Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater

The Central Intelligence Agency (this is the printer friendly version)

Excerpts from Janette Rainwater's book-in-progress, Since the New Deal: An Annotated Chronology of the Events that Have Changed the United States

May 16, 1948

The body of reporter George Polk is discovered in the Bay of Salonika with his hands and feet bound and shot through the head. [Following pressure from the US State Department and the investigating committee's counsel, General William Donovan, the wartime head of OSS, the predecessor of the CIA, the Greek government found a suspect and tortured him until he "confessed" that the crime had been committed by Greek Communists acting on orders from Moscow. Polk had been a highly respected journalist whose dispatches had questioned the honesty and competence of the American-backed rightist Greek government. From journalist I. F. Stone: "George Polk is the first casualty of the Cold War."]1

August 19, 1953

A CIA coup in Iran overthrows the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and re-installs Reza Pahlavi as Shah of Iran. Over 300 people are killed and many hundreds are wounded in the nine hours of fighting. [Plans had been brewing to oust the nationalist Mossadegh ever since he and his party had passed a bill in 1951 to nationalize the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The coup, however, was increasingly proclaimed in the years following as essential to prevent "the obvious threat of Russian takeover".2 In actuality, the Soviet government made no effort to come to the aid of the Iranian communist party (Tudeh) which was frequently opposed to the policies of Mossadegh, a very wealthy landowner. A July, 1951 Tudeh demonstration had been put down by the Mossadegh government at the cost of 100 deaths and 500 injuries. Ironically, the Truman administration had cautioned the British that toppling the Mossadegh government could lead to a communist takeover. The new Eisenhower-Dulles administration felt differently and, mindful of the strategic border with the Soviet Union and the importance of oil, bought the British- Kermit Roosevelt plan. The final coup was totally an American CIA operation and cost possibly as much as $19 million. It would be used as a model for future stage-managed coups, such as that in Guatemala in 1954.

The future cost to the people of Iran was incalculable. Thousands were executed during the next twenty-five years of the Shah's reign, and the people became more impoverished. SAVAK, the secret police created and trained by the CIA, was described by Amnesty International in 1976 as having a "history of torture which is beyond belief. No country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran."3

The United States got many military installations in Iran, bases for surveillance flights over Russia, and radar and electronic listening posts that completed the encirclement of the USSR. American oil firms gained a 40% interest in the new international consortium for Iranian oil. The US would spend over a billion dollars to support the Shah's regime and the military in Iran. (The CIA distributed about $400 million a year to the ayatollahs and the mullahs from 1953 until President Carter ordered a stop in 1977, a move that undoubtedly contributed to the 1978 revolution.)]4

November 19, 1953

As just another in the CIA Project M-K Ultra's experiments with mind-altering drugs, Dr. Sydney Gottlieb spikes the cointreau of his colleague, Dr. Frank Olson,5 with LSD on the final evening of a three-day scientific retreat. [Olson became disoriented, hallucinatory, and psychotic. A few weeks later, while his Agency escort slept, Olson jumped to his death from the window of their tenth story New York City hotel room. The suicide was hushed up and Gottlieb was not reprimanded, but CIA Director Allen Dulles called a halt to the widespread LSD in-house testing. In 1976 after some of the Project M-K Ultra story became known to the public, Congress passed a bill giving Olson's widow a compensation of $750,000.]6

March 17, 1960

President Eisenhower secretly approves Operation Pluto, a CIA plan to create a Cuban government in exile and to train Cuban exiles in Guatemala as a paramilitary force for an invasion of Cuba to take place possibly before the November elections. DDE stresses the need for secrecy and specifies that only two or three Americans should have actual contact with the Cuban mercenaries. [Vice-President Richard Nixon was the project's action officer within the White House with his assistant for National Security Affairs, Lieut. Col. Robert Cushman. When the plans were not ready in time, candidate Nixon suspected a deliberate delay by "liberals" in the CIA to ensure a victory for John Kennedy in the November election.]7

January 20, 1964

KGB Colonel Yuri Nosenko, in Geneva for the disarmament negotiations, defects to the United States. [He brought with him some extremely valuable information:--- details of how the Soviets had bugged the US Embassy in Moscow and the names of more than twenty Soviet agents in the United States. All of this was investigated and verified. However, the CIA found a third item hard to believe:--- the KGB dossier on Lee Harvey Oswald indicated that there was no Soviet involvement in the assassination of JFK but that Oswald could have been a hit man for a consortium of right-wing American millionaires. Nosenko was subjected to polygraphs, isolation chambers, more polygraphs, LSD, forced listening to endless loops of noise, and food deprivation in an effort to demonstrate that he was a KGB plant, or at least a KGB dupe. Finally, after nearly four years of this brutal treatment (and no resolution of the mystery) he was released and allowed to live in the United States under a new name.] 8

June 23, 1971

Daniel Ellsberg appears on CBS-TV news and discloses that he is the "leaker" of the Pentagon Papers and urges that Americans take responsibility to end the hostilities in Indochina which have caused the deaths of one to two million people in the last quarter-century. [Former hawk Ellsberg had become disillusioned while running a CIA "pacification" program in the 1960s. Back home and working at the Rand Corporation think tank with a high security clearance, he methodically photocopied the relevant Pentagon documents over a period of months.]10

January 18, 1973

The trial of Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers begins. [During the course of the trial the public learned that the CIA had massively underestimated enemy strength before the 1970 invasion of Cambodia. Upon learning that H .L. Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, already convicted for the Watergate break-in, had also burgled the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, Judge Matthew Byrne, Jr. declared a mistrial and dismissed all charges against Ellsberg. Judge Byrne also accused the Nixon administration of "gross misconduct", revealing that mid-trial Nixon's special assistant for domestic affairs, John Ehrlichman, had offered him the job of director of the FBI.] 11

May 9, 1973

The Director of Central Intelligence James Schlesinger, infuriated by the recent press disclosures of CIA misconduct of which he had been unaware, orders his covert chief, William Colby, to compile a list of any "questionable activities" by the CIA, past and present. [The resulting 693-page report described Operation Chaos (the domestic spying program), drug experiments, assassination plots, illegal mail-openings, the surveillance and wiretapping of selected American journalists, contacts with Watergate figures, etc., a list that Agency operatives called "the Skeletons" and the press later dubbed "the family jewels".]12

December 22, 1974

Headline in the New York Times: "Huge CIA Operation Reported in U.S. Against Anti-War Forces, Other Dissidents in Nixon Years". [Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who had revealed the My Lai massacres and the bombing of Cambodia, reported: "The Central Intelligence Agency , directly violating its charter, conducted a massive illegal domestic intelligence operation during the Nixon Administration against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States, according to well-placed government sources." The CIA, forbidden to operate within the United States, had opened files on 10,000 American citizens and conducted illegal wiretaps, break-ins and mail openings under its "Operation Chaos". This was the beginning of a flood of information to the public about the darker doings of the CIA and would result in the establishment of three investigative groups: the Rockefeller Commission, the "Pike Committee" in the House of Representatives and the "Church Committee" in the Senate.]13

October 13, 1976

CIA Director George Bush, disobeying the orders of the Attorney General, notifies former directors Richard Helms and John McCone that the federal grand jury investigating CIA activities in Chile and the Caribbean might call them as witnesses and offers CIA help in preparing their testimony. [Bush saved the necks of seventy current and former CIA agents by his refusal to turn their CIA records over to the Justice Department. This loyalty was rewarded in his campaign for the Republican nomination in 1980 and in the subsequent Reagan-Bush election campaign. Some of their "dirty tricks" included the theft of President Carter's briefing book for the television debate, disinformation about Carter's brother Billy and Libya, and the insertion of spies into Carter's National Security Council.]14

February 11, 1982

Attorney General William French Smith exempts the CIA from its legal requirement to report on drug smuggling by any of its assets or clients. ["Reportable offenses" which the agency was still required to reveal included assault, homicide, kidnapping, illegal immigration, perjury, visa violations, possession of firearms, bribery, obstruction of justice, etc. Two months earlier President Reagan had authorized covert CIA assisstance to the Nicaraguan contras. Canny CIA Director William Casey, remembering the heroin tie-in with the Vietnam War, undoubtedly anticipated that these new guerrilla allies would be using the cocaine trade to finance their operations and finagled a secret agreement to have the CIA relieved of its obligation to "add narcotics violations to the list of reportable non-employee crimes" according to documents released in 1998. Tons of cocaine were brought into the United States in the 1980s by contras and their drug lord allies with the CIA denying both knowledge and complicity.]15

December 12, 1985

256 US servicemen returning from their duty as part of a "peacekeeping force" in the Middle East die in the worst aviation disaster in US military history when their plane crashes in Gander, Newfoundland. [White House spokesman Larry Speakes said it was an "accident" caused by ice on the wings; there was no investigation of the crash. However, the Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group, claimed responsibility. Investigator Joe Conason believes the Islamic Jihad sabotaged the plane with a bomb as the result of the Reagan administration having welshed on an arms deal with Iran. On November 25th the CIA airline, St. Lucia Airways, had delivered a shipment of missiles different from the ones ordered. Iranian Prime Minister Rafsanjani wrote to Reagan that Iran had been cheated and demanded restitution. Oliver North, according to the Iran-Contra documents, warned about the likelihood of reprisals for "leading them on". But on December 10th Reagan and his National Security Council decided to abandon all dealings with Iran. The plane that crashed belonged to the CIA company, Air Arrow, which also was flying weapons to the contras in Nicaragua. Responsible investigation of this crash would likely have revealed the covert sale of arms to Iran nearly a year before the scandal was finally revealed.]16

August 4, 1986

Vice President George Bush in a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak asks him to pass on military advice to Iraq's Saddam Hussein:--- he should use his Air Force more aggressively. [This was a ploy thought up by CIA Director William Casey who reasoned that if Saddam could be persuaded to be less cautious with his well-equipped Air Force, then Iran would be forced to ask the US for more missiles. The US could then demand the release of more hostages. Casey briefed Bush before his July 25th departure for the Middle East, enjoining him to pass messages to Saddam by both Mubarak and King Hussein of Jordan. The advice was taken within a few days and for several weeks Iraqi planes bombed oil refineries and other installations deep within Iran. About this time CIA officials in Iraq gave Saddam equipment that would receive intelligence information from satellites to help him assess the effects of his bombing runs.]17

December 15, 1986

CIA Director William Casey is stricken during a routine medical examination at his office at CIA headquarters and rushed to Georgetown University Hospital. [There he underwent surgery for a brain tumor which left him incapacitated and unable to speak or communicate. He had been scheduled to testify to Congress on the Iran-Contra scandal the following day. Few people knew that he was being treated for prostate cancer.] 18

May 5, 1987

The joint congressional committee on Iran/Contra opens its televised hearings with most of the senators and representatives wearing telegenic red ties. The first witness, retired General Richard V. Secord, testifies that he was asked by Lieut. Col. Oliver North in 1984 to work with the National Security Council's covert program to obtain weapons for the Nicaraguan contras. Only $3.5 million of the $12 million in profits from the sale of arms to Iran found its way to the contras; half of the money was kept by his Iranian business partner, Albert Hakin, and part went to another unidentified secret project. "We believed our conduct was in the furtherance of the President's policies.... I also understood that this Administration knew of my conduct and approved it." [Congress and the public were denied the opportunity to examine the plan for martial law, the role of Vice President George Bush or the CIA's connection with cocaine dealing, thanks to the gavel of Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI).]19

May 6, 1987

William Casey dies of pneumonia, never having recovered powers of communication. [Security was tight for his funeral at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Roslyn, Long Island. Portions of the eulogy made that night's TV news. Bishop McGann scolded the deceased: "We opposed and continue to oppose the violence wrought in Central America by support of the contras. These are not light matters on which to disagree. They are matters of life and death. And I cannot conceal or disguise my fundamental disagreement on these matters with a man I knew and respected." The US Ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick countered the bishop, asserting that Casey had secured a "special place in heaven" by the priority he put on "supporting Nicaragua's freedom fighters". One of several associates not attending the funeral was retired Air Force General Richard Secord. The day before he had told the congressional investigating committee that Casey was a major instigator of the Iran-Contra operation.20

September 23, 1988

Richard Brenneke testifies (in the sentence hearing in Denver of Heinrich Rupp, who had been convicted of bank fraud) that he and Rupp had worked for the CIA since 1967, that they had flown planes in Vietnam for Air America (a company owned by the CIA), and that Rupp believed his bank activities were something the CIA had asked him to do. He further testifies that Rupp had flown the Reagan-Bush campaign director William Casey clandestinely to Paris on October 18, 1980 for meetings with representatives of the Ayatollah Khomeini to negotiate an arms-for-hostages deal (later known as the "October Surprise"), and that he---Brenneke--- was present at the third of these meetings where he helped work out details of the cash and weapons transactions. 21

December 2-3, 1989

At the Malta meeting at sea:-- In a private conversation Gorbachev promises not to use violence in his attempt to retain the Baltic republics within the Soviet Union and Bush then agrees not "to create any big problems" by demagoguery or demands for independence for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. [Part of the Cold War strategy had been to never recognize the Soviet annexation of the Baltics. The CIA had spent countless millions attempting to build a network of agents in those countries to foment revolution. If the American public had known of the agreement at Malta, the hard-liners would have accused Bush of "selling out" the Baltics.]22

May 20, 1990

With CIA and NSA intelligence reports revealing that Pakistan and India were on the verge of a nuclear exchange, President Bush sends his top nuclear expert, Robert Gates, to Islamabad. Gates warns President Khan and his top general that Pentagon war games have demonstrated that there is no way that Pakistan could win a war with India, and that Pakistan need not expect any help from the US despite the fact that Pakistan had been an ally of the US in the long, supposedly "covert" war in Afghanistan. Gates extracts a promise from the Pakistanis to close down their training camps for Kashmiri insurgents. [Richard J. Kerr, deputy director of the CIA described the crisis as "the most dangerous nuclear situation we have ever faced since I've been in the US government.... far more frightening than the Cuban missile crisis." Why did the public know nothing of this at the time (unlike the hour-by-hour bulletins during the fear-ridden days of the Cuban crisis)? Throughout the '80s Reagan administration officials "looked the other way" as Pakistan developed its nuclear arsenal of six nuclear bombs with illegal purchases from US vendors of millions of dollars' worth of restricted materials. In 1985 Congress passed the Solarz Amendment which mandated the termination of all military and economic aid to any supposedly non-nuclear nation that imported or attempted to import nuclear-related materials from the United States. It also passed the Pressler Amendment which required the President to certify each year that Pakistan did not possess any nuclear weapons; otherwise Pakistan would not be allowed to continue receiving its very large amount of foreign aid from the United States. The Reagan and Bush administrations falsely certified that Pakistan was nuclear-free in 1987, 1988, and 1989.]23

July 10, 1992

General Manuel Noriega, the longtime dictator of Panama, is sentenced to 40 years in a U. S. prison, essentially a life sentence for a 58-year-old man unlikely to get parole. [He had been found guilty in April on eight counts of racketeering, conspiracy and cocaine-smuggling. Noriega, who did not take the witness stand during the trial, gave a long speech before his sentencing:-- Bush is "guilty of causing the deaths of innocent people" in the 1989 invasion of Panama.....There was never any danger to the canal or to American citizens in Panama. Panama was invaded because I was an obstacle to President Bush, who preferred me dead." He related that he had been an ally of the United States and cooperated with the CIA from the early 1960s until December, 1986 when he refused to send Panamanian troops to fight with the contras in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas. In retaliation, he said, in February, 1988 the Reagan administration brought a grand jury indictment against him on criminal drug charges which a few months later they offered to drop if he would agree to leave Panama.]24

December 24, 1992

President Bush pardons former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and five other former government officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal in a move highly reminiscent of Gerald Ford's pardon of former president Richard Nixon. (A presidential pardon is an absolute one, eliminating all past convictions, present charges and even any future prosecutions for the stated offenses.) [The Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh immediately denounced the pardons, accusing Bush of "misconduct" and continuing the coverup. He further declared that the president is "the subject now of our investigation" since his discovery on December 11th that Bush had "illegally withheld documents" from the investigations--- Bush's own notes taken during Iran-Contra meetings. There was rapid public condemnation of the pardon amid suspicion that Bush may have acted to prevent being called to testify at Weinberger's trial. The Grand Jury had indicted Weinberger on June 16th on five felony counts of perjury, obstruction of a congressional investigation (for concealing and withholding his relevant notes) and making false statements. The other five were:

--- Elliott Abrams, former assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs, sentenced on November 15, 1991. He had pled guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress, thus avoiding the multi-count felony count being prepared for the Grand Jury;
--- Duane Clarridge, head of the CIA's Western European division, indicted November 26, 1991 on seven counts of perjury and false statements to congressional investigators and scheduled for trial on March 15th;
--- Alan D. Fiers, former chief of the CIA's Central American Task Force, whose testimony enabled the prosecution to indict Clair George. For his cooperation he was allowed to plead guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress and sentenced to one hundred hours of community service;
--- Clair E. George, retired chief of the CIA's worldwide covert operations division and the highest ranking CIA official prosecuted by the Independent Counsel, convicted December 9 on two charges of false statements and perjury and faced a possible five-year sentence before the pardon;
--- Robert C. MacFarlane, former national security advisor to Ronald Reagan who pleaded guilty to four counts of withholding information from Congress on March 11, 1988.
Two Iran-Contra participants were not included in the pardons:

--- Oliver L. North, a Marine lieutenant assigned to the National Security Council staff who was the principal manager of the illegal supply to the contras, convicted May 6, 1989 on three counts--- destroying documents, aiding the obstruction of Congress and accepting an illegal gratuity. Judge Gesell chose to impose a fine of $100,000 and 1200 hours community service in an inner-city counseling program rather than a jail sentence!
--- former National Security Advisor John M. Poindexter, convicted April 7, 1990 of five felonies for obstructing and lying to Congress and sentenced to six months imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently. Both men had their convictions overturned on the grounds that testimony was tainted by information given to Congress while under immunity in the joint House-Senate Iran-Contra Hearings.]25
Copyright 1997 Janette Rainwater
All Rights Reserved

1. The Nation, January 28, 1991, pp. 93-95.

2. Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran (1979) was written by Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA officer who organized the coup. He gives no evidence in the book to support his contention that Mossadegh had formed an alliance with either the Soviet Union or the Tudeh (communist) party. William Blum, The CIA: Forgotten History, US Global Interventions Since World War 2, London: Zed Books, 1986, p. 69.

3. Matchbox, Fall, 1976.

4. Blum, op. cit., pp. 67-76.

5. Olson was a biochemist with the Army, working at Fort Detrick. He had devised some ingenious methods for the dissemination of lethal agents such as anthrax and equine encephalitis:-- a lipstick that would kill after contact with the skin, an aerosol for asthma that would result in pneumonia, and a cigarette lighter that produced a lethal gas.

6. Gordon Thomas, Journey into Madness: The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse, New York: Bantam, 1989, pp. 160-162.

7. Michael Beschloss, Crisis Years: Kennedy and Krushchev, 1960-63, New York: Harper/Collins, 1991, p. 1 02; John M. Newman, Oswald and the CIA, New York: Carroll and Graf, 1995, pp. 126, 131.

8. Thomas, op. cit. pp. 260-264; John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA from Wild Bill Donovan to William Casey, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986, pp.404-409.

10. Fred Emery, Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon, New York: Random House, 1994, pp. 42-43.

11. Ranelagh, op. cit., p. 553.

12. Ranelagh, op. cit., pp. 562-563; Kathryn S. Olmsted, Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI, University of North Carolina Press, 1996. p. 30.

13. New York Times, December 22, 1974, p. 1.

14. Warren Hinckle and William W. Turner, Deadly Secrets: The CIA-Mafia War against Castro and JFK, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1992, pp. xxxi-xxxii.

15. The Consortium, June 1, 1998, pp.2-3.

16. In These Times, November 14-20, 1990.

17. Murray Waas and Craig Unger, "In the Loop: Bush's Secret Mission", The New Yorker, November 2, 1992, pp. 64, 76-77.

18. Mark Perry, Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA, New York: William Morrow, 1992, pp. 35-37.

19. Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1987.

20. Perry, op. cit., pp. 36-38, 434.

21. David Armstrong and Alex Constantine, "The Verdict is Treason", Z Magazine, July-August, 1990.

22. Michael R. Beschloss and Strobe Talbott, At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War, Boston: Little, Brown, 1993, pp. 163-164.

23. Seymour M. Hersh, "On the Nuclear Edge", The New Yorker, March 29, 1993.

24. Los Angeles Times, July 11, 1992, A1.

25. Lawrence E. Walsh, Iran-Contra: The Final Report, New York: Random House, 1994, pp. 102-103, 111-121, 128-136, 234, 247, 263, 362, 414..


Home Button Back Button


.This site was created on March 20, 1997.

© Janette Rainwater 1997-2006

All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of any of the material contained herein is strictly prohibited.