CIA has history of blanket denials

The Central Intelligence Agency, which lives and breathes according to the mantra of “plausible deniability,” has a long history of denying wrongdoing.

The current CIA director, John Brennan, has joined with past directors to reject the allegations of torture contained in both the Senate Intelligence Committee report and a classified key findings and conclusions of an internal CIA review commissioned by former CIA director Leon Panetta. The latter information was revealed by Senator Mark Udall when he read on the Senate floor the classified passages into the Congressional Record, an act that automatically and legally declassified the information. Udall said the Panetta Review revealed that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information on its interrogation program to the Congress, the President, and the public.

In November 1972, the CIA, in an internal memorandum, denied allegations leveled against the agency by reporter Seymour Hersh in a conversation with Representative Lucien Nedzi, the CIA-friendly chairman of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, the forerunner of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Nedzi was discovered to be so close to the CIA, he resigned his chairmanship and was replaced by the more CIA-hostile Otis Pike.

There was one press allegation that the CIA managed to have “successfully conned all of our congressional oversight committees.” The agency’s response was “Interesting, if true.”

When confronted with Hersh’s allegations that CIA Director Richard Helms was so ineffective as CIA director that the agency was experiencing unprecedented leaks of information, the CIA countered by blaming “mischievous and troublesome leaks” on three ex-employees. Only Victor Marchetti’s name is unredacted, however, one of the other CIA ex-employees is clearly Phil Agee, and the third is Marchetti’s former State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research co-author John D. Marks.

The CIA rejected accusations that it failed to keep the Nedzi committee and other committees “adequately informed” of its operations in Laos. The agency also rejected allegations that Helms was a “strong advocate of the so-called ‘dirty tricks’ component of the Agency.” However, the CIA also stated that because of Helms’s “long experience in clandestine operations, he occasionally does indeed take an active part in the direction of such operations.”

The agency also declared that the “allegation of Agency involvement with the Special Forces to carry out assassinations and sabotage missions in South America have appeared in various forms in the press [REDACTED]. They are completely false.” However, the CIA record shows that this statement was a flat out lie and the CIA had been involved in assassinations and terrorist operations in Chile, where the Chilean Army Chief of Staff General René Schneider was shot to death in a botched CIA-led kidnapping operation in 1970, as well as in Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina.

The CIA rejected a report by Jack Anderson that Rocky Mountain Airline, a CIA proprietary, was transporting heroin. The CIA admitted there was a “Rocky Mountain Airways” based in Colorado but that it had “no Agency connection.” However, the CIA was being purposefully pedantic. There was an Agency proprietary airline called “Rock Mountain Air” that was based near Phoenix and which was established by the CIA’s airline chief, George Doole.

As far as a press report that the U.S. bombed Communist-controlled poppy fields in Laos in order to drove the price up to benefit the CIA-led army of Laotian General Vang Pao, the CIA stated this was “totally false.” It was later determined that the CIA, using its proprietary Air America airline, was routinely smuggling heroin out of Laos. The CIA contended that “CIA involvement in the drug traffic have been repeatedly investigated and in each case found to be completely without substance.” Evidence of CIA involvement in smuggling drugs continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s, especially with regard to U.S. operations in the 1980s in Central America and Colombia. More recently, the agency has been accused of protecting the opium trade in areas of Afghanistan controlled by pro-American war lords.

There was an allegation by Hersh that Representative Bertrand Podell (D-NY) received $10,000 in cash from Israel in return for his “public criticism of the Soviet treatment of Jews.” The CIA memo states that Nedzi said “he wouldn’t be surprised if this was true,” although the CIA claimed it had “no information.” In 1973, Podell was indicted on 10 federal corruption counts, including a charge that he received $41,350 in a bribe to ensure that a small Florida airline received government permission to fly a route to the Bahamas. Podell pleaded guilty and served four and a half months in prison.

The CIA said the U.S. Navy was the only government agency that was in a position to comment on a press allegation that “a U.S. submarine on a reconnaissance mission ran aground at Murmansk harbor in 1967, and the U.S. is conducting electronic and photographic reconnaissance in the harbors of both Murmansk and Vladivostok.” The CIA claimed it was not in a position to comment. However, in a June 1968 memo, the CIA stated it was well aware that the USS Scorpion, a nuclear submarine, was lost after two acoustic explosions were detected on May 22, 1968. The Scorpion had been diverted from its course back to Norfolk in order to investigate Soviet submarine mine “seeding” operations near the Canary Islands. Such tasking would have involved the CIA as would have submarine espionage missions in Soviet naval ports. The Navy, for two weeks, claimed that the submarine was merely overdue in port and not lost at sea. The CIA’s “no comment” on U.S.-Soviet undersea confrontations in Murmansk harbor certainly lends credence to the belief that the Scorpion and a few Soviet submarines sank as a result of hostile actions by the other side.

The CIA even rejected reports that “CIA spooks” regularly met at Pouget’s Restaurant in downtown Washington, DC, to chat freely about CIA operations. The CIA said that when the CIA was headquartered downtown before it moved to Langley, Virginia, twelve years earlier, the allegation of CIA lunches at Pouget’s was true. However, the agency said that after it moved to Virginia, CIA employees no longer lunched at Pouget’s. However, Pouget’s was not even located near CIA buildings in Washington but was on Connecticut Avenue in the Cleveland Park neighborhood. The CIA even lied about the fact even after the move to Langley its employees continued to dine at the restaurant for lunch and dinner.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2014

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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