Victor Marchetti was born in 1930. He joined the United States Army and in 1952 he was sent to the European Command's School at Oberammergau to study Russian. Later he was involved in intelligence work concerning East Germany.
After leaving the military Marchetti studied history at Penn State University. While at university Marchetti was secretly recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. He officially joined the organization in 1955. Marchetti became a Soviet military specialist and was the CIA's leading expert on aid given to Third World countries. This included Soviet military supplies to Cuba in the early 1960s.
In 1966 he became special assistant to the Chief of Planning, Programming, and Budgeting. The following year he was special assistant to Richard Helms.
Marchetti became disillusioned with the "agency's policies and practices" and in 1969 resigned from the CIA. He wrote about his experiences in the CIA in the novel The Rope-Dancer that was published in 1971. He then began work with John Marks on a book about the need to reform the CIA.
The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence was completed in 1973. CIA officials read the manuscript and told Marchetti and Marks that they had to remove 399 passages, nearly a fifth of the book. After long negotiations the CIA yielded on 171 items. That left 168 censored passages. The publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, decided to go ahead and publish the book with blanks for those passages, and with the sections that the CIA had originally cut but then restored printed in boldface.
The publication of Marchetti's censored book raised concerns about the way the CIA was censoring information. It led to investigative reports by Seymour Hersh in The New York Times and the decision by Frank Church to establish a Select Committee to study government operations. The report, Foreign and Military Intelligence, was published in 1976.
In August, 1978, Marchetti published an article about the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the liberty Lobby newspaper, Spotlight. In the article Marchetti argued that the House Special Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had obtained a 1966 CIA memo that revealed E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis and Gerry Patrick Hemming had been involved in the plot to kill Kennedy. Marchetti's article also included a story that Marita Lorenz had provided information on this plot. Later that month Joseph Trento and Jacquie Powers wrote a similar story for the Sunday News Journal.
The HSCA did not publish this CIA memo linking its agents to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Hunt now decided to take legal action against the Liberty Lobby and in December, 1981, he was awarded $650,000 in damages. Liberty Lobby appealed to the United States Court of Appeals. It was claimed that Hunt's attorney, Ellis Rubin, had offered a clearly erroneous instruction as to the law of defamation. The three-judge panel agreed and the case was retried. This time Mark Lane defended the Liberty Lobby against Hunt's action.
Lane eventually discovered Marchetti’s sources. The main source was William Corson. It also emerged that Marchetti had also consulted James Angleton and Alan J. Weberman before publishing the article. As a result of obtaining of getting depositions from David Atlee Phillips, Richard Helms, G. Gordon Liddy, Stansfield Turner and Marita Lorenz, plus a skillful cross-examination by Lane of E. Howard Hunt, the jury decided in January, 1995, that Marchetti had not been guilty of libel when he suggested that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated by people working for the CIA.
The Dulles years ended with two disasters for the CIA that newspapers learned of in advance but refused to share fully with their readers. First came the shooting down of the U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1960. Chalmers Roberts, long the Washington Post's diplomatic correspondent, confirms in his book First Rough .Draft that he and "some other newsmen" knew about the U-2 flights in the late 1950s and "remained silent." Roberts explains, "Retrospectively, it seems a close question as to whether this was the right decision, but I think it probably was. We took the position that the national interest came before the story because we knew the United States very much needed to discover the secrets of Soviet missilery."
Most reporters at the time would have agreed with Richard Bissell that premature disclosure would have forced the Soviets "to take action." Yet Bissell admitted that "after five days" the.. Soviets were fully aware that the spy planes were overflying their country, and that the secrecy main- . tained by the Soviet and American governments was an example "of two hostile governments collaborating to keep operations secret from the general public on both sides."
The whole U-2 incident may well have been a watershed event. For much of the American press and public it was the first indication that their government lied, and it was the opening wedge in what would grow during the Vietnam years into the "credibility gap." But as the Eisenhower administration came to an end, there was still a national consensus that the fight against communism justified virtually any means. The press was very much a part of the consensus, and this did not start to crack until it became known that the CIA was organizing an armed invasion of Cuba.
Five months before the landing took place at the Bay of Pigs, the Nation published a secondhand account of the agency's efforts to train Cuban exiles for attacks against Cuba and called upon "all U.S. news media with correspondents in Guatemala," where the invaders were being trained, to check out the story. The New York Times responded on January 10, 1961, with an article describing the training, with U.S. assistance, of an anti-Castro force in Guatemala. At the end of the story, which mentioned neither the CIA nor a possible invasion, was a charge by the Cuban Foreign Minister that the U.S. government was preparing "mercenaries" in Guatemala and Florida for military action against Cuba. Turner Catledge, then the managing editor of the Times, declared in his book My Life and The Times: "I don't think that anyone who read the story would have doubted that something was in the wind; that the United States was deeply involved, or that the New York Times was onto the story."
As the date for the invasion approached, the New Republic obtained a comprehensive account of the preparations for ; the operation, but the liberal magazine's editor-in-chief, Gilbert Harrison, became wary of the security implications and submitted the article to President Kennedy for his advice. Kennedy asked that it not be printed, and Harrison, a friend of the President, complied. At about the same time, New York Times reporter Tad Szulc uncovered nearly the complete story, and the Times made preparations to carry it on April 7, 1961, under a. four-column headline. But Times publisher Orvil Dryfoos and Washington bureau chief James Reston both objected to the article on national-security grounds, and it was edited to eliminate all mention of CIA involvement or an "imminent" invasion. The truncated story, which mentioned only that 5,000 to 6,000 Cubans were being trained in the United States and Central America "for the liberation of Cuba," no longer merited a banner headline and was reduced to a single column on the front page. Times editor Clifton Daniel later explained that Dryfoos had ordered the story toned down: "above all, (out of) concern for the safety of the men who were preparing to offer their lives on the beaches of Cuba."
Times reporter Szulc states that he was not consulted about the heavy editing of his article, and he mentions that President Kennedy made a personal appeal to publisher Dryfoos not to run the story. Yet, less than a month after the invasion, at a meeting where he was urging newspaper editors not to print security information, Kennedy was able to say to the Times' Catledge, "If you had printed more about the operation, you would have saved us from a colossal mistake."
The CIA is perfectly ready to, reward its friends. Besides provision of big news breaks such as defector stories, selected reports may receive "exclusives" on everything from U.S: government foreign policy to Soviet intentions. Hal Hendrix, described by three different Washington reporters as a known "friend" of the agency, won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1962 Miami Daily News reporting of the Cuban missile crisis. Much of his "inside story" was truly inside: it was based on CIA leaks.
Because of the CIA's clever handling of reporters and because of the personal views held by many of those reports ers and their editors, most of the American press has at least tacitly gone along, until the last few years, with the agency view that covert operations are not a proper subject for journalistic scrutiny. The credibility gap arising out of the Vietnam war, however, may well have changed the attitude of many reporters. The New York Times' Tom Wicker credits the Vietnam experience with making the press "more concerned with its fundamental duty.." Now that most reporters have seen repeated examples of government lying, he believes, they are much less likely to accept CIA denials of involvement in covert operations at home and abroad. As Wicker points out, "Lots of people today would believe that the CIA overthrows governments," and most journalists no longer "believe in the sanctity of classified material." In the case of his own paper, the New York Times, Wicker feels that "the Pentagon Papers made the big difference."
The unfolding of the Watergate scandal has also opened up the agency to increased scrutiny. Reporters have dug deeply into the CIA's assistance to the White House "plumbers" and the attempts to involve the agency in the Watergate cover-up. Perhaps most important, the press has largely rejected the "national security" defense used by the White House to justify its actions. With any luck at all, the American people can look forward to learning from the news media what their government - even its secret part - is doing. As Congress abdicates its responsibility, and as the President abuses his responsibility, we have nowhere else to turn.
A few months ago, in March, there was a meeting at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., the plush home of America's super spooks overlooking the Potomac River. It was attended by several high-level clandestine officers and some former top officials of the agency.
The topic of discussion was: What to do about recent revelations associating President Kennedy's accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, with the spy game played between the U.S. and the USSR? (Spotlight, May 8, 1978.) A decision was made, and a course of action determined. They were calculated to both fascinate and confuse the public by staging a clever "limited hangout" when the House Special Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) holds its open hearings, beginning later this month.
A "limited hangout" is spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting - sometimes even volunteering some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.
We will probably never find out who masterminded the assassination of JFK - or why. There are too many powerful special interests connected with the conspiracy for the truth to come out even now, 15 years after the murder.
But during the next two months, according to sensitive sources in the CIA and on HSCA, we are going to learn much more about the crime. The new disclosures will be sensational, but only superficially so. A few of the lesser villains involved in the conspiracy and its subsequent coverup will be identified for the first time - and allowed to twist slowly in the wind on live network TV. Most of the others to be fingered are already dead.
But once again the good folks of middle America will be hoodwinked by the government and its allies in the establishment news media. In fact, we are being set up to witness yet another coverup, albeit a sophisticated one, designed by the CIA with the assistance of the FBI and the blessing of the Carter administration.
A classic example of a limited hangout is how the CIA has handled and manipulated the Church Committee's investigation of two years ago. The committee learned nothing more about the assassinations of foreign leaders, illicit drug programs, or the penetration of the news media than the CIA allowed it to discover. And this is precisely what the CIA is out to accomplish through HSCA with regard to JFK's murder.
Chief among those to be exposed by the new investigation will be E. Howard Hunt, of Watergate fame. His luck has run out, and the CIA has decided to sacrifice him to: protect its clandestine services. The agency is furious with Hunt for having dragged it publicly into the Nixon mess and for having blackmailed it after he was arrested.
Besides, Hunt is vulnerable - an easy target as they say in the spy business. His reputation and integrity have been destroyed. The death of his wife, Dorothy, in a mysterious plane crash in Chicago still disturbs many people, especially since there were rumors from informed sources that she was about to leave him and perhaps even turn on him.
In addition it is well known that Hunt hated JFK and blamed him for the Bay of Pigs disaster. And now, in recent months, his alibi for his whereabouts on the day of the shooting has come unstuck.
In the public hearings, the CIA will "admit" that Hunt was involved in the conspiracy to kill Kennedy. The CIA may go so far as to "admit" that there were three gunmen shooting at Kennedy. The FBI, while publicly embracing the Warren Commission's "one man acting alone" conclusion, has always privately known that there were three gunmen. The conspiracy involved many more people than the ones who actually fired at Kennedy, both agencies may now admit.
A.J. Weberman and Michael Canfield, authors of Coup d'Etat in America, published pictures of three apparent bums who were arrested at Dealy Plaza just after President Kennedy's murder, but who were strangely released without any record of the arrest having been made by the Dallas police. One of the tramps the authors identified as Hunt. Another was Frank Sturgis, a long time agent of Hunt's.
Hunt immediately sued for millions of dollars in damages, claiming he could prove that he had been in Washington D.C. that day-on duty at CIA. It turned out, however, that this was not true. So, he said that he had been on leave and doing household errands, including a shopping trip to a grocery store in Chinatown.
Weberman and Canfield investigated the new alibi and found that the grocery store where Hunt claimed to be shopping never existed. At this point, Hunt offered to drop his suit for a token payment of one dollar. But the authors were determined to vindicate themselves, and they continued to attack Hunt's alibi, ultimately completely shattering it.
Now, the CIA moved to finger Hunt and tie him to the JFK assassination. HSCA unexpectedly received an internal CIA memorandum a few weeks ago that the agency just happened to stumble across in its old files. It was dated 1966 and said in essence: Some day we will have to explain Hunt's presence in Dallas on November 22, 1963 - the day President Kennedy was killed. Hunt is going to be hard put to explain this memo, and other things, before the TV cameras at the HSCA hearings.
Hunt's reputation as a strident fanatical anti-communist will count against him. So will his long and close relationship with the anti-Castro Cubans, as well as his penchant for clandestine dirty tricks and his various capers while one of Nixon's plumbers. E. Howard Hunt will be implicated in the conspiracy and he will not dare to speak out-the CIA will see to that. In addition to Hunt and Sturgis, another former CIA agent marked for exposure is Gerry Patrick Hemming, a hulk of a man-six feet eight inches tall and weighing 260 pounds. Like Sturgis, Hemming once worked for Castro as a CIA double agent, then later surfaced with the anti-Castro Cubans in various attempts to rid Cuba of the communist dictator. But there are two things in Hemming's past that the CIA, manipulation HSCA, will be able to use to tie him to the JFK assassination.
First, Castro's former mistress, Marita Lorenz (now an anti-Castroite herself), has identified Hemming, along with Oswald and others as being part of the secret squad assigned to kill President Kennedy. And secondly, Hemming was Oswald's Marine sergeant when he was stationed at CIA's U-2 base in Atsugi, Japan-where Oswald supposedly was recruited as a spy by the Soviets, or was being trained to be a double agent by the CIA.
In any event, Hemming's Cuban career and his connection with Oswald make the Lorenz story difficult for him to deny, particularly since the squad allegedly also included Hunt and Sturgis.
Who else will be identified as having been part of the conspiracy and/or coverup remains to be seen. But a disturbing pattern is already beginning to emerge. All the villains have been previously disgraced in one way or another. They all have "right wing" reputations. Or they will have after the hearings.
The fact that some may have had connections with organized crime will prove to be only incidental in the long run. Those with provable ties to the CIA or FBI will be presented as renegades who acted on their own without approval or knowledge of their superiors.
As for covering up the deed, that will be blamed on past Presidents, either dead or disgraced. Thus, Carter will emerge as a truth seeker, and the CIA and FBI will have neatly covered their institutional behinds.
The timing of the hearings is another clue of what to expect and why. The committee has scheduled its open sessions of network TV to begin after Congress adjourns for the election campaigns. The first order of business will be the Martin Luther King, Jr. hearings-with James Earl Ray and his family as the star witnesses. Then there will be a short break and the JFK hearings will begin.
The committee plans to conclude its work by early October, just a month before the elections, perfect timing to cash in on the publicity the hearings are certain to create. And perfect timing for the Carterites to get the American public to forget about inflation, taxes, foreign affairs, and other White House blunders and elect a Congress more indebted and responsive to the presidency.
In March 1972, a typescript of an article and a related book proposal were purloined by a CIA agent from a New York publisher and forwarded to Langley. For Richard Ober, the manuscript was right out of a bad dream. A former senior CIA official, Victor Marchetti, was planning to write a book exposing CIA deceptions. Marchetti had been the executive assistant to the deputy director of Central Intelligence and had attended regular planning and intelligence meetings attended by Richard Helms. He had also been a courier for the Agency group that approves covert operations. The most carefully guarded CIA information was called Sensitive Compartmented Information, or SCI, and was distributed to officials strictly on a need-to-know basis. But his position had allowed Marchetti an overview of the Agency purposely denied to most CIA officers.
Over time, Marchetti had become troubled by the Agency's role in the overthrow of democracies on behalf of dictators and by CIA manipulation of other nations' internal policies. He saw evidence of corruption in overseas operations. Marchetti's intellectual honesty was also offended by intrigue inside CIA headquarters that disrupted the accuracy of intelligence estimates. Furthermore, the Vietnam War had disillusioned Marchetti, whose sons would soon reach draft age. And when Eagle Scouts from a troop he served as scoutmaster began dodging the draft, Marchetti began to feel his CIA job was isolating him.
Upon quitting the Agency at age thirty-nine, after a highly successful fourteen-year career, Marchetti wrote a novel called The Rope Dancer. Prior to its publication by Grosset and Dunlap in 1971, a CIA officer read a version of the manuscript at Marchetti's home, in keeping with the rules set out in the CIA secrecy contract Marchetti had signed. The CIA officer found no security breaches, and publication went forward.
What troubled Ober and Ober's immediate supervisor, Thomas Karamessines, was one particular line in the novel. Marchetti's central character is speaking with jaundiced anger about the fictional CIA: "Somebody should publicize the Agency's mistakes." Suppose Marchetti got it in his head to write about MHCHAOS? Concerned, Helms himself ordered Marchetti placed under surveillance beginning on March 23, I972.
Within days, an article written by Marchetti appeared in the April 3 Nation under the headline "CIA: The President's Loyal Tool." Marchetti wrote that the CIA was using the news media to create myths about the Agency and was fooling such influential publications as the New York Times and Newsweek. Additionally, he claimed, the CIA had continued to control youth, labor, and cultural organizations in the United States, notwithstanding the scandals triggered by the report in Ramparts. Marchetti also castigated Helms for spending too little time engaged with the intricacies of intelligence analysis, satirically calling him a "master spy" who conducted his most important weekly meetings in less than twenty minutes. Marchetti concluded: "Secrecy, like power, tends to corrupt, and it will not be easy to persuade those who rule in the United States to change their ways."
Even while MHCHAOS was surviving the Marchetti scare, the CIA inspector general, an internal cop, was the focal point of a second emergency. Worried that the inspector general might discover MHCHAOS and expose it, Helms called in Colby, Ober, and Karamessines for a meeting on December 5, I972. Helms emphasized the importance of running a cleaner, less dubious-looking operation. There was a need to proceed cautiously, he said, to avoid a showdown with "some CIA personnel." Nonetheless, Helms was adamant that MHCHAOS not be abandoned. It will not be "stopped simply because some members of the organization do not like this activity," he insisted.
Helms cautioned Ober against attending meetings of the Justice Department Intelligence Evaluation Committee, because security was lax and its role in domestic politics might lead investigative reporters to MHCHAOS. Helms had come up with a solution to the problem of CIA officers who doubted the legality of MHCHAOS. Henceforth, it would be described within the Agency as an operation against international terrorism. "To a [sic] maximum extent possible, Ober should become identified with the subject of terrorism inside the Agency as well as in the Intelligence Community," Helms ordered. Afterward, Colby sent Karamessines a summary of the meeting: "A clear priority is to be given in this general field to the subject of terrorism. This should bring about a reduction in the intensity of attention to political dissidents in the United States not apt to be involved in terrorism." The change in label was evidently intended to improve the Agency's image and cover, on the assumption that "terrorists" were more believable as a genuine threat than "dissidents."
But there was in fact to be little change in targets. MHCHAOS continued to hold radicals in its sights, specifically radical youths, Blacks, women, and antiwar militants. The label "international terrorist" was designed to replace "political dissident" as the ongoing justification for illegal domestic operations. And in the final move to clean up Ober's act, in December Helms put an end to the operation of the five-year-old MHCHAOS by formally transforming it into the International Terrorism Group-with Ober still in charge.
Only seventeen days later, Helms and Karamessines announced their resignations from the CIA. Nixon named James Schlesinger to replace Helms as director, and Schlesinger in turn replaced Karamessines with Colby as deputy director for plans. In a euphemistic change, Schlesinger and Colby renamed the Directorate for Plans as the Directorate for Operations, which was the CIA's way of saying, "Let's call domestic spying a response to terrorism."
The CIA is a master at distorting history - even creating its own version of history to suit its institutional and operational purposes. It can do this largely because of two great advantages it possesses. One is the excessively secret environment in which it operates, and the other is that it is essentially a private instrument of the presidency.
The real reason for the official secrecy, in most instances, is not to keep the opposition (the CIA's euphemistic term for the enemy) from knowing what is going on; the enemy usually does know. The basic reason for governmental secrecy is to keep you, the American public, from knowing - for you, too, are considered the opposition, or enemy - so that you cannot interfere. When the public does not know what the government or the CIA is doing, it cannot voice its approval or disapproval of their actions. In fact, they can even lie to your about what they are doing or have done, and you will not know it.
As for the second advantage, despite frequent suggestion that the CIA is a rogue elephant, the truth is that the agency functions at the direction of and in response to the office of the president. All of its major clandestine operations are carried out with the direct approval of or on direct orders from the White House. The CIA is a secret tool of the president - every president. And every president since Truman has lied to the American people in order to protect the agency. When lies have failed, it has been the duty of the CIA to take the blame for the president, thus protecting him. This is known in the business as "plausible denial"...
The big lie, however, is that the Soviet Union came into Cuba to protect the Cubans. That was a secondary, or bonus, consideration. The primary reason for the build-up was that the Soviets at the time were so far behind us in nuclear strike capability that Khruschev figured he could make a quantum leap by suddenly putting in 48 missiles that could strike every city in America except Seattle, Washington.
Nor did we come as close to war as many think, because Khruschev knew he was caught. His missiles weren't armed, and he hadn't the troops to protect them. Kennedy knew this, so he was able to say: "take them out." And Khruschev had to say yes...
Any historian who relies on what he reads in the newspapers, on the statements from McNamara and the Russians and the Cubans will not be learning the truth. The CIA has manufactured history in a number of ways over the years not only through its propaganda and disinformation but through the cover stories it uses for their operations, and the cover-ups when an operation falls through. Then there is "plausible deniability," which protects the president.
All these techniques have one thing in common, and depend on one thing: secrecy. Secrecy is maintained not to keep the opposition - the CIA's euphemistic term for the enemy - from knowing what's going on, because the enemy usually does know. Secrecy exists to keep you, the American public, from knowing what is going on, because in many ways you are the real enemy...
If the public were aware of what the CIA is doing, it might say: "We don't like what you're doing - stop it!," or "You're not doing a good job - stop it!" The public might ask for an accounting for the money being spent and the risks being taken.
Thus secrecy is absolutely vital to the CIA. Secrecy covers not only operations in progress, but continues after the operations, particularly if the operations have been botched. Then they have to be covered up with more lies, which the public, of course, can't recognize as lies, allowing the CIA to tell the public whatever it wishes.
Presidents love this. Every president, no matter what he has said before getting into office, has been delighted to learn that the CIA is his own private tool. The presidents have leapt at the opportunity to keep Congress and the public in the dark about their employment of the agency.
This is what was at the basis of my book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. I had come to the conclusion, as a member of the CIA, that many of our policies and practices were not in the best interests of the United States, but were in fact counterproductive, and that if the American people were aware of this they would not tolerate it.
I resigned from the CIA in 1969, at a time when we were deeply involved in Vietnam. And how did we get into Vietnam on a large scale? How did President Lyndon Johnson get a blank check from Congress? It was through the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The American people were told by President Johnson that North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats had come after two American destroyers on the night of August 4, 1964. This was confirmed by the intelligence community.
The fact of the matter is that while torpedo boats came out and looked at the U.S. destroyers, which were well out in international waters, they never fired on them. They made threatening maneuvers, they snarled a bit, but they never fired. It was dark and getting darker. Our sailors thought they might have seen something, but there were no hits, no reports of anything whizzing by.
That was the way it was reported back: a bit of a scrape, but no weapons fire and no attempt to fire. Our ships had not been in danger. But with the help of the intelligence community President Johnson took that report and announced that we had been attacked. He went to Congress and asked for and received his blank check, and Congress went along. Everyone knows the rest of the story: we got into Vietnam up to our eyeballs...
All this was done to help the CIA suppress and distort history, and to enable presidents to do the same. Presidents like Harry Truman, who claimed falsely that "I never had any thought when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak-and-dagger operations," but who willingly employed the agency to carry out clandestine espionage and covert intervention in the affairs of other countries. Or Dwight Eisenhower, who denied that we were attempting to overthrow Sukarno in Indonesia, when we were, and was embarrassed when he tried to deny the CIA's U-2 overflights and was shown up by Khruschev at Paris in 1960. John F. Kennedy, as everyone knows by now, employed the CIA in several attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. We used everyone from Mafia hoods to Castro's mistress, Marita Lorenz (who was supposed to poison the dictator with pills concealed in her cold cream - the pills melted). I have no doubt that if we could have killed Castro, the U.S. would have gone in.
There was a fairly widespread belief that one reason Kennedy was assassinated was because he was going to get us out of Vietnam. Don't you believe it. He was the CIA's kind of president, rough, tough, and gung-ho. Under Kennedy we became involved in Vietnam in a serious way, not so much militarily as through covert action. It is a fact that the United States engineered the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam’s premier, and Ngo Dinh Nhu, his powerful brother. A cable was sent out to the ambassador which said, "If Lou Conein goofs up (Lucien Conein was a key CIA operative in Saigon), it's his responsibility." So when E. Howard Hunt faked these memos and cables when he was working for the "plumbers" on behalf of President Nixon (and against the Democrats), he knew what he was doing. That was his defense, that he wasn't really forging or inventing anything. "Stuff like that really existed, but I couldn't find it," he said. Of course Hunt couldn't find it by that time the original documents were gone. But Hunt knew what he was doing.
President Nixon's obsession with secrecy led to the end of his presidency, of course. As indicated earlier, Nixon was determined to suppress my book. On several occasions after his resignation, Nixon has been asked what he meant when he said that the CIA would help him cover up the Watergate tapes, because "they owed him one." He has responded, "I was talking about Marchetti," in other words the efforts (still secret) to prevent The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence from being published.
The CIA has distorted history in other ways than by outright coverups and suppression of the truth. One method was to produce its own books. For instance, one of its top agents in the Soviet Union was Colonel Oleg Penkovsky. Penkovsky was eventually captured and executed. But the CIA was unwilling to let it go at that. The agency decided to write a book, which it published in 1965, called The Penkovsky Papers. This was purported to be drawn from a diary that Penkovsky had kept, a diary in which Penkovsky revealed numerous espionage coups calculated to embarrass the Soviets and build up the CIA.
Spies do not keep diaries, of course, and the Soviets were not likely to believe the exaggerated claims made for Penkovsky and the CIA in The Penkovsky Papers. Who was taken in? The American public, of course. More than once people have come up to me after a lecture and shown me the book as if it were gospel. I've told them, "I know the man who wrote it." "You knew Penkovsky?" they invariably ask, and I tell them, "No, I didn't know Penkovsky but I know the man who wrote the book."
Not just ordinary citizens were taken in by the Penkovsky deception, either. Senator Milton Young of North Dakota, who served on the CIA oversight subcommittee, said in a 1971 Senate debate on cutting the inteligence budget:
And if you want to read something very interesting and authoritative where intelligence is concerned, read The Penkovsky Papers . . . this is a very interesting story, on why the intelligence we had in Cuba was so important to us, and on what the Russians were thinking and just how far they would go.
Perhaps the most startling example ot the ClA’s manipulation of the publishing world is the case of Khrushchev Remembers. Khrushchev is still widely believed to have been the author. He is supposed to have dashed it off one summer and then said to himself, "Where will I get this published? Ah! Time-Life!" The tapes reached Time-Life, we all read it, and we told ourselves, "Isn't that interesting."
A little thought should be sufficient to dispel the notion that the KGB would allow Khrushchev to sit in his dacha dictating tape after tape with no interference. He certainly dictated tapes, but the tapes were censored and edited by the KGB, and then a deal was struck between the U.S. and the USSR, after it was decided, at the highest level, that such a book would be mutually beneficial. Brezhnev could use against some of the resistance he was encountering from Stalinist hardliners, and Nixon could use it to increase support for detente.
The CIA and the KGB cooperated in carrying out the operation. The tapes were given to the Time bureau in Moscow. Strobe Talbot, who appears on television frequently today and is Time's bureau chief in Washington, brought the tapes back with him. I was present in an apartment in which he hid them for a couple of days. The tapes were then translated and a manuscript developed. During this period Time refused to let people who had known Khrushchev personally, including White House staff members, listen to the tapes.
Knowledgeable people began to tell me. "I don't believe this." "There's something mighty fishy here." When they read what Khrushchev was supposedly saying, they were even more incredulous. But the book came out, Khrushchev Remembers, accompanied by a massive publicity campaign. It was a great propaganda accomplishment for the CIA and the KGB.
I touched on Khrushchev Remembers in my book. I did not go into any great detail, merely devoting several tentative paragraphs to the affair. Just before my book was published Time was considering doing a two-page spread on me until they learned of my expressed reservations on the trustworthiness of Khrushchev Remembers. I began to get phone calls from Talbot and Jerry Schaechter, then Time's bureau chief in Washington, telling me I should take out the offending passages.
I had written, correctly, that before publication Strobe Talbot had taken the bound transcripts of the Khruschhev tapes back to Moscow, via Helsinki, so that the KGB could make one final review of them. I told Schaechter and Talbot that if they came to me, looked me in the eye, and told me I had the facts wrong, I would take out the section on Khruschhev Remembers. Neither of them ever came by, the paragraphs stayed in my book, and in any event Time went ahead with the two-page spread anyway.
As I pointed out in the preface to The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence in 1974, democratic governments fighting totalitarian enemies run the risk of imitating their methods and thereby destroying democracy. By suppressing historical fact, and by manufacturing historical fiction, the CIA, with its obsessive secrecy and its vast resources, has posed a particular threat to the right of Americans to be informed for the present and future by an objective knowledge of the past. As long as the CIA continues to manipulate history, historians of its activities must be Revisionist if we are to know the truth about the agency’s activities, past and present.