by Parveez Syed
WASHINGTON DC [SCN] - Discovery Channel in the US is set to televise a three-part series on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Agency. The series, entitled "CIA: America's Secret Warriors", begins on Monday 31 March 97 at 10pm EST and runs through to Wednesday 02 April 97.
The series instructs and warns about the secret government. It includes a number of interviews with former directors, and officers - proponents as well as some critics. It deserves some sober attention and reflection.
Many critics of the Western or US intelligence community would consider "undemocratic empowerment" a valid description - secret budgets, criminality exempted from Justice Department action, policy approval that is often covert even with regard to broad issues, avoidance of public debate of many things it is assumed wouldn't be approved, etc.
However, no US government agency has been more directly 'managed' by members of the rich ruling class or fat cats than the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Its main objective has been to promote US imperialism. Set up to do the dirty political work of the alleged or imagined 'Cold War', it was the creation of rich white men from the "best" families and schools. Typical is George Bush, a CIA director from a rich oil-connected Connecticut/Texas family who went on to become president.
CIA's methods have been wily as well as brutal. The defection of a number of agents during the 1960s-70s period of political upheaval shed light on the agency's trick of setting up rival unions, human-rights organisations, societies of all kinds that sounded liberal, even progressive, but were controlled by the US fat cats. With their access to almost unlimited funds, contacts, and approval in the imperialist US media, they undermined the have-nots and the oppressed etc.
The CIA's story of the dismissal of torturers, assassins and terrorists, gives impact to the image of the CIA "cleansing" itself. "The CIA has millions of agents, 'assets', informants, killers, torturers, drug runners and arm runners, terrorists and kidnappers all over the world. Many informants work for top 5,000 US and European multi-national groups," a Western intelligence source told Shanti RTV news agency. "The CIA has been imprisoned by its own lies. They are out of control and above the law."
It is a standard operating procedure for the CIA to compile Watch Lists of critics, dissidents, imagined or alleged 'enemies' of CIA-supported governments and then pass these lists to the local security services in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Those on the big-brother's list are routinely framed, arrested, tortured, killed.
The programmes examine the evolution of the CIA from the days of the OSS (the Oh So Social "elite") World War II predecessor of the Agency, through its formative stages and its successes and failures. From the overthrow of the government of Iran to the nearly overt war in Afghanistan, to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.
The series is most timely in that it shows the CIA's empowerment of dictatorial regimes in the Third World and their use of CIA-backed death squads that tabulate, frame, attack, kill and "disappear" or kidnap the citizens of these regimes. This is especially timely as the CIA was forced to admit in 1997 that it recruited and used torturers, assassins, and terrorists during a Deutch-dictated agent scrub. However, as always, the CIA's Public Relations-spun-story made it appear that it has allegedly cleansed itself and now presents a tabla rasa, or a clean slate to the world - a highly distorted image.
The spellbinding series is a 'must see or record" for anyone who has ever wondered how Nicaraguan contras, crack in Los Angeles, Afghan guerrillas, presidential assassinations, terrorist bombings, Soviet defectors, the Shah of Iran and old notions of James Bond fit together.
America's Secret Warriors is broken into three one-hour programs: Part one; The Brotherhood; Part two The Betrayal; and Part three Blowback. The programmes convey strong messages of both praise and attack, and avoid certain issues. It generally avoids delving enough into the CIA-created Vietnam, Laotian wars, the Gulf War, and the Mossad's disinformation agents, "lobbyists" and the self-styled "terrorism experts" within FBI, CIA, UN, US Congress, US Senate, FEMA, the US state and defense departments, the CFR (Committee on Foreign Relations) and the US administration etc.
The series has been pre-reviewed by the CIA. What most panicked the CIA was the revelation of its role in the worldwide and domestic drug runs. It objected to this coverage because, many law abiding US patriots say, this is where it is most vulnerable.
In all, the series appears to be balanced at least in the perceptions of the American citizen. The series sets up the Catholic William Colby as the White Knight against the non-confessant Richard Helms. Colby spilled the "Family Jewels," to protect the CIA while Helms remained (somewhat) mute. What does not come through is the "elitist" Helms' total disdain for the American people and Congress. This is not a problem for Duanne "Dewey" Clarridge, whose disdain for the American people, Congress and the Media, he documents in his book "A Spy for All Seasons." Many people are troubled by his operations that lead to the deaths of many people, and his use of Agency-generated propaganda as justification for these killing operations.
The first segment, "The Brotherhood" a number of ex-directors - Richard Helms, the now deceased William Colby, Stansfield Turner, and John Deutch are interviewed. The programme questions other top officers - John Horton, Frank Johnson, Duanne "Dewey" Clarridge, Milt Beardon, and dissidents - Ralph McGehee, Philip Roettinger, Philip Agee and others.
The second segment "The Betrayal" covers "counter-intelligence" operations from Kim Philby, James Jesus Angleton who was taken in by Philby and forever thereafter believed in the ability of the KGB to manipulate the world, to Aldrich Ames. Angleton's paranoid fantasies were realized by the defection of the Russian Anatoly Golitsin. His stories of a giant KGB conspiracy led Angleton to suspect every other Soviet defector, to the failure worldwide of CIA operations against the Soviets and to the destruction of the careers of CIA case officers who came under suspicion by Goltisin's claims of a mole in the CIA. The devastation of Angleton's search led to the near total shutdown of internal counterintelligence investigations of CIA personnel and the successful betrayal by Aldrich Ames and how many others?
The third or last segment "Blowback" depicts the consequences of CIA operations not only on the world but also on the US. The CIA was allowed to pre-review America's Secret Warriors, and went ballistic over "Blowback."
The series is the most important exploration of how America operates. Given the provocative interviews with Agency insiders, many intelligent viewers will still be referring to producer Marc Levin's "CIA" file a decade from now. Clearly, this kind of intensive, in-depth documentary is something you won't find on mainstream or traditional network television.
The graphic devastation of Afghanistan as a consequence of the Agency's operation, may stun some viewers who don't know much about the covert CIA's global arms and drug runs. The covert operation against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, for example, used alleged 'Islamic fundamentalists' or freedom fighters to defeat it. The operation funded, armed and energised the alleged 'terrorists' or 'fundamentalists' - those that now have allegedly spread themselves through out the Middle East, and even to the US.
Discovery's legal (and perhaps editorial staff) had problems with Ralph McGehee's accusations against Colby - "I see him as the evil genius whose religious certainties dragged us into the Vietnam and Laotian wars justified by fictionalised intelligence - where Secret Warriors, sees him as the White Knight," McGhee told Shanti RTV news agency. "I found that its interviews and film clips of the consequences of CIA covert operations to be visually and emotionally stunning," he said.
Discovery Channel, it seems, has not been cowed by the CIA. Discovery held a Symposium: "Spying Under Siege: The Future of Covert Action" on Tuesday 25 March 1997 when former directorate of operations officers speaking publicly for the first time, and media and academic experts on the CIA discussed issues facing the CIA and future reforms. Duanne "Dewey" Clarridge, the originator of the Contra operation "to kill Cubans," was so upset, however, that he dropped out of the symposium in Washington DC. The channel deserves some praise for funding and broadcasting seemingly unblinking look at the Agency.
The symposium moderator was DAVID ENSOR, diplomatic correspondent, ABC News. The panelists were: FRANK ANDERSON, a former CIA Directorate of Operations Officer. MILT BEARDEN, former CIA Directorate of Operations Officer. JACK BLUM, Special Counsel, Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate, 1987-1989; planned hearings that examined drug trafficking in Latin America, relationship of trafficking to the war in Nicaragua, and failures of US foreign policy in dealing with narcotics. MELVIN GOODMAN, Professor, National War College; his most recent journal article, "Ending the CIA's Cold War Legacy" appears in the Spring 1997 issue of Foreign Policy. WALTER PINCUS, The Washington Post. EVAN THOMAS, Newsweek; author of "The Very Best Men; The Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA," 1995.
The symposium was maddening and illuminating. In all it was excellent and informative, and a real kick-off to this very important television series. Most audience questions came from retired CIA officers arguing or commenting in praise of the CIA.
Frank Anderson seems an unreconstructed Cold Warrior who has learned history poorly. Evan Thomas was a disappointment and had little constructive to say. Walter Pincus was knowledgeable but guarded. Beyond those, however, the discussions crackled. Milt Bearden, a former top official averred that it may be time to consider abolishing the CIA and starting anew.
Jack Bloom articulated the failings and the needs for reform. Melvin Goodman, a former analyst, laid out current problems that demand reform.
Richard Nuccio, the former State Department employee removed from his position by CIA arrogance, commented from the audience and brought up a major fault - that the symposium discussed issues that never are heard in the two Congressional oversight committees. These two committees spend their time arguing over non-issues. Louis Wolf, the Editor of Covert Action Quarterly asked about the victims of CIA covert operations -- and here the panelists all avoided any telling comment or death count.
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