Letter: The CIA’s History of “Creating” Intelligence
The Standard-Times editorial of Friday, July 17, titled, “Abuse of power at the CIA,” was wonderfully accurate and thoughtful.
Wilbur Crane Eveland, a CIA intelligence officer, a very dear friend and our houseguest in Marion for the better part of 1983-84, told me of an important dichotomy among officers and staff of the CIA. Should the officers of the Central Intelligence Agency be collectors of intelligence or creators of intelligence? According to Eveland, this thesis was constantly under discussion and debate at all levels of the intelligence community. It appears to be as true today as it was 50 and 60 years ago.
President Harry Truman created the CIA in 1947 by merging separate intelligence-gathering organizations under the office of Director of Central Intelligence, which he had established in 1945.
Our intelligence services were virtually nonexistent before World War II. “Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail,” was the famous statement of Henry Stimson, secretary of war from 1940-45. Stimson disbanded the embryonic decoding service of about five or six men, on moral grounds, feeling it inappropriate during peacetime. When the war came, Stimson reversed his position and reinstated the men and expanded the decoding organization.
Eveland, or Bill as he preferred to be called, was trained by the FBI and assigned to the Panama Canal zone before the outbreak of World War II. During the war, Bill was in military intelligence and was among the men entering Bergen-Belsen, freeing many people held captive there. He witnessed firsthand the abuse people can heap upon one another. After the war, Eveland served in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, eventually becoming Near East CIA station chief.
Bill wrote in his book, Ropes of Sand: America’s Failure in the Middle East, that he bribed, on behalf of the United States, many candidates in the Lebanese elections of 1957 that brought Camille Chamoun to power. Eveland wrote and spoke with us of driving with thousands of dollars in his car, from Beirut to Damascus, to bribe people to overthrow the government of Syria. Dr. Rafic Jouejati, Syrian ambassador to the United States, was a guest in our Marion home in 1983 when Eveland apologized to him for attempting to overthrow his government. Amb. Jouejati gracefully accepted Eveland’s apology.
In August 1953, the Brits asked the United States for help overthrowing the newly elected government of Iran. The new prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, who was brought into office in a free election, wanted to nationalize the oil industry for a better share of revenues. Oil in Iran was controlled at that time by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., known later as British Petroleum. According to Eveland, the United States gave the Brits $50,000, which bought enough “rebels” to overthrow the Iranian government of Mossadegh and put the Shah back on the throne.
That anti-democratic act brought 26 years of “stability” in Iran, according to the late director of the CIA, Richard Helms. It also bought the undying enmity of millions of Iranians for countless years to come. They expressed part of that enmity by holding our diplomatic staff hostage for 444 days from Nov. 4, 1979, to Jan. 19, 1981, releasing them as Ronald Reagan was being sworn in as president.
Allen Dulles, an OSS operative in Switzerland during World War II, was director of the CIA when his brother, John Foster Dulles, was secretary of state during Eisenhower’s administration. Allen Dulles lent Bill Eveland to his brother, “Foster,” whereupon President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Eveland as his chief foreign policy adviser on Near East affairs. It was Eveland who engineered the Marine landings in Lebanon and Jordan in 1958.
Each of the events described above is an example of the CIA creating intelligence rather than collecting it. They are examples of “moral questions,” an issue raised in The Standard-Times editorial.
The list of things we did to prisoners — waterboarding, sleep deprivation and much more — is precisely what we are fighting against. Imprisoning people for years and holding them without trial is all wrong. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” states the Magna Carta, in so many words. No one wants to be treated in that manner.
We had a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the world, especially our adversaries, the respect with which we hold all human life and the law — and we failed miserably. “One act of violence begets another” was as true during the world wars, all the wars in between and after, as it is today, being so well characterized in the July 17 editorial.
Moral questions from 50 years ago or from, as the editorial put it, “the autocratic nature of the Bush-Cheney administration” undermine our democracy and the integrity of those we ask to uphold it, from our elected officials to our dedicated military and intelligence people.