Simon Tisdall / Guardian – 2007-06-23 22:44:06
WASHINGTON (June 23, 2007) — The CIA is to declassify secret records detailing operations including illegal domestic surveillance, assassination plots and kidnapping, undertaken from the 1950s to the early 1970s, at the height of the cold war and the Vietnam conflict.
The records were compiled in 1973 at the behest of the then CIA director, James Schlesinger, and collected in a 693-page dossier known as the “family jewels”. Although some of its contents have been leaked, the CIA has refused until now to put the full dossier in the public domain.
Mr Schlesinger acted after discovering that veteran CIA officers whose burglary of a Washington hotel room triggered the Watergate scandal, had received the agency’s cooperation in carrying out “dirty tricks” for President Richard Nixon.
According to the National Security Archive at George Washington University, Mr Schlesinger directed his officials to collate details of any other current or past agency activity that “might fall outside CIA authority” – that was, in other words, illegal. The results of the internal trawl were breathtaking. But within months of finalising the dossier, William Colby replaced Mr Schlesinger as CIA chief.
When the New York Times published a report on the CIA’s domestic surveillance operations in December 1974, apparently based in part on the dossier, panic erupted inside the administration of President Gerald Ford, who had succeeded Nixon. At a damage-limitation meeting in January 1975 with James Wilderotter, the deputy attorney-general, Colby laid bare the “skeletons” in the dossier.
Minutes of the meeting, obtained by the National Security Archive and posted at gwu.edu yesterday, list the skeletons one by one.
Domestic operations include the illegal detention and interrogation of a Russian defector, the wiretapping of columnists Robert Allen and Paul Scott, and the surveillance of other journalists including the late Jack Anderson. Several illegal break-ins are also listed.
In the minutes, Colby says some US citizens had been subjected to “unwitting” CIA drug experiments to induce “behaviour modification”. The CIA also illegally amassed 9,900 files on Americans involved in anti-war activities.
The minutes state that the CIA “plotted the assassination of some foreign leaders including [Fidel] Castro, [Patrice] Lumumba [Democratic Republic of Congo] and [Rafael] Trujillo [Dominican Republic].” They go on: “With respect to Trujillo’s assassination on May 30 1961, the CIA had ‘no active part’ but had a ‘faint connection’ with the groups that in fact did it.”
In an official record of a White House meeting with President Ford the next day, on January 4 1975, a rattled Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state and national security adviser, argues that the existence of the “family jewels” dossier, and its partial leaking, may turn into a major scandal – with the FBI investigating the CIA.
“What is happening is worse than in the days of McCarthy. You will end up with a CIA that does only reporting, not operations … What Colby has done is a disgrace,” Mr Kissinger tells Ford. “All these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. If they come out, blood will flow. For example, Robert Kennedy [the former attorney-general] personally managed the operation on the assassination of Castro.”
Announcing the decision to release the dossier next week, plus 11,000 pages of “hard target” intelligence gathered about the USSR and China from 1953-73, General Michael Hayden, the CIA director, said they offered a “glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency”.
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