On Wednesday, the New York Times gave front-page billing to the release by the CIA of its "family jewels," hundreds of pages of documents that "provide new details about how the Central Intelligence Agency illegally spied on Americans decades ago."[1]  --  The Times also provided a timeline of the genesis of this set of documents, based on Tim Weiner's recently published history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes (Doubleday, 2007), showing that they were considered so significant in 1975 that President Gerald Ford reshuffled his cabinet to prepare to respond to the revelations they contained.[2]  --  Today, however, few Americans seem concerned.  --  Among stories sent to others by online readers of the Times, the story on CIA revelations ranked seventeenth.  --  Such complacency leads observers like historian Chalmers Johnson to regard the American Republic as perhaps in its last days.  --  CIA, essentially a private army at the command of an imperial president who is above the law, appears in this perspective as one in a set of institutions that "will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent" (Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic [Metropolitan Books, 2007], p. 278).  --  Reporter Scott Shane reported that independent observers like James Bamford believe that "what’s going on today makes the family jewels pale by comparison.”[3]  --  The release of the documents at this time seems to reflect self-assurance on the part of the Central Intelligence Agency.  --  When they were first compiled, CIA Director William Colby feared that the "shock effect" of their exposure could have inflicted "mortal wounds" on the agency....



By Mark Mazzetti and Tim Weiner

New York Times
June 27, 2007
Page A1


[PHOTO CAPTION: Richard Helms with President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1973.]

[INSET CAPTION: An assassination plot. Shows a document related to an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro and one showing that both Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara knew of spying on reporters.]

[INSET CAPTION: A hidden history revealed. Shows excerpts from documents bearing on assassination attempts (Rafael Trujillo, Patrice Lumumba, and Fidel Casto), "domestic and other questionable surveillance," "assisting other federal agencies and local law enforcement," and other activities, like supporting the Watergate burglars.]

WASHINGTON -- Long-secret documents released Tuesday provide new details about how the Central Intelligence Agency illegally spied on Americans decades ago, including trying to bug a Las Vegas hotel room for evidence of infidelity and tracking down an expert lock-picker for a Watergate conspirator.

Known inside the agency as the “family jewels,” the 702 pages of documents released Tuesday catalog domestic wiretapping operations, failed assassination plots, mind-control experiments, and spying on journalists from the early years of the C.I.A.

The papers provide evidence of paranoia and occasional incompetence as the agency began a string of illegal spying operations in the 1960s and 1970s, often to hunt links between Communist governments and the domestic protests that roiled the nation in that period.

Yet the long-awaited documents leave out a great deal. Large sections are censored, showing that the C.I.A. still cannot bring itself to expose all the skeletons in its closet. And many activities about overseas operations disclosed years ago by journalists, Congressional investigators, and a presidential commission -- which led to reforms of the nation’s intelligence agencies -- are not detailed in the papers.

In a note to agency employees, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, said that Tuesday’s release of documents was part of the agency’s “social contract” with the American public, “to give those we serve a window into the complexities of intelligence.”

General Hayden drew a contrast between the illegal activities of the past and current C.I.A. practices, which he insists are lawful.

The 60-year-old agency has been under fire, though, by critics who object to the secret prisons and harsh interrogation practices it has adopted since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Some intelligence experts suggested on Tuesday that the release of the documents was intended to distract from the current controversies.

And they and historians expressed disappointment that the documents were so heavily censored. (The agency said it had to protect its intelligence “sources and methods.”) [NOTE: By our count, 113 pages of the documents released are entirely blank, except for the word "secret" or "confidential." —J.O.M.]

Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, the research group that filed the Freedom of Information request in 1992 that led to the documents’ becoming public, said he was initially underwhelmed by them because they contained little about the agency’s foreign operations.

But Mr. Blanton said what was striking was the scope of the C.I.A’s domestic spying efforts -- what he called the “C.I.A. doing its Stasi imitation” -- and the “confessional” nature of so many of the documents.

“Reading these memos is like sitting in a confessional booth and having a string of former top C.I.A. officials say ‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,’” Mr. Blanton said.

The broad outlines of the C.I.A.’s illegal activities have been known for some time. Still, the public has never seen most of the documents, contemporary memorandums, and reports from an agency that zealously guards its files and almost never permits outsiders to examine its internal records.

More than anything, the papers provide a dark history of the climate both at the C.I.A. and in Washington during the Cold War and the Vietnam era, when fears about the Soviet threat created a no-holds-barred culture at the spy agency.

Some of the documents provide insight into the mundane workings of a bureaucracy -- tedious correspondence about reimbursement for stationery, references to insurance benefits for E. Howard Hunt, the Watergate conspirator, and a document noting “the high degree of resentment” among C.I.A. officers who had to grow long hair to pose as hippie radicals to infiltrate the peace movement at home and overseas.

And some of the language in the papers reflects the sanitized jargon of officialdom: “gangster-type action” refers to an assassination plot against Fidel Castro, for example.

The internal C.I.A. investigation into covert operations during the agency’s first three decades -- the inquiry that produced the “family jewels” documents -- was begun in 1973 by James R. Schlesinger, then director of central intelligence.

Mr. Schlesinger had been appalled to learn that operatives had carried out domestic break-ins on behalf of the Nixon White House, and ordered an investigation into past operations “outside the C.I.A.’s charter.”

Because the documents were compiled as the Watergate investigation was gathering steam, the agency’s concern about the extent that it could be tied to the crimes of the Nixon administration is palpable throughout.

Internal memorandums detail C.I.A. contacts with Mr. Hunt and James W. McCord Jr., a retired operative who was one of the Watergate burglars. One has the heading “Hunt Requests a Lockpicker” and reveals that in spring 1972, a C.I.A. official helped Mr. Hunt, the mastermind of the Watergate break-in, track someone “accomplished in picking locks.” It is unclear exactly what lock Mr. Hunt was trying to open.

Historians have generally concluded that far from being a rogue agency, the C.I.A. was following orders from the White House or top officials. In 1967, for instance, President Lyndon B. Johnson became convinced that the American antiwar movement was controlled and financed by Communist governments, and he ordered the C.I.A. to produce evidence.

His director of central intelligence, Richard Helms, reminded him that the C.I.A. was barred from spying on Americans.

In his posthumous memoir, Mr. Helms said Johnson told him: “I’m quite aware of that. What I want for you is to pursue this matter, and to do what is necessary to track down the foreign Communists who are behind this intolerable interference in our domestic affairs.”

Though it was a violation of the C.I.A.’s charter, Mr. Helms obeyed the president’s orders.

The C.I.A. undertook a domestic surveillance operation code-named Chaos that went on for almost seven years under Presidents Johnson and Nixon. Mr. Helms created a Special Operations Group to conduct the spying. A squad of C.I.A. officers grew their hair long, learned the jargon of the New Left, and went off to infiltrate peace groups in the United States and Europe.

The agency compiled a computer index of 300,000 names of American people and organizations, and extensive files on 7,200 citizens. It began working in secret with police departments all over the United States. [NOTE: See Wikipedia for more information on Operation Chaos. —J.O.M.]

The documents released on Tuesday provided details. One said the agency “recruited, tested, and dispatched” as foreign agents overseas “Americans with existing extremist credentials.” It also used “new and old Agency assets” -- in other words, people and sources of information -- who had worked against China, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea.

These were people and businesses that had “connections with and/or knowledge of” the American antiwar movement. They were as far-flung as Paris, Stockholm, Mexico City, Ottawa, and Hong Kong.

One document, entitled “Foreign Support for Activities Planned to Disrupt or Harass the Republican National Convention” in 1972, lists the Beatles singer John Lennon, “a British subject,” as someone who had given money to a protest group.

A rare gem among the documents for C.I.A. buffs is a pair of detailed reports signed by James J. Angleton, the legendary chief of the agency’s counterintelligence staff from 1954 to 1974. They describe an American program to create and exploit foreign police forces, internal-security services, and counterterrorism squads overseas.

The documents explain that the C.I.A. and other American agencies trained and equipped foreigners to serve their countries -- and, in secret, the United States. Once the Americans had set up a foreign service, it could help carry out American foreign policy by suppressing Communists and leftists, and gather intelligence on behalf of the C.I.A.

The documents evidently were included in the “family jewels” because one part of the program in April 1973 included training of the foreigners by the bomb squad of the Dade County Police in Florida.

Mr. Angleton, who was dismissed from the C.I.A. the following year, after disclosures that he had overseen the opening of first-class mail in the United States since the early 1950s, was the C.I.A.’s man in charge of the overseas training program.

The program, according to recently declassified government documents, trained hundreds of thousands of foreign military and police officers in 25 countries by the early 1960s.

It put the C.I.A. on “dangerous ground,” Robert Amory Jr., chief of the C.I.A.’s intelligence analysis directorate under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, said in an oral history interview for the Kennedy presidential library. “You can get into Gestapo-type tactics.”

Some anecdotes reveal just how far outside the law some C.I.A. agents strayed. One technician was arrested in 1960 after trying to bug a Las Vegas hotel room. The operation had been requested by Sam Giancana, the Chicago mobster, who was then helping the C.I.A. in a plot to assassinate Mr. Castro.

Mr. Giancana had been concerned that his girlfriend, the singer Phyllis McGuire, was having an affair with the comedian Dan Rowan, and surveillance was ordered to “determine the extent of his intimacy” with her.

In one episode that has echoes of a current controversy, the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program, a May 1973 memorandum details a C.I.A. wiretapping operation that monitored calls between the United States and Latin America to learn about drug trafficking.

The surveillance, conducted by a C.I.A. unit called Division D, was ended after the agency’s general counsel issued an opinion that it violated the agency’s charter and “should be carried on by appropriate law-enforcement agencies.”

Some of the activities detailed, while lawful, would have been embarrassing had they emerged at the time. One document revealed that John McCone, director of central intelligence during Kennedy’s presidency, authorized an Air Force plane to fly the Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis and the soprano Maria Callas from Rome to Athens, a favor that led to media inquiries.

The documents were compiled in the early 1970s but remained classified because of concern by C.I.A. directors that public exposure of a litany of illegal acts by their operatives would do indelible damage to the agency’s reputation -- possibly even bring an end to the agency itself.

“The shock effect of an exposure of the ‘family jewels,’ I urged, could, in the climate of 1973, inflict mortal wounds on the C.I.A. and deprive the nation of all the good the agency could do in the future,” wrote William E. Colby, a former director of central intelligence, in his memoir.

--Sarah Abruzzese, David Johnston, James Risen and Scott Shane contributed reporting.




TIMELINE OF THE C.I.A.'s 'FAMILY JEWELS' [titled 'Genesis of the Family Jewels' in print edition]

New York Times
June 27, 2007
Page A18


Feb. 2, 1973 -- President Richard M. Nixon installs James R. Schlesinger as director of Central Intelligence.

May 9, 1973 -- As the Watergate scandal builds, Mr. Schlesinger prepares to leave the C.I.A. to become the secretary of defense. Before leaving he issued a memo stating: "I have ordered all senior operating officials of this Aagency to report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or that have gone on in the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this agency. I hereby direct every person presently employed by C.I.A. to report to me on any such activities of which he has knowledge. I invite all ex-employees to do the same." This order created the "family jewels."

May 21, 1973 -- William E. Colby becomes the director of central intelligence-designate. As news breaks of President Nixon's and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger's wiretapping of aides and reporters, Mr. Colby locks the "family jewels" in his office safe.

[PHOTO CAPTION: James R. Schlesinger in August 1974.]

Aug. 8, 1974 -- President Nixon says he will resign.

Oct. 7, 1974 -- President Gerald R. Ford, in one of his first National Security Council meetings, calls leaks to newspapers intolerable. "We need an Official Secrets Act," says Mr. Schlesinger, the secretary of defense, but "the present climate is bad for this sort of thing."

[PHOTO CAPTION: President Gerald R. Ford, with his soon-to-be vice president, Nelson A. Rockefeller, in December 1974.]

Dec. 22, 1974 -- The New York Times, in an article by Seymour Hersh, reveals that the C.I.A. spied on Americans.

Dec. 24, 1974 -- Mr. Colby sends a note to Mr. Kissinger summarizing the "family jewels."

Dec. 25, 1974 -- Mr. Kissinger distills the list into a five-page memorandum to President Ford, informing him that the C.I.A. had indeed spied on the American antiwar movement, wiretapped reporters and placed them under surveillance, conducted illegal searches, and opened first-class sacks of mail. But Mr. Kissinger does not put the worst revelations in writing. Some of the C.I.A.'s actions "clearly were illegal," he warns the president. Others "raise profound moral questions." He later refers to the file as "The 'Horrors' Book."

Jan. 3, 1975 -- Laurence H. Silberman, the acting attorney general, learns about the file and informs the White House. He warns that the file contains one dangerous piece of information: "Plans to assassinate certain foreign leaders which, to say the least, present unique questions."

Jan. 4, 1975 -- Richard Helms, a former director of central intelligence, meets with President Ford to discuss plans for a commission headed by Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller to investigate the C.I.A.'s domestic activitites. "Frankly, we are in a mess," Mr. Ford tells Mr. Helms.

Jan. 16, 1975 -- President Ford invites representatives of the *New York Times* to the White House. The president tells editors that it is not in the national interest to discuss the C.I.A.'s past and that the reputation of every president since Harry S. Truman would be blackened by the record.

Feb. 21, 1975 -- President Ford enlists Donald H. Rumsfeld, the White House chief of staff, to create a "damage-limiting operation for the president."

Spring 1975 -- The White House faces Congressional investigations and hearings on the C.I.A.

March 28, 1975 -- Mr. Schlesinger tells the president that it is imperative to cut back on "the prominence of C.I.A. operations" around the world and that Mr. Colby was being "too damned cooperative with the Congress."

[PHOTO CAPTION: President Ford with Mr. Rockefeller, left, and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in April 1975.]

Oct. 13, 1975 -- President Ford and his advisers meet to weigh the damage. Mr. Colby tells the president that "any document which officially shows American involvement in an assassination is clearly a foreign policy disaster." Mr. Rumsfeld advises, "We are better off with a political confrontation than a legal one."

Late October 1975 -- To prepare for the political fight, President Ford shakes up his cabinet. Mr. Schlesinger is dismissed, and Mr. Rumsfeld becomes secretary of defense. Dick Cheney takes his place as White House chief of staff. George Bush is picked to be the next director of central intelligence.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Dick Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld in November 1975.]

[PHOTO CAPTION: George Bush before the Senate confirmation hearing in December 1975 on his nomination as director of central intelligence.]

Jan. 13, 1977 -- At their last meeting before Jimmy Carter's inauguration, Mr. Kissinger tells Mr. Bush that the C.I.A. simply cannot conduct effective covert operations anymore. "Henry, you are right," Mr. Bush says. "We are both ineffective and scared."

Source: Legacy of Ashes: The History of the C.I.A. by Tim Weiner [Doubleday, 2007]


News analysis

By Scott Shane

New York Times
June 27, 2007
Page A19


[INSET CAPTION: INTELLIGENCE GATHERING THEN ... AND NOW -- [Then] Congressional investagations [sic] in the 1970s over the C.I.A.'s role in assasinations, mind control experiments, and domestic spying led to reforms at the agency and strengthing [sic] the barrier between domestic law enforcement and intelligence gathering. [Now] But some of the issues that raised questions continue to be contoversial today. -- ASSASSINATION PLOTS -- [Then] The C.I.A. was ordered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to eliminate Patrice Lumumba, the prime minister of Congo. Mr. Lumumba was killed in 1961, but without any American help, a Congressional investigation concluded. [NOTE: On this subject, see, however, David N. Gibbs's review of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume XX: Congo Crisis by the U.S. Department of State, in African Affairs 95, No. 380 (July 1996), pp. 453-59.] The agency hired members of the mafia to target President Fidel Castro of Cuba in a mission "requiring gangster-type action." An inspector general report "disclosed quite extensive agency involvement" with those who plotted the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, in 1961. -- [Now] A ban on assassination has been interpreted to exclude terrorists. Terrorists are routinely targeted for killing as part of the war on terrorism. In 2002, the agency conducted an airstrike in Yemen with a pilotless aircraft, killing suspected members of Al Qaeda. -- DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE -- From 1953 to 1972, the agency intercepted mail to and from the Soviet Union and China. This operation "included not only photographing of envelopes but also surreptitious opening and photographing of selected items of the mail." -- The agency's surveillance of journalists and political dissidents was widespread and included physical surveillance, wiretapping and warrantless entries into offices and residences. Among those who were under surveillance were Michael Gettler of the *Washington Post*, the columnist Jack Anderson and Victor Marchetti, a former C.I.A. officer and a critic of the agency. -- [Now] The National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, established weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, allowed monitoring of international telephone calls and e-mail of people inside the United States who were suspected of having terrorist ties. The agency says it has been getting warrants to eavesdrop since the beginning of 2007. -- SURVEILLANCE OF ANTIWAR ACTIVITIES -- The C.I.A. undertook a domestic surveillance operation, code-named Chaos, which went on for almost seven years under Presidents Johnson and Nixon. The agency compiled extensive files on 7,200 citizens to find sources of foreign support for the movement opposing the Vietnam War. A team of C.I.A. officers infiltrated peace groups in the United States and Europe. The agency also monitored activities by antiwar groups to gage [sic] "foreign support for activities planned to disrupt or harass" the conventions scheduled before the presidential election of 1972. -- [Now] Before the 2004 Republican National Convention, undercover New York City police officers traveled across the country, Canada, and Europe to spy on people who planned to protest at the convention, often posing as sympathizers or fellow activists. -- DETENTION AND INTERROGATION -- [Then] A memo released yesterday details the confinement of Yuri Nosenko, a Soviet agent who defected. Yuri Nosenko was "literally confined in a cell behind bars with nothing but a cot in it" from the "period 13 August 1965 to 27 October 1967." The memo added, 'the agency was convinced that he was a dispatched agent but even after a long period of hostile interrogation was unable to prove their contention." -- A secret interrogation manual printed in 1963 remained a standard reference for two decades. It required interrogators to get approval from headquarters "if bodily harm is to be inflicted" and if "medical, chemical, or electrical methods or materials are to be used to induce acquiescence." -- [Now] The C.I.A. has held and interrogated terrorism suspects in secret prisons abroad. Harsh treatments have been used, at least between 2002 and 2004, including waterboarding, heat, cold, and sleep deprivation.]

WASHINGTON -- When the Central Intelligence Agency took a nervous look at its past in 1973, one potential illegal act officials identified was the treatment of a K.G.B. officer named Yuri Nosenko. After fleeing to the United States in 1964, Mr. Nosenko was held in a makeshift jail for three years and subjected to tough questioning to determine whether he was a genuine defector or a plant.

A C.I.A. document released Tuesday said officials “became increasingly concerned with the illegality of the agency’s position in handling a defector under these conditions for such a long period of time.” So Mr. Nosenko was moved to a more comfortable safe house, given friendlier treatment, and felt “no bitterness” about his experience after he resettled with a new wife, said the 1973 memorandum recounting the case.

In an era when secret C.I.A. detentions have become a mainstay of the news, the comparison is hard to avoid. Since 2002, the agency has jailed nearly 100 suspected terrorists overseas and subjected some of them to far harsher interrogations than Mr. Nosenko’s. The program is not seen as an agency lapse, and instead has been vigorously defended by C.I.A. officials and President Bush.

Comparisons between different historical eras are always tricky. With an incomplete account of C.I.A. misdeeds in its first quarter century from the so-called family jewels, released this week with many redactions, and a presumably even more incomplete knowledge of the spy agencies’ actions since 2001, such a comparison is inevitably flawed.

But it is also irresistible. And it raises a provocative question: do the actions of the intelligence agencies in the era of Al Qaeda, which include domestic eavesdropping without warrants, secret detentions and interrogations arguably bordering on [sic] torture, already match or even eclipse those of the Vietnam War period?

At both times, Americans faced a hostile global ideology -- Communism then, violent Islamic jihadism today -- and feared cells hidden in their midst. In the face of such a threat, it may be no surprise that secret agencies, wielding powerful technology and with the formidable backing of a president, sometimes come into conflict with democratic [sic] ideals.

On Tuesday, the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, tried to pre-empt such comparisons in a message to agency employees that was part cheerleading and part explanation of why the agency had finally released the documents, first requested in 1992 under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

“We will find in the press coverage of today’s release reminders of some things the C.I.A. should not have done,” General Hayden wrote. But he added: “I firmly believe that the improved system of intelligence oversight that came out of the 1970s gives the C.I.A. a far stronger place in our democratic system. What we do now to protect Americans we do within a powerful framework of law and review.”

Some Cold War activities exposed over the years went beyond those detailed in the 700 pages of documents released Tuesday, including failed plots to assassinate foreign leaders and mind-control experiments on unwitting Americans and foreign agents. Still, independent historians of the agency did not see the sharp contrast between past and present that General Hayden described.

“We don’t know everything that’s going on today,” said David M. Barrett, a political scientist at Villanova University. “But it seems to me there’s already enough evidence to conclude that things are not so different today.”

Mr. Barrett, the author of a 2005 book on the C.I.A. and Congress in the 1940s and 1950s [The CIA and Congress: The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy (U. of Kansas Press)], said the notion that the C.I.A. was once lawless but now meticulously followed the law was simply wrong.

He said Lawrence Houston, the agency’s general counsel for its first 26 years, “signed off on a lot of things that were of questionable legality.” And while the agency now has far more lawyers, they too have approved actions that some independent legal experts consider illegal or improper, he said, including kidnapping terrorists in foreign countries and using the simulated drowning technique called waterboarding.

James Bamford, whose books on American intelligence cover the period from the Korean War to the Iraq war [The Puzzle Palace: a Report on NSA, America's Most Secret Agency (Houghton Mifflin, 1982); Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (Doubleday, 2001); A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies (Doubleday, 2004)], took a similar view. Mr. Bamford said the scale of the National Security Agency’s interception of phone calls and e-mail messages of Americans and others in the United States in recent years -- which prompted a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union in which Mr. Bamford is a plaintiff -- almost certainly dwarfs the electronic surveillance and the review of mail carried out by the N.S.A. and the C.I.A. in the 1960s.

If the collection details government spying on Vietnam War protesters, it has a contemporary echo in the Pentagon’s admission that a database called Talon improperly recorded the activities of Iraq war protesters, he said.

“These documents are supposed to show the worst of the worst back then,” Mr. Bamford said. “But what’s going on today makes the family jewels pale by comparison.”

The controversial activities of the campaign against terrorism took place despite the changes enacted after the scandals of the 1970s.

The Bush administration chose to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, created in 1978 to oversee eavesdropping on American soil. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees, created to make sure past abuses would never be repeated, did little to rein in the N.S.A. wiretapping program or to set limits on interrogation practices until news reports set off a furor.

On the other hand, the recent surveillance activities appear so far to have been aimed at mostly people believed to pose a terrorist threat, not a political threat. So far there is no evidence of anything comparable, for example, to the F.B.I.’s relentless pursuit and harassment of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or the political abuses of Watergate.

“I think there’s a lower threshold today for activities that impinge on our privacy and civil liberties,” said Amy Zegart, author of the coming book Spying Blind: The F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the Origins of 9/11.

But she added the caveat that the full story might not be known for decades, quoting a line about the William J. Casey, C.I.A. director under President Ronald Reagan: “The old joke was that Casey wouldn’t tell you your coat was on fire unless you asked.”