator Frank Church. Clearly, others in high places had reasons to believe Culligan’s assertions were worthy of further investigation.”

Culligan’s claims fit neatly with a broadcast allegedly heard by Navy Cmdr. Charles Southall, another Commission witness. The morning before the crash, Charles Southall, a naval pilot and intelligence officer, was stationed at the NSA’s facility in Cyprus.

At about 9 p.m. that night, Southall reported he was called at home by the communications watch officer and told to get down to the listening post because “something interesting” was going to happen that night. Southall described hearing a recording shortly after midnight in which a cool pilot’s voice said, “I see a transport plane coming low. All the lights are on. I’m going to make a run on it. Yes, it’s the Transair DC6. It’s the plane.”

Southall heard what sounded like cannon fire, then: “I’ve hit it. There are flames. It’s going down. It’s crashing.” Given that Cyprus was in the same time zone as Ndola, the Commission concluded it was possible that Southall had indeed heard a recording from Ndola. Southall was certain that what he heard indicated a deliberate act.

Bullets

Several witnesses described seeing bullet holes in the plane before it burnt. The report described one witness’s account that the fuselage was “’riddled with bullet-holes’ which appeared to have been made by a machine-gun.”

This account was disputed by AP journalist Errol Friedmann, however, who claimed no bullet holes were present. However, bullets were definitely found embedded in the bodies of several of the plane crash victims, which tends to give the former claim more credence.

The same journalist Friedmann also noted to a fellow journalist that the day after the crash, in a hotel, he had heard a couple of Belgian pilots who had perhaps had too much to drink discussing the crash. One of the pilots claimed he had been in contact with Hammarskjöld’s plane and had “buzzed” it, forcing the pilot of the Albertina to take evasive action. When the pilot buzzed the plane a second time, he forced it towards the ground.

A third-party account allegedly from a Belgian pilot named Beukels was investigated with some skepticism by the Commission. Beukels allegedly gave an account to a French Diplomat named Claude de Kemoularia, who evidently first relayed Beukels’s account to UN diplomat George Ivan Smith in 1980 (not long after Culligan’s 1975 account, I would note).

Smith’s source, however, appeared to be a transcript, about which the Commission noted “the literary quality of the narrative suggests an editorial hand, probably that of one or both of the two intermediaries.” Allegedly, Beukels fired what he meant to be warning shots which then hit the tail of the plane.

While Beukels’s alleged narrative matched several known facts, the Commission wisely noted, “there was little in Beukels’s narrative, as reported, that could not have been ascertained from press coverage and the three inquiries, elaborated by his experience as a pilot.” The Commission wrote of other elements which invited skepticism of this account, but did concede it’s possible this account was self-serving, designed to excuse a deliberate shooting down by Beukels.

The Commission’s recommendation

While the Commission had no desire to place blame for the crash, the report states: “There is persuasive evidence that the aircraft was subjected to some form of attack or threat as it circled to land at Ndola, which was by then widely known to be its destination,” adding “we consider that the possibility that the plane was in fact forced into its descent by some form of hostile action is supported by sufficient evidence to merit further inquiry.”

The key evidence that the Commission thinks could prove or disprove a deliberate act would be the Ndola airport’s radio traffic that night. The Commission reported “it is highly likely that the entirety of the local and regional Ndola radio traffic on the night of 17-18 September 1961 was tracked and recorded by the NSA, and possibly also by the CIA.”

The Commission filed a Freedom of Information request for any such evidence with the National Archives but did not appear hopeful that such records would be released unless pressure was brought to bear.

In its discussion of Culligan, the Commission felt there were no leads there that could be pursued. But if any of Culligan’s many conversations with his legal adviser was captured on tape, and if tapes of the radio traffic cited above could be obtained, a voice match could be sought.

Based on its year-long investigation, the Commission stated that the UN “would be justified” in reopening its initial 1962 inquiry in light of the new evidence “about an event of global significance with deserves the attention both of history and of justice.”

[Regarding President Eisenhower’s possibly role in ordering the assassination of Lumumba, Robert Johnson, a National Security Council staff member, told the Church Committee he heard Eisenhower give an order that Lumumba be killed. He remembered being shocked to hear this. Under questioning, however, Johnson allowed that may have been a mistaken impression, that perhaps Eisenhower was referring to Lumumba’s political, not physical, removal.]

Lisa Pease is a writer who has examined issues ranging from the Kennedy assassination to voting irregularities in recent U.S. elections.




How Wall St. Bailed Out the Nazis

Exclusive: The amoral calculations of Wall Street insiders guided Washington’s post-World War II decision to give many Nazi war criminals a pass if they’d help in the Cold War against the world’s socialist movements. CIA Director Allen Dulles was just one of the ex-investment-bank lawyers pushing the trade-off, writes Jerry Meldon.

By Jerry Meldon

Near the end of World War II, the secret collaboration between U.S. spymaster Allen Dulles and Nazi SS officers enabled many German war criminals to escape prosecution and positioned them to fan the flames of post-war tensions between the former allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.

In that way, the Old Nazis — aided by Dulles and other ex-Wall Street lawyers — prevented a thorough denazification of Germany and put the Third Reich’s stamp on decades of atrocities during the long Cold War, spreading their brutal death-squad techniques to faraway places, especially Latin America.

Though the World War II generation has largely passed from the scene and the Cold War ended more than two decades ago, the consequences of Dulles’s actions in those final days of World War II are still reverberating in Germany.

One of the after-shocks was felt in a Munich courtroom just last month, with the opening of the trial of Beate Zschape, a 38-year-old neo-Nazi who is accused as an accessory to two bombings, 15 bank robberies and ten murders between 2000 and 2007 by the terrorist cell, the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU).

Two male fellow gang members reportedly took their own lives to avoid arrest before Ms. Zschape torched their hideout and turned herself in, in November 2011. But the back story is no less disturbing.

Nine of the NSU’s ten murder victims were immigrants, eight of them Turkish, one Greek. All ten were slain execution-style by the same Ceska Browning pistol. Yet it took more than a decade for police forces across Germany and the country’s domestic intelligence agency, the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (BFV), to connect the dots that would link the homicides to Germany’s xenophobic neo-Nazi netherworld.

Troubling Background

But the question is whether the missed connections resulted from incompetence or complicity. Last summer, following reports of the massive shredding of BFV’s files on right-wing extremists, the head of the agency tendered his resignation. Then in November, Der Spiegel reported:

“Four parliamentary committees [are] dissecting the work of law enforcement units four department heads have already resigned. The government’s failures in fighting rightwing terrorists have plunged [the BFV] into the worst crisis since it was … set up in postwar Germany to stop precisely the kind of extremist thinking that allowed the Nazis to rise to power in the 1930s. The discovery of the NSU and its crimes has shaken the system to its core.

“The more secrets come to light, the clearer it becomes how extensively intelligence agencies had infiltrated right-wing extremist groups. The trio of neo-Nazis that made up the NSU was surrounded by informants linked with [the BFV].   One of the big questions is whether [the BFV] actually strengthened military right-wing groups.”

How the BFV worked at cross-purposes coddling neo-Nazis while supposedly constraining them is not entirely surprising in light of the circumstances surrounding the BFV’s birth.

West Germany’s first parliamentary elections in 1950 propelled into the chancellorship, Konrad Adenauer a stalwart of the same party as that of current German chancellor Angela Merkel, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

When Adenauer named Dr. Hans Globke as his Secretary of State, the West German chancellor laid his cards on the table. Globke’s checkered past included wartime service at the helm of the Nazi Interior Ministry’s Office for Jewish Affairs. He drafted the infamous Nuremberg Laws for the Protection of German Blood and wrote the “Commentary” that provided the rationale for genocide.

The Interior Minister who signed the Nuremberg Laws, Dr. Wilhelm Frick, was sentenced to death at Nuremberg and hanged in October 1946. Globke would appear to have been culpable, too, having advanced his career during Nazi rule. His immediate supervisor, Interior Ministry Legal Counsel Bernard Loesner, resigned following Hitler’s decision to proceed with the extermination of European Jewry. When Loesner stepped down, Globke stepped up and left his fingerprints on the Final Solution.

But Globke was not only spared the fate of some colleagues tried at Nuremberg but emerged as an important figure in shaping post-war West Germany. In the 1961 book, The New Germany and the Old Nazis, T.H. Tetens, a German economist who worked for the U.S. War Crimes Commission, noted that Globke controlled every department of West Germany’s government in Bonn and “has done more than anyone else to re-Nazify West Germany.”

Ex-Nazis Everywhere

Der Spiegel revisited the same subject in a March 2012 article headlined “The Role Ex-Nazis Played in Early West Germany.” It reported that two dozen cabinet ministers, a president and a chancellor had belonged to Nazi organizations.

The article reported that historians were poring through voluminous BFV files “to determine how many of the Nazi dictatorship’s helpers hid under the coattails of the domestic intelligence service in the earlier years of the Federal Republic” and whether “the protection of the young, optimistic constitution [had been] in the hands of former National Socialists.”

Berlin historian Michael Wildt told Der Spiegel he was convinced that the postwar police and intelligence services had been riddled with former Nazis. Entire government departments and agencies, he said, “covered up, denied and repressed” their murky history which evoked the following mea culpa from Der Spiegel’s staff:

“It’s a charge that doesn’t just apply to politicians and public servants, at least not in the early years of the republic. Senior members of the media, including at Spiegel, proved to be unwilling or incapable of sounding the alarm. This isn’t surprising, given the number of ex-Nazis who had forced their way into editorial offices.”

Author T.H. Tetens noted the irony in Dr. Globke, “[the] former key administrator in the Final Solution, [having] full control over the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.” Had he lived long enough, Tetens might have suggested that the BFV be renamed the Office for the Protection of Neo-Nazis.

Tetens might also feel vindicated by recently released CIA documents describing another branch of German intelligence that Globke’s controlled, the vast spy network run by Adolf Hitler’s former espionage czar, Lt. Gen. Reinhard Gehlen, a.k.a. the “Gehlen Organization,” a.k.a. “The Gehlen Org” or, simply, the “Org.”

Until 1955, when West Germany became a sovereign state, the Gehlen Org operated nominally under the aegis of James Critchfield of the CIA which paid for the Org’s intelligence product. In reality, Gehlen ran the Org from its creation in 1946 until his retirement in 1968. In 1956, the Org officially became Germany’s foreign intelligence service and was renamed the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

Recently, the BND has been declassifying its files to come clean about its postwar origins. Documents released to date by both it and the CIA confirm suspicions that, at least in the Gehlen years, the Org/BND was little more than a U.S.-bankrolled “sheep-dipping” operation for fugitive Nazis.

The U.S. Connection

And this troubling history goes back even further to the days of World War II when the American intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, fell under the control of a group of Wall Street lawyers who saw the world in the moral grays of business deals, measured less by right and wrong than by dollars and cents.

In the introduction to The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA, author Burton Hersh identifies this common denominator: “In 1941 [the year of America’s entry into the war}, an extraordinarily nimble New York antitrust attorney named William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan inveigled Franklin Roosevelt into underwriting the first encompassing intelligence instrumentality, the Office of the Coordinator of Information [OCI].

“Donovan’s profession was relevant, and it was no accident that all three [of The Old Boys’] load-bearing protagonists Bill Donovan, Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner achieved status in America by way of important Wall Street law partnerships.

“The faction-ridden [OCI] gave way in 1942 to the [OSS]. From then on a civilian-directed, operationally oriented spy service would top the wish list of America’s emerging power elite.”

These Wall-Street-lawyers-turned-spymasters brought their moral relativism and their ardor for aggressive capitalism to their World War II decision-making. Thus, they created an opening for Nazi war criminals who after Germany’s crushing defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943 saw the writing on the wall regarding the future of the Third Reich and started hedging their bets.

As the war ground on for two more years, thousands of them took steps to evade post-war prosecutions, in part, by arranging protection from British and American officials. Most of those American officials served in U.S. intelligence agencies, either Army intelligence or the civilian-run OSS, the CIA’s forerunner.

OSS spymaster Allen Dulles played into this Nazi game in spring 1945, as Soviet, British and American forces were converging on Berlin. Dulles engaged in negotiations for the separate surrender of German forces in Italy with SS General Karl Wolff.

It apparently didn’t bother Dulles that Wolff, like many of his SS brethren, was a major war criminal. After September 1943, when Italy withdrew from the Axis and made peace with the Allies, Wolff’s troops committed an average of 165 war crimes a day executing his orders to liquidate the Italian resistance and terrorize its supporters.

(In 1964, a German judge sentenced Wolff to 15 years in prison for various war crimes, including ordering the deportation of 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp.)

Pushing the Envelope

Initially, Dulles met with Wolff in defiance of orders from the dying President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The contacts also were behind the back of Soviet leader Josef Stalin, whose army had not only turned the tide of the war at Stalingrad but was still doing the bulk of the fighting. As Hitler’s Third Reich neared the end of its days, six out of every seven German divisions were lined up against the Red Army.

Ultimately, Dulles secured authorization for what was code-named “Operation Sunrise,” but his determination to consummate a deal with Wolff didn’t stop at negotiations. When the Italian resistance set a trap for Gen. Wolff, Dulles saved him in what his OSS colleague (and future Supreme Court Justice) Arthur Goldberg described as treason.

Moreover, when Soviet spies informed Stalin about the Dulles-Wolff assignations which continued even as the Red Army suffered 300,000 casualties in a three-week period the ensuing brouhaha played right into Hitler’s own game plan for survival.

Desperate to bolster the morale of his collapsing army, Der Fuehrer seized on the dissension opening in the ranks of the Allies. He gave his generals the following pep talk (as transcribed in Gabriel Kolko’s The Politics of War):

“The states which are now our enemies are the greatest opposites which exist on earth: ultra-capitalist states on one side and ultra-Marxist states on the other. [Their] objectives diverge daily and anyone can see how these antitheses are increasing.

“If we can deal it [the alliance] a couple of heavy blows, this artificially constructed common front may collapse with a mighty thunderclap at any moment.”

Indeed, Wolff’s surrender overtures to Dulles might have been an attempt to both save his own skin and help Hitler drive a wedge into the “artificially constructed common front.”

The overall value of Dulles’s negotiations toward ending the war also was dubious. Less than one week before the general armistice ending the War in Europe, Dulles offered Nazi officers an advantageous deal, letting one million German combatants surrender to British and American forces on May 2, 1945, rather than to the Russians.

By surrendering to the British and Americans, most of these Germans not only avoided harsh treatment from the Russians but high-ranking Nazi officers benefited from the Truman administration’s quick pivot from its war-time alliance with Stalin to the Cold War confrontation with Moscow.

President Harry Truman’s staunchly anti-communist advisers, including Secretary of State James Byrnes, persuaded Truman to default on FDR’s commitment to a thorough postwar denazification of Germany, one in a series of decisions which enabled thousands of war criminals to avoid justice and permitted many to assume key positions in the new West German government.

Steering the Cold War

Yet, the use of Nazis by U.S. intelligence agencies had the additional dangerous effect of letting the Nazis influence how the United States perceived its erstwhile allies in Moscow. Washington formulated much of its early Cold War policies based on information about Moscow’s intentions that originated with Gehlen’s blemished agents.

These infamous Final Solution perpetrators included:

–Willie Krichbaum, reportedly the Gehlen Org’s top recruiter. As the senior Gestapo official for southeastern Europe, Krichbaum managed the deportation of 300,000 Hungarian Jews for extermination.

–Dr. Franz Six, former Dean of the Faculty of the University of Berlin and Adolph Eichmann’s immediate supervisor in the Ideological Combat branch of the SS security apparatus. In 1941, according to a report he wrote (which Christopher Simpson cites in Blowback: The First Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis, and its Disastrous Effect on our Domestic and Foreign Policy), a Six-led SS commando group murdered 200 people in the Russian city of Smolensk, “among them 38 intellectual Jews.”

Wanted for war crimes, Six joined the Gehlen Org in 1946, but later was betrayed by a former SS officer working undercover for a US/UK dragnet for fugitive Nazis. In 1948, a U.S. military tribunal sentenced him to 20 years for war crimes including murder. After serving four, he was granted clemency by John McCloy, another Wall Street lawyer then serving as U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. Six then rejoined the Org.

–Gestapo captain Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyon,” who escaped via the so-called “rat lines” to South America, where he then worked with right-wing intelligence services and organized neo-Nazi support for violent coups against elected and reformist governments, including the 1980 “cocaine coup” in Bolivia. After decades of spreading Nazi techniques across Latin America, Barbie was arrested and returned to France where he was given a life sentence in 1984 for ordering the deportation of 44 Jewish orphans to the death camp at Auschwitz

–SS Colonel Walter Rauff, who dodged postwar prosecution for developing mobile gas vans and administering their deployment to murder some 250,000 Eastern Europeans, mostly Jewish women and children. The appearance of Rauff’s name on the list is interesting because, as the Milan-based SS intelligence chief for northwestern Italy in 1945, he was Gen. Wolff’s liaison with Allen Dulles.

According to a 1984 Boston Globe Op-Ed by former U.S. Justice Department lawyer John Loftus, Rauff, after playing his part in Operation Sunrise, calmly turned himself in and told agents of the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) that he had made surrender “arrangements [with] Mr. Dulles to avoid further bloodshed in Milan.”

In Loftus’s words, Dulles “promised that none of the [surrender] negotiators would ever be prosecuted as war criminals. When Truman and Stalin discovered what Dulles [had been up to], there were outraged orders to call off Sunrise [But] Dulles went ahead anyway, with Truman’s reluctant concurrence [Dulles] kept his bargain Rauff was released.”

Christopher Simpson confirms in Blowback that “each of the SS officers involved in Operation Sunrise [escaped] serious punishment despite the fact that each was a major war criminal. A U.S. military tribunal tried [SS intelligence chief] Walter Schellenberg, who had helped trap and exterminate the Jews of France. He was convicted but freed shortly thereafter under a clemency [order] from the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John McCloy…

“Wolff was sentenced to ‘time served’ in a [British] denazification proceeding in 1949, then released without objection from U.S. authorities. Fifteen years later a West German court tried Wolff a second time. He was convicted of administering the murder of 300,000 persons, most of them Jews, and of overseeing SS participation in slave labor programs.”

Fleeing to Latin America

However, when the war ended, neither the Gehlen Org recruitment program nor Wall Street lawyer McCloy’s clemency rulings had begun, leaving tens of thousands of war criminals desperate to relocate in secure foreign outposts. SS Col. Rauff just happened to have the right connections to make that happen.

In Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and Soviet Intelligence, Australian investigative reporter, Mark Aarons, and former Justice Department lawyer Loftus reconstruct how Rauff became the mass murderers’ travel agent of choice.

Shortly after the Wolff/Dulles surrender negotiations were successfully completed on April 29, 1945, Rauff was arrested by unidentified Americans and delivered to an OSS unit led by James Angleton, the future CIA counter-intelligence chief.

From its description by Aarons and Loftus, Angleton’s team appears to have been tracking communists in the Italian underground which would have been consistent with Washington’s postwar policy of backhanding leftwing resistance leaders, from European partisans to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, irrespective of the magnitude of their contributions to the Allied cause.

Angleton’s team reportedly debriefed Rauff at length, probably about what he had learned when he carried out Wolff’s orders to liquidate the resistance. After Angleton’s team released him, Rauff established contact with his former SS colleague Friederich Schwendt who was already on the payroll of the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) and, like Rauff himself, was wanted for murder.

Schwendt was also a master counterfeiter. He laundered his product through banks, obtaining legitimate Western currency in return enough, in fact, that over the next three years, Rauff was able to furnish thousands of fellow war criminals false identities and one-way tickets to South America.

Rauff himself wound up in Chile, where he later reportedly advised Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s ruthless secret police.

As for Allen Dulles, he became director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. Under his leadership, the CIA overthrew democratically elected governments in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) and replaced them with anti-democratic dictatorships. To this day, neither country has fully regained its democratic footing.

After the CIA’s disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy sacked Dulles, but Dulles did not wander far from the centers of power. After JFK’s assassination two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Dulles to serve on the Warren Commission’s investigation of Kennedy’s murder.

Dulles died on Jan. 29, 1969. However, even today, seven decades after Dulles opened the door to U.S. collaboration with Nazi war criminals, his decision continues to infect government actions around the globe.

Jerry Meldon, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, is the English translator of The Great Heroin Coup, by Danish journalist Henrik Kruger, and an occasional contributor to ConsortiumNews.com.