excerpted from the book

The Lawless State

The crimes of the U.S. Inteligence Agencies

by Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, Robert Borosage, Christine Marwick

Penguin Books, 1976


The secret intelligence agencies: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Military Intelligence apparatus, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

These agencies represent the major part of the large, secret realm of government. They consume ... an estimated 10 percent of controllable federal spending, virtually all of it appropriated in false budget categories so that even most legislators do not know the true figures.... They operate in secrecy at home and abroad, beyond the normal view of citizen judge, or public official.

... investigations have shown that every intelligence agency had one or more surveillance programs that spied on law-abiding American citizens, in violation of the laws, the Constitution, and the traditions of the country. Their ominous scope is best portrayed by the code names used by the agencies: the CIA ran CHAOS, SETTER, HT-LINGUAL, MERRIMAC, and RESISTANCE, the FBI added COMINFIL, VIDEM, STUDEN; the military had CABLE SPLICER and GARDEN PLOT; the NSA managed MINARET and SHAMROCK; the IRS had LEPRECHAUN and the SSS (Special Service Staff). All the techniques associated with secret police bureaus throughout history were used to gather information: black-bag break-ins, wiretaps and bugs, mail openings, cable and telegram interceptions, garbage covers, and informers.

The number of citizens who have been the objects of the professional voyeurs is truly staggering. The FBI headquarters in Washington alone has over 500,000 domestic intelligence files, each typically containing information on more than one group or individual. Nearly a quarter of a million first-class letters were opened and photographed by the CIA in the United States between 1953 and 1973 producing a computerized index of nearly one and one-half million names. The ClA's six-year Operation CHAOS produced an index of 300,000 individuals. Uncounted millions of international telegrams and phone calls have been intercepted by the National Security Agency. Some 100,000 Americans are enshrined in Army intelligence dossiers. The Internal Revenue Service created files on more than 11,000 individuals and groups. During a three-year period, from 1971-74, political grand juries subpoenaed between 1,000 and 2,000 persons.

In addition, both at home and abroad, the intelligence agencies went beyond the mere collection of information. They developed programs to disrupt, "neutralize," and destroy those perceived as enemies-as threats to the political order at home and abroad. The CIA's covert action programs around the world were paralleled by the FBI's COINTELPRO at home, by the misuse of the IRS and the grand jury-all were part of a purposeful effort to live up to the mandate of a classified report of the 1954 Hoover Commission on Government Organization that "we must learn to subvert, sabotage, and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than those used against us." Thus the illegalities exposed by the investigations were not isolated incidents of zealous agents exceeding their authority in the field, however frequently such may occur. Rather, the abuses were ongoing, bureaucratic programs, often continuing over decades, involving hundreds of officials, aimed at thousands of citizens, and ordered and approved at the highest level of the executive branch of government.

The secret realm of government is the deformed offspring of the modern presidency, an expression of the powers claimed by presidents in the area of national security. The origins of the intelligence agencies, like those of the modern president, can best be traced from World War II. The CIA is modeled after the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which ran secret intelligence, sabotage, and paramilitary activities behind enemy lines during the war. The FBI's authority to spy on citizens derives from a secret directive issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 in response to opposition to the war at home and rumors of possible Nazi sabotage of American preparedness efforts.

War greatly expands a president's powers and capabilities, for he acts not simply as the chief executive, but as the commander in chief. The legislative role naturally contracts as open deliberation is replaced by secret command. Political liberties are constricted; citizens are called to soldiery; obedience and sacrifice replace independence and questioning. Fear and hatred of the enemy provide the political base for the expanded authority of the president and the military.

War also requires intelligence, to discover plans of the enemy and to prevent the uncovering of one's own. Intelligence agencies operate at home and abroad, to spy and to frustrate the spies of others; to subvert and to deter the subversion of others; to sabotage and to guard against sabotage.

For the United States, the wartime emergency never ended. After World War II, America assumed the mantle of Britain as guarantor of world stability. Open warfare was followed by permanent cold war, Hitler's Germany was replaced by Stalin's Russia; Nazi fifth columns were replaced by Communist parties. The nuclear balance of terror made the president a literal arbiter of life and death. Thus the wartime powers of the president were never relinquished; the wartime institutions never dismantled. Intelligence activities born in total war were given permanent institutional homes. The CIA replaced the OSS in 1947; the FBI's authority to spy on Americans was reaffirmed by Harry Truman in 1946. The president claimed the right to act alone to defend the "national security," which would be defined within the White House

"National security" is an inescapably political concept, one man's subversion is another's salvation. The power to define threats to the "national security" is the power to draw the limits of acceptable behavior for leaders abroad and citizens at home. The postwar presidents claimed the power not only to define national security, but also to act -often in secret-to enforce it. The ability to act secretly both bolstered the president's claim of authority and allowed administrations to engage in permanent intervention in politics at home and abroad in ways that were by design offensive to American values. As a result, a secret realm of government developed to watch and, if necessary disrupt political opponents at home and abroad.

... the activities and targets of the intelligence agencies naturally expanded as time went by. The CIA started by opposing what were believed to be Soviet-controlled Communist parties in Western Europe, but was soon involved in opposing Third World leaders whom even the CIA considered independent and nationalist, but who were too Marxist, too friendly to the Soviet Union, or too charismatic for the agency's taste. Thus the most recent CIA operations to come to light have been the attempt to "destabilize" the democratically elected Allende government in Chile, to provide "electoral support" against the independent Communist party in Italian elections, and to supply arms and mercenaries to intervene against an independence movement in Angola.

Similarly the FBI started with a mandate to monitor wartime sabotage, but quickly expanded that to include more and more of the politically active in its files. After the war, each successive movement for political change became a target for FBI surveillance or disruption: the "old left," the civil rights movement, the student movement, the antiwar movement, the women's movement, the public interest community, the consumer and environmental movements. By 1972, the FBI found it had a significant portion of the delegates to the national convention of the Democratic party under surveillance, and many of the organizations to which they belonged singled out for disruption.

The cancerous growth of programs-in size, scope, and targets-often came in response to presidential urging. Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy pressed an anti-Communist crusade abroad which led to CIA assassination efforts in Africa and the Caribbean. Lyndon Johnson urged the agencies to respond to urban disorders and the antiwar movement, and Richard Nixon increased the pressure, demanding that a range of political opponents be watched or harassed. Often the secret agencies would expand upon the vague directives that established their programs. The army was directed to prepare for policing American cities in case of urban riots. This directive was translated into a massive intelligence program that spied on thousands of civilians, including environmental, civil rights, and antiwar groups. The ClA's Office of Security was charged with protecting agency installations; in the 1960s, this provided the excuse to infiltrate agents into political groups in Washington, including the Urban League, the Humanist Society, and Women Strike for Peace.

Sometimes programs were initiated without the direct order or approval of the president or the attorney general. The FBI's COINTELPRO activities were started on J. Edgar Hoover's authority alone. The ClA's mail-opening program and NSA's "watch-list" operations were also begun without express orders from the White House. Although such programs may not have had the specific approval of a president, they seldom exceeded the official consensus on what needed to be done to political dissenters.

By the mid-sixties, the dangers posed by a permanent secret realm in a constitutional republic became apparent. The executive branch had developed a conception of national security that had little to do with the defense of the country or the security of the people. The debacle in Vietnam ended the consensus that had survived for over a decade. A growing number of people began to doubt the wisdom and question the authority of the president and his national security bureaucracy. President Johnson and President Nixon both accurately viewed the protests as a threat to their ability to act abroad, a challenge to their definition of national security. The secret intelligence agencies were marshaled to spy on and disrupt the antiwar dissenters. During the Nixon years, when a majority of the population opposed the war, the president and his secret police were at direct odds with most of the politically active citizenry. Thus Nixon kept calling on a "silent majority" to come to his aid.

Malcolm Muggeridge

"In the eyes of posterity it will inevitably seem that, in safeguarding our freedom, we destroyed it; that the vast clandestine apparatus we built up to probe our enemies' resources and intentions only served in the end to confuse our own purposes; that the practice of deceiving others for the good of the state led infallibly to our deceiving ourselves; and that the vast army of intelligence personnel built up to execute these purposes were soon caught up in the web of their own sick fantasies, with disastrous consequences to them and us."

The Lawless State

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