Library

 

An Interview with Richard Helms

Previous Next

Did you have evidence that it wouldn't be successful unless he stayed there for a long time?
      
That is too minute a detail for me to remember.
      
Do you think that overall, the CIA was responsible for overly optimistic assessments by both Presidents Johnson and Nixon of how we were going to do in Vietnam, or do you think that was political optimism overlapped on not overly optimistic CIA estimates?
      
I don't think that the CIA was in the vanguard of optimism about the Vietnamese war at any time. As a matter of fact, one of the most difficult problems for the DCI during that period with both President Johnson and President Nixon was the charge of negativism, that after all you are Americans, you are on the team, why is it you see these things so negatively? Why is it these things are never going to work? What is the matter with you fellows?
      
The OPEC oil embargo came about in October '73 but the Nixon people seemed to have resented the lack of any contingency plans for an embargo going back months or years. Is that a fair point?
      
I would not have thought so. I would have thought that the United States Government should have had a contingency plan for an embargo of that kind because it affected the entire country.
      
Were there ever CIA people in any other government department without the knowledge of the head of that department?
      
Never. But there might have been instances in which a responsible person in the department knew, whereas the head may not have been personally aware, if you want to make that qualification. However, the CIA did not go about planting agents or spies or the like in any agency of the Government or-most importantly-in the White House. I would like to put this myth to rest forever.
      
There were as many as 90 or 100 employees of the CIA in various parts of the White House at different times-in communications, handling telegrams in the Secretariat, in the Situation Room. There were Agency secretaries working in parts of the White House. We loaned telephone operators. It was our effort to help the White House staff itself in the way that it thought was required. There was nothing secretive about it. For a long time, the White House was staffed largely by people seconded from other agencies-the Department of State and Defense, the CIA and from any place that they could borrow people. That was one of the ways the President kept the White House budget down.
      
To revert to H. R. Haldeman, was Alexander Butterfield a CIA plant?
      
He was not.
      
Let's come on to that 15 September 1972 meeting after Allende had already won the popular election on 4 September though not with a plurality. You said later that if ever you left the Oval Office with the marshal's baton in your knapsack, it was on that day.
      
Well, that was one of those zingy phrases which one should refrain from ever using.
 
8

Previous Next

Posted: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM