1974: CIA-Cult Intelligence: Part 1. THE CULT OF INTELLIGENCE Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks : The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence
THE CULT OF INTELLIGENCE
But this secrecy . . . has become a god in this
country, and those people who have secrets travel
in a kind of fraternity . . . and they will not speak
to anyone else.
-SENATOR J WILLIAM FULBRIGHT
Chairman. Senate Foreign
November 1 97 1
There exists in our nation today a powerful and dangerous secret cult-the cult of intelligence.
Its holy men are the clandestine professionals of the Central Intelligence Agency. Its patrons and protectors are the highest officials of the federal government. Its membership extending far beyond government circles, reaches into the power centers of industry, commerce , finance , and labor. Its friends are many in the areas of important public
influence-the academic world and the communications media. The cult of intelligence is a secret fraternity of the American political aristocracy.
The purpose of the cult is to further the foreign policies of the U.S. government by covert and usually illegal means,
while at the same time containing the spread of its avowed enemy, communism. Traditionally, the cult’s hope has been to foster a world order in which America would reign supreme, the unchallenged international leader. Today, however, that dream stands tarnished by time and frequent failures. Thus, the cult’s objectives are now less grandiose, but no less disturbing. It seeks largely to advance America’s self-appointed role as the dominant arbiter of social, economic, and political change in the awakening regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And its worldwide war against communism has to some extent been reduced to a covert struggle to maintain a self-serving stability in the Third World, using whatever clandestine methods are available. For the cult of intelligence , fostering „stability“ may in one country mean reluctant and passive acquiescence to evolutionary change;
in another country, the active maintenance of the status quo; in yet another, a determined effort to reverse popular trends toward independence and democracy. The cult attempts that which it believes it can accomplish and which-in the event of failure or exposure-the U.S. government can plausibly deny.
The CIA is both the center and the primary instrument of the cult of intelligence . It engages in espionage and counterespionage, in propaganda and disinformation (the deliberate circulation of false information), in psychological warfare and paramilitary activities. It penetrates and manipulates private institutions, and creates its own organizations (called „proprietaries“) when necessary. It recruits agents and mercenaries; it bribes and blackmails foreign officials to carry out its most unsavory tasks. It does whatever is required to achieve its goals, without any consideration of the ethics involved or the moral consequences of its actions. As the secret-action arm of American foreign policy, the CIA’s most potent weapon is its covert intervention in the internal affairs of countries the U.S. government wishes to control or influence.
Romanticized by myths, the operations of the CIA are also beclouded by false images and shielded by official
deceptions. Its practices are hidden behind arcane and antiquated legalisms which prevent the public and even Congress from knowing what the mysterious agency is doing–or why. This the cult of intelligence justifies with dramatic assertions that the CIA’s purpose is to preserve the „national security,“ that its actions are in response to the needs of the nation’s defense. No one-in an age in which secrecy is the definitional operative of security-need know more than that.
The cult is intent upon conducting the foreign affairs of the U.S. government without the awareness or participation of the people. It recognizes no role for a questioning legislature or an investigative press. Its adherents believe that only they have the right and the obligation to decide what is necessary to satisfy the national needs. Although it pursues outmoded international policies and unattainable ends, the cult of intelligence demands that it not be held accountable for its actions by the people it professes to serve . It is a privileged , as well as secret, charge. In their minds, those who belong to the cult of intelligence have been ordained, and their service is immune from public scrutiny.
The „clandestine mentality“ is a mind-set that thrives on secrecy and deception . It encourages professional amoralitythe belief that righteous goals can be achieved through the use of unprincipled and normally unacceptable means. Thus, the cult’s leaders must tenaciously guard their official actions from public view. To do otherwise would restrict their ability to act independently; it would permit the American people to pass judgment on not only the utility of their policies, but the ethics of those policies as well. With the cooperation of an acquiescent. ill-informed Congress. and the encouragement and assistance of a series of Presidents. the cult has
built a wall of laws and executive orders around the CIA and itself, a wall that has blocked effective public scrutiny.
When necessary. the members of the cult of intelligence, including our Presidents (who are always aware of. generally approve of. and often actually initiate the CIA’s major undertakings). have lied to protect the CIA and to hide their own responsibility for its operations. The Eisenhower administration lied to the American people about the CIA’s involvement in the Guatemalan coup d’etat in 1954, about the agency’s support of the unsuccessful rebellion in Indonesia in 1 958, and about Francis Gary Powers‘ 1 960 U-2 mission. The Kennedy administration lied about the CIA’s role in the abortive invasion of Cuba in 1 % 1 , admitting its involvement only after the operation had failed disastrously. The Johnson administration lied about the extent of most U.S. government commitments in Vietnam and Laos, and all of the CIA’s. And the Nixon administration publicly lied about the
agency’s attempt to fix the Chilean election in 1970. For adherents to the cult of intelligence, hypocrisy and deception, like secrecy, have become standard techniques for preventing public awareness of the CIA’s clandestine operations, and governmental accountability for them. And these men who ask that they be regarded as honorable men , true patriots, will, when caught in their own webs of deceit, even assert that the government has an inherent right to lie to its people.
The justification for the „right to lie“ is that secrecy in covert operations is necessary to prevent U.S. policies and
actions from coming to the attention of the „enemy“- or, in the parlance of the clandestine trade, the „opposition.“ If the opposition is oblivious to the CIA’s operations, the argument runs, then it cannot respond and the CIA activities stand a good chance of succeeding. Nonetheless, in many instances the opposition knows exactly what covert operations are being targeted against it, and it takes counteraction when possible. The U-2 overflights and , later, those of the photographic satellites were, and are, as well known to the Soviets and the Chinese as Soviet overhead reconnaissance of the United States is to the CIA; there is no way, when engaging in operations of this magnitude , to keep them secret from the opposition . It, too, employs a professional intelligence service. In fact . from 1952 to 1964, at the height of the Cold War. the Soviet KGB electronically intercepted even the most secret messages routed through the code room of the U.S. embassy in Moscow. This breach in secrecy, however. apparently caused little damage to U.S. national security. nor did the Soviet government collapse because the
CIA had for years secretly intercepted the private conversations of the top Russian leaders as they talked over their
limousine radio-telephones. Both sides knew more than enough to cancel out the effect of any leaks. The fact is that in this country, secrecy and deception in intelligence operations are as much to keep the Congress and the public from learning what their government is doing as to shield these activities from the opposition. The intelligence establishment operates as it does to maintain freedom of action and avoid accountability.
A good part of the CIA’s power position is dependent upon its careful mythologizing and glorification of the exploits of the clandestine profession. Sometimes this even entails fostering a sort of perverse public admiration for the covert practices of the opposition intelligence services–to frighten the public and thereby justify the actions of the CIA. Whatever the method, the selling of the intelligence business is designed to have us admire it as some sort of mysterious, often magical profession capable of accomplishing terribly difficult. if not miraculous, deeds. Like most myths, the intrigues and successes of the CIA over the years have been more imaginary than real. What is real, unfortunately, is the willingness of both the public and adherents of the cult to believe the fictions that permeate the intelligence business.
The original mission of the CIA was to coordinate the intelligence-collection programs of the various governmental
departments and agencies, and to produce the reports and studies required by the national leadership in conducting the affairs of U . S. foreign policy. This was President Truman’s view when he requested that Congress establish the secret intelligence agency by passing the National Security Act of 1947. But General William „W1ld Bill“ Donovan. Allen Dulles, and other veterans of the wartime Office of Strategic Services-a virtually unregulated body. both romantic and daring. tailor-made to the fondest dreams of the covert operator-thought differently. They saw the emergency agency as the clandestine instrument by which Washington could achieve foreign-policy goals not attainable through diplomacy. They believed that the mantle of world leadership had been passed by the British to the Americans. and that their own secret service must take up where the British left off. Thus, they lobbied Congress for the power to conduct covert operations.
That Truman attempted to create an overt intelligence organization, one, which would emphasize the gathering and analysis of information rather than secret operations, was commendable. That he thought he could control the advocates of covert action was, in retrospect, a gross miscalculation. Congress, in an atmosphere of Cold War tension, allowed itself to be persuaded by the intelligence professionals. With the passage of the National Security Act of 1947 it allowed the new agency special exemptions from the normal congressional reviewing process. and these exemptions were expanded two years later by the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949. Of the greatest and most far-reaching consequence was the provision in the 1947 law that permitted the CIA to „perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence . . . as the National Security Council may from time to time direct. “ From those few innocuous words the CIA has been able, over the years, to develop a secret charter based on NSC directives and presidential executive orders, a charter almost completely at variance with the apparent intent of the law that established the agency. This vague phrase has provided the CIA with freedom to engage in covert action, the right to intervene secretly in the internal affairs of other nations. It has done so usually with the
express approval of the White House, but almost always without the consent of Congress, and virtually never with
the knowledge of the American public.
Knowing nothing has meant that the public does not even realize how frequently the CIA has failed. In the field of
classical esp1onage, the CIA ·s Clandestine Services have been singularly unsuccessful in their attempts to penetrate or spy on the major targets. The Penkovsky case in the early 1960s, the only espionage operation against the Soviets that the agency can point to with pride, with a fortuitous windfall which British Intelligence made possible for the CIA . The loudly heralded Berlin tunnel operation of the mid- 1950s actually a huge telephone wiretap-produced literally tons of trivia and gossip, but provided little in the way of high grade secret information that could be used by the agency’s intelligence analysts. The operation’s true value was the embarrassment it caused the KGB and the favorable publicity it generated for the CIA. Against China, there have been no agent-related espionage successes whatever.
Fortunately for the United States. however, the CIA’s technical experts, working with their counterparts in the
Pentagon and in the private sector, have been able over the years to develop a wide array of electronic methods for
collecting much useful information on the U.S.S.R. and China . From these collection systems, supplemented by material accumulated through diplomatic channels and open sources (newspapers, magazines, and so on), the analysts in the CIA and elsewhere in the intelligence community have been able to keep abreast of developments within the communist powers.
The CIA’s Clandestine Services have fared better in the area of counterespionage than in classical espionage. But
here, too, the gains have been largely fortuitous. Most of the successes were not scored by spies, but secured through the good offices of defectors who, in return for safety, provided whatever information they possessed. And one must subtract from even these limited achievements the misinformation passed on by „deceptions“-double agents sent out or „surfaced“ by the opposition to defect to, and confuse, the CIA.
In its favorite field of operational endeavor, covert action, the agency has enjoyed its greatest degree of success, but its blunders and failures have caused much embarrassment to the United States. Clearly, the CIA played a key role in keeping Western Europe free of communism in the early Cold War period , although it sadly erred in its attempts to roll back the Iron and Bamboo curtains in the late 1940s and in the 1950s. And it did perform successfully. if questionably, in the effort to contain the spread of communism elsewhere in the world. Some of its „victories ,“ however, have since come back to haunt the U.S. government. One cannot help but wonder now if it might not have been wiser for the CIA not to have intervened in Guatemala or Cuba or Chile, not to have played its clandestine role in Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East , not to have become so deeply involved in the affairs of Southeast Asia, particularly Indochina. But the agency did, and our nation will ·have to live with the conse
quences of those actions.
When its clandestine activities are criticized, the CIA’s leadership often points with disingenuous pride to the work
of the intelligence analysts. But here, too, the agency’s record is spotty. Its many errors in estimating Soviet and
Chinese strategic military capabilities and intentions have been a constant source of aggravation to government officials. Often, however, it has accurately judged the dangers and consequences of U.S. involvement in the Third World, especially Southeast Asia and Latin America. Ironically, the clandestine operatives who control the agency rely little on the views of the analysts within their own organization, and the White House staff functionaries tend to be equally heedless of the analysts‘ warnings. And since the CIA’s secret intelligence is largely retained within the executive branch, there is of course no opportunity for Congress or others to use these warnings to question the policies of the administration and the covert practices of the CIA .
Occasionally, clandestine operations backfire spectacularly in public-the U-2 shootdown and the Bay of Pigs invasion, for example-and , further, investigations by journalists and uncowed members of Congress have in these instances given the public some idea of what the CIA actually does. Most recently, investigation of the Watergate scandal has revealed some of the CIA’s covert activities within the United .States, providing a frightening view of the methods which the agency has employed for years overseas. The assistance given the White House „plumbers“ by the CIA and the attempts to involve the agency in the cover-up have pointed up the dangers posed to American democracy by an inadequately controlled secret intelligence organization. As the opportunities for covert action abroad dwindle and are thwarted, those with careers based in clandestine methods are increasingly tempted to tum their talents inward against the citizens of the very nation they profess to serve. Nurtured in the adversary setting of the Cold War. shielded by secrecy, and spurred on by patriotism that views dissent as a threat to the
national security. the clandestine operatives of the CIA have the capability. the resources, the experience-and the
inclination-to ply their skills increasingly on the domestic scene.
There can be no doubt that the gathering of intelligence is a necessary function of modern government. It makes a significant contribution to national security. and it is vital to the conduct of foreign affairs. Without an effective program to collect information and to analyze the capabilities and possible intentions of other major powers, the United States could neither have confidently negotiated nor could now abide by the S.A.L.T. agreements or achieve any measure of true detente with its international rivals. The proven benefits of intelligence are not in question. Rather, it is the illegal and unethical clandestine operations carried out under the guise of intelligence and the dubious purposes to which they are often put by our government that are questionable both on moral grounds and in terms of practical benefit to the nation.
The issue at hand is a simple one of purpose. Should the CIA function in the way it was originally intended ter-as a
coordinating agency responsible for gathering, evaluating, and preparing foreign intelligence of use to governmental policy-makers–or should it be permitted to function as it has done over the years–as an operational arm, a secret instrument of the Presidency and a handful of powerful men, wholly independent of public accountability, whose chief purpose is interference in the domestic affairs of other nations (and perhaps our own) by means of penetration agents, propaganda, covert paramilitary interventions, and an array of other dirty tricks?
The aim of this book is to provide the American people with the inside information which they need-and to which
they without question have the right-to understand the significance of this issue and the importance of dealing with it.