The Eyes and Ears
excerpted from the book
America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy
by Christopher Simpson
Collier / Macmillan, 1988
Of all the networks of former Nazis and collaborators employed
by the United States after World War II, it is Gehlen's organization
that has left the most substantial imprint on the United States.
Gehlen's analysis of the forces that guide Soviet behavior, which
were forged in part by his personal defeat at the hands of the
Russians during World War II, became widely accepted in U.S. intelligence
circles and remain so to this day.
Gehlen's impact on the course of the cold war was subtle, but
l real. Self-avowed pragmatists in the U.S. intelligence services
have consistently argued that the otherwise questionable employment
of Gehlen and even of unrepentant Nazis through the Org was justified
by their significant contributions to fighting a powerful and
ruthless rival: the Soviet Union. "He's on our side,"
CIA Director Allen Dulles later said of Gehlen, "and that's
all that matters."
During the first years of the CIA under Rear Admiral Roscoe H.
Hillenkoetter's administration, according to a retired executive
of the CIA's Office of National Estimates, Gehlen's reports and
analyses were sometimes simply retyped onto CIA stationery and
presented to President Truman without further comment in the agency's
morning intelligence summaries. Gehlen's organization "shaped
what we knew about the Soviets in Eastern Europe and particularly
about East Germany," he continued. Heinz Hohne, an internationally
recognized historian and senior editor at Der Spiegel magazine,
asserts that "seventy percent of all the U.S. government's
information on Soviet forces and armaments came from the Gehlen
organization" during the early cold war. While any such precise
number is bound to be arbitrary, the thrust of Hohne's comment
is certainly accurate.
Contrary to the accepted wisdom, however, U.S. dependence
on Gehlen's organization for intelligence on the Soviet military
was quite likely a blunder from a strictly practical point of
view. For one thing, enlisting Gehlen was in itself a substantial
escalation of the cold war that undermined what little hope was
possible for EastWest cooperation during the pivotal years of
1945 to 1948. Once on board, Gehlen's Nazi-tainted operatives
often gave the Soviets an easy target for denunciations of war
criminals being sheltered by the West. This has since become a
highly successful Soviet propaganda theme-in part because there
is some truth to it-that is replayed regularly to this day as
a means of undermining U.S. and West German relations with Eastern
Europe. Financing Gehlen's organization also appears to have made
infiltration of Western intelligence by Soviet spies easier, not
more difficult, as will be seen. Most important, Gehlen's operatives
and analysts strongly reinforced U.S. intelligence's existing
predilection toward paranoia about communism and the USSR, contributing
significantly to the creation of a body of widely believed misinformation
about Soviet behavior.
"Gehlen had to make his money by creating a threat that
we were afraid of," says Victor Marchetti, formerly the CIA's
chief analyst of Soviet strategic war plans and capabilities,
"so we would give him more money to tell us about it."
He continues: "In my opinion, the Gehlen Organization provided
nothing worthwhile for understanding or estimating Soviet military
or political capabilities in Eastern Europe or anywhere else."
Employing Gehlen was "a waste of time, money, and effort,
except that maybe he had some CI [counterintelligence] value,
because practically everybody in his organization was sucking
off both tits." In other words, Gehlen did not produce the
reliable information for which he was employed, but careful monitoring
of the Org might have produced some clues to Soviet espionage
activity because the group had been deeply penetrated by double
agents, thus giving the United States a vastly expensive and not
very efficient means of keeping up with Soviet spies.
"The Gehlen Organization was the one group that did have
networks inside Eastern Europe, and that is why we hired them,"
international affairs expert Arthur Macy Cox says. "[But]
hiring Gehlen was the biggest mistake the U.S. ever made. Our
allies said, 'You are putting Nazis at the senior levels of your
intelligence,' and they were right. It discredited the United
States." According to Cox, the Gehlen Organization was the
primary source of intelligence that claimed that "the Soviets
were about to attack [West] Germany.... [That was] the biggest
bunch of baloney then, and it is still a bunch of baloney today."
Had Gehlen's role been limited to the preparation of top secret
studies for the use of America's own most expert intelligence
analysts, it is unlikely that his project would have done much
harm during the postwar period, and it might actually have done
some good. But that is not how intelligence agencies actually
work. In reality, contending factions in the government leak their
versions of events to favored members of Congress or reporters
and from them to the public at large. "Secret reports"
revealed in this way- especially those that frighten or titillate
us-take on a mystique of accuracy that is undeserved. These "secrets"
become potent symbols that rally constituencies whose concern
is not with the accuracy of a given bit of intelligence but rather
with the use to which the leak can be put in the domestic political
arena. As time goes on, a self-reinforcing process sets in, each
new leak lending credibility to the next, which in turn "confirms"
those stories that have already been revealed.
"The agency [CIA] loved Gehlen because he fed us what
we wanted to hear," Marchetti concludes. "We used his
stuff constantly, and we fed it to everybody else: the Pentagon;
the White House; the newspapers. They loved it, too. But it was
hyped up Russian boogeyman junk, and it did a lot of damage to