Friday, 15 October 2004

How and Why Woolsey and Clinton Saved the CIA

by Trowbridge H. Ford

Part VII


When James Woolsey resigned as Director of Central Intelligence on December 28, 1994, everyone except President Clinton and his closest advisers, particularly the National Security Council's intelligence expert George Tenet, and Eastern European expert Jennone Walker, were caught by surprise. Woolsey had done the necessary damage control on the Ames spying scandal - punishing lesser Agency lights for the sins of their earlier superiors - and it was now time to move on to help keep people in the dark about what was going on.

Of course, the former DCI put all the spin he could on his resignation, acting as if he had not had the ear and the eye of the White House while doing his job, but it was just to throw the press and the public off about what he had been up to - what the President had done nearly a year earlier by forcing White House attorney Bernie Nussbaum to resign over the snafu about the whereabouts of deceased Vince Foster's papers, and hiring the ignorant Lloyd Cutler in this place to keep the spin going. Woolsey and Clinton had worked hand and glove, though through the necessary intermediaries to keep secret the whole operation, to make sure that they came up with a mutually beneficial solution to their problems - the President saving his Presidency, and the DCI his Agency.

The closeness of the DCI and the President in Agency decision-making had been demonstrated when Woolsey reprimanded in various degrees 11 of its officials, only four of whom were still working for it, and all but one in the Operations Directorate, over Aldrich 'Rick' Ames's decade-long spying for Moscow while serving the Agency in a counterintelligence capacity. The 486-page classified report that Inspector General Frederick Hitz had released on the scandal called for disciplining 26 Agency officers, past and present, including former DCIs William Casey, Judge William Wester, and Robert Gates.

They, and personnel in the Office of Security except for the one coordinating the polygraphs given Ames avoided censure, however, Woolsey claiming that they were too far removed from the worst failures regarding Ames to justify reprimands. The scandal had started with DCI Casey, now deceased,
delegating Agency authority to the NSC's Oliver North so that he could carry out his own agenda for ending the Cold War - what retired DDO Clair George, the recepient of a harsh reprimand, had allowed without any supervision. It hardly made sense to reprimand the deceased DCI, and the reprimand of George had already been greatly softened by President G. H.W. Bush's pardon of him when he left office in 1992. Another recipient of a harsh reprimand was Richard Stolz, George's successor as DDO who effectively covered up the Iran-Contra scandal by denying special counsel Lawrence Walsh even the most elementary cooperation in this investigations. (See Firewall, p. 210ff.)

These important decisions by DCI Woolsey, who worked at the pleasure of the President, could not have been made without Clinton's approval.

Woolsey, by directing his censures against DO officials, was showing that much more than just spying by Ames was involved. To see this, one must realize that intelligence work basically calls for the collection of information, safeguarding it for use by proper authorities, and seeing that risks of its disclosure to unauthorized persons are discovered before they can act, or at least are quickly caught after they have done so. These functions are carried out by personnel engaged in espionage, security, and counterintelligence respectively, though agencies and departments engaged in any one of these functions have to be concerned about the others in order to best protect their secrets.

In sum, spies are not expected to be security people and counterspies too, and they are only supposed to become so when there are apparently obvious betrayals within their own ranks. When this happens, everyone concerned has to be worried about the vetting system involved in recruiting candidates having broken down, a good agent having gone wrong because of some inducement material or ideological, or the system having been penetrated because of some collective or individual failure. Usually, though, it's just up to the counterspies to catch espionage agents working for some foreign party.

This was well illustrated, for example, when Kim Philby of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)
was apparently caught spying for the Soviets. Philby was so effective as a spy because he was in charge most of the time for the espionage agency's internal counterintelligence - what gave him an ideal place for rescuing Soviet spies risking exposure, and for fixing Western spies around the globe who were telling tales on their colleagues and/or threatening to defect to the West. The famous escape of fellow spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess to Moscow in 1951 were the best examples of the former, while the execution of Konstantin Volkov, the hurried defection of Poland's UB agent Michael Goleniewski, and the trashing of defector Igor Gouzenko are good examples of the latter.

After the defection of Maclean and Burgess, though, there was little that happened to SIS beyond the retirement of its long serving Director General, Stewart Menzies. No one in SIS was fired or received letters of reprimand. All the people who had worked along side Philby for years escaped without any rebuke because it was not their job to find spies like Philby. (For a glimpse of Philby's spying on his fellow spies, see Nigel West, and Oleg Tsarev, The Crown Jewels, Appendix II, "The Philby Reports", pp. 294-345.) If the Philby case had been like Ames's, literally hundreds of SIS agents would have been fired or received reprimands. The reason why they didn't is because they had little reason to believe that Philby was a KGB spy, much less its most important one.

So why were Ames's superiors, especially Milton Bearden, the other still active operative to receive a harsh reprimand, treated so? The answer seems to be that they were too happy with their violations of law, both domestic and international, and stated government policy in pursuing Palme's assassination, and the end of the Soviet Union while ignoring the fallout of their reckless program, especially when it came to the fate of the double agents to trigger crucial steps in the operation, and NATO soldiers involved in Anchor Express Exercise to help carry it out. After all, Webster, when he was FBI Director, had refused to allow the Bureau to take part in the new interagency Counterterrorism Center (CTC) for fear that its "... 'pro-active' stance might involve the U. S. in assassinating terrorists, which was banned by executive order." (Quoted from Mark Riebling, p. 368.)

Bearden, another Yale graduate, had been deputy chief of the Agency's Soviet division when the assassination of Olof Palme occurred, and had taken over as its head several years later when the Berlin Wall came down. From right after the assassination until July 1991, he had been directing from Pakistan the Mujahedin's campaign to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, explaining why he was unaware of what was happening to all the Agency's double agents in the Soviet Union. Bearden may have even warned Ames that he was suspected of being a mole - what turned out to be, it seems, a "poison fax" to the Senate Intelligence Committee - satisfied by what had happened in Stockholm at the end of February 1986, and little suspecting that Ames really was one. Little wonder that Bearden went berserk when he learned of his reprimand. (See, e. g., James Adams, Sellout, pp. 258-9.)

The retiring Bearden's outrage was increased when Frank Anderson, the chief of the Agency's Near East division, and John MacGaffin, DDO Ted Price's deputy, gave him a plaque for his years of service at a good-bye ceremony at the Bonn station, only for them both to draw Woolsey's ire for this apparent insubordination. He said that they would either have to accept demotions or retire. They chose
retirement. While David Wise has compared Woolsey's behavior to that of the infamous Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (p. 312), the DCI was answering his critics that he was being too easy on the offenders.

The only active personnel reprimanded because they did not devote enough resources to catching Ames when they should have in 1990, and agreed to stay on were DDO Price, and ADDO Thomas Tweeten. They knew from the Counter Intelligence Center all about how Dewey Clarridge's CTC had been misused by the NSC's Oliver North and his Operations Sub-Group of theTerrorist Incident Working Group to carry out the most dangerous operations, especially Operation Tree, thanks the National Security Decesion Directive NSDD-207 that President Reagan had signed in January 1986. Moreover, if Price and Tweeten have gone after Ames during 1990-1, the assassinations of former Leningrad station chief Freddie Woodruff, leading Palme assassin Viktor Gunnarsson, and Mrs. Catherine Miller, mother of fallguy L. C. Underwood's ex-fiancée Kay Weden, would not have occurred - what they now had to clean up.

Woolsey made it fairly clear that the Agency had failed in its mission, and its responsibilities in the Ames case when he made an unnannounced farewell speech to Agency employees on January 9, 1995. "The CIA had to work in ways that were consistent with American values," Wise wrote, a veiled rebuke of Palme's illegal assassination by officials who had no such authority while those who did looked silently on. As for the liberties they allowed the mole in making his case to the public, Woolsey reminded his audience: "You are in the job of stealing secrets....We do our very best to hide these acts from all and sundry. That is what we are about." (Quoted from Nightmover, p. 314.) And when Woolsey said all, he meant all.

To clear the way for Price and Tweeten to do what needed to be done, President Clinton nominated Air Force General Michael P. C. Carns to be Woolsey's successor. While an experienced fighter pilot, and a good manager of men - having obtained a Harvard MBA along the way to becoming the Air Force's Vice Chief of Staff - Carns had no intelligence experience, a deficiency that Clinton hoped to remedy by making the most knowledgeable intelligence expert on the NSC, George Tenet, the Agency's new DD in place of Admiral William Studeman. The former, most knowledgeable Chief of Naval Intelligence had complemented Woolsey's efforts in punishing the Agency for its sins of omission and commission in the Ames case by canceling an awards ceremony for the mole hunters after formal invitations had already been mailed. Studeman didn't want any congratulated for the debacle. (Pete Earley, Confessions of a Spy, p. 336)

The President went ballistic, though, when now presidential counsel Abner Mikva informed him that he would have to withdraw the nomination because Carns had not paid Social Security taxes for a Filipino houseboy he employed: "Why are you doing this?" Clinton raged. "How can you do this?" (Quoted from Bob Woodward, Shadow, p. 278) Still, Clinton had to heed Mikva's recommendation, and the very same day, nominated the closest person he could think of like Carns, the DSOD John Deutch, to become the next DCI. The result would be much like when President Carter appointed another Admiral, Stansfield Turner, to be the Director back in 1977 - the DO running the Agency behind the DCI's back.

I personally became aware of this when it finally decided to act upon the complaints I had directed to the President and the intelligence community about its handling to the Dallas assassination of President Kennedy, especially former President Nixon's role in it. Of course, by this time, President Clinton had the personnel on the ground, headed by Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, to take my measure if I continued to cause trouble and embarrassment for America's secret government.

I had not only prepared an outline of the proposed book but also sent copies of it to some publishers in the hope that they would be interested in it. Just before I left for America on November 13, 1994 - what resulted in the showdown with Portuguese immigration about my alleged illegal stay, thanks apparently to input by the Legal Attaché at the Lisbon Embassy - I received a rejection by Simon and Schuster, along with a copy of the Literary Agents in the field, and advice that I hire one to help place the project with a publisher.

While staying with my sister in Connecticut, I started calling them in the hope of finding one interested in taking up the proposal. I must say that it was one of the most chilling experiences in my life. All I had to do was to explain that I thought the JFK assassination was the result of a high-government conspiracy, involving former Vice President Richard Nixon, DCI Richard Helms, his 'Executive Action' operative William King Harvey, etc., than the party at the other end of the line either hung up or clammed up. While I never was even able to arrange an appointment with a literary agent to explain the project further, I finally persuaded a cousin in the field, working for the well-known Elaine Markson Literary Agency Inc., to look at my proposal, and I went back to Portugal with every intention of pursuing the matter further.

In fact, while I was in the States, I called the Troup County Archives In La Grange, Georgia - and, yes, I do believe that my calls and mail were, and are being monitored by the CIA - to obtain copies of all the stories it had regarding Captain Glenn Hyde's ill-fated U-2 flight over Cuba on November 19, 1963 - what triggered the showdown in Dallas with the President. This showed that I was still vigorously pursuing the project, and the new information concerned Hyde being apparently posthumously awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross for a flight he took on January 19, 1963, and his Air Medal Oak Leaf Clusters did not include the flight which, it seems, killed him. In short, Hyde got nothing for his apparent demise.

After I returned to Portugal, I received an envelope full of photo copies of the stories about Hyde from Archivist Shirley W. Bowen, and shortly thereafter, I believe in early February 1995, I received my first ricin attack after having had dinner at the Thai restaurant in Caldas da Rainha the night before - what I came to think, after a decade of experience, was the handiwork of Ambassador Bagley in Lisbon. The attacks always started with hot flushes, followed by violent nausea, and diarrhea, the loss of motor control, and a drop in blood pressure which risked falling into unconsciousness - what finally happened when I immigrated to Sweden. They regularly happened after I dined at the restaurant - what only a naive, simple-minded conspiracy theorist like myself would have tolerated to the point of death.

To end any suspicion that the White House sanctioned any such action, much less was involved in it, National Security Adviser Tony Lake ordered in March 1995 that the Justice Department seek a criminal prosecution of the OD's Robert Baer for trying to assassinate Iraq's Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s. (Thomas Powers, Intelligence Wars, pp. 373-4) What Baer was attempting was contrary to the executive order that Reagan issued in the wake of the Stockholm shooting on May 12, 1986, rescinding the license to kill anyone deemed to be a 'terrorist'. "When your own outfit is trying to put you in jail," Baer explained to Powers, "it's time to go." Baer went on to write his own book, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, an exposé of the frustrations of a 'pro-active' agent, trying to do his job in an era of political correctness.

Of course, the search for criminal prosecutions against cowboys in the OD should have been directed against the officials Woolsey had reprimanded, but the Bureau would not permit it because of fears of blowback at its expense. The former DCI had earlier said that other moles would be discovered, and Director Louis Freeh feared that any criminal investigations would lead to its Robert Hanssen. He had called his handler Mr. Fefelov in the Soviet Embassy on August 19, 1986, and the conversation had been recorded. Once the Bureau people who had worked with Hanssen in Operation Courtship heard the tape, they immediately recognized his voice - what Freeh wanted to avoid at all costs, and explaining why it took another eight years to catch Hanssen.

Lake's effort had been to give the White House an alibi for going after me, while DDO Price and ADDO Tweeten cleaned up the mess surrounding the assassination of Viktor Gunnarsson, the leading suspect in the Palme one, on December 4, 1993 in Salisbury, N. C. Once his body was finally found five weeks later, far away in Deep Gap, sheriff's officers and the State's Special Bureau of Investigation worked hard to build a circumstantial case against former police officer L. C. Underwood for the murder. And almost all murder convictions rest on nothing more substantial as there are hardly ever witnesses to first degree murders.

The trouble with the prosecution's attempts against Underwood was that he had a good alibi for not being the murderer - being elsewhere when it allegedly took place - and its attempts to prove otherwise led nowhere. The police, for example, tried to prove that the .22 caliber shots which killed Gunnarsson could be fired from Underwood's rifle of the same caliber, but they couldn't. Then prosecutors looked everywhere for the .38 caliber pistol, apparently the one Underwood was issued when he worked for the town police, but he had evidence that he had turned it in before the shooting. Still, investigators looked everywhere for it, digging up places which could be connected to Underwood in the hope of finding it, but to no avail. Prosecutors even persuaded a female reporter, working for The Salisbury Post whose Jonathan Weaver was turning out stories so prejudicial to Underwood's innocence, to spy on Underwood during their dates in the hope he would reveal something about the murders of Gunnarsson and Mrs. Miller. Underwood never said anything helpful to prosecutors.

Given this embarrassing lack of success, the CIA was finally forced to help the prosecution's case. While Underwood was a police officer, he had developed Rex Allen Keller as an informant. In 1994, though, Keller was convicted of food stamp fraud, and sentenced to time in federal prison. While there, Keller developed all kinds of connections to people in counterintelligence, and knowledgeable about the Gunnarsson case, as he explained in a October 6, 1994 letter to Underwood:

"I have some good news for you, but all your questions are going to have to wait until I get home. Don't write and ask about what I'm going to tell you, just trust me and wait. They censor all incoming mail but not outgoing. This is about your case. To begin with, as I told you, we have a variety of people here. I have been having coffee with a guy that works for the NSA. Guess what? Your boy, Viktor Gunnarsson came up in one of his conversations. In short, you will not be charged, it was a pro hit. He didn't pop the Swedish P. M. for us, but for Russia. The hit on Gunnarsson was done to save a government from being embarrassed. I'll explain more when I get home. Do not write and ask any questions! There are quite a few CIA boys here. A cellmate of mine that left last week was one of Oliver North's boys and he and this NSA guy knew each other from 'jobs' in Salvador and the Mid-East. Just maintain as you have been and everything will come out OK."

Well, everything did not turn out okay for either Underwood or me, as we shall see in the next articles.

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