An Interview with Richard Helms


integrity and trust,
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another Pearl Harbor, that is an intelligence organization which could review and analyze independently and objectively all of the material coming into the United States Government, but we also made some significant contributions in the technical field. The CIA has been in the vanguard of that quantum jump in the use of intelligence derived from photographics, satellites, electronics, overflights-a whole series of technological achievements. Some were developed in consort with the Department of Defense but the ideas for many of them originated in the Agency itself.
Then last, but by no means least, we did develop a worldwide network of intelligence collection which has made a significant contribution.
What about the complaints of liberal critics of the CIA that we always end up in the name of freedom on the side of the suppressors of freedom? Where has the CIA advanced human rights?
That is simply an unfair charge. The whole history of the CIA, if you care to examine it, was to support the non-communist left, not only in Europe but in Latin America and elsewhere, and I think the record will show that this is what was done. Obviously, we have dealt with dictatorships of the right in various places where it seemed required in the anti-communist context which certainly governed this Government's policies overseas during the 50s and the 60s. But if you examine the record, I think that a great deal was done to support the non-communist left against takeover by the Soviets. Take the youth movement of the 50s and 60s when the Agency was supporting the young people at international conferences. The Soviets put on about two of these meetings after we began to do so and then never put them on again because young people from the free world were able to dominate the conferences and prevent the Soviets and their satellites from controlling youth movements the world over.
So do you think in a sense there is a double standard in the media that applies to right wing dictators as opposed to left wing dictators?
There is no question that there is a double standard; left wing dictators seem to be treated very well by the media, whereas right wing dictators are beyond the pale. We suffer, it seems to me, from a bit of provincialism in thinking that the kind of democracy that developed in the United Kingdom and in the United States is exportable everywhere. That simply isn't true.
But there are certain irreducible human values that are universal, wouldn't you say?
I would and I believe that firmly. But I don't find that those values are adhered to any more in left wing or communist dictatorships than in any other.
Is it practical that the public be informed of what Intelligence is doing in its name?
I don't quite see how, particularly in the secret intelligence field. It may be possible to tell them about oil imports and wheat estimates and things of that kind, although I happen not to agree even with that. I don't think that the Agency ought to make documents public, even if theoretically they are sanitized. Anybody reading them knows that a lot of the information came from secret sources and even if it's fuzzed up, the fact remains that there is put in the public domain more evidence, more material, for the opposition to examine and to study and to deduce how the data have been gathered.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 03:06 PM