Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA is an intelligence-gathering agency in the United States government. As the U.S.'s primary intelligence agency, it is responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, entities, and persons, and reporting such information to the branches of the U.S. government. The head is the "Director of Central Intelligence" (DCI).
It is also involved in covert espionage and paramilitary operations in support of its mission to protect the national security of the United States.
Based in Langley, Virginia, the CIA is a widespread organization spanning the globe.
- 1 History
- 1.1 OSS in World War II
- 1.2 CIA established 1947
- 1.3 Soviet Estimates
- 1.4 Directorate of Science & Technology
- 1.5 Dulles years 1953-51
- 1.6 Early Operations
- 1.7 Scandals
- 1.8 Revival under Reagan
- 1.9 9-11
- 2 Image and Reputation
- 3 See also
- 4 External links
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 References
OSS in World War II
In 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt was relying on intelligence information provided by British intelligence (and slanted by them to favor their position.) In 1941 he created the OSS Office of Strategic Services, which was the first independent U.S. intelligence agency. Due to extensive penetration by the Soviet Union and the Communist Party, the OSS was disbanded after the war and its functions were split between the Departments of State and War. A Central Intelligence Group was reorganized in January 1946.
Every U.S. President since George Washington has used covert action as a part of their broader foreign policy, whether Republican or Democratic, liberal or conservative. The majority of these covert action operations were successful. Most of the operations that were not successful were directed by the President over the objections of the CIA. Some of the most controversial "covert action" programs, such as the Iran-Contra affair, were not primarily the work of the CIA. Covert action programs are also much less expensive than overt political or military actions. The Pentagon commissioned a study to determine whether the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) should conduct covert action paramilitary operations. Their study determined that the CIA should maintain this capability and be the "sole government agency conducting covert action." The DoD found that, even under U.S. law, it does not have the legal authority to conduct covert action, nor the operational agility to carry out these types of missions. The operation in May 2011 that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden was a covert action under the authority of the CIA.
CIA established 1947
in 1944, William J. Donovan, the OSS's head, proposed a new organization directly supervised by the President: "which will procure intelligence both by overt and covert methods and will at the same time provide intelligence guidance, determine national intelligence objectives, and correlate the intelligence material collected by all government agencies." Under Donovan's plan, a powerful, centralized civilian agency would have coordinated all the intelligence services, including those run by the military. He also proposed that this agency have authority to conduct "subversive operations abroad," but "no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad."
In September 1947, the National Security Act of 1947 established both the "National Security Council" and the Central Intelligence Agency. Americans, still mesmerized by the intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor, welcomed the new spy agency because it seemed to promise the nation would always stay on alert. The CIA's Ivy League intellectuals and scions of high society contrasted sharply with the Pentagon brass; an adversarial relationship was born that still sours relations between the two. The CIA's budget was minuscule ($5 million) until NSC-68 in 1950 provided blueprints for an active Cold War.
From the start isolationists warned of the danger that the CIA might become an out-of-control "American Gestapo" like the Nazi secret police, which could trample American civil liberties On the other side was fear of a nuclear Pearl Harbor without warning.
In general Congress deferred to the White House until the 1970s on intelligence matters. Only a few members of a few select committees had any legislative oversight; they kept floor debate and written records to a minimum. Congress supported covert action, even though Roscoe Hillenkoetter (DCI 1947-50) and Walter Bedell Smith (DCI 1950-53), both military men, showed little interest. President Eisenhower, by contrast, demanded more covert activities and Allen Dulles (DCI 1953-61) obliged.
Congressional support for more aggressive policies increased throughout the 1950s. Congress took its oversight responsibilities seriously and even challenged the CIA when an alarming intelligence failure, such as when the CIA failed to predict the Soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb (1950), the Korean War (1953), the Hungarian uprising (1956), or the U-2 downing (1960). Eisenhower discouraged Congressional probes of agency activities, but Dulles, sometimes gained Congressional support by leaking bits of information to influential congressmen.
The CIA often functions as a resource to both individual legislators and congressional committees supplying related background and assessment for congressional decision. An example of this is the 1991 referral to the agency by Senator Jesse Helms, ranking member of Minority Staff of the Committee on Foreign Relations, requesting information and verification of information coming from Israel concerning the survival of the passsengers and crew (including Cong. Larry McDonald) of Korean Airlines Flight 007, shot down by the Soviets in 1983. Helms wrote his letter  to Boris Yeltsin requesting the military communications of the shootdown and locations of camps holding survivors based on the CIA response to his request .
The CIA began systematic estimates of the Soviet economy during Max Millikan's tenure as the founding director of the Office of Research and Reports (1951-1952). The strategy was to start with an "inventory of ignorance" and then reduce the list of unknowns through successive approximations. Soviet military expenditures were estimated by the "building-block method," which began by estimating the number ships, planes, jeeps, barracks and even soldiers in use, then estimating the procurement and operating costs of each, and adding them up using estimated prices. The building blocks had advantages in that published data on physical units seemed accurate and in any case were easier to verify through covert means. The elaborate reports of the 1990s included almost 1800 such categories. Since the Soviets lacked computers and had rudimentary accounting procedures, the CIA had a better overall picture of Soviet military spending than did the Kremlin. The reports emphasized physical units, realizing that expenditures alone could not predict what sort of military threat in the future would be presented by the Red Army. To estimate costs the CIA used analogs—using Soviet trucks or American tanks, for instance, to estimate the costs of Soviet tanks—and then adjusted for differences in weight and performance. Analog-based data, far shakier than direct-cost data, accounted for over half of earlier estimates, dropping to about one-third by the late 1980s. In the 1960s the CIA increasingly used quantitative techniques, of the sort promoted in American business schools. A crisis in the mid-1970s was caused by as a combination of external pressures, new data (some from a key Russian who defected to the West) and internal works forced a major revision of the defense burden, showing the proportion of the overall Soviet economy devoted to the military. The crisis sparked heated public debate when the CIA announced that their earlier estimates of Soviet defense spending at 6-8% of GNP was too low by as much as half; the revised estimated burden ranged from 11-13%, indicating a severe economic burden that slowed Soviet growth.
Directorate of Science & Technology
The Directorate of Science & Technology was established to research, create, and manage technical collection disciplines and equipment. Many of its innovations were transferred to other intelligence organizations, or, as they became more overt, to the military services. Albert D. "Bud" Wheeler (1963–66) and Carl E. Duckett (1966–76) built the directorate into a strong component of the CIA and then guided it through its golden age of technical innovation. In contrast, decisions by Ruth David (1995–98) contributed, Richelson (2001) argues, to a decline in the importance and status of the directorate as it lost control over key responsibilities, including the analysis of satellite photography.
Richelson (2001) explains the major DS&T's achievements, especially reconnaissance airplanes and a series of increasingly sophisticated surveillance satellites, with cameras that could photograph Soviet bomber bases and missile sites with startling clarity from orbits deep in space. In 1960, the first effective satellite produced coverage of more than one million square miles, surpassing all previous U-2 photography combined. This imagery revealed that the Soviets had far fewer bombers and (later) ICBMs than the Pentagon expected. The worst-case estimates of the U.S. Air Force proved wildly exaggerated, and the myths of the bomber and missile "gaps" were punctured by empirical data.
Dulles years 1953-51
Allen Dulles, who had been a key OSS operations officer in Switzerland during the Second World War, took over from Smith, at a time where U.S. policy was dominated by a containment policy, with serious discussions of roll-back policies going on, especially in the State Department. Dulles enjoyed a high degree of flexibility, as his brother, John Foster Dulles, was simultaneously Secretary of State. Allen Dulles was head of CIA 1953-61.
Allen Dulles became the trusted advisor on what was going to happen in the world to President Eisenhower and to his brother John Foster Dulles. The CIA gathered information and provided written assessments of the capabilities and intentions of all world leaders. Its regular briefings gave each president the sense that he knew exactly what was happening across the globe. Like ingenious prognosticators through the ages, the CIA's predictions seemed highly explicit yet never could quite be pinned down. They failed to predict any of the major surprises of the postwar era. On the other hand, estimates of the performance of the Soviet economy proved much more accurate than the information Moscow itself possessed, and forecast the failure of that economy in the 1980s.
Numerous covert actions were launched to neutralize perceived Communist expansion in Iran and Guatemala. Some of the largest operations were aimed at Cuba after the coming to power of the communists in early 1960. In 1960-61 the CIA organized Cuban exiles, whose invasion of Cuba failed totally at the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Dulles devoted 80% of his much enlarged budget ($82 million) to covert (secret) operations to contain Communism. On the other side was the Soviet KGB. The head of the KGB's first chief directorate, Leonid Shabarshin later explained, "The essence of the KGB's active undertakings was to inflict political and moral damage on our basic opponent, the United States. . . . [so] We compromised political figures, organs of the press, and Americans whose activities were in some way unwelcome [to the Soviets]." The KGB veteran revealed that every "active measure" against the enemies of the Soviet Union abroad was submitted by KGB to the Politburo “and was implemented only with its permission. The results of the action were also reported to the Politburo." Which side performed better remains an open question. CIA money subsidized anti-communist intellectuals and strengthened liberal political parties across Europe and the Third World. Striking low-cost successes early on reinforced the CIA's mastermind image. CIA-supported parties defeated the Communists in Italy and France in the late 1940s. A handful of agents provided assistance to opposition groups which forced anti-American prime ministers out of office in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954). CIA counterintelligence tried to neutralize the KGB and other hostile agencies, like the GRU (Soviet military intelligence), Communist East Germany's Stasi and Cuba's DGI.
The principal problem facing the first generation of covert operators was murky objectives. Was covert action designed merely to "contain" the Soviet Union or to "roll it back?" Covert operations were handled by the CIA's "Office of Policy Coordination" (OPC). There was confusion on its mission OPC—was it merely to stir up trouble behind the Iron Curtain or to "liberate" and rollback the Kremlin's Eastern European satellites? One early covert operation was a total failure in Albania, where the OPC worked with Britain's MI6 to train and deploy anti-communist commandos committed to overthrowing the Soviet-backed regime of Enver Hoxha. Frank Wisner, the first OPC director, regarded the Albanian operation as "a clinical experiment to see whether larger rollback operations would be feasible elsewhere," but Kim Philby, a Soviet mole inside MI6, leaked the details to the Kremlin, with ghastly results for the anti-Hoxha forces.
The CIA supported resistance movements and dissidents in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. One example is the counterespionage operations following the discovery of the Farewell dossier which some argue contributed to the fall of the Soviet regime.
The CIA sponsored a variety of activities during the Korean War. These activities included maritime operations behind North Korean lines. Yong Do Island, connected by a rugged isthmus to Pusan, served as the base for those operations. These operations were carried out by well-trained Korean guerrillas. The four principal U.S. advisers responsible for the training and operational planning of those special missions were Dutch Kramer, Tom Curtis, George Atcheson and Joe Pagnella. All of these Paramilitary Operations Officers operated through a CIA front organization called the Joint Advisory Commission, Korea (JACK), headquartered at Tongnae, a village near Pusan, on the peninsula's southeast coast. These paramilitary teams were responsible for numerous maritime raids and ambushes behind North Korean lines, as well as prisoner of war rescue operations. These were the first maritime unconventional warfare units that trained indigenous forces as surrogates. They also provided a model, along with the other CIA-sponsored ground based paramilitary Korean operations, for the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) activities conducted by the U.S. military and the CIA/SAD in Vietnam. In addition, CIA paramilitary ground-based teams worked directly for U.S. military commanders, specifically with the 8th Army, on the "White Tiger" initiative. This initiative included inserting South Korean commandos and CIA Paramilitary Operations Officers prior to the two major amphibious assaults on North Korea, including the landing at Inchon.
Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, originally elected in one of the Shah's elections, had driven out the Shah and become the de facto dictator of Iran, as he dissolved the Parliament and abolished free elections with a secret ballot, after declaring victory in a referendum where he claimed 99.9% of the vote. He gained power through organized terrorism and received funding from the KGB. Suppressing widespread discontent, as recounted in a 2003 Time magazine report, he ordered police to violently massacre more than 300 unarmed protestors. Under his rule, Iran became the first Middle Eastern country to simply steal and nationalize Western oil fields—even though the Iranians did not know how to use them on their own. The result was the total collapse of the Iranian economy. Iranian oil supplies were taken off the world market. This doomed all future economic development in Iran, a "basket-case" nation plagued with rampant disease, illiteracy, and religious fanaticism. President Truman had met with Mossadegh and pledged U.S. support against the English, expressing admiration for his efforts at economic justice. His administration concluded that England sought "a rule or ruin" policy on Iran. The Eisenhower administration saw things rather differently.
When Mossadegh delayed settling with Anglo-Iranian Oil on the takeover of the company, the British, under Winston Churchill, approached the CIA with a plan to remove the Premier. The British could not do it alone. Allen Dulles, the CIA director, and his brother John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State, agreed. The Dulles brothers assigned the task of overseeing the clandestine venture to intelligence operative Kermit Roosevelt. According to Time:
The CIA's fingerprints were everywhere. Operatives paid off Iranian newspaper editors to print pro-Shah and anti-Mossadegh stories. They produced their own stories and editorial cartoons and published fabricated interviews. They secured the cooperation of the Iranian military. They spread antigovernment rumors. They prepared phony documents to show secret agreements between Mossadegh and the local Communist Party. They masqueraded as communists, threatened conservative Muslim clerics and even staged a sham fire-bombing of the home of a religious leader. They incited rioters to set fire to a pro-Mossadegh newspaper. They stage-managed the appearance of Mossadegh's successor, General Zahedi, whose personal bank account they fattened.
Mossadegh was overthrown, and the ousted Shah returned to Iran in triumph. Cheering crowds trumpeted his return, as he promptly launched new electoral reforms introducing voting to all members of society—including women. Iran was praised in the West as a beacon of stability, and maintained close relations with the United States until 1979.
Conrad Black, arguing that the CIA role was minimal as compared to the efforts of the Iranian army and the internal fighting in Iran, mocked Obama over "his apology for President Eisenhower’s approval of the overthrow of the deranged Iranian demagogue Mohammed Mossadegh."
The CIA helped overthrow the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala in 1954. This was one of its most controversial operations, its model for subsequent covert action against countries like Cuba, and its first attempt at regime change in Latin America.
Arbenz was elected without a secret ballot. He considered himself a communist and joined the Communist Party in 1957. His land reform, designed by the Communist Party, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which he then purged. His regime openly praised Stalin, relied on the communists for key decisions, and received arms from the Soviet bloc. He killed hundreds of his opponents. The CIA intervened because it feared that a communist dictatorship would become a Soviet beachhead in the Western Hemisphere.
The Truman administration began developing contingency plans to remove Arbenz in 1952, in the event that he became a threat to American interests in the region. In the face of widespread popular discontent in Guatemala and mass protests organized by the Catholic Church, the CIA used black propaganda to spread panic among the population. In the midst of a low-level internal civil war, the Eisenhower administration mobilized disaffected Guatemalan exiles to invade the country from neighboring Honduras. Arbenz, a fighter until the end, donned his colonel's uniform and prepared himself for war with the United States. Ultimately, however, there was very little fighting at all; the military failed to support Arbenz due to its own concerns over his perceived radicalism. The U.S.-armed rebellion quickly took over the country, to the surprise of the CIA, which had expected much fiercer resistance. With the army promptly joining the revolt, Arbenz fled the country in a panic. He was allowed exile by the new regime.
Vice-President Richard Nixon praised the new elections held by the military regime, declaring that Guatemala represented "the first time in history that a Communist government has ever been overthrown and replaced by a free one." However, Guatemala would be plagued with instability for decades. A series of military coups rocked the country, as Soviet and Cuban support for Communist violence caused bloody civil strife. After a 1982 coup, Guatemala was placed under a U.S. arms embargo imposed on human rights grounds. A vicious genocide reminiscent of the mass killing of the Hmong in Laos was then carried out against the Mayan Indians, in which scores of thousands were massacred.
In Guatemala in 1954, the CIA operation was marked by chronic lapses in security, the failure to plan beyond the operation's first stages, the Agency's poor understanding of the intentions of the Guatemalan Army, the local communist party (the Guatemalan Labor Party), and the government, the hopeless weakness of invasion leader Carlos Castillo Armas's troops, and the failure to make provisions for the possibility of defeat. Just as the entire operation seemed hopeless, and before there were any significant violent attacks against it, the leftist Guatemalan government suddenly, inexplicably collapsed and a pro-American government took over.
The Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations approved initiatives for CIA-trained Cuban anti-communist exiles and refugees to land in Cuba and attempt to overthrow the government of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Plans originally formed under Eisenhower were scaled back under Kennedy. The largest and most complicated coup effort, approved at White House level, was the Bay of Pigs operation.
The CIA made a number of attempts to assassinate Castro, often with White House approval, as in Operation Mongoose.
Dominican Republic 1961
The CIA supported the overthrow of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic, on 30 May 1961. In a report to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, CIA officials described the agency as having "no active part" in the assassination and only a "faint connection" with the groups that planned the killing, but the internal CIA investigation, by its Inspector General, "disclosed quite extensive Agency involvement with the plotters." Trujillo had killed 50,000 of his own people.
Humberto Fontova has written with his characteristic wit and élan:
Later, many of these Cuban-American BOP [Bay of Pigs] vets itched to get back into the fight (but with ammo and air cover this time). The CIA obliged and sent them with ex-marine Rip Robertson to the Congo in ‘65. There they linked up with the legendary mercenary "Mad Mike" Hoare and his "Wild Geese."
Together Mad Mike, Rip and the Cubans made short work of the alternately Chinese-and Soviet-backed "Simbas" of Laurent Kabila, who were murdering, raping and munching (many were cannibals) their way through the defenseless Europeans still left in the recently abandoned Belgian colony.
Forget Frank Church and the Clintonites. Ask the hundreds of Europeans rescued from butchery (literally!) by these men. You'll hear a different song, believe me. You can read about their exploits in Hoare's book, Congo Mercenary, and in Enrique Ros' Cubanos Combatientes (sadly, available only in Spanish).
Kabila made Idi Amin look like Gandhi. Castro, itching to be rid of this nuisance, sent Che [Guevara] (code-named "Tatu") and a force of his rebel army "veterans" to help these cannibals. The Congolese reds, unfamiliar with Che's true record, accepted Tatu gratefully.
The masterful "Tatu's" first order of business was plotting an attack on a garrison guarding a hydroelectric plant in a place called Front Bendela on the Kimbi River in Eastern Congo. His masterstroke was to be an elaborate ambush of the garrison.
The wily Tatu was stealthily leading his force into position when they heard shots. Whoops! ... Hey?! WHAT THE?! Ambushers became ambushed—and by the same garrison he thought was guarding the plant. Che lost half his men and barely escaped with his life....
Thing was, any teen gang member in East L.A. or south Bronx has 10 times the battle experience and savvy of any of these strutting Fidelista "Comandantes." Imagine the Germans atop Monte Cassino outnumbering and outgunning the Allies 10 to 1 in early ‘44. Hell, they'd STILL be there. It was a defender's dream.
Well, the brilliant Tatu and his comandantes had that very set-up in a place called Fizi-Baraka in Eastern Congo for their second clash with the mad dogs of imperialism. Mad Mike and his CIA allies sized the place up and attacked. Within one day the mighty Che's entire force was scrambling away in panic, throwing away their arms, running and screaming like old ladies with rats running up their legs.
The CIA organized Hmong tribes to fight against the North Vietnamese-backed Pathet Lao communists in Laos, and used Air America to "drop 46 million pounds of foodstuffs....transport tens of thousands of troops, conduct a highly successful photoreconnaissance program, and engage in numerous clandestine missions using night-vision glasses and state-of-the-art electronic equipment."
The election of Marxist candidate Salvador Allende as President of Chile in September 1970 led President Richard Nixon to order that Allende not be allowed to take office. Nixon pursued a vigorous campaign of covert resistance to Allende, first designed to convince the Chilean congress to confirm Jorge Alessandri as the winner of the election. When this failed, false flag operatives approached senior Chilean military officers, in "some two dozen contacts", with the message that "the U.S. desired....a coup." Once Allende took office, extensive covert efforts continued with U.S.-funded black propaganda placed in El Mercurio, strikes organized against Allende, and funding for Allende opponents. When El Mercurio requested significant funds for covert support in September 1971, “...in a rare example of presidential micromanagement of a covert operation, Nixon personally authorized the $700,000—and more if necessary—in covert funds to El Mercurio. Following an extended period of social, political, and economic unrest, General Augusto Pinochet assumed power in a violent coup d'état on September 11, 1973; among the dead was Allende.
The Chilean Chamber of Deputies accused Allende of support of armed groups, torture, illegal arrests, muzzling the press, confiscating private property, and not allowing people to leave the country. Mark Falcoff credits the CIA with preserving democratic opposition to Allende and preventing the "consolidation" of his supposed "totalitarian project". However, Peter Kornbluh asserts that the CIA destabilized Chile and helped create the conditions for the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, which led to years of dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet.
In the Angolan Civil War, the Communist MPLA (People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola) government was pitted against various right-wing insurgencies as well as an invasion from South Africa. The CIA covertly attempted to overthrow the MPLA dictatorship in 1975, but Cuba militarily intervened to save the regime from certain collapse. The Communist government subsequently killed up to one million people through massacre and forced starvation. The U.S., advised by Kissinger, supported the rebels FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola), led by Holden Roberto, and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), led by Jonas Savimbi, as well as the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), and the invasion of Angola by South African troops. The FNLA was defeated and UNITA was forced to take its fight into the bush. Only under Reagan's presidency would U.S. support for UNITA return. (See Reagan Doctrine)
The Democrats in Congress cut off aid to UNITA under President Ford, just as they abandoned South Vietnam and Cambodia to murderous Communist bloodbath. "A great nation cannot escape its responsibilities," Ford admonished them. Emboldened, Cuba would soon militarily intervene on behalf of the Communist dictatorship in Ethiopia, which killed 1.25 million people through massacre and forced starvation.
Attacks on the CIA came to a head in the early 1970s, around the time of the Watergate political burglary affair. A dominant feature of political life during that period was the attempts of Congress to assert oversight of U.S. Presidency, take control of war-making, and more closely supervise the executive agencies. Revelations about past CIA activities, such as assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders, illegal domestic spying on U.S. citizens, provided the opportunities to execute Congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence operations. Hastening the Central Intelligence Agency's fall from grace were the burglary of the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party by ex-CIA agents, and President Richard Nixon's subsequent use of the CIA to impede the FBI's investigation of the burglary.
The CIA sent hundreds of agents to Vietnam and Laos to build up anticommunist guerrilla groups. The CIA assisted (but did not actually operate) the "Phoenix" program by which South Vietnamese police forces identified and arrested Viet Cong leaders (torturing many and killing several thousand of them). In the Eisenhower and Kennedy years, it planned several assassinations, with Fidel Castro a target of "Operation Mongoose." Castro was never harmed. Indeed, as a hostile Senate committee concluded, the agency did not in fact assassinate anyone. Congress has never passed a law forbidding assassinations, but every president since Ford has issued executive orders that prohibit direct (or indirect) attempts at assassination.
Revival under Reagan
In 1981 President Reagan appointed his campaign manager Bill Casey to run the CIA; Casey, a dynamic veteran of O.S.S. espionage, revived the CIA into a powerful instrument of rollback policy. With nuclear deterrence tying the Kremlin's hands, Casey used the CIA to attack the weak links in the Soviet empire. In Afghanistan, it funded and trained Mujahideen guerrillas who deliberately created "another Vietnam" to weaken the Soviet invaders, and indeed finally did defeat the Soviet invasion. Anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan and Cambodia received strong support from Congress, but operations in Angola and especially Nicaragua became the focus of intense political controversy. When Congress one year prohibited the CIA from operating in Nicaragua, Reagan's White House exploited a loophole by sending its own staffer, Oliver North, to funnel arms and money to the Contra guerrillas.
From 1950 to 1979, U.S. foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than $500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural commodities to develop transportation facilities, increase agricultural production, expand the educational system, stimulate industry, and improve government administration. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979.
After the April 1978 Saur Revolution, relations between the two nations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnappers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
One of the CIA's longest and most expensive covert operations was the supplying of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants. About $3 billion were sent to equip them through the Pakistani secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in a program called Operation Cyclone.
With U.S. and other funding, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents. On July 20, 1987, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country was announced pursuant to the negotiations that led to the Geneva Accords of 1988, with the last Soviets leaving on February 15, 1989.
No Americans trained or had direct contact with the mujahideen. The skittish CIA had fewer than 10 operatives in the region. The ISI was used as an intermediary for most of these activities to disguise the sources of support for the resistance.
The early foundations of al-Qaida were allegedly built in part on relationships and weaponry that came from the billions of dollars in U.S. support for the Afghan mujahideen during the war to expel Soviet forces from that country. However, scholars such as Jason Burke, Steve Coll, Peter Bergen, Christopher Andrew, and Vasily Mitrokhin have argued that bin Laden was "outside of CIA eyesight" and that there is "no support" in any "reliable source" for "the claim that the CIA funded bin Laden or any of the other Arab volunteers who came to support the mujahideen."
Michael Johns, the former Heritage Foundation foreign policy analyst and White House speechwriter to President George H. W. Bush, argued that "the Reagan-led effort to support freedom fighters resisting Soviet oppression led successfully to the first major military defeat of the Soviet Union... Sending the Red Army packing from Afghanistan proved one of the single most important contributing factors in one of history's most profoundly positive and important developments."
The U.S. supported the Solidarity movement in Poland, and—based on CIA intelligence—waged a public relations campaign to deter what the Carter administration felt was "an imminent move by large Soviet military forces into Poland." When the Polish government launched a crackdown of its own in 1981, however, Solidarity was not alerted. Potential explanations for this vary; some believe that the CIA was caught off guard, while others suggest that American policy-makers viewed an internal crackdown as preferable to an "inevitable Soviet intervention."
The Reagan Administration sought to apply the Reagan Doctrine of aiding anti-Soviet resistance movements abroad to Cambodia, which was under Vietnamese occupation following the Cambodian genocide carried out by the Communist Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese had installed a Communist dictatorship led by a Khmer Rouge dissident. According to R.J. Rummel; the Vietnamese invasion, occupation, puppet regime, ongoing guerilla warfare, and ensuing famine killed over one million Cambodians in addition to the roughly 2.2 million who had been killed by the Khmer Rouge. Ironically; the largest resistance movement fighting Cambodia's communist government was largely made up of members of the former Khmer Rouge regime, whose human rights record was among the worst of the 20th century. Therefore; Reagan authorized the provision of aid to a smaller Cambodian resistance movement, a coalition called the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, known as the KPNLF and then run by Son Sann; in an effort to force an end to the Vietnamese occupation. Eventually, the Vietnamese withdrew.
El Salvador 1980-92
In the Salvadoran Civil War between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or umbrella organization of five left-wing militias; the U.S. supported the Salvadoran military government. America also supported the centrist Christian Democrats, who were targets of death squads. The security forces were split between reformists and right-wing extremists, who used death squads to stop political and economic change. The Carter Administration repeatedly intervened to prevent right-wing coups. The Reagan Administration repeatedly threatened aid suspensions to halt right-wing atrocities. As a result, the death squads made plans to kill the American Ambassador. After years of bloody fighting; the rebels were forced, in part due to U.S. involvement, to concede defeat. The U.S. then threatened to cut off aid to the Salvadoran regime unless it made democratic reforms, which might have let the rebels regroup. The regime accepted. As a result; a new Constitution was promulgated, the Armed Forces regulated, a civilian police force established, the FMLN metamorphosed from a guerrilla army to a political party that competed in free and fair elections, and an amnesty law was legislated in 1993. El Salvador is today a prosperous and democratic nation. In 2002, a BBC article about President George W. Bush's visit to El Salvador reported that U.S. officials say that President George H.W. Bush's policies set the stage for peace, turning El Salvador into a democratic success story.
After seizing power in Nicaragua, the Sandinista regime instituted dictatorial rule as early as December 1979, and formally announced a State of Emergency in 1982.
Under the new "Law for the Maintenance of Order and Public Security" the "Tribunales Populares Anti-Somozistas" allowed for the indefinite holding of suspected counter-revolutionaries without trial. The State of Emergency, however, most notably affected rights and guarantees contained in the "Statute on Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans. Many civil liberties were curtailed or canceled such as the freedom to organize demonstrations, the inviolability of the home, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and, the freedom to strike.
All independent news program broadcasts were suspended. In total, twenty-four programs were cancelled. In addition, Sandinista censor Nelba Cecilia Blandón issued a decree ordering all radio stations to hook up every six hours to government radio station, La Voz de La Defensa de La Patria.
The rights affected also included certain procedural guarantees in the case of detention including habeas corpus. The State of Emergency was not lifted during the 1984 elections. There were many instances where rallies of opposition parties were physically broken up by Sandinsta youth or pro-Sandinista mobs. Opponents to the State of Emergency argued its intent was to crush resistance to the FSLN. James Wheelock justified the actions of the Directorate by saying "We are annulling the license of the false prophets and the oligarchs to attack the revolution.” 
Jamie Glazov describes human rights under this government as follows: "All Nicaraguans had to take part in the Marxist experiment. Thus, in perfect Khmer Rouge style, the Sandinistas inflicted a ruthless forcible relocation of tens of thousands of Indians from their land. Like Stalin, they used state-created famine as a weapon against these "enemies of the people." The Sandinista army committed myriad atrocities against the Indian population, killing and imprisoning approximately 15,000 innocent people. The crimes included not only mass murders of innocent natives themselves, but a calculated liquidation of their entire leadership—as the Soviet army had perpetrated against the Poles in Katyń in 1943. According to the Nicaraguan Commission of Jurists, the Sandinistas carried out over 8,000 political executions within three years of the revolution. The number of "anti-revolutionary" Nicaraguans who had "disappeared" in Sanadinista hands or had died "trying to escape" were numbered in the thousands. By 1983, the number of political prisoners in the Sandinistas' ruthless tyranny were estimated at 20,000. Torture was institutionalized. Numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission, have documented the atrocious record of Sandinista human rights abuses, which stood as the worst in Latin America. Political prisoners in Sandinista prisons, such as in Las Tejas, were consistently beaten, deprived of sleep and tortured with electric shocks. They were routinely denied food and water and kept in dark cubicles that had a surface of less than one square meter, known as chiquitas (little ones). These cubicles were too small to sit up in, were completely dark and had no sanitation and almost no ventilation.”
The Sandinistas sent Soviet helicopter gunships and elite army units to attack the Indians; carried out mass arrests, jailings and torture; burned down 65 Indian communities; inflicted ethnic cleansing on 70,000 Indians; and tried to starve the Indians by cutting off food supplies. The Sandinistas boasted that they were “ready to eliminate the last Miskito Indian to take Sandinism to the Atlantic Coast.” 
For decades, Nicaragua had experienced some of the fastest economic growth in the hemisphere. Within a few years of Sandinista rule, wages had been fixed below poverty level and there was mass unemployment. There were shortages of nearly all basic goods, with inflation at 30,000%. Government studies found that three-quarters of schoolchildren suffered from malnutrition, while living standards were lower than Haiti. The World Bank found that Nicaragua was on the economic level of Somalia.
From 1981-90, the CIA aids the Contra revolution, plants harbor mines and sinks civilian ships to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. After the Boland Amendment was enacted, it became illegal under U.S. law to fund the Contras; National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Deputy National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter, National Security Council staffer Col. Oliver North and others continued an illegal operation to fund the Contras, leading to the Iran-Contra affair. The U.S argued that:
The United States initially provided substantial economic assistance to the Sandinista-dominated regime. We were largely instrumental in the OAS action delegitimizing the Somoza regime and laying the groundwork for installation for the new junta. Later, when the Sandinista role in the Salvadoran conflict became clear, we sought through a combination of private diplomatic contacts and suspension of assistance to convince Nicaragua to halt its subversion. Later still, economic measures and further diplomatic efforts were employed to try to effect changes in Sandinista behavior.
Nicaragua's neighbors have asked for assistance against Nicaraguan aggression, and the United States has responded. Those countries have repeatedly and publicly made clear that they consider themselves to be the victims of aggression from Nicaragua, and that they desire United States assistance in meeting both subversive attacks and the conventional threat posed by the relatively immense Nicaraguan Armed Forces.
Due to U.S. pressure, the Sandinistas held a blatantly rigged election in 1984. On October 5, 1985 the Sandinistas broadened the 1982 State of Emergency and suspended many more civil rights. A new regulation also forced any organization outside of the government to first submit any statement it wanted to make public to the censorship bureau for prior censorship.
As the Contras continued to advance due to U.S. aid, the Sandinistas struggled to maintain power. They were overthrown in 1990, when they ended the SOE and held an election that all the main opposition parties were allowed to compete in. According to P.J. O'Rourke, the Sandinistas were forced to agree to the elections by the U.S. and the Contras, and lost them despite "the unfair advantages of using state resources for party ends, the Sandinista control of the transit system that prevented UNO [United Nicaraguan Opposition] supporters from attending rallies, the Sandinista domination of the army that forced soldiers to vote for Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista bureaucracy keeping $3.3 million of U.S. campaign aid from getting to UNO while Ortega spent millions donated by overseas people and millions and millions more from the Nicaraguan treasury.”
The Contras and the United States were accused of war crimes[Citation Needed] for fighting against the brutal dictatorship. Nicaraguan voters in the 1990 elections, however, thought otherwise, thanking the U.S. for liberating them from Communist slavery: "The longer they were in power, the worse things became. It was all lies, what they promised us" (unemployed person); "I thought it was going to be just like 1984, when the vote was not secret and there was not all these observers around" (market vendor); "Don’t you believe those lies [about fraud], I voted my conscience and my principles, and so did everyone else I know" (young mother); "the Sandinistas have mocked and abused the people, and now we have given our vote to [the opposition] UNO" (ex-Sandinista officer).
War between the Cuban-backed MPLA government in Angola and South African-backed UNITA forces led to decades of civil war that may have cost as many as 1 million lives. The Reagan administration offered covert aid to the anti-communist UNITA rebels, led by Jonas Savimbi. Dr. Peter Hammond, a Christian missionary who lived in Angola at the time, recalled:
"There were over 50,000 Cuban troops in the country. The communists had attacked and destroyed many churches. MiG-23s and Mi-24 Hind helicopter gun ships were terrorising villagers in Angola. I documented numerous atrocities, including the strafing of villages, schools and churches. In 1986, I remember hearing Ronald Reagan's speech—carried on the BBC Africa service—by short wave radio: "We are going to send stinger missiles to the UNITA Freedom Fighters in Angola!" Those who were listening to the SW radio with me looked at one another in stunned amazement. After a long silence as we wondered if our ears had actually heard what we thought we heard, one of us said: "That would be nice!" We scarcely dared believe that it would happen. But it did. Not long afterwards the stinger missiles began to arrive in UNITA controlled Free Angola. Soviet aircraft were shot down. The bombing and strafing of villagers, schools and churches came to an end. Without any doubt, Ronald Reagan's policies saved many tens of thousands of lives in Angola."
Human rights observers have accused the MPLA of "genocidal atrocities," "systematic extermination," "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." The MPLA held blatantly rigged elections in 1992, which were rejected by eight opposition parties. An official observer wrote that there was little UN supervision, that 500,000 UNITA voters were disenfranchised and that there were 100 clandestine polling stations. UNITA sent peace negotiators to the capital, where the MPLA murdered them, along with 20,000 UNITA members. Savimbi was still ready to continue the elections. The MPLA then massacred tens of thousands of UNITA and FNLA voters nationwide.
In 2001, the CIA's Special Activities Division units were the first U.S. forces to enter Afghanistan. Their efforts organized the Afghan Northern Alliance for the subsequent arrival of USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) forces. The plan for the invasion of Afghanistan was developed by the CIA, the first time in United States history that such a large-scale military operation was planned by the CIA. SAD, U.S. Army Special Forces and the Northern Alliance combined to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan with minimal loss of U.S. lives. They did this without the need for U.S. military conventional ground forces.
- "What made the Afghan campaign a landmark in the U.S. Military's history is that it was prosecuted by Special Operations forces from all the services, along with Navy and Air Force tactical power, operations by the Afghan Northern Alliance and the CIA were equally important and fully integrated. No large Army or Marine force was employed".
- "The valor exhibited by Afghan and American soldiers, fighting to free Afghanistan from a horribly cruel regime, will inspire even the most jaded reader. The stunning victory of the horse soldiers—350 Special Forces soldiers, 100 C.I.A. officers and 15,000 Northern Alliance fighters routing a Taliban army 50,000 strong—deserves a hallowed place in American military history".
The mission that captured Saddam Hussein was called "Operation Red Dawn". It was planned and carried out by the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command under USSOCOM)'s Delta Force and SAD/SOG (Special Activities Division Special Operations Group) teams (together called Task Force 121). The operation eventually included around 600 soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. Special operations troops probably numbered around 40. Much of the publicity and credit for the capture went to the 4th Infantry Division soldiers, but CIA and JSOC were the driving force. "Task Force 121 were actually the ones who pulled Saddam out of the hole" said Robert Andrews, former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. "They can't be denied a role anymore."
CIA paramilitary units continued to team up with the JSOC in Iraq and in 2007 the combination created a lethal force many credit with having a major impact in the success of "the Surge". They did this by killing or capturing many of the key al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq. In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward described a new special operations capability that allowed for this success. This capability was developed by the joint teams of CIA and JSOC. Several senior U.S. officials stated that the "joint efforts of JSOC and CIA paramilitary units was the most significant contributor to the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq". The CIA-assisted "Phoenix" Program played a similar role in decimating Viet Cong insurgents during the Vietnam war.
After the Arab Spring movement overthrew the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, the neighbours of Libya to the west and east respectively, Libya had a major revolt beginning in February 2011. In response, the Obama administration sent in CIA Special Activities Division paramilitary operatives to assess the situation and gather information on the opposition forces.
During the early phases of the Libyan air strike offensive, paramilitary operatives assisted in the recovery of a U.S. Air Force pilot who had crashed due to mechanical problems. There was also speculation in The Washington Post that President Obama issued a covert action finding in March 2011 that authorized the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and support to the Libyan opposition.
Drone war in Pakistan
Analysis by the RAND Corporation suggests that "drone strikes are associated with decreases in both the frequency and the lethality of militant attacks overall and in IED and suicide attacks specifically." Civilian deaths from drone strikes fell to 1-2% of the total in 2012.
A major criticism is failure to forestall the 9-11 Attack in 2001 because of three organizational deficiencies: the inability of multiple American intelligence agencies to work together, organizational incentives to take the wrong analytical actions, and resistance to new technologies and ideas. The 9/11 Commission Report identifies failures in the intelligence community as a whole. One problem, for example, was the FBI failing to "connect the dots" by sharing information among its decentralized field offices. The report, however, criticizes both CIA analysis and impedance of their investigation. The CIA Inspector General in 2007 concluded that former DCI George Tenet failed to adequately prepare the agency to deal with the danger posed by Al Qaeda prior to the 9-11 Attack.
Image and Reputation
Cloak and dagger stories became part of the popular culture of the Cold War in both East and West, with innumerable novels and movies that showed how polarized and dangerous the world was. Soviet audiences thrilled at spy stories showing how their KGB agents protected the motherland by foiling dirty work by America's nefarious CIA, Britain's devious MI6, and Israel's devilish Mossad. After 1963, Hollywood increasingly depicted the CIA as clowns (as in the comedy TV series Get Smart) or villains (as in Oliver Stone's JFK (1992). In the genre of spy thrillers, the films Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Spy Game (2001) have been among the top box office attractions in American cinema. They both star Robert Redford and both portray the CIA as a wicked organization. The plotlines of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity (1980) and the 2002 film based on the novel mix truth and fiction. Some topics are distorted while others stick very closely to the truth. Congressional oversight, ethical dilemmas tied to assassination, and real-life antagonists play significant roles in both the novel and the film. In the book the antagonists are terrorists, particularly Carlos the Jackal, but in the movie version the "bad people" are CIA officials. Although the antagonist changes between the novel and the film, they both are realistic aspects that draw the audience in.
Leftists around the globe routinely blamed the mysterious CIA for events that displeased them, putting the image of the USA as a champion of freedom and democracy in disrepute. The CIA lost influence after 1963. President Lyndon B. Johnson disliked its pessimistic forecasts about Vietnam; President Richard M. Nixon and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger did not seek its advice. After Watergate (1974) it came under heavy attack for promoting right-wing governments, hampering the success of genuinely democratic protest movements, illegally monitoring dissent inside the USA, and frustrating democracy at home by its secrecy and lack of accountability. Was it needed in an age of détente? With 15,000 employees in 1973, it had a budget of about $740 million, of which $440 went to clandestine operations. Congressional committees began to monitor the agency closely. Employment and budgets were cut sharply (the totals are secret), and most covert operations were abandoned. Morale plummeted as the agency retreated to a mission of collecting and interpreting information about the Soviets.
- Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri and Andrew, Christopher, eds. Eternal Vigilance? 50 Years of the CIA. (1997). 246 pp.
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- Conboy, Kenneth and Morrison, James. The CIA's Secret War in Tibet. (2002). 301 pp. Covers the entire history of CIA support for armed Tibetan opposition to Chinese rule: from the seizure of Lhasa in August 1951 and subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama, to the rout of the last Tibetan guerrilla redoubt by the Royal Nepalese Army in 1974. It is a record of almost unmitigated failure. excerpt and text search
- Darling, Arthur B. The Central Intelligence Agency: An Instrument of Government, to 1950 (1990) online edition
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Primary sources and memoirs
- Central Intelligence Agency. A Compendium of Analytic Tradecraft Notes (1997) http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/cia/tradecraft_notes/contents.htm. The basic training guide for CIA analysts.
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- Daugherty (2004), Preface XX.
- Daugherty (2004), p.30.
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- See Herbert Romerstein, "Divide and Conquer: The KGB disinformation campaign against Ukrainians and Jews," Ukrainian Quarterly Fall 2004 online edition
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- Piero Gleijeses, Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954 (Princeton University Press, 1991), pp84, 147, 145, 155, 181-2, a virtual hagiography of Arbenz.
- “Antecedentes Inmediatos (1944-1961): El derrocamiento de Arbenz y la intervención militar de 1954,” in Comisión para el Esclaracimiento Histórico (CEH), Guatemala: Memoria Del Silencio (Guatemala, 1999), Capítulo primero (findings of Guatemala's independant truth commission after the restoration of civilian rule and democracy)
- Nicholas Cullather, Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of its Operation in Guatemala, 1952-1954 (Stanford University Press, 1999) pp24-7, based on the CIA archives
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- Falcoff, Mark, "Kissinger and Chile", Commentary, 2003. See also his Modern Chile.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c35COXObeo8&feature=fvw Former CIA head in Angola discusses the operation on CNN
- Médecins Sans Frontières, “Angola: An Alarming Nutritional Situation,” August 1999
- Washington Post, March 18, 1978; New York Times, December 14, 1994.
- Kathryn S. Olmsted, Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI. (1996). 255 pp.
- In the famous "smoking gun" recording that led to President Nixon's resignation, Nixon ordered his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, to tell the CIA that further investigation of Watergate would "open the whole can of worms" about the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba, and, therefore, that the CIA should tell the FBI to cease investigating the Watergate burglary, due to reasons of "national security".
- Time Magazine, 13 May 2003, "The Oily Americans," http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,450997-2,00.html
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- Chamorro Cardenal, Jaime (1988). La Prensa, A Republic of Paper, Freedom House, p. 23.
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- New York Times, March 5, 1990.
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- UPDATED: Gates calls for limited role aiding Libyan rebels. The Daily Breeze (March 9, 2010). Retrieved on May 19, 2011.
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