By Trowbridge H. Ford
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Categories : Giant Marlin
By Trowbridge H. Ford
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Tags: Alexander Flax, Assistant FBI Director Mark Felt, Bay of Pigs, Bob Haldeman, Chinese spy Marianna Liu, CIA plumbers, Frank Sinatra GOP payoff, George Wallace attempted assassination, Glomar Explorer, Haiphong Harbor mined, J. Edgar Hoover murdered, J. Gordon Liddy, Jack Anderson, John B. Connally, John Erlichman, John Mitchell, LBJ, Mark Felt deep throat, Martha Mitchell, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Nixon, Nixon plumbers, NRO, NSA, Pine Gap, Sigint, spy satellite network, Tet-offensive, Trowbridge H. Ford, WalShot file, Watergate plumbers McCord
Categories : Giant Marlin
By Trowbridge H. Ford
Never was there a stranger presidential year than 1972 – when President Richard Nixon was apparently poised for successful re-election while his “tricky” bits along the way were threatening to surface in a devastating fashion. After three hard years of effort, the Vietnamese war finally seemed on the verge of ending despite the secret campaign the White House had been conducting at home and abroad while trying to decouple the communist powers from the process by opening the door to Red China’s recognition, and seeking a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the Soviets. Nonetheless, the Oval Office was most worried of the public learning of the conniving its occupant had used in getting there, the most conspiratorial way it operated once there, and its reckless gambling with the future in order to remain.
Efforts to stop knowledgeable whistleblowers, especially former agent to CIA’s top officials Victor Marchetti, from publishing works on Agency deceptions was just a stop-gap effort as others were bound to come along. While prepublication review by the CIA of proposed work, and secrecy contracts for all employees of covert government – something difficult to arrange with those already hired – promised to stem the tide of revelations of shoddy, if not illegal, work, there was still the problem of the secret documents themselves, especially signal intelligence aka SIGINT, especially from NSA’s National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), surfacing – exposure of which would blow Nixon’s ship of state right out of the water.
1972 was most concerning from the outset in this regard, as Nixon was facing re-election – what he hoped to showcase with a successful conclusion to the war in Southeast Asia. In the year’s State of the Union Address, the President announced a further 70,000-man reduction of American forces in South Vietnam – one indicating that full Vietnamization of the struggle was just a short matter of time – while mentioning National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese for a settlement: an American withdrawal in exchange for the return of those Americans missing in action, a cease-fire, and new elections in South Vietnam – what was intended to break the deadlock in discussions.
The prospect raised the ugly issue of what would happen to South Vietnam’s current President, Nguyen Van Thieu, if peace was agreed to but if he refused again to go along – what he had done during the last days of the 1968 election campaign in America. On October 31, 1968, LBJ announced a bombing halt in Vietnam, and the assembling of the parties in Paris in the hope that the war could be settled. Two days later, though, Thieu refused to attend the negotiations, and the effort failed. Thieu’s refusal was apparently crucial in preventing Democratic Party candidate Hubert Humphrey from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – what JFK had allegedly done eight years earlier by taking advantage of the secret plans to invade Cuba at the former Republican Vice President’s expense. Thanks to Thieu’s refusal, LBJ’s ploy fell short, and Nixon narrowly won the election.
Of course, Johnson suspected a plot – what was soon established, but he declined to make public, even in his memoirs, The Vantage Point, his highly secretive sources: the Bureau’s bugs and surveillance of South Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem and Anna Chennault – wife of the celebrated chief of the Flying Tigers in China during WWII, General Claire Chennault – the Agency’s bugs on President Thieu’s office in Saigon; and the NRO’s regularly encrypted diplomatic traffic between the South Vietnamese Capital and its embassy in Washington. “There is little doubt that during the final stages of the campaign,” Christopher Andrew wrote in For the President’s Eyes Only, “Anna Chennault passed on a ‘very important’ message from the Nixon camp that was intended to dissuade Thieu from agreeing to attend the Paris peace talks until after the election.” (p. 349)
Johnson was apparently persuaded that he had “no reason to think” that Nixon “was himself involved in this maneuvering, but a few individuals in his campaign were.” (Jon Weiner, “Another ‘October Surprise’,” The Nation, November 6, 2000)
Of course, Nixon knew better, and he was already deeply involved in trying to solve the problem – get rid of the members of his campaign who were, destroy the evidence of this “October Surprise”, and make sure that Thieu could not kibosh any peace settlement now. While many critics have pooh-poohed Anthony Summers, The Arrogance of Power – like his previous exposés of the JFK assassination, and FBI Directory Hoover because of minor errors, and unsubstantiated speculation – it nailed down who were the culprits in Nixon’s campaign staff, New York attorney John Mitchell, and Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Spiro Agnew, who were dealing with the famous Chinese lady. “In interviews with Summers,” Wiener wrote,”she said he met with Nixon and his campaign manager (and future Attorney General), John Mitchell, who told her to inform Saigon that if Nixon won the election, South Vietnam would get ‘a better deal’.” Furthermore, Summers established that the ‘Boss’ who told her to pass along the message to Thieu, “Hold on, we are gonna win,” was Agnew – while on flight stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico on November 2, 1968.
Nixon was trying to solve the problem by getting rid of Director Hoover – what would end his threats to leading Republican leaders – but without any success because of all the files he had on “Tricky Dick” and others. In October 1971, Nixon vowed to get rid of Hoover, but the President got cold feet during the showdown. Then in December, at Nixon’s home in Key Biscayne, he apparently tried to persuade the Director to retire, but failed. Nixon even invited Hoover to accompany him back to Washington on Air Force One – even presenting him with a cake for his seventy-seventh birthday – in the hope that this sign of favor would soften him up to retire.
All the while, Nixon officials in the Justice Department were desperately trying to locate the Director’s most sensitive files, some of which involved the NRO – ones about his affair, starting in 1958 in Hong Kong, and still continuing until Nixon was inaugurated, with Marianna Liu, suspected of being a Red Chinese agent; his working with the Bureau which apparently doctored Alger Hiss’s typewriter to secure his 1948 conviction of perjury; his helping Nixon become Eisenhower’s running mate, and the Republican candidate for President in 1960; looking for more dirt on Edward Kennedy after Chappaquiddick; falsely telling Nixon after he was elected President that LBJ had been bugging his airplane during the final two weeks of the campaign, etc. – and to destroy them, a process which only started in earnest after the Director died.
Actually, the Director went out of his way to frighten Nixon because of his pressuring him to retire – what may well have led to Hoover’s convenient death. Columnist Jack Anderson, a growing thorn in the White House’s side, somehow obtained in early March a copy of lobbyist Dita Beard’s memo, claiming that International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT) had obtained a favorable Justice Department ruling in an anti-trust suit in 1971 in return for contributing secretly $400,000 and services to the Republican National Convention in San Diego – a quid pro quo which would allow the White House direct access to secret transmissions it was interested in, especially the coded messages between the government in South Vietnam and its embassy in Washington while getting President Thieu on board for a settlement.
The disclosure could not have been a worse one, and could not have occurred at a worse time. The memo completely disrupted what had been agreed to at Camp David on January 28th – the announcement of Mitchell’s resignation on February 15th, and his replacement by Richard Kleindienst, his deputy. Mitchell would return to his law firm which had represented ITT in its disputes with the government, and run the campaign to re-elect Nixon. Also, the White House was planning to get rid of the troublemaking Vice President, Spiro Agnew, especially over Vietnam – what would remove from the scene the two most vulnerable of Nixon’s associates involved in making the “November Surprise” which sank Humphrey’s presidential ambitions.
The disclosure forced Kleindienst, who was being questioned now by the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation as Attorney General, to ultimately withdraw his nomination, and Agnew was recruited by Mitchell into the White House task force to prevent dangerous blowback about ITT which threatened even Nixon himself. This clearly involved not only insider-trading with its stock but also the White House using ITT as its own SIGINT service, as Robert Haldeman dutifully recorded on March 5th in his diaries: “P(resident) was concerned about what’s at the root of all this, where did his story start, who leaked the memo, who was it written to, and so forth. We don’t seem to have the answers on any of that.” (pp. 425-26) While the White House was being obliged to stick with Spiro, Nixon was most concerned that Colson, his special counsel, and handler of The Plumbers aka the Special Investigations Unit, kept a low profile during the whole affair.
Nixon had good reason for Colson to play it cool, as he had recommended the burning down of a famous Washington research institution when The Plumbers started looking for documents regarding important leaks and leakers, as Woodward and Bernstein recorded in All the President’s Men - what even his naive superior, John Dean, had enough sense to call off: “Morton Halperin, Daniel Ellsberg’s friend whose telephone was among the ‘Kissinger taps,’ was believed to have kept some classified documents when he left Kissinger’s staff to become a fellow at the Brookings Institution (a center for the study of public policy questions).” (p. 324) It was the beginning of the Plumber project of dirty tricks, code-named “Gemstone”. Of course, the White House wanted the papers back but not yet at this expense. Moreover, it wanted to minimize the possibilities of such blunders by recruiting ITT as its own SIGINT service – what would cut the NRO and NSA out of the process.
The Nixon White House had something really big planned with ITT, as was demonstrated by the lengths it went to in order to get Ms. Beard to repudiate the memo, and to cover up what was really planned with the communications giant. Plumber Hunt, using a CIA-supplied red wig, went to see her in a Denver hospital to get her to deny the memo’s authenticity. Then the White House tried to make out that ITT was the initiator of all the deals involving it, especially the prevention of socialist Salvatore Allende becoming President of Chile, and that they simply concerned money – what was patently untrue.
John McCone, former DCI, and now ITT’s director, offered the Agency in 1970 $1,000,000 to stop Allende’s election – what DCI Helms made sure looked like the CIA had sought, and when it came time to censor Marchetti’s manuscript. Shortly thereafter, Anthony Sampson’s exposé of the international conglomerate, The Sovereign State of ITT, appeared, but it was so involved in talking about its past international meddling, especially on both sides during WWII, that it never got round to the present.
To stop the rot, Nixon had John Dean visit Hoover in the hope of getting the Director to declare the memo a fake. The encounter was a bruising one for the President’s young counsel. After Dean had hesitantly explained to J. Edgar what the White House wanted, he said – after telling a tale about how Anderson was even willing to go through his trash and its dog shit for a story – that he would be pleased to test its authenticity. As Hoover was ushering Dean out, he even volunteered material from his famous files, as Curt Gentry wrote in J. Edgar Hoover, on the troublesome reporter.
Given the fact that ITT had already tested the memo’s authenticity, and the expert, Pearl Tytell, had staked her reputation on its being a recent forgery, Nixon was ecstatic over the probable result – comparing it to how the testing of Alger Hiss’s typewriter had led to his undoing: “The typewriters are always the key.” (Quoted from Gentry, p. 716.)
The President was totally unprepared for the result. Ivan Conrad, head of the Bureau’s Laboratory, found that the memo was apparently typed around the date indicated on it, and that it was probably genuine. Of course, Nixon was beside himself over the result, uttering that it was Hoover who hated Anderson. To change the outcome so that it did not contradict what the ITT expert had found, White House officials pressured the Director, and Nixon even wrote a personal note to Hoover, asking him to “cooperate”. Of course, if he had, not only would his continuance at the Bureau been assured but also the cosy relationship the White House had with the SIGINT giant. Ms. Beard’s lawyers even released her sworn affidavit, denying her early claims to Anderson. Still, Hoover would not budge, and on March 23rd, the Senate received Hoover’s verdict – what ended any hope of Kliendienst becoming Attorney General.
Hoover appeared to be in the driver’s seat, given his “back channel” to all kinds of secrets, mostly SIGINT in nature, which threatened disastrous consequences if Nixon fired him. The most talked about source was the taping system that the Director had secretly installed in the Oval Office, but there were many more sources than that. Their scope indicated that Hoover had something even more comprehensive than ITT, most likely the NRO itself. Remember the Director had cut all Bureau liaison with the CIA, DIA, NSA, Secret Service, IRS, etc., but it needed SIGINT in order to prevent some terrible disaster, like another assassination, so there had to be a back channel with the NRO.
It would not have required much from the Director to expand what it was already providing the Bureau in the name of law-enforcement, and nation security. All Hoover would have needed to justify wider coverage was to say that the Bureau was looking into the possibility of some presidential candidate trying to pull off another “November surprise” about the Vietnam war in the hope of stealing the election.
And if not the NRO, perhaps the Institute of Defense Analyses (IDA), now headed by the disgruntled, former head of NRO, Dr. Alexander Flax, who had resigned because of the White House’s resumption of efforts to win the war three years earlier. Given what McCone was doing for the White House at ITT, it seems likely that Flax would reciprocate in kind for the whistle-blowing Hoover. The IDA had authority to investigate any national security issue for government departments which was science-related, and it could call upon the Pentagon to provide any information which would be used to help test improvements in law-enforcement, technical equipment, communication security, etc.
The crucial importance of Hoover now was demonstrated in what the Plumbers were doing. Since their pursuit of leakers, especially Daniel Ellsberg, had led nowhere despite their break-in, with CIA assistance, of his psychiatrist’s office in California, they had then been looking into getting rid of Anderson – a possible operation in the Gemstone plan. In late March, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt met with the Agency’s Dr. Edward Gunn, an expert on poisons, and neutralizing drugs, and discussed with him how they might incapacitate someone of Scandinavian descent. With the Director proving to be the real danger, though, the focus of the covert operations turned to knocking Alabama Governor George C. Wallace out of the presidential campaign.
Nixon had originally urged the Southerner to compete in the Democratic primaries to help divide its supporters, especially to protect against Teddy Kennedy suddenly attempting to grab the nomination, but Wallace was increasingly proving to be a threat to Nixon’s re-election, particularly when Senator George McGovern proved to be a candidate in his own right and not just a stalking horse for the Massachusetts Senator. The turning point had been the Florida primary which Nixon had urged Wallace to enter, via Bob Haldeman and crony Bebe Rebozo, and he had proven that he was not just a red-neck from south of the Mason-Dixon Line by knocking out Senator Muskie, the Democratic front-runner, for all intents and purposes.
While the Plumbers had an ideal candidate, a Manchurian one, for knocking out Wallace, if circumstances so required, they had to be worried about any replay of the MLK and RFK assassinations at the expense of a real conservative. In 1968, Hoover, as Anthony Summers wrote in Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, laughed off a bid to join Wallace’s ticket as Vice Presidential candidate in order to secure his stay as Director. (p. 369)
The Plumbers, thanks to the efforts by Executive-action specialist William King Harvey, had recruited an ideal assassin, young Arthur Bremer from Milwaukee, for any assassination. Harvey was now a particular red-flag for the Director because he reminded him of the treachery that trusted aide William Sullivan, another strong advocate of covert action, had just engaged in with the White House to get him retired, and to replace him. Sullivan had been forced to resign the previous August.
Hoover was surprisingly candid when he spoke about the Nixon’s relationship with the Plumbers, particularly Harvey, as Summers has reported: “The President is a good man. He’s a patriot. But he listens to some wrong people. By God, he’s got some former CIA men working for him that I’d kick out of my office. Someday that bunch will serve him up a fine mess.” (Quoted from p. 409.) Since Hoover had kicked Harvey out of his office back in the summer of 1947, there is little doubt that he had especially had him in mind.
Moreover, the total composition of the Plumbers has always been deliberately a bit vague to hide the membership of some notorious characters, as their secretary, Kathleen Chenow, explained to reporters Woodward and Bernstein when the Assistant Attorney General was apparently attempting to get Hoover’s files for the White House: “There was another occasion when Mr. Maridan was at a big meeting in Mr. Krogh’s office with Liddy, Hunt and three or four people I didn’t recognize.” (Quoted from All the President’s Men, p. 216)
No one has ever seen fit to determine who they might be, and she certainly knew the personnel who regularly worked out of room 16 on the ground floor in the Old Executive Office Building. Along with Harvey, the men seem to have been Felipe Vidal aka Felipe DeDiego and Charles Morgan, Humberto Lopez, and Jaime Ferrer – an anti-Castro group to carry out assassinations since the Bay of Pigs Operation.
Since Hoover was now playing hard ball with the White House – amassing files on all its buggings, intercepts, and break-ins – nothing rash could be attempted until the Director was clearly out of the way. After all, Hoover had recently explained to journalist Andrew Tully that the Plumbers “…think they can get away with murder.” (Quote from Official and Confidential, p. 409.) According to an article Mark Frazier published in The Harvard Crimson, this group placed a thiophosphate type poison in Hoover’s toilet articles after a previous break-in of his home had failed to find the documents Hoover was holding over the President’s head. “Ingestion,” Summers explained, “can result in a fatal heart seizure and can be detected only if an autopsy is performed within hours of death.” (p. 415)
On May 2, 1972, the Director seems to have suffered such a heart seizure after Nixon had called him shortly before midnight, and told him that he must retire. Hoover’s blood-pressure obviously soared after hearing of the fatal, final showdown with the President, and he must have gone to the medicine chest for medication required, only to ingest the thiophosphate which left him dead on the floor of his bedroom in a couple of hours.
The next morning, while Nixon cronies L. Patrick Gray and Deputy Associate Director Mark Felt, now falsely aka “Deep Throat”, were stripping Hoover’s home of all its documents and seeing that they were shredded, the medical examiners, after contacting NYC’s Medical Examiner Dr. Milton Helpern, decided that the Director had died of natural causes, requiring no autopsy. Later, Felt explained: “For me, it was no personal loss. I never did feel emotional about it. My main thought that day was about the problems created by his death.” (Quoted from Summers, p. 428.)
With Hoover out of the way, Harvey’s men moved quickly to finish off Wallace. Bremer, like Travis Bickle in the movie Taxi Driver, was already well prepared for the job, having been subjected to “psychic-driving” reminiscent of how James Earl Ray had been programmed to kill Dr. King – what would be repeated when it came time for Mark David Chapman to kill Beatle John Lennon. Law enforcement officers were already on the lookout for Bremer after he was arrested on November 18, 1971 for carrying a concealed weapon! For good measure, Bremer bought a Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver at Milwaukee’s Casanova Guns, Inc. on January 13 – the same day that he broke up his relationship with teenager Joan Pemrich, and Wallace announced his third run for the Presidency. Bremer purchased a 9mm Browning pistol on February lst.
By the end of March, the Plumber operation was transferred to Milwaukee. Of course, this led to secretary Chenow’s office being the center of all kinds of communications which Hoover was undoubtedly receiving copies of. The most likely hypnotist to have programmed Bremer was Dr. William Joseph Bryan, who had helped solve the Boston Strangler murder case by hypnotizing suspect, Albert DiSalvo - a name that Sirhan Sirhan had mysteriously written in his notebook before he shot at RFK. Bryan, during the last two years of his life, boasted to two call girls who “serviced” him regularly before he died in 1977, William Turner and Jonn Christian reported in The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: The Conspiracy and Coverup, not only “about hypnotizing Sirhan, but also about working for the CIA on ‘top secret projects’.” (Jonathan Vankin & John Whalen, The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, p. 371)
During April, Bremer stalked both Wallace and Nixon in a way which would be repeated eight years later when John Hinckley, Jr. pursued President Carter and Ronald Reagan. Of course, it was much easier for Bremer to gain access to Wallace than to Nixon, even when the President visited Ottawa in Canada, but the programmed assassin explained his aims in ways reminiscent of Hinckley. “Now I start my diary of my personal plot to kill by pistol either Richard Nixon or George Wallace,” as Dan T. Carter quoted in The Politics of Rage. “I intend to shoot one or the other while he attends a champange (sic) rally for the Wisconsin Presidential Preference Primary.” (p. 419) Nixon, though, never campaigned in Wisconsin, so Bremer was just screwing himself up for some wild aggression against the Alabama Governor when the time came.
Bremer – whose income for 1971 was a measly $1,611 – went on a wild spree in NYC, staying at the Waldorf-Astoria, renting a Lincoln Continental, and seeking sexual pleasure with prostitutes but without any success. Then, reminiscent of how Ray drove around the South, looking for Dr. King, Bremer flew back to Milwaukee, packed his Rambler with his guns, and went to Ottawa again, and to Washington to shoot Nixon, only to report bitterly in his diary: “ALL MY EFFORTS & NOTHING CHANGED. Just another god Damn failure.” With Wallace poised to win the Democratic Primary in Michigan, clinching his hold on the Midwest Rust Belt, Nixon was suddenly confronted by a probable third-party candidate who could spoil his re-election.
During the two weeks after Hoover’s death, Bremer’s wild behavior alerted police and the Secret Service that he was a threat, but the questions were to whom and where. As Wallace was winning the South, Bremer was reading Robert Kaiser’s R.F.K. Must Die, and attended Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange” at Milwaukee’s Mayfair Shopping Center Cinema, imagining that he was actor Alek in the film, and he was getting the Governor. On May 9th, Bremer claimed that only two girls prevented him from shooting Wallace when he attended a rally in Dearborn. Four days later, he arrived five hours before Wallace’s scheduled appearance at Kalamazoo’s National Guard Armory, and when questioned by police about his unusual behavior, he just said he wanted to make sure he got a good seat.
Two days later, Bremer gunned down Wallace, and three others, including SS agent Nick Zarvos, when he attended the Laurel shopping center in Maryland. No one was killed, but the Governor was severely wounded, resulting in paralysis from the waist down, and essentially settling the election. (For more on the assassination, see my “Manchurian Candidates:Mind-Control Experiments and The Deadliest Secrets of the Cold War,” Eye Spy magazine, Issue Eight 2002, p. 50ff.) “Nixon now knew for certain,” Fred Emery wrote in Watergate, “he would not be threatened by a Wallace third-party candidacy as in 1968.” (p. 115) Of course, officially Nixon acted as if it were just an unexpected occurrence, and did what he could to ease the pain of the Wallaces by getting former Treasury Secretary John Connally to do whatever was necessary to get them to retire quietly from the political scene.
Behind the scenes, though, the President and his covert operators worked frantically to make sure that there was no incriminating evidence back in Bremer’s apartment. The FBI, under Mark Felt’s leadership, proving that he was no “Deep Throat”, made no immediate attempt to seal it, and, as a consequence, it was stripped of anything of interest by curious reporters and other unknown parties, the leading member of which must have been Harvey. Felt even knew of Bremer’s identity and residence while claiming to Colson that the Bureau knew nothing about the shooting.
“Hunt’s story,” Emery added, “was that Colson first asked him to break into Bremer’s rented rooms in Milwaukee in search of incriminating materials, then called it off. (pp. 115-6) Harvey’s people had apparently made Hunt’s trip unnecessary. When the Bureau agents arrived at the apartment, they got into a dispute with the SS about who should have control of it. Colson then tried to convince Felt that Bremer had ties with the Kennedy and McGovern camps.
In sum, the killing of Hoover allowed Nixon to insure his re-election by having the Plumbers dispose of Wallace with little difficulty because of Felt’s considerable assistance at the Bureau. And it was all deemed necessary because of the SIGINT that the Director had garnered, especially from the NRO.
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Tags: Alger Hiss, Anna Chennault, Anthony Summers, CIA and Nixon, Daniel Ellsberg, Henry Kissinger, Institute of Defense Analyses, ITT, J. Edgar Hoover thiophosphate, John Mitchell, National Reconnaissance Office, Nguyen Van Thieu, Nixon, NRO, NSA, psychic-driving, Robert Haldeman, Sigint, signal intelligence, Trowbridge H. Ford, Victor Marchetti
Categories : Giant Marlin
By Trowbridge H. Ford
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Tags: Alexander H. Flax, Alexander Haig, assassination of Diem, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Carlos Marcello, Daniel Ellsberg, FBI after Martin Luther King, FBI mafia, Helen Caldicott, Henry Kissinger, history of the NRO, John D. Ehrlichman, Mitrokin Archive, National Reconnaissance Office, National Underwater Reconnaissance Office, Nixon and CIA, Nixon plumbers, NRO, NSA, Operation Breakfast, Operation Kittyhawk, Pine Gap, Robert McNamara, Sam Giancana, Santos Trafficante, Sigint, Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, spooks, spy subs, Trowbridge Ford, Trowbridge H. Ford, Vice Admiral Noel Gayler, Victor Marchetti, war in Vietnam., warrantless eavesdropping, White House backchannel, ZR/RIFLE group
Categories : Giant Marlin
by Trowbridge H. Ford
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Tags: Al Haig, Area 51, COINTELPRO, Gary Powers, General Jack Ledford, HUMINT, James Bamford, JFK assassination, kidnappings of North Vietnamese, Lee Harvey Oswald, McGeorge Bundy, National Reconnaissance Office, NRO, Operation Plan 34-A, Operation SHAMROCK, Pathet Lao troops, Sigint, signal intelligence, SR-71, Trowbridge Ford, Trowbridge H. Ford, U-2, Vietnam War
Categories : Giant Marlin
by Trowbridge H. Ford
One of the least known agencies in the Cold War against the Soviet Union – and what little is known is often wrong – is the National Reconnaissane Office (NRO). Conceived to learn more about the internal workings of the USSR after the simplistic assumptions about ending the confrontation proved hopelessly wrong – e. g., the Soviets could easily be rolled back, spies could readíly unlock what real secrets it possessed or defectors could supply what the West really needed to know about it – the NRO showed that Moscow was much weaker than human intelligence (HUMINT) claimed.
In achieving this result, though, it became so powerful that it functioned almost without any public supervision – almost a state within a state. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the NRO became the instrument of Republican and Democratic Presidents alike to win the war on Washington’s next opponents, whoever they might be, without almost any congressional or democratic control. The NRO became Washington’s preferred secret weapon in the “war on terrorism” because its capabilities were hardly known, hard to stop the continual development of, and much less capable of being defended against.
In WWII’s aftermath, the reorganization and expansion of America’s intelligence agencies was a most confusing process because of uncertainty about its future, how to proceed under the circumstances, and bureaucratic opposition, especially by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, to any significant changes. Given the desire by the weakened Republican opposition for a return to America’s splendid isolation, the Democratic followers of FDR had a difficult time in gaining support for a continuing international role, particularly when many of them were increasingly suspected of being communist tools.
The root of the problem rested with Earl Browder, leader of America’s communists who believed he had influence with the President, allying them with the Democratic Party, arousing beliefs among liberals that he had the support of the fallen President, and suspicions of betrayal among anti-communists – what was only compounded by Stalin seeing to Browder’s ouster from the leadership in 1945, and later expelled. Louis Budenz, a former leader of the Communist Party of the USA turned FBI mole, soured the situation even further by claiming that Browder’s successor, Eugene Dennis, “…had directed a ring of Communist agents in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that included Carl Marzani.” (John Earl Haynes & Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, p. 218)
The leader of the OSS had been Colonel ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, and he was involved in trying to revive the spy agency after its post-war shutdown was being reconsidered, as the amalgamation of the code-breaking services of the Army, Navy and the new Air Force took center stage. Thanks to Hoover’s continuing opposition to any encroachments on his turf, especially because of his intense dislike of Harry Truman and his entourage, though, only the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), and a weak Central Intelligence Group( CIG) – headed by a Director, and assisting a National Intelligence Authority – were allowed to be created. The beginning of the Cold War in earnest led to the expansion of the CIG into the Central Intelligence Agency, and the signal intelligence (SIGINT) problems surrounding the Korean War resulted in the creation of the National Security Agency (NSA) out of the AFSA.
The NSA’s creation caused the greatest intelligence turmoil with the CIA, the fleeing of Soviet spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess to the Soviet Union providing the catalyst. Their flight proved that American intelligence had been riddled with leaks, and NSA’s decoding capacity provided a sure way of proving so at the expense of other intelligence agencies, especially the CIA and its forebearers. NSA’s challenge to the CIA was also most threatening since almost no one knew of NSA, aka ‘No Such Agency’, since it was established by secret presidential order rather than an act of Congress, like the CIA. (For more on this, see Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only, p. 168ff.)
While NSA was busy at Arlington Hall and later at Fort Meade working on Moscow’s coded messages during part of WWII with those people who had had contact with Soviet intelligence (Venona Project) – what threw far more panic throughout American society than the claims of Senator Joseph McCarthy about communist conspiracies – the CIA really got involved in overthrowing governments Washington did not like, and assassinating troublesome foreign leaders. While most people are aware of the successful coups that the Agency engineered against Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh, and Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz, few are acquainted with its elimination of Korean opposition leader Kim Koo, North Korea’s Premier Kim II Sung, Mossadegh himself, Philippino opposition leader Claro Recto, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Egypt’s President Gamul Abdul Nasser, plus unsuccessful attempts on several other world leaders. (For more on this, see William Blum, Rogue State, p. 38ff.)
CIA also prevented NSA’s SIGINT capability from making inroads into its intelligence operations by persuading its leading codebreaker, Frank B. Rowlett – when the new agency wanted to make him head of its code-making business, COMSEC – to come over, and run its operations,”… stealing foreign cipher materials and recruiting foreign crypto clerks and communications employees.” (James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 447) DCI Allen Dulles hoped that Rowett aka The Magician could do some more magic on the Soviet codes.
Rowlett had been the leading genius of the William F. Friedman’s Black Chamber which the Army had reconstituted from WWI back in June 1930, and Friedman was now running the CIA’s Division D and wanted Rowlett to rejoin him. Rowlett had been particularly responsible for breaking the Japanese diplomatic code Purple aka Magic on September 20, 1940, resulting in decrypts which increasingly showed that Japan was preparing to attack French Indochina – what meant war with Washington but failed to foresee that it would be triggered by the attacks on Hawaii. (For more, see Andrew, p. 105ff.)
The only trouble with CIA’s ‘little NSA’, to use Bamford’s term, was that it had little to work with. Prohibited from operating within the United States, and having a most chilly relation with the FBI, it was unable to do what MI5′s Peter Wright in its D Branch had accomplished in Britain regarding stealing codes and breaking encryption machines at the expense of its SIGINT agency, GCHQ.(Spycatcher, p. 80ff.) While Britain was finding out what Egypt was up to during the Suez crisis, NSA did not have a clue about Israel’s ambitions because that was co-conspirator Britain’s responsibility during the preemptive action, and the Eden government didn’t tell Eisenhower’s anything about what was planned.
Up until that time, NSA had been going great guns with its RB-47 reconnaissance flights over the USSR, their Air Force Ravens operating electronic cameras to photograph Soviet installations of interest while other equipment monitored Soviet responses to the intrusions – what established that the USSR was unaware that it could be attacked with devastating results by bombers flown over the North Pole from Greenland (Project Homerun). Once Moscow learned of these numerous intrusions – what Eisenhower approved despite the fact that they could trigger WWIII – and protested to Washington behind the scenes about them, NSA’s capability in this regard became greatly reduced, as the planes could be shot down, and the Soviets rapidly improved their radar all over the vast country to achieve it.
NSA’s embarrassment over these difficulties – what caused the retirement of its first director, Ralph Canine – provided the CIA with an opportunity to recoup, and Richard Bissell, the new Deputy Director for Planning, was quick to take advantage of it. Bissell had been given the post after its warring factions in carrying the war to the Soviets had been humiliated by the Hungarian uprising – what they helped foment – and Eisenhower was looking for a more reliable instrument for containing the struggle. Bissell’s claim to fame was the designing and construction of the U-2 reconnaissance plane which flew above the range of Soviet defenses. “The plane could in one flight,” Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones wrote in The CIA & American Democracy, “take up to 4,000 high-definition photographs of an area 2,174 miles long and 30 miles side.” (pp. 107-8)
To put the U-2′s capability on an analytical intelligence basis, Bissell was given the assignment. It was, of course, because of the U-2′s ability to systematically monitor a given piece of territory that Soviet IRBMs were discovered in Cuba in September 1962 – what resulted in the Cuban Missile Crisis. As R. Jack Smith, a senior Agency analyst who helped brief the President about the crisis, claimed in a somewhat biased way: “American intelligence, and especially the CIA, experienced one of its finest hours…we sifted and sorted until we finally got the evidence that enabled us to target the U-2 correctly.” (Quoted from Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Cloak and Dollar, A History of American Secret Intelligence, p. 191.)
Unfortunately, the Agency’s HUMINT, its dominant side, did not see matters that way at all. The settlement of the Cuban Missile Crisis was its final humiliation – going all the way back to the alleged “missile gap”. Back then, William King Harvey, who had taken over Division D after Rowlett had gone back to the NSA in 1957, had arranged an engine ‘flame out’, it seems, which brought down Gary Powers’ unauthorized U-2 flight – making it look like the Soviets had brought it down for the May Day 1960 celebration – but not only Powers but also his aircraft essentially survived to Eisenhower’s great embarrassment, making the claim about the intrusion a matter of international record. Given the fuss that Khrushchev made over the flights, the Paris Summit was canceled, and Ike was forced to show what they could potentially disclose, somewhat minimizing the assertions by the “missile gap” scaremongers.
Still, the downing of Powers’ U-2 ruined the summit – what the President had put such great hopes in, and seriously considered resigning over – once the lying by the White House was exposed. No sooner had it denied any such overflight than the Soviet leader produced the pilot and part of the U-2 wreckage on television. Of course, the Soviet explanation of the crash – a missile did enough damage of bring it down while destroying a Soviet fighter which was closing in for the kill of the U-2 – made no sense, and the Agency did not help matters by failing to explain how Powers still survived the doomed flight, as did the plane itself. Damaged U-2s were programmed to self-destruct.
Moscow had been tipped off about the U-2 overflights by two NSA analysts, mathematicians Bernon F. Mitchell and William H. Martin. The increasingly dangerous antics by its Deputy Director Louis Tordella – who ran the agency for a generation – finally persuaded Mitchell to fly to Mexico City in December 1959 where he asked for political asylum, but the KGB persuaded him to stay in place, so that it could learn more about NSA operations. Tordella was Wright’s leading ally in Washington, prepared to do any operation which stirred up anti-communist paranoia. (See Spycatcher, p.145ff.) While Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin tried feebly to make out in The Sword and the Shield that Mitchell and Martin had somehow defected then (pp. 178-9), they were in Washington on May Day when Powers went down.
They told Moscow of the planned ‘flame out’, and the Soviets made sure that it was shot down. And after the crisis had passed without any claims of American spying having contributed to the crisis, Mitchell and Martin made their escape to the USSR, via Mexico City and Havana. On September 6th, they gave a press conference in Moscow’s House of Journalists, explaining that they had defected because Washington had been spying on the secret messages of its allies, like France, Britain and Israel, which had recently caused the Suez Crisis!
Of course, it would have been a far different matter if Mitchell and Martin had explained that they had helped shoot down Gary Powers’ U-2 – something that neither Krushchev nor Ike wanted known. While the defectors ultimately settled down grudgingly in the USSR, ultimately marrying Russian women, they contributed little more to Soviet covert government. They even contemplated returning to the West, but they never made it, as Andrew and Mitrokhin have explained: “As chairman of the KGB, Yuri Andropov gave personal instructions that under no circumstances was either Mitchell or Martin to be allowed to go, for fear of deterring other potential defectors from the West.” (p. 179) Moscow, actually, could not afford them saying that they had made such sacrifices for nothing.
To prevent a recurrence by the Agency, Eisenhower took its photo-reconnaissance capability away from it, creating the National Reconnaissance Office right after the embarrassing show trial of Powers in Moscow had ended and right before the embarrassing press conference by Mitchell and Martin. “For the next generation,” Andrew has written, “NRO was to be the most secret of all U.S. intelligence agencies. Its existence was not discovered by the media until 1973, and not officially acknowledged until September 1992.” (For …, p. 250) It was a high price for CIA to pay for just keeping the “missile gap” myth alive. To limit further damaging fallout, the CIA exchanged the most successful Soviet spy, Colonel ‘Rudolf Abel’, for Powers when it got the chance.
Then, thanks to the prodding by Wright (see Spycatcher, p.145ff., esp. p. 154.) Harvey got Division D deeply involved in trying to assassinate Castro, using the cover story that it was trying to steal codes and recruiting Cuban cryptographers. Thanks to poison pills provided by the Agency’s Technical Services Division, and contacts supplied by the Mafia, two unsuccessful attempts were made to kill the Cuban leader while power was being transferred from Ike to JFK. After the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, Harvey was again at it – thanks to more prodding by Wright – as head of the Agency’s Task Force W in Miami, providing agents with a wider variety of weapons to kill Castro but still no success.
To get a handle on increasingly runaway covert government, Kennedy had rightly raised the alleged “missile gap” claim and the plans to overthrow Castro’s regime during the 1960 presidential campaign in the hope that the electorate could make a reasonable choice about the risks America faced but Nixon wrongly declined to debate the issues on the grounds of national security. It was only after Jack’s election that Eisenhower – along with Bissell and Art Lundahl, the head of the Agency’s National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) – set the record straight by briefing him about the intelligence capability America had in terms of technology and allies, concluding spiritedly: “The enemy has no aerial photographic systems like ours!” (Quoted from Andrew, p. 258.)
Still, soon after JFK was inaugurated, he suffered the black eye of the Bay of Pigs fiasco (Operation Zapata) by Bissell’s people, and the President reacted by forcing the retirement of DCI Dulles and DDP Bissell because of the fallout from the fiasco. While the President had assured the public at a press conference on April 12th that American armed forces would not take any part in an armed intervention in Cuba, the facts turned out to be far different, as Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali have reported in The Secret History of the Cuban Missile Crisis: “One Hell of a Gamble”: “Reconnaissance missions flown by U-2s on April 8, 11, and 13 picked up that Cubans had thirty-six combat aircraft, some of which were T-33 jets.” (p. 92)
The NRO had helped the anti-Castro Cubans before JFK spoke, and continued to do so right up until the invasion. Thanks to information supplied by the NRO, as Andrew has indicated, “Zapata began at dawn on Saturday, April 15, with an air strike against Cuban airfields by eight B-26s flown by Cuban exiles.” (p. 263) When the White House learned of the NRO’s support for the bombers – what happened the next day at 10 a.m. during a meeting at CIA headquarters (see National Security File, Maxwell Taylor Papers, Box 12, Memoranda of Meetings, JFK Library, Boston.), Secretary of State Dean Rusk and American Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson insisted that there be no more aerial attacks, dooming the mission.
To make sure that Bissell did not maintain some informal influence in the NRO, Kennedy appointed Dr. Joseph V. Charyk, an Air Force undersecretary, as its director in Setepmber 1961. Charyk, though, was an areonautical engineer, only interested in developing replacements of the U-2s and new satellites. Ultimately, Charyk, and his replacement Dr. Brockway McMillan, relied upon gung-ho Air Force Brigadier General Jack C. Ledford to carry out NRO operations, and he was ready to follow up any discovery of Soviet IRBMs in Cuba with attacks by the 1040th Field Activity Squadron, stationed at Washington’s Bolling AFB. When JFK was assassinated, Ledford was director of the US Air Force’s special operations projects.
To receive more reliable intelligence and fewer surprises from the CIA, Kennedy approved the creation of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and transferred the CIA’s paramilitary operations to the DOD. To head the new coordinating agency, SOD McNamara picked one-time FBI agent, and Air Force Inspector General Joseph Carroll because he was not just another Pentagon bureaucrat. Carroll had not only arrested Public Enemy No. I Roger “Tough” Touhy during WWII, but also helped explain away the defections by Mitchell and Martin – making out that there were more homosexuals in government because of abnormal sexual activity while they were adolescents. While the agency was being revamped from top to bottom because of their leaks – what had been attributed to more communist disaffection – Carroll determined that they were homosexuals who feared being caught!
And the showdown with Cuba and the USSR over the IRBMs – what hardliners in government planned to result in the end of the Castro regime – did nothing to redeem them despite all the evidence that Oleg Penkovsky supplied about Moscow’s strategic weakness. As an unidentified source, most likely NSA Diretor General Gordon Blake, in the Cabinet Room on October 19, 1962 explained during the height of the crisis about General Joe Carroll’s capability: “The National Reconnaissance Office is involved in this. They’re, in a sense, a third agency, responsible for the U-2s, responsible for the drones, anything relating to special reconnaissance for CIA, DIA. Carroll knows how to do this.” (Quoted from Ernest R. May & Philip D. Zelikow, The Kennedy Tapes, p. 188.)
To rub in Carroll’s triumph, papers like Washington’s The Evening Star ran stories about how his analysis of photographs taken by an NRO U-2 – what CIA analysts had not found convincing – had changed “the days that shook the world”. On October 15th, Carroll had noticed signs of construction being carried out in a remote area of western Cuba, near San Cristóbal, and alerted the Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric about it, starting a process which would only end when Khrushchev started removing the IRBMs from the island. (Kelman Morin, “Gen.Carroll Saw Something,” November 1, 1963, p. 1.)
Carroll’s son James put it this way in his biography of his father, An American Requiem: “His rivals within the military intelligence establishment had been defanged, and his turf-protecting counterparts at CIA, NSA, and the State Department had learned to work with him – a tribute to my father’s skills as a bureaucratic infighter, and also a signal of the strong support he had from McNamara.” (p. 140) As evidence of this, Carroll was appointed to the U. S. Intelligence Board two months before the Dallas assassination in the hope that he could continue to keep the renegades at bay.
The fallout from the settlement, however, drove Harvey, with Helms’s tacit approval, to increasingly desperate measures against the Kennedys. (For more on Harvey and Helms, see my articles on Veterans Today, and in the Trowbridge Archive at codshit.com about them.) Harvey – as head of the ZR/RIFLE project in the Agency’s new center of operations in Miami, code named JM/WAVE and run by a leading operator Ted Shackley -crucially misused NRO’s capabilities to conclude his own war against Castro and the White House. Claiming that he was still trying to achieve Rowlett’s objectives (see Bamford, pp. 478-9 for details.), he actually arranged to make it look as if Castro had shot down another U-2 reconnaissance flight – what constituted an act of war, if true – once his efforts to recruit two Red Army colonels from the island as spies, and to claim that Castro had not removed all the IRBMs had failed. (For more on the Bayo-Martino-Pawley mission, see Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, p. 113ff.)
While most people thought that Cold War relations were improving with the Soviet withdrawal of its IRBMs from Cuba – with JFK and Mrs. Kennedy trying to make amends with the disgruntled Cuban-American community, Department of the Army adviser Major Al Haig trying to find livelihoods for veterans of the Bay of Pigs operation, Attorney General Robert Kennedy beginning to enforce the Neutrality Act against those who still wanted to overthrow the Castro regime, Harvey finally being told to cut his ties with Sam Giancana’s contact Johnny Rosselli and forced to take off for Rome, the President signing a Limited Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets, etc. – the changing mood just drove the hardliners to more reckless measures.
The first alarming sign was when DCI John McCone reorganized all the Agency’s science and technical capability under one roof, ignoring the concerns of its predecessor, Deputy Director of Research Herbert Scoville, Jr. As Scoville, a dove, wrote to McCone on April 25, 1963 – after he had resigned and refused to return when asked because of his continuing disputes with the other directorates about the planned reorganization – “he also expressed his frustration with regard to a joint CIA-DOD program – a reference to the CIA’s participation in the National Reconnaissance Program and the National Reconnaissance Office.” (See synopsis of ltr., Document 20, in The National Security Archive of SIGINT material, obtained by FOIA applications of its managers.) Scoville had been at odds too with NRO directors about its authority, their authority, and their relation with the DDR.
“McCone,” John Marks wrote in The Search For The “Manchurian Candidate”, “apparently believed that science should be in the hands of the scientists, not clandestine operators, and brought in fellow Californian, an aerospace ‘Whiz Kid’ named Albert ‘Bud’ Wheelon to head a new Agency Directorate of Science and Technology.” (p. 209) The DCI, though, in letting the scientists who had tried to create intelligence zombies – former Technical Services Staff head Sidney Gottlieb, his new chief Seymour Russell, hypnotist Dr. George White and others – know what he thought of them, he just angered them, and induced them to more reckless operations, as one ex-CIA recalled upon learning of wild cowboy Seymour’s appointment: “The idea was to get a close interface with operations.” (Quoted from Marks, p. 210.) And this is what Wheelon wanted too.
While this close interface was demonstrated when White tried to quickly hypnotize Lee Harvey Oswald, it seems, in Mexico City in July 1963 to kill JFK (pp. 202-3, and n., bottom p. 244) – which failed, and led to Miami Agent George Joannides helping set him up as the fall guy for the JFK assassination, the more relevant experience for this article was the apparent downing by the Cubans of NRO Captain Glenn Hyde, Jr.’s flight while over Cuba on November 20, 1963, on the eve of JFK’s fatal trip to Texas – what crashed into the Florida Straits, activating new agent Porter Goss to retrieve the plane and its photographic material in the hope that it would show that the Soviets still had IRBMs on the island, and were willing to use force to hide their existence.
The LaGrange (Ga,) Daily News (LDN), the paper of Hyde’s home town, headlined its issue the next day thus: “LaGrange Pilot Missing In U-2 Crash Near Cuba” and printed under it a large photograph of the smiling pilot. There were three stories under the headline: one about the man behind another downed U-2, another about Hyde’s last moments Stateside before his sudden disappearance, and a nationally syndicated story about the apparent shoot-down. A United Press Bulletin reported that Navy divers, operating from a PT boat in the Florida Straits, had found the wreckage of the plane, and had started salvage operations to raise the plane. Then there was a story about his wife, entitled “I Believe My Husband Is All Right”, from Leland, Mississippi where the flight had originated from, and where she was residing while he was performing this crucial duty.
The crux of the stories was what while the Strategic Air Command (SAC) theorized that the plane had experienced mechanical difficulties, military sources in Washington “…did not discount entirely the possibility of a Cuban attack on the U2, the intelligence craft that discovered the Soviet missile buildup in Cuba last year and has kept the island under surveillance since.”
On the day JFK was assassinated, the whereabouts of the missing pilot was the headline on the front page, and the story added that an all-out search was underway to find Hyde, and that “divers, during a preliminary investigation at a 100-foot depth, said there was no signs of Hyde inside the fuselage of the plane.” Its implication was that evidence on the craft would determine what it had encountered, and what was the cause of the crash.
The day after the fouled-up conspiracy assassination – what had accidentally or deliberately included Texas Governor John B. Connally, and he had survived, threatening to prosecute those who had apparently double crossed him – the interest in connecting it to Cuba simply died, and with it the fate of Captain Hyde and the evidence within the downed U-2. In the LDN, these concerns were reduced to a three paragraph story on the bottom of a inside page, the fuselage on the bottom of the Florida straits reduced to merely “minor debris”. Much of the hoax was in evidence when the alleged deceased’s survivors were awarded at the Greenfield AFB in May 1964 his Distinguished Flying Cross and the Fifth Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Medal for flights which did not include the one which, it seems, killed him.
The crude cover up of this NRO hoax might have been exposed if several other more immediate cover-ups of the killing were not already underway, and the agency was not the vital instrument of JFK’s lasting legacy – landing an American on the moon by the end of the decade. The Apollo program was the NRO’s baby, and it played it for all it was worth. While the NSA was getting embroiled in the Vietnam War because of its fabrications regarding the Tonkin Gulf incidents, the CIA because of its illegal MH-CHAOS operation against its opponents, and the Bureau because of its similar COINTELPRO program, the NRO, with its satellites, spacecrafts, and new aircraft, was pushing everyone’s vision towards the stars.
Still, in its most secret enclave, it would get into much more dangerous projects and results, as we shall see.
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Tags: Allen Dulles, Armed Forces Security Agency, assassination, assassinations, Bay of Pigs, Black Chamber, Captain Glenn Hyde Jr., CIA, CIA Cuba, CIA Division D, CIA mafia deals, cold war, Cuba missile crisis, Earl Browder, Gary Powers, GWOT, heterosexist government hiring, Jack C. Ledford, JM/WAVE, John B. Connally, Johnny Rossell, Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mohammed Mossadegh, National Reconnaissane Office, National Security Agency, NRO, NSA, Office of Strategic Services, Operation Zapata, OSS, Porter Goss, Project Homerun, red scare, Sam Giancana, Sigint, signal intelligence, spooks, Strategic Air Command, Ted Shackley, Trowbridge Ford, Trowbridge H. Ford, U-2, U. S. Intelligence Board, USAF 1960s, war on terrorism, ZR/RIFLE
Categories : Giant Marlin
By Trowbridge H. Ford
No democratic, developed country has more secretive, conspiratorial ways than the state of Israel, and they were never more in evidence than when its Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated on November 4, 1995 after attending a “Yes to Peace, No to Víolence” rally in Jerusalem by apparently a young, 3rd-year-law student at Bar-Ilan University, Yigal Amir.
While the media portrayed the killing as the result of a right-wing fanatic, opposed to any peace settlement with the Palestinians, it was actually caused by a covert operation gone wrong, reminiscent of John Hinckley’s nearly successful assassination almost fifteen years earlier of President Reagan rather than the mythic ‘lone assassin’ theory which people in the Western world have become accustomed to when such killings occur.
The real key to understanding the murder is appreciating the close connection that Israel established with the United States during its 40-year existence. Without Washington’s increasing support, the Israeli state never would have made it, given the problems the Diaspora and Holocaust had caused masses of Jewish people trying to resettle in Palestine. The Truman administration’s prodding of the new Labour government in Britain to give up its Palestinian Mandate was followed by the May 1948 war in which Israeli forces triumphed against all the odds over those from the weak Arab states of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.
While Atlee’s government attributed Truman’s stance of pandering to Jewish voters – and the President did acknowledge to a group of Mid-East ambassadors that he had no Arab constituents to contend with – he was genuinely committed to the Zionist cause. To enhance Democratic chances at the polls, Truman pressed for the admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees, and called for the partition of the country. When the Mandate expired on May 16, 1948, the USA, along with the USSR, immediately recognized the new state of Israel. Still, Truman’s support of the Zionist cause did not play a significant role in his election in November.
During the War of Independence, Rabin, a native of Palestine, was in an ideal position to take military command of the situation as the British were forced by Jewish terrorists to withdraw. Since he had helped British forces to attack Vichy ones in Lebanon during WWII, he was domestically positioned by 1944 to take command of the Palmach commando unit of the Haganah – what would become the nucleus of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). It took the lead in ousting Arabs from key territory around Tel Aviv, and on the road to Jerusalem. While the Palmach failed to secure the Old City after the British finally departed, Rabin was still seen as a leading hero of the struggle.
The most controversial incident regarding Rabin’s alleged activities during the struggle for independence occurred on June 22, 1948 when a ship-load of Jewish Freedom Fighters, and munitions on the Altelena were prevented from joining up with Menachem Begin’s Irgun guerrillas. They had blown up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in July 1946, and it was feared that they would break the agreement for the cessation of hostilities.
Before the ship sailed from Port-de-Bouc in France, the Irgun in Palestine had signed an agreement with the government of David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv that all arms and fighters independently recruited would be handed over to the IDF, though the ship sailed in the hope of getting round it somehow, and secretly landing them unnoticed somewhere in Palestine – what was largely defeated by Radio London announcing its departure at the time.
When the ship finally landed at Klar Vitin, David Even’s IDF brigade, thanks to an order given by the government, set about seizing the 1,000 men, and confiscating the 4.5 ton cargo of weapons, ultimately resulting in fighting during which six of them were killed. The ship then sailed on to Tel Aviv, and before the whole confrontation was settled, another 10 died, and the ship was set afire.
In the accounts of the Altelena Affair, there is no mention of Rabin having played any significant role in the confrontation – what apologist Ben Shapiro made up for by having him carry the can when Rabin was assassinated for the failure of Begin, Ben-Gurion and Even to settle the difficulty peacefully.
During the Suez Crisis, Rabin, as commander of the Harel Brigade, was most eager to take advantage of its incursion on October 28, 1956 into the Sinai towards the Suez Canal, but the failure of Tel Aviv, Paris, and London to clear the whole operation with Washington resulted in it all going for naught. The invaders were confident that they could force Eisenhower’s hand into backing the ouster of Egypt’s uppity dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser, but the American President reacted with unprecedented opposition and speed, causing all those involved, especially Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, Defense Minister Shimon Peres, IDF chief Moshe Dayan, and Rabin never to forget the lesson.
Washington had learned something about what was planned by intercepts that the new National Security Agency (NSA) had made of messages between Tel Aviv and Paris, and those between its allies in Paris and London, but had not learned the substance of. Thanks to the division that Washington and London had made for eavesdropping on the world under the terms of the the postwar communications agreement, listening on what was transpiring in the Middle East was left to Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to pass on to NSA.
It was sending along only a few which did not reveal what was planned. When Eisenhower learned the full extent of their perfidy, Washington took the necessary actions to reverse it, and NSA vowed never again to be caught short in supplying the necessary intelligence in such crucial Cold War confrontations.
The fallout from the fiasco had resulted in the Soviet Union tightening its hold on the Soviet bloc by suppressing the uprising in Budapest at the same time. Ike, still suspecting that at worst the action in the Middle East was a surprise attack on Jordan, was completely taken aback when the Israelis invaded the Sinai, advancing within 25 miles east of the Canal – just when Imre Nagy, Hungary’s new Prime Minister, announced the restoration of multi-party rule.
America’s U-2 intelligence gathering concentrated upon determining what was slowly unfolding in Egypt for fear that the USSR would take advantage of the fiasco there when, in fact, Moscow was arranging a rollback of what was happening in Budapest. On November 4th, two days before the American election, the Red Army began its suppression of the Hungarian revolution – something that Ike admitted that America, under the circumstances, could do nothing about. (Christopher Andrew, For The President’s Eyes Only, pp. 236-7).
By 1964, Rabin had become the IDF’s Chief-of-Staff, and he planned to pay back Washington and Cairo for the humiliation he and the IDF had experienced eights years earlier – what resulted in the devastating Six-Day War three years later. This time, Israel revealed its aggression to no one, counting on the fact that it could dictate Washington’s response after the fact, thanks to tight security its military-intelligence establishment was noted for, and the political influence Jewish Americans had on the beleaguered Johnson administration, bogged down in Vietnam, and facing the prospect of a tough re-election campaign. There would be no babbling by the Israeli Prime Minister and her defense establishment to Washington about what was in the works this time, as had happened with Prime Minister Anthony Eden et. al. during the Suez Crisis.
The Israeli attacks on its neighbors, starting on June 4, 1967, were masterful deceptions, fooling everyone, it seemed, about who was attacking who with what – making Germany’s deceptions before its soldiers marched into Poland in 1939, and the CIA’s ones before the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 look like the most crude attempts.
The only surprise in the whole operation was the unexpected appearance of the American spy ship, USS Liberty, off El Arish on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast on June 8th during the height of the struggle. The spy ship had great advantages in eavesdropping over other means as it could stay in an area where trouble was anticipated, and it could monitor and analyze all kinds of intelligence from close in, 24-7. Its only drawback was that it could hardly defend itself if discovered and attacked.
As James Bamford has described in the greatest detail in “Body of Secrets”, the Israelis attacked the snooper with the greatest force from sea and air for fear that it was monitoring the slaughter that Rabin’s forces were carrying out on shore against Egyptian prisoners: “…Israeli troops killed, in cold blood, as many as 1,000 Egyptian prisoners in the Sinai, including some 400 in the sand dunes of El Arish.” (p. 202)
In an attempt to prevent the war crimes from coming out, the IDF killed 34 servicemen on the ship, wounded 171 more, and nearly sank the ship itself. It was only after the Israelis had failed to eradicate the mission that they falsely claimed that the attacks were a mistake, and agreed most reluctantly to pay measly compensation for what they had done.
When Washington learned of the hostilities, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the American Ambassador to Israel Walworth Barbour that the Egyptians had started them – a considerable armored force had entered its territory, and had given IDF ones battle. The Foreign Minister lied about Israeli intentions, claiming that they were just interested in containing Egypt’s aggression when, in face, they were involved in grabbing territory which had eluded them nine years earlier.
While Israel wanted Washington to put pressure on the Soviets not to intervene, Moscow preempted the effort by sending an unprecendented message on the hot line, urging Washington to do all that it could to end hostilities, particularly exerting pressure on Israel to do the same. After a hectic half hour in the White House over how to respond to the Soviets’ entreaty, Washington told Moscow that it would not be entering the conflict
It was only afterwards that President Johnson learned of the ship’s dire straits, especially the carnage on board. In anticipation of such a conflict, Washington had sent the USS Liberty there is the hope of preventing it, or at least containing it from becoming a conflict with the USSR. On May 23rd, it was ordered to leave Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, and steam as fast as possible to the US Navy base in Rota, Spain, a journey of 3,000 miles, and requiring eight days travel.
There, it picked up five Arabic linquists and one senior analyst Marine Sergeant Bryce Lockwood to assess the meaning of what the Egyptians were planning and doing. (Bamford, pp.188-9) While Frank Raven told Bamford that the lack of any Hebrew linquists was due to their shortage, it indicated that NSA was only planning to eavesdrop on what the Muslims were doing. On June lst, the ship left Rota, and deployed just off El Arish when the Israli attacks started.
It seems that this effort was conducted secretly from the Israelis to give them cover without there being any revealing feedback from what was happening. The ship would have all kinds of messages deciphered about what Nasser’s forces were doing, but none from the Israelis – what would quell any complaints, especially by the Soviets, of Israeli aggression. It would have no record of any massacres of prisoners by the IDF, and there were still no Hebrew linquists back at headquarters in Athens. It apparently was the Johnson administration’s compensation for the damage the Israelis had suffered at the hands of the Eisenhower administration.
The only trouble with it for the Israelis was that they knew nothing about it, so they went bonkers when they discovered the spy ship just off the coast in international waters, fearing that it was collecting information about war crimes which would be used against Israel’s military leadership There was no other way they could interpret this new surprise.
And when LBJ learned of the attack, Washington was more interested in sinking the ship in order to protect its vital Sigint secrets from falling into enemy hands, and to protect Israel from any embarrassment by inflaming American public opnion than saving it, and providing succor to its crew .While LBJ was afraid that the Soviets had attacked the ship, he was soon informed by his ambassador in Tel Aviv that the Israelis had confessed to having attacked it “in error”. NSA had discovered the attack before anyone else, though, showing that it had been eavesdropping on all Israeli communications to have just the right record for what it had originally planned – what Bamford still cannot explain. (p. 224)
After the President informed the Soviets that the Israelis had indeed attacked the ship “in error”, Washington hoped that the ship would indeed just sink. LBJ amazingly ordered the Joint Chief of Staff to have fighters from the Six Fleet which had arrived on the scene to protect the ship from further attack to be recalled. “President Lyndon Johnson came on,” Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, commander of the carrier force, added in information released after his death, “with a comment that he didn’t care if the ship sunk, he would not embarrass his allies.” (Quoted from p. 226.)
Never in American military history had the Commander-in-Chief been so cruel in the treatment of his own forces, and it can only be explained by the political motives in starting it in the first place. The political fallout domestically, it seems, helped induce him not to run for re-election in 1968. Rabin was so upset by what he had done to Egytian prisoners, and American eavesdroppers that he had a nervous breakdown while the fighting was still in progress.
To contain the damage done by the assault, Rabin was sent to Washington as its new ambassador, and he flouted diplomatic convention by going out of his way to make friends with members of Nixon’s new Republican administration. Rabin’s close relationship with NSA Henry Kissinger and DNSA Alexander Haig came in most handy when the Syrians and Egyptians tried to pay back Israel for the 1967 war by springing the Yom Kippur War on it in October 1972. Thanks to information NSA supplied the Israelis, Ariel Sharon’s forces were able to beat back the Egyptian forces behind the Suez Canal which had surprisingly crossed it, and the Syrian threat to the Sea of Galilee was stymied just at the last moment. When the Soviets threatened to intervene in the war, Haig forced Breznev to back down by placing American forces around the world on the highest alert short of imminient war.
In reading the former Nixon Chief of Staff’s book, Inner Circles: How America Changed the World, one gets a good glimpse of just how Haig manipulated Nixon to help the Israelis while Rabin was manipulating Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the defense of Jordan from Syrian attacks. Little wonder that when she retired shortly thereafter, Rabin triumphed over Peres in a bitter battle for the Labor Party leadership, and succeeded her as Prime Minister.
Three years later, though, Rabin’s coalition government fell apart over an alleged financial scandal, and he went into the political wilderness. Rabin had made enemies out of the leading players by acting as if he were in the process of solving everything – i.e, the surprise threats to Israel’s very existence, claiming how he had been so instrumental in its creation by stopping Begin’s reckless intrusions during the Altelena Affair, and covering up the Liberty one by successfully persuading Washinging that it was indeed an accident.
Though Rabin had negotiated the Sinai Interim Agreement with Egypt, setting the country on its way to making peace with Anwar Sadat, and authorized the Entebbe raid which recovered almost all of the passengers who had been kidnapped by Uganda’s Edi Amin, Rabin found dealing with the Carter administration and his fellow Isrealies over the continuing Palestinian problem so difficult that he resigned after the Labor Party was defeated in the 1977 election, doing so because his wife Leah had broken the rule about no Israeli having a foreign currency account without proper authority – what she had failed to do by opening a dollar one during their days there when he was the ambassador.
It seemed more like an excuse to avoid difficulties ahead all by himself, as if he had some fears of his own safety.
During his absence, the governments in Tel Aviv and Washington worked continuously to break down Arab opposition to Israel’s existence, while trying to get Israeli voters to agree to some kind of swap of land for security. By this time, Israel had more land than it needed, and the Palestinians were becoming increasingly isolated.
The Camp David Accords that President Carter negotiated between Sadat and Begin ended Egypt’s support of an armed Palestinian struggle, though Sadat was to soon lose his life at the hands of Muslim extremists. Sharon’s IDF responded by driving Yasser Arafat’s PLO out of Lebanon.
To soften American hostility to what Sharon had done, Prime Minister Begin went out of his way to tell the Reagan administration that Rabin had lied when he told previous American administrations that the attack on the Liberty was simply a mistake. “We… had a choice,” he admitted in 1982. “The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” (Quoted from Bamford, p. 186)
In 1984, Rabin joined a government of national unity, headed by Labour Party leader Shimon Peres, and soon thereafter he, as Minister of Defense, was obliged to suppress the first Intifada.
He did avoid being implicated in the spying by Jonathan Pollard for the Soviets, and the illegal arms dealing by Ollie North et al. during Iran-Contra. Rabin had insisted that Reagan unequivocally approve the sale of Israeli weapons to Iran in return for the hostages held there, and in August 1985 the President telephoned NSA Bud McFarlane to confirm his approval, adding that Washington would replenish Israeli weapons stocks. (Lou Cannon, President Reagan, The Role of a Lifetime, pp. 544-6)
The trouble with a bipartisan attempt in both Tel Aviv and Washington to solve the Palestinian problem was that it was done without consulting their top leaders while Iran joined the countries willing to support their increasingly fragmented leadership. Israel had long been the Shah’s closest friend in the area, and his overthrow, coupled with Sadat’s assassination, left Begin’s government nearly surrounded by enemies, and too few resources for dealing with them. Iran’s SAVAK (the National Intelligence Organization) had long done much dirty work for the Mossad and CIA, its joint creators, and they had reciprocated in kind, but their joint operations were ultimately its undoing when the young mullahs it had recruited turned on the Shah.
As a result, Israel had to increasingly do its own dirty work – what it had only seriously done before in reaction to the killing at its Olympic athletes at the Munich Games in 1972 .The Mossad had Said Hammami, the PLO’s London representative, shot dead by agents of Abu Nidal’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in January 1978 when it feared that he, an Arab moderate, was attempting to negotiate a peace deal with the Israelis for Arafat.
“The conflict had made little progress ten years later,” Tony Geraghty added in The Bullet Catchers, “when Afarfat’s military commander, Abu Jihad (real name, Khalil al-Wariz) was assassinated with military precision at his villa near Tunis, probably by agents of Israel’s secret service, Mossad.” (p. 376).
During the interim, Nidal’s terrorist group had seen to the hijacking of the Italian liner Achille Lauro, the assassination of Jewish invalid passenger Leon Klinghoffer, and the shooting up of the airports in Rome and Vienna during the terrorist countdown to the shooting of Sweden’s statsminister Olof Palme in Stockholm on February 28, 1986 – what was intended to trigger a solution to all the problems the West and Israel faced with a non-nuclear conclusion to the Cold War with the USSR.
Rabin’s forcing Washington to approve any arms shipments to Iran before they occurred proved most helpful to Tel Aviv when the fallout from Iran-Contra was occurring. The various investigations of the scandal, especially the Tower Commission, believed McFarlane’s testimony about which came first. “The accumulated evidence,” Cannon concluded, “did show that Reagan had given prior approval.” As a result, former head of the Israeli Air Force, and current Israeli businessman Al Schwimmer had to take personal responsibility for trying to sneak 80 HAWK missiles through Sweden on November 17th without statsminister Olof Palme’s approval, beginning the whole massive scandal which resulted in his assassination along the way,
Rabin while he was in New York had even called McFarlane earlier in November while he was in Geneva where Reagan and Gorbachev were to meet for the first time to make sure that he obtained Palme’s permission for using Sweden for the weapons transfer. “Rabin had asked for help in arranging for an Israeli shipment of Hawk missiles to pass through a third country and be transferred to non-Israeli planes for delivery to Iran. McFarlane had directed Oliver North, who was in Washington, to attend to the matter.” (Lawrence Wash, Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up, p. 39)
When Rabin proved unable to crush the Intifada, and the Soviet bloc and Union collapsed in a peaceful way, Rabin easily replaced Shimon Peres as Labor Party leader in its election in February 1992. The result was hardly surprising as the former Prime Minister aka “Mister Loser” had been working behind Rabin’s back with Ollie North’s people so that the arms shipments would go ahead no matter what he wanted, and Palme demanded, as all the American investigations had indicated. (For more, see Walsh, p.37ff.) In the surprising victory, Peres was made a most dangerous enemy, a leader who was more interested in making sure Rabin failed somehow rather than succeeded.
Thanks to Rabin’s convincing Knesset victory in the July 1992 election, he set about implementing his mandate for a permanent peace with the Palestinians – what Washington outsider Bill Clinton, just elected President, was most eager to achieve.
Upon becoming Premier, Rabin ordered Israel’s General Security Service, Shin Bet, to focus its activities on the right-wingers opposed to any settlement, and appointed close associate, Karmi Gillon, its director general – instead of the veteran and more qualified Gideon Ezra – to carry out the mission which Gillon himself had pointed out the need of. Several senior Shin Bet people quit in protest over the new mission. “This policy change resulted in the most dangerous and bitter split ever in Israeli society,” Uri Dan and Dennis Eisenberg wrote in “A slanderous tongue.” Rabin thought it was necessary if there was to be any hope of making the dream of peace a reality.
Once the Olso Accords had been agreed to, and Rabin, Peres, and Arafat received the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, its prospects deteriorated as suicide bombers continued to kill Israelis, and Orthodox rabbis started a most threatening campaign against Rabin’s leadership. Peres helped set up Rabin as the prime cause of the trouble by making him make the symbolic handshake with PLO leader Arafat at the signing of the agreement in Oslo.
They revived two obsolete halachic precepts from the Talmud – the din rodef (the duty to kill Jews who imperil other Jews), and the din moser (the duty to kill Jews who threaten to turn in other Jews to non-Jewish authorities). Religious law student Yigal Amir soon became acquainted with these precepts while attending Bar-Ilan University. The precepts were soon being used against Rabin who had claimed during the 1992 election campaign that he would never negotiate with Arafat – what Yossi Beilin had met the PLO’s Abu Mazen in secret in May to work out the details of. Because of Rabin’s actions in the Altalena Affair, right-wingers like Ben Shapiro were so clamoring that he was no hero at all since he had seen to the killing to his fellow Jews then, and was leaving others to fall into the hands of foreign authorities now.
To stem the anti-Rabin tide, Gillon, it seems, hired agent provocateurs, particularly Avishai Raviv. They created hostile groups like Eyal, composed of angry settlers and right-wingers, to denounce and protest his policies in an increasingly violent way. Reminiscent of the campaign against Olof Palme, they called Rabin a traitor, and a Nazi. The protesters cursed the Premier outside his apartment in Ramat Aviv, and Eyal teenagers produced a video, calling for a military coup. When an Arab was murdered in Halhoul by persons wearing IDF uniforms, Raviv claimed that members of Eyal had done it, though, it turned out after Rabin’s assassination that Arab thieves had done it.
Rabin’s cabinet, especially Minister of Agriculture Ya’acov Tzur, still believed the deception, complaining bitterly when there were no arrests for the killing.
On October 5, 1995, there was a mass protest by the right-wingers at Zion Square, attended by Rabin’s apparent assassin. During the demonstration, a poster was raised on which Rabin’s face was pasted over the figure of Heinrich Himmler – what had been made originally by Raviv and Amir at a Eyal summer camp on the Kinneret. Amir responded to the sight thus: “Because of this dog, this country is going to be destroyed.” When Amir noted TV cameras recording the scene, he said: “Instead of filming, will you come to the funeral? Will you come to the funeral tomorrow?” Then, Binyamin Netanyahu told the crowd being observed by guests including Sharon: “Rabin is a dog – In blood and fire we’ll drive Rabin out – will bring the government down.”
Then the group marched on the Knesset during which they attacked Rabin’s empty limousine without any response by security people. Then it attacked Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezar in his car, threatening to kill him. Once he escaped harm, he charged after Netanyahu, exclaiming: “The settlers have gone crazy, and someone will be murdered here, if not today, then in another week or another month.”
It was 30 days later, on November 4th, that Rabin was assassinated after Amir had fired blanks in a fake attempt to rally public support when it failed, as he went to his limousine after addressing the peace rally, while his bodyguards once again looked helplessly on. Once in the limousine, Rabin was shot twice by covert operators, dying on the way to the hospital. It was a case of hijacking the scene that the Prime Minister had made up in order to dispose of him without any serious blowback, at least not until Shimon Peres dies.
Thanks to Gillon’s deceptive campaign, as the Shamgar Commission investigating the assassination duly recorded, but was prevented from releasing the damaging details of, it was a case of ‘mirror-imaging’ which had completely confused his security detail about the dire threat of. The most damning evidence about a double-agent operation having gone horribly wrong was the admission that Raviv had urged Amir to kill Rabin to prove his manhood – what Amir achieved after shooting the blanks when he told police: “Do your work. I’ve done mine.”
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Tags: 6 day war, Altelena, Ben-Gurion, Henry Kissinger, IDF, Iran Contra, Israel, israel aggression, Lyndon Johnson, Menachem Begin, mossad, Nasser, NSA, Olof Palme, Olof Palme assassination, Sigint, spooks, Trowbridge Ford, Trowbridge H. Ford, Truman and Israel, USS Liberty, Yigal Amir, Yitzak Rabin, Yitzhac Rabin, Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Rabin assassination, Yom Kippur War
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