Containing the Secrets,

First Interregnum

excerpted from the book

Secrecy & Privilege

Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq

by Robert Parry

The Media Consortium Inc., 2004, paper

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 them.

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 congressional ban.

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 and freighters.

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 Pinochet.

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 campaign.

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 proceeded. "

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."


First Interregnum

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 H.W. Bush.

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 "another Watergate."

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 "OUR establishment."

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 wrote.

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 Christianity.

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 net."

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 dark mysteries.

Sun Myung Moon may have the distinction of being the most unusual person ever to wield substantial influence in the capital of the United States.

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 inheritance.

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 was.

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 and academia.

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.

Secrecy & Privilege

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