How the CIA Destabilizes the World

The C.I.A.’s rogue operations did not end after the crimes exposed by the 1975 Church Committee

There are three basic problems with the C.I.A.: its objectives, methods and unaccountability. 

Its operational objectives are whatever the C.I.A. or the president of the United States defines to be in the U.S. interest at a given time, irrespective of international law or U.S. law.

Its methods are secretive and duplicitous.

Its unaccountability means that the C.I.A. and president run foreign policy without any public scrutiny. Congress is a doormat, a sideshow.

As a recent C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, said of his time at the C.I.A.:  “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”

The C.I.A. was established in 1947 as the successor to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS had performed two distinct roles in World War II, intelligence and subversion. The C.I.A. took over both roles.

On the one hand, the C.I.A. was to provide intelligence to the U.S. government. On the other, the C.I.A. was to subvert the “enemy,” that is, whomever the president or C.I.A. defined as the enemy, using a wide range of measures: assassinations, coups, staged unrest, arming of insurgents, and other means.

It is the latter role that has proved devastating to global stability and the U.S. rule of law. It is a role that the C.I.A. continues to pursue today. In effect, the C.I.A. is a secret army of the U.S., capable of creating mayhem across the world with no accountability whatsoever.

When President Dwight Eisenhower decided that Africa’s rising political star, democratically-elected Patrice Lumumba of Congo was the “enemy,” the C.I.A. conspired in his 1961 assassination, thus undermining the democratic hopes for Africa. He would hardly be the last African president brought down by the C.I.A.

Lumumba in Brussels for a conference in 1960 with other members of the Congolese National Movement delegation. Photo: Harry Pot / Anefo / CC0 / Wikimedia Commons.

In its 77-year history, the C.I.A. has been held to serious public account just once, in 1975. In that year, Idaho Sen. Frank Church led a Senate investigation that exposed the C.I.A.’s rampage of assassinations, coups, destabilization, surveillance and Mengele-style torture and medical “experiments.”

The exposé by the Church Committee of the C.I.A.’s shocking malfeasance has recently been chronicled in a superb book by the investigative reporter James Risen, The Last Honest Man: The C.I.A., the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys ? and One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy.

That single episode of oversight occurred because of a rare confluence of events.

In the year before the Church Committee, the Watergate scandal had toppled Richard Nixon and weakened the White House. As successor to Nixon, Gerald Ford was unelected, a former congressman and reluctant to oppose the oversight prerogatives of the Congress. 

The Watergate scandal, investigated by the Senate Ervin Committee, had also empowered the Senate and demonstrated the value of Senate oversight of executive branch abuses of power. Crucially, the C.I.A. was newly led by Director William Colby, who wanted to clean up the C.I.A. operations. Also, F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, author of pervasive illegalities also exposed by the Church committee, had died in 1972.

Hersh Exposes CIA Ops Against Antiwar Movement 

In December 1974, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, then as now a great reporter with sources inside the C.I.A., published an account of illegal C.I.A. intelligence operations against the U.S. anti-war movement. 

The Senate Majority Leader at the time, Mike Mansfield, a leader of character, then appointed Church to investigate the C.I.A. Church himself was a brave, honest, intelligent, independent-minded, and intrepid senator, characteristics chronically in short supply in U.S. politics.

If only the C.I.A.’s rogue operations had been consigned to history as a result of the crimes exposed by the Church Committee, or at the least had brought the C.I.A. under the rule of law and public accountability. But that was not to be. 

The C.I.A. has had the last laugh — or better said, has brought the world to tears —by maintaining its preeminent role in U.S. foreign policy, including overseas subversion.

Since 1975, the C.I.A. has run secretive operations backing Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan that utterly wrecked Afghanistan while giving rise to Al-Qaeda. 

The C.I.A. has likely run secretive operations in the Balkans against Serbia, in the Caucuses against Russia and in Central Asia targeting China, all deploying C.I.A.-backed jihadists. 

In the 2010s, the C.I.A. ran deadly operations to topple Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, again with Islamist jihadists. 

For at least 20 years, the C.I.A. has been deeply involved in fomenting the growing catastrophe in Ukraine, including the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 that triggered the devastating war now engulfing Ukraine.

What do we know of these operations? Only the parts that whistleblowers, a few intrepid investigative reporters, a handful of brave scholars and some foreign governments have been willing or able to tell us, with all of these potential witnesses knowing that they might face severe retribution from the U.S. government.

No Restraint 

There has been little-to-no accountability by the U.S. government itself, or meaningful oversight or restraint imposed by Congress. On the contrary, the government has become ever-more obsessively secretive, pursuing aggressive legal actions against disclosures of classified information, even when, or especially when, that information describes the illegal actions by the government itself.

Once in a while, a former U.S. official spills the beans, such as when Zbigniew Brzezinski revealed that he had induced Jimmy Carter to assign the C.I.A. to train Islamic jihadists to destabilize the government of Afghanistan, with the aim of inducing the Soviet Union to invade that country.

National Security Advisor Brzezinski, on left of those standing, with Carter during a tour of Strategic Air Command’s headquarters in Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, October 1977. Photo: U.S. Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0.

In the case of Syria, we learned from a few stories in The New York Times in 2016 and 2017 of the C.I.A.’s subversive operations to destabilize Syria and overthrow Assad, as ordered by President Barack Obama. 

Here is the case of a dreadfully misguided C.I.A. operation, blatantly in violation of international law, that has led to a decade of mayhem, an escalating regional war, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and millions of displaced people, and yet there has not been a single honest acknowledgment of this C.I.A.-led disaster by the White House or Congress.

Major Covert Role in Ukraine

In the case of Ukraine, we know that the U.S. played a major covert role in the violent coup that brought down Yanukovych and that swept Ukraine into a decade of bloodshed but to this day, we don’t know the details. 

Russia offered the world a window into the coup by intercepting and then posting a call between Victoria Nuland, then U.S. assistant secretary of state (now under-secretary of state) and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt (now assistant secretary of state), in which they plot the post-coup government. 

Following the coup, the C.I.A. covertly trained special operations forces of the post-coup regime the U.S. had helped bring to power. The U.S. government has been mum about the C.I.A.’s covert operations in Ukraine.

June 2014: Ukraine’s post-coup President Petro Poroshenko, Pyatt and Nuland meeting in Warsaw. Then Secretary of State John Kerry, in background on right. Photo: State Department.

We have good reason to believe that C.I.A. operatives carried out the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline, as per Seymour Hersh, who is now an independent reporter. Unlike in 1975, when Hersh was with The New York Times at a time when the paper still tried to hold the government to account, the Times does not even deign to look into Hersh’s account.

Holding the C.I.A. to public account is of course a steep uphill struggle. Presidents and the Congress don’t even try. The mainstream media don’t investigate the C.I.A., preferring instead to quote “senior unnamed officials” and the official cover-up. Are the mainstream media outlets lazy, suborned, afraid of advertising revenues from the military-industrial complex, threatened, ignorant, or all of the above? Who knows.

There is a tiny glimmer of hope. Back in 1975, the C.I.A. was led by a reformer. Today, the C.I.A. is led by William Burns, one of America’s long-standing leading diplomats. Burns knows the truth about Ukraine, since he served as ambassador to Russia in 2008 and cabled Washington about the grave error of pushing NATO enlargement to Ukraine. Given Burns’ stature and diplomatic accomplishments, perhaps he would support the urgently needed accountability.

The extent of the continuing mayhem resulting from C.I.A. operations gone awry is astounding. In Afghanistan, Haiti, Syria, Venezuela, Kosovo, Ukraine, and far beyond, the needless deaths, instability, and destruction unleashed by C.I.A. subversion continues to this day. The mainstream media, academic institutions, and Congress should be investigating these operations to the best of their ability and demanding the release of documents to enable democratic accountability.

Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Church Committee hearings. Fifty years on, with the precedent, inspiration, and guidance of the Church Committee itself, it’s urgently time to open the blinds, expose the truth about the U.S.-led mayhem and begin a new era in which U.S. foreign policy becomes transparent, accountable, subject to the rule of law both domestic and international, and directed towards global peace rather than subversion of supposed enemies.

Main photo: “Spies in D.C., code name ‘Giddy Up.’ © Lorie Shaull / Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

Source: Consortium News.

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