Containing the Secrets,
excerpted from the book
Secrecy & Privilege
Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq
by Robert Parry
The Media Consortium Inc., 2004,
Containing the Secrets
The Reagan-Bush administration was developing a strategy that
became known inside the government as "perception management,"
which set as a national security priority the ability of U.S.
officials to manage how Americans perceived events. "Perception
management" was a response to the Vietnam War and the student
protests that had undermined that war effort. It had become conservative
orthodoxy that the combination of negative media coverage of the
Vietnam War, massive public protests and crumbling congressional
support had prevented the United States from winning in Vietnam.
The administration saw as a strategic goal the reversal of what
was known as the Vietnam Syndrome, a national hesitancy about
using military force in distant countries. As Reagan-Bush officials
dipped their toes back into the waters of international conflict,
they wanted to make sure that they kept the American people behind
Sometimes outright lying was considered
necessary. To counter congressional opposition to the CIA's covert
support for the Nicaraguan contra rebels fighting to overthrow
the Sandinista government, the Reagan-Bush administration misled
both Congress and the public. After Congress first restricted
and then blocked military aid to the contras, Reagan-Bush officials
took the contra supply operations underground in defiance of the
Buoyed by a series of anticommunist military coups in South America's
Southern Cone, right-wing forces were stepping up operations across
Latin America against their enemies on the Left. The project of
assassinations and bombings presented a political danger to President
Ford's election campaign because its exposure could put the CIA
back on the front pages and remind the nation of the dark days
of the Nixon Presidency.
In Chile, the fiercely anticommunist general,
Augusto Pinochet, held power after engineering the violent coup
that killed the elected Marxist President Salvador Allende on
September 11, 1973. The Nixon administration had helped set the
stage for the bloody insurrection by aggressively opposing the
Allende government and shaking its stability with a wide-ranging
covert operation. Washington had blocked international loans,
sabotaged Chile's economy and turned major Chilean news outlets,
such as the daily newspaper El Mercurio, into CIA propaganda organs.
Though the Nixon administration had tried
to play down its responsibility for the coup, the documents told
a different story. One "secret" CIA memo, written in
early 1974, described the success of "the Santiago Station's
propaganda project." The memo said, "The project, which
used a variety of propaganda mechanisms to inform the Chilean
and foreign public of the Allende government's efforts to impose
a Marxist totalitarian government, played a significant role in
setting the stage for the military coup of 11 September 1973.
Prior to the coup the project's media outlets maintained a steady
barrage of anti-government criticism, exploiting every possible
point of friction between the government and the democratic opposition,
and emphasizing the problems and conflicts that were developing
between the government and the armed forces. Since the coup, these
media outlets have supported the new military government. They
have tried to present the Junta in the most positive light.""
By summer 1974, despite Chile's appalling
human rights record, the CIA was expanding its liaison ties to
Pinochet's secret police, the Directorate of National Intelligence,
known as DINA. The CIA's deputy director, General Vernon Walters,
struck up a personal relationship with DINA chief Manuel Contreras.
"Colonel Manuel Contreras considers himself a bosom buddy
of the general," observed a State Department memo from the
Chilean desk officer. Though principally responsible for ongoing
atrocities in Chile, Contreras was put on the CIA's payroll at
least briefly in 1975, the CIA has acknowledged in recent years.
By 1975, however, press disclosures and
congressional investigations had made the coziness between the
Pinochet regime and the Nixon-Ford administration a political
embarrassment - and prompted a review of U.S. interference in
the affairs of other countries. "The scandal over covert
operations to undermine Chilean democracy, coupled with the Nixon-Ford
administration's embrace of Pinochet's violent regime, contributed
to a dramatic national reevaluation of U.S. foreign policy,"
wrote historian Peter Kornbluh in The Pinochet File. "For
the first time, CIA intervention became subject to public debate
over the propriety of such practices - a debate that would endure
and influence U.S. operations in countries from Angola to Nicaragua
to Iraq in the last quarter of the Twentieth Century.
Pinochet and other Latin American dictators
didn't make matters any easier by dressing up and acting like
a casting agent's idea of Fascist bullies. The dour Pinochet was
known for his fondness for wearing a military cloak that made
him resemble a well-dressed Nazi SS officer. "Internationally,
the Latin generals look like our guys," observed Assistant
Secretary of State Harry Shlaudeman in a "secret" briefing
paper for Secretary of State Kissinger. "We are especially
identified with Chile. It cannot do us any good."
But Pinochet and other right-wing military
dictators who dominated South America in 1976 had their own priorities,
one of which was the elimination of political opponents who were
living in exile in other countries. Though many of these dissidents
weren't associated with violent revolutionary movements, the anticommunist
doctrines then in vogue among the region's right-wing military
made few distinctions between armed militants and political activists.
The hard-line views of Pinochet and the other generals matched
with the extremism of anticommunist Cuban-Americans, still burning
with fury over Fidel Castro. Some of these exiles had dedicated
their lives to this anticommunist cause. In 1960 and 1961, many
had enlisted in the CIA's Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. After
the invasion failed, some of these Cuban exiles continued working
with the CIA, smuggling caches of weapons into Cuba to support
possible insurrections. Other Cubans fought in Vietnam or joined
counter-insurgency operations in South America. Others slid into
the nether world of terrorism, launching attacks on Cuban diplomats
By 1974, Chilean intelligence had begun
collaborating with anti-Castro Cuban extremists and with other
South American security forces to eliminate opponents. The first
prominent victim of these cross-border assassinations was former
Chilean General Carlos Prats, who was living in Argentina and
was viewed as a potential rival to Pinochet because Prats had
opposed Pinochet's coup that overthrew Chile's long history as
a constitutional democracy. Learning that Prats was writing his
memoirs, Pinochet's secret police chief Contreras dispatched Michael
Townley, an assassin trained in explosives, to Argentina. Townley
planted a bomb under Prats's car, detonating it in the early morning
hours of September 30, killing Prats at the door and incinerating
Prats's wife who was trapped inside the car. Pinochet's government
denied any responsibility for the terrorist act.
Pinochet's reputation for brutality made
him a hero to violent antiCastro Cubans. In December 1974, extremists
Orlando Bosch, Guillermo Novo and Dionesio Suarez traveled to
Chile to offer their services to the Chilean secret police, DINA.
Assassin Townley began to develop a working relationship with
Novo, who led the New Jersey wing of the Cuban National Movement,
which the FBI described as an anti-Castro "terrorist group."
Meanwhile, DINA's Contreras also linked up with right-wing European
terrorists, including Italian Stefano Delle Chiaie. A violent
front for anticommunist terrorism was taking shape.
These international relationships gave
Chile's intelligence service a reach outside South America. In
July 1975, Townley met with Della Chiaie, enlisting his assistance
in targeting Chilean exiles in Italy. On October 6, 1975, a gunman
approached Christian Democratic leader Bernardo Leighton who was
walking with his wife on a street in Rome. The gunman shot both
Leighton and his wife, severely wounding both of them. The CIA,
aware of Chile's involvement in cross-border operations, warned
Portugal and France of two other assassinations planned in those
countries, prompting diplomatic actions to head off the killings.
In November 1975, the loose-knit collaboration
among the Southern Cone dictatorships took on a more formal structure
during a covert intelligence meeting in Santiago, Chile. Delegates
from the security forces of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay
and Bolivia committed themselves to a regional strategy against
"subversives." In recognition of Chile's leadership,
the conference named the project after Chile's national bird,
the giant vulture that traverses the Andes Mountains. The project
was called "Operation Condor." The U.S. Defense Intelligence
Agency confidentially informed Washington that the operation had
three phases and that the "third and reportedly very secret
phase of 'Operation Condor' involves the formation of special
teams from member countries who are to carry out operations to
include assassinations." The Condor accord formally took
effect on January 30, 1976, the same day George H.W. Bush was
sworn in as CIA director.
Part of Bush's job was to spare Ford any
fresh embarrassments at the CIA. But in Bush's first few months,
right-wing violence across the Southern Cone surged. On March
24, 1976, the Argentine military staged a coup, ousting the ineffectual
President Isabel Peron and escalating a brutal internal security
campaign against both violent and non-violent opponents on the
Left. The Argentine security forces became especially well-known
for grisly methods of torture and the practice of "disappearing"
political dissidents who would be snatched from the streets or
from their homes, undergo torture and never be seen again.
Like Pinochet and his regime, the new
Argentine dictators saw themselves on a mission to save Western
Civilization from the clutches of leftist thought. They took pride
in the "scientific" nature of their repression. They
were clinical practitioners of anticommunism - refining torture
techniques, erasing the sanctuary of international borders and
collaborating with right-wing terrorists and organized-crime elements
to destroy leftist movements. Later Argentine government investigations
discovered that its military intelligence officers advanced Nazi-like
methods of torture by testing the limits of how much pain a human
being could endure before dying. Torture methods included experiments
with electric shocks, drowning, asphyxiation and sexual perversions,
such as forcing mice into a woman's vagina.
The Argentine coup was led by General
Jorge Rafael Videla, a dapperly dressed ideologue known for his
English-tailored suits and his ruthless counter-insurgency theories.
Videla, known as the "Bone" or "Pink Panther"
because of his slight build, rose to power amid Argentina's political
and economic unrest of the early-to-mid 1970s, with the slogan:
"As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that
the country will again be secure."
Though armed leftist groups had been shattered
before the 1976 coup, the Argentine generals saw the need to eradicate
any vestiges of political subversion, what Videla called a "process
of national reorganization" which required "the profound
transformation of consciousness." Part of the transformation
would be achieved through selective use of terror, but it also
called for sophisticated manipulation of language to manage popular
perceptions of reality. The general held international conferences
on public relations and hired the powerful U.S. firm, Burson Marsteller,
for $1 million to cultivate journalists at elite publications.
Videla saw control of perceptions and
spreading of confusion as vital to his strategy. Since jailings
and executions of dissidents were rarely acknowledged, Videla
would deny a government role and insist that the missing Argentines
must have run away to live comfortably in another country. "I
emphatically deny that there are concentration camps in Argentina,
or military establishments in which people are held longer than
is absolutely necessary in this ... fight against subversion,"
he told British journalists.
The totalitarian nature of the anticommunism
gripping much of South America revealed itself in one particularly
perverse Argentine practice, which was used when pregnant women
were captured as suspected subversives. The women were kept alive
long enough to bring the babies to full term. The women then were
subjected to forced labor or Caesarian section. The newborns were
given to military families to be raised in the ideology of anticommunism
while the mothers were executed. Many were taken to an airport
near Buenos Aires, stripped naked, shackled to other prisoners
and put aboard a plane. As the plane flew over the Rio Plata or
out over the Atlantic Ocean, the prisoners were shoved through
a cargo door, sausage-like, into the water. Years later, a group
called the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo documented the identities
of 256 missing babies. All told, the Argentine war against subversion
would claim an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 lives.
The 1976 Argentine coup d'etat allowed
the pace of cross-border executions under Operation Condor to
quicken. On May 21, gunmen killed two Uruguayan congressmen on
a street in Buenos Aires. On June 4, former Bolivian President
Juan Jose Torres was slain also in Buenos Aires. On June 11, armed
men kidnapped 23 Chilean refugees and one Uruguayan who were under
United Nations protection. After interrogation and torture by
a team of Argentine, Uruguayan and Chilean security agents, the
captives were ordered to leave Argentina. The U.S. Embassy reported
to Washington that the case Pointed to fresh evidence of collaboration
among Southern Cone security forces.
As the violence mounted in South America,
Washington's focus had turned to the presidential election. By
late summer, the two parties had Picked their candidates, matching
President Ford against Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter. The
folksy Carter with his toothy smile and his pledge that he would
never lie to the American people started out with a formidable
lead in the polls, but Ford gained ground as the novelty of Carter's
born-again Christianity began to wear thin.
Pinochet also had his eye on Washington,
where his government was facing condemnation for its human rights
violations. One of the most eloquent voices making the case against
Pinochet's regime was Chile's former Foreign Minister Orlando
Letelier, who was operating out of a liberal think tank in Washington,
the Institute for Policy Studies. Earlier in their government
careers, when Letelier was briefly defense minister in Allende's
government, Pinochet had been his subordinate. After the coup,
Pinochet imprisoned Letelier at a desolate concentration camp
on Dawson Island off the south Pacific coast. International pressure
won Letelier release a year later.
Now, Pinochet was chafing under Letelier's
rough criticism of the regime's human rights record. Letelier
was doubly infuriating to Pinochet because Letelier was regarded
as a man of intellect and charm, even impressing CIA officers
who observed him as "a personable, socially pleasant man"
and "a reasonable, mature democrat," according to biographical
sketches. Pinochet fumed to U.S. officials, including Secretary
of State Kissinger, that Letelier was spreading lies and causing
trouble with the U.S. Congress. Soon, Pinochet was plotting with
DINA chief Contreras how to silence Letelier's criticism for good.
By summer 1976, Bush's CIA was hearing
a lot about Operation Condor from South American sources who had
attended a second organizational conference of Southern Cone intelligence
services. These CIA sources reported that the military regimes
were preparing "to engage in 'executive action' outside the
territory of member countries." In intelligence circles,
"executive action" is a euphemism for assassination.
On July 30, a CIA official briefed State Department officials
about these "disturbing developments in [Condor's] operational
attitudes." The information was passed to Kissinger in a
"secret" report on August 3, 1976. The 14-page report
from assistant secretary Shlaudeman said the military regimes
were "joining forces to eradicate 'subversion,' a word which
increasingly translates into non-violent dissent from the left
and center left.
While information about the larger Condor
strategy was spreading through the upper levels of the Ford administration,
Pinochet and Contreras were putting in motion their most audacious
assassination plan yet: to eliminate Orlando Letelier in his safe
haven in Washington, D.C.
In July 1976, two DINA operatives - Michael
Townley and Armando Fernandez Larios - went to Paraguay where
DINA had arranged for them to get false passports and visas for
a trip to the United States. Townley and Larios were using the
false names Juan Williams and Alejandro Romeral and a cover story
claiming they were investigating suspected leftists working for
Chile's state copper company in New York. Townley and Larios said
their project had been cleared with the CIA's Station Chief in
Santiago. A senior Paraguayan official, Conrado Pappalardo, urged
U.S. Ambassador George Landau to cooperate, citing a direct appeal
from Pinochet in support of the mission. Supposedly, the Paraguayan
government claimed, the two Chileans were to meet with CIA Deputy
Director Vernon Walters.
An alarmed Landau recognized that the
visa request was highly unusual, since such operations are normally
coordinated with the CIA station in the host country and are cleared
with CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Though granting the
visas, Landau took the precaution of sending an urgent cable to
Walters and photostatic copies of the fake passports to the CIA.
Landau said he received an urgent cable back signed by CIA Director
Bush, reporting that Walters, who was in the process of retiring,
was out of town. When Walters returned a few days later, he cabled
Landau that he had "nothing to do with this" mission.
Landau immediately canceled the visas.
Landau also alerted senior State Department
officials. In a cable to assistant secretary Shlaudeman, Landau
said the "Paraguayan caper" had "troublesome aspects"
and recommended that the two Chileans be barred from entering
the United States. "If there is still time, and if there
is a possibility of turning off this harebrained scheme,"
Shlaudeman wrote in reply, "you are authorized to go back
[to Paraguayan officials] to urge that the Chileans be persuaded
not - repeat not - to travel."
But the Ford administration dithered over
delivering a formal demarche demanding that Pinochet's government
cease and desist in its cross-border assassinations. Though a
plan for warning Santiago was developed, the State Department
could not agree how to carry it out without offending the prickly
It also remains unclear what - if anything
- Bush's CIA did after learning about the "Paraguayan caper."
Normal protocol would have required senior CIA officials to ask
their Chilean counterparts about the supposed trip to Langley.
However, even with the declassification of more records in recent
years, that question has never been fully answered. The CIA also
demonstrated little curiosity over the August 22, 1976, arrival
of two other Chilean operatives using the names, Juan Williams
and Alejandro Romeral, the phony names that were intended to hide
the identity of the two operatives in the aborted assassination
plot. When these two different operatives arrived in Washington,
they made a point of having the Chilean Embassy notify Walters's
office at CIA.
"It is quite beyond belief that the
CIA is so lax in its counterespionage functions that it would
simply have ignored a clandestine operation by a foreign intelligence
service in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States,"
wrote John Dinges and Saul Landau in their 1980 book, Assassination
on Embassy Row. "It is equally implausible that Bush, Walters,
Landau and other officials were unaware of the chain of international
assassinations that had been attributed to DINA."
Apparently, DINA had dispatched the second
pair of operatives, using the phony names, to show that the initial
contacts for visas in Paraguay were not threatening. In other
words, the Chilean government had the replacement team of Williams
and Romeral go through the motions of a trip to Washington with
the intent to visit Walters to dispel any American suspicions
or to spread confusion among suspicious U.S. officials. But it's
still unclear whether Bush's CIA contacted Pinochet's government
about its mysterious behavior and, if not, why not.
As for the Letelier plot, DINA was soon
devising another way to carry out the killing. In late August,
DINA dispatched a preliminary team of one man and one woman to
do surveillance on Letelier as he moved around Washington. Then,
Townley was sent under a different alias to carry out the murder.
After arriving in New York on Sept. 9, 1976, Townley contacted
Cuban National Movement leader Guillermo Novo in Union City, New
Jersey, and then headed to Washington. Townley assembled a remote-controlled
bomb using parts bought at Radio Shack and Sears.
On September 18, joined by Cuban extremists
Virgilio Paz and Dionisio Suarez, Townley went to Letelier's home
in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington. The assassination team
attached the bomb underneath Letelier's Chevrolet Chevelle. Three
days later, on the morning of September 21, Paz and Suarez followed
Letelier as he drove to work with two associates, Ronni Moffitt
and her husband Michael. As the Chevelle proceeded down Massachusetts
Avenue, through an area known as Embassy Row because many of the
city's embassies line the street, the assassins detonated the
bomb. The blast ripped off Letelier's legs and punctured a hole
in Ronni Moffitt's jugular vein. She drowned in her own blood
at the scene; Letelier died after being taken to George Washington
University Hospital. Michael 17 Moffitt survived.
At the time, the attack represented the
worst act of international terrorism on U.S. soil. Adding to the
potential for scandal, the terrorism had been carried out by a
regime that was an ostensible ally of the United States, one that
had gained power with the help of the Nixon administration and
the CIA. Senior officials in the Ford administration, including
Secretary of State Kissinger, were implicated in those events.
Though initially treated in the press as a murder mystery, the
facts behind the Letelier bombing threatened to unleash a major
political scandal at just the wrong time for President Ford's
Bush's reputation was also at risk. As
authors Dinges and Landau noted in Assassination on Embassy Row,
"the CIA reaction was peculiar," after the cable from
Ambassador Landau arrived disclosing a covert Chilean intelligence
operation and asking Deputy Director Walters if he had a meeting
scheduled with the DINA agents. Ambassador "Landau expected
Walters to take quick action in the event that the Chilean mission
did not have CIA clearance," authors Dinges and Landau wrote.
"Yet a week passed during which the assassination team could
well have had time to carry out their original plan to go directly
from Paraguay to Washington to kill Letelier. Walters and Bush
conferred during that week about the matter.
"One thing is clear," Dinges
and Landau wrote, "DINA chief Manuel Contreras would have
called off the assassination mission if the CIA or State Department
had expressed their displeasure to the Chilean government. An
intelligence officer familiar with the case said that any warning
would have been sufficient to cause the assassination to be scuttled.
Whatever Walters and Bush did - if anything - the DINA mission
Peter Kornbluh wrote in The Pinochet File. "The Agency had
concrete knowledge that DINA had murdered other political opponents
abroad, using the same modus operandi as the Letelier case. The
Agency had substantive intelligence on Condor, and Chile's involvement
in planning murders of political opponents in Europe."
On November 1, 1976, the day before the election, The Washington
Post was the latest news outlet to report the CIA's assessment
that Pinochet was innocent. "Operatives of the present Chilean
military Junta did not take part in Letelier's killing,"
the Post wrote, citing CIA officials. "CIA Director Bush
expressed this view in a conversation late last week with Secretary
of State Kissinger."
As the Watergate scandal engulfed the Nixon Presidency in 1973,
conservatives rallied to Nixon's defense. Beer magnate Joseph
Coors and heir to the Mellon fortune Richard Mellon Scaife christened
the Heritage Foundation as a conservative flagship by donating
Lore than $1 million.
But the Right discovered that it lacked
the political clout to save Nixon. Republicans watched in honor
as Nixon's Presidency disintegrated. After his resignation on
August 9, 1974, the disgraced President retreated to his estate
in San Clemente, California, leaving the task of picking up the
pieces to Gerald Ford and rising Republican leaders, such as George
While ending Nixon's public political
life, the Watergate catastrophe actually proved his point that
the old strategies for containing scandals - by enlisting a few
Wise Men who presumably would understand the larger national interests
and clamp down on disclosures - no longer worked, at least not
alone. Containment of scandal would require a dedicated infrastructure
of permanent operatives who would have as a principal duty the
responsibility of protecting a future Republican President from
Taking the lead in this endeavor was Nixon's
former Treasury Secretary William Simon, a hard-bitten conservative
who had prospered earlier in life as part of the cut-throat Wall
Street world. As a partner at the investment firm of Salomon Brothers,
Simon had made millions of dollars a year. He then was lured into
public service as Nixon's energy czar and Treasury chief. After
leaving government, Simon took a post as president of the John
M. Olin Foundation, one of a handful of conservative foundations.
In the late 1970s, Simon began pulling those foundations together
with the goal of fulfilling Nixon's "project" of building
In 1978, Simon argued in his book, A Time
for Truth, that only a strong conservative ideological movement
could break the back of the dominant Liberal Establishment, which
he accused of enforcing misguided concepts of "equality"
and of being "possessed of delusions of moral grandeur."
Simon saw the Liberal Establishment and other parts of that "powerful
political intelligentsia" as "as stubborn and ruthless
a ruling elite as any in history."
To combat this insidious Liberal Establishment
and transform the Republican Party, the conservatives would need
a "counter-intelligentsia," Simon said. "Funds
generated by business ... must rush by the multimillion to the
aid of liberty ... to funnel desperately needed funds to scholars,
social scientists, writers and journalists who understand the
relationship between political and economic liberty," Simon
Simon's Olin Foundation soon allied itself
with like-minded ) foundations - associated with Lynde and Harry
Bradley, Smith Richardson, the Scaife family and the Coors family
- to advance the conservative cause. This network of conservative
foundations began to create the nucleus of a national infrastructure
of think tanks, media organizations and pressure groups.
In 1980, Simon published A Time for Action,
which demanded that the "death grip" of the Liberal
Establishment and its "New Despotism" be broken. Simon
saw the news media as part of the enemy camp. He especially targeted
journalists who, Simon charged, "have been working overtime
to deny liberty to others."
"The members of the 'counter-intelligentsia'
Simon cultivated would assail the conventional wisdom of an antiquated
system," observed author Sidney Blumenthal in 1986 in his
seminal book on modern conservatism, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment.
"The Bastille to which they laid siege was the fortress of
liberalism, the hollow doctrine of the old regime. These [conservative]
intellectuals impressed their thoughts on public activity, staffing
the new institutes, writing policy papers and newspaper editorials,
and serving as political advisers, lending the power of the word
to the defense of ideology."'
Though other conservative benefactors,
such as Joseph Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife, put more of their
own fortunes into building the Counter-Establishment, Simon understood
the value of coordinating the movement's resources. "By controlling
the wellsprings of funding, Simon makes the movement green,"
Blumenthal wrote-9 Years later, limited study by the National
Committee for Responsive Philanthropy - looking at the investments
of 12 "core" conservative / foundations - would find
that those foundations alone poured $210 million into right-wing
ideological activities from 1992 to 1994. The study concluded
that these "core" foundations anchored a comprehensive
strategy for advancing conservative goals by investing in institutions,
from universities and think tanks to media and pressure groups.
Leading recipients of this largesse included
top conservative think tanks: the Heritage Foundation, the American
Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and the Manhattan Institute.
Large sums also went to conservative legal groups pressing "tort
reform" and other rightist judicial Policies, including the
Institute for Justice, the Washington Legal Foundation and the
Federalist Society. High on the list, too, were conservative and
neoconservative foreign policy organizations, such as the Hoover
Institution, Freedom House, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Big chunks of cash went to media outlets
as well. Among conservative magazines, major recipients included
neoconservative Irving Kristol 's National Interest/Public Interest;
Commentary, edited by another neoconservative Norman Podhoretz;
and the American Spectator, which published over-the-top anti-liberal
screeds that especially appealed to younger white men. The conservative
foundations invested millions more in organizations that bashed
perceived "liberals" in the mainstream media.
Looking to the future, the 12 "core"
foundations devoted large sums to support conservative scholars
and to train young activists in the nation's universities. Besides
paying for scholarships and endowing chairs at prestigious colleges,
such as Harvard and Yale, the foundations invested heavily in
lesser-known schools, such as George Mason University in Fairfax,
Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. At GMU, the foundations
backed the Institute of Humane Studies and the Center for Study
of Market Processes, both promoting "free market" principles.
By the late 1970s, while the conservative foundations bankrolled
the training of the Right's brain trust, televangelists Jerry
Falwell and Pat Robertson were recruiting Christian Right foot
soldiers for the political trenches. In effect, the conservatives
were deploying a political army, with intellectual strategists
at the rear, an intimidating battery of artillery in a right-wing
news media and an infantry drawn from the ranks of fundamentalist
In a ... study in the 1990s looking back
at the conservative success, the liberal group People for the
American Way noted that - in contrast to the conservative benefactors
- progressive foundations devote most of their money to service
programs, such as buying park land, seeking an AIDS cure or supplying
food to the poor, not the ideological "war of ideas."
"Progressive groups, local and national, have over the years
sought to fill in) the gaps in the ever more frayed social safety
net," that report said. "Conservative groups have invested
their resources, by and large, in efforts to further shred that
One of those foreign financial angels of the Right was the Reverend
Sun Myung Moon, the leader of a South Korean religious cult who
considered himself the new Messiah. Over three decades, starting
in the mid-1970s, Moon would spend hundreds of millions of dollars
in the U.S. political system, from rallies to defend Richard Nixon
in 1974 to backing George W. Bush in both Campaign 2000 and his
bid for a second term in 2004 through Moon's media empire, anchored
by its flagship newspaper, The Washington Times. The source of
Moon's money - and his real motives - would represent their own
Sun Myung Moon may have the distinction of being the most unusual
person ever to wield substantial influence in the capital of the
Known for crowning himself at lavish ceremonies
and ranting for hours in Korean about the proper use of sex organs,
Moon demonstrated how almost anyone can secure something akin
to respectability in Washington if he's willing to spend enough
money. In moon's case, the ticket to influence in Washington was
purchased at the price of hundreds of millions of dollars.
When Moon became a major benefactor of
the American conservative movement starting in the latter half
of the 1970s, it was a time when the conservatives desperately
needed money to augment the limited funds from William Simon's
network of conservative foundations. Moon stepped forward to fill
that gap. From a mysterious and seemingly bottomless slush fund,
Moon ladled out cash to sponsor lavish conferences, to finance
political interest groups and eventually to publish one of the
capital's two daily newspapers, The Washington Times.
Despite his controversial goals - such
as replacing democracy and individuality with his own personal
theocratic rule over the most intimate details of every person's
life - Moon lured into his circle some of the most prominent political
figures of the modern era. One was George H.W. Bush who grasped
Moon's value as a deep pocket for the conservative movement and
for the Bush family.
Moon began building his political influence
in Washington at a time when he was best known to most Americans
as the leader of a South Korean-based religious cult, the Unification
Church, known as the "Moonies." Moon was held responsible
by thousands of American parents for brainwashing their children
and transforming them into automatons who gave up their previous
lives to devote nearly every waking hour in the service of Reverend
Moon. These seemingly disembodied young people sold carnations
at street corners or solicited donations with misleading claims
about the money going to some worthy-sounding cause, without mentioning
Moon or the Unification Church.
Gradually, however, Moon's Washington
investments gained him access to many members of the nation's
ruling elite and the worst of the negative press coverage subsided.
Still, few Americans, even those who took his money, actually
knew much about his life and his true allegiances. Recognizing
the potential for negative publicity, his disciples had worked
diligently to shroud Moon's biography in the fog of legend. Church
publications were filled with inspirational Sunday-school-type
tales of Moon's courage and beneficence. Critics were accused
of religious or racial bias, supposedly disdaining Moon because
he was a man of religion or because he was Korean. Conservative
propagandists - many of whom had benefited from Moon's largesse
- also tried to discredit attempts to investigate Moon's financial
and political dealings.
Moon became to Washington - and especially
to the conservative movement - something akin to the crazy aunt
in the basement, who happens to control a large chunk of the family
Moon was born on January 6, 1920, in a rural, northwestern corner
of Korea, a rugged Asian peninsula then occupied by Japan, an
occupation that would continue through the first 25 years of Moon's
life. Allied forces liberated the peninsula from the Japanese
in 1945 and then divided Korea into two sections, the south controlled
by the United States and the north occupied by Soviet troops.
In this post-war period, Moon, who had
been raised within a Christian sect, moved to southern Korea and
joined a mystical religious group called Israel Suo-won. The group
preached the imminent arrival of a Korean Messiah and practiced
a strange sexual ritual called "pikarume," in which
ministers purified women through sexual intercourse, the so-called
"blessing of the womb." As he developed his own theology,
Moon returned to the North, to communist-ruled North Korea, where
he soon ran into legal troubles. North Korean authorities arrested
him twice, apparently on morals charges connected to his sexual
rites with young women. Moon's supporters, however, have tried
to portray Moon as the victim of communist repression, claiming
that he was arrested not for sex charges but for espionage.
Whatever the real story about his detention
in North Korea, Moon's luck soon changed. On October 14, 1950,
with war raging on the Korean peninsula, United Nations troops
overran the prison where Moon was held, freeing Moon and all the
other inmates. According to Unification Church histories, Moon
then trekked south, carrying on his back an injured prisoner named
Pak Chung Hwa. For years, church officials even published a photograph
purportedly showing Pak piggy-backing on Moon across a river.
But much of that story appears to be propaganda. Several church
sources have since admitted that the photo was a hoax, that Moon
is not the man in the picture and the location is not where Moon
Moon's southward journey ended in the
South Korean port of Pusan, where he resumed his missionary work.
He later moved to Seoul, South Korea's capital, where he founded
his own church in May 1954. He called it T'ong-il Kyo, or Holy
Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.
It became known as the Unification Church.
At the center of Moon's theology was a
new twist to the Old Testament story about the Fall of Man. Instead
of biting into a forbidden apple, Eve copulated with Satan and
then passed on the sin by having sex with Adam. Thousands of years
later, God sent Jesus to restore man to his original purity, Moon
taught. But Jesus failed because he was betrayed by the Jews and
died before he could father any sinless children. Sex, therefore,
remained at the center of Moon's theology, the need for a Messiah
to purify the human race through the reversal of the contamination
caused by Satan's seduction of Eve.
Moon taught that the failure of Jesus
to begin this purification process by fathering children forced
God to send a second Messiah, who turned out to be Moon himself.
Moon saw his task as starting this sexual purification process
and thus establishing God's Kingdom on Earth. The ultimate goal
would be a worldwide theocracy ruled by Moon and his followers
cleansed of Satan's influence.
'The alleged sexual rituals, which involved passing around women,
would become a point of embarrassment later, but the practices
apparently helped the Unification Church in recruiting men in
the early days. By the late 1950s, Moon had managed to build a
small cadre of loyal followers and was reaching out beyond Korea,
sending his first missionaries to Japan and the United States
in the early 1960s, the church was pulling in better educated
young men, including some with connections to South Korea's intelligence
agency, the KCIA.
Kim Jong-Pil and three other young English-speaking
army officers became closely associated with Moon's church during
this transitional phase as the institution evolved from an obscure
Korean sect into a powerful international organization. Beyond
his association with Moon's sect, Kim Jong-Pil was a rising star
in South Korea's intelligence community. In 1961, he founded the
KCIA, which centralized Seoul's internal and external intelligence
activities. Another one of the promising young KCIA officers was
Colonel Bo Hi Pak, also a Moon disciple.
... the Unification Church next too aim at Washington. In 1964,
Bo Hi Pak, who was emerging as one of Moon's most able lieutenants,
moved to America and started the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation,
a front that performed the dual purpose of helping Moon meet important
Americans, while assisting the KCIA in its international operations.
Bo Hi Pak named KCIA founder Kim Jong-Pil to be the foundation's
"honorary chairman." The foundation also sponsored the
KCIA's anti-communist propaganda outlets, such as Radio of Free
Asia, according to the congressional report on the Koreagate scandal.
Moon's church also was active in the Asian
People's Anti-Communist League, a fiercely right-wing group founded
by the governments of South Korea and Taiwan. In 1966, the group
expanded into the World AntiCommunist League, an international
alliance that brought together traditional conservatives with
former Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American "death
squad" operatives. In an interview, retired U.S. Army General
John K. Singlaub, a former WACL president, said "the Japanese
[WACL] chapter was taken over almost entirely by Moonies."
By the 1970s, the U.S. public was aware
of Moon and his church, but much of the attention was negative.
The totalitarian nature of Moon's church stood out in his staging
of mass marriages, or "blessings," in which he would
pair up husbands and wives who had never met. Moon also regulated
the sexual behavior of even his married followers, a practice
that replaced the more personal method of "blessing the womb"
that allegedly had prevailed in the church's early days.
In 1973, amid American reversals in Indochina,
alarm began to spread within Seoul's right-wing dictatorship about
the strength of the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea in case
of aggression from the communist North. Those fears led the KCIA
to begin plotting how to bolster its allies in the United States
and undermine its critics.
As Moon stepped up his activities, however, the FBI soon began
to suspect that Moon's activities had a political motive. The
FBI summary of its evidence about Moon's church was marked by
a number indicating that the Unification Church was under a counter-intelligence
investigation in the 1970s. The report's title, "Organizations
and Individuals Associated with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and/or
the Unification Church," refers specifically to possible
violation of the foreign agent registration law.
Although blacked-out portions obscured
who was stating some of the conclusions - an individual source
or the FBI - the report described the church as "an absolutely
totalitarian organization" which was part of an international
"conspiracy" that functioned by its own rules. "One
of the central doctrines of the Moon religious aspects is what
they call heavenly deception . ... It basically says that to take
from Satan what rightfully belongs to God, you may do most anything.
You may lie, cheat, steal or kill."
Despite the FBI's concerns, Moon began
making friends in Washington the old fashioned way: by spreading
around lots of money. Moon also had his followers cozy up to government
officials. According to the FBI summary, Moon designated "300
pretty girls" to lobby members of Congress. "They were
trying to influence United States senators and congressmen on
behalf of South Korea," the FBI document
"Moon had laid the foundation for
political work in this country prior to 1973 [though] his followers
became more openly involved in political activities in that and
subsequent years," a congressional investigative report on
the so-called "Koreagate" influence-buying scandal stated
in 1978. The report added that Moon's organization used his followers'
travels to smuggle large sums of money into the United States
in apparent violation of federal currency laws.
Moon organized rallies in support of the
Vietnam War and in defense of President Nixon during the Watergate
scandal. Moon sponsored a National Prayer and Fast Committee,
using the slogan: "forgive, love, unite." The public
rallies earned Moon a face-to-face "thank you" from
the embattled President on February 1, 1974.
In late 1975, the CIA intercepted a secret South Korean document
entitled "1976 Plan for Operations in the United States."
In the name of "strengthening the execution of the U.S. security
commitment to the ROK [South Korea]," it called for influencing
U.S. public opinion by penetrating American media, government
Thousands of dollars were earmarked for
"special manipulation' o congressmen; their staffs were to
be infiltrated with paid "collaborators"; an "intelligence
network" was to be put into the White House; money was targeted
for "manipulation" of officials at the Pentagon, State
Department and CIA; some U.S. journalists were to be spied on,
while others would be paid; a "black newspaper" would
be started in New York; contacts with American scholars would
be coordinated "with Psychological Warfare Bureau";
and "an organizational network of anti-communist fronts"
would be created.
Several months later, in summer 1976,
Moon returned to the United States and delivered a flattering
pro-U.S. speech at a red-white-and-blue flag-draped rally at the
Washington Monument. "The United States of America, transcending
race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world,"
Moon declared on September 18, 1976. Calling America "the
chosen nation of God," Moon said, "I not only respect
America, but truly love this nation."
While professing his love for America
in public, Moon shared with his followers a very different sentiment
in private. He despised American concepts of individuality and
democracy, believing that he was destined to rule through a one-world
theocracy that would eradicate all personal freedoms. "Here's
a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all
religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages
will be abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished
except his one-world theocracy," said Steve Hassan, a former
church leader, in an interview. "Yet he's wined and dined
very powerful people and convinced them that he's benign."
In 1976, Moon's search for growing influence
in the United States seemed to be following the KCIA script. Moon
started a small-circulation newspaper in New York City that featured
a column by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Moon promoted the
anti-communist cause through front groups which held lavish conferences
and paid speaking fees to academics, journalists and political
leaders. In 1976, Moon, Bo Hi Pak and other church members deepened
their investments in the U.S. capital, buying stock in the Washington-based
Diplomat National Bank. Simultaneously, South Korean agent Tongsun
Park was investing heavily in the same bank.
But the South Korean scheme backfired
in the late 1970s with the explosion of the "Koreagate"
scandal. Representative Donald Fraser, a Democrat from Minnesota,
led a congressional probe which tracked Tongsun Park's influence-buying
campaign and exposed the KCIA links to the Unification Church.
The "Koreagate" investigation revealed a sophisticated
intelligence project run out of Seoul, using the urbane Park and
the mystical Moon to cultivate U ' S * politicians as influential
friends of South Korea - and to undermine politicians who were
viewed as enemies.