Tag: CIA

20200410_123739I decided to use the spare time at hand to reorganize my book case and other shelves upon which sit the other literature that I have come to love and appreciate.  While perusing the books, I found this book by former New Orleans District Attorney James “Jim” Garrison (1921-1992) who is remembered for bringing the only public trial in the murder of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). In 1992, Warner Brothers released Oliver Stone’s JFKwhich captured Garrison´s investigation on film. Kevin Costner took on the role of Garrison and delivered a compelling performance.  The film is great cinema but as one would expect, many liberties were taken by Stone and producers.  Reasons for the changes are beyond the scope of this review.  Stone´s film was based on a number of source including the late Jim Marrs’ (1943-2017) Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy which is regarded as one of the best books published on Kennedy’s death and Garrison’s memoir of his investigation.

If you have never watched JFK, I think it would best to read Garrison’s book and then watch the film.  I firmly believe it will have an even more powerful effect in spite of the liberties taken by the filmmmakers. However, with that being said, overall the film is true to the book but the real story is even more perplexing and disturbing.  Similar to the film, Garrison is at his desk with Assistant D.A. Frank Klein comes in to inform him about the Kennedy shooting.  The revelation that Oswald had spend the summer of 1963 in New Orleans caused Garrison to investigate any connections that the alleged gunman may have had in New Orleans.  The trail quickly leads to David Ferrie (1918-1967), a former priest and airline pilot who had become known in New Orleans for connections to a wide range of characters including organized crime figures. Within days, Ferrie is cleared by Garrison and life seems to go on until Garrison has an encounter with former Louisiana Senator Russell Long (1918-2003) who tells him “those fellows on the Warren Commission were dead wrong, there’s no way in the world that one man could have shot up Jack Kennedy that way.” Garrison soon obtains a copy of the Warren Commission Report and the full twenty-six volumes of exhibits and testimony.  And the rest as they say is history.

At the end of the book, Garrison reveals that some of the files he had locked away from the investigation were stolen and he was forced to go by memory when reconstructing some events.  It was no small feat for and must have been a painstakingly long process. Nonetheless, the book is an incredible recollection of events that changed American history.   What I found the most enjoyable in the book were the explanations of how leads were developed and relevant information was obtained.   Incredibly, Garrison operated with a small staff and they still had other cases to work on while keeping tabs of the Kennedy investigation.  Combined with a limited budget, the results from Garrison’s investigation are even more potent. Today we have the benefit of hindsight that allows us to see that Garrison was vindicated on many fronts but at the time, he could not have forseen just how deep a fully open and welcome investigation would have led.

Early in the investigation, most of his team’s work is done in private.  This veil of secrecy allowed the Garrison team to cultivate a staggering amount of information, not only on David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963), but also on businessman Clay Shaw (1913-1974), who becomes the target of Garrison’s criminal investigation.  In the film, Shaw is played by Tommy Lee Jones who delivers a breathtaking performance alongside Joe Pesci, who stars as Ferrie. The information comes pouring in Garrison finds himself on the trail of the assassins. However, unknown to him, he had awakened the sleepign giant and the efforts by the FBI and Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) may or may not surprise some readers.  For reasons unknown, their interference with Garrison’s investigation is kept to a minimum in the film.   Regardless, the real story is simply mind-blowing and also produces a number of disturbing questions. Further, as Garrison explains the book, Shaw’s arrest brought upon him a new wave of agression from Washington that at first made no logical sense.   But as the story moves forward, the government’s response begins to take on a new light.  And a statment in 1979 by former C.I.A. Director Richard Helms (1913-2002) probably would not have come about had it not been for Garrison’s case.

Similar to the film, Garrison does go into detail about aspects of the crime that never made sense, including the parade route, Oswald’s actions that day and the murder of J.D. Tippit (1924-1963).  Today, there are scores of books that address what Garrison found and have expounded on those facts significantly.  However, reading the words of the man who was the driving force behind the refutation of the Commission’s report, gives way to feelings of nostaglia and satisfaction.   And undoubtedly, I am sure there was far information that Garrison could not readily recall that would have given the book an even bigger impact.  However with his death and the theft of certain files, some facts may possibly be lost forever.  But Garrison provides enough material for a good discussion of why the case against Oswald would not have held up in a court of law.

Shaw’s trial eventually becomes the subject of discussion and happened far differently from what we see on film.  Hollywood theatrics certainly played their role but a more accurate picture is presented here by Garrison as to how things played out in the courtroom. In particular, the testimony of Vernon Bundy is intriguing but receives scant attention in the film.  Garrison discusses the importance of Bundy’s statements to underscore Shaw’s actions and connections to those suspected of being part of his intelligence network.  And although the case did not result in a conviction, I do believe Garrison was certainly on the right track.  And as we see many years later, at the time, the full scale of where he was headed was unknown.

In the wake of the Shaw trial, Garrison found himself the target of an investigation by federal authories as part of alleged pinball machine scheme which sounds like something out of a television show.  The case fell apart and Garrison breaks down each part of it, highlighting the absurdity of the case.  Some readers may express bewilderment at the charges brought against Garrison and the case presented by federal prosecutors.  And it is hard to refute Garrison’s belief that the charges were retaliation for what he revealed about the United States Government during Clay Shaw’s trial.

As the book closes, Garrison provides a short summary of his thoughts about the case, working in New Orleans and the impact it had on his life. While there is nothing groundbreaking in this section, it is a fitting way to end an important story.  And whether you believe in the lone gunman theory or not, what is clear is that Garrison’s investigation became a threat to many in high places and could have brought to light dark secrets that had remained hidden to date.  As I read through this section, I was struck by the comments he makes on Shaw’s death.  I had never given it second thought before but after reading what Garrison says, I might take another look at it.  And for readers interested in Clay Shaw’s life, I strongly recommend Donald Carpenter’s Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw.   Many of the figures in the book are now deceased and although more than fifty years have passed since Kennedy’s death, the story is as important and disturbing now as it was then.  One day the truth will be known and when it is, Garrison’s legacy just might take on a new dimension.

ISBN-10: 0446362778
ISBN-13: 978-0446362771

JFK

paperclipOn April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler fatally shot his wife Eva Braun and then turned the gun on himself as it became evidently clear that allied forces were closing on the führerbunker.  The fear of falling into Russian hands and a subsequent trial for war crimes proved to be too much for the top echelon of the Third Reich that remained in Berlin.  Many top-ranking officials  had previously fled and others had left Germany after realizing that all hope for a victory in the war had been lost.  As allied forces move in and occupied the country, the true horrors of the Nazi reign became clear and soldiers were faced with the grim discoveries of concentration camps, emaciated and dead prisoners.  The Final Solution had been revealed for the entire world to see.  In the aftermath of the war, several hundred Nazi party members were executed by allied forces. Others were acquitted or had their death sentences commuted to long-term imprisonment.  Another group consisting of scientists and doctors, found their way to America with the help of the United States Government in what became known as Operation Paperclip.  Their story is the focus of this incredible book by author Annie Jacobsen.

Government files regarding the secret operation had been marked classified and would have remained hidden if not for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which gave Americans a tool to learn the truth about many of the Government’s secrets. This tool was thoroughly employed by Jacobsen in discovering the truth of this story that was first disclosed by the New York Times.  Jacobsen explains herself that some of her FOIA requests are still pending and it is unknown if or when they will be answered.  Nevertheless, she has written the story that will shock anyone who decides to open the pages of this book.   Her focus is on selected former doctors and scientists of the Reich who had worked on the V-2 rocket program at Nordhausen and concentration camps in which medical and biological experiments had been conducted, with Auschwitz and Ravensbrück being high on the list.  I warn readers that this book is not for the faint at heart .  The atrocities that are revealed defy logic and reveal the very dark side of human nature.  And as the book progresses, the names of the former scientist and doctors will be seared into the reader’s memory as a reminder of the many secrets the Third Reich tried to hide as the military collapsed.   As horrible as the actions of the Reich were, the crux of the book is the courting and resettlement of former Nazis by the United States Government through a program that will cause consternation, shock and even anger in some readers.

The book begins as the German military collapses in defeat and allied forces are scouring Berlin and other parts of Germany on intelligence missions to discover the secrets of the Reich.  Britain and Russia are also conducting their own intelligence missions and a race against time develops as the three nations each seek to obtain as much information as they can from their defeated enemy.   As the author explains, the Cold War was looming in the distance and in the name of “national security”, government officials were more than willing to recruit former Nazis out of fears they would be recruited and resettled in the Soviet Union.  The V-2 rocket and nerve agents Tabun and Sarin, became hot items as superpowers prepared for the next world war which they believed would include the use of biological weapons.  The United States spared no expense and would not let Joseph Stalin have the upper hand.  The brilliant German minds behind innovations that exceeded allied capacity were to be recruited at all costs, even at the expense of morality.  Annie Jacobsen has captured the emotion and tense battles that raged as the State Department battled the military over a program that it found to be appalling.  The American public slowly became aware of this nefarious program and mounting opposition forced the Government to act in what could described as a war against itself.

The main focus is rightly on the secret intelligence operation but the author also includes a stead stream of facts about other members of the Reich and actions that were being taken behind the scenes throughout Germany as the tide of the war changed and defeat became a stark reality.  The entire cast of characters makes an appearance in the story. Some would escape Germany, fleeing to South America and others took their own lives rather than be tried, convicted and executed in a military trial.  Before the collapse of the Reich, officials went to great lengths to hide as much information as possible from the allied forces.  Today there is a strong possibility that secret tombs exist containing secrets of the Reich are still hidden across Germany.  Time will tell if all of them will be discovered or if they will continue to fade from public consciousness.

The amount of research that was conducted in order to produce this book is staggering.  Yet, there is still much we do not know about Operation paperclip as the Government claims files were lost or destroyed.  Some are still classified with no release date on the horizon.  At some point in time, someone will find out the truth about what truly did happened in the wake of World War II as America embraced German talent.  By then, anyone who participated in World War II will be long gone, rendering any type of prosecution or accountability null.  But the public will finally know just how complicit American officials and the White House were in recruiting war criminals for the technological advancement of the United States.  Jacobsen has given us a detailed roadmap with which to start and this book will undoubtedly stand the test of times as one of the finest works on the Third Reich.  My only complaint about this book is that I wished it had never ended.  I found myself glued to the book from the beginning and was unable to put it down.  The is the true story of Operation Paperclip, one of World War II’s darkest secrets.

ASIN: B00BAXFBI

World War II

9781250080615_p0_v1_s550x406

He was arguably the most feared and secretive intelligence officer to have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.  And although he left the agency in 1974, his name still conjures up images of the cold warrior with nerves of steel, engulfed in the world of counterintelligence and determined to protect the United States at all costs. Formally he was known as James Jesus Angleton (1917-1987), but to author Jefferson Morley, he is referred to as the ghost. The title fits appropriately for the secret life of the late CIA spymaster was one which Hollywood could never replicate on screen.  By all accounts, his personality was outwardly unassuming, but behind the horn rimmed glasses, was an operative that ate, slept and breathed counterintelligence.

This project began in 1994 and the amount of research Morley has invested is impressive.   Angleton did not leave behind diaries or personal writings, he was far too cloak and dagger for that  He did however, testify before Congress as the CIA’s domestic mail spying program came under fire after being revealed by the press.  The spymaster escaped without prosecution but his career at the agency was effectively finished.  He would remain hidden in the shadows but still involved in the field until his death on May 11, 1987.   The mystery surrounding Angleton helps to keep him in the public light, but what is it about him that is so fascinating?

Morley has composed a solid biography of Angleton, but there is still much about his life that has probably been lost to history.  Angleton himself said that he would take things to his grave and I have no doubt that many secrets were buried with him.  And next to Allen Dulles, Dick Helms, Bill Harvey, Cord Meyer and the many legendary officers once part of the OSS, Angleton stood as a gatekeeper to the trove of the Agency’s dark secrets.  And throughout his life he was involved with a cast of characters who made their names famous as operatives of the agency that John F. Kennedy once threatened to scatter into a thousand pieces.   As he moves up the ladder and increases his power, his secretiveness and paranoia grows at an exponential rate.  His hunt for Soviet moles would prove to be one of the final nails in the coffin of his career and nearly crippled the CIA.  But was he too paranoid or did he know more than he let on?

There is so much about Angleton’s life that remains a mystery.   He was a family man, but his wife and children barely factor into the story.  Instead, the book is filled with CIA intrigue, informants, double agents and political gambles in Washington.   And sadly, it seemed that when no enemies existed, they were manufactured to suit personal agendas.  And for Angleton, this might have been an underlying cause of his later obsession of moles within the government. But such was Angleton’s mind, the maze with false exits, traps and more riddles than answers.  The man whom Morley calls “the ghost”, led a life which did not give away secrets and prevented even the most prying eyes from gaining too much insight.  It may have been by design or just an extension of the counterintelligence legend’s way of operating.

To say that Angleton’s life was incredible would be a severe understatement.  In fact, throughout every major event that takes place, the CIA seems to be close by and his  actions regarding some are bizarre and even disturbing.   Although detested by many, scared of by others and mind boggling to subordinates, he endeared himself to more than one president and those relationships gave rise to many questions surrounding his actions following JFK’s murder, RFK’s murder and the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer.

By the time he died, his CIA life was far behind him but the saying goes that you never really leave the agency.  For James J. Angleton, the agency was his life and in a taped interview with Thames TV in 1975, he stated pointedly that he regretted nothing.  I have no reason to doubt him and after reading this book I believe that you will also feel the same way.  But as I read the book, I could see that in more than one way his life was quite tragic.  As Morley explains, secret intelligence work was his life, but what suffered in the process was his personal life and in some cases his health.  In a tragic fate, the love he would give to the CIA would not come to him from his family. Even to them he remained the elusive ghost.

Readers who are familiar with the stories from the cold-war CIA era will know many of the facts revealed in the book.   We have heard the names before and their actions are now well-known.  But I do think that the section on Lee Harvey Oswald is telling and adds yet another question to the mystery of Kennedy’s murder.  When asked about the assassination, Angleton reportedly said ” a mansion has many rooms, I was not privy to who struck John”.   Exactly what he meant we will probably never know.  But what is clear is that Angleton possessed knowledge of many things that most Americans would prefer not to know.

I cannot imagine that writing a book on a secret CIA operative is an easy task.  But Morley’s account of Angleton’s life is a solid work and will be appreciated by historians.  Love him or hate him, there is no denying Angleton’s legacy, fame and infamy in the annals of the history of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Deception is a state of mind–and the mind of the state.”– James J. Angleton

ISBN-10: 1250080614
ISBN-13: 978-1250080615

 

 

 

Biographies

wolfCurrently, in the Midwestern United States, Opioid addiction is causing the deaths of hundreds of men and women. Their deaths and the rise of Heroin use is a direct affront to the long-standing war on drugs. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan is fondly remembered for her eternal slogan “just say no”. Narcotics are still largely illegal but more states have begun to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana which has allowed entrepreneurs to invest their savings into a new and profitable industry. The story of America’s war on drugs is long and often misunderstood. Allegations , rumors and explosive revelations have all contributed to cast the dark cloud over the battle against narcotics. Douglas Valentine decided to explore the history of the war on drugs and in this eye-opening book, he tells the story of the history of America’s battle against drugs and the rise and fall of the legendary and infamous Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).

Students of history will be familiar with the story of Charles “Lucky” Luciano (1897-1962) and his participation with the U.S. Government to defeat the Axis powers during World War II. The story on the surface sounds simple enough, but as Valentine shows us, Luciano was only a small part of the puzzle and there was more to his role than meets the eye. Further, the relationship between Washington and the Italian American mafia would take on monstrous proportions an in the process taint the FBN’s reputation. The bureau was under the guidance of the later Harry Anslinger (1892-1975) and rivaled the Federal Bureau of Investigation, led by John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972). Anslinger made a name for himself as a director whose agents made cases that resulted in convictions but whose personal racial prejudices and desire for recognition caused him to make decisions that would have far-reaching effects for years to come. Valentine did an impeccable task of researching the topic and the revelations contained in the book are nothing short of jaw-dropping. And the interviews with former agents of the FBN are shocking to say the least but provide valuable insight into what made the FBN a success and what ultimately led to its failure.

Anslinger plays a prominent role in the book but the story heats up and takes on a life of its own as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) makes its appearance. Organized in 1947 through the National Security Act signed into law by President Harry Truman, the Agency, as its known, grew into an uncontrollable secret apparatus of the Unites Government that engaged in espionage, assassinations and as we learn in this book, narcotics trafficking. Rumors of the Agency’s involvement in the rise of drugs of America have held in place for decades. In fact, the allegations proved to be true and the story was broken by late journalist Gary Webb (1955-2004). But what many people did not know then and perhaps now, is that the story was far deeper and much uglier that most would be willing to accept. The FBI also plays a large role in the story of the FBN and Valentine brings the three together exposing the complicated and tension filled relationship between the three organizations.

Before beginning this book, it is necessary for the reader to accept that many unpleasant truths will be revealed. A complicated web of deceit and complicity was constructed that allowed thousands of people to profit off the misery of millions. But more frightening is are ways in which narcotics were able to enter the country with the help of those in high places and the impossibility we now face of their removal. The story is filled with legendary names such as Meyer Lansky (1902-1983), Vito Genovese (1897-1968), Tibor Rosenbaum, James Angleton (1917-1987), Richard Helms (1913-2002) and Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975), among others. But what is paramount is that Valentine has put together an extraordinary jigsaw puzzle that allows the reader to see the dark side of governments and the reality of war as highlighted in the conflict in Vietnam. The revelations about the CIA’s role in the war alone are enough to earn the wrath of veterans still with us today. Valentine spares nothing and gives us the facts, as ugly as they are. The beauty of the book however, is the author’s genius is connecting the characters and providing a mental map of the endless connections between law enforcement, politicians, mobsters, intelligence officers and rebels of all sorts. The information is staggering and at times during the book, I literally could not believe what I was reading. And I do not believe Valentine did either as he was writing this book. I forewarn readers that as an American citizen, this book may cause grief and outrage at the actions of the United States Government domestically and abroad. It is not an easy pill to swallow but the truth is rarely enjoyable.

The FBN earned a legacy as the most successful drug enforcement agency in American history, but paranoia of corruption and an internal investigation by Andy Tartaglino, devastated the bureau and changed the course of history forever. The story of the demise of the bureau is told here in the book from start to finish and it is sure to leave readers shaking their heads. Today the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is the premier federal organization responsible for investigating narcotics trafficking. Time will tell if the bureau will reach the heights of the famed FBN but as we can see very well, drugs are here to stay. As we look back through Valentine’s work, we can only hope that history does not repeat itself. This book is the place to start in understanding the true nature of the business of narcotics and how it propagated throughout our world.

ISBN-10: 1844675645
ISBN-13: 978-1844675647

American History

molehuntdavidwise-1a_smallMay 11, 1987 -James Jesus Angleton, the former chief of counterintelligence in the Central Intelligence Agency, dies at the age of 87 from the effects of advanced stage lung cancer.  The legendary officer, who at one time also worked for the Office of Strategic Services, had been living out his final years quietly at his home in suburban Washington, D.C.  In 1974 he was relieved of his command by then director William Colby after 19 years of service.  His termination came on the heels of the search for moles within the CIA, a search that nearly destroyed the agency and was headed by Angleton.

David Wise presents to us his investigative report of the mole hunt, the lives and careers destroyed and the near implosion of the CIA.  The Cold War escalated tensions between the United States and Soviet Union with each side engaging in covert espionage operations to gather classified information and military secrets.   Agents, double agents and defectors kept the suspense high as they moved between the two  nations causing panic and hysteria as the CIA, KGB and British MI6 searched for moles threatening to bring about the downfall of several intelligence agencies. Angleton, by all accounts, was a strange, fascinating and mysterious individual.  Firmly convinced that a Soviet mole was within the CIA after the “defection” of Anatoly Golitsin, he and his subordinates began a crusade to rid the agency of moles and in the process, almost caused intelligence  recruitment and operations to come to a grinding halt.  Wise covers the operation and its many victims in extensive detail revealing the paranoia that spread rapidly as high level operatives found themselves cast under a web of suspicion.  Many officers resigned from the agency once their reputations were questioned and others were simply let go.  Years after both Angleton and Colby had left the agency, the Mole Relief Act (Public Law 96-450) was passed, providing compensation to some former employees wrongly targeted under Angleton’s relentless search for moles.

The CIA remains one of America’s most secretive agencies and the Freedom of Information Act has provided significant amounts of documents once previously classified that reveal the true nature of the operations in place during the Cold War and the hunt for Soviet moles which to this day, remains a dark period in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency.

ISBN-10: 0394585143
ISBN-13: 978-0394585147

 

American History

920x920July 26, 1947- President Harry S. Truman signs into law the National Security Act, establishing the formation of an intelligence agency dedicated to serving the president.  The end result is the formation of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Later in life, Truman came to regret the law as the CIA grew beyond his original intentions into an unaccountable, dangerous and highly suspicious agency seemingly under the control of no one.  Stories of operatives such as Allen Dulles, Bill Harvey,  Richard Helms, David Atlee Phillips, Cord Meyer, Jr. and James Jesus Angleton are both endless and legendary.  But what was really going on within the CIA and what was the true nature of its relationship with the White House? David Talbot presents to us his investigative report into the dark side of the CIA and the secret government within the United States.

January 29, 1969-Allen W. Dulles dies at the age of 75 of complications from pneumonia in Washington, D.C.   Dying with him is an unknown number of secrets of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.  The former director of the CIA, former intelligence operative of the OSS and member of the Warren Commission, was relieved of his post by President Kennedy following the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961.  Kennedy and Dulles continued to maintain a strained relationship that would never fully heal.  Although officially relieved of duty, Dulles continued to engage in intelligence operations and keep close contact with top members of the CIA.  And nearly fifty years after his death, his name evokes both admiration and fear.  However, as more information comes to light about the dark operations of the agency he lead, the more we are exposed to the dark side of Allen W. Dulles and his older brother and former Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles.

In March, 1945, the Allied forces in conjunction with the OSS, conducted Operation Sunrise, the black operation that obtained the freedom of several high-ranking Nazis including Karl Wolff.   Dulles, at the time working for the OSS, spearheaded the campaign which was done secretly under the radar of the oval office.  This mission would be one of many in Dulles’ career that could have caused international turmoil and embarrassment.   Operation Sunrise was followed by equally as controversial programs such as Operation Paperclip,  ZR/RIFLE and MK/ULTRA the agency’s attempt at a real life Manchurian Candidate.  All of the details are included in this book and the full story is beyond shocking.

The agency faced its biggest challenge under the Kennedy Administration.  Kennedy, convinced that he was unable to trust information provided by the CIA, vowed to shatter the agency and placed the control of covert operations under the control of the military.  Following his assassination, the policy was reversed, authorizing covert operations in domestic and international affairs resulting in disastrous foreign policy which culminated with the Vietnam War.  Dulles wouldn’t live to see the war’s end, but his agency’s role in the conflict is still the topic of debate.  Talbot’s account of the strained relationship between the Kennedys and the CIA reveals an administration at war with its own intelligence community and one that ended violently in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  Many of the figures in the book are now deceased, but the book reveals a very disturbing part of U.S. history that continues to haunt this nation and forces us to ask ourselves what power truly is and who really wields it?   And just how much do we know about the intelligence community and what their objectives are? Additionally, the book a critical asset to JFK assassination researchers and those who desire to know the truth about what happened in Dealey Plaza.

ISBN-10: 0062276174
ISBN-13: 978-0062276179

 

 

 

American History