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An Interview with Richard Helms

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This is the first time I was questioned about operational matters before a committee that I had understood the Congress did not want me to testify before on such matters. The consensus in the Congress, it always seemed to me, was quite clear. There were two attempts, one in 1955 and another in 1965, to broaden the committees that had oversight of the CIA. Both were defeated in the Senate. That should have settled the matter it would seem to me. But apparently it didn't.
  
So that there can be situations in which a Director of the CIA would have a right to lie in the national interest?
  
I don't think there is any question about that-just as other officials of the United States government would. I would suggest that if you unearth the transcript of the hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the U-2 was shot down over Russia, you will find that there were very high members of the United States Government who were not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They were trying to protect the President. He later admitted that he knew about the U-2 flight and revealed it. I am sure there are other examples of testimony before the Senate and House where the whole truth was not disgorged by members of the Executive Branch.
  
In fact you were not charged with lying, but rather with withholding information. I suppose that critics of the Intelligence Community would say that the sorry state that the intelligence business finds itself in now is not so much that things were made public but that the CIA and other agencies had done things which made news, that if there hadn't been assassination plots, if there hadn't been Operation Chaos, if there hadn't been drug testing and so on, then public disclosure would not have been harmful?
  
If the CIA had done nothing, then there would have been nothing to expose. When Vice President Humphrey came out to speak at the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Agency, he made the point to the audience very strongly that, "You are criticized and you will be criticized, but if you are an activist and get out and do the work that you are supposed to be doing in the world, you ought to be able to bear the criticism, but the only people that aren't criticized are those who do nothing, and I would hate to see this Agency get in that state." I grant you that the point you make is a valid one except that I would like to submit in evidence that the way that these matters were brought to public attention in the most flamboyant manner possible and sometimes almost in an atmosphere of hysteria, was most unfortunate.
  
Have you ever had any doubts about the Warren Commission's conclusions that J.F.K. was killed by a lone gunman acting alone?
  
No, I have never had any doubts about it. I didn't have any doubts when the Warren Commission made its report, and I don't have any today. I have never seen any persuasive evidence that anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy.
  
How close did either of the Kennedy brothers get to ordering attempts on the life of Fidel Castro?  
  
I can't answer the question directly. If you read the transcripts of the Church Committee, and there are many pages in the public domain, you can see what the problem is all about.
  
All I would like to ask is what did these so-called assassination plots against Castro amount to? The business about the suit that was supposed to have powder put on it
  
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM