Deserter David Hemler Helped ‘False Flag’ Plot To Sink USSR At Sweden’s Expense

23 07 2012

By Trowbridge H. Ford

When Social Democrat leader Olof Palme surprisingly regained power in the 1982 fall parliamentary elections, the Reagan administration in Washington immediately tested his anti-communist feeling by having US and NATO submarines flood Swedish waters around its naval base at Muskö to see how it would react. It was a secret plan to check Swedish anti–submarine warfare capability (Operation NOTVART) which the new statsminister had not been informed of. He had been portrayed in Anatoliy Golitsyn’s New Lies for Old, a work by the famous double agent who the CIA and MI6 not only encouraged but also endorsed (See Editors’ Foreword) about the alleged agent of influence who had used his subversive intentions to gain power under false pretences (p. 55ff, esp. p. 288), a suspicion which was long past time to determine the truth of. Palme was on the Reagan administration’s watch list because of his continuing support of national liberation movements in Central America and Africa, and because of his support of a Nordic Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.  Despite the most serious concerns about Palme’s trustworthiness, the statsminister came through the naval ordeal with flying colors.
 
Palme went along with the set-up, also known as the Hårsfjärden incident because of where it occurred, as if nothing was amiss. While it was still going on, Vice Admiral Per Rudberg, Chief of Sweden’s Navy, appointed a service committee to determine what had actually happened, and come up with measures to make sure it didn’t happen again. Two days later on October 15th, the Palme government appointed a Parliamentary Commission under the leadership of Minister of Defence and former Foreign Affairs Minister Sven Anderson, and including leading politicians across the political spectrum to investigate the incident. To assist its inquiry, Vice Admiral Bro Stefenson, the Navy’s Chief of Staff, and Sven Hellman of the Ministry of Defence were appointed as experts.
 
General Lennat Ljung, the Swedish Commander-in-Chief, announced their creation in most alarming terms:  “The investigation of the sea-floor continues. The barricades are still deployed. There has definitely been one submarine, possibly several. No indication of nationality. Large amount of force used, even mines, which has never happened. Tough methods. I don’t know any other country that has done this in peace-time.” (Quoted from May 1983 notes that Palme’s Secretary of State Ulf Larsson  took at high-level meetings.)
 
In December 1982, the naval inquiry, headed by Swedish Rear Adminal Gunnar Grandin, reported to the Navy Chief. It concluded that the Soviet bloc seemed to be responsible for it, thanks apparently to NATO’s continuing checking of Sweden’s national security reliability in light of Moscow’s accidentally beaching one of its Whisky submarines on the rocks off the Swedish base at Karlskrona the year before Palme returned to office. (For more, see Chris Mosey, Cruel Awakening: Sweden and the Killing of Olof Palme, pp. 147-8.) The Grandin report put it this way:
 
“When it comes to nationality of the submarines, we know that the submarine incident in Karlskrona was Soviet.  A number of optical, hydrophonic and passive radar indications point, even in this case to submarines from the WTO ( Warsaw Treaty Organization). Some indications of received radar signals cannot exclude that submarines of other nationality (NATO) have been in the area outside where the incidents have occurred.  The reason for this has probably been to follow the activity.” (CM/Grandin, appendix 2, ‘Händelseförloppet’  Bilaga 2 i ‘Granskning av ubåtsjaktverksamheten mot background av händelserna I Stockholms skärgård’ )
 
On April 26, 1983, the Parliamentary Commission reported, making a stronger case against the WTO, particularly the USSR.  Six submarines had been involved, three of them midget ones, and given what had happened before, especially the 1981 incident, it concluded that they must be Soviet ones. “On this point the Commission confirms,” it admitted, “that neither the sea floor investigations nor any other investigation has yielded proof in the form of objects found or otherwise which could bind a certain state to the violations.” ( SOU (1983) 13,Att möta ubåtshotet – Ubåtskrängar och svensk säkerhetspolitik. Betäankande från ubåtsskyddscommissionen. Stockholm, 1983, p. 81)  Without any smoking guns, the Commission still concluded its narrative of what seemed to have been going on by pointing to the Soviet bloc.
 
The Commission report was too wishy-washy for its Chairman, Defence Minister Sven Anderson, who added falsely in a press conference the same day that a midget sub that escaped to the Soviet bloc on October ll may have been damaged. To bolster any fingers pointed toward Moscow, the Palme government sent a protest to the USSR, stating that such intrusions were serious crimes against international law, adding that they were “…deliberate and illegal attempts to investigate Swedish territorial waters. These activities must be strongly condemned.” (Svenska Dagbladet, April 27, 1983)  Palme made the protest public knowledge by talking about its content, and  delivery at a press conference . Stockholm recalled its ambassador to Moscow for consultation to underline its disapproval of what the Soviets were apparently doing.
 
To keep the pressure on Moscow, certain suspicious submarine events occurred – thought to be WTO ones at the time, but which turned out later to either NATO ones or simple inventions. A month before the Commission reported, there were alarms at both naval bases at Karlskrona and Muskö that unknown subs were in surrounding territorial waters, but the hunts found nothing. Then the day after it was reported, there was a Norwegian hunt for an alleged submarine in Hardangerfjord where depth charges and anti-submariine rockets were used to sink it or force it to the surface, but none was discovered. Then there was a submarine scare off Sundsvall the next day.  Two days later, an unknown sub was spotted in a fjord north of Göteborg on Sweden’s west coast. The next day one was sighted south of that city but when it was forced to surface, it turned out to be West German.  While no Soviet bloc subs were found, the alarms created increasing, unprecedented anti-Soviet sentiment among the population. 
 
It was still surprising, despite the politicised panic over the intrusions, that the government finally reacted to the clamor, and with more Defence Staff justification of it by sending another most caustic note, almost a provocation for war, to Moscow on October 10th.  Acoustic evidence, visual observations, signal intelligence aka sigint, and physical examination of the sea floor where the submarine activity was most intense all pointed to vessels of the Warsaw Pact being responsible. Claiming that it was just summarizing what the Parliamentary Commission had concluded, it filled in its blanks completely at Moscow’s expense. 
 
For example, regarding visual sightings, it declared:  “All observations from the time of the Hårsfjården incident lead us to the conclusion that the submarines belong to the Warsaw Pact.” (SOU 1995.Ubåtsfrågan, 1981-1994, Stockholm, 1995, p. 137)
 
About two sonar findings, it added:  “The conclusion is that in both these cases we are dealing with Warsaw Pact submarines. There it is possible to identify various sounds – i. e.,  identify the number of propellers.” (Ibid.)
 
“Particular circumstances,” it explained about sigint, “make it possible to define even a single ship.  By taking the bearing of the signal, one can determine the position of a sender. It is also possible to get important information by listening to radio traffic between different ships or between a ship and its base.” (Ibid., p. 138)
 
“The existence of the prints on the sea-floor,” it added, “shows that the intruding submarines belong to the Warsaw Pact.”
 
While Moscow had responded to the first note by declaring it an “unfriendly action”, It said nothing about the second one, though it can hardly be doubted that it considered it little short of a declaration of war.
 
The real trouble for Sweden was that it was essentially untrue, as later inquiries after the Cold War ended showed. More important, in 1988, Pär Kettis, Director General of Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment aka FRA reported that it had no signal information about the Hårsfjården incident, so where did the Defence Staff get its sigint claims from?  Commander Björn Eklink, skipper of the spy ship Orion who was later removed from its command because of his gung-ho attitude about getting the Soviets, claimed that he was not surprised by the admission because he had never been informed that FRA  had anything incriminating Moscow. 
 
In short, it seemed that the Palme government had just endorsed leader-of-the-opposition and Parliamentary Commission member Carl Bildt’s statement about the incidents:”I cannot think about anything in modern times that has been more serious.” he concluded: “There is no doubt, (but we) cannot reveal everything.” (“Rapport,” STV2. April 26, 1983)
 
The only reason why Sweden was not directly punished for its provocation is because the United States, in deep trouble of its own then, adopted Sweden’s cause as its own.  The Reagan administration immediately had its foreign policy thrown into the greatest disarray by the revolution in Grenada which overthrew Maurice Bishop’s government, and then the killing of those 346 American servicemen, mostly Marines, in Lebanon four days later.  Washington would have been in better shape if the President had been able to reconstruct his government when National Security Advisor William Clark was obliged to go. (For more, see Lou Cannon, President Reagan, p. 372ff.) Instead of getting personnel changes which were in favor of better relations with Moscow, the President was stuck with one which wanted to stick it to the Soviets, explaining while the difficulties in Stockholm became opportunities for the new team.
 
The opportunities that Sweden provided for getting rid of the USSR some way would not last long - as Washington, despite its efforts to maintain that Moscow was in an aggressive, war-starting mood - had to be concerned that the truth about Hårsfjärden would start to leak out, especially since the Social Democrats, especially Palme, had not been duly informed about what the Defence Staff was falsely claiming,  Not all journalists accepted the official line. Anders Hasselbohm was writing Ubåtshotet – En kritish gtanskning av Härsfjårds-incidenten och ubåtsskyddskommissionens rapport which would soon be published in Stockholm by Prisma. Hasselbohm was getting disclosures, especially Norwegian acoustic and other visual evidence, by NATO officers about individual submarines in the hunt which were known to be Western ones – what greatly undermined the Parliamentary Commission report, and completely gutted the note to Moscow.
 
The biggest problem for Washington with these claims was that the Norwegian Commander-in-Chief, General Sven Hauge who was in Stockholm at the time of the incident, and had lent Stockholm its most advanced hydrophone capability in the hope of catching the Soviets red-handed, making intrusions into Swedish waters three weeks before (Operation NOTVARP), completely changed his tune after he heard the tapes – what America’s National Security Agency (NSA) got wind of. They confirmed what the leakers were claiming about NATO submarines – what the US Navy even confirmed after the Cold War was long over, and it was time to acknowledge the efforts of those involved.  The giving of the Navy Unit Commendation (NUC) to the Cavalla, SSN-684, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) to the Bergall, SSN-667, Guitarro, SSN- 665, Aspro, SSN-661, Groton, SSN-694, and Puffer-SSN-652, along with the midget submarine Turtle, DSV 3, showed that they were involved in some fashion in the incident. (Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, Appendix C, pp. 424-5, and p. 433)
 
To defuse the Hauge-Hasselbohm ticking bomb – what would ruin new NSA Robert ‘Bud’ McFarlane’s ‘false flag’ operation to destroy the USSR in a non-nuclear war – Washington had to inform Stockholm that the Soviets were solely responsible for the Hårsfjäarden incident in a most convincing way. One would expect the National Underwater Reconnaissance Office (NURO) - the agency that DCI Richard Helms had created when Nixon became President to keep track of all the secrets that the Navy was collecting - but it had not been informed by Captain James Bradley’s Office of Undersea Warfare (OUW) of the intrusions of Swedish waters, so getting.the NURO involved would just cause more problems. The OUW, while well-informed about such secrets, was too well-organized, and widespread for any deceptive mission succeeding without some kind of damaging blowback. (For more about it, see ibid., p. 117ff.)  Besides, allegedly ratting on a mission that it was most involved in would be most suspect to start with.
 
So NSA decided to do it.  Now its director was Air Force General Lincholn D. Faurer who had had a long career of carrying out its surveillance missions.  “During the 1970s,” James Bamford wrote in Body of Secrets, “Faurer served variously as director of intelligence for the Southern Command, Air Force deputy assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, vice director for production at the Defense Intelligence Agency, director of intelligence at the U.S. European Command, and deputy chairman of the NATO MIlitary Committee.” (p. 387)  Faurer was known for his can-do attitude, and his obsession about secrecy while the agency was undergoing its largest expansion in history.  “Unlike Inman (his predecessor),” Bamford added, “Faurer was determined to keep out of the spotlight; he began rebuilding the agency’s wall of anonymity.”
 
To make up for the treachery that analysts William H. Martin and Bernon F.Mitchell committed by defecting to Moscow a quarter century before, Faurer apparently had David Helmer defect to Sweden on February 10, 1984, much like Lee Harvey Oswald had done when he went to the USSR, hunting for Soviet leaders. Hemler had volunteered for the Air Force, and had done well enough to become a member of its elite eavesdropping agency, the 6913 Electronic Security Squadron, stationed in Augsburg, Germany.  General Faurer had become most involved in the unit’s activity while serving in various Air Force intelligence capacities in Europe, and was looking for defectors to make up for NSA’s increasingly limited human spying. When Faurer was preparing to retire early, he complained about the need of still more agents, stating that the role of computers in its operations had almost doubled since those earlier defections. (Bamofrd, p. 388) 
 
While Hembler recently explained that his alleged desertion was caused by West Germany’s adoption of the installation of cruise missiles, the defection to Sweden was intended to prevent a nuclear conclusion to the Cold War, only a non-nuclear one which would lead to its capitulation was acceptable, as Joseph Nye had recommended in his Nuclear Ethics. Hemler’s disclosures convinced Palme that the Defence Stall’s claims about the 1982 incident were accurate, causing him to dismiss anything or anyone who claimed otherwise.  When Foreign Minister Lennart Bodström claimed the following year at a dinner attended by journalists who had not taken Hasselbohm’s claims seriously that there had been apparently no intrusions, as its Navy claimed, of Swedish waters, he was sacked by the statsminister. (Mosey, p. 151)
 
The most disturbing event that occurred while Hemler was finding employment with the Swedish government, probably with either FRA or Säpo, was the murder of TV reporter for the Rapport program  Maureen ‘Cats’ Falck and her associate Lena Gräns after they had dinner in a south Stockholm restaurant in November 1984,  They were investigating the Iran-Contra shipment of arms and money to Tehran and Central America, a process in which Swedish arms, especially from Bofors, were involved, and East Germany, particularly the port of Rostock, was the center of. It was the network that Ted ‘Blond Ghost’ Shackley had been assigned by Reagan to put together from Hamburg to help gain the release of American hostages held by Iran. The reporters were apparently poisoned at the dinner, and their bodies were in a car which was driven into Stockholm’s Hammerby Canal - which were discovered the following May.
 
While attempts to get to the bottom of her claim that they were on to ‘something big’ - what has proven fruitless despite attempts to prove that East Germany’s Stasi killed them, as most of their research has disappeared - little attempt has been made, as the Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review magazine noted in 1997, to determine what they meant when they claimed “…something which was going to happen in 1986.” While, in retrospect, people predictably sited the Palme assassination, and it was, but not in the way they thought. When they were murdered, the plan still just called for some ‘false flag’ incident, like what happened in October 1982, and its exploitation. The delay was needed to get all the men, particularly the double agents in Operation Courtship, and material, especially a Keyhole radar satellite, in place to pull it off.
 
It seems that the reporters got wind of the mission somehow, and were asking around about it. It is possible that they learned of it from Hemler, but it is just as likely that they learned of it from CIA agents like Rodney ‘Rod’ Carlson or even Rick Ames himself. They were in the process of putting together the agents who were to catch the Soviets flat-footed over some surprise. Just when Hemler was defecting to Sweden, Ames, whose career crashing, was given the top job in Carlson’s Counter Intelligence Group, head of its Soviet branch. (For more, see David Wise’s Nightmover, p. 94ff.)  It was while Ames was investigating what the moles in Soviet intelligence were doing for Operation Courtship that he decided to become a spy for Moscow, and word of the ‘false flag’ operation leaked increasingly to treacherous members of Sweden’s military, thanks to the Agency’s newest claim that Palme was in the process of pulling off a coup himself.
 
The assassination of the statsminister was now the first ‘false flag’ operation, making it look like Soviet spy Stig Bergling had done it while on compassionate leave to get married,  the second would be Navy Secretary John Lehman, Jr.’s attack submarines sinking all the Soviet boomers which went on station because of the surprise in Stockholm, and NATO’s Anchor Express Exercise being dragooned into taking out the Soviet forces around the bases and in the air over the Kilo Peninsula.
 
Palme had become the target after he most belatedly learned of the plotting by the Anglo-Americans when they tried to slip those 80 HAWK missiles through Sweden on November 17, 1985 on their way to Iran, but stopping them just increased the risks of President Reagan being impeached and removed from office because of his illegal findings.
 
Palme even removed the gung-ho Björn Elkind from command of the most important spy ship Orion in the Balticas Britain’s HMS Challenger was not available, but plans had moved by then far beyond any simple change stopping the juggernaut.
 
Of course, Hemler survived the fiasco, as no one even wanted to acknowledge his existence, much less what he had helped happen. It was only now that it is starting to leak out, after 28 years, but it doesn’t seem that much more will be heard about the deserter/defector, much less why.  
   
 




A History of the National Reconnaissance Office – part 6

28 06 2012

By Trowbridge H. Ford

 

While the Plumbers’ attempted assassination on May 15, 1972 of former Alabama Governor George Wallace assured President Nixon’s re-election in the November poll, it just increased the danger of their conspiracies being discovered during the trial of suspected assassin Arthur Bremer, some conspirator or person in the know turning whistleblower, or the deceased FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover – who they had apparently dispatched earlier to clear the way for the killing of the potentially most dangerous third-party candidate – having made some arrangement for their exposure if something like this happened, especially irrefutable evidence from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) that it had been recording LBJ’s telephone messages at his Texas ranch about ending the war in Vietnam at the height of the 1968 presidential campaign.  The White House and the Plumbers from the NRO, in sum, had to do everything they could to eliminate all suspicion that they had the motive, capability, and opportunity to kill the troublesome Southerner.
 
 The NRO was still officially an even more evanescent agency than its parent, the National Security Agency (NSA) aka No Such Agency.  It was only during Robert McNamara’s tenure at the Pentagon that it even got a toe-hold on what it designed, produced, and used for gathering signal intelligence, thanks to the SoD getting a director, like Alexander Flax, he could work with. Until then, as his successor John McLucas told the Defense Acquisition History Project on June 5, 2001, and shortly before he died, there had been such competition between it and the Air Force about how to produce planes and satellites, and such a circulation of leadership between government employment and the military-industrial complex because of congressional limitations on conflict of interest that the NRO was directed operationally by little more than uniformed personnel among its ranks who could order missions that NSA approved of.
 
 The best example of this was when Brigadier Jack Ledford apparently wanted a U-2 surveillance flight over Cuba to see if Castro was establishing a Soviet military presence on the island. .When the new NSA Director, Vice Admiral Lawrence Hugh (Jack) Frost, heard about it, he gave Ledford and other covert operators a dressing down in typical inter-service rivalry fashion which no one else appreciated, as James Bamford has quoted in Body of Secrets: ” ‘I saw him chew out Frank Raven, Bill Ray (senior NSA officials), and some Air Force brigadier general in a briefing,’ said Robert D. Farley, a former NSA historian. ‘Just the finger-on-the-chest bit.’ ” (.p. 96) Frost’s replacement, Air Force Lieutenant General Gordon Blake, learned the lesson all too well, though, when it came for aerial reconnaissance over the island during the Missile Crisis itself and its settlement, as the fate of downed U-2 pilots Major Rudolf Anderson and Captain Joe Glenn Hyde, Jr. indicated.
 
 Little wonder that McNamara replaced Blake at NSA after he had organized a united service effort to take the fight to the North Vietnamese to insure LBJ’s election with Army General Marshall Carter taking his place, and Dr. McLucas becoming the Air Force undersecretary to manage the NRO’s procurement of weapons, and operations..He got the agency to move beyond the cost-plus and fixed contract way of getting them, with suppliers having to pay back whatever they had received if the weapon did not prove capable, and reliable as they had claimed. Then the NRO returned to first building prototypes for the components of the Rhyoline satellites which the aerospace firm TRW was producing for it rather than just dream up something, like the Air Force was doing with a trial-and-error approach, in the hope that they worked. The pains-taking process of building complicated satellites was carried out at its M-4 facility in Redondo Beach, California, and the first one was put in geosynchronous orbit above Borneo, and its take was downloaded to a facility at Australia’s Pine Bluff in 1970. (For more, see  Bamford, p. 367ff.)
 
 The process became even smoother when former Congressman Melvin Laird became SoD, and David Packard, CEO of the giant electronics firm, joined him as deputy. For more, see this link:  http://www.history.army.mil/acquisition/research/int_mclucus.html
 
 To persuade Wallace that the White House had had nothing to do with the eavesdropping which almost cost him his life, Nixon arranged for political affairs assistant Harry Dent to visit Wallace in the hospital in Maryland, and Nixon’s personal physician William Lukash to check on his current condition.  To make sure that such concern was not considered politically intrusive, Senator Strom Thurmond was contacted to make sure that it was approved, and Nixon Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman was instructed to see what Wallace wanted, to “see if we can make a deal with him.”  (The Haldeman Diaries, June 12, 1972, p. 470)  Nixon worked on Reverend Billy Graham to make sure that the wounded Wallace stayed within the Democratic Party after its convention, making sure that he did not play the spoiler, and elect Senator McGovern even if it required a $750,000 payoff for his staff.
 
 To seal Wallace’s assurance that he would not run, former Texas Governor and Treasury Secretary John B. Connally paid Wallace a visit still in hospital.  Of course, Connally was an ideal choice, having himself been injured as presidential timber when he was almost assassinated when JFK was gunned down in Dallas.  To pressure Wallace still further, he contended that he was thinking of mounting a presidential campaign himself, and was desirous of hiring some of Wallace’s staff if he wasn’t. Wallace said to wait until the American Party convention occurred, as some kind of miracle might occur to make him change his mind.  “John was convinced that this is the most significant day in the campaign,” Haldeman concluded, “because Wallace is not going to run.” (Ibid., July 25, 1972, p. 486) 
 
 Bremer’s trial was expedited because the White House took over the investigation of the crime from Maryland officials, and saw to his prosecution as quickly as possible – before even Wallace’s ultimate state of health was determined.  Hours after the attempted assassination, Nixon took the unprecedented step of calling Assistant FBI Director Mark Felt for apparently the only time, softening him up to work the White House’s will by expressing the hope that Bremer had been “worked over pretty good” when he had been apprehended. Then the President told Felt that he didn’t want the murder inquiry extended by any slip-ups, as had occurred in the JFK assassination, and had caused them to become a national preoccupation.  “We’ll take care of that,” Felt reassured Nixon, as was reported by the AP in 2005 year, and puts to rest the claim that he was the whistle-blowing “Deep Throat”.  (For more on the real “Deep Throat”, see my two articles about Al Haig in my archive.)
 
 And Bremer’s court-appointed counsel, Benjamin Lipsitz, completely compromised his defense by introducing his alleged 137-page diary to help establish his irresponsible “schizophrenic” character, what began with him writing that he was setting out to assassinate either Nixon or Wallace – what rendered the President innocent of anything.  With the President off the hook as being behind the attempted murder, the court made short work of the defense, especially since the expert witnesses were evenly divided over Bremer’s mental state, resulting in his being given a 63-year sentence.  While it was reduced ten years in an unsuccessful appeal of the verdict, the Bureau belatedly investigated the crime for another eight years – resulting in the 26-volume WalShot file which only added suspicions of a White House conspiracy, and the dying Wallace in 1996 endorsed.
 
 While all this prevented any dangerous blowback from Wallace’s shooting, it did nothing to solve the question of what the Bureau’s deceased Director knew about Plumber operations – what had apparently led to his murder – and what measures he might have taken to guarantee their disclosure in case anything happened to him.  After all, most people have a lawyer, even if one is only to make up the terms of a will, and see to its execution after death, and Hoover, being such an important, controversial figure for so long, undoubtedly had one. 
 
 Yet, in reading biographies of him, one cannot find the name of any lawyer he could have trusted enough to have made him his own counsel – only the names of ones he hated, and tried to discredit with the help of other lawyers.  For example, Hoover used good friend and New York attorney Morris L. Ernst in this capacity to protect his and the Bureau’s reputation against Max Lowenthal’s proposed exposé of the FBI, but he, as Curt Gentry wrote in a footnote in J. Edgar Hoover, “objected, more than once, to Ernst characterizing himself as his ‘personal attorney’.” (p. 233) 
 
 Hoover’s personal attorney when he died was apparently Lawrence O’Brien, an employee of the Hughes Tool Company, and now the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) whose offices were in the Watergate.  Of course, both Nixon and Hoover had various relationships with the reclusive airplane, and film maker. The President and Felt had to worry that the former Director knew more than just brother Donald Nixon’s dealings with Hughes regarding financial and sexual irregularities, and that Hoover had passed the information to White House “enemies”  – what the Assistant Director had superficially covered up.  Now the fear allegedly was that the Cuban security service was passing information to the DNC about  Nixon’s attempts, with Hughes’s help, to assassinate the Cuban leader – the blowback from which resulted in JFK’s murder, and which LBJ would be in an ideal position to exploit.   
 
 Besides, O’Brien, as LBJ’s Postmaster General, had crossed the Director right after the Dallas assassination, as no one else had, in his dealing with former agent and now Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd, exposing the Bureau’s interception of a letter that a disgruntled staff assistant had sent to muckraker Jack Anderson, only for Hoover to find out that Dodd was hoping to replace him at the Bureau. Until then, Hoover had been making sure that the Bureau did nothing to uncover Dodd’s criminal ways.   “It was the unpardonable sin,” Gentry concluded. (p. 592)  O’Brien, on the other hand, gained the Director’s good graces.
 
 O’Brien had the closest relation possible with the eccentric billionaire and his company. In 1953, Hughes had turned over all his stock in the company to the Hughes Medical Company, a tax-exempt charity registered in Delaware which carried on medical research.  In 1968, when Congress was considering ending such exemptions, Hughes political operator Robert Maheu, who knew all about William King Harvey’s assassination plots against Castro and others, hired O’Brien to make sure that this didn’t happen, and O’Brien secured its continued exemption. This was when the Hughes empire was deeply involved in secret programs for the government, especially Senior Vice President at the Aircraft Company Tony Iorillo’s plan to design and build a gyrostat satellite for the NRO (Explorer 50) - lifting their size limitation, complexity and capabilities. (For details, see Bamford, pp. 343-6.)
 
 As Bamford described, despite the satellite’s capability, its messages just at this time from Firebase Sarge in Vietnam were completely ignored by NSA when the North Vietnamese build-up, north of the DMZ, occurred during January and February, 1972. NSA was too busy extending the satellite network that the NRO was constructing over the globe to read what was its take.On March 30th,  the North Vietnamese attacked, and staged the biggest victory over American and South Vietnamese forces since the Tet-offensive back in 1968.  This Easter offensive left no trace of either the Explorer system, or the defeat on the battlefield with the American public. “The war was over,” Bamford concluded, “and the United States had lost.” (p. 346)
 
 John Mitchell, now chairman of the Campaign to Re-Elect the President, and his chief adviser, Frederick LaRue, were so afraid of O’Brien’s potential to cause trouble in this environment that they ordered a break-in, and bugging of the DNC at the Watergate on March 20, 1972 – what had to be postponed until both Hoover and Wallace were put out of the way, as I have already explained.  They were particularly interested in finding out if O’Brien had somehow gotten vital information from Hoover, especially NRO documents about Nixon’s “November Surprise” in the 1968 election, the Plumbers’ composition and operations, the destruction of the Explorer system monitoring the DMZ in Vietnam, and the unexpected presence of the Secret Service agents in Bremer’s apartment when Bureau agents, thanks to Felt’s direction, arrived.  It was suspected that O’Brien was still receiving similar information – what could constitute a Democratic “November Surprise” in the upcoming presidential election, resulting in an instruction also to tap his telephone and to bug his office.
 
 The results were two break-ins of the DNC, the first one on Sunday, May 28th, and the second on June 17th, after several, it seems, false starts – what might well have been invented after the burglars were arrested to give the false impression of how unprofessional the operation had been from the outset. (For more on this, see Fred Emery, Watergate, p. 118ff.)  The trouble with the first break-in was that its one successful tap was not on a phone being used by O’Brien. Furthermore, the CRP was no longer interested in current party activities but what the DNC, as J. Gordon Liddy later explained, “…had of a derogatory nature about us, not for us to get something on him. (Quoted from Emery, p. 125.  Italics Liddy’s) 
 
 Of course, the best source of such information would be Hoover’s own files or copies of them - what the Plumbers went back in the hope of photographing three weeks later. “They want everything in the files,” former CIA security agent James McCord explained to an incredulous Howard Hunt, the mission’s operational chief who had put together the forged documents (code name GEMSTONE), implicating JFK in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem. 
 
 While the new mission planned to take pictures of 1,800 documents in files in the office on 50 rolls of film – what required having a key somehow to Secretary to the Director of the State Chairman Ida “Maxie” Wells’ desk where all the necessary file cabinet keys were kept. They were to photograph incriminating evidence the DNC had regarding Nixon – e.g., the Director’s file of infra-red photos that the CIA had engaged MI6 to take in Hong Kong when alleged Red Chinese spy Marianna Liu visited Nixon’s bedroom, the recorded messages of South Vietnam’s “November Surprise” which torpedoed Humphrey’s election, the defeat there which NRO’s Explorer system had recorded, etc.  
 
 The Plumber mission was deliberately sabotaged by McCord failing to remove the tapes from doors down to the garage-level entrance he used to re-enter the complex, fearing apparently that a successful operation would so reveal misdoings by the Agency that the White House would be bound to take drastic action against it. Of course, this reason had to be covered up in all accounts by all kinds of bogus claims - Hoover was just protecting disclosure of his homosexuality rather than that at the White House, the Agency was protecting itself for having arranged on its own for Hughes to build the Glomar Explorer to raise a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine (Project Jennifer), the DNC was protecting itself against disclosure of a sex ring John W. Dean’s bride-to-be was helping run from it to blackmail politicians, especially Republicans, etc. 
 
 The arrest of the five burglars - followed shortly thereafter by those of Hunt, Liddy and lookout Alfred Baldwin - made what they were trying to photograph hardly a concern at all.  The White House was most eager just to dismiss it as an ill-conceived rogue operation, and when it couldn’t, it tried to get the Bureau to just stick to the suspects, and the Agency to provide a national security cover against it being exposed while behind the scenes it attempted to secure the silence in various ways of those accused, and others involved, particularly Plumber secretary Kathleen Chenow.  If she started talking to the Bureau, all the White House plots risked being exposed. 
 
 Dean, the President’s counsel, was responsible for keeping the cover up under control, especially her. (See Emery, p. 201)  The basic details of the cover-ups were contained in the June 20th tape of the conversation between Nixon and Haldeman in the EOB – what became known ultimately as the “181/2 minute gap” and “the smoking gun” when, in fact, the whole discussion had been erased. “The conclusion was,” Nixon’s Chief of Staff wrote in his diaries, “that we’ve got to hope that the FBI doesn’t go beyond what’s necessary in developing evidence and that we can keep a lid on that, as well as keeping all the characters involved from getting carried away with unnecessary testimony.” (p. 473)
 
 For the Oval Office, the immediate problems were to get John Mitchell to give up being CRP Chairman, O’Brien to give up any thoughts of helping torpedo somehow Nixon’s re-election, and Vice President Spiro Agnew to step aside so that former Treasury Secretary John B. Connally could take his place on the Republican ticket – what would render any SIGINT intelligence about them or had by them as benign as possible. Lookout Baldwin had indicated to his lawyers that he was willing to go after Mitchell, and while he didn’t have the evidence to prove his case, it was feared that O’Brien did, especially since he issued a statement stating that the break-in “raised the ugliest question about the integrity of the political process that I have encountered in a quarter century of political activity.”  (Quoted from Emery, p. 159.)
 
 To force Mitchell’s resignation, his wife Martha, who was campaigning for the President’s re-election, started speaking out wildly about her husband, claiming Nixon’s henchmen Erlichman and Haldeman had called her husband at the crack of dawn in California to inform him of the arrests. Then she made hysterical calls to the famous UP White House reporter, Helen Thomas, claiming that her husband was involved in Watergate, and that she was going to kick him out of the house “…if John didn’t get out of politics…” – a conversation she terminated by pulling the phone line out of the wall.  Bob Woodward paid a visit to her Essex House apartment in NYC to get an exclusive interview in which she stated she was writing a book about the “dirty politics” which were required to get statesmen like Nixon elected.  Because of Martha’s erratic behavior – conveniently assumed to be the result of her growing alcoholism - Mitchell resigned at the end of June.
 
 O’Brien, instead of getting the inquiry he demanded about the break-in, was subjected to a wide-ranging criminal investigation, and political attacks while the White House continued to manage its cover-up of Plumber operations.The Justice Department and the IRS started a criminal inquiry into his possible tax evasion on the Howard Hughes yearly retainer - what was serious enough to scare him off from being Senator George McGovern’s Vice Presidential candidate. 
 
 Besides, LBJ was unwilling to endorse McGovern because he thought he was all wrong about Vietnam, promising to work behind the scenes to help Nixon’s re-election.  Ultimately, the pursuit of O’Brien on unpaid taxes for $190,000 from Hughes would turn out to be a “dry hole”, as Erlichman reported in September - as he was cleared in an IRS audit – but the threat had been good enough to move him out of the picture, as he obviously did not want a detailed scrutiny of his finances.
 
 Getting rid of Agnew was a more difficult matter, as he was Vice President, and the only real successor to Nixon was Connally, though he did not think that he could follow the President by becoming Spiro’s successor. Besides, Agnew was the vital connection to the Mafia, and able to mobilize Democrats for Nixon by his bitter attacks on McGovern, though bringing his own psychological soundness into question in the process.  Frank Sinatra, leader of Hollywood’s Rat Pack who had just arranged Mafioso Angelo DeCarlo’s early release from prison and pardon through Agnew by giving John Dean $100,000 in cash as an “unrecorded contribution”, and another $50,000 to the CRP, was most unhappy with having to deal with Connally now in such matters – what was resolved by having the singer lead a celebrity reception at the Residence.
 
 More important, Agnew had been responsible for the appointment of Chalres C. Richey, a Democrat, as a federal judge whose ex-parte statements about the $1,000,000 civil-damage action the DNC had initiated against the CRP’s Maurice Stans for the break-in, and whose pushing for a plea-bargain settlement of a Mann Act prosecution of Phillip Bailley proved most beneficial to the White House. Richey”…told Roemer,” counsel for the RNC, Dean told Nixon,”he thought Maury (Stans) ought to file a counter libel action.” (Quoted from Silent Coup, 226.)  The criminal prosecution of Bailley similarly got nowhere when the judge said to the parties that it was in the interest of all to settle the action without further inquiry. The only party whose interest was served by the settlement was John Dean’s as Bailley, as his address book showed, was helping run a prostitution ring out of the DNC to get dirt on its politicians with the help of Dean’s wife-to-be, Maureen Biner.
 
 In sum, nothing was done to get rid of Agnew until the prosecution of the Plumbers, and Nixon’s re-election was successfully negotiated.  Of course, the coup de grace to the Democrats had been National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s apparently arranging a successful conclusion to the Vietnam War. The settlement was essentially what LBJ had negotiated back in 1968, though this time there was no trouble, it seemed, from President Thieu after Kissinger went to Saigon to get him to go along.  “We’d have everything done by the end of the year,” Kissinger told Nixon, DNSA Haig, and Haldeman on October 12th. 
 
 Unfortunately, the NSA did not even reach a settlement, much less its implementation by year’s end – as Thieu was increasingly objecting to what was being proposed - inducing Nixon to appoint Agnew to force him to agree: “He is to convince Thieu as leader of the hawks,” Haldeman wrote in his diaries, “that there will be no support for him unless he goes along.” (p. 553)  
 
 To soften up the North Vietnamese to accept the plan too, Nixon authorized B-52 raids on the North, and the reseeding of Haiphong Harbor with mines. After four weeks of devastating raids, reminiscent of Operation Arc Light carried out after the Tonkin Gulf incidents, the North Vietnamese and South Vietnam’s President were forced to settle.  Of course, the bombing campaign put the NRO under the greatest strain to gather satellite intelligence of targets through its station at Pine Gap – what risked causing a political rupture with Australia’s government if exposed.
  
 Haldeman put the result of  Vice President’s mission this way in the January 23rd entry: “Thieu had finally capitulated a few days before.”  Agnew was so pleased with his negotiating skills that he requested a meeting with the wary Nixon during which he proposed to …”take a trip to Egypt to visit Sadat, and see if he could try and untangle something on the Middle East.” The incredulous President explained it all to Agnew wanting to rebuild his image.
 
 Agnew had given Thieu the same aim when he strong-armed him into accepting the terms of the proposed settlement, as he apparently did try to improve his image in America in a way the White House least expected - telling LBJ how he had been persuaded by the current Vice President not to take the terms Johnson was proposing four years earlier.  Dean had already called for hard evidence to prove that LBJ had ordered the FBI to bug Nixon’s plane during the 1968 campaign to counter the fallout from the Watergate convictions, and when the former President heard that the Bureau’s former executive Cartha ‘Deke’ De Loach was looking into the matter, “…LBJ got very hot, and called Deke, and said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this, that he would release (deleted material – national security), saying that our side was asking that certain things be done.” (Haldeman, January 12, 1973, p. 567)  De Loach, Haldeman added, took this as a direct threat.
 
 While De Loach indicated that LBJ had called for bugging Nixon’s plane – a request he claimed the Bureau declined – and a check of Mrs. Anna Chennault phone calls, and a tap put on her phone, LBJ obviously had other ideas, and planned to come to Washington to make his case among disgruntled Democrats. “Mitchell,” Haldeman added, “also said he was meeting with O’Brien today, and will make reference to this whole thing in that meeting and see what he can smoke out.”
 
 Undoubtedly, the former Attorney General was looking for confirmation that LBJ had the NRO’s goods on Nixon’s meddling - his “November Surprise” back in 1968 - and had confided documents and Thieu’s testimony in the DNC Chairman about it all. It was all shaping as a most unprecedented inaugural for Nixon.  (For more on this, see the January 11, 1973 tape of the conversation in the Oval Office between Nixon and Haldeman in Stanley I. Kutler, ed. Abuse of Power, pp. 202-4 - noting in passing that it is not followed by another taped recording for three weeks, the biggest gap of all.)
 
 Former President Johnson died on the plane while making his way back from Washington on January 22nd, apparently victim of a heart attack, reminiscent of how Hoover had died.  Of course, he could have died from the angina he was suffering from, popping nitroglycerin pills often to keep the pain manageable, though the trip itself – what he felt impelled to make to rebuild his reputation – killed him. The actual cause of death we will never know, as there was no autopsy, as in Hoover’s case.
 
 There is still alarming evidence that he did not die a natural death.  Johnson’s trip back to Texas had been supervised by White House Dr. Walter Tkasch, a physician noted for giving the patient what he wanted, and a good friend of the Agency’s Dr. Sidney Gottlieb who was currently running its ORD program, the successor to MK-ULTRA. (For more on this, see the article about DCI Richard Helms.) In 1968, ORD people set up a joint program with the Army Chemical Corps (Project OFTEN) to study the effects of various drugs on living creatures.It hoped to discover, John Marks quoted a researcher saying in The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate’, “a compound that could simulate a heart attack or a stroke in the targeted individual.” (p. 227)
 
 Was LBJ that targeted individual?  Marks certainly made it sound so when he added this about the just sacked DCI because of his failure to provide Agency cover for the Watergate:  “In January 1973, just as Richard Helms was leaving the Agency and James Schlesinger was coming in, Project OFTEN was abruptly canceled.”
 
 Some other unlikely changes, or just coincidences, included Laird - the elected official best known for stating the politicians have to live longer with their consciences than with their constituents - resigned hurriedly just a week about LBJ died. Laird had joined Nixon in getting Thieu to reject his intended surprise to help Humphrey win the November 1968 presidential election, and he knew that Johnson’s survivors had the goods on his dirty work, so his sudden departure from the Washington scene reduced the need of exposing it.
 
 To replace him, Nixon quickly got Elliot Richardson – the Secretary of Health, Education, and Environment, and who went on to become Attorney General just four months later when the Watergate scandal was really heating up – in the Pentagon office, and the move seemed like another convenient means of a cover up.  Richardson, as we shall see, was involved in seeing if dilantin, a pill that Nixon was taking for his depression, could be approved for general public consumption for almost anything by the department.
 
 Then when Schlesinger moved from the Agency to the  Pentagon for more house cleaning, he made McLucus Secretary of the Air Force, the first undersecretary to be so advanced, so that he could explain whatever the NRO had been doing which required some public explaining.
 
 Of course, the first thing that comes to mind are the tapes it had amassed about the details of the former President’s sudden death when he was taken back to his Texas ranch on Air Force One, and arranging a cover up there with Lady Bird about what had happened – one so successful that the public still believes that he died while having a long sojourn there! 
  
 
 
 
 




A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 5

25 06 2012

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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A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 4

11 06 2012

By Trowbridge H. Ford

Whenever a new administration takes over in Washington, especially that of the other party, there is a vast change in the Executive Branch because of policy needs, the demands of favor, and the needs of individuals.The new President will need a group of like-minded specialists to satisfy the demands of current administration and future policy changes, the needs and expectations of party enthusiasts and special interests who have invested so much of their time and resources in his election, and those who burned themselves out at various posts while trying to keep his predecessor in office.  The shakeup in the White House is so chaotic that it is almost impossible to satisfy basic security concerns while the transformation is taking place.
 
Given this situation, the replacements of administrative personnel are usually seen as normal and most predictable.  Consequently, when Dr. Alexander H. Flax resigned as director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in March 1969, it was hardly even mentioned, much less raising any eyebrows.  Flax had been director for 3 ½ years demanding years – ones in which the NRO finally completed the objective of the Apollo program of sending men to the moon, and safely returning them to earth just before Christmas 1968 – just when the new Nixon administration has organizing itself to take power the next month. The public would hardly have been surprised if Flax took advantage of the Pentagon’s revolving door relationship with its industrial complex, and opted for a cushy position in the private sector.  
 
From the very outset when Richard Nixon was elected President in November 1968, though, his administration was ideally suited to take advantage of all the capabilities of the NRO. ‘Tricky Dick’ seemed just the man to want the services of an agency officially unknown, and whose abilities were only really known by a most small circle. It was not until five years later - in the middle of the Watergate scandal – that the media finally discovered its very existence, and it took another generation before officialdom - when it wanted to clean up its image - formally acknowledged its existence. The Nixon administration appeared to offer opportunities that Flax could hardly afford to turn down despite its stated intentions of ending America’s war in Vietnam.
 
And Flax did not offer his resignation, only to learn almost immediately that it was dejá vue all over again. Instead of using the NRO to help achieve peace – what the voters expected from Nixon since the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, had promised to continue LBJ’s campaign there to a successful conclusion – the Republican administration, thanks to input by the new National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, and his military assistant, Colonel Alexander Haig, opted to snatch victory from defeat by launching a massive aerial bombardment of the whole area to destroy the ability of the North Vietnamese and their alleged surrogates, the Viet-Cong, to continue fighting.
 
Of course, they have maintained most false claims about what was afoot, once the gambit ended in total failure.  Kissinger wrote in 1979: “The Nixon Administration entered office determined to end our involvement in Vietnam.” (Quoted from Robert J. McMahon, ed., Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War, p. 425.)  According to Kissinger, the reason why it didn’t do so successfully was because the American public and Washington’s commitments further afield did not permit the time and effort that General de Gaulle had been allowed to withdraw from Algeria. Haig, in Inner Circles, played dumb about the whole matter, acting as if he were merely a White House errand boy who prepared the President’s daily intelligence briefing, merely alluding to a paper he prepared for the President which Kissinger was enthusiastic about, and Nixon “…ordered us to put it into effect.” (p. 196)
 
Nixon’s first chief of staff, in his amended, published The Haldeman Diaries, described a most secret meeting held in Brussels during Nixon’s first visit to Europe on February 24, 1969:  “At the meeting K, his deputy, Al Haig, and a Pentagon planning officer worked out guidelines for a proposed plan for bombing North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia.  P had decided on the plane to Belgium to order the bombing as a response to the North Vietnamese countrywide offensive that they launched the day before we left.” (p. 33)  The plan included the items that Haig and Lt. Col. Dewitt Smith had recommended to Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson five years earlier, but had been rejected at the time because they were too risky. (See Haig, pp. 137-9.)
 
While implementing the plan was postponed for three weeks in order to override State Department opposition, Operation Breakfast – the codename apparently befitting Haig’s morning intelligence duties – was kicked off on March 16th, a Sunday, after a dutiful church service.  Two days later, Haldeman reported, “K’s ‘Operation Breakfast’ a great success.  He came beaming in with a report, very productive.  A lot more secondaries than had been expected.  Confirmed early intelligence.  Probably no reaction for a few days, if ever.” (p. 41)  The next phase of the secret war, Operation Lunch, the military incursion into Cambodia, followed in due course, but one would never know from reading Haig’s account.
 
Of course, Haldeman was referring to a North Vietnamese reaction, but there had already been a response.  Flax tendered his resignation just then, knowing that the Nixon administration had the tiger again by the tail, and he wanted no longer to be a part of it.  Haldeman, along with other administration leaders, also did not anticipate the increasingly hostile press coverage of the accelerating operation, thanks to leaks to the media about it.  Soon the Washington Post and New York Times reporters, especially William Beecher, were barred from the White House, and Haig, who was now regularly consulting with Nixon in the Old Executive Office Building where they both had offices, was busily involved in determining their source.
 
To implement the secret Kissinger-Haig plan, the White House created a “backchannel” with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thereby circumventing not only SOD Melvin Laird, Secretary of State William Rogers, and the Cabinet but also NSA and the CIA.  “Using special codes, teletypes, and secure terminals located at the Pentagon and in the White House Situation Room,”  Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin wrote in Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, “the president and his national security adviser could send and receive messages to selected American officials and members of foreign governments around the world without alerting the rest of the United States government.” (p. 8)
 
Of course, the secret war needed the NRO to collect the aerial intelligence, and to provide the necessary communications for the successful completion of what the agenda called for – disrupting the transmission of men and materiel along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the ousting of the North Vietnamese from their Cambodian sanctuary, pursuing those who fled into Laos, the mining of Haiphong Harbor, etc. – and a second set of false reports about results in order to keep others in the dark about what was going on.  Haig, in characteristic style, explained the campaign as the result of the North Koreans shooting down a US Navy EC-121 reconnaissance plane on April 14th (p. 204ff.), a month after the bombing of Cambodia had started.   
 
For all intents and purposes, Rear Admiral Rembrandt C. Robinson - the top assistant to Admiral Thomas H. Moorer – the CNO who would soon become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs - was the NRO’s deputy director under the new arrangements.  While Robinson was said to be running, later along with Yeoman Chuck Radford, a liaison office, connecting the JCS with the NSC – he was actually seeing to the implementation of what had been agreed to by Kissinger and Haig regarding the secret war.  Robinson may well have been the Pentagon planner present at Brussels at its inception.  The Admiral was a go-for-broke type who would stop at nothing to win the war in Vietnam      
 
As Admiral Robert O.Welander - Robinson’s replacement to the White House when the operation had to be closed down - explained to John D. Ehrlichman, the President’s Assistant on Domestic Affairs, and David R. Young, an aide to Kissinger, on December 23, 1971, his joint-position had existed for about ten years, and he took over from Admiral Robert Ginsburg who had held the position in the LBJ administration:  “I’m a two-way avenue of communications. I try and explain things to the (NSC) staff.  I mean some of the formal military positions, things of that sort.  I’m an in-house military expert; if they need some things done quickly.  I can go ahead and punch into the organization over there much more quickly and hopefully effectively, than if we go down through the formal mechanism.”
 (Quoted from Colodny and Gettlin, p. 447.) 
  
While Robinson was responding to NSC commands with NRO missions, Haig was increasingly trying to determine the source of the growing number of leaks, especially because his former boss, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, had commissioned a study of why policy-making had gone so badly in Vietnam – a work Haig had been asked to join but had declined, unlike many former colleagues in the process, especially Daniel Ellsberg.  When the FBI finally declined to investigate more suspected leakers after having bugged 17 persons, most of them members of the NSC, over an 18-month period without any positive results, Haig saw to the hiring of The Plumbers aka Special Investigations Unit, and their installation in the Executive Office Building to continue the work
 
The Plumbers’ background has never been adequately examined, and the reason seems to be Harvey’s leadership of it. It was the descendant of his old ZR/RIFLE group in the Agency’s Division D which had expanded its “black bag” experts to plant bugs and photograph documents in foreign embassies into official assassination efforts (James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 479) – the authority that Harvey, now aka Harvey Lowmeyer, had used is getting rid of MLK and RFK.  Fred Emery, in Watergate, made no attempt to explain the group’s origin, just the decision by the Nixon White House to hire it to do its “black bag” operation. (p. 53ff.)  The CIA’s approval of the switch seems to have been made by DCI Richard Helms who was trying to separate Nixon’s covert operations from the Agency’s one, and slimming down its ranks to get rid of its most dangerous operators, especially Harvey, E. Howard Hunt, G, Gordon Liddy, and James McCord.
 
The troubles with the Kissinger-Haig-NRO secret war were manifold.  The North Vietnamese and the Viet-Cong were unwilling to negotiate anything more than the cessation of hostilities, and the withdrawal of American forces, as their unwillingness to let the Soviets negotiate some kind of lesser settlement indicated. Washington only added to these problems by opening the door to Red China, and talking to Moscow about a treaty to limit nuclear weapons, thinking falsely that these efforts would undermine their assistance of the Vietnamese.  And American losses continued to mount, as the media indicated – the NYT even publishing the photographs of service men killed since the Nixon administration had taken office.  Then NSA Kissinger was growing increasingly pessimistic about what the secret war was achieving.
 
These developments, especially the negotiations with the communist powers, drove the JCS to start using the “backchannel” to spy on what Kissinger and Haig were up to, especially as the secret war wound down. Admiral Welander and Yeoman Radford instead of being conduits to the NRO became spies for Admiral Moorer, chairman of the JCS.  “Military officers sensed that they were merely being used as instruments,” Colodny and Gettlin wrote, “to further Nixon’s own ends; their belief that this was the case was furthered by the events of ensuing months, during which they saw themselves being ignored, cut out, and circumvented on all the important issues – the conduct of the war, troop withdrawals, the peace negotiation, and SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), just to name the most important ones.” (p. 10)
 
This spying - which started for real in October 1970 –  was discussed by Nixon, Attorney General John Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman at a meeting at the White House on December 21, 1971 where they interviewed Welander’s assistant, as James Rosen recounted in “Nixon and the Chiefs,” on KeepMedia on April 1, 2002:  ” ‘Under the implied approval of his supervisor,’ Ehrlichman said at another point in the conversation, Radford ‘has systematically stolen documents out of Henry’s briefcase, Haig’s briefcase, people’s desks – anyplace and every place in the NSC apparatus, that he could get his hands on – and then duplicated them and turned them over to the Joint Chiefs, through his boss’.”  While the President was interested in seeking a prosecution of those thought responsible, especially Haig, the Attorney General talked him out of doing so for fear of disastrous blowback.
 
Instead, the liaison office was immediately closed, and the files Welander had were handed over to Haig who understandably handed those relating to the spying to Ehrlichman while keeping the rest himself. Welander was transferred to a sea command as far away from Washington as could be found, and Radford was reassigned to Oregon’s Naval Reserve Training Center.  Admiral Robinson, while revealing nothing about his being a NRO conduit during the secret war when he was interviewed, was conveniently killed in a helicopter crash in the Tonkin Gulf in May 1972, leaving Haig in the confident position of denying in an uncharacteristic footnote Silent Coup‘s claims only about him:  “…I do so now by stating categorically that any suggestion that this officer committed any act of disloyalty whatsoever to the United States or his Commander-in-Chief while serving in the White House is totally false.” (p. 245)
 
Officially, during this time, the NRO was busily occupied positioning its new generation of satellites, Rhyolites, constructed in TRW’s M-4 facility in Redondo Beach, California, and making arrangements around the globe for the secure retrieval of their take.  The satellites – the size of a minibus, and equipped with a solar-powered, dish-shaped antenna aimed towards the earth – were designed to pick up microwave and satellite communications on a continual basis - what the Soviets were increasingly relying upon in communicating across their vast country – and down-loading what they recorded without any encryption to avoid any additional weight in securing their positioning in space. In order for the satellites to work continuously, they had to be placed in geosynchronous orbit – 22,380 miles above the equator, and at a longitude where a secure place existed below.
 
Flax’s replacement, Dr. John L. McLucas, was the ideal director for the job, as he had spent his previous, relevant career in the private sector, and, cconsequently, knew nothing about the NRO’s ongoing operations, especially its secret war in Southeast Asia.  McLucas, the former CEO and President of MITRE Corp., had been involved in developing communication systems for national air security, and McLucas, in becoming Air Force undersecretary too, just thought
his function was to smooth relations between the public and private providers of satellites, as he explained to researchers for the Defense Acquisition History Project shortly before he died:  “So I saw it as mainly dealing with hardware and with the people who were necessary to procure and upgrade the hardware.”
 
McLucas left the positioning of the new satellites to subordinates, and their real challenge was to find a place where they could conveniently and securely download their take in the far Pacific. Australia offered the best sites possible, and as long as it was governed by politicians friendly to America’s venture in Vietnam, it was no problem. The site selected was at Pine Gap, near Ayers Rock, smack-dab in the middle of the continent.  “Like a vacuum cleaner,” Helen Caldicott wrote in Missile Envy, “they suck up a wide spectrum of Soviet and Chinese military communications and radar emissions and beam them back to Pine Gap.” (p. 127)  Pine Gap also received photographs and electronic transmissions from the latest satellites in the KH series, KH-8, and 9 (BIG BIRD).
 
For the purposes of this article, though, the most relevant program at Pine Gap was the CIA’s Pyramider project, about which Dr. Caldicott wrote:  “It communicated with foreign agents using sensing mechanisms placed in strategic locations around the world, and backup communications for overseas systems.  The Pyramider program was supposed to ensure ‘maximum undetectability’.” (ibid. Pyramider was part of the program that DCI Helms was using to ferret out alleged spies among the anti-war ranks worldwide, and to pave the way for the secret operations by rogue agent William King Harvey et al. Of course, no system ensures undetectability, especially if someone in it decides to talk. What, for example, would have been the protection against Dr. Flax himself telling tales – and well he might, given his unexpected, abrupt resignation - and who really were the leakers that Colonel Haig was now so worried about?
 
To complement what was going on at Pine Gap, DCI Helms created the National Underwater Reconnaissance Office (NURO).  The joint CIA-Navy project was organized much like the NRO, with the Navy taking the place of the Air Force, and its management being directed in the Agency’s direction.  The impetus behind the NURO’s creation was the Navy’s attack sub Halibut finding a stricken Soviet Golf attack submarine on the Pacific Ocean floor - loaded with nuclear weapons, “crypto-codes”, and its communication systems – and the CIA was going all-out to build a vessel to retrieve it. 
 
In 1970, the Halibut was given the assignment to tap the Soviet cable in the Sea of Okhotsk to its port on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Petropavlovsk.  To facilitate such operations, the Navy built three stations to transmit very-low-frequency (VLF) messages to the probing subs: the biggest one on the Northwest Cape of Western Australia, a second one at Jim Creek, Washington, and a third at Cutler, Maine. 
 
To insure the security of the new NURO’s operations, its CIA-led leadership carried out Operation Kittyhawk – a disinformation one to persuade Moscow falsely that it had SIGINT operations by the Americans under control.  In June 1966, KGB agent Igor Kochnov made himself available to the Agency as a continuing agent in place by offering his services to CI chief James Angleton over the phone.  To help settle disputes, and coordinate operations between the Bureau and the Agency, he was recruited, and allowed to handle a Soviet defector, former Red Banner fleet officer Nicholas Shadrin aka Nikolai Artamonov codenamed LARK, who was working for the Office of Naval Intelligence. 
 
While Shadrin helped settle their disputes over another defector, Yuri Nosenko, Mark Riebling wrote in Wedge, “Shadrin also began to pass doctored naval secrets to the Soviets.” (p. 232)  The kind of doctored information he was supplying was the difficulty the Halibut was having in finding the cable in the Sea of Okhotsk, the worries the Americans had about her being discovered in Soviet waters, the infrared guidance system that Soviet cruise missiles had which were so threatening to American carriers, etc.   (For just how hopeless The Sword and The Shield:  The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB is as a source, note that Mitrokhim has no information about Kochnov, and Shadrin ‘s contribution is limited to his false claim that he could discover Nosenko’s whereabouts! (p. 387)
 
As with the NRO’s secrets about SIGINT operations during the Vietnam war, NURO’s secret operations against Soviet SIGINT were betrayed in late 1967 by Chief Warrant Officer John Walker, a communications watch officer on the staff of the commander of the Atlantic Fleet’s submarines who walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington to offer his services shortly after fellow spy Robert Lipka had left NSA.  “He had access to reports on submarine operations, technical manuals, and daily key lists,” Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew wrote in Blind Man’s Bluff, “that were used to unscramble all the messages sent through  the military’s most widely used coding machines.” (p. 351)  As expected, the Mitrokin Archive has nothing to say about what the eighteen years of spying by him, his recruit Jerry Whitworth, and three members of his family contributed to Soviet security.
 
The success of the Walker spy ring was well demonstrated when the Halibut finally went on its first NURO mission to tap the cable in the Sea of Okhotsk in October 1971 just when the SALT talks with Moscow were entering their most difficult stages. The Soviets knew that the submarine would be looking for a sign along the coast somewhere, warning mariners not to anchor because a cable lay underneath – what  Captain James Bradley, the Navy’s top underwater spy, was convinced existed because of his experience on ships as a youth on the Mississippi. 
 
After more than a week’s search, lo and behold, the Halibut discovered a sign, stating in Russian:  “Do Not Anchor. Cable Here.”  In placing the tap on the cable – what enabled Washington periodically to read the routine communications between Moscow and its submarines in the Pacific - submariners discovered a mass of destroyed cruise missiles, small pieces of which they carefully recovered in the hope of coming up with a complete homing device of the cruise missiles.  While the Navy’s Department of Energy lab reconstructed a missile, its engineers were never able to put together the homing device.  In sum, despite the NURO’s massive efforts, it really never came up with anything important because of the spying by the Walkers.  
  
When Nixon was nearing the end of his life, former DCI Helms told Cambridge history Christopher Andrew in an interview in April 1992 his side of the story in dealing with the former President’s White House.  (See his For the President’s Eyes Only, p. 350ff., and notes.)  Of course, Helms wanted readers to believe that Nixon was the guiding hand behind Operation Chaos, claiming that the only way the Agency could prove to the President that domestic dissent was not inspired by foreign communist powers was by investigating all anti-war persons, and all contacts they had had with any foreign person.  In putting all the onus of the program on the President, though, Helms never expressed any real opposition to it nor threatened to resign because it was completely swamping his agency.
 
Then Helms was worried about the legacy Harvey had left in immobilizing other agencies while he had carried out the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.  Agents of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) had repeatedly had their drug-trafficking investigations, particularly those of James Earl Ray and his courier Charlie Stein, stopped because of NRO wiretapping which showed that CIA agents were involved.  These concerns became a crisis when Nixon ordered on June 5, 1970 Vice Admiral Noel Gayler, NSA’s director, “…to program for coverage the communications of U. S. citizens using international facilities.”  (“James Bamford Statement on NSA Surveillance,” February 3, 2006, cryptome.org)  Same as now, NSA needed neither a warrant nor probably cause for the wire-tapping in Operation Minaret.
 
This presidential directive set off alarm bells at CIA, and it moved immediately to limit any damage from new wire-tapping, especially those of sources working with the BNDD. Of course, the Agency and Bureau both had been supportive of the program when it was started back in 1967 – only to be closed down a month later when the FBI was unable to find any connection between the Vietnam Veterans against the War and the Communist Party – only to be resumed in 1968 after MLK and RFK had conveniently departed the political scene.  The CIA was worried about investigators learning about the hiatus and wondering why, especially since February 1970 when Director Hoover broke off all contact with Langley - what would show that the Agency was using the BNDD as a cover for Harvey activities, and a firewall against dangerous blowback.
 
Two weeks after Nixon had ordered warrantless eavesdropping on foreign communications of Americans by NSA, BNDD agents carried out the biggest drug-bust in history – Operation Eagle during which 150 suspects were rounded up from cities around the country.  “As many as 70 percent of those arrested had once belonged to the Bay of Pigs invasion force,” Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall wrote in Cocaine Politics, “unleashed by the CIA against Cuba in April 1961.” (p. 26)  The others were connected to the Mafia, especially the crime families of Santos Trafficante, Carlos Marcello, and Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana.  Of course, their arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment not only took them out of circulation but also rendered their terrorist activities for the Agency a dead letter.  
 
Of particular concern to Langley was the activities of the Florida-based financial conglomerate, the World Finance Corporation (WFC).  Headed by Guillermo Hernández Cartaya, a member of the Operation 40 group which planned to take over Cuba in the wake of Castro’s demise, the WFC was riddled with CIA agents, noticeably Juan Restoy, Ricardo Morales, and Mario Escandar, and Agency fronts.  The arrests and indictments were an effective diversion from what were their primary responsibilities – murders, decoy operations, terrorist bombings and underworld enforcement – and after the crisis had passed, they largely escaped prison on legal technicalities. Of course, the CIA leader of all these anti-Castro Cubans was E. Howard Hunt, the eccentric writer who was now an employee of the Mullen Company, and back then thought that domestic dissent in Cuba, triggered into action by a small invasion force, could easily lead to his ouster. 
 
The arrest of some Agency assets and the transfer of others had been just in time as the disarray of Washington’s intelligence services had reached a new low in cooperation.  At the same time that Nixon ordered the warrantless eavesdropping by the NSA, it seemed that the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DIA had agreed to a new level of cooperation in meeting the unprecedented domestic unrest by agreeing to the Huston Plan – what the President’s liaison with the agencies Tom Charles Huston had proposed – but Director Hoover refused to go along with the program which would leave him responsible for any illegal activities, and broke off not only all liaison with them but also with the Secret Service, the IRS, and the individual armed services intelligence services.  “By cutting off liaison,” Curt Gentry wrote in J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets, “Hoover hoped to distance the FBI, and his own reputation, from the inevitable holocaust.” (p. 655)
 
Hardly a week later, the fat was in the fire when the New York Times announced that the Pentagon study of the conduct of the Vietnam war had been leaked to the press. While Nixon first thought that it would be a boon to his re-election since it showed the double-dealing of JFK and LBJ, he soon changed his mind when State Department memoranda showed the deep involvement of Henry Cabot Lodge and the Agency’s Lt. Col. Lucien Conein in Diem’s overthrow.  Then the effort to get leaker Daniel Ellsberg by criminal due process was completely frustrated by the FBI taps that had been ordered to discover the leaker of the Nixon-Kissinger-Haig secret war -  the DOJ could not use them without showing that they had earlier been trying to get his friends, especially Morton Halperin.
 
Charles Colson, Nixon’s special counsel, was ultimately obliged to have the Plumbers break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding who had refused to tell the Bureau the findings of his examination of his patient, hoping to find the information themselves - setting off a process which dragged into White House operations just those people the Agency was trying to distance itself from.  Hunt.- thought to have been the “mastermind” of the Bay of Pigs Operation – turned out to be the leader of Cartaya’s group, the people who had just been arrested by the BNDD.  More important, Hunt promised to provide “the right resources”, as Fred Emery explained in Watergate, to turn Ellsberg’s betrayal into a political triumph.  Then Hunt was consulting with Conein, another operative involved, along with Ted Shackley, and was working for Harvey on how to make it look as if JFK had been more involved in Diem’s overthrow that thought.
 
From the NRO’s point of view, the most damaging aspect of the Plumbers’ work was Hunt’s forging cables to prove the Kennedys had personally conspired in the assassination of South Vietnam’s President Diem – what President Nixon not only demanded, but deliberately referred to in his September 16th news conference, taking the initiative way from opponents using the release of The Pentagon Papers against the administration
 
Thanks to input from Conein, and help from Plumber secretary Kathleen Chenow, Hunt was able to put together forged cables – the Gemstone Papers – which falsely claimed that the US Embassy had asked for instructions about possible asylum for Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, if they were overthrown.  More important, as Fred Emery wrote in Watergate, a forged cable back to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in Saigon declared:  “At highest level meeting today decision reluctantly made that neither you nor General Harkins should intervene in behalf of Diem or Nhu in event they seek asylum.” (Quoted from p. 72.)
 
While Hunt was unable to publish an article, based upon his forgeries, in the last issue of Life magazine, Conein took advantage of them when he appeared in December on the NBC-TV program “White Paper: Vietnam HIndsight” - what led NYT reporter Neil Sheehan, who had leaked The Pentagon Papers, to connect Daniel Ellsberg to the break-in, and to conclude that Conein’s statements left no doubt about the extent of the Kennedy administration’s involvement in the assassination of the South Vietnamese leaders.  And there was no denial from any former JFK officials or former Ambassador Lodge about having either said or seen any of the material claimed, and neither the NSA nor the NRO have raised any questions or complaints since about their alleged existence.
 
Little wonder that when the Agency learned early in 1972 that disgruntled agent Victor Marchetti, a former assistant to the DDCI who regularly attended planning and intelligence meetings attended by DCI Helms, was writing an article and a book about the Agency’s corruption, independence and incompetence in conducting foreign operations, its leadership pushed the panic button to stop them.  After having stolen the material from the office of a New York publisher, and placed Marchetti under surveillance, the Agency went successfully to court to get an injunction against the book’s publication, claiming that he was bound to secrecy, and obliging him to permit prepublication censorship before it appeared. 
 
After a series of court hearings about what had to be removed, and two years later, the book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, finally appeared, with only the Agency’s claim to secrecy for 27 items regarding SIGINT satellite intelligence, as Angus Mackenzie concluded in Secrets: The CIA’s War at Home, standing up in court.  The NRO’s work was still the Republic’s deepest secrets.          
 
 

 
 




A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 2

10 05 2012

by Trowbridge H. Ford

While America’s National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) was busily occupied in designing and building rockets, spacecrafts, and the like for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s effort to beat the Soviets in putting a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s – President Kennedy’s lasting legacy – it was also continuing its own intelligence work, what was increasingly signal intelligence (SIGINT) from satellites.  By the time JFK was assassinated, Washington had successfully completed the Mercury Project, the program to have man successfully circumnavigate the globe, and recover not only the astronauts but also the space crafts – what required a half-dozen missions to effect. 
 
It had all started when the newly created NRO launched the 84-pound Discoverer XIV space satellite on August 18, 1960 from Vandenberg AFB in California – what was able to collect as much coverage as four years of U-2 flights – whose twenty-four pound rolls of film did, indeed, determine that the Soviets only had four operational ICBMs, ending for all reasonable purposes CIA’s paranoia about the “missile gap”. While officials at the NRO claim that the agency itself was created to perform this task, it was formed to prevent the collection of intelligence, especially that relating to the Soviets, from again being compromised and corrupted by the Agency’s HUMINT - what had happened with the ‘downing’ of Gary Powers’ U-2 over the USSR on May Day 1960.
 
Now the task for the NRO was to help land a man on the moon, and safely bring him back to earth (Apollo Project) – what NRO director Brockway McMillan was almost completely involved in.  Of course, the agency’s very existence was still Washington’s most closely guarded secret, so McMillan’s role was completely attributed to his being an Air Force undersecretary at the Pentagon.  It was in this capacity that the most cultured administrator functioned on its Planning Board – what determined which missions with NASA would occur, and whether they would have a military or civilian purpose – while leaving the NRO’s day-to-day functioning to gung-ho Brigadier General Jack Ledford, the director of special operations at Air Force Headquarters in Washington.
 
Ledford’s normal duties required things like collecting the take from Corona satellites, and seeing to the testing of more conventional intelligence aircraft, especially the A-12s and later the SR-71 (codenamed Oxcart).  These planes were intended to fly at yet greater altitudes and speeds – up to Mach 3 - to find early warning radars deep within the Soviet Union, and to avoid its ever-increasing air defenses.  It was while pilot Ken Collins was testing one variation of the A-12 over Area 51 in Nevada on May 24, 1963 that it went into a fatal spin, and crashed.  Though Collins managed to parachute to safety, the NRO and the Pentagon were so panicked that the public would find big bits of the plane, and determine a lot of what the agency was up to that director McMillan suggested that it be immediately found, and blown up to prevent discovery.
 
Actually, the remains of the plane were strewn all over Robin Hood’s barn, so there was no need of panic. Instead teams of searchers methodically retrieved every bit of the plane they could find, but the experience figured large when Ledford had to figure out what to do with Captain Glenn Hyde’s deadly revealing U-2 aircraft after the assassination of JFK turned sour when Texas Governor was also nearly murdered. 
 
While CIA’s Porter Goss was keeping a muzzle on the press from Key West’s Public Information Office, Ledford apparently ordered the destruction of the downed plane, lying on the bottom of the Florida Straits, after the hoax at the expense of Castro and Khrushchev had proven the last thing the plotters wanted.  The destruction of the damning evidence – what ended up with there only being “minor debris” left from the flight – seemed just what the most delicate crisis called for.  This way there would never be any damaging evidence to be recovered by anyone in future.
 
Still, Ledford’s problems with the Dallas foul-up were nowhere near finished.  Thanks to his connections inside the Pentagon, all the other services had been brought into the plot, and their role had to be diffused as quickly and as well as possible – especially Lee Harvey Oswald’s apparent role as somebody’s spy, and how the various military services were going to take advantage of the President’s assassination by attacking Cuba, and forcing a general confrontation with Moscow. 
 
As Major Al Haig, military assistant to Secretary of the Army Cyrus Vance, partially described in Inner Circles, Defense Intelligence Agency claims that Oswald might well have been working for Cuba had to be destroyed (pp. 115-6), and Operation Americas, the Latin American armada to oust Castro, had to be changed into defensive maneuvers off Colombia’s north coast. CIA chief of counterintelligence James Angleton had to hush up claims from Mexico City that the KGB had recruited Oswald as an assassin when he visited there in September, and close down E. Howard Hunt’s Second Naval Guerrilla Operation’s plans to attack Cuba from Honduras. Ledford had to erase Oswald’s connections to its operations, and the military’s plans domestically to take advantage of what he had apparently done in Dallas.
 
The mere mention that Oswald had defected to the USSR in 1959, and that communist literature was found among his belongings after he was arrested foreclosed any real possibility of his being considered an American agent, and military intelligence kept mum about the cable sent by the Fourth Army Command in Texas on the evening after the assassination to the U.S. Strike Command, a joint army and air force attack unit, at McDill AFB in Florida that Oswald had defected to Cuba, and that he was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party – what was intended to trigger action.  Ledford, it seems, was the one who stopped the intended reaction.
 
Similarly, Oswald’s service in the Marines was made out to be decidedly below par, concentrating on his alleged performance with a rifle, instead of his being rather special.  After basic training, Oswald attended school to become a radar operator and an air traffic-controller.  He scored so well as an Aviation Electronics Operator – seventh out of a class of 30 – that he was assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron One at Atsugi AFB outside Tokyo, the home base of the U-2 flights over the Soviet Union, and the illegal storage depot of America’s atomic weapons in the country. Oswald, according to Anthony Summers in The Kennedy Conspiracy, knew everything about what was going on there (p. 114ff.)  – what, it seems, led air force intelligence to recruit and train him as a deep penetration agent of the USSR.
 
At this point, Oswald’s military record becomes most murky, and the hand of someone in the Pentagon seems to be the cause.  Oswald was apparently giving cause for being dismissed from the service so that he could defect more effectively to Moscow – what was dressed up after the assassination to make it look as if he were just a growing undesirable.  He was court-martialed twice but the convictions did nothing to slow his advancement.  There were unsubstantiated claims about him deliberately wounding himself, and contracting a serious venereal disease.  Then the Pentagon was most unclear about his security status, what he was being paid, and where he was serving.  “In the controversy over the alleged assassin’s true colors,” Summers concluded, “this period is pivotal.”
 
Matters became even worse when James Bamford got round to recounting the Dallas assassination and the Warren Commission in Body of Secrets: How America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ Eavesdrop on the World (p. 130ff.)  “That Friday was slow in the NSA Sigint Command Center,” Bamford wrote.  There is no mention of the downing of Hyde’s U-2 flight, and the disappearance of the pilot – what had taken the super powers to the brink of nuclear war when Maj. Rudolf Anderson Jr.’s U-2 was shot down over Cuba during the midst of the Missile Crisis. Even when NSA did a massive review of all its SIGINT intercepts, there was still nothing about Hyde’s whereabouts and recovering the plane, even if it was the result of an accident, but plenty about Oswald and his associates. (p. 132ff.)
 
More important, Ledford arranged, it seems, for Captain Hyde to have apparently died a hero while providing him with a new identity as one Horace Smith, name given because of Hyde’s affection for the English poet’s sonnets. - what covered up the whole mess since he was no longer available to answer troubling questions.  In May 1964, Hyde’s wife, holding infant son Joe Glenn III, was awarded his Distinguished Flying Cross for displaying “heroism while participating in aerial flights on Jan. 19″, the citation read, and what seems to have been on January 19, 1963 since he was supposedly dead a year later when NSA McGeorge Bundy tasked the NRO to make sure that the Soviets were honoring the terms of the Missile Crisis settlement despite the bad-mouthing they were receiving about LBJ regarding KGB involvement in the assassination from former Kennedy confidant Charles Bartlett. (For details, see Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, “One Hell of a Gamble”, p. 348ff.)
 
Yet, Hyde allegedly took part in the aerial surveillance on January 19, 1964 when he was officially dead as there were no least bit threatening flights on the previous January 19th, ones during which he “obtained information of vital importance to the security of the United States.” (Quoted from The LaGrange Daily News, May 4, 1964, p. 1.)  In January 1963, Soviet-American relations were the best in years, Khrushchev having just sent Castro a conciliatory letter to patch up the long-term relationship with the island after the crisis, hardly what would merit the DFC for observing high in the sky. The point was reiterated when there was no mention of any such flight when Hyde received a Fifth Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for “meritorious achievement participating in aerial flight as an aircraft commander between July 9 and Aug. 29, 1963, on Oct. 18, 1963, and on Nov. 5, 1963.” (Quoted from ibid.) 
 
For good measure about Hyde’s well-being, there was no mention of any Purple Heart – what any member of the Armed Forces automatically receives for being killed or wounded in any action against an enemy of the United States or by an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which American forces are or have been engaged.
 
While Ledford was helping extract the NRO from an imbroglio with Cuba which might well have resulted in a large-scale war with the Soviets because of the cock-up surrounding the JFK assassination, the agency shifted the action to the Far East where the Johnson administration was reassessing its objectives because of the rapidly deteriorating situation there, and fully committed to giving its communists a most bloody nose because of its frustrations over Castro. 
 
In February 1964, Washington started Operation Plan 34-A, a program of covert operations against North Vietnam.  “Through 1964,” Neil Sheehan wrote in the paperback edition of The Pentagon Papers - a most belated article entitled “The Covert War” – “the 34-A operations ranged from flights over North Vietnam by U-2 spy planes and kidnappings of North Vietnamese citizens for intelligence information, to parachuting sabotage and psychological-warfare teams into the North, commando raids from the sea to blow up rail and highway bridges and the bombardment of North Vietnamese coastal installations by PT boats.” (p. 238) 
 
The NRO’s reconnaissance flights, code-named Yankee Team, gathered photographic intelligence which led to a fleet of T-28 fighter bombers, carrying Laotian Air Force markings, and piloted by Air America and Laotian pilots, which attacked regularly Pathet Lao troops in Laos, and North Vietnamese targets. “An average of four flights per week have covered the bulk of Oplan 34-A targets,” State Department Assistant Secretary of State Marshall Green reported on November 7, 1964. 
 
The program was the brain-child of the Pentagon’s Lt. Colonels Al Haig, and Dewitt Smith – what Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson had ordered after a distressing trip to South Vietnam right after the JFK assassination.  “Make a list is what we did, starting out, as was the style of the Pentagon in those days, with the actions least likely to rock the boat,” Haig explained most disingenuously in Inner Circles. “They were mostly recommendations to shore up the existing effort in the South.” (p. 137)  After a year of such “routine” recommendations, though, the clueless President Johnson could not no longer stomach them, exclaiming heatedly to the General Johnson:  “Bomb, bomb, bomb. That’s all you know.” (Quoted from George C. Herring, LBJ and Vietnam, p.11.)      
 
On March 17th, National Security Action Memorandum 288 was adopted, calling for US forces to be ready to initiate a full range of Laotian and Cambodian “Border Control actions”, and “Retaliatory Actions” against North Vietnam on 72 hours’ notice, “and to be in a position on 30 days’ notice to initiate the program of ‘Graduated Overt Military Pressure’ against North Vietnam….” (Quoted from Robert J. McMahon, ed., Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War, p. 208.)
 
To trigger such a response against the North, the destroyer USS Maddox, filled with electronic spying equipment, intruded into North Vietnamese waters at the end of July, hoping to provoke a military response by the edgy North Vietnamese.  In February, the USS Craig had carried out the first of these DeSoto missions, but it had come up empty-handed because Hanoi did not want to provide the Americans with a pretext for expanding the war at its expense.  This Desoto missions were combined with South Vietnamese commando raids on the North Vietnamese islands of Hon Me and Ngu in order to increase the possibilities of a serious incident – what would provoke a retaliatory action against the North.
 
Despite the fact that  the vessels appeared to be working together, and the Maddox was clearly trying to provoke trouble, the North Vietnamese still were most cautious in their response until the American ship came within easy range of Hon Me which was still clearing up the damage done by the South Vietnamese commandos.  By the time the Sigint operators on the destroyer determined from North Vietnamese naval messages that its ships were finally preparing to attack, the destroyer was safely out of range, its three torpedo boats allegedly firing one torpedo each at the disappearing target.   
 
Instead of forgetting about the missions, though, as SOD Robert McNamara considered them useless, a beefed-up mission took place on August 3rd, with the USS Turner Joy joining the Maddox, and the South Vietnamese using a four-boat raiding party which shelled a radar station and a security post on the North Vietnamese mainland.  In the ensuing melee the next morning, the American vessels “…issued more than twenty reports of automatic weapons fire, torpedo attacks, and other hostile action.  But in the end, no damage was sustained, and serious questions arose as to whether any such attack actually took place.” (Quoted from Bamford, p. 299.)
 
While the reports created a controversy down to the present day about what really happened, they were just another hoax to justify aggressive action – what the ‘downing’ of Hyde’s U-2 had been intended for. As Bamford indicated but did not adequately explain, an NSA analyst was relying upon intercepts they had already received from the NRO about the earlier imminent attack, the first one, upon the destroyer – one message from North Vietnamese naval headquarters in Haiphong giving a patrol boat its position, and another for patrol boats and if possible a torpedo boat to prepare for military operations – which were passed on to the captain of the Maddox. 
 
Little wonder that when McNamara was questioned about the legitimacy of taking the fight to the North, he responded that there was ‘unequivocal proof’:  “…the highly secret NSA intercept reports sent to the Maddox on August 4 as a warning.” (Quoted from ibid.)  While Ledford’s people had apparently resent them to bolster the cause, the recycled intercepts worked for the Pentagon, the White House, and Congress – resulting in passage of the Tonkin Gulf resolution, giving LBJ complete power to conduct the war -  and NRO’s operational chief was duly rewarded for his services, receiving the Distinguished Service Medal when he took his leave from office early the next year.
 
While the expanded war in Vietnam greatly increased tactical operations by the NRO’s fixed-wing components, it soon created devastating leaks by NSA’s Robert Lipka, an army clerk assigned to shredding its highly secret intercepts at Fort Meade. As with B. F. Mitchell in the Gary Powers affair, the youthful Lipka became totally cynical because of what he saw, deciding that since his colleagues manipulated evidence for their own, selfish purposes, he could do likewise.  In September 1965, he walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington, and volunteered his services to the KGB resident.  During the next two years, Lipka provided the residency through 50 contacts with so much material about America’s conduct of the war – for which he received $27,000 –  that the KGB was obliged to assign Oleg Kalugin the job of reducing it to manageable proportions.
 
And Washington did not learn of Lipka’s betrayals until after the Cold War was over.  When his term of service ended in 1967, he simply returned to civilian life, apparently only contacting the Soviets, on occasion, in the hope of obtaining from them more money because of the intelligence he had provided. And while assessing the American failure in Vietnam has resulted in almost endless volumes, almost nothing in them is about communist spying, particularly Lipka’s, though it, along with a lack of concern about security, seems most important in helping explain the defeat - as Lt. Gen. Charles R. Myer, a SIGINT officer who twice served in Vietnam, explained:  “The enemy might disappear from a location just before a planned U. S. attack.  B-52 bomber strikes did not produce expected results because the enemy apparently anticipated them.”  (Quoted from ibid., p. 304.)
 
In fact, Bamford never mentioned Lipka’s spying, though he went to great lengths to describe the consequences of the spying by another walk-in in October 1967 - that of John Walker aka James Harper whose disclosures were so helpful in capturing the USS Pueblo off North Korea shortly thereafter.  When Bamford got the chance to talk to the KGB chief of station in Washington at the time, Boris A. Solomatin, he asked him if Walker was responsible for the failure of Operation Rolling Thunder.  “Walker is not responsible for your failures in bombing in North Vietnam,” the former KGB Major General replied. (p. 307)  The information handed over by Walker, according to Solomatin, was never supplied to the North Vietnamese or any other Soviet allies – a claim that his former subordinate Kalugin understandably denied but failed to explain in a direct way - and Banford was willing to let it go at that! 
 
The fact that the Soviets neither pressured Lipka to stay on at NSA nor offered considerable sums to make the prospect more attractive indicates that Moscow had learned enough from his two years of spying to require no more, as Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin indicated in an amazing footnote in The Sword and the Shield: “A later analysis by the Centre singled out 200 documents from NSA, the CIA, State Department and other federal agencies as of particular value.  Mitrokhin’s notes, alas, give no details of their contents.” (n. 12, p. 611)  To help cover up the inexplicable failure, Andrew still volunteered falsely that Mitrokhin had identified Lipka “…as a KGB agent.” (p. 18)    
 
The documents obviously gave Moscow all it needed to know about American’s conduct of the war in Vietnam, its modus operandi - what other agents, particularly Viet Cong ones, could use and expand upon in combating the Americans – and the absence of notes by Mitrokhin speaks volumes about the inadequacy of his archive. Viet Cong SIGINT prevented very few surprises from the air because of advance warning, and on the ground because of poor security of communications by American forces.  If Lipka’s take - apparently the most successful of the American spies, despite the hoopla about agents like Ames and Hanssen, did not merit special analysis - whose did?
 
And the fact was underlined when Andrew claimed that American prosecutors were holding Mitrokhin in reserve when Lipka was finally tried in Philadelphia in May 1997 for the spying he had committed 30 years earlier. While it was quite clear that the FBI started a surveillance of him by an agent feigning to be a KGB agent in May 1993 – months before the Bureau started acting on Mitrokhin’s leads - after his former wife had charged that he had worked for the Soviets while at NSA, and had gotten the goods on him by paying a demanded $10,000 for previous services rendered to the KGB, US authorities tried to make out that Mitrokhin, “the mystery witness”, had gotten Lipka to confess.  It was all eyewash to make Mitrokhin feel better about having defected, and the public better about Lipka escaping death, as he was only sentenced to 18 years in prison with time off for good behavior.  
 
It would have been a far different result if the NSA had come clean about what he had betrayed – what Kalugin would not recall the content of because of its sheer volume, and Mitrokhin, it seems, had amazingly not gone to the trouble of making notes of, making one wonder if he ever saw anything.  Of course, for NSA to have done so would have shown the public just how crucial – even at this late date - his leaks had been to America’s withdrawal, and Vietnam’s fall to the communists. By the time Lipka left the Agency, the CIA had even concluded that carrying to war to the North (Operation Rolling Thunder) had been a decided failure, stiffening the enemy’s resistance while only achieving limited results.
 
To make sure that the public did not get wind of why the war in Vietnam was escalated, and still going so badly, Washington revived in November 1967 the allegations about the Tonkin Gulf attacks being fakes to make sure that NRO’s liberties during them did not resurface. With the national consensus about the war’s wisdom breaking down, and Senator Fulbright looking into holding Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings about what had gone wrong, John White, a naval officer on the USS Pine Island, took great umbrage at The New Haven Register‘s editorial, claiming that the anti-war movement was just helping the enemy.  White responded by stating that the “attacks” were fabricated. “I learned this by speaking with the chief sonarman of the Maddox,” he wrote on the front page of June 1976 issue of The National Exchange, “who was in the sonar room during the ‘attack’.”  White added that he was also the best source under the circumstances.
 
Once White had sent a copy of his letter to Fulbright, the former naval officer’s claims started getting national coverage on tv, in newspapers around the globe, and in a documentary, ultimately obliging him to give testimony about the affair for Fulbright’s committee in Washington.  White claimed that he had seen secret messages from the Maddox, first describing the attack, and then another one stating that it might have all been a mistake because of its malfunctioning sonar. Several months later, back at Long Beach, California, White testified that he met the chief sonarman responsible for the secret reports, and he claimed that no torpedoes had been fired during the second incident. White’s testimony helped persuade Fulbright to hold hearings on the matter in January 1968.
 
The hearings turned out to be a fiasco because White could not remember enough details of the messages, and the name of the chief sonarman and his whereabouts.  This was when support for the war was breaking down – Martin Luther King was marching on Washington to protest a war which Robert Kennedy stated was unwinnable – and the hearings could have speeded its end.  Hawkish SOD McNamara had now turned into a dove, and had resigned because the Joint Chiefs would not agree to a bombing halt, and to fight the war with just the troops there then.
 
Instead of White identifying the chief sonarman, and his coming forward to testify, the field was left open to sonar personnel who had been on the Maddox, and they completely destroyed White’s basic claim.  And he later made no attempt to find the chief petty officer after staff on the Fulbright committee informed him that it had been informed that he did exist, and that he had told another seaman the same story. Of course, it would it would have been a far different matter if White, who claimed to have seen all the SIGINT, had stated that the NRO had deliberately recycled the intercepts before the first confrontation in order to provoke the second, crucial one.
 
By this time Dr. Alexander Flax was well entrenched as NRO’s director, having taken over from Dr. McMillan in October 1965 when the Gemini Project for preparing men and space vehicles for landing and returning from the moon (Apollo Project), and LBJ’s ground war in Vietnam were well underway.  Flax was an excellent administrator who needed no operational commander like General Ledford - able to keep the Apollo mission on course with NASA, while still developing reconnaissance vehicles, especially satellites, for the NRO, and seeing that its capability was used most effectively in the field.  This was no small feat, given the fact that LBJ’s prominent hawks, especially SOD McNamara and NSA McGeorge Bundy, were beginning to seek a negotiated settlement in Vietnam, and the American public was starting to speak out against the war.   
 
While historians have generally tried to veil the cause of these unexpected results by stressing underestimations of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese strength throughout, the Johnson administration knew that something was terribly wrong – i. e., the enemy simply knew too much about what was going on – and assigned the Bureau, then the CIA, and NSA to intensify efforts to discover possible spying. The Bureau initiated Operation COINTELPRO - a program to discredit communists and radicals opposed to the war, and what I became a target of after I wrote President Johnson, criticising its expansion after he had run in the 1964 election as the peace candidate.  CIA followed suit in July 1968 with MH/CHAOS, keeping tabs on the actions by America’s political activists. (See the article in the codshit.com Archive about my confessions as a college teacher for more.)  And NSA expanded its Operation SHAMROCK – getting all the transmitters of diplomatic telegrams to hand them over to American authorities.
 
The NRO’s assignment in these matters was to intensify efforts to win the war in Vietnam before its support at home collapsed – no small duties given the scope of potential opposition, especially among the scientific community and the social elite.  The crisis occurred in the spring of 1967 when LBJ was faced with the dilemma of whether to go all out to win the war, as the Joint Chiefs recommended, or an order a bombing halt and consider rolling back search and destroy missions, as McNamara urged.  The fat was in the fire when Johnson seriously entertained, thanks to support from leading scientists, that an elaborate electronic barrier be constructed across the Demilitarized Zone in lieu of the bombing.
 
To counter the threat, Flax arranged with the CIA’s new Director Richard Helms Operation Phoenix, the program, started under William Colby in June 1967, to eliminate the Viet Cong’s infrastructure – its alleged organization of spies and political commissars - using all kinds of special forces, and NRO intelligence.  During the next five years, it killed around 35-40,000 suspected Vietnamese terrorists with secret ambushes, daring assaults, and surprise assassinations - the forerunner of todays “war on terrorism”.  The purpose of the operation was to terrorize the Vietnamese into submission.
 
Then the United States Intelligence Board tasked NSA to check on all individuals dealing with Castro, alleging that they could be engaged in drug-trafficking, plotting the President’s assassination, and aiding and abetting the communist enemy.  The White House apparently believed that Hanoi was somehow funding opposition to the war through Havana, and it wanted all the information that could be gleaned, especially by satellites, about people like former CIA agent Stanley Sheinbaum, former Green Beret veteran Donald Duncan, the backers, organizers and writers of Ramparts magazine, Congressmen George Brown, Phillip Burton, Don Edwards, John Dow, Benjamin Rosenthal, John Conyers and others, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Jane Fonda, etc. NRO’s role in all this was most troubling as it indicated that apparent law-biding citizens were engaged in treason and espionage.
 
NSA, NRO and the country would pay a high price for these illegal liberties.       
                 
While the content of what cameras and eavesdropping devices, as microwave communications became more common, gleaned during satellite flights over the USSR and other strategically important locations are almost impossible to determine, we do know that it was the most highly prized information that the United States possessed, and what it went to the greatest lengths to protect. And this was no small achievement, given the fact that the NRO is by far the largest funded intelligence agency in America, but thanks to the fact that its operations are almost all Special Access Programs (SAPs) where any oversight is at a premium, no one on the outside really knows for sure what it is doing.   
  
 
 
 
 




A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 1

26 11 2011

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.

See Also - A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 2






Yitzhak Rabin Assassination: Israeli Statesman Helped Dig His Own Grave

19 10 2011

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.”