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An Interview with Richard Helms

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integrity and trust,
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there kept the game honest. The other people present had to be a little careful about the way they pushed their individual causes on policies, because they knew very well that I probably had the facts fairly straight and wouldn't hesitate to speak up.
I think it is fairly clear that President Nixon was very distrustful of the CIA-- largely because of the missile gap which was alleged to have existed at the time of his 1959 campaign against Mr. Kennedy. He felt that he lost that election because of the so-called missile gap and held the CIA at fault. He had it in for the Agency in the sense that he was very distrustful of what we advocated and felt that our estimates had been wrong at times. There was not very much opportunity to talk to him personally. He liked to deal through Kissinger and Haig, and so we had an arrangement whereby written reports were sent to him and he read them. When necessary, one could talk to him, obviously, but it was a more stylized and formalized arrangement. He took it in faster through the eye, and preferred to do so. So did President Johnson, for that matter. He liked to read reports; he didn't want to be talked to.
In his book, The Ends of Power, H. R. Haldeman claims Nixon also resented the fact Kennedy had been briefed by Allen Dulles on the possibility of a Bay of Pigs operation so Kennedy was able to advocate aggressive action against Castro while Nixon, since he knew it was really going to happen, had to seem to oppose it in order not to tip the administration's hand.
I have seen that, but I know nothing about the merits of the allegation.
In the same book, Haldeman refers to an unspoken feud between CIA Director Richard Helms and Nixon.
There was none on my part. He was my President. I worked for him, and I had no sense of a feud at all. I was doing the best I could to satisfy his requirements and the requirements of the office. Haldeman must have got the notion of a feud from President Nixon-not from me.
Is the story in the Haldeman book that Nixon wanted certain documents on the Bay of Pigs and that you resisted handing them over true?
It isn't only in the Haldeman book but in President Nixon's book, as well, that I was asked for certain documents by Ehrlichman. I collected the documents, ones that I felt would be satisfactory for the purpose. I then insisted on seeing President Nixon, because I wanted to be sure that he wanted them himself and that he, as my boss, asked me for them.
The appointment was arranged and I did go down to see him in October of '71. I turned over the documents that he had requested and, as far as I knew, they were satisfactory. He never told me later that he hadn't received what he wanted. So, I don't understand the complaint in the Haldeman book-or in Nixon's-that they asked for more material than I provided.
After all, under the law the Director of Central Intelligence reports to the National Security Council, which, in effect, is the President. He was my boss. We have one President at a time and if he wanted a document from the CIA, what right did I have to decline to give it to him?
Haldeman says in his book that when Ehrlichman read the materials you had delivered, he found that several reports, including the one on the Bay of Pigs, incomplete. But they never said that to you?
They didn't. They just said it among themselves apparently. As I recall, I took three documents with me. One was about the Bay of Pigs, the second about Trujillo

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 03:07 PM