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<nettime.free> Tracking Covert Actions into the Future

>From the CovertAction Quarterly Archive

Agee established his reputation as a critic of the CIA with
his controversial 1975 book, "Inside the Company: a CIA
Diary." Published in 20 languages, the book exposed CIA
actions around the world. At the same time, he sought
to identify CIA undercover officers. 

Tracking Covert Actions into the Future

by Philip Agee

Over May Day weekend I was one of several
thousand people attending an international
solidarity conference in Brussels organized by
the Belgian Labor Party. Among the participants
were representatives of progressive and
revolutionary parties and movements from around
the world. The atmosphere was a refreshing
reminder that the ideal of socialism, and
resistance to exploitation and oppression, are
very much alive.

My role was to outline U.S. efforts during the
Cold War- mainly through the CIA-to suppress
Third World national liberation movements.
Additionally, I was asked to speculate on what
these movements could expect from the U.S. under
the Bush-proclaimed New World Order. Inevitably,
questions arose about the much televised burning
of Los Angeles. Would it affect Bush in the
November elections? Could it be only the
beginning? Was it another sign of overall U.S.
decline? Los Angeles, I suggested, was the
result of the U.S. system working exactly as it
is supposed to-the failure being not the
existence of poverty, rage, and despair, but the
momentary inability of the dominant class and
culture to dissuade or distract the "underclass"
from taking mass action. The Rodney King beating
verdict simply lifted the lid.

The events in L.A. and other cities underlined
the domestic system that produces, and is in
turn affected by, U.S. foreign policy, including
CIA activities. They were also a vivid reminder
that the 1990s is a period of transition, with
enormous opportunities for change in national
priorities-a potential not seen since the late
1940s. The possibilities for positive change in
those post-World War II years, not overwhelming
to be sure, disappeared when Truman and his team
decided in 1950 to start a permanent war economy
in the United States. The reason? The U.S.
economy, in its traditional trickle-down
structure, needed militarism at home and abroad
to generate jobs and exports to avoid a return
to the 1930s conditions of depression-toward
which the economy was then feared to be moving.

Moreover, we cannot recall too often, the
ideologists of that time believed that the
Soviet Union was out to conquer the world. At
stake, as Paul Nitze, former Dillon Read
investment banker, wrote in the secret
re-militarization plan known as NSC-68, was "the
fulfillment or destruction not only of this
Republic but of civilization itself."
Intensification of the Cold War would plant "the
seeds of destruction within the Soviet system"
resulting in a fundamental change in the system
or its collapse. The plan admitted to being "in
effect a policy of calculated and gradual

Public and congressional opposition to
rearmament (the grand plan was kept secret for
25 years) only broke when China entered the war
in Korea in late 1950. By 1952, the military
budget had more than tripled to $44 billion
while the services doubled to 3.6 million men
and women. The permanent war economy was a
reality. Meanwhile repression of domestic
political dissent reached near hysteria.

In the process the CIA's covert operations,
already in progress in Europe, expanded
worldwide. By 1953, according to the 1970s
Senate investigation, there were major covert
programs under way in 48 countries, consisting
of propaganda, paramilitary, and political
action operations. The bureaucracy also grew. In
1949, the Agency's covert action arm had about
300 employees and seven overseas field stations;
three years later it had 2,800 employees and 47
field stations. In the same period, the budget
for these activities grew from $4.7 million to
$82 million.

Covert operations became a way of life, or
better said, a way of death, for the millions of
people abroad who lost their lives in the
process. By the Reagan-Bush period in the 1980s,
covert operations were costing billions of
dollars. CIA Director William Casey would be
quoted as saying that covert action was the
"keystone" of U.S. policy in the Third World.


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