One Nation, Under Surveillance.
This is why the issue of domestic surveillance as it applies to the FISA "reforms" being hammered out in Congress is so important:
In June 1970 Nixon met with Hoover, Helms, NSA Director Admiral Noel Gaylor, and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) representative Lt. Gen. Donald V. Bennett and told them he wanted a coordinated and concentrated effort against domestic dissenters. To do that, he was creating the Interagency Committee on Intelligence (ICI), chaired by Hoover. The first ICI report, in late June, recommended new efforts in "black bag operations," wiretapping, and a mail-opening program. In late July 1970, Huston told the members of the ICI that their recommendations had been accepted by the White House. (13)
John Dean replaced Tom Huston as White House aide in charge of domestic intelligence, and at his urging, a Justice Department group, the Intelligence Evaluation Committee, was established to study domestic groups, over Hoover's protest. Deteriorating relations between the FBI and the other intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, caused Hoover to fire William Sullivan. At that time, Sullivan was the liaison officer between the FBI and the other intelligence agencies and he strongly favored the expansion of domestic operations.
Even Helms began to have second thoughts about how large CHAOS had grown, but Nixon made it clear to him that the CIA was a presidential tool he wanted at his disposal. Helms got the message, yet he also understood the growing uneasiness in other government circles. In 1972, the CIA's Inspector General wrote a report that expressed concern about Operation CHAOS in the following way: "... we also encountered general concern over what appeared to be a monitoring of the political views and activities of Americans not known to be or suspected of being involved in espionage ... Stations were asked to report on the whereabouts and activities of prominent persons ... whose comings and goings were not only in the public domain, but for whom allegations of subversion seemed sufficiently nebulous to raise renewed doubts as to the nature and legitimacy of the CHAOS program." (14)
Helms was being squeezed by White House demands to expand Operation CHAOS and the fear that the whole question of domestic operations was going to become public knowledge, as Hoover feared. Helms found himself constantly shoring up one lie with another and then another. He found himself deceiving Congress and lying to the public as well as CIA employees. In March 1971, a group of young CIA executives known as the Management Advisory Group (MAG) protested Operation CHAOS and similar domestic operations by issuing a statement saying, "MAG opposes any Agency activity which could be construed as targeted against any person who enjoys the protection of the U.S. Constitution ... whether or not he resides in the United States." (15)
Helms of course denied the CIA was involved in domestic operations, or using basic American institutions such as the Peace Corps, the business community, or the media as covers for CIA operations. Just a few years later, Oswald Johnston of the Washing ton Star reported that over 35 American journalists, some full-time, some free-lance, and some major media correspondents were on the CIA payroll. And in 1974 the CIA admitted that over two hundred CIA agents were operating overseas posing as businessmen. (16)
The Collapse of the House of Cards
The web of deception, misinformation, lies, and illegal domestic activities began to unravel with speed in the summer of 1972 when Howard Osborn, then Chief of Security for the CIA, informed Helms that two former CIA officers, E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, were involved in a burglary at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The house of cards was about to come crashing down and Helms now wanted to salvage what he could and distance himself from not only Watergate but also the domestic operations. He appointed CIA Executive Director William Colby to handle any investigations into the Agency's domestic operations and began to prepare for the inevitable.
Helms was called to Camp David by President Nixon and subsequently fired. His replacement was James Schlesinger (who would last but a few months). Schlesinger would be replaced in July 1973 by Colby, and Helms would become U.S. Ambassador to Iran to get him as far away as possible. In an effort at damage control, Colby decided that Operation CHAOS and Project RESISTANCE should be terminated.
In 1975 the CIA underwent public investigation and scrutiny by both the Church and Rockefeller committees. These investigations revealed considerable evidence showing that the CIA had carried out its activities with a tremendous disregard for the law, both in the U.S. and abroad.
During the life of Operation CHAOS, the CIA had compiled personality files on over 13,000 individuals including more than 7,000 U.S. citizens as well as files on over 1,000 domestic groups. (17)
The CIA had shared information on more than 300,000 persons with different law enforcement agencies including the DIA and FBI. It had spied on, burglarized, intimidated, misinformed, lied to, deceived, and carried out criminal acts against thousands of citizens of the United States. It had placed itself above the law, above the Constitution, and in contempt of international diplomacy and the United States Congress. It had violated its charter and had contributed either directly or indirectly to the resignation of a President of the United States. It had tainted itself beyond hope.
Of all this, the CIA's blatant contempt for the rights of individuals was the worst. This record of deceit and illegality, implored Congress as well as the President to take extreme measures to control the Agency's activities. However, except for a few cosmetic changes made for public consumption such as the Congressional intelligence oversight committee nothing has been done to control the CIA. In fact, subsequent administrations have chosen to use the CIA for domestic operations as well. These renewed domestic operations began with Gerald Ford, were briefly limited by Jimmy Carter, and then extended dramatically by Ronald Reagan.
Any hope of curbing these illegal activities is scant. Recently, George Bush and current DCI William Webster announced a need to again target political enemies of the U.S. for assassination. It is ironic that Webster, a former Federal Judge, would chose to ignore the limits and constraints placed on the government by the Constitution. During his tenure as Director of the FBI, the bureau was once again involved in the infiltration of groups practicing their constitutional right to dissent against U.S. government policies. Once again, the FBI compiled thousands of files on individuals protesting Reagan's war against Nicaragua and support for the genocidal Salvadoran military. Now, Webster is in a position of perhaps even greater power and, without doubt, would have no qualms about abusing it.
Given the power granted to the office of the presidency and the unaccountability of the intelligence agencies, widespread illegal domestic operations are certain. We as a people should remember history and not repeat it. It is therefore essential that the CIA be reorganized and stripped of its covert operations capability. Effective congressional oversight is also an important condition for ending the misuse of the intelligence apparatus that has plagued every U.S. administration since the formation of the CIA. A great deal is at risk our personal freedoms as well as the viability of this society. The CIA must be put in its place. Should we demand or allow anything less, we will remain vulnerable to these abuses and face the risk of decaying into a lawless state destined to self-destruction.
The History of Operation CHAOS
by Verne Lyon
As was the case from the time of the formation of the CIA under president Truman, until the Watergate criminal revelations under president Nixon, we have no idea how extensive or pervasive domestic spying operations are in this country, nor do we really know the intent of this spying, but past history has demonstrated that presidential domestic surveillance operations have one primary goal: to detect and neutralize opposition.
Since sometime in 2001, whether before or after September 11, the Bush regime has been conducting illegal domestic surveillance operations using the many tools at its disposal to gain information on millions of Americans for what purpose we can only guess.
The current FISA "reform" struggle in Congress is over whether that illegal domestic surveillance shall be made legal and over whether the major telecom companies that cooperated in the illegal surveillance shall be immunized for their troubles.
In other words, shall we revert to pre-Watergate domestic surveillance operations and practices or not?
Simple, isn't it?