Civil Intelligence AssociationPLAUSIBLE DENIABILITYSun Jan 21, 2007 22:43Civil Intelligence Association
Defense Oversight Group
While reading this keep in mind that I feel the offices of president and vice president should be abolished and replaced with a figurehead Prime Minister with no political power whatsoever.
A major requirement of covert operations over the years has been that in the event something goes wrong, the president, as head of state in the U.S., should be able to believably deny any knowledge of the clandestine activity. This concept is known as plausible deniability and it has been a cornerstone in the foundation of presidential decisions to authorize covert operations. The misconception that plausible deniability is a valid method of concealing U.S. involvement in covert activities has led to a number of problems over the years.
The doctrine of plausible deniability led to many of the widespread abuses of power that occurred in the CIA before the Intelligence Reform Era in the mid-1970s. It led the agency to believe that CIA officers had a green light to conduct almost any actions they saw fit to reach their goals. McGeorge Bundy, a former Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to President's Kennedy and Johnson, has stated:
While in principle it has always been the understanding of senior government officials outside the CIA that no covert operations would be undertaken without the explicit approval of "higher authority", there has also been a general expectation within the Agency that it was proper business to generate attractive proposals and to stretch them, in operation, to the furthest limit of any authorization actually received.
It is easy to see how this misperception on the part of the CIA developed. A president, hoping to pursue his goals, would communicate his desire for a sensitive operation indirectly, thereby creating sort of a "blank check". CIA officers, intending to carry out the wishes of the president, would then set about furthering the expressed desires of the Commander in Chief. However, instead of informing the president of the progress of the covert planning, the officers would be tempted to keep him unaware of it, thereby enabling him to "plausibly deny" any knowledge of the scheme.
Darrel Garwood, the author of a comprehensive work on CIA activities entitled Under Cover writes,
"Plausible deniability" could be regarded as one of the most wretched theories ever invented. Its application...was based on the idea that in an unholy venture a president could be kept so isolated from events that when exposure came he could truthfully emerge as shiningly blameless. In practice, whether he deserved it or not, a president almost always had to take the blame for whatever happened.
Also, as the Senate Intelligence Committee pointed out about plausible deniability, "this concept...has been expanded to mask decisions of the President and his senior staff members."
A recent example of how problems linked to this concept can occur is the so-called "Iran-Contra Affair" which made the headlines in late 1986 and earlier this year. The fiasco was an embarrassing illustration of the example which was discussed above. Although the CIA itself was not directly implicated in the scandal, Colonel Oliver North and other members of the government were discovered to have been carrying out the aims of the President--by channeling funds from arms sales to Iran to the Contras in Nicaragua-- supposedly without his knowledge. Whether or not President Reagan actually knew about the diversion of funds is unclear, but in any event, top level planners of the operation believed that the President would be able to plausibly deny any knowledge of the diversion of funds. However, because of the intense scrutiny placed upon the operation by the media and Congress, President Reagan was unable to convince them and the country as a whole that he had no knowledge of the diversion. As the president and his men learned the hard way, "inevitably, the truth prevails and policies pursued on the premise that they could be plausibly denied in the end damage America's reputation and the faith of her people in their government".
One of the major reasons that the CIA has gone astray over the last forty years is the veritable freedom from any type of control or restriction that it has enjoyed. Though Congress investigated the activities of the Agency in 1975 and subsequently instituted more stringent oversight procedures, the CIA of today is once again an agency that is able to do almost as it pleases. The strictures placed on the CIA by the Ford and Carter Administrations were relaxed in 1981 when Ronald Reagan took office. To understand how the Agency has become so omnipotent since 1947 will require a look back to a time when the Agency really did as it pleased.
To get an idea of the characteristics of the men in the Agency during its first three decades, we shall look at a description of CIA case officers.
CIA men abroad were called case officers within the organization. As individuals, they were generally efficient, dedicated, highly motivated and incorruptible. The trouble in the CIA was likely to be that, for anything short of the meanest of all-out wars, they were too highly motivated. A severe beating administered to a reluctant informant, or the assassination of a would-be left- wing dictator, could seem trivial to them in the light of their goal of outscoring the nation's potential enemies. And naturally, until one happened, they could not imagine a nationwide furor over actions which to them seemed unimportant.
In a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in April, 1971, then DCI Richard Helms said, "The nation must to a degree take it on faith that we too are honorable men, devoted to her service."
CIA officials were not the only ones who believed that the CIA could be trusted to carry out the objectives of the United States Government. The Agency had a number of champions in the Congress of the United States as well. Feelings about the sanctity of sensitive information dealt with by the Agency led to wide support for a laissez faire policy in Congress regarding the CIA. For example, Richard Russell, the Democratic Senator from Georgia, once gave the following explanation of why he led the fight against a resolution to provide for closer Congressional surveillance of the CIA.
Russell noted that the statement had been made on the floor that the Armed Services subcommittee of which he was a member had not revealed to the country what it had learned about CIA operations.
"No, Mr. President," Russell said, "we have not told the country, and I do not propose to tell the country in the future, because if there is anything in the United States which should be held sacred behind the curtain of classified matter, it is information regarding the activities of this agency...It would be better to abolish it out of hand than it would be to adopt a theory that such information should be spread and made available to every member of Congress and to the members of the staff of any committee.
With such a powerful man and others like him on its side, it is small wonder that the CIA got away with the things that it did prior to 1975.
CIA officers cleverly played upon the fears of Congress to consolidate the power of the Agency. Former CIA director Allen Dulles, speaking before a Congressional committee, warned,
Any investigation, whether by a congressional committee or any other body, which results in disclosure of our secret activities and operations or uncovers our personnel, will help a potential enemy just as if the enemy had been able to infiltrate his own agents right into our shop.
Such statements led Senators like John Stennis to comment, "If you are going to have an intelligence agency, you have to protect it as such...and shut your eyes some, and take what's coming".
The following is a partial list of United States Covert action abroad to impose or restore favorable political conditions, 1946-1983. The list was prepared by Tom Gervasi of the Center for Military Research and Analysis in 1984, and it was compiled using information available in the public domain.
1946: GREECE. Restore monarch after overthrow of Metaxas government. Successful.
1946-1955: WEST GERMANY. Average of $6 million annually to support former Nazi intelligence network of General Reinhard Gehlen. Successful.
1948-1968: ITALY. Average of $30 million annually in payments to political and labor leaders to supportanti- Communist candidates in Italian elections. Successful.
1949: GREECE. Military assistance to anti-Communist forces in Greek civil war. Successful.
1949-1953: UKRAINE. Organize and support a Ukrainian resistance movement. Unsuccessful.
1949-1961: BURMA. Support 12,000 Nationalist China troops in Burma under General Li Mi as an incursion force into People's Republic of China. Unsuccessful.
1950-1952: POLAND. Financial and military assistance for Polish Freedom and Independence Movement. Unsuccessful.
1950: ALBANIA. Overthrow government of Enver Hoxha. Unsuccessful.
1951-1954: CHINA. Airdrop guerilla teams into People's Republic of China. Unsuccessful.
1953: IRAN. Overthrow Mossadegh government and install Shah Zahedi. Cost: $10 million. Successful.
1953: PHILLIPINES. Assassination and propaganda campaign to overcome Huk resistance and install government of Ramon Magsaysay. Successful.
1953: COSTA RICA. Overthrow government of Jose Figueres. Unsuccessful.
1954: SOUTH VIETNAM. Install government of Ngo Dinh Diem. Successful.
1954: WEST GERMANY. Arrange abduction and discreditation of West German intelligence chief Otto John, and replace with Reinhard Gehlen. Successful.
1954: GUATEMALA. Overthrow government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman and replace with Carlos Castillo Armas. Successful.
1955: CHINA. Assassinate Zhou Enlai en route to Bandung Conference. Unsuccessful.
1956: HUNGARY. Financial and military assistance to organize and support a Hungarian resistance movement, and broad propaganda campaign to encourage it. Unsuccessful.
1956: CUBA. Establish anti-Communist police force, Buro de Represion Actividades Communistas (BRAC) under Batista regime. Successful.
1956: EGYPT. Overthrow Nasser government. Unsuccessful.
1956: SYRIA. Overthrow Ghazzi government. Aborted by Israeli invasion of Egypt.
1956-1957: JORDAN. Average of $750,000 annually in personal payments to King Hussein. According to United States government, payments ceased when disclosed in 1976.
1957: LEBANON. Financial assistance for the election of pro-American candidates to Lebanese Parliament. Successful.
1958: INDONESIA. Financial and military assistance, including B-26 bombers, for rebel forces attempting to overthrow Sukarno government. Unsuccessful.
1958-1961: TIBET. Infltrate Tibetan guerrillas trained in United States to fight Chinese Communists. Unsuccessful.
1959: CAMBODIA. Assassinate Prince Norodum Shianouk. Unsuccessful.
1960: GUATEMALA. Military assistance, including the use of B-26 bombers for government of Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes to defeat rebel forces. Successful.
1960: ANGOLA. Financial and military assistance to rebel forces of Holden Roberto. Inconclusive.
1960: LAOS. Military assistance, including 400 United States Special Forces troops, to deny the Plain of Jars bad Mekong Basin to Pathet Lao. Inconclusive.
1961-1965: LAOS. Average of $300 million annually to recruit and maintain L'Armee Clandestine of 35,000 Hmong and Meo tribesmen and 17,000 Thai mercenaries in support of government of Phoumi Nosavan to resist Pathet Lao. Successful.
1961-1963: CUBA. Assassinate Fidel Castro. Six attempts in this period. Unsuccessful.
1961: CUBA. Train nd support invasion force of Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro government, and assist their invasion at the Bay of Pigs. Cost: $62 million. Unsuccessful.
1961: ECUADOR. Overthrow government of Hose Velasco Ibarra. Successful.
1961: CONGO. Precipitate conditions leading to assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Successful.
1961: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Precipitate conditions leading to assassination of Rafael Trujillo. Successful.
1961-1966: CUBA. Broad sabotage program, including terrorist attacks on coastal targets and bacteriological warfare, in effort to weaken Castro government. Unsuccessful.
1962: THAILAND. Brigade of 5,000 United States Marines to resist threat to Thai government from Pathet Lao. Successful.
1962-1964: BRITISH GUIANA. Organize labor strikes and riots to overthrow government of Cheddi Jagan. Successful.
1962-1964: BRAZIL. Organize campaign of labor strike and propaganda to overthrow government of Joao Goulart. Successful.
1963: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Overthrow government of Juan Bosch in military coup. Successful.
1963: SOUTH VIETNAM. Precipitate conditions leading to assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem. Successful.
1963: ECUADOR. Overthrow government of Carlos Julio Arosemena. Successful.
1963-1984: EL SALVADOR. Organize ORDEN and ANSESAL domestic intelligence networks under direction of General Jose Alberto Medrano and Colonel Nicolas Carranza, and provide intelligence support and training in surveillance, interrogation and assassination techniques. Successful.
1963-1973: IRAQ. Financial and military assistance for Freedom Party of Mulla Mustafa al Barzani in effort to establish independent Kurdistan. Unsuccessful.
1964: CHILE. $20 million in asistance for Eduardo Frei to defeat Salvador Allende in Chilean elections.Successful.
1964: BRAZIL, GUATEMALA, URUGUAY, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Provide training in assassination and interrogation techniques for police and intelligence personnel. Inconclusive.
1964: CONGO. Financial and military assistance, including B-26 and T-28 aircraft, and American and exiled Cuban pilots, for Joseph Mobutu and Cyril Adoula, and later for Moise Tshombe in Katanga, to defeat rebel forces loyal to Lumumba. Successful.
1964-1967: SOUTH VIETNAM. Phoenix Program to eliminate Viet Cong political infrastructure through more than 20,000 assassinations. Infiltrated by Viet Cong and only partially successful.
1964-1971: NORTH VIETNAM. Sabotage and ambush missions under Operations Plan 34A by United States Special Forces and Nung tribesmen. Inconclusive.
1965-1971: LAOS. Under Operations Shining Brass and Prairie Fire, sabotage and ambush missions by United States Special Forces personnel and Nung and Meo tribesmen under General Bang Pao. Inconclusive.
1965: THAILAND. Recruit 17,000 mercenaries to support Laotian government of Phoumi Nosavan resisting Pathet Lao. Successful.
1965: PERU. Provide training in assassination and interrogation techniques for Peruvian police and intelligence personnel, similar to training given in Uruguay, Brazil and Dominican Republic, in effort to defeat resistance movement. Unsuccessful.
1965: INDONESIA. Organize campaign of propaganda to overthrow Sukarno government, and precipitate conditions leading to massacre of more than 500,000 members of Indonesian Communist Party, in order to eliminate opposition to new Suharto government. Successful.
1967: BOLIVIA. Assist government in capture of Ernesto Che Guevara. Successful.
1967: GREECE. Overthrow government of George Papandreou and install military government of Colonel George Papadopolous after abdication of King Constantine. Successful.
1967-1971: CAMBODIA. Under Projects Daniel Boone and Salem House, sabotage and ambush missions by United States Special Forces personnel and Meo tribesmen. Inconclusive.
1969-1970: CAMBODIA. Bombing campaign to crush Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia. Unsuccessful.
1970: CAMBODIA. Overthrow government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Successful.
1970-1973: CHILE. Campaign of assassinations, propaganda, labor strikes and demonstrations to overthrow government of Salvador Allende. Cost: $8,400,000. Successful.
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