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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 6 April 10, 1975

The CIA: A Little Naked and a Little Nervous

page break

The CIA: A Little Naked and a Little Nervous

The Central Intelligence Agency was established by the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. President Truman's intention, according to Marchetti and Marks was 'to create an overt intelligence organisation, one which would emphasise the gathering and analysis of information rather than secret operations. But his belief that '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 these few innocuous words the CIA has been able over the years, to develop a secret charter based on National Security Council directives and presidential executive orders, a charter almost completely at variance with the apparent intent of the law that established the agency.'

Drawing of a weapon

Tactics of Reaction

The most controversial form in which the CIA performs its 'other functions and duties' is 'covert action' - attempting to influence the internal affairs of other nations by covert means - and an outline of the tactics of this aspect of CIA operations was amply provided by Richard Bissell, a former CIA director in a private address to a small group of intelligence men in 1968. Bissell explained that 'the CIA needs to have its own agents on the inside if it wants to finance a political party, guide the editorial policy of a newspaper, or carry off a military coup. CIA case officers usually serve with false titles in American embassies. Some live in what is called 'deep cover' in foreign countries posing as businessmen, students, newsmen, missionaries, or other seemingly innocent American visitors. Whatever cover the case officer has, his role is to find agents willing to work with or for the CIA. His aim is to penetrate the host government, to learn its inner workings, to manipulate it for the agency's purposes. Bissell listed eight different ways in which the CIA interferes in the domestic affairs of other nations. They are:
1.Political advice and counsel
2.Subsidies to an individual.
3.Financial support and 'technical assistance' to political parties.
4.Support of private organisations, including labour unions, business firms, co-operatives, etc.
5.Covert propaganda
6.'Private' training of individuals.
7.Economic operations.
8.Para-military (or) political action operations designed to overthrow or support a regime (like the Bay of Pigs, Cambodia and Laos).

A Multibillion-Dollar Conglomerate

The agency uses about two thirds of its funds and manpower for covert operations and their support. Thus, out of the agency's career workforce of roughly 16,500 people and yearly budget of about $750 million, 11,000 personnel and roughly $550 million are earmarked for the Clandestine Services and those activities of the Directorate of Management Services, such as communications, logistics, and training, which contribute to cover activities. Only about 20 percent of the CIA's career employees (spending less than 10 percent of the budget) work on intelligence analysis and information processing.'

The CIA itself does not know how many people work for it. The 16,500 figure does not reflect the tens of thousands who serve under contract (mercenaries, agents, consultants, etc.) or who work for the CIA's proprietary companies .... CIA headquarters, for instance, has never been able to compute exactly the number of planes flown by the airlines it owns, and personnel figures for the proprietaries are similarly imprecise. An agency holding company, the Pacific Corporation, including Air America and Air Asia, alone accounts for almost 20,000 people, more than the entire workforce of the CIA. . . Well aware that the agency is two or three times as large as it appears to be, the CIA leadership has consistently sought to downplay its size ... Just as the personnel figure is deceptive, so does the budge! figure not account for a great part of the CIA's campaign chest. The agency's proprietaries are often money-making enterprises, and thus provide 'Tree' services to the parent organisation ... The CIA's annual budget does not show the Pentagon's annual contribution to the agency, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, to fund certain major technical espionage programmes and some particularly expensive clandestine activities. . . Fully aware of these additional sources of revenue, the CIA's chief of planning and programming reverently observed a few years ago that the director does not operate a mere multimillion-dollar agency, but actually runs a multibillion-dollar conglomerate.' pp 58-62.

CIA Director William Colby

CIA Director William Colby

- Part Two. Size and Cost of U.S. Intelligence Community (Approximate)
Organization Personnel Annual Budget
Central Intelligence Agency 16,500 $750,000,000
National Security Agency* 24,000 $1,200,000,000
Defense Intelligence Agency* 5,000 $200,000,000
Army Intelligence* 35,000 $700,000,000
Naval Intelligence* 15,000 $600,000,000
Air Force Intelligence* 56.000 $2,700,000,000
(Including the National Reconnaissance Office
State Department (Bureau of Intelligence and Research) 350 $8,000,000
Federal Bureau of Investigation (Infernal Security Division) 800 $40,000,000
Atomic Energy Commission (Division of Intelligence) 300 $20,000,000
Treasury Department 300 $10,000,000
Total 153,250 $6,228,000,000

The surprises do not end here, though: incredible as it may seem, Marchetti and Marks' figures reveal that the CIA is only one of 'ten different components of the federal government which concern themselves with the collection and/or analysis of foreign intelligence', and the CIA, the intelligence community's best-known member, accounts for less than 15 percent of its total funds and personnel. The head of the CIA is also the titular head of the entire intelligence community, but he is unable to exercise control over this 'tribal federation' of 'fiercely independent bureaucratic entities.'

Blackmail, Assassination and War

In practical terms, what do such terms as 'covert operations', 'disinformation' and 'clandestine tradecraft' mean. Expressing itself as it does in a sterile, clumsy and jarring prose, the 'clandestine mentality' has devised a whole vocabulary of euphemisms for such activities as spying, lying, forgery, bribery, blackmail, assassination and war. Thus, the publication, dissemination or broadcasting of lies in the form of books (sometimes by reputable publishing firms), newspapers, apparently genuine documents and leaflets and radio items is simply 'disinformation' 'Finished intelligence' is 'data [unclear: collecte] from all sources - secret, official and open - which has been carefully collated and analysed by substantive expert specifically to meet the needs of the national leadership.' And activities of a paramilitary or warlike nature such a demolitions, jungle warfare, the [unclear: training] equipping of mercenary troops throughout the world, flying bombing missions, and across-border harassment such as that which occurred in China, are 'special operations."

Puppet soldiers

Included in the series of 'special operations' described by the authors are: the use of the Pacific island of Saipan as a training base (in spite of the island being a UN trust territory), the training of Tibetan troops loyal to the Dalai Lama; the bombing in 1964 of rebel areas in the Congo with the planes being piloted by Cubans; the financing and organising of a mercenary army in Laos (L'Armee Clandestine), the organising of guerrilla raids against North Vietnam, including one which occurred at the time of the alleged attack on two US destroyers by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964; the successful invasion of page break Guatemala by an agency-organised rebel force, the ill-fated invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, the training of Bolivian troops which culminated in the tracking and killing of Che Guevara ....

This list is incomplete - CIA operations are more extensive and sinister than indicated, though that seems difficult to imagine - but it illustrates the extent to which the CIA is prepared to violate the norms of national sovereignty to achieve what it perceives to be the foreign policy goals of the political leadership. In effect it declares war on countries with which it is in disagreement, while the American government leaders continue to behave as peace-time politicians. Witness Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and Chile. Marchetti and Marks write: 'One of the disadvantages a secret agency like the CIA provides to a president is the unique pretext of being able to disclaim responsibility for its action. Thus, a president can direct or approve high-risk operations . . . without openly accepting the consequences of these decisions. If the clandestine operations are successful - good. If they fail or backfire, then usually all the president and his staff need do to avoid culpability is to blame the CIA;

'Presidents like the CIA. It does their dirty work that might not otherwise be 'do-able'. When the agency fails or blunders, all the president need do is to deny, scold or threaten. . . for the CIA's part, being the focus of presidential blame is an occupational hazard but one hardly worth worrying about. The CIA fully realises that it is too important to the government and the American political aristocracy for any president to do more than tinker with it.'



1.The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, London, 1974. Subsequent quotations, unless specified, are also taken from this book. They are frequently of substantial length because of the accuracy, conciseness and lucidity with which the authors have treated their subject.

(To be Continued Next Week)

'You've just got to trust us. We are honourable men.'

Richard Helms, former CIA director quoted in CIA Diary.

American flag

Artwork of Wellington with speech bubbles from people in the city

* Department of Defense agency