Fifty years ago yesterday, Dec. 22, former President Harry Truman warned the public against the Central Intelligence Agency’s excessive powers.
Truman, who led the way for the agency’s founding, wrote a Washington Post column entitled, “Limit CIA Role To Intelligence.”
Truman, right, timed his column to be exactly one month after the assassination of President Kennedy, whose death has long been suspected in private by top-level Washington insiders as being linked to the agency and the foreign policy goals of the agency’s private sector patrons.
Truman’s arguments failed to generate much government or media attention upon the powerful spy agency. Neither did the public focus on the CIA’s far more secret sister, the National Security Agency (NSA), which was also founded in the 1940s by Truman and Congress as part of their Cold War effort against Communists.
The Post, whose owners worked closely behind the scenes with CIA executives during that period, deleted Truman’s words from the newspaper’s final editions, according to Ray McGovern, shown below left. He served during a 27-year as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst under nine directors in all four of the agency’s main directorates, including operations. He helped prepare the daily intelligence briefings of two presidents.
In retrospect, Truman’s fruitless efforts to reform spy agencies after Kennedy’s then-mysterious murder helped enable a long string of abuses. These include the assassination, torture, Iran-contra, Benghazi, drone, and surveillance scandals of recent years.
It was on Dec. 22, 1974, for example, that investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed in the New York Times that the CIA had undertaken a long list of global assassinations in violation of Truman’s intentions that its primary purpose be intelligence advice to the president, not secret operations.
Disclosures since then have shown that the agency and such sister spy agencies as the NSA have engaged in vast domestic propaganda and surveillance operations — including manipulation of JFK assassination news coverage and surveillance of members of Congress such as then-Sen. Barack Obama. These are exactly the kinds of unsupervised adventures that Truman had tried to protest in the Washington Post.
This history extends to ongoing revelations of recent days. Presidents, Congress, courts and the press have proven highly ineffective for the most part in their watchdog roles — doubtless because the same dynastic elites who staff and guide the top levels of the spy agencies also control all branches of the federal government and the elite media. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his younger brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, juggled government posts during their careers with interludes as Wall Street lawyers working with the nation’s greatest dynasties.
In that vacuum, the public must protect itself by the guidance of our first three Cold War presidents — Eisenhower, Truman and Kennedy — and not that of their craven, fearful or complicit successors.