excerpts from the book
In Search of Enemies
by John Stockwell
W.W. Norton, 1978
In December i976 I advised my boss in the CIA's Africa Division
of my intention to resign. For his own reasons, he urged me to
take several months leave to reconsider. Making it clear I would
not change my mind, I accepted his offer of several more pay checks
and took three months sick leave.
I did not tell anyone I planned to write a book. In fact,
I had no great confidence in my ability to write. I had been an
operations officer-an activist-for the past dozen years in the
What about the oath of secrecy I signed when I joined the
CIA in 1964? I cannot be bound by it for four reasons: First,
my oath was illegally, fraudulently obtained. My CIA recruiters
lied to me about the clandestine services as they swore me in.
They insisted the CIA functioned to gather intelligence. It did
not kill, use drugs, or damage people's lives, they assured me.
These lies were perpetuated in the following year of training
courses. It was not until the disclosures of the Church and Pike
Committees in 1975 that I learned the full, shocking truth about
I do not mean to suggest that I was a puritan or out of step
with the moral norms of modern times; nor had I been squeamish
about my CIA activities. To the contrary, I had participated in
operations which stretched the boundaries of anyone's conscience.
But the congressional committees disclosed CIA activities which
had previously been concealed, which I could not rationalize.
The disclosures about the plot to poison Patrice Lumumba struck
me personally in two ways. First, men I had worked with had been
involved. Beyond that, Lumumba had been baptized into the Methodist
Church in 1937, the same year I was baptized a Presbyterian. He
had attended a Methodist mission school at Wembo Nyama in the
Kasai Province of the Belgian Congo (Zaire), while I attended
the Presbyterian school in Lubondai in the same province. The
two church communities overlapped. My parents sometimes drove
to Wembo Nyama to buy rice for our schools. American Methodist
children were my classmates in Lubondai. Lumumba was not, in 1961,
the Methodists' favorite son, but he was a member of the missionary
community in which my parents had spent most of their adult lives,
and in which I grew up.
There were other disclosures which appalled me: kinky, slightly
depraved, drug/sex experiments involving unwitting Americans,
who were secretly filmed by the CIA for later viewing by pseudoscientists
of the CIA's Technical Services Division.
For years I had defended the CIA to my parents and to our
friends. "Take it from me, a CIA insider," I had always
sworn, "the CIA simply does not assassinate or use drugs
. . ."
But worse was to come. A few short months after the CIA's
shameful performance in Vietnam, of which I was part, I was assigned
to a managerial position in the CIA's covert Angola program. Under
the leadership of the CIA director we lied to Congress and to
the 40 Committee, which supervised the CIA's Angola program. We
entered into joint activities with South Africa. And we actively
propagandized the American public, with cruel results-Americans,
misguided by our agents' propaganda, went to fight in Angola in
suicidal circumstances. One died, leaving a widow and four children
behind. Our secrecy was designed to keep the American public and
press from knowing what we were doing-we fully expected an outcry
should they find us out.
The CIA's oath of secrecy has been desecrated in recent years,
not by authors-Philip Agee, Joe Smith, Victor Marchetti, and Frank
Snepp-but by the CIA directors who led the CIA into scandalous,
absurd operations. At best, the oath was used to protect those
directors from exposure by their underlings, although the directors
themselves freely leaked information to further their operational
or political ploys.
Their cynicism about the oath, and their arrogance toward
the United States' constitutional process, were exposed in 1977,
when former director Richard Helms was convicted of perjury for
lying to a Senate committee about an operation in Chile. Helms
plea-bargained a light sentence-the prosecutors were allegedly
apprehensive that in his trial many secrets would be revealed,
blowing operations and embarrassing establishment figures. After
receiving a suspended sentence, Helms stood with his attorney
before television cameras, while the latter gloated that Helms
would wear the conviction as a "badge of honor." Helms
was proud of having lied to the Senate to protect a questionable
CIA operation, but to protect his own person, secrets would have
Faced with a similar choice in the Angolan program-my loyalty
to the CIA or my responsibilities to the United States' Constitution
-I chose the latter. The CIA's oaths and honor codes must never
take precedence over allegiance to our country. That is my second
reason for disregarding the oath.
Even with those two reasons, I would not have undertaken to
expose the clandestine services if I felt they were essential
to our national security. I am persuaded they are not. That is
what this book is about.
In discussing our foreign intelligence organ, we consistently
confuse two very different offices, referring to both as "CIA."
The one, technically called the Central Intelligence Agency's
Deputy Directorate of Information, fulfills the mission outlined
in the National Security Act of 1947, of centralizing all of the
raw intelligence available to our government, collating it, analyzing
it for meaning and importance, and relaying finished reports to
the appropriate offices. Had such an office existed in 1941 we
would have been forewarned of Pearl Harbor. The DDI is overt-its
employees are openly "CIA" to friends, relatives, neighbors,
and creditors; it is passive; and it is benign, without aggressive
activity which can harm anyone.
Otherwise, we say "CIA" meaning the clandestine
services of the Deputy Directorate of Operations. This organization
of about 4,500 employees is also housed in the CIA headquarters
building in Langley, Virginia. Anything but benign, its operatives
have for thirty years recruited agents (spies) and engineered
covert action operations in virtually every corner of the globe.
I was a field case officer of the clandestine services, and
by December 1976, when I announced my resignation, I was persuaded
that at the very least those services needed a major reform.
Before I decided to resign and write a book I considered the
options for working within the CIA for reforms. The prospects
were not encouraging. The isolation of the intelligence business
provides management with extraordinary leverage over the rank
and file. While the CIA benevolently protected and supported officers
who had been rendered ineffective by life's tragedies, it had
little tolerance of the outspoken individual, the reformist. An
officer could play the game and rise, or keep his peace and have
security, or he could resign. I had, through the years made positive
recommendations for reform both verbally and in writing, to my
Africa Division bosses and on occasion to Colby himself, without
result. The inspector general's office was competent to handle
petty problems, but as an instrument of the director's managerial
system, it could not address matters of reform. And I had found
the "club" of CIA managers arrogantly resistant to criticism
of their own ranks-when I spoke out about the most flagrant mismanagement
that I knew about which occurred during the evacuation of Vietnam,
I was politely and gently admonished. The culprit was given a
position of authority, vindicated by the support of his colleagues,
and I was informed I had better keep my peace. Only in the forum
of public debate, outside the CIA, could effective leverage be
had to correct the agency's wrongs.
After resigning I testified for five days to Senate committees,
giving them full details about such agency activities as are covered
in this book. Had I been reassured that they would take effective
corrective action, I would have considered abandoning my own plans
to write. Unfortunately, the Senate intelligence committees in
Washington are unable to dominate and discipline the agency. Some
senators even seem dedicated to covering up its abuses. Once again,
I concluded that only an informed American public can bring effective
pressure to bear on the CIA.
Others had reached the same conclusion. Philip Agee used his
book, Inside the Company: A CIA Diary, as a sword to slash at
the agency, to put it out of business in Latin America. Deeply
offended by the CIA's clandestine activities, Agee attacked individual
operations and agents, publishing every name he could remember.
Although he made an effort to explain how and why he became disillusioned,
he did not illuminate the CIA "mind." Marchetti and
Snepp contributed valuable information to the public's knowledge
of the CIA. The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence includes a vast
store of information about the agency, drawn from Marchetti's
experience in the DDI and in the office of the director of central
intelligence. Snepp, for six years an analyst in the CIA's Saigon
station, chronicles the intelligence failure and betrayals of
the CIA evacuation of South Vietnam in April 1975.
My objective in writing this book is to give the American
public a candid glimpse inside the clandestine mind, behind the
last veils of secrecy. The vehicle I chose is the Angola paramilitary
program of 1975-1976. The anecdotes I relate all happened as described.
Dates and details are drawn from the public record and from voluminous
notes I took during the Angola operation. In most cases there
were other witnesses and often enough secret files to corroborate
them. However, for reasons of security, I was not able to interview
key individuals or return to the CIA for further research as I
wrote. I urge the CIA to supplement my observations by opening
its Angola files-the official files as well as the abundant "soft"
files we kept- so the public can have the fullest, most detailed
Our libel laws restrict an author's freedom to relate much
of human foible. Nevertheless I have managed to include enough
anecdotes to give the reader a full taste of the things we did,
the people we were. But this is not so much a story of individual
eccentricities and strange behavior, though I mention some. I
have no desire to expose or hurt individuals and I reject Agee's
approach. As a case officer for twelve years I was both victim
and villain in CIA operations. In both roles I was keenly sympathetic
for the people we ensnarled in our activities. Perhaps they are
responsible according to the principles of Nuremburg and Watergate
which judged lesser employees individually responsible and put
them in jail-but I prefer to address the issues at a broader level.
Since my resignation I have revealed no covert CIA employee or
agent's name, and I stonewalled the Senate and FBI on that subject
when they questioned me.
My sympathy does not extend to the CIA managers who led the
CIA to such depths, but in this book I have used actual names
only for such managers as had previously been declared as "CIA":
Director William Colby; Deputy Director of Operations William
Nelson; Bill Welles, who replaced Nelson; and Africa Division
Chief James Potts. And myself. The other names of CIA personnel-Carl
Bantam, Victor St. Martin, Paul Foster, et al.-are pseudonyms
which I invented. (Any resemblance those names might have to the
true names of individuals within and without the CIA is purely
coincidental.) In the field, Holden Roberto and Jonas Savimbi
were well known to be our allies. Bob Denard and Colonel Santos
y Castro were also public figures, widely known to be involved
on the side of Roberto, Savimbi, and the CIA. "Timothe Makala"
is a name I invented (makala means "charcoal" in the
Bantu dialect, Tshiluba). On occasion I used CIA cryptonyms, but
in most cases they, too, have been altered to protect the individuals
from any conceivable exposure.
On April l0, 1977, after my resignation was final, I published
an open letter to CIA Director Stansfield Turner in the Outlook
section of the Washington Post. It outlined the reasons for my
disillusionment. (The letter is reprinted in the Appendix of this
book.) Director Turner subsequently initiated a house-cleaning
of the clandestine services, proposing to fire four hundred people,
to make the clandestine services "lean and efficient."
In December 1977 Turner admitted to David Binder of the New York
Times that this housecleaning had been triggered by my letter.
In January 1978, President Carter announced a reorganization
of the intelligence community, which in fact has the effect of
strengthening the CIA; and Admiral Turner has reached an understanding
with Congress (of which I am skeptical-the Congress has neither
the will nor the means to control the CIA). Now Turner has intensified
his campaign for tighter controls over CIA employees. He is lobbying
vigorously for legislation that would jail anyone who threatens
the CIA by disclosing its secrets. It makes him fighting mad,
he blusters, when anyone leaks classified information. Such people
are violating the "code of intelligence," he charges.
It is the CIA's "unequivocal right" to censor all publications
by CIA people, he claims. "Why do Americans automatically
presume the worst of their public servants?" he asks-a remarkable
question in the wake of Watergate, FBI, and CIA revelations.
Director Turner and President Carter have it backwards. It
is the American people's unequivocal right to know what their
leaders are doing in America's name and with our tax dollars.
My third reason.
For my fourth reason, I reclaim my constitutional right of
freedom of speech. The Constitution of the United States does
not read that all citizens shall have freedom of speech except
those that have signed CIA oaths. Until there is such an amendment
of the Constitution, ratified by the appropriate number of states,
the Marchetti ruling rests as bad law, an unfortunate relic of
the Nixon administration's bullishness. If the CIA and its "secrets
game" cannot live with our fundamental constitutional rights,
there can be no question, the Constitution must prevail.
But if the present administration has its way, stories such
as this one would be suppressed and covered up. And the author
would be punished. I invite the reader to judge which is more
important: CIA misadventures such as this one, or our fundamental
right to know the truth about our public servants' activities
and to keep them honest?
Because of my mission background, my recruiters and I discussed
the CIA's "true nature." They had been unequivocal in
reassuring me-the CIA was an intelligence-gathering institution,
and a benevolent one. Coups were engineered only to alter circumstances
which jeopardized national security. I would be a better person
through association with the CIA. My naïveté was shared
by most of my forty-two classmates in our year-long training program.
Our instructors hammered the message at us: the CIA was good,
its mission was to make the world a better place, to save the
world from communism.
Carl insisted that it was Kissinger who was pushing the agency
into the covert operation in Angola. Kissinger saw the Angolan
conflict solely in terms of global politics and was determined
the Soviets should not be permitted to make a move in any remote
part of the world without being confronted militarily by the United
States. Superficially, his opposition to the Soviet presence was
being rationalized in terms of Angola's strategic location on
the South Atlantic, near the shipping lanes of the giant tankers
which bring oil from the Middle East around the horn of Africa
to the United States. This argument was not profound. Soviet bases
in Somalia had much better control of our shipping lanes, and
any military move by the Soviets against our oil supplies would
trigger a reaction so vigorous that a Soviet base in Angola would
be a trivial factor. In fact, Angola had little plausible importance
to American national security and little economic importance beyond
the robusta coffee it sold to American markets and the relatively
small amounts of petroleum Gulf Oil pumped from the Cabindan fields.
No. Uncomfortable with recent historic events, and frustrated
by our humiliation in Vietnam, Kissinger was seeking opportunities
to challenge the Soviets.
The Central Intelligence Agency's authority to run covert operations
was for twenty-seven years solely dependent on a vague phrase
in the National Security Act of 1947 which read: "to perform
such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting
the national security as the National Security Council may from
time to time direct." In 1975 Clark Clifford testified that
the drafters of this act intended only to give the president authority
to undertake operations in the rare instances that the national
security was truly threatened. In fact, the CIA used the vaguely
worded charter to launch thousands of covert actions in every
corner of the world. Most of them had dubious justification in
terms of the United States security. (See the Final Report of
the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect
to Intelligence Activities [also called the Church Committee Report],
April z6, 1976.) The Hughes-Ryan Amendment to the National Assistance
Act of 1974 required that no funds be expended by or on behalf
of the CIA for operations abroad, other than activities designed
to obtain necessary intelligence, unless two conditions are met:
(a) the president must make a finding that such operation is important
to the national security of the United States; and (b) the president
must report in a timely fashion a description of such operation
and its scope to congressional committees. Theoretically the Senate
has controlled the agency budget since 1947 but CIA funds were
buried in the Department of Defense budget, and without detailed
knowledge of CIA activities, the Senate could make little practical
use of this power. *The CIA has a special arrangement which permits
any employee who has three years of overseas duty to retire at
age fifty, with as much as $20,000 per year in retirement pay.
The stresses that shorten case officers' lives are not what one
might guess, certainly not those of James Bond-like danger and
intrigue. Most case officers work under official (State Department)
cover, and circulate after hours in the world of cocktail and
dinner parties. They become accustomed to a life-style of rich
food, alcohol, and little exercise. At work they are subject to
bureaucratic stresses comparable to a sales office or a newsroom,
with publishing deadlines and competitive pressures to produce
... CIA case officers are ... almost entirely dependent on CIA
material for knowledge of their areas of operation, perpetuating
CIA biases and superficial observations. It is exceedingly rare
that CIA officers, including even the analysts of the Directorate
of Information, will read the books and articles which the academic
world publishes about their areas of interest.
Essentially a conservative organization, the CIA maintains secret
liaison with local security services wherever it operates. Its
stations are universally part of the official communities of the
host countries. Case officers live comfortable lives among the
economic elite; even "outside" or "deep cover"
case officers are part of that elite. They become conditioned
to the mentality of the authoritarian figures, the police chiefs,
with whom they work and socialize, and eventually share their
resentment of revolutionaries who threaten the status quo. They
are ill at ease with democracies and popular movements-too fickle
and hard to predict.
... the Portuguese role in Angola was historically one of exploitation
and brutal suppression. Beginning in 1498 it conquered and subjugated
the three dominant tribal kingdoms-the Bakongo, Mbumdu, and Ovimbundu-and
exported over three million slaves, leaving vast reaches of the
colony under-populated. The colonial society was segregated into
six racial categories defined by the portion of white blood in
each, with two categories of pure blacks at the bottom of the
scale. Citizenship, economic and legal privilege accrued only
to the 600,000 whites, mulattos, and assimilados or blacks who
were legally accepted among the elite of the society. The go percent
of the population classified as indigenas suffered every form
of discrimination-including forced labor, beatings, arbitrary
imprisonment, and execution. without trial-at the hands of the
In 1958 there were 203 doctors in all of Angola, statistically
one for every 22,400 Angolans, although most of those two hundred
served only European, mulatto, or assimilado patients, while a
handful tended the 6,000,000 Angolan indigenas. Less than 1 percent
of the indigenas had as much as three years of schooling.
John Marcum, an American scholar who visited the interior
of Angola in the early I960s, walking eight hundred miles into
the FNLA guerrilla camps in northern Angola, reports that at the
time rebellion erupted in 196l, 2,000,000 Angolan natives were
displaced from their historic social and geographic surroundings:
800,000 were subject to rural forced labor; 350,000 faced underemployment
in the slums of the urban areas; and about l,000,000 were emigres
in the Congo, Rhodesia, and South Africa. "The disintegration
of traditional society had led to widespread disorientation, despair,
and preparations for violent protest." By I96I Angola was
a black powder keg with the three major ethnic groups organized
On March 15,196I, FNLA guerrillas mounted a so-pronged attack
across the Congo border along a 400-mile front, killing African
and Portuguese men, women, and children alike.
Portuguese air force planes immediately brought in military
reinforcements using NATO arms intended for the defense of the
North Atlantic area, and began striking back with indiscriminate
wrath, even bombing and strafing areas that had not been affected
by the nationalist uprising. Portuguese police seized nationalists,
Protestants, communists, and systematically eliminated black leaders
by execution and terrorism. By overreacting and flaying out indiscriminately,
the Portuguese helped to insure the insurrection would not be
localized or quashed.
President Kennedy made a tentative gesture of support to the
revolutionaries by voting with the majority of 73 to 2 (South
Africa and Spain opposing) on United Nations General Assembly
Resolution 15I4, April 20, 1961, which called for reforms in Angola.
The United States also cut a planned military assistance program
from $25 million to $3 million and imposed a ban on the commercial
sale of arms to Portugal.
But the Portuguese held a very high card-the Azores air bases
that refueled up to forty U.S. Air Force transports a day. We
could not do without them and our agreement for their use was
due to expire December 31,196Z, only eighteen months away. By
renegotiating the agreement on a year-by-year basis, the Portuguese
were able to stymie further pressure from Washington and obtain
extensive military loans and financial credits.
Even as American bombs and napalm fell on the Angolan nationalists,
and the U.S. voted the conservative line at the UN, Portugal's
air force chief of staff, General Tiago Mina Delgado, was honored
in Washington, receiving the American Legion of Merit from the
U.S. Air Force chief of staff, Curtis Lemay, and a citation from
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara for his contribution to U.S.-Portuguese
friendship. Strategic realities dominated policy.
Lisbon attributed the war in northern Angola to Congolese
"invaders" and "outside agitators" acting
with a rabble of hemp-smoking indigenas and for years thereafter,
while the rebellion sputtered and flared, the United States ignored
Angolan revolutionary movements. With the advent of the Nixon
administration in 1969, a major review of American policy toward
Southern Africa, the "tar baby" report (NSSM 39), concluded
that African insurgent movements were ineffectual, not "realistic
or supportable" alternatives to continued colonial rule.
The interdepartmental policy review, commissioned by then White
House advisor, Henry Kissinger, questioned "the depth and
permanence of black resolve" and "ruled out a black
victory at any stage." Events soon proved this to be a basic
... we searched the world for allies who could provide qualified
advisors to put into the conflict, or better yet, regular army
units to crush the MPLA and deliver the country to Roberto and
Savimbi. We canvassed moderate friends-Brazil, Morocco, South
Korea, Belgium, Great Britain, France, and even Portugal, without
success. South Africa eventually came to UNITA's rescue, but the
Zairian commando battalions in northern Angola were only slightly
better than the FNLA forces they joined.
Mercenaries seemed to be the answer, preferably Europeans
with the requisite military skills and perhaps experience in Africa.
As long as they were not Americans, the 40 Committee approved.
We began an exhaustive search for suitable candidates, a search
which brought me in conflict with my bosses and kept me at odds
with them even into March 1976, months after the Senate had ordered
a halt to the Angola program. The conduct of European and South
African mercenaries in previous African civil wars had left them
with a murderous reputation, and the use of white mercenaries
at the crest of the era of black nationalism was a blunder, I
felt, which could only damage United States credibility in the
Third World. In addition, the mercenaries who have appeared in
previous African wars have been a mixed bag, more often self-serving,
ineffective, unmilitary. Potts, Bantam, Nelson, St. Martin, Foster-all
lacked enough experience in Africa to know that. They tended to
idealize mercenaries and exaggerate their capabilities. And they
lacked sensitivity for the disgust the word "mercenary"
stirs in the hearts of black Africans. Nor did Colby know Africa,
although perhaps he was in a class by himself. The mild, likable,
church-going, master case officer who had commanded the PHOENIX
program in Vietnam would hardly have qualms about a few mercenaries
fighting blacks in Africa.
I spoke out in staff meetings and in Potts's office every
time the subject of mercenaries came up. Whenever a memo or buckslip
or cable about mercenaries circulated the office I added my own
critical comment in the margins, and I did have some effect. After
several weeks of my pressure, the word "mercenary" became
taboo at headquarters. Potts forbade its use in cables, memoranda,
and files, at headquarters and in the field. Thereafter the mercenaries
who were hired and sent to Angola were to be called "foreign
And so we proceeded to search the world for acceptable "foreign
military advisors." We began the search with no leads whatsoever-
astonishingly, we found that nowhere in the CIA, not even the
Special Operations Group, with all its experiences in Southeast
Asia, was there a file, reference list, or computer run of individuals
who might be recruited as advisors. Anti-Castro Cubans, such as
had been used in the Congo, the Bay of Pigs, and Watergate, were
ruled out because they carried United States green resident alien
cards and hence would fall under the 40 Committee's restrictions
against using Americans. South Vietnamese refugees were approached,
but they were busy rebuilding their lives in the new world, and
were unanimously wary of a CIA adventure in black Africa. They
too carried green cards. The British refused to help. South Koreans
were excluded because of language and cultural problems. Biafrans
and other Africans were rejected out of political considerations,
and because they wouldn't have the impact of whites. Finally,
five sources seemed to be available: Portuguese, French, Brazilians,
Filipinos, and South Africans.
Portuguese were already being recruited in small numbers by
the FNLA, Colonel Castro, Captain Bento, and their men. We decided
to expand this effort by recruiting three hundred Portuguese Angolans
to support the FNLA. But for UNITA we needed two dozen technicians,
and Savimbi wouldn't accept Portuguese.
France would not give us regular army troops, but it had no
hesitation concerning mercenaries. The French intelligence service
introduced CIA case officers to onetime Congo mercenary Bob Denard,
and for $500,000 cash-paid in advance he agreed to provide twenty
French mercenaries who would "advise" UNITA on short-term
contracts. Denard was encrypted UNROBIN/I and this mercenary program
was UNHOOD. To the waggish the twenty Frenchmen were "Robin's
Hoods" or the "French Hoods" for the duration of
Brazil seemed also to offer a good source of manpower. Savimbi
and Roberto both thought they could work comfortably with black
Brazilians, who had the advantage of speaking Portuguese. General
Walters, the CIA deputy director, felt sure he could influence
the Brazilian military command to help us recruit. Walters had
served as defense and army attaché in Brazil in the mid-l960s
and was still somewhat euphoric about that experience. We sent
a cable instructing the chief of station, Brasilia, to query the
Brazilians about the general's desire to visit, but the polite
answer came back that Brazil could not at that time entertain
the (highly visible) CIA deputy director. In Walters's place Dick
Sampson, the chief of Latin America Division, went and returned,
empty-handed. The Brazilians politely declined to permit the recruitment
of mercenaries in their country.
In Vietnam, Filipinos had provided the CIA with extensive
help, keeping radios, vehicles, and air conditioners running,
managing warehouses and tending bar at cocktail parties-all the
things that highly paid CIA staffers could not be expected to
do with much enthusiasm. This support had been managed through
a Philippine company, ECCOI, and, naturally enough, headquarters
remembered and sought the same help for Angola. For five months,
beginning in August, we sent repetitive cables to the Manila station
asking it to query ECCOI, but the response was so slow as to amount
to rejection. Supporting black liberation movements inside Angola
on short-term CIA contracts in a controversial, clandestine program
was not attractive to the Filipinos. Possibly they remembered
the evacuation of Vietnam a few months before: the CIA had left
Z50 of its Filipino employees behind at the mercy of the communists.
South Africa was a different matter. It came into the conflict
cautiously at first, watching the expanding U.S. program and timing
their steps to the CIA's. In September the South Africans began
to provide arms and training to UNITA and FNLA soldiers at Runtu
on the Angolan/South-West African border. First two, then twelve,
then forty advisors appeared with UNITA forces near Silva Porto.
Eventually the South African armored column-regular soldiers,
far better than mercenaries-teamed with UNITA to make the most
effective military strike force ever seen in black Africa, exploding
through the MPLA/Cuban ranks in a blitzkreig, which in November
almost won the war.
South Africa in 1975 was in a dangerously beleaguered position.
Its blacks were increasingly restive, its whites emigrating, the
white buffer states of Rhodesia, Mozambique, and Angola were threatened,
and its economy was sagging. The Arab states' oil embargo had
pushed up the cost of fuel despite continued supplies from Iran.
South Africa's policies of sharing economic and technical resources
with its northern neighbors, had seemed enlightened and effective.
By 1975, however, it was clear they had not stemmed the tide of
resentment against the white redoubt's apartheid policies.
The 1974 coup in Portugal had exposed South Africa to fresh,
chill winds of black nationalism, as Mozambique and Angola threatened
to succumb to Soviet-sponsored, radical, black movements, which
promised increased pressure on Rhodesia, Namibia, and South Africa
itself. The white buffer concept was no longer viable. The South
African fall-back position was to attempt to create in Mozambique
and Angola moderate states which, like Malawi and Botswana, would
be friendly or at least not hostile to South Africa.
The South African government attacked the threat in Mozambique
with impeccably correct diplomacy and generous economic concessions.
In Angola, however, it felt there were sound reasons for military
intervention. There were masses of Angolan refugees to succor.
The million-dollar hydroelectric plant it was building at Cunene
in southern Angola required protection. SWAPO (South West African
People's Organization) guerrilla bases in Angola could be destroyed.
Most important, of course, was the temptation to influence the
outcome of the Angolan civil war in favor of Savimbi, who was
considered the most likely to establish a government in Luanda
which would cooperate with South Africa.
The South Africans had some encouragement to go into Angola.
Savimbi invited them, after conferring with Mobutu, Kaunda, Felix
Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, and Leopold Senghor of Senegal,
all of whom favored a moderate, pro-West government in Angola.
I saw no evidence that the United States formally encouraged them
to join the conflict.
The South Africans hoped to gain sympathy from the West by
supporting the same side as the Zairians, Zambians, and United
States in the Angolan conflict. They felt that their troops, even
though white, would be more acceptable to most African leaders
than the non-African Cubans. They also expected to be successful,
understanding that the Ford administration would obtain U.S congressional
support for an effective Angola program. On all three points they
were disastrously wrong.
Eschewing hawkish plans for a decisive military strike, South
African Prime Minister John Vorster opted for a small, covert
task force. Only light armor and artillery would be used; there
would be no tanks, infantry, or fighter bomber aircraft. Posing
as mercenaries and remaining behind the UNITA troops, the soldiers
would remain invisible. A curtain of silence in Pretoria would
further protect them. The task force would do the job and withdraw
quickly, before the November 11 independence date.
The South African government was playing a dangerous game.
With scarcely a friend in the world, it was inviting further condemnation
by intervening in a black African country. And it was forced to
run its program covertly, like the CIA, concealing it from its
own people. Only recently, in March 1975, had it withdrawn its
forces from Rhodesia, and racist whites would question why their
sons were now fighting for black freedom in Angola. Still, South
Africa entered the war, watching the United States program closely
and hoping for an overt nod of recognition and camaraderie.
To the CIA, the South Africans were the ideal solution for
central Angola. Potts, St. Martin, and the COS's of Pretoria and
Lusaka welcomed their arrival in the war. Especially in the field,
CIA officers liked the South Africans, who tended to be bluff,
aggressive men without guile. They admired South African efficiency.
Quietly South African planes and trucks turned up throughout Angola
with just the gasoline or ammunition needed for an impending operation.
On October 20, after a flurry of cables between headquarters and
Kinshasa, two South African C-l30 airplanes, similar to those
used by the Israelis in their raid on Entebbe, feathered into
Ndjili Airport at night to meet a CIA C-141 flight and whisk its
load of arms down to Silva Porto. CIA officers and BOSS representatives
met the planes at Ndjili and jointly supervised the transloading.
At the same time St. Martin requested and received headquarters'
permission to meet BOSS representatives on a regular basis in
Kinshasa. Other CIA officers clamored for permission to visit
South African bases in SouthWest Africa. On two occasions the
BOSS director visited Washington and held secret meetings with
Jim Potts. On another, he met with the CIA station chief in Paris.
The COS, Pretoria, was ordered to brief BOSS about lAFEATURE,
and nearly all CIA intelligence reports on the subject were relayed
to Pretoria so his briefings would be accurate and up to date.
The CIA has traditionally sympathized with South Africa and
enjoyed its close liaison with BOSS. The two organizations share
a violent antipathy toward communism and in the early sixties
the South Africans had facilitated the agency's development of
a mercenary army to suppress the Congo rebellion. BOSS, however,
tolerates little clandestine nonsense inside the country and the
CIA had always restricted its Pretoria station's activity to maintaining
the liaison with BOSS. That is, until 1974, when it yielded to
intense pressures in Washington and expanded the Pretoria station's
responsibilities to include covert operations to gather intelligence
about the South African nuclear project. In the summer of 1975
BOSS rolled up this effort and quietly expelled those CIA personnel
directly involved. The agency did not complain, as the effort
was acknowledged to have been clumsy and obvious. The agency continued
its cordial relationship with BOSS.
Thus, without any memos being written at CIA headquarters
saying "Let's coordinate with the South Africans," coordination
was effected at all CIA levels and the South Africans escalated
their involvement in step with our own.
The South African question led me into another confrontation
with Potts. South African racial policies had of course become
a hated symbol to blacks, civil libertarians, and world minorities-the
focal point of centuries-old resentment of racism, colonialism,
and white domination. Did Potts not see that the South Africans
were attempting to draw closer to the United States, in preparation
for future confrontations with the blacks in southern Africa?
If he did, he was not troubled by the prospect. Potts viewed South
Africa pragmatically, as a friend of the CIA and a potential ally
of the United States. After all, twenty major American companies
have interests in South Africa and the United States maintains
a valuable NASA tracking station not far from Pretoria. Eventually
Potts concluded, in one of our conversations, that blacks were
"irrational" on the subject of South Africa. This term
caught on. It even crept into the cable traffic when the South
African presence became known and the Nigerians, Tanzanians, and
Ugandans reacted vigorously.
Escalation was a game the CIA and South Africa played very
well together. In October the South Africans requested, through
the CIA station chief in Pretoria, ammunition for their 155 mm.
howitzers. It was not clear whether they intended to use this
ammunition in Angola. At about the same time the CIA was seeking
funds for another shipload of arms and worrying about how to get
those arms into Angola efficiently. Our experience with the American
Champion had us all dreading the thought of working another shipload
of arms through the congested Matadi port and attempting to fly
them into Angola with our ragtag little air force. The thought
of putting the next shipload of arms into Walvis Bay in South-West
Africa, where South African efficiency would rush them by C-l30
to the fighting fronts, was irresistible to Jim Potts.
At the same time, Savimbi and Roberto were both running short
of petrol. The South Africans had delivered small amounts in their
C-l30s, but they could not be expected to fuel the entire war,
not with an Arab boycott on the sale of oil to South Africa. The
MPLA's fuel problems had been solved when a tanker put into Luanda
in September, and Potts, in frustration, began to consider having
a tanker follow the second arms shipload to Walvis Bay.
When Potts proposed this to the working group, he met firm
opposition: He was told by Ambassador Mulcahy that the sale or
delivery of arms to South Africa was prohibited by a long-standing
U.S. law. Never easily discouraged, Potts sent one of his aides
to the CIA library, and in the next working group meeting triumphantly
read to the working group the text of the thirteen-year-old "law."
"You see, gentlemen," he concluded with obvious
satisfaction. "It isn't a law. It's a policy decision made
under the Kennedy administration. Times have now changed and,
given our present problems, we should have no difficulty modifying
this policy." He meant that a few technical strings could
be pulled on the hill, Kissinger could wave his hand over a piece
of paper, and a planeload of arms could leave for South Africa
the next day.
The CIA was casting about for the next war, amoral, ruthless,
eager to do its thing. Its thing being covert little games where
the action was secret and no one kept score.
But history increasingly keeps score, and the CIA's operations
are never secret for long. Inevitably they are exposed, by our
press, by whistleblowers in our government, by our healthy compulsion
to know the truth. Covert operations are incompatible with our
system of government and we do them badly. Nevertheless, a succession
of presidents and Henry Kissingers have been lured into questionable
adventures for which, they are promised by the CIA, they will
never be held accountable. Generally they are not, they move on
to sinecures before the operations are fully exposed. Our country
is left to face the consequences.
Claiming to be our Horatio at the shadowy bridges of the international
underworld, the CIA maintains three thousand staff operatives
overseas. Approximately equal to the State Department in numbers
of staff employees overseas, the CIA extends its influence by
hiring dozens of thousands of paid agents. Operationally its case
officers "publish or perish"-an officer who does not
generate operations does not get promoted. The officers energetically
go about seeking opportunities to defend our national security.
The CIA's function is to provide the aggressive option in
foreign affairs. The 40 Committee papers for the Angolan operation,
written by the CIA did not list a peaceful option, although the
State Department African Affairs Bureau and the U.S. consul general
in Luanda had firmly recommended noninvolvement. In 1959 the CIA
did not recommend to President Eisenhower that we befriend Fidel
Castro and learn to live with him in Cuba. No, it presented the
violent option, noting that it had the essential ingredients for
a covert action: angry Cuban exiles, a haven in Guatemala, a beach
in the Bay of Pigs, intelligence (later proven inaccurate) that
the people of Cuba would rise up in support of an invasion. Presidents
Eisenhower and Kennedy were persuaded. The operation was run,
and it was bungled. Today we are still haunted by it.
At the end of World War II, we were militarily dominant, economically
dominant, and we enjoyed a remarkable international credibility.
With a modicum of restraint and self-confidence we could have
laid the foundations of lasting world peace. Instead, we panicked,
exaggerating the challenge of a Soviet Union which had just lost
70,000 villages, I,7l0 towns, 4.7 million houses, and 20 million
people in the war. We set its dread KGB as a model for our own
alter ego in foreign affairs. In the words of the Hoover Commission
report of 1954:
There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms
of human conduct do not apply. If the U.S. is to survive, long-standing
American concepts of "fair play" must be reconsidered.
We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services.
We must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by
more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than
those used against us. It may become necessary that the American
people be acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally
It was a tragic, fallacious thesis. Our survival as a free
people has obviously not been dependent on the fumbling activities
of the clandestine services of the CIA, but on the dynamism of
our economic system and the competitive energies of our people.
Nor was Hoover's philosophy "fundamentally repugnant."
Rather, it was irresistible, for it created an exhilarating new
game where all social and legal restraints were dissolved. Cast
as super-patriots, there were no rules, no controls, no laws,
no moral restraints, and no civil rights for the CIA game-players.
No individual in the world would be immune to their depradations,
friends could be shafted and enemies destroyed, without compunction.
It was an experiment in amorality, a real-life fantasy island,
to which presidents, legislators, and the American people could
Not surprisingly, the mortals of the CIA were unable to cope
with such responsibility. Over the years, a profound, arrogant,
moral corruption set in. Incompetence became the rule. The clandestine
services, established a solid record of failure: failure to produce
good intelligence; failure to run successful covert operations;
and failure to keep its operatives covert. And its directors also
failed to respect the sacred responsibility they were given of
extra-constitutional, covert license. Eventually, like any secret
police, they became abusive of the people: they drugged American
citizens; opened private mail; infiltrated the media with secret
propaganda and disinformation; lied to our elected representatives;
and set themselves above the law and the Constitution.
But our attachment to the CIA's clandestine services nevertheless
seems to be unshaken. We still argue that, no matter what it does,
the CIA is essential to our national security.
Where is the ancient American skepticism, the "show-me"
attitude for which our pioneer forefathers were famous? We only
need the CIA if it contributes positively to our national interests.
Obviously, our nation needs broad intelligence coverage, and we
have been getting it. It comes through the Directorate of Information
of the CIA, the central intelligence office which collates, analyses,
and disseminates information from all sources. Our presidents
receive the DDI reports and briefings and, with some misgivings
about their quality, insist that they are essential to the wise
functioning of that office. But even presidents forget to distinguish
between the Directorate of Information and the clandestine services,
quite possibly not realizing how little of the DDI's information
actually comes from the covert human agents of its shadowy alter
ego. The bulk of all raw intelligence, including vital strategic
information, comes from overt sources and from the enormously
expensive technical collection systems. The human agents, the
spies, contribute less than l0 percent, a trivial part of the
information which is reliable and of national security importance.
Good agent penetrations of the "hard targets," individual
spies who have confirmed access to strategic information, who
are reliable, and who manage to report on a timely basis, are
extremely rare. It is a shocking truth that the clandestine services
have failed to recruit good agents in Moscow (Pentkovsky and Popov
walked in on the British service which shared them with the CIA).
It has failed completely in China-not even a walk-in. In Pyongyang,
North Korea-not one Korean agent. And CIA case officers are literally
afraid of the Mafia, the Chinese Tongs, and the international
drug runners. They have recruited scores of thousands of Third
World politicians, rebels, and European businessmen, whose voluminous
reporting scarcely justifies the clandestine services' existence.
In March 1976 President Ford reorganized the National Security
Council, renaming the 40 Committee, calling it the Operations
Advisory Group. At that time he expanded the CIA charter, authorizing
it to intervene even in countries which are friendly to the United
States, and in those which are not threatened by internal subversion.
In January T977, at the crest of two years of exposure of
its shortcomings, misdeeds, and depraved behavior, President Carter
announced a reorganization of the intelligence community, which
was based on the hypothesis that the clandestine services are
essential to our national security. He elevated the position of
the director of central intelligence and increased its powers.
The offices that have traditionally been responsible for supervising
the CIA were renamed. The Congress was reassured that it will
receive briefings on CIA activities. Director Turner initiated
a housecleaning, dismissing four hundred people, so the Directorate
of Operations will be "lean and efficient."
The scope of CIA operations is not being reduced, and its
overall effectiveness, including the cover of its operatives overseas
is only being upgraded to a slight degree. The clandestine services
still have their charter to do covert action. Only thirteen overseas
positions are being cut; forty stations and bases will still function
in Africa alone, from Nairobi to Ouagadougou, with case officers
energetically seeking opportunities to protect our national security.
Not Horatio. The clandestine service is an unfortunate relic
of the Cold War, entrenched in our government, protected by our
self-indulgent, nostalgic commitment to its existence. The CIA
presence in American foreign affairs will be judged by history
as a surrender to the darker side of human nature.
Already we are paying dearly for indulging ourselves. As we
have succeeded in making ourselves more like our enemies, more
like the KGB, the world has taken note. Throughout Africa, Latin
America, and Asia, at least, every legitimate American businessman,
teacher, and official is suspiciously viewed as a probable CIA
operative, capable of dangerous betrayals. The world knows that,
in fact, numbers of actual CIA case officers are posing as just
such people, while they recruit agents, bribe officials, and support
covert adventures. The positive contribution of such activity
to our national security is dubious. But mounting numbers of victims,
the millions of people whose lives have been trampled or splattered
by CIA operations are increasingly cynical of America. Because
of the CIA the world is a more dangerous place. Americans have
reduced credibility. Worst of all, by retaining the CIA we are
accepting ourselves as a harsh and ruthless people. It's the wrong
game for a great nation. And the players we've got are losers.