from the book
The CIAs Greatest Hits
by Mark Zepezauer
In theory, the CIA's charter prohibits
it from engaging in domestic operations. In practice, that's taken
about as seriously as Frank Sinatra's periodic announcements that
he's retiring from show biz.
The CIA explains its massive presence
on US campuses by saying that so many foreign students attend
US universities, it would be a shame not to try to recruit them.
The Domestic Contacts Division is needed to glean information
from US tourists and businessmen returning from abroad. Then there's
the Domestic Operations Division, which handles foreign interventions
on US soil, like breaking into foreign embassies.
In order to do all that, the CIA has had
to set up the same sort of network of phony businesses and front
organizations it uses overseas. But other than that, it claims
it never operates domestically.
Unfortunately, that's not true. From 1959
to at least 1974, the CIA used its domestic organizations to spy
on thousands of US citizens whose only crime was disagreeing with
their government's policies.
This picked up speed when J. Edgar Hoover
told President Johnson that nobody would be protesting his Vietnam
war policies unless they were being directed to do so by some
foreign power. Johnson ordered the CIA to investigate.
In response, the CIA vastly expanded its
campus surveillance program and stepped up its liaisons with local
police departments. It trained special intelligence units in major
cities to carry out "black bag" jobs (break-ins, wiretaps,
etc.) against US "radicals."
In 1968, the CIA's various domestic programs
were consolidated and expanded under the name Operation CHAOS.
When Richard Nixon became president the following year, his administration
drafted the Huston Plan, which called for even greater operations
against "subversives," including wiretapping, break-ins,
mail-opening, no-knock searches and "selective assassinations."
Bureaucratic infighting tabled the plan, but much of it was implemented
in other forms, not only by the CIA but also by the FBI and the
With the revelation of CIA and White House
complicity in the Watergate break-in, light began to shine on
Operation CHAOS. After a period of "reform," much of
CHAOS's work was privatized, and right-wing groups and "former"
CIA agents now provide the bulk of the CIA's domestic intelligence.