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An Interview with Richard Helms

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May 1967 when we went over certain things that the Agency was doing. There is no record of it, however.
    
I did not testify to this effect before the Church Committee because there was no document to support such testimony. It was solely my word; President Johnson can't speak for himself. So, I didn't want to get this into any controversy. I don't feel, however, that it is was the wrong thing to do in terms of our efforts to see what the Soviets were doing to us.
    
Let me say that this issue is important for the future. We still have a problem with counterintelligence in this country. Not only has it fallen into disrepute, but there isn't very much being done.
    
Now is the moment for the Executive and Legislature to decide how they are going to protect this country against spies, saboteurs, and terrorists at home.
    
It is an important question. Our young people seem to be rather cavalier about such questions because of a lingering distaste for the Vietnamese war and other things, but they are the ones who are going to be affected. I think they ought to decide whether the right of survival of the country takes precedence over human rights in certain cases.
    
But, the Agency did end up with files or a cross index or whatever on over 300,000 Americans, files on protest organizations and 7,000 details of those figures?
    
These were names-most provided to us by the FBI. To hold names you need lists. Sometimes you open a file, but that doesn't mean you are targeting anyone. As a matter of fact, most of the files in the CIA aren't targeting anybody. They simply hold material, like the filing case in your office, the kind of correspondence you conduct.
    
For example, someone in the CIA today receives a letter from the FBI mentioning David Frost. Now, do you file the letter or throw it away? Usually you file it because you don't destroy material in the government except under a certain process. So, it would be filed and henceforth there would be a file on David Frost, who might be innocent as a lamb. Maybe it just said you went across the street and had a beer.
    
So that this question of the files on Americans has been blown out of all proportion and I am delighted to have the opportunity to set the record straight.
    
Including photographing individuals attending anti-war demonstrations?
    
There were two cases of this. There were two fellows for whom we were trying to build overseas cover so that when they went abroad they would have the proper credentials to penetrate foreign dissidents working against the United States.
    
We overstepped the line by encouraging these two to become a part of the demonstration, to get their credentials by meeting the leaders, so they could say when they went overseas that I was with Joe in that May Day demonstration and so forth.
    
In one of these cases all that material was put aside and never used or passed to anybody. But, when the boss of the section left, a new man arrived, found this material and distributed it all over the place.
    
When finally it was taken down to the Senate, it looked as though we had been spying on everybody in the United States. I want to wipe out that impression. We were not spying on people in the United States. We were not spying on anybody; we were trying to get this fellow prepared to go overseas. In retrospect we overstepped the line and I am sorry.
    
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM