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December 19, 2016
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April 18, 2006
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November 1, 1982
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OPERATIONS Tffgf Iff VTINff 1: ft "tf 4C ke"IP0015-5 News Bulletin Item from NEWSWEEK, page 53. 1 November 1982 Item #q Is Covert Action Necessary? W by not destabilize Nicaragua? The Marxist who eventually was deposed and Sandinistas are no friends of ours. assassinated. But no covert action is a com- They have cozied up to Castro and Brezh- plete success unless it remains a secret, and nev. They have funneled arms to the leftist secrets are hard to keep in an open society. rebels in El Salvador. They are building an In the case of Chile, the CIA tried to cover army larger than they need for their own up by lying to Congress, and eventually a defense. By example, if nothing else, they loyal American, former CIA Director pose a threat to right-wing rulers in places Richard Helms, had to plead no contest to a like Honduras and Guatemala-bad guys, false-testimony charge. Covert action can to be sure, but ourbad guys, and arguably no turn out for the best, but the only truly worse than the other kind. Which is the successful operations run by the CIA are the lesser evil: to unleash a little thuggery on the ones we still don't know about. Sandinistas, who play by those rules, or to Before World War II, intelligence work wash our hands of dirty tricks, for fear of consisted mostly of gathering information getting into deeper trouble? and thwarting enemy spies. The wartime Why not arm the rebels in Afghanistan? Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's pred- As a matter of fact, we're doing that. Why ecessor, broadened the franchise to include not make trouble for Muammar Kaddafi? propaganda, political action and dirty tricks We're doing that, too. Why not send secret of almost every description. After the war, financial aid to Solidarity? If we're doing the CIA helped the democracies of Western that, most Americans would approve-and Europe to stave off communist subversion would rather not know. There are worse by subsidizing socialists, Christian Demo- things than covert action. But if a democrat- crats and labor unions. In its heyday, which is nation is to meddle in the affairs of an- lasted until the mid-1970s, the CIA other country, it must abide by certain launched literally thousands of secret pro- rules: don't violate your own principles. grams, most of them low-budget political Don't make things worse. Don't get caught. and propaganda operations. But it didn't Subversion: The Central Intelligence hesitate to stage coups and raise private Agency defines covert action as "any clan- armies, especially in the Third World. There destine operation or activity designed to were fiascoes, notably at the Bay of Pigs. Yet influence foreign governments, organiza- the CIA also managed to overthrow leftist tions, persons or events in support of United regimes in countries like Guatemala and States foreign policy." That covers every- Iran and to wage a long "secret war" in Laos thing from planting a pro-American edito- by transforming primitive tribesmen into a rial in a foreign newspaper to staging coups surprisingly effective army. or raising secret armies. Democratic ideals Rebirth: In the wake of Vietnam and often do not square with covert action. Watergate, there was a virtual moratorium Some conspiracies launched in defense of on the messier kinds of covert action. CIA American democracy end up subverting de- operatives were discharged by the hun- mocracy elsewhere. In Chile, for example, dreds. Congress required that it be informed the CIA destabilized the government of an of every covert action. It was Jimmy Carter, elected president, Salvador Allende, a the champion of human rights and open 611 Approved For Release 2006/05/25 : CIA-RDP84B00049R001202830015-5 4:~_ woo Approved For Release 2006/05/25 :CIA-RDP84B00049R001202830015-5 INTERNATIONAL government, who presided over the rebirth of covert action. With Soviet troops occupy- ing Afghanistan and American diplomats held hostage in Iran, the CIA began to rebuild its secret sources of power and per- suasion. In Ronald Reagan's first year, the intelligence budget was increased by 20 per- cent, but according to one knowledgeable source, the number of clandestine oper- ations has not increased dramatically since Carter left office. In addition to the Nicaraguan adventure, NEWSWEEK has learned, the CIA is cur- rently running paramilitary operations in about 10 countries, including Afghanistan. The Afghanistan mission involves only a handful of CIA agents, but it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons shipped to the rebels through third parties, such as Egypt. Two separate covert actions have been aimed at Libyan leader Kaddafi. One was designed to stir up trouble for him in Chad (Libya has since withdrawn its occupation forces from that country). The other authorized contacts with Libyan dis- sidents in exile, in hopes of putting together a legitimate opposition. Briefing one con- gressional committee, CIA Director Wil- liam Casey said such activities might lead to the "ultimate" removal of Kaddafi. As a last resort, the destabilization or overthrow of a foreign government may be necessary, whether it involves subtle subver- sion or something nastier. Perhaps the same result could be achieved in broad daylight by military action or overt diplomacy. But if the public doesn't want to go to war, and if diplomacy offers insufficient leverage, cov- ert action is the only alternative to backing down. Such plots may offend a democracy's sense of decency-and seem expedient all the same. If the aim of a covert action is in line with what Americans generally consid- er necessary, prudent and moral, most of them will tolerate the means. Plot: Even so, a free society should not sacrifice its principles lightly. Plots against foreigners may not be as necessary as some practitioners of the covert arts would have us believe. In 1960 the CIA decided to kill Patrice Lumumba, the former prime minis- ter of the Congo, who appeared to be on the verge of regaining power and handing his country over to the Soviet Union. The U.S. plan to poison Lumumba was never carried out-in part, perhaps, because key CIA operatives thought murder was going too far. "I didn't regard Lumumba as the kind of person who was going to bring on World War III," CIA station chief Lawrence Dev- lin told a congressional committee years later. "I saw him as a danger to the political position of the United States in Africa, but nothing more than that." Eventually, Lu- AP punishment." The Congo, now known as Zaire, remains a loyal, if politically shaky, friend of the United States. Another drawback to covert action is that it often makes things worse-or at least no better. The killing of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, after a U.S.- sponsored coup, did not leave us with more effective allies in Saigon. Flirting with supporters of the hated Somoza clan will probably weaken the U.S. position in Nica- ragua, not strengthen it. Furthermore, in a democracy, it is almost impossible to guar- antee that a covert action will remain covert. Keeping secrets requires the acquies- cence, if not the connivance, of the press. In 1953 a New York Times reporter named Kennett Love decided not to write about the CIA's role in deposing leftist Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh-out of "misguided patriotism," Love said later. The story came out anyway. In 1961 John F. Kennedy persuaded the Times that a lot of what it knew about the impending Bay of Pigs operation shouldn't be printed. The Times withheld a big part of the story, the invasion was a disaster, and Kennedy con- cluded that the newspaper would have done him a favor if it had blown the whistle. nents, who announced in due course that he Whistles are blowing more frequently had been killed after escaping from jail. these days. Covert actions almost always f di "Murder corrupts," said another reluctant come to light--in news reports from distant Guatemalan rebels with leftist effigy, Af- ghan insurgents, Lumumba: Can subver- sion be a proper tool of foreign policy? or in leaks from critics in Congress, the administration or the intelligence agencies themselves. Reporters know that the story will come out, and that if they don't print it, a competitor will. Even today, the news media will generally suppress a story if pub- lication would put lives at risk or expose a secret that is indisputably vital to the na- tional interest. Beyond that, sopie reporters and editors say that they will withhold a story if the covert action in question strikes them as necessary, prudent and moral. The press has no business making such value judgments. Its role in an open society is to print the news, fully and fairly, not to calcu- late the incalculable consequences and shave the truth a bit here and there. Policy: A nation with global responsibil- ities still needs covert action as a third tool of foreign policy-one more forceful than diplomacy and less hideous than war. It is possible to conduct secret operations in a society like ours, but only with great diffi- culty. That is the way it should be for mis- sions that so commonly violate basic demo- cratic principles. The CIA may be at a disadvantage in competing with the machi- nations of closed societies, but no instru- ment of democratic government can be al- lowed to operate totally at odds with the ideals it is supposed to espouse and protect. RUSSELL WATSON with DAVID C. MARTIN in Washington CIA officer, but "I'm nigt 49"WWe I 98M 4B0~~49R001202830015-5