A short history of the atrocities committed by Capitalism’s Invisible Army

A Timeline of CIA Atrocities

By Steve Kangas

The following timeline **describes just a few of the hundreds of atrocities

and crimes committed by the CIA**. Capitalism's Invisible Army.

CIA operations follow the same recurring script. (as described by the self proclaimed "ecomomic hitman" General Smedley Butler,

*By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

In 1935, Butler wrote a book titled War Is a Racket, where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those he was a part of, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them. After retiring from service, he became a popular activist, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists, and church groups in the 1930s.

General Butler's allegations are ALL completely provable and below include a number of the 'interventions' he mentioned. Although he 'died' in 1940, the things his group did paved the way for these guys. But they also quickly learned to silence the likes of Smedley et al!

In June 1940, he checked himself into the hospital after becoming sick a few weeks earlier. His doctor described his illness as an incurable condition of the upper gastro-intestinal tract that was probably cancer. His family remained by his side, even bringing his new car so he could see it from the window. He never had a chance to drive it. On June 21, 1940, Smedley Butler died in the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia.

OK, First, American business interests abroad are threatened by a popular or

democratically elected leader. The people support their leader because

he intends to conduct land reform, strengthen unions, redistribute

wealth, nationalize foreign-owned industry, and regulate business to

protect workers, consumers and the environment. So, on behalf of

American business, and often with their help, the CIA mobilizes the

opposition. First it identifies right-wing groups within the country

(usually the military), and offers them a deal: "We'll put you in power if

you maintain a favorable business climate for us." The Agency then

hires, trains and works with them to overthrow the existing government

(usually a democracy). It uses every trick in the book: propaganda,

stuffed ballot boxes, purchased elections, extortion, blackmail, sexual

intrigue, false stories about opponents in the local media, infiltration and

disruption of opposing political parties, kidnapping, beating, torture,

intimidation, economic sabotage, death squads and even

assassination. These efforts culminate in a military coup, which installs

a right-wing dictator. The CIA trains the dictator’s security apparatus to

crack down on the traditional enemies of big business, using

interrogation, torture and murder. The victims are said to be

"communists," but almost always they are just peasants, liberals,

moderates, labor union leaders, political opponents and advocates of

free speech and democracy. Widespread human rights abuses follow.

This scenario has been repeated so many times that the CIA actually

teaches it in a special school, the notorious "School of the Americas."

(It opened in Panama but later moved to Fort Benning, Georgia.)

Critics have nicknamed it the "School of the Dictators" and "School of

the Assassins." Here, the CIA trains Latin American military officers

how to conduct coups, including the use of interrogation, torture and


The Association for Responsible Dissent estimates that by 1987, 6

million people had died as a result of CIA covert operations. (2) Former

State Department official William Blum correctly calls this an "American


The CIA justifies these actions as part of its war against communism.

But most coups do not involve a communist threat. Unlucky nations

are targeted for a wide variety of reasons: not only threats to American

business interests abroad, but also liberal or even moderate social

reforms, political instability, the unwillingness of a leader to carry out

Washington’s dictates, and declarations of neutrality in the Cold War.

Indeed, nothing has infuriated CIA Directors quite like a nation’s desire

to stay out of the Cold War.

The ironic thing about all this intervention is that it frequently fails to

achieve American objectives. Often the newly installed dictator grows

comfortable with the security apparatus the CIA has built for him. He

becomes an expert at running a police state. And because the dictator

knows he cannot be overthrown, he becomes independent and defiant

of Washington's will. The CIA then finds it cannot overthrow him,

because the police and military are under the dictator's control, afraid

to cooperate with American spies for fear of torture and execution. The

only two options for the U.S at this point are impotence or war.

Examples of this "boomerang effect" include the Shah of Iran, General

Noriega and Saddam Hussein. The boomerang effect also explains why

the CIA has proven highly successful at overthrowing democracies, but

a wretched failure at overthrowing dictatorships.

The following timeline should confirm that the CIA as we know it should

be abolished and replaced by a true information-gathering and analysis

organization. The CIA cannot be reformed — it is institutionally and

culturally corrupt.


The culture we lost — Secretary of State Henry Stimson refuses to

endorse a code-breaking operation, saying, "Gentlemen do not read

each other’s mail."


COI created — In preparation for World War II, President Roosevelt

creates the Office of Coordinator of Information (COI). General William

"Wild Bill" Donovan heads the new intelligence service.


**OSS created — Roosevelt restructures COI into something more

suitable for covert action, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)**.

Donovan recruits so many of the nation’s rich and powerful that

eventually people joke that "OSS" stands for "Oh, so social!" or "Oh,

such snobs!"


Italy — Donovan recruits the Catholic Church in Rome to be the center

of Anglo-American spy operations in Fascist Italy. This would prove to

be one of America’s most enduring intelligence alliances in the Cold



OSS is abolished — The remaining American information agencies

cease covert actions and return to harmless information gathering and


Operation PAPERCLIP – While other American agencies are hunting

down Nazi war criminals for arrest, the U.S. intelligence community is

smuggling them into America, unpunished, for their use against the

Soviets. The most important of these is Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s

master spy who had built up an intelligence network in the Soviet

Union. With full U.S. blessing, he creates the "Gehlen Organization," a

band of refugee Nazi spies who reactivate their networks in Russia.

These include SS intelligence officers Alfred Six and Emil Augsburg

(who massacred Jews in the Holocaust), Klaus Barbie (the "Butcher of

Lyon"), Otto von Bolschwing (the Holocaust mastermind who worked

with Eichmann) and SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny (a personal friend of

Hitler’s). The Gehlen Organization supplies the U.S. with its only

intelligence on the Soviet Union for the next ten years, serving as a

bridge between the abolishment of the OSS and the creation of the


However, much of the "intelligence" the former Nazis provide is

bogus. Gehlen inflates Soviet military capabilities at a time when

Russia is still rebuilding its devastated society, in order to inflate his

own importance to the Americans (who might otherwise punish him). In

1948, Gehlen almost convinces the Americans that war is imminent,

and the West should make a preemptive strike. In the 50s he produces

a fictitious "missile gap." To make matters worse, the Russians have

thoroughly penetrated the Gehlen Organization with double agents,

undermining the very American security that Gehlen was supposed to



Greece — President Truman requests military aid to Greece to support

right-wing forces fighting communist rebels. For the rest of the Cold

War, Washington and the CIA will back notorious Greek leaders with

deplorable human rights records.

CIA created — President Truman signs the National Security Act of

1947, creating the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security

Council. The CIA is accountable to the president through the NSC —

there is no democratic or congressional oversight. Its charter allows the

CIA to "perform such other functions and duties… as the National

Security Council may from time to time direct." This loophole opens the

door to covert action and dirty tricks.


Covert-action wing created — The CIA recreates a covert action wing,

innocuously called the Office of Policy Coordination, led by Wall Street

lawyer Frank Wisner.

**According to its secret charter, its responsibilities

include "propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action,

including sabotage, antisabotage, demolition and evacuation

procedures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to

underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-

communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."**

Italy — The CIA corrupts democratic elections in Italy, where Italian

communists threaten to win the elections. The CIA buys votes,

broadcasts propaganda, threatens and beats up opposition leaders,

and infiltrates and disrupts their organizations. It works — the

communists are defeated.


**Radio Free Europe — The CIA creates its first major propaganda

outlet, Radio Free Europe. Over the next several decades, its

broadcasts are so blatantly false that for a time it is considered illegal to

publish transcripts of them in the U.S.**

Late 40s

**Operation MOCKINGBIRD — The CIA begins recruiting American

news organizations and journalists to become spies and disseminators

of propaganda**.

The effort is headed by Frank Wisner, Allan Dulles,

Richard Helms and Philip Graham. Graham is publisher of The

Washington Post, which becomes a major CIA player. Eventually, the

CIA’s media assets will include ABC, NBC, CBS, Time, Newsweek,

Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst

Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Copley News Service and more. By the

CIA’s own admission, at least 25 organizations and 400 journalists will

become CIA assets.


**Iran – CIA overthrows the democratically elected Mohammed

Mossadegh in a military coup**, after he threatened to nationalize British

oil. The CIA replaces him with a dictator, the Shah of Iran, whose

secret police, SAVAK, is as brutal as the Gestapo.

Operation MK-ULTRA — Inspired by North Korea’s brainwashing

program, the CIA begins experiments on mind control. The most

notorious part of this project involves giving LSD and other drugs to

American subjects without their knowledge or against their will, causing

several to commit suicide. However, the operation involves far more

than this. Funded in part by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations,

research includes propaganda, brainwashing, public relations,

advertising, hypnosis, and other forms of suggestion.


**Guatemala — CIA overthrows the democratically elected Jacob Arbenz

in a military coup**. Arbenz has threatened to nationalize the

Rockefeller-owned United Fruit Company, in which CIA Director Allen

Dulles also owns stock. Arbenz is replaced with a series of right-wing

dictators whose bloodthirsty policies will kill over 100,000 Guatemalans

in the next 40 years.


North Vietnam — CIA officer Edward Lansdale spends four years

trying to overthrow the communist government of North Vietnam, using

all the usual dirty tricks. The CIA also attempts to legitimize a tyrannical

puppet regime in South Vietnam, headed by Ngo Dinh Diem. These

efforts fail to win the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese

because the Diem government is opposed to true democracy, land

reform and poverty reduction measures. The CIA’s continuing failure

results in escalating American intervention, culminating in the Vietnam



Hungary — Radio Free Europe incites Hungary to revolt by

broadcasting Khruschev’s Secret Speech, in which he denounced

Stalin. It also hints that American aid will help the Hungarians fight.

This aid fails to materialize as Hungarians launch a doomed armed

revolt, which only invites a major Soviet invasion. The conflict kills

7,000 Soviets and 30,000 Hungarians.


**Laos — The CIA carries out approximately one coup per year trying to

nullify Laos’ democratic elections**. The problem is the Pathet Lao, a

leftist group with enough popular support to be a member of any

coalition government. In the late 50s, the CIA even creates an "Armee

Clandestine" of Asian mercenaries to attack the Pathet Lao. After the

CIA’s army suffers numerous defeats, the U.S. starts bombing,

dropping more bombs on Laos than all the U.S. bombs dropped in

World War II. A quarter of all Laotians will eventually become refugees,

many living in caves.


**Haiti — The U.S. military helps "Papa Doc" Duvalier become dictator of

Haiti. He creates his own private police force, the "Tonton Macoutes,"

who terrorize the population with machetes. They will kill over 100,000

during the Duvalier family reign. The U.S. does not protest their dismal

human rights record.**


The Bay of Pigs — The CIA sends 1,500 Cuban exiles to invade

Castro’s Cuba. But "Operation Mongoose" fails, due to poor planning,

security and backing. The planners had imagined that the invasion will

spark a popular uprising against Castro -– which never happens. A

promised American air strike also never occurs. This is the CIA’s first

public setback, causing President Kennedy to fire CIA Director Allen


**Dominican Republic — The CIA assassinates Rafael Trujillo, a

murderous dictator Washington has supported since 1930**. Trujillo’s

business interests have grown so large (about 60 percent of the

economy) that they have begun competing with American business


**Ecuador — The CIA-backed military forces the democratically elected

President Jose Velasco to resign**. Vice President Carlos Arosemana

replaces him; the CIA fills the now vacant vice presidency with its own


**Congo (Zaire) — The CIA assassinates the democratically elected

Patrice Lumumba**. However, public support for Lumumba’s politics

runs so high that the CIA cannot clearly install his opponents in power.

Four years of political turmoil follow.


Dominican Republic — The CIA overthrows the democratically elected

Juan Bosch in a military coup. The CIA installs a repressive, right-wing


Ecuador — A CIA-backed military coup overthrows President

Arosemana, whose independent (not socialist) policies have become

unacceptable to Washington. A military junta assumes command,

cancels the 1964 elections, and begins abusing human rights.


**Brazil — A CIA-backed military coup overthrows the democratically

elected government of Joao Goulart**. The junta that replaces it will, in

the next two decades, become one of the most bloodthirsty in history.

General Castelo Branco will create Latin America’s first death squads,

or bands of secret police who hunt down "communists" for torture,

interrogation and murder. **Often these "communists" are no more than

Branco’s political opponents. Later it is revealed that the CIA trains the

death squads**.


**Indonesia — The CIA overthrows the democratically elected Sukarno

with a military coup. The CIA has been trying to eliminate Sukarno

since 1957, using everything from attempted assassination to sexual

intrigue, for nothing more than his declaring neutrality in the Cold War.**

His successor, General Suharto, will massacre between 500,000 to 1

million civilians accused of being "communist." The CIA supplies the

names of countless suspects.

Dominican Republic — A popular rebellion breaks out, promising to

reinstall Juan Bosch as the country’s elected leader. The revolution is

crushed when U.S. Marines land to uphold the military regime by force.

The CIA directs everything behind the scenes.

Greece — With the CIA’s backing, the king removes George

Papandreous as prime minister. Papandreous has failed to vigorously

support U.S. interests in Greece.

Congo (Zaire) — A CIA-backed military coup installs Mobutu Sese

Seko as dictator. The hated and repressive Mobutu exploits his

desperately poor country for billions.


**The Ramparts Affair — The radical magazine Ramparts begins a

series of unprecedented anti-CIA articles. Among their scoops: the CIA

has paid the University of Michigan $25 million dollars to hire

"professors" to train South Vietnamese students in covert police

methods. MIT and other universities have received similar payments.

Ramparts also reveals that the National Students’ Association is a CIA

front. Students are sometimes recruited through blackmail and bribery,

including draft deferments.**


Greece — A CIA-backed military coup overthrows the government two

days before the elections. The favorite to win was George

Papandreous, the liberal candidate. During the next six years, the

"reign of the colonels" — backed by the CIA — will usher in the

widespread use of torture and murder against political opponents.

When a Greek ambassador objects to President Johnson about U.S.

plans for Cypress, Johnson tells him: "Fuck your parliament and your


Operation PHEONIX — The CIA helps South Vietnamese agents

identify and then murder alleged Viet Cong leaders operating in South

Vietnamese villages. According to a 1971 congressional report, this

operation killed about 20,000 "Viet Cong."


Operation CHAOS — The CIA has been illegally spying on American

citizens since 1959, but with Operation CHAOS, President Johnson

dramatically boosts the effort. CIA agents go undercover as student

radicals to spy on and disrupt campus organizations protesting the

Vietnam War. They are searching for Russian instigators, which they

never find. CHAOS will eventually spy on 7,000 individuals and 1,000


Bolivia — A CIA-organized military operation captures legendary

guerilla Che Guevara. The CIA wants to keep him alive for

interrogation, but the Bolivian government executes him to prevent

worldwide calls for clemency.


Uruguay — The notorious CIA torturer Dan Mitrione arrives in Uruguay,

a country torn with political strife. Whereas right-wing forces previously

used torture only as a last resort, Mitrione convinces them to use it as

a routine, widespread practice. "The precise pain, in the precise place,

in the precise amount, for the desired effect," is his motto. The torture

techniques he teaches to the death squads rival the Nazis’. He

eventually becomes so feared that revolutionaries will kidnap and

murder him a year later.


Cambodia — The CIA overthrows Prince Sahounek, who is highly

popular among Cambodians for keeping them out of the Vietnam War.

He is replaced by CIA puppet Lon Nol, who immediately throws

Cambodian troops into battle. This unpopular move strengthens once

minor opposition parties like the Khmer Rouge, which achieves power

in 1975 and massacres millions of its own people.


Bolivia — After half a decade of CIA-inspired political turmoil, a CIA-

backed military coup overthrows the leftist President Juan Torres. In

the next two years, dictator Hugo Banzer will have over 2,000 political

opponents arrested without trial, then tortured, raped and executed.

Haiti — "Papa Doc" Duvalier dies, leaving his 19-year old son "Baby

Doc" Duvalier the dictator of Haiti. His son continues his bloody reign

with full knowledge of the CIA.


The Case-Zablocki Act — Congress passes an act requiring

congressional review of executive agreements. In theory, this should

make CIA operations more accountable. In fact, it is only marginally


Cambodia — Congress votes to cut off CIA funds for its secret war in


Wagergate Break-in — President Nixon sends in a team of burglars to

wiretap Democratic offices at Watergate. The team members have

extensive CIA histories, including James McCord, E. Howard Hunt and

five of the Cuban burglars. They work for the Committee to Reelect the

President (CREEP), which does dirty work like disrupting Democratic

campaigns and laundering Nixon’s illegal campaign contributions.

CREEP’s activities are funded and organized by another CIA front, the

Mullen Company.


Chile — The CIA overthrows and assassinates Salvador Allende, Latin

America’s first democratically elected socialist leader. The problems

begin when Allende nationalizes American-owned firms in Chile. ITT

offers the CIA $1 million for a coup (reportedly refused). The CIA

replaces Allende with General Augusto Pinochet, who will torture and

murder thousands of his own countrymen in a crackdown on labor

leaders and the political left.

CIA begins internal investigations — William Colby, the Deputy Director

for Operations, orders all CIA personnel to report any and all illegal

activities they know about. This information is later reported to


Watergate Scandal — The CIA’s main collaborating newspaper in

America, The Washington Post, reports Nixon’s crimes long before any

other newspaper takes up the subject. The two reporters, Woodward

and Bernstein, make almost no mention of the CIA’s many fingerprints

all over the scandal. It is later revealed that Woodward was a Naval

intelligence briefer to the White House, and knows many important

intelligence figures, including General Alexander Haig. His main source,

"Deep Throat," is probably one of those.

CIA Director Helms Fired — President Nixon fires CIA Director Richard

Helms for failing to help cover up the Watergate scandal. Helms and

Nixon have always disliked each other. The new CIA director is William

Colby, who is relatively more open to CIA reform.


CHAOS exposed — Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh

publishes a story about Operation CHAOS, the domestic surveillance

and infiltration of anti-war and civil rights groups in the U.S. The story

sparks national outrage.

Angleton fired — Congress holds hearings on the illegal domestic

spying efforts of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s chief of

counterintelligence. His efforts included mail-opening campaigns and

secret surveillance of war protesters. The hearings result in his

dismissal from the CIA.

House clears CIA in Watergate — The House of Representatives

clears the CIA of any complicity in Nixon’s Watergate break-in.

The Hughes Ryan Act — Congress passes an amendment requiring

the president to report nonintelligence CIA operations to the relevant

congressional committees in a timely fashion.


Australia — The CIA helps topple the democratically elected, left-

leaning government of Prime Minister Edward Whitlam. The CIA does

this by giving an ultimatum to its Governor-General, John Kerr. Kerr, a

longtime CIA collaborator, exercises his constitutional right to dissolve

the Whitlam government. The Governor-General is a largely ceremonial

position appointed by the Queen; the Prime Minister is democratically

elected. The use of this archaic and never-used law stuns the nation.

Angola — Eager to demonstrate American military resolve after its

defeat in Vietnam, Henry Kissinger launches a CIA-backed war in

Angola. Contrary to Kissinger’s assertions, Angola is a country of little

strategic importance and not seriously threatened by communism. The

CIA backs the brutal leader of UNITAS, Jonas Savimbi. This polarizes

Angolan politics and drives his opponents into the arms of Cuba and

the Soviet Union for survival. Congress will cut off funds in 1976, but

the CIA is able to run the war off the books until 1984, when funding is

legalized again.

This entirely pointless war kills over 300,000 Angolans.

"The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence" — Victor Marchetti and John

Marks publish this whistle-blowing history of CIA crimes and abuses.

Marchetti has spent 14 years in the CIA, eventually becoming an

executive assistant to the Deputy Director of Intelligence. Marks has

spent five years as an intelligence official in the State Department.

"Inside the Company" — Philip Agee publishes a diary of his life inside

the CIA. Agee has worked in covert operations in Latin America during

the 60s, and details the crimes in which he took part.

Congress investigates CIA wrong-doing — Public outrage compels

Congress to hold hearings on CIA crimes. Senator Frank Church

heads the Senate investigation ("The Church Committee"), and

Representative Otis Pike heads the House investigation. (Despite a 98

percent incumbency reelection rate, both Church and Pike are

defeated in the next elections.) The investigations lead to a number of

reforms intended to increase the CIA’s accountability to Congress,

including the creation of a standing Senate committee on intelligence.

However, the reforms prove ineffective, as the Iran/Contra scandal will

show. It turns out the CIA can control, deal with or sidestep Congress

with ease.

The Rockefeller Commission — In an attempt to reduce the damage

done by the Church Committee, President Ford creates the

"Rockefeller Commission" to whitewash CIA history and propose

toothless reforms. The commission’s namesake, Vice President Nelson

Rockefeller, is himself a major CIA figure. Five of the commission’s

eight members are also members of the Council on Foreign Relations,

a CIA-dominated organization.


Iran — The CIA fails to predict the fall of the Shah of Iran, a longtime

CIA puppet, and the rise of Muslim fundamentalists who are furious at

the CIA’s backing of SAVAK, the Shah’s bloodthirsty secret police. In

revenge, the Muslims take 52 Americans hostage in the U.S. embassy

in Tehran.

Afghanistan — The Soviets invade Afghanistan. The CIA immediately

begins supplying arms to any faction willing to fight the occupying

Soviets. Such indiscriminate arming means that when the Soviets

leave Afghanistan, civil war will erupt. Also, fanatical Muslim extremists

now possess state-of-the-art weaponry. One of these is Sheik Abdel

Rahman, who will become involved in the World Trade Center bombing

in New York.

El Salvador — An idealistic group of young military officers, repulsed by

the massacre of the poor, overthrows the right-wing government.

However, the U.S. compels the inexperienced officers to include many

of the old guard in key positions in their new government. Soon, things

are back to "normal" — the military government is repressing and

killing poor civilian protesters. Many of the young military and civilian

reformers, finding themselves powerless, resign in disgust.

Nicaragua — Anastasios Samoza II, the CIA-backed dictator, falls. The

Marxist Sandinistas take over government, and they are initially popular

because of their commitment to land and anti-poverty reform. Samoza

had a murderous and hated personal army called the National Guard.

Remnants of the Guard will become the Contras, who fight a CIA-

backed guerilla war against the Sandinista government throughout the



El Salvador — The Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, pleads

with President Carter "Christian to Christian" to stop aiding the military

government slaughtering his people. Carter refuses. Shortly

afterwards, right-wing leader Roberto D’Aubuisson has Romero shot

through the heart while saying Mass. The country soon dissolves into

civil war, with the peasants in the hills fighting against the military

government. The CIA and U.S. Armed Forces supply the government

with overwhelming military and intelligence superiority. CIA-trained

death squads roam the countryside, committing atrocities like that of El

Mazote in 1982, where they massacre between 700 and 1000 men,

women and children. By 1992, some 63,000 Salvadorans will be killed.


Iran/Contra Begins — The CIA begins selling arms to Iran at high

prices, using the profits to arm the Contras fighting the Sandinista

government in Nicaragua. President Reagan vows that the Sandinistas

will be "pressured" until "they say ‘uncle.’" The CIA’s Freedom Fighter’s

Manual disbursed to the Contras includes instruction on economic

sabotage, propaganda, extortion, bribery, blackmail, interrogation,

torture, murder and political assassination.


Honduras — The CIA gives Honduran military officers the Human

Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983, which teaches how to

torture people. Honduras’ notorious "Battalion 316" then uses these

techniques, with the CIA’s full knowledge, on thousands of leftist

dissidents. At least 184 are murdered.


The Boland Amendment — The last of a series of Boland Amendments

is passed. These amendments have reduced CIA aid to the Contras;

the last one cuts it off completely. However, CIA Director William Casey

is already prepared to "hand off" the operation to Colonel Oliver North,

who illegally continues supplying the Contras through the CIA’s

informal, secret, and self-financing network. This includes

"humanitarian aid" donated by Adolph Coors and William Simon, and

military aid funded by Iranian arms sales.


Eugene Hasenfus — Nicaragua shoots down a C-123 transport plane

carrying military supplies to the Contras. The lone survivor, Eugene

Hasenfus, turns out to be a CIA employee, as are the two dead pilots.

The airplane belongs to Southern Air Transport, a CIA front. The

incident makes a mockery of President Reagan’s claims that the CIA is

not illegally arming the Contras.

Iran/Contra Scandal — Although the details have long been known, the

Iran/Contra scandal finally captures the media’s attention in 1986.

Congress holds hearings, and several key figures (like Oliver North) lie

under oath to protect the intelligence community. CIA Director William

Casey dies of brain cancer before Congress can question him. All

reforms enacted by Congress after the scandal are purely cosmetic.

Haiti — Rising popular revolt in Haiti means that "Baby Doc" Duvalier

will remain "President for Life" only if he has a short one. The U.S.,

which hates instability in a puppet country, flies the despotic Duvalier to

the South of France for a comfortable retirement. The CIA then rigs the

upcoming elections in favor of another right-wing military strongman.

However, violence keeps the country in political turmoil for another four

years. The CIA tries to strengthen the military by creating the National

Intelligence Service (SIN), which suppresses popular revolt through

torture and assassination.


Panama — The U.S. invades Panama to overthrow a dictator of its

own making, General Manuel Noriega. Noriega has been on the CIA’s

payroll since 1966, and has been transporting drugs with the CIA’s

knowledge since 1972. By the late 80s, Noriega’s growing

independence and intransigence have angered Washington… so out

he goes.


Haiti — Competing against 10 comparatively wealthy candidates, leftist

priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide captures 68 percent of the vote. After only

eight months in power, however, the CIA-backed military deposes him.

More military dictators brutalize the country, as thousands of Haitian

refugees escape the turmoil in barely seaworthy boats. As popular

opinion calls for Aristide’s return, the CIA begins a disinformation

campaign painting the courageous priest as mentally unstable.


  • The Gulf War — The U.S. liberates Kuwait from Iraq. But Iraq’s

dictator, Saddam Hussein, is another creature of the CIA. With U.S.

encouragement, Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. During this costly

eight-year war, the CIA built up Hussein’s forces with sophisticated

arms, intelligence, training and financial backing. This cemented

Hussein’s power at home, allowing him to crush the many internal

rebellions that erupted from time to time, sometimes with poison gas. It

also gave him all the military might he needed to conduct further

adventurism — in Kuwait, for example.

The Fall of the Soviet Union — The CIA fails to predict this most

important event of the Cold War. This suggests that it has been so

busy undermining governments that it hasn’t been doing its primary

job: gathering and analyzing information. The fall of the Soviet Union

also robs the CIA of its reason for existence: fighting communism. This

leads some to accuse the CIA of intentionally failing to predict the

downfall of the Soviet Union. Curiously, the intelligence community’s

budget is not significantly reduced after the demise of communism.


Economic Espionage — In the years following the end of the Cold War,

the CIA is increasingly used for economic espionage. This involves

stealing the technological secrets of competing foreign companies and

giving them to American ones. Given the CIA’s clear preference for

dirty tricks over mere information gathering, the possibility of serious

criminal behavior is very great indeed.


Haiti — The chaos in Haiti grows so bad that President Clinton has no

choice but to remove the Haitian military dictator, Raoul Cedras, on

threat of U.S. invasion. The U.S. occupiers do not arrest Haiti’s military

leaders for crimes against humanity, but instead ensure their safety

and rich retirements. Aristide is returned to power only after being

forced to accept an agenda favorable to the country’s ruling class.


In a speech before the CIA celebrating its 50th anniversary, President

Clinton said: "By necessity, the American people will never know the full

story of your courage."

Clinton’s is a common defense of the CIA: namely, the American

people should stop criticizing the CIA because they don’t know what it

really does. This, of course, is the heart of the problem in the first

place. An agency that is above criticism is also above moral behavior

and reform. Its secrecy and lack of accountability allows its corruption

to grow unchecked.

Furthermore, Clinton’s statement is simply untrue. The history of the

agency is growing painfully clear, especially with the declassification of

historical CIA documents. We may not know the details of specific

operations, but we do know, quite well, the general behavior of the CIA.

These facts began emerging nearly two decades ago at an ever-

quickening pace. Today we have a remarkably accurate and consistent

picture, repeated in country after country, and verified from countless

different directions.

The CIA’s response to this growing knowledge and criticism follows a

typical historical pattern. (Indeed, there are remarkable parallels to the

Medieval Church’s fight against the Scientific Revolution.) The first

journalists and writers to reveal the CIA’s criminal behavior were

harassed and censored if they were American writers, and tortured and

murdered if they were foreigners. (See Philip Agee’s On the Run for an

example of early harassment.) However, over the last two decades the

tide of evidence has become overwhelming, and the CIA has found that

it does not have enough fingers to plug every hole in the dike. This is

especially true in the age of the Internet, where information flows freely

among millions of people. Since censorship is impossible, the Agency

must now defend itself with apologetics. Clinton’s "Americans will never

know" defense is a prime example.

Another common apologetic is that "the world is filled with unsavory

characters, and we must deal with them if we are to protect American

interests at all." There are two things wrong with this. First, it ignores

the fact that the CIA has regularly spurned alliances with defenders of

democracy, free speech and human rights, preferring the company of

military dictators and tyrants. The CIA had moral options available to

them, but did not take them.

Second, this argument begs several questions. The first is: "Which

American interests?" The CIA has courted right-wing dictators because

they allow wealthy Americans to exploit the country’s cheap labor and

resources. But poor and middle-class Americans pay the price

whenever they fight the wars that stem from CIA actions, from Vietnam

to the Gulf War to Panama. The second begged question is: "Why

should American interests come at the expense of other peoples’

human rights?"

The CIA should be abolished, its leadership dismissed and its relevant

members tried for crimes against humanity. Our intelligence community

should be rebuilt from the ground up, with the goal of collecting and

analyzing information. As for covert action, there are two moral options.

The first one is to eliminate covert action completely. But this gives

jitters to people worried about the Adolf Hitlers of the world. So a

second option is that we can place covert action under extensive and

true democratic oversight. For example, a bipartisan Congressional

Committee of 40 members could review and veto all aspects of CIA

operations upon a majority or super-majority vote. Which of these two

options is best may be the subject of debate, but one thing is clear: like

dictatorship, like monarchy, unaccountable covert operations should die

like the dinosaurs they are.

Related links:

The Origins of the Overclass.

Myth: There’s no "vast right wing conspiracy" to get Clinton.

Myth: Conservative think tanks are the answer to liberal academia.

Return to Liberalism Resurgent


  1. All history concerning CIA intervention in foreign countries is

summarized from William Blum’s encyclopedic work, Killing Hope: U.S.

Military and CIA Interventions since World War II (Monroe, Maine:

Common Courage Press, 1995). Sources for domestic CIA operations

come from Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen’s The 60 Greatest

Conspiracies of All Time (Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1997).

  1. Coleman McCarthy, "The Consequences of Covert Tactics"

Washington Post, December 13, 1987.


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