William Colby

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William E. Colby (1920-1996) was a career U.S. intelligence and special operations oficer, who became Director of Central Intelligence (1973-1976) and had numerous operational responsibilities during Vietnam War. Colby was another intelligence professional who was promoted to the top job. His autobiography was entitled "Honorable Men", and he believed that a nation had to believe such people made up its intelligence service.[1]

Colby's tenure as DCI congressional investigations into alleged U.S. intelligence malfeasance over the preceding twenty-five years. Colby cooperated, not out of a desire for major reforms, but in the belief that the actual scope of such misdeeds was not great enough to cause lasting damage to the CIA's reputation. He believed that cooperating with Congress was the only way to save the Agency from dissolution. Colby also believed that the CIA had a moral obligation to cooperate with the Congress and demonstrate that the CIA was accountable to the Constitution. This caused a major rift within the CIA ranks, with many old-line officers such as former DCI Richard Helms believing that the CIA should have resisted congressional intrusion.

Second World War and early career

Colby commanded field units of the Office of Strategic Services, first parachuting into France to harass German units. [2]A unit under his command later took most of the German surrender in Norway. [3]

He served in a variety of field posts in Europe before being sent to Vietnam.

Vietnam

He served as Saigon Station Chief between 1959-62, succeeded by John Richardson. During his tenure, Elbridge Durbrow and Frederick Nolting were U.S. Ambassadors.

Returning to Washington, he headed the Far Eastern Dvision of the operations directorate of the Far East Division, Central Intelligence Agency between 1963-67.

He then returned, with the diplomatic rank of Ambassador as Director of Civil Operations and Rural Development Support between. This responsibility included U.S. involvement in the Phoenix Program, from 1968 to 1971.

Coup attempt of 1961

Since it did not overthrow a government, the coup attempt against the Ngo Dinh Diem is much less known than the 1963 overthrow of Diem. Nevertheless, Colby believed that CIA monitoring of the attempt revealed a good deal about tensions inside the South Vietnamese government. Part of the issue was dissatisfaction of the political and Strategic Hamlet Program under Diem's brther, Ngo Dinh Nhu. Col. Nguyen Chanh Thi did not expect to overthrow Diem, but force more aggressive action against the enemy. [4]

CIA analysis

CIA did produce very good analysis of Vietnam as well as do effective operations, but, Colby believed the analysts became less effective, after 1968, when they were somewhat infected with the general academic view of Vietnam as a lost cause. I don't think they paid enough direct attention to what was actually happening but instead were hung on their earlier projections. Because what was actually happening was, I think, that change in the country atmosphere that I was demonstrating. That doesn't mean that the North Vietnamese were going to quit; the question was whether the North Vietnamese could be pushed back tothe borders and then held there."[5]

His opinion of the difference between Saigon Station and Headquarters analysts in warning of the Tet Offensive is not clear.

While he did not suggest a defeat of North Vietnam was possible, he did seem to suggest that a situation, such as on the Korean Peninsula, might emerge, had the U.S. been more supportive even without ground involvement. His argument was "But I think the contrast is between 1972 and 1975. In 1972, with large-scale logistic support, with a minute number of Americans--I don't think there were any combat forces to speak of there--and some B-52 bombing (Operation LINEBACKER I and Operation LINEBACKER II), they stopped the North Vietnamese, and it was South Vietnamese forces that stood up and did it. In 1975, when their munitions had been cut back very substantially by the Congress, when Congress said no, it wasn't going to get them another appropriation for even the weapons of war, and there's certainly no possibility of B-52 help, they failed."[6]

Phoenix program

Tenure as DCI

Returning from Vietnam, he became Executive Director of the CIA for a year, a post that then was the day-to-day operational head of the Agency, and then was promoted to DCI (1973-1976).

This was not a time when Vietnam was the only issue critical to the U.S. The 1973 Arab-Israeli War broke out soon after he took office, an event that surprised not only the American intelligence agencies but also the Israelis. This intelligence surprise reportedly affected Colby's credibility with the Nixon Administration.

Meanwhile, after many years of involvement, South Vietnam fell to Communist forces in April 1975, a particularly difficult blow for Colby, who had dedicated so much of his life and career to the American effort there.

Events in the arms control field, Angola, the Middle East, and elsewhere also demanded attention.

Later years and death

In December 1974, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of the "Family Jewels" in a front-page article in The New York Times, revealing that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had assassinated foreign leaders, and had conducted surveillance on some seven thousand American citizens involved in the antiwar movement (Operation CHAOS).

Colby's tenure as DCI congressional investigations into alleged U.S. intelligence malfeasance over the preceding twenty-five years. Colby cooperated, not out of a desire for major reforms, but in the belief that the actual scope of such misdeeds was not great enough to cause lasting damage to the CIA's reputation. He believed that cooperating with Congress was the only way to save the Agency from dissolution. Colby also believed that the CIA had a moral obligation to cooperate with the Congress and demonstrate that the CIA was accountable to the Constitution. This caused a major rift within the CIA ranks, with many old-line officers such as former DCI Richard Helms believing that the CIA should have resisted congressional intrusion.

In December 1974, Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of the "Family Jewels" in a front-page article in The New York Times, revealing that the CIA had assassinated foreign leaders, and had conducted surveillance on some seven thousand American citizens involved in the antiwar movement (Operation CHAOS). Congress responded to the "Family Jewels" in 1975, investigating the CIA in the Senate via the Church Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho), and in the House of Representatives via the Pike Committee, chaired by Congressman Otis Pike (D-NY). President Gerald Ford created the aforementioned Rockefeller Commission, and issued an Executive Order prohibiting the assassination of foreign leaders.

In 1996, Colby launched his canoe for apparently recreational boating in the Chesapeake Bay. He was found dead several days later; the autopsy suggested he may have collapsed from heart disease and did not suggest foul play. The actual cause of death was hypothermia and drowning. [7]

References

  1. Colby, William; Peter Forbath (1978). Honourable Men: My Life in the CIA. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 009134820X. OCLC 16424505. 
  2. Pringle, Peter (May 7, 1996), "William Colby: Obituary", Independen (U.K.)
  3. Hall, Roger, You're stepping on my cloak and dagger.
  4. William Colby (March 1, 1982), Oral History interview by Ted Gittinger, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, pp. I-1 to I-3
  5. Colby, p. I-12
  6. Colby, p. I-13
  7. "Colby Probably Collapsed Before Drowning", Associated Press, May 11, 1996