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An Interview with Richard Helms

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Nobody was damaged that I know of and nobody was disadvantaged.
     
Do you agree with the Rockefeller Commission's view that you exercised poor judgment in January of '73 by destroying documents that might have contained evidence?
     
Tapes-not documents-were destroyed. No, I don't agree.
     
One recorder was attached to my telephone and the other could be used to record conversations in my office. Neither, may I say, was activated by sound; both required the pushing of a button.
     
These tapes contained material having to do with foreign policy and US intelligence; they would have been damaging to our foreign policy, if they had gotten into the public domain. I thought that then, I think so now. I would do the same thing today. A great deal has been made of the fact that Senator Mansfield wrote various government agencies not to destroy material having to do with Watergate. I did not destroy material having to do with Watergate. Nobody can examine those tapes, so there is no way to verify my assertion-but I promise you it is true.
     
In the case of Operation Mud Hen, do you think you overstepped the line there with the surveillance of Jack Anderson?
     
When I was testifying before the Senate Select Committee in May 1978, I said this is a totally unclear area and needs to be looked at.
     
I was criticized in the Rockefeller Commission Report for undertaking this surveillance of Anderson, saying I had no authority to do so under the Director's charge by statute to protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.
     
Now if you are going to give the Director this responsibility in the future, then I think you have either got to define it, give him the wherewithal to achieve his purpose, or don't give him the responsibility.
     
This is an unclear area to this day, and I think it ought to be cleared up one way or the other.
     
The drug testing is a mystery to me. How did the CIA feel that LSD and such things fitted in with national security?
     
All of this started back in the very early fifties, when you will recall we were just coming out of the Korean War and there was deep concern over the issue of brainwashing.
     
As a matter of fact, a man named Hunter had written a book entitled "Brainwashing in Red China," and "brainwashing" was a literal translation of the Chinese words, and we wondered what it was all about. Did they use sodium pentothal or drugs of one kind or another?
     
We had learned that something called LSD had been discovered in Switzerland by a scientist named Hoffman. It was tasteless, odorless, and colorless and taken even in small quantities created a kind of schizophrenia.
     
Coincidentally, I think it was in 1952, Ambassador Kerman came out of Moscow and made a speech in Berlin that the Soviets regarded as so egregious that they declared him persona non grata. We wondered whether he'd been administered some
     
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM