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An Interview with Richard Helms

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recognized that Hoover was encroaching on my territory, and I did my best to keep this encroachment down to a minimum. President Nixon wanted it, and since he did, we would accommodate to it.
  
There is no sense in being immature about these things. I felt that the breakdown over the Colorado affair was quite unnecessary, but this was, obviously, in a fit of petulance on Mr. Hoover's part, and, like most things that come as a fit of pique or petulance, it was short-lived. It wasn't very many days before we were back to the status quo ante, but the papers had been going back and forth, and people were talking informally, and the work of the two agencies was not impeded.
  
A lot has been made out of it. It is one of those episodes that are easy to dramatize, but the working level in both agencies kept things on an even keel.
  
After all, you must recognize that if these two organizations don't work together, the United States is ill-served, and I think most of us had that sense.
  
You knew that Hoover was trying to encroach on your territory. How did you limit that encroachment?
  
I think the word "encroach" is too strong. There have been so-called "legal attaches" in embassies abroad since World War II. Those legal attaches were Hoover's men. Hoover wanted to expand those legal attache officers in certain places. This would not "encroach" on the CIA's efforts. We have a great deal of work to do. There is a certain specialized kind of work the FBI did overseas and it did not get in our way. What was involved here, more than encroachment, was the fact that the embassies had to absorb additional people-which the State Department and the Foreign Service obviously didn't like very much.
  
I didn't like it much either, but I was in no position to remonstrate about it, since it was quite clearly delineated that the legal attaches were not going to duplicate any of the work that our people did.
  
Do you think Hoover, knowing Nixon didn't like the CIA, sold the plan to him partly by intimating that he could also keep an eye on the CIA?
  
I never suspected that because, frankly, what was there to keep an eye on? We had a highly disciplined organization overseas with first quality people doing the best job they knew how to do and if somebody wanted to mind their business for them, let them mind it. But I doubt very much that the FBI fellows wanted that kind of job or would have done it anyway.
  
In the last resort, who do you think was responsible for exposing CIA to the public? Was it Ehrlichman? Nixon? Daniel Schorr? Was it William Colby?
  
I don't think there is any place to lay it except at the feet of Director Colby who, after all, was the one who made available all of this material. To this day, I am not sure why he handled matters the way he did. He explains his reasons in his book and obviously I am required to accept his explanation.
  
But the thing that had bothered me, quite frankly, is Mr. Colby's belief that he had a constitutional obligation to do all this. I am no lawyer, but it has always been my understanding that any question of constitutionality has to be decided by the courts, with the Supreme Court the final arbiter.
  
But the legality or the requirement for the release of these hordes of documents to the House and Senate Committees never was tested before the fact in the courts. Finally, President Ford stood aside and watched it happen, when if it was going to be
  
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM