U.S. intelligence and transnational human rights issues

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For more information, see: United States intelligence community.
For more information, see: Human rights.

This article deals with those activities of the United States intelligence community that preserve or violate human rights.

General principles

In 2003, Assistant Secretary of state for Human Rights Patricia Derian when she wrote, "Through these [U.S. military and intelligence] agencies the United States government is sending a dangerous and double message. If this continues, it will subvert our entire human rights policy."[1]

In understanding the CIA's role in human rights, there are challenging problems of ethics. John Stockwell, a CIA officer who left the Agency and became a public critic, said of the CIA field officers: "They don't meet the death squads on the streets where they're actually chopping up people or laying them down on the street and running trucks over their heads. The CIA people in San Salvador meet the police chiefs, and the people who run the death squads, and they do liaise with them, they meet them beside the swimming pool of the villas. And it's a sophisticated, civilized kind of relationship. And they talk about their children, who are going to school at UCLA or Harvard and other schools, and they don't talk about the horrors of what's being done. They pretend like it isn't true."[2].

See Honduras 1987 training by Argentina and Chile, where Florencio Caballero, a former Honduran Army interrogator, said that he had trained by the Central Intelligence Agency, which the New York Times confirmed with US and Honduran officials . Much of his account was confirmed by three American and two Honduran officials. may be the fullest given of how army and police units were authorized to organize death squads that seized, interrogated and killed suspected leftists. He said that while Argentine and Chilean trainers taught the Honduran Army kidnapping and elimination techniques, the C.I.A. explicitly forbade the use of physical torture or assassination.[3]

Caballero described the CIA role as ambiguous. "Caballero said his superior officers ordered him and other members of army intelligence units to conceal their participation in death squads from CIA advisers. He added that he was sent to Houston for six months in 1979 to be trained by CIA instructors in interrogation techniques. "They prepared me in interrogation to end the use of physical torture in Honduras - they taught psychological methods," Mr. Caballero said of his American training. "So when we had someone important, we hid him from the Americans, interrogated him ourselves and then gave him to a death squad to kill."

Torture and rendition

In public testimony, CIA officials have described individuals being subjected to harsh interrogation and imprisonment methods, although there has been much arguing about when those methods constitute torture, and if torture is illegal under US law.

While there are US officials (e.g., John Yoo)[4] and scholars (e.g., Alan Dershowitz)[5]who argue that torture may be justifiable, American opinion is generally opposed to US personnel inflicting torture or ordering it done. Unfortunately, torture and violation of human rights were endemic in many countries before the CIA ever existed. CIA personnel, who become aware of such violations, may or may not be able to stop them. As with legitimate US military interrogators, who became aware of torture by host country interrogators (e.g., Sedgwick Tourison in South Vietnam), the American may conclude that he cannot stop the activity, but he can advise against it, and hope to change the traditions of that country.[6] American personnel in these difficult circumstances face the ethical question, to which there is no simple answer, is whether greater harm would be caused by withdrawing all American contact with the country. Variations of this problem occur throughout Just War Theory.

A claim that the black sites existed was made by The Washington Post in November 2005 and before by human rights NGOs.[7] US President George W. Bush acknowledged the existence of secret prisons operated by the CIA during a speech on September 6, 2006.[8][9] [10]

Questionable interrogation techniques

Issues have arisen as to whether CIA has itself practiced torture, trained foreign countries in it, or condoned its use. There are balancing assertions that CIA personnel attempted to minimize abuses by foreign governments who practiced torture before any involvement with CIA. There is evidence that CIA has funded academic research, unwitting in some cases, which was then used to develop harsh interrogation techniques.[11]

Intense interrogation methods

There are a variety of methods of coercion and conditions of imprisonment that may well constitute torture, and CIA personnel have been involved in their use. Various officials of the George W. Bush administration have argued that "harsh" techniques such as waterboarding is not torture, or the end objectives of the War against Terror justify those means. There has been considerable domestic and international protest against these practices.

Torture and harsh imprisonment accusations and documented examples were not limited to the recent War on Terror. Yuri Nosenko, a Soviet KGB defector, was held in stark conditions of solitary confinement, in a clandestine CIA facility in the continental US, for over three years.[12]


Waterboarding is a method that gives the subject the sensation of drowning, and may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other parts of the body. Some individuals being waterboarded, who may have had preexisting cardiac or respiratory disease, died under the method.

For example, the CIA used waterboarding, and other "harsh" interrogation techniques against three suspected Al Quaeda members, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [13][14].

Training in harsh interrogation

In 1984, a CIA manual for training the Nicaraguan contras in psychological operations and unconventional warfare, entitled "Psychological Operations in Guerrilla War", became public.[15] The manual recommended “selective use of violence for propagandistic effects” and to “neutralize” (i.e., kill) government officials. Nicaraguan Contras were taught to lead:

demonstrators into clashes with the authorities, to provoke riots or shootings, which lead to the killing of one or more persons, who will be seen as the martyrs; this situation should be taken advantage of immediately against the Government to create even bigger conflicts.

The manual also recommended:

selective use of armed force for PSYOP [psychological operations] effect.... Carefully selected, planned targets — judges, police officials, tax collectors, etc. — may be removed for PSYOP effect in a UWOA [unconventional warfare operations area], but extensive precautions must insure that the people “concur” in such an act by thorough explanatory canvassing among the affected populace before and after conduct of the mission.[16]}}

The CIA claimed that the purpose of the manual was to "moderate" activities already being done by the Contras.[17]

On January 24, 1997, two additional manuals were declassified in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Baltimore Sun in 1994. The first manual, "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation," dated July 1963, is the source of much of the material in the second manual. The second manual, "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual - 1983," was used in at least seven U.S. training courses conducted in Latin American countries, including Honduras, between 1982 and 1987. Both manuals deal exclusively with interrogation and have an entire chapter devoted to "coercive techniques."[18][19] These manuals recommend arresting suspects early in the morning by surprise, blindfolding them, and stripping them naked. Interrogation rooms should be windowless, soundproof, dark and without toilets. Suspects should be held incommunicado and should be deprived of any kind of normal routine in eating and sleeping. The manuals describe coercive techniques to be used "to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist."[20]

Possible attempt to mediate torture

See Honduras 1987 training by Argentina and Chile. While the US manuals contained coercive measures, they did not rise to the level of what is generally defined as torture. Torture, however, has been culturally a part of authoritarian South American governments.

The French guerrilla commander and theorist, Roger Trinquier, did endorse the controlled use of torture.[21] Argentina, in turn, had learned them from the French in Operation Charly, and may have exported them other South American countries]]. It is not clear to what extent agencies of the US government (i.e., CIA, Defense, AID, and possibly State) were aware of this, condoned it, or actively assisted it.

In 2007, the chief Argentinian interrogator, Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro, was arrested in the US.[22]It is not clear whether he will be deported, held, or extradited. The other two arrested were Peruvians, Telmo Ricardo Hurtado and Juan Manuel Rivera Rondon, accused of having participated in the massacre of 69 peasants in an Andean village in 1985, when President Alan García was trying to suppress the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement. Garcia is again the Peruvian president.

Chilean practices under the Pinochet government also had substantial violations.

CIA involvement ranged from no knowledge, to knowledge but no participation, to knowledge with the suggestion that less brutal techniques were appropriate, to participation or observation.

Rendition and disappearance

Rendition is the process of clandestinely moving a prisoner from where he was captured, to an "black site" interrogation center in a country not subject to US law regarding extreme methods of interrogation. Some reports indicate CIA personnel operated the prison and performed the interrogations, while others state that while the CIA delivered the prisoner, third-country intelligence personnel did the actual interrogation.

A claim that the black sites existed was made by The Washington Post in November 2005 and before by human rights NGOs.[23] US President George W. Bush acknowledged the existence of secret prisons operated by the CIA during a speech on September 6, 2006.[24][25] [10]

2007 status of "ghost" prisoners

A 50-page Human Rights Watch report, “Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention,” contains a detailed description of a secret CIA prison from a Palestinian former detainee who was released from custody last year. Human Rights Watch has also sent a public letter to US President George W. Bush requesting information about the fate and whereabouts of the missing detainees. [26]

“President Bush told us that the last 14 CIA prisoners were sent to Guantanamo, but there are many other prisoners ‘disappeared’ by the CIA whose fate is still unknown,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. “The question is: what happened to these people and where are they now?”[27]

In early September, 14 detainees were transferred from secret CIA prisons to military custody at Guantanamo Bay. In a televised speech on September 6, President Bush announced that with those 14 transfers, no prisoners were left in CIA custody.

Police training

For more information, see: U.S. government training of foreign police.

While there certainly has been CIA involvement in police training, many other agencies have been involved, and, in some cases, the CIA was forbidden from working with some police organizations. It is more flexible to discuss these topics in an article not limited to CIA involvement.

Human experimentation

Project MKULTRA, or MK-ULTRA, was the code name for a CIA mind-control research program that began in 1950, involved primarily with the experimentation of drugs and other "chemical, biological and radiological" stimuli on both willing and uninformed subjects.

Rockefeller Commission

In December 1974, The New York Times reported that the CIA had conducted illegal domestic activities, including experiments on U.S. citizens, during the 1960s. The report prompted investigations by both the U.S. Congress (in the form of the Church Committee) and a presidential commission (known as the Rockefeller Commission). The congressional investigations and the Rockefeller Commission report revealed that the CIA and the Department of Defense had in fact conducted experiments to influence and control human behavior through the use of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and mescaline and other chemical, biological, and psychological means. Experiments were often conducted without the subjects' knowledge or consent.

MK-ULTRA was started on the order of CIA director Allen Dulles, largely in response to alleged Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean use of mind-control techniques on U.S. prisoners of war in Korea. The goal of the experiments was to study mind-control in order to develop methods of interrogation and behavior modification and manipulation, as well as to develop a possible truth drug.

Specific experiments

Documents have revealed that experiments were conducted on CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, prostitutes, prisoners, mentally ill patients, and members of the general public in order to study their reactions. The drugs were administered alone and in combination with other drugs and at varying doses and frequencies. The drugs included LSD, heroin, morphine, temazepam (used under code name MKSEARCH), mescaline, psilocybin, scopolamine, marijuana, alcohol, and sodium pentothal.

During one set of experiments, named Operation Midnight Climax, the CIA set up several brothels in New York City and California in order to lure men in, who were then secretly administered LSD. The brothels were equipped with one-way mirrors and video surveillance equipment for observation, recording, and study. In another case, volunteers were given LSD for 77 days straight.

Another technique investigated was connecting a barbiturate IV into one arm and an amphetamine IV into the other. The barbiturates were released into the subject first, and as soon as the subject began to fall asleep, the amphetamines were released. The subject would begin babbling incoherently at this point, and it was sometimes possible to ask questions and get useful answers.


MK-ULTRA research ultimately proved useless to the CIA and they have abandoned the program. Because most MK-ULTRA records were deliberately destroyed in 1973 by order of then CIA Director Richard Helms, it is difficult if not impossible to have a complete understanding of the more than 150 individually funded research sub-projects sponsored by MK-ULTRA and related CIA programs.

Following the recommendations of the Church Committee, President Gerald Ford in 1976 issued the first Executive Order on Intelligence Activities which, among other things, prohibited "experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with the informed consent, in writing and witnessed by a disinterested party, of each such human subject" and in accordance with the guidelines issued by the National Commission. Subsequent orders by Presidents Carter and Reagan expanded the directive to apply to any human experimentation.

Assassination and targeted killing

At least since World War II, a distinction has been drawn between assassination of civilian leaders, and targeted killings of leaders of fighting organizations. Some cases were blurry, such as the British-Czech Operation Anthropoid, the killing of uniformed SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, the German governor, at the time, of Czechoslovakia. A failed attempt, by British troops, to kill Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was clearly aimed at a military leader, as was the successful shooting down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

CIA has admitted being involved in assassination attempts against foreign leaders. Recently, there have been targeted killings of suspected terrorists, typically with missiles fired from unmanned aerial vehicles, in a manner that a number of legal authorities believe was a legitimate act as opposed to a prohibited assassination.


Of the cases cited, it appears that no CIA personnel or even directly controlled foreign agents actually killed any leader, but there certainly were cases where the CIA knew of, or supported, plots to overthrow foreign leaders. In the cases of Lumumba, Qasim, and Castro, the CIA was involved in preparing to kill the individual, but a native group killed him first. In other cases, such as Diem, the Agency knew of a plot but did not warn him, and communications at White House level indicated that the Agency had, with approval, told the plotters the US didn't object to their plan. The gun or poison, however, was not in the hands of a CIA officer.

CIA personnel were involved in attempted assassinations of foreign government leaders such as Fidel Castro. They provided support to those that killed Patrice Lumumba. In yet another category was noninterference in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) coup in which President Ngo Dinh Diem was killed.

A distinction has been drawn between political assassinations and "targeted killing" of leaders of non-state belligerents.


Perhaps the best-documented account of CIA-sponsored assassination plans were against President Fidel Castro of Cuba.

According to columnist Jack Anderson,[28] the first attempt was part of the Bay of Pigs operation, but five more teams were sent, the last apprehended on a rooftop within rifle range of Castro, at the end of February or beginning of March 1963. Anderson speculated that President Fidel Castro may have become aware of it, and somehow recruited Lee Harvey Oswald to retaliate against President John F. Kennedy.

Maheu was identified as the team leader, who recruited John Roselli, a gambler with contacts in the American and Cuban underworlds. The CIA assigned two operations officers, William Harvey and James O'Connell, to accompany Roselli to Miami to recruit the actual teams.

Anderson's story appears to be confirmed by two CIA documents, the first referring to an Inspector General report of investigation of allegations that the Agency conspired to assassinate Fidel Castro. The story first appeared in Drew Pearson's column and has since appeared in Jack Anderson's column. "While the columns contained many factual errors, the allegations are basically true.[29] Second, a declassified memo from Howard Osborne, director of the CIA Office of Security, dated 15 February 1972, in the "CIA Family Jewels" series, from to the Executive Director, speaks of John Roselli, then serving time in a Federal penitentiary in Seattle, Washington, with deportation scheduled at the end of his sentence.[30] While the CIA was aware "Roselli intended to expose his participation in the plot should we not intervene in his behalf. The DCI at the time, John McCone, decided to take a calculated risk and accept the consequences of possible disclosure. Two articles by Jack Anderson discuss the plot, as well the Washington Post Sunday magazine, Parade

Individuals who were aware of this project were: Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell (Deputy Director for Plans (DDP)) Colonel J. C. King (Chief, Western Hemisphere Division, DDP) Colonel Sheffield Edwards, William Harvey, and James P. O'Connell. Also included were Robert A. Maheu (former FBI agent, public relations agent who did work for the CIA, and later an aide to Howard Hughes) and his attorneys Edward P. Morgan and Edward Bennett Williams.

On 26 February 1971, Osborne arranged with the Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to flag any deportation. INS confirmed they did this again for 1972.


In summary, CIA, Embassy, and other US personnel, up to White House level, were aware of yet another coup being planned against President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. While the US had no direct participation in the coup, the plotters were told, in a deniable way, that the US did not object to it. No documentary evidence has surfaced that the US knew that Diem and his brother were to be killed, and it is unclear that all the Vietnamese plotters knew or agreed to it. President John F. Kennedy was aware of the coup plans, but apparently had not considered the hazard to Diem.

According to the Pentagon Papers, the final US loss of confidence in Diem began when his government violently suppressed a protest on Buddha's Birthday, May 8, 1963. Up to that point, the majority Buddhists had not been very politically active, even though Diem had given preference to the Catholic minority. Quickly, however, the Buddhists put a "cohesive and disciplined [political] organization" into action. By June, the situation moved from dissidence from a religious group to a "grave crisis of public confidence". [31]

Then-Ambassador Frederick Nolting had tried to persuade Diem to moderate government action against Buddhists, but with no success. While Nolting was on leave, President John F. Kennedy appointed Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. as the new Ambassador. In June 1963, senior leaders began, for the first time, to discuss the effect of a coup to remove Diem. Nolting and the US military in Vietnam, however, argued that Diem was keeping chaos at bay. Nolting left permanently in mid-August, but the assurances from Diem died with multiple August 21 night raids on Buddhist temples in many parts of Vietnam. Two days later, a US representative was approached by generals considering a coup. On August 23, the first contact with a U.S. representative was made by generals who had begun to plan a coup against Diem. They were told that the U.S. had determined that Diem's brother, who had led the raids on the Buddhists, could not stay in any kind of power, and that, "then, we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved."

A White House tape of President Kennedy and his advisers, published this week in a new book-and-CD collection and excerpted on the Web, confirms that top U.S. officials sought the November 1, 1963 coup against then-South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem without apparently considering the physical consequences for Diem personally (he was murdered the following day). The taped meeting and related documents show that U.S. officials, including JFK, vastly overestimated their ability to control the South Vietnamese generals who ran the coup 40 years ago this week [November 2003].

The Kennedy tape from October 29, 1963 captures the highest-level White House meeting immediately prior to the coup, including the President's brother voicing doubts about the policy of support for a coup: "I mean, it's different from a coup in the Iraq or South American country; we are so intimately involved in this…[32]

An 8 May 1973 memorandum[29] states that "An Inspector General report of investigation of a11egatipns that the Agency was instrumental in bringing about the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. The allegations were determined to be without foundation."

Nevertheless, the Pentagon Papers observed,

For the military coup d'etat against Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. must accept its full share of responsibility. Beginning in August of 1963 we variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts of the Vietnamese generals and offered full support for a successor government. In October we cut off aid to Diem in a direct rebuff, giving a green light to the generals. We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans and proposed new government. Thus, as the nine-year rule of Diem came to a bloody end, our complicity in his overthrow heightened our responsibilities and our commitment in an essentially leaderless Vietnam.[31]


The Church Committee concluded it had "solid evidence of a plot to assassinate Patrice Lumumba [the first elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo]. Strong hostility to Lumumba, voiced at the very highest levels of government may have been intended to initiate an assassination operation; at the least it engendered such an operation. The evidence indicates that it is likely that President Eisenhower’s expression of strong concern about Lumumba at a meeting of the National Security Council on August 18,1960, was taken by (Director of Central Intelligence) Allen Dulles as authority to assassinate Lumumba. There is, however, testimony There is, however, testimony by Eisenhower Administration officials, and ambiguity and lack of clarity in the records of high-level policy meetings, which tends to contradict the evidence that the President intended an assassination effort against Lumumba. In a footnote, the Committee cited an unnamed official as saying he had heard Eisenhower order the assassination."

Approval discussions and meetings

The week after the August 18 NSC meeting, a presidential advisor reminded the Special Group of the "necessity for very straightforward action" against Lumumba and prompted a decision not to rule out consideration of ("any particular kind of activity which might contribute to getting rid of Lumumba." The Special Group is one of the many names for the often-reorganized committee that approved CIA covert action proposals. It has been called the 303 committee, Special Group (counterinsurgency), Operations Advisory Group, 5412 committee, and Forty Committee. "The following day, Dulles cabled a CIA Station Officer in Leopoldville, Republic of the Congo,* that "in high quarters" the "removal" of Lumumba was "an urgent and prime objective."

"Shortly thereafter the CIA’s clandestine service formulated a plot to assassinate Lumumba. The plot proceeded to the point that lethal substances and instruments specifically intended for use in an assassination were delivered by the CIA to the Congo Station. There is no evidence that these instruments of assassination were actually used against Lumumba."

Events overtaken by events

In the meantime, Lumumba was dismissed from his post by Congolese President Joseph Kasa-Vubu, an act of dubious legality; in retaliation, Lumumba attempted to dismiss Kasa-Vubu from the presidency, an act of even more dubious legality. On September 14, a coup d’état endorsed by the CIA and organized by Colonel Joseph Mobutu removed Lumumba from office.

Lumumba was killed, in 1961, by forces under the control of the President, Moise Tshombe of Katanga, a province that had declared its independence of the Republic of the Congo. Lumumba was taken seized by Katangan soldiers commanded by Belgians, and eventually shot by a Katangan firing squad under Belgian leadership.

Planning in the clandestine services

The independent Republic of the Congo was declared on 30 June 1960, with Joseph Kasa-Vubu as President and Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister. It shared a name with the neighboring Republic of the Congo to the west, a French colony that also gained independence in 1960, and the two were normally differentiated by also stating the name of the relevant capital city, so Congo (Léopoldville) versus Congo (Brazzaville).

Larry Devlin became Chief of Station in Congo in July 1960, a mere 10 days after the country's independence from Belgium and shortly before Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba's two month term in office, dismissal from power and ultimate execution. In his memoir, Devlin reveals that late in 1960, he received instructions from an agent ("Joe from Paris") who was relaying instructions from CIA headquarters that he (Devlin) was to effect the assassination of Lumumba. Various poisons, including one secreted in a tube of toothpaste, were proffered. The directive had come from the CIA Deputy Chief of Plans Dick Bissell, but Devlin wanted to know if it had originated at a higher level and if so, how high. "Joe" had been given to understand that it had come from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but Devlin to this day does not know for sure. Devlin writes (and has recently said in public speaking engagements) that he felt an assassination would have been "morally wrong" and likely to backfire and work against U.S. interests. In the event, he temporized, neglecting to act, and Lumumba was ultimately murdered by his enemies in Katanga, with Belgian government participation. U.S. intelligence was kept apprised.

The United Nations Security Council was called into session on December 7, 1960 to consider Soviet demands that the U.N. seek Lumumba's immediate release, the immediate restoration of Lumumba as head of the Congo government, the disarming of the forces of Mobutu, and the immediate evacuation of Belgians from the Congo. Soviet Representative Valerian Zorin refused U.S. demands that he disqualify himself as Security Council President during the debate. Hammarskjöld, answering Soviet attacks against his Congo operations, said that if the U.N. forces were withdrawn from the Congo "I fear everything will crumble."

Following a U.N. report that Lumumba had been mistreated by his captors, his followers threatened (on December 9, 1960) to seize all Belgians and "start cutting off the heads of some of them" unless Lumumba was released within 48 hours.


Declassified CIA documents show that a request for a mission to incapacitate General Abd al-Karim Qasim, military leader of Iraq who followed the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, and, in turn, was overthrown, in 1963, by a Ba'ath party group that included Saddam Hussein. Qasim had put down an earlier coup attempt in 1959.

While Qasim was actually killed by a firing squad of the Ba'ath party that overthrew him, there had been a separate CIA plan to incapacitate him. In their request, they said the target's death would not be unacceptable to them, but was not the principal objective: "We do not consciously seek subject’s permanent removal from the scene; we also do not object should this complication develop." (see detailed memo below)

Planning in the clandestine services

The poisoned handkerchief is mentioned in the Church Committee report.[33] The report included, "In February 1960, the Near East Division [of the Directorate of Plans (i.e., Clandestine Service)] sought the endorsement of what the Division Chief called the "Health Alteration Committee" for its proposal for a "special operation: to “incapacitate” an Iraqi Colonel believed to be "promoting Soviet bloc political interests in Iraq." The Division sought the Committee’s advice on a technique, "which while not likely to result in total disablement would be certain to prevent the target from pursuing his usual activities for a minimum of three months," adding: "We do not consciously seek subject’s permanent removal from the scene; we also do not object should this complication develop." Memo, Acting Chief N.E. Division to DC/CI [organization code not clear; it is the usual abbreviation for counter-intelligence.

"In April, the [Health Alteration] Committee unanimously recommended to the DDP (Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Bissell)that a "disabling operation" be undertaken, noting that the Chief of Operations advised that it would be “highly desirable" Bissell’s deputy, Tracy Barnes, approved the action on behalf of Bissell. (Memo. Denuty Chief CI to DDP. 4/l/62)

"The approved operation was to mail a monogrammed handkerchief containing an incapacitating agent to the colonel from an Asian country [i.e., country not yet named]. [James] Scheider [Science Advisor to Bissell] testified that, while he did not now recall the name of the recipient, he did remember mailing from the Asian country. during the period in question, a handkerchief "treated with some kind of material for the purpose of harassing that person who received it." (Scheider Affidavit. 10/20/75. pp. 52-56)

During the course of this Committee’s investigation, the CIA stated that the handkerchief was “in fact never received (if, indeed, sent).” It added that the colonel: “Suffered a terminal illness before a firing squad in Baghdad (an event we had nothing to do with) after our handkerchief proposal was considered.” (Memo from Chief of Operations, Near East Division to Assistant to the SA/DDO 10/26/75.)

Planning overtaken by events

On Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Qasim gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television.

Possible White House knowledge

Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side," Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide," wrote to President John F. Kennedy on the day of the takeover.

That Komer wrote that memo to Kennedy, without spending any time on additional research, may suggest, but does not confirm, the National Security Council, a covert operations approval committee, or Kennedy knew of planning against Qasim. Even if Komer or Kennedy knew of a plot to overthrow Qasim, approval of the plan, above CIA level, has not yet been documented.


An Inspector General report of investigation of allegations that the Agency was instrumental in bringing about the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic. Trujillo was effective head of government at the time of his assassination in 1961.

Conditions leading to a desire, by Dominicans, appeared to begin Johnny Abbes, took control the Intelligence Military Service (the secret police), and the country developed more internal violence and increasingly isolated from other nations. This isolation compounded Trujillo's fears, prompting him to worsen his foreign interventionism.

To be sure, Trujillo did have cause to resent the leaders of some nations, such as Cuba's Fidel Castro, who assisted a small, abortive invasion attempt by dissident Dominicans in 1959. Trujillo, however, expressed greater concern over Venezuela's president Rómulo Betancourt (1959-64). An established and outspoken opponent of Trujillo, Betancourt had been associated with some individual Dominicans who had plotted against the dictator. Trujillo developed an obsessive personal hatred towards Betancourt and supported numerous plots of Venezuelan exiles to overthrow him. This pattern of intervention led the Venezuelan government to take its case against Trujillo to the Organization of American States (OAS).

Rafael Trujillo was shot to death on San Cristobal Avenue, Santo Domingo. He was the victim of an ambush plotted by a number of Dominicans. According to author Bernard Diederich, the CIA had supplied some of the guns used to kill the president.[34] In a report to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, CIA officials described the agency as having "no active part" in the assassination and only a "faint connection" with the groups that planned the killing.[35], but the internal CIA investigation, by its Inspector General, "disclosed quite extensive Agency involvement with the plotters."[29]


  1. The Pentagon and the CIA Sent Mixed Message to the Argentine Military. George Washington University National Security Archive (March 28, 2003).
  2. Stockwell, John (October, 1987), "The Secret Wars of the CIA, a lecture", Information Clearing House
  3. Lemoyne, James (May 2, 1987), "Honduras Army linked to death of 200 civilians", New York Times
  4. Yoo, John (4 January 2005), "Commentary: Behind the 'torture memos', As attorney general confirmation hearings begin for Alberto Gonzales, Boalt Law School professor John Yoo defends wartime policy", UC Berkeley News
  5. Dershowitz, Alan (September 20, 2002), "Legal Torture? Civil Libertarian Believes Torture Will Be Used In War On Terrorism", 60 Minutes
  6. Tourison, Sedgwick Jr. (1990). Conversations with Victor Charlie: an Interrogator's Story. Ballantine Books. 
  7. CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons, Washington Post, 2005-11-02.
  8. Bush: Top terror suspects to face tribunals, CNN / AP, 2006-09-066.
  9. Bush admits to CIA secret prisons. BBC News (2006-09-07).
  10. 10.0 10.1 Grey, Stephen (2006). Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program. St. Martin's Press. 
  11. Price, David (October, 2007). "Buying a Piece of Anthropology: The CIA and our tortured past". Anthropology Today 23 (5): 17-22.
  12. Bagley, Tennent H. (2007), Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries, and Deadly Games, Yale University Press
  13. CIA admit 'waterboarding' al-Qaida suspects. The Guardian newspaper (UK) date=2008-02-08.
  14. CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described. ABC news (USA) (2005-11-18).
  15. Declassified Army and CIA Manuals. Latin American Working Group (2006-07-30).
  16. Terrorism Debacles in the Reagan Administration. The Future of Freedom Foundation (2006-07-30).
  17. International Law PSCI 0236 > International Law PSCI 0236 > Introduction. middlebury.edu.
  18. CIA, Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual - 1983. The National Security Archive part I (pp. 1-67) - part II (pp. 68-124).
  19. CIA, KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, July 1963. The National Security Archive part 1 (pp. 1-60) - part II (pp. 61-112) - part III (pp. 113-128).
  20. Haugaard, Lisa (1997-02-18). Declassified Army and CIA Manuals Used in Latin America: An Analysis of Their Content. Latin America Working Group.
  21. Trinquier, Roger (1961), Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency
  22. Rohter, Larry. Rights Groups Hail Arrests of 3 by U.S. in War Crimes, April 5, 2007.
  23. CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons, Washington Post, 2005-11-02.
  24. Bush: Top terror suspects to face tribunals, CNN / AP, 2006-09-06.
  25. Bush admits to CIA secret prisons. BBC News (2006-09-07).
  26. "Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention", HRW Publications (no. 1(G)), February 2007
  27. US: Secret CIA Prisoners Still Missing;Washington Should Reveal Fate of People ‘Disappeared’ by US (February 27, 2007).
  28. Anderson, Jack (18 June 1971), "6 Attempts to Kill Castro laid to CIA", Washington Post: B7
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Blanton, William (editor), ed. (8 May 1973), Memorandum for the Executive Secretary, CIA Management Committee. Subject: Potentially Embarrassing Agency Activities, vol. George Washington University National Security Archives Electronic Briefing Book No. 222, "The CIA's Family Jewels"
  30. Blanton, William (editor), ed. (15 February 1972), Memorandum for the Executive Director, Subject: John Roselli, vol. George Washington University National Security Archives Electronic Briefing Book No. 222, "The CIA's Family Jewels"
  31. 31.0 31.1 , Chapter 4, "The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-November, 1963,", The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, Beacon Press, 1971, at pp. 201-276.
  32. Prados, John (3 November 2003), JFK and the Diem Coup, vol. George Washington University National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 101
  33. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (20 November 1975), C. Institutionalizing Assassination: the "Executive Action" capability, Alleged Assassination Plots involving Foreign Leaders, at 181
  34. Diederich, Bernard ((reprint of 1978 edition)), Trujillo: The Death of the Dictator
  35. Justice Department Memo, 1975; National Security Archive