On September 18, 1947, the US Congress approved the National Security Act of 1947 which brought about the National Security Council. Under Title 1, Section 102 of that law, authority was granted for the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Prior to the formation of the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), dating back to June 1942 under the direction of William Donovan, had conducted undercover activities.
The OSS had neither clearly defined work it was to perform nor the mechanisms to control its activities, undertaking whatever activity it was asked of them: assassinations, kidnappings, undercover assignments, law violations, sabotage, commando operations, meddling in other nations’ internal affairs and whatever intelligence needs other agencies did not wish to perform because they considered it “dirty work.”
Aside from the special operations being performed by its agents and officers, the OSS created an important department of Comparative Intelligence Analysis in charge not only of processing data obtained, but also for creating the means of both misinformation and propaganda that were to be put in place against the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo axis.
Information was also obtained by electronic means using a network of stations of which Coonawarra, near Darwin (Australia), was the most important … altogether, the OSS had 13 stations to intercept mainly coded messages.
At the end of World War II, it was deemed necessary to have all the activities from the different agencies coordinated and consolidated so that they could be transmitted to the high echelons of the US government. To that end, an organization was instituted, the US Intelligence Community, to which all intelligence and counterintelligence agencies would belong, among them the recently created Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whose director would also served as the director for the Intelligence Community.
* CIA’s first director was Rear-Admiral Roscoe “Hilly” Hillenkoetter. Although Donovan had been nominated for that position, there was opposition by some intelligence agencies and it became necessary to find an individual acceptable to all, and “Hilly” coming from a military intelligence background was such candidate.
The CIA’s first undercover operation, which took place in 1948, was directed to prevent the Italian Communist Party from taking power. The operation, at a cost of US$30 million, had a strong participation by the Italian mafia, a relationship which had existed since WWII. That same year, the CIA created the Office of Political Coordination that, in order to hide its “true purposes,” was placed within the US State Department. The purpose of this office, or department, was to develop political, psychological and economic actions that would favor the US objective: reduction of Soviet influence around the world.
During the Korean War (1950-3) the CIA was given the assignment to open up a second front that would originate in China. Chinese Nationalists were recruited as mercenaries, their training taking place in Northern Burma (now Myanmar). President Truman eventually terminated the operation, but these mercenaries remained in Burma where they established an opium growing operation… with Thailand as original destination en-route to the US. This drug traffic continues to date.
In order to direct operations against the Socialist nations in Eastern Europe, the CIA recruited in 1951 Nazi war criminals that were assigned missions behind the “Iron Curtain” to promote both sabotage and insurgencies. Hillenkoetter was substituted in 1951 by Gen. Walter B. Smith, who became an enthusiastic participant in undercover operations. Gen. Smith moved the Office of Political Coordination from the State Department to the CIA and increased intelligence activities against Socialist countries.
“Operation PB Success” which took place in 1954 ended ousting Jacobo Arbenz, who was heading a legitimately constituted government in Guatemala. Cost for the operation is placed at US$15 million, and it involved the use of American P-47s piloted by mercenaries, and a group of 150 men commanded by CIA agent Carlos Castillo de Armas. A CIA radio station took charge of psychological warfare operations during the invasion giving erroneous information on military action; that while other agents bribed civil servants and members of the military. Arbenz’ mistake was to take political and economic measures in defense of his country’s interests.
During Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship in Cuba, the CIA tried on several occasions to stop the “Movimiento 26 de Julio” forces from reaching victory. In mid-1958, the CIA contacted Justo Carrillo to carry a coup with politicians and military uncommitted to Batista in order to end the latter’s regime and call for normalcy, so that the insurrectional fight would lose its momentum and main objective. Such attempt did not succeed, and the “Movimiento 26 de Julio,” with the support of the people, assumed power.
The naming of Allen Dulles as head of the CIA in 1959 opened a new chapter in the fight to stop the Soviet Union from gaining any ground. Several operations of varied types took place at this time, many of them relevant to shaping the course of events, and the help given to US sympathizers or those afraid of “the Russians.”
“Operation Ajax” which took place in 1959 jointly with British intelligence, at a cost of US$10 million, resulted in the overthrow of Premier Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, who had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. It brought back to power the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a well known US puppet.
With respect to Cuba, Allen Dulles’ intelligence gatherings indicated that Communists and other radical elements had infiltrated the “Movimiento 26 de Julio.”
Information of such infiltration originated organizing in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) a “foreign legion” made up of several hundred mercenaries and close to two-hundred former members of Batista’s old army, getting them ready to invade the Island (Cuba). This plan was approved by Richard Nixon, then Vice President of the US.
Heading the invasion would be Batista’s general Eugenio Pedraza and the operation would have the support of the “II Frente Nacional del Escambray” and “La Rosa Blanca,” a counterrevolutionary organization created, directed and financed by the CIA. The operation ended in the capture of almost all invaders as well as a sizable cache of weapons, together with the expulsion of several US Embassy officials in Havana.
Early on, the CIA initiated plans to do away physically with the Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro, and to date, after 49 years, the number of attempts adds up to more than six-hundred.
On December 11, 1959, Colonel J. C. King, CIA Division Chief in charge of Affairs for the Western Hemisphere, stated in a secret memorandum to the Director: “Serious consideration must be given to the elimination of Fidel Castro. None of those closest to him, such as his brother Raul or his friend Che Guevara, have the same charismatic influence over the masses. Many well informed people consider that the disappearance of Fidel would greatly accelerate the fall of the current government.”
It should be noted that 1959 saw sabotage actions by the CIA by different means, among them the bombing of civilian targets, the setting on fire of cane plantations, and the dissemination of subversive propaganda utilizing light planes. These attacks caused not only economic losses but were responsible for several deaths and many wounded.
In 1960, the CIA initiated an operation in Congo to bring down Patrice Lumumba’s government which ended in that leader assassinated. The CIA Station Chief, Lawrence Devin, was given orders to promote an insurrection in Katanga province under Moise Tshombe, a CIA agent. Belgian and American interests were then coordinated so as to assure control of the world’s largest uranium reserves.
On March 4, 1960, sabotage of “La Coubre,” a French ship, took place in Havana’s Harbor. This action taken by the CIA to destroy weaponry and support items which had been purchased by Cuba from Belgium also caused the death of 101 individuals and the wounding of several hundred others.
The “Plan of Undercover Actions against the Castro Regime” was approved on May 17, 1960 by the president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. It included air and naval pirate attacks, assassination attempts against Fidel and other leaders, sabotage, acts against the economy, promotion and support for counterrevolutionary groups within Cuba, and also included what later was to be the invasion of Playa Giron.
The purpose behind all these actions was the overthrow of the revolutionary regime, which had to appear as the result of mistakes made by such regime as well as a strong popular support against it. After signing the Plan, Eisenhower stated: “I don’t know of a better plan to take care of the situation. The big problem is leaks and lack of security; everyone must be willing to swear that I don’t know a thing about this… my hands must not appear on anything that it’s done, on anything that it’s done.”
In order to damage Fidel’s public image, operation “MK-ULTRA” was developed which consisted in the dissemination of hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD and BZ, in any TV studio where he might be. This and other operations did not materialize because of fear among those who were supposed to carry them out. At the same time, work had also started on a plan intended to cause the “accidental death” of Raul Castro.
During that time (1960) the CIA maintained a powerful station in Miami, known as JM/WAVE. Its sole mission was to undermine the Cuban government. The station had 40 employees which by April 1961 had grown to 538, commanding a budget of $50 million, which made it the largest US clandestine CIA station in the world.
As the invasion was being prepared, the CIA continued focused on its intent to physically do away with the Commander-in-Chief, thinking that if it did take place, military action would have a greater chance for success. In August 1960, the CIA got in touch with the mafia, its old and loyal ally. Colonel Sheffield Edwards, a high ranking CIA official got together with Johnny Roselli and offered him US$150,000 to assassinate Castro. This action was approved by Sam Giancana, Godfather of the Chicago Mafia, who proposed they would do the work without charging a penny as proof of their patriotism. An old link of the mafia was given the assignment to poison Fidel; the poison did arrive in Cuba, but once again, as it had happened with other plans, fear took over, preventing the deed.
Kennedy’s arrival to power in 1960 did not imply a change in politics towards Cuba. Kennedy had accused Eisenhower and Nixon of tolerating a Communist regime just 90 miles off the Florida coast, and that gave the CIA renewed zeal for new actions against the Island. As a consequence, there was an increase in sabotage, burning of sugar cane, assassination attempts, sequestering of planes and vessels, and other violent and criminal acts.
All the above served as preparation for the Playa Giron invasion, the so-called “Operation Pluto” and later “Operation Zapata.” It was the mission of the 2506 Brigade to establish a beachhead where a “Provisional Government of the Republic Under Arms” could be found – that would take place on March 22, 1961 under the auspices of the CIA, such government presided by Jose Miro Cardona. That government would be immediately recognized by the United States which would “legally” permit the landing of 15,000 marines followed by whatever military support was deemed necessary to bring down the revolution. The marines and two aircraft carriers and escort ships would be just out of Cuban jurisdictional waters to execute the lightening operation.
On April 15, readiness for the invasion was set in place with the bombing of the airports at Ciudad Libertad, San Antonio de los Banos and Santiago de Cuba. Radio Swan, a CIA radio station transmitting from Honduras was in charge of disinformation and propaganda trying to get the Cuban people to join forces against the Revolution. On April 17, the invasion which had been created, organized and financed by the CIA took place, but 72 hours later the invading forces had been defeated. As a result, not only did Allen Dulles lose his position as Director of the CIA but this resounding defeat eroded any confidence the Kennedy brothers may have had on that agency.
Trying to save face at all costs, the CIA initiated in 1962 “Operation Peter Pan” which allowed thousands of Cuban children to be sent to the US by parents who believed the lie that they would lose custody of their children otherwise. The sabotage acts against the Cuban economy, attacks by pirate boats, assassination attempts and other crimes doubled. In that same year, Robert Kennedy, US Attorney General, declared that the government top priority was to do away with Fidel Castro. Based on that priority, the CIA prepared a plan of undercover operations called “Operation Mongoose.” The plan included, besides the physical elimination of the Commander-in-Chief, the gathering of intelligence, subversion, sabotage, direct military action, and all the support necessary for any internal counterrevolution, specially those groups operating in Escambray.
Publicly, the CIA offered in 1962 rewards for the assassination of Cuban leaders, paying from US$5,000 to US$100,000 depending on the importance of person assassinated. It also increased the number of infiltrating groups assigned the tasks of sabotage and assassination, and the smuggling of weapons and provisions for those groups operating in the different provinces.
As a consequence of that plan of undercover operations, the CIA and other agencies in the US Intelligence Community bacteriological war operations were started to affect the marine fauna, sugar cane and other crops. General Lansdale proposed “Task 33” with the objective to affect the sugar cane harvest by disseminating chemical substances which would affect as well the health and lives of those workers doing the harvesting.
On October 29, 1962, in Paris (France), the CIA recruited Rolando Cubelas, whom it gave the cover name of AM-Lash. Cubelas was given a strong poison-contaminated needle, hidden in a pen, by Desmond Fitzgerald, CIA Task Group Chief; the poison to perform the assassination. Cubelas was discovered, and this turned out to be one more unsuccessful attempt. In October of the same year, the so-called “October Crisis” took place. U-2 spy planes, together with other intelligence gathered by the CIA, had discovered the placement of rocket launchers in the San Cristobal area in Pinar del Rio.
Also in 1962, the CIA initiated “Operation Phoenix” in Southeast Asia, principally in Vietnam. The CIA had a staff of as many as an 800 people assigned to this operation, with close to another 5,000 from other agencies of the US Intelligence Community, not including United States Army, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel. The operation incurred costs in excess of one billion dollars. The operation became unsuccessful as Vietnam was liberated.
In the years that followed, anti-Cuba activities continued with acts of sabotage, hijacking of fishing boats, provocations from the naval base at Guantanamo, electronic radio spying, pirate attacks and bacteriological warfare. Actions against Cuban foreign delegations continued, targeting them with bombs and having some of the members assassinated.
* During 1967 the CIA maintained a high level of activity against the guerrillas operating in Bolivia, and on October 8, Comandante Ernesto “Che” Guevara was assassinated in La Higuera with the aid of CIA agents of Cuban origin.
In subsequent years, the CIA and other agencies of the US Intelligence Community maintained their hostility against the Cuban Revolution which was manifested in acts of sabotage, terrorist attempts, assassinations, pirate attacks and provocations from the Guantanamo naval base. Those activities were performed under a series of given task names created by the CIA: “Omega 7,” “Alfa 66,”Poder Cubano,” “Movimiento Nacionalista Cubano,” “La Rosa Blanca,” and others.
Acts of bacteriological warfare were perpetrated to harm the Cuban economy. Viruses were introduced to harm the coffee production, the cultivation of rice, tobacco and sugar cane; and also the pork production. Even humans were targeted with the introduction of the virus Hemorrhagic Fever Dengue and Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis.
Latin America felt the monster’s bite when the CIA, jointly with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other agencies of the US Intelligence Community organized and financed the coup that overthrew the duly elected constitutional government in Chile on September 11, 1973 and brought about the assassination of Salvador Allende. The CIA spent over US$10 million in trying to get Allende to lose the elected and, when that failed, they resorted to a military coup. It was on this topic of Chile that Henry Kissinger suggested: “I don’t see why we have to watch calmly how a country converts to Communism because of the irresponsibility of its citizens.”
The African continent once again suffered attacks from the CIA in 1974, this time in Angola where an undercover operation was organized to stop the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) from obtaining power. The CIA organized and financed two opposing movements to the MPLA, sending weapons and money to both FNLA and UNITA, an operation that ended costing US$35 million; and since that proved insufficient, the Ford administration asked for an additional US$25 million, which was not approved. Cuban troops prevented the materialization of the CIA plans which had additionally involved in the affair the government of South Africa.
CIA’s assassin hand manifested itself in the Western Hemisphere with the sadly acts of “Operation Condor” which claimed the lives of many revolutionaries, including two Cubans. Another terrorist method used by the CIA included the detonation of bombs in locations attended by Cuban commercial and diplomatic groups in several countries, culminating with the horrendous crime in Barbados where CIA agents led by Orlando Bosh and Luis Posada Carriles placed a bomb in a Cuban Airlines plane causing the death of 73 passengers.
In 1977, during the Carter Administration, all CIA activities against Cuba were reviewed, putting an end to some of them and leaving those that pertained to espionage. This administration entered into an agreement with Cuba where both countries established Offices of Interests, something which allowed the CIA to establish once again its station in Havana, which had been closed in 1961.
During 1978, the CIA was prioritizing the situation in Iran anticipating a revolution in the making. In January 1979 the Shah left, allowing the Ayatollah Khomeni, who had a strong anti-American fundamentalist following, to assume power; something that the CIA had been unable to predict. The recruiting effort of the CIA was unsuccessful, and the Ayatollah’s forces took over the US Embassy capturing many diplomats and officials as well as their families. The CIA then organized, and Carter approved, operation “Eagle Claw” with the purpose of rescuing the captured embassy personnel, something which ended in total failure.
CIA’s efforts in trying to involve Cuba in the Shaba (Kenya) affair, which took place in 1978, also resulted in failure and were criticized by the White House. The FBI accused Cuba of helping terrorist groups, something which was denied by the State Department. These policy inconsistencies towards Cuba disappeared during the last two years of the Carter administration, when a more aggressive attitude towards the Caribbean island became evident.
The final decisions taken by Carter relative to the CIA had to do with the special operation directed to counter the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. This operation required putting together a force to fight the Soviets, which included the Taliban, who received weapons, explosives, money and training to carry on a war against the invader. Although Carter initiated these operations, Reagan carried them through, and it is calculated that over US$600 million were spent on this war.
The Reagan administration was determined to take back any lost ground, especially in Latin America, so it directed the US Intelligence Community, and among them the CIA, to overthrow the legitimately constituted government of Maurice Bishop in Grenada, which collapsed because of the US military invasion on October 25, 1983.
On May 20, 1985, the CIA inaugurated its principal means of propaganda against the Cuban Revolution, “Radio Marti,” which took on the task of falsifying the situation in Cuba in order to create internal conflict in the Island and promote subversion. This station represented yet another means in the ideological war against the Revolution.
In June 1987, the Cuban government made known publicly the activities that the CIA and other US Intelligence Community agencies had been undertaking against Cuba during the latter years. The denunciation was documented via motion pictures, photos and interviews with the agents who had been recruited to carry on those tasks.
The years 1989 and 1990 were characterized to include, aside from the various ongoing punitive actions against Cuba, the augmentation of propaganda via other radio stations besides Radio Marti. In 1990 TV Marti was created with an annual budget of US$22 million; but to date, 17 years after its creation, its transmissions are not seen in Cuba regardless of efforts and expenditures by the CIA, year in and year out.
Subsequent years were characterized in aggressive work by the CIA against Cuba, mainly the terrorist variety directed against tourist facilities in an attempt to affect the tourist trade and the revenue it produced for the Island. Plans against the life of the Commander-in-Chief did continue, and plagues were introduced which could affect agricultural crops, such as the Thrips Palmi, which was discovered in the Matanzas province in October 1996 and in other provinces in 1997.
Plans against the life of the Commander-in-Chief have remained non-stop in the CIA undercover operations. Among the most recent ones is one which was planned to take place in the Dominican Republic in August 1997 during a regional Summit meeting. That same year the CIA planned another attempt which would take place in Margarita Island (Venezuela) in October, during the Ibero-American Summit. In November 2000, the CIA made another attempt against Fidel’s life during the Ibero-American Summit in Panama, planning this time to blow up the University’s auditorium as he participated in a pro-Cuba rally. In all these attempts, the CIA’s hand and the name of Luis Posada Carriles have been present.
The activities of the CIA in different countries have taken place in violation of local laws, kidnappings, torture and assassinations. Those in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2001 implicated the kidnapping of people of Arab origin by the CIA, their torture to obtain information and later their incarceration at the Guantanamo base.
In April 2002 the CIA, jointly with other agencies of the US Intelligence Community, and at the US Embassy in Caracas, organized and executed a military coup to overthrow the constitutional president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias. However, troops loyal to the government, and the people, took control within 48 hours and Chavez was reinstated in his position as President.
The events of September 11, 2001 placed both the CIA and the FBI in a precarious position. The people who took over the planes and directed them against the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, had entered the United States via regular airports, were trained in Florida, received money through normal banking channels, were in constant communication among themselves, boarded the planes in airports supposedly protected against hijackers, and finally succeeded in carrying on their mission without the FBI or the CIA detecting or neutralizing their activity.
Apparently, Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, had information as to what was about to happen that day. If the Mossad was aware of it, why didn’t it pass it on to the CIA? Such action is likely to have been considered a necessary risk in the fight against the new enemy, terrorism. The aim is to take on the fight to Al Qaeda to its hide-out, occupy the country and take over its natural resources; and also to find and arrest Bin Laden, who after all this time remains free and in good health, making statements at those times when Bush’s popularity reaches the ground. What’s behind all this? I trust that some day we will know.
The invasions, first Afghanistan and later Iraq, created the need for a high level of activity by both CIA and DIA. Repression, torture, assassinations, terrorist acts and humiliations became par for the course. Prisoners were moved from one country to another in secret flights, and after a few months they were placed in confinement at the base in Guantanamo without allowing them the right to defend themselves or even the minimal concessions allowed someone in jail. Detentions continue to date, and the conditions have not improved.
But the CIA cannot forget about its “backyard.” Happenings in Latin America have given a new thrust to the Latin America Division, and within it, the Special Operations Group. The number of personnel at this division has been increased as has its budget. And within Science and Technology, the Office of Technical Services has been given priority.
* This availability of money, technical resources and personnel has been backed by the Plans for Undercover Operations which are being developed for Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. It is no longer the Cuba operation that they must tend to.
Nevertheless, at its 60th birthday, the CIA is not in its best shape to guarantee the normal results expected of them. Many of its most experienced people have retired and now work in the private sector, some claiming they could no longer take any more criticism and were tired that all too often, in order for the politicians to save face, they have been accused of mistakes they’ve never committed, or that some of the backup to their work has been altered on occasions.
Because of this exodus, it has been necessary for the CIA to hire young, inexperienced people in positions of responsibility which could better guarantee operational success.
Trust in the CIA has suffered a serious crack. People in high government positions believe that the Agency is not doing what they are supposed to, nor in the appropriate manner or with the urgency required. They believe there is a high level of confusion within the Agency and that its personnel is vulnerable to recruitment from foreign intelligence; and that there is lack of pride in being part of the CIA and too much interest in easy money. Examples of this are: Harold Nicholson, Aldrich Ames, Brian Regan and Robert Hanssen (FBI)
Some claim that the CIA has ceased being elite, as it was a little over ten years ago. Now women, Latinos, blacks, Chinese, people educated in public universities — and not in select private ones — can all become CIA officers. This idea has eroded the esprit-de-corps and created a highly competitive atmosphere that permits stepping on anybody’s toes. No one feels comradeship with anyone else.
Mistakes made, or being accused of, have resulted in limiting the supervisors’ authority. Now a greater number of decisions are taking higher up and that takes away from operational effectiveness. This also applies to the CIA stations in different countries where those in charge no longer have the decision-making power.
The flow of information is very slow. By the time the information reaches the right party, that person has little time to make the decision, or at times the information is incomplete or, what’s even worse, it contains add-ons which have little to do with the reality taking place, but that were included to appear agreeable. Objectivity has been lost and also the timely opportunity for passing on information.
This lack of confidence in the CIA has resulted in the FBI being assigned missions which traditionally the CIA executed.
Because of it, the FBI has ended up with over fifty groups in foreign lands assigned to infiltrate terrorist organizations and those engaged in drug trafficking, money-laundering and organized crime.
The recent publishing of “The CIA’s Jewels” could be considered as part of a campaign to end the eroding of the agency’s prestige, that although mistakes-laden, it executes undercover acts, violates domestic and foreign laws, commits terrorists acts, sabotages, tortures, assassinates and otherwise commits horrible crimes… but always does it in compliance with a plan which has been approved by the President of the United States of America. Dr. Néstor García Iturbe