September 29th, 2009

Joseph Trento:
Privatizing the CIA


From Sibel Edmonds’ website, 123Change, a Boiling Frogs interview with investigative journalist Joseph J. Trento, author of, among others, The Secret History of the CIA and Prelude to Terror: The Rogue CIA and the Legacy of America’s Private Intelligence Network.

The book must be read, and the interview is perhaps just the thing to get you going.

Here is a tidbit — of the interview (not the book):

On All Hallows Eve, 1977 [President Carter and CIA Director Stansfield Turner] fired 800 people in the clandestine services, which was the old boy club of the CIA.

And after they did that it basically started a revolution against the Carter government. Jimmy Carter never got any intelligence of any value after that as president.

And what’s worse is that the CIA was very political after this. And they were backing George Bush for president. The first George Bush. George Bush’s knowledge of intelligence matters was pretty small, but he stood as a symbol for them of the kind of independence they were always entitled to.

You see, the CIA had a history of just incredible failure, from the very beginning. And every time there was an investigation — for example, the Church investigation that looked into, you know, the Rogue Elephant, in the mid 1970s — the CIA response would be, ‘But you’re going to ruin our morale.’

Everytime you would start to examine if the CIA has done something wrong or violated US law, the clarion call from Republicans and conservatives was you’re going to ruin our morale. And the Democrats, for reasons that I never quite understood, went along with this.

After the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy sent his brother Robert over to basically run the agency. John McCone was the Director of the CIA, but in effect Robert F. Kennedy was running it.

And John F Kennedy was so fed up with the CIA before his death, that he called in the former commandant of the Marine Corps, two weeks before he was killed in Dallas, and asked General David Shoup to take over the CIA the following January.

Now Kennedy would be killed in the interim. But to take over the CIA — and I’m going to quote directly what Kennedy said to David Shoup:

“Take it apart, board by board, and scatter it to the four winds.”

The CIA was on life support with Kennedy. The Vietnam War saved the CIA.

But knowing that, you have a pretty good idea of how the CIA would behave from then on. They would then politicize intelligence, give presidents what they wanted to hear … And the agency then became extremely political.

By the time Nixon took office, Henry Kissinger was routinely playing with intelligence, and doing it in a very brazen way. And if a CIA officer did not provide Kissinger what he wanted, that officer would lose his job. And that became sort of the mantra of the CIA.

So by the time we get to Jimmy Carter, this confidence in [the CIA's] ability to manipulate presidents was well established, established to the point where the CIA was doing a lot of very interesting things.

For example, during the Nixon administration, the CIA would allow terrorist organizations it was dealing with, for example, the Directorate of Intelligence in Chile, to work with Savak. They would fly the top officials of the Directorate to tutor on torture techniques from the Iranians. … They were doing the same thing with the Bureau of State Security in South Africa.

We had all these Cubans we had trained in assasination and bombing. We didn’t know quite what to do with them, so we allowed the allied, but largely dictatorial, governments to then hire these Cubans to conduct assassinations of inconvenient politicians and protestors and other people. condor And in fact one of the [CIA-affiliated] operations the Chilean secret service was involved in was called Condor, and they did assassinations all over Europe, all over South America, all the way over to South Africa.

So that’s sort of the atmosphere the CIA was operating in by the time Carter comes into office. And so Carter knows it’s a mess … And so Carter says well, let’s try to straighten it out. And he had no idea what he was taking on.

… The agency was completely out of control by this point. And they were doing deals. You know, you had Ed Wilson, who ran business fronts for the agency, basically buying off the agency hierarchy with money and gifts and so forth. He bought a horse farm in Virginia … and he was actually secretly bringing Libyans into this little town to be trained on his horse farm in doing explosives. I mean they were doing just the craziest things.

And so, America was very involved in this. And what we missed — because we didn’t have any real intelligence — was there was some very dangerous things going on. The Muslim Brotherhood, which started in Egypt in the 20s …

Trento goes on to talk about Richard Helms, the career spook fired as CIA Director by Nixon in 1973 and sent to Tehran as the US ambassador, where he established ties with the brewing religious right of the ayatollahs and (according to Trento) faciliated Fatwah assassinations of the Shah’s allies in the US.

And Trento talks of the genesis of the Carlyle Group (Bush pere, John Major, etc) as an outgrowth of Anglo-American governmental sponsorship of both sides in the bloody Iran-Iraq war of the 80s (when Major was Prime Minister and Bush pere as Vice President was CIA Director William Casey’s hidden right-hand).

One can pick up the Richard Helms thread in Trento’s book, Prelude to Terror, which focuses on the privatized intelligence network that Helms, with help from CIAist Ted Shackley, organized from Tehran.

In Trento’s view, the Wilson and Helms ventures, in Virgina, in Tehran, were the beginning of the privatization of American covert operations capacity, there in the 70s, as the political system tried to clean up the CIA in the wake of the Kennedy and King assasinations.

When you shovel out the Augean Stables, what happens to the manure?

Why it just shuffles off to the private sector.

Sitcher self down with some sour mash and listen to the entire interview.