As described by Meteor Blades in his "CIA Opens the Door a Crack ... on Yesteryear" diary, tomorrow the CIA will release 693 declassified pages detailing some of their illegal activities. The National Security Archive has posted some of the preliminary details in the Electronic Briefing Book No. 222, edited by Thomas Blanton, who headlines the story with:
Agency Violated Charter for 25 Years,
Wiretapped Journalists and Dissidents
CIA Announces Declassification of 1970s "Skeletons" File,
Archive Posts Justice Department Summary from 1975,
With White House Memcons on Damage Control
The National Security Archive is not a left wing rookery. They are "an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University." They collect and publish declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and won the 1999 George Polk Award for "piercing the self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in the search for the truth and informing us all."
The latest information posted on the National Security Archive says:
Washington D.C., June 21, 2007 - The Central Intelligence Agency violated its charter for 25 years until revelations of illegal wiretapping, domestic surveillance, assassination plots, and human experimentation led to official investigations and reforms in the 1970s, according to declassified documents posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden announced today that the Agency is declassifying the full 693-page file amassed on CIA's illegal activities by order of then-CIA director James Schlesinger in 1973--the so-called "family jewels." Only a few dozen heavily-censored pages of this file have previously been declassified, although multiple Freedom of Information Act requests have been filed over the years for the documents. Gen. Hayden called the file "a glimpse of a very different time and a very different Agency." The papers are scheduled for public release on Monday, June 25.
The National Security Archive posted a a six-page summary (NOTE: pdf file) prepared by Justice Department lawyers detailing some of the illegal activities, along with the memorandum of conversation prepared after Gerald Ford was briefed on January 3, 1975.
William Colby, then CIA Director, and CIA general counsel John Warner briefed Deputy Attorneys General with a list of 18 items that "presented legal questions." The list included:
- Confinement of a Russian defector that "might be regarded as a violation of the kidnapping laws."
- Wiretapping of two syndicated columnists, Robert Allen and Paul Scott.
- Physical surveillance of muckraker Jack Anderson and his associates, including current Fox News anchor Brit Hume.
- Physical surveillance of then Washington Post reporter Michael Getler.
- Break-in at the home of a former CIA employee.
- Break-in at the office of a former defector.
- Warrantless entry into the apartment of a former CIA employee.
- Mail opening from 1953 to 1973 of letters to and from the Soviet Union.
- Mail opening from 1969 to 1972 of letters to and from China.
- Behavior modification experiments on "unwitting" U.S. citizens.
- Assassination plots against Castro, Lumumba, and Trujillo (on the latter, "no active part" but a "faint connection" to the killers).
- Surveillance of dissident groups between 1967 and 1971.
- Surveillance of a particular Latin American female and U.S. citizens in Detroit.
- Surveillance of a CIA critic and former officer, Victor Marchetti.
- Amassing of files on 9,900-plus Americans related to the antiwar movement.
- Polygraph experiments with the San Mateo, California, sheriff.
- Fake CIA identification documents that might violate state laws.
- Testing of electronic equipment on US telephone circuits.
Some of the activities seem all too familiar: Confinement that "might be regarded as a violation of the kidnapping laws"; Wiretapping; Surveillance of dissident groups; Surveillance of critics; Amassing files on Americans related to the antiwar movement; and "Testing of electronic equipment" on US telephone circuits, as these activities are still being conducted - sometimes under color of law, sometimes not.
Of course, many details from the "very different time and a very different Agency" are omitted. For example, there is apparently no mention of CIA cocaine trafficking in the US. The story published in the San Jose Mercury News by Gary Webb was ridiculed by the L.A. Times, the New York Times and the Washington Post. CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirmed that between 1982 and 1995 the CIA was exempted from informing the Department of Justice about its agents dealing drugs, and submitted a report to Congress that said:
... "In September 1981, as a small group of rebels was being formed from former soldiers in the National Guard of the deposed Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, a CIA informant reported that the leadership of the fledgling group had decided to smuggle drugs to the United States to support its operation..."
As noted by Alexander Cockburn in the FreePress article cited above, four important things are revealed by that statement:
- The Contras were involved in drug running from the very start.
- The CIA knew the Contras were smuggling drugs into the U.S. to raise money.
- The decision was made by Contras leadership, not profiteers.
- The CIA was concealing those facts from Congress, the DEA and the FBI.
And, Adolfo Calero, the civilian leader and Enrique Bermudez, the military leader, were handpicked by the CIA.
Senator John Kerry Chaired a 1989 Senate Foreign Relations Committee that looked into the issue of CIA run drug rings used to fund the Contras. Kerry said, "There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, or on the payroll of the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the Contras."
Oliver North said in an interview with FRONTLINE:
... If we have a foreign policy that says we're going to oppose the spread of Communism, that's not inconsistent with the (drug) policy ... We're not going to tolerate the flow of drugs into this country. Unfortunately you've got members of Congress up there who want to beat the drum and blame the problem of narcotics in America on the Nicaraguan resistance. And that's just not the case.
... He is either misinformed or lying... Oliver North's diaries are filled with references to drug trafficking and people associated with his enterprise drug trafficking--filled with it. Oliver North can say, 'I never hired or worked with any drug traffickers.' His organization did."
All of the "reforms" in the 1970s, didn't stop the CIA from breaking the law in the 1980s - and by many accounts, their disregard for the law continues. The so-called "family jewels" are still secured.
A recent diary by redstatehatemonitor, "Dark Stain on Ronald Reagans Legacy" offers more detail of the Kerry Committee's 1986 report and other lowlights of the Ronald Reagan Administration.
For those not familiar with Gary Webb, here is a link to some of his writing.