Harry Truman Writes: Limit CIA Role to Intelligence

By Harry S. Truman Copyright, 1963,

by Harry S Truman INDEPENDENCE, MO., Dec. 21

I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency—CIA. At least, I would like to submit here the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency during my Administration, what I expected it to do and how it was to operate as an arm of the President.

I think it is fairly obvious that by and large a President’s performance in office is as effective as the information he has and the information he gets. That is to say, that assuming the President himself possesses a knowledge of our history, a sensitive understanding of our institutions, and an insight into the needs and aspirations of the people, he needs to have available to him the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots in the contest between East and West. This is an immense task and requires a special kind of an intelligence facility.

Of course, every President has available to him all the information gathered by the many intelligence agencies already in existence. The Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, Interior and others are constantly engaged in extensive information gathering and have done excellent work.

But their collective information reached the President all too frequently in conflicting conclusions. At times, the intelligence reports tended to be slanted to conform to established positions of a given department. This becomes confusing and what’s worse, such intelligence is of little use to a President in reaching the right decisions.

Therefore, I decided to set up a special organization charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without department “treatment” or interpretations.

I wanted and needed the information in its “natural raw” state and in as comprehensive a volume as it was practical for me to make full use of it. But the most important thing about this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions—and I thought it was necessary that the President do his own thinking and evaluating.

Since the responsibility for decision making was his—then he had to be sure that no information is kept from him for whatever reason at the discretion of any one department or agency, or that unpleasant facts be kept from him. There are always those who would want to shield a President from bad news or misjudgments to spare him from being “upset.”

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue—and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.

With all the nonsense put out by Communist propaganda about “Yankee imperialism,” “exploitive capitalism,” “war-mongering,” “monopolists,” in their name-calling assault on the West, the last thing we needed was for the CIA to be seized upon as something akin to a subverting influence in the affairs of other people.

I well knew the first temporary director of the CIA, Adm. Souers, and the later permanent directors of the CIA, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg and Allen Dulles. These were men of the highest character, patriotism and integrity—and I assume this is true of all those who continue in charge.

But there are now some searching questions that need to be answered. I, therefore, would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field—and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.

We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.

Lane, Mark. Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK (pp. 239-241). Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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Why Mary Meyer was murdered

They had killed Jack because he and his ally-in-peace Nikita Khrushchev were steering the world away from the Cold War toward peace, thereby eliminating the military-industrial-intelligence complex’s most treasured weapons— the fear of war, the fear of “Communist takeover,” and the manipulative use of Fear itself. The Cold War was about to end, and with it the covert action arm of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Agency would have been all but neutered, its funding and resources cut, its menacing grip on public opinion exposed and eliminated. It also meant the eventual curtailment of many of the defense industries, including the proliferation of nuclear arms. There would have been no war in Southeast Asia or Vietnam; that, too, was about to end. A rapprochement with Fidel Castro and Cuba was on the horizon. Both Jack and Fidel wanted “a lasting peace.”

Little attention had been paid to the parting words of a previous president. President Eisenhower had warned the American public in early 1961 of the evil that had spawned since World War II: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Indeed, it had; so much so that in less than three years, anyone who tried to stop it— including the elected president of the United States— would be eliminated.

Simply put, peace— particularly world peace— wasn’t good for business, nor for American military and economic hegemony. Whatever enlightenment Mary and Jack may have finally engendered together, it had evolved into a part of Jack’s newfound trajectory of where he wanted to take not only his presidency in 1963, but the entire world. It was the pursuit of peace that was about to take center stage; and that voyage would no longer include any obsequious bow to the insanity of America’s war machine driven by the legacy of Allen Dulles and his ass-kissing cronies.

After Dallas, amid utter horror and shock, Mary had taken it upon herself to discover and make sense of the truth of the conspiracy that had taken place— only to realize the magnitude of the second conspiracy, a cover-up taking place right before her eyes. There, in her diary, she had reached an understanding. It was her own mosaic of people, events, circumstances, and exploration that informed her understanding— not only of the evil that had taken place in Dallas, but of the villainous darkness that was now enveloping all of America. She had furiously confronted her ex-husband, Cord Meyer, possibly Jim Angleton as well, with what she had discovered, not fully realizing the extent of their own diabolical ruthlessness. The Warren Report was ultimately nothing more than a house of cards; once ignited with the right matchstick, it would be engulfed in flames. If Mary courageously went public with who she was, and what she knew, making clear her position in the final years of Jack’s life, people with influence would take notice; the fire of suspicion around Dallas would erupt into a conflagration. She had to be eliminated.

Janney, Peter. Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace (pp. 390-391). Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Mary's Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace: Third Edition

James Jesus Angleton – the man behind the Kennedy assassination – Quotes from the Devil’s Chessboard

Angleton’s activities ranged from purloining documents at foreign embassies to opening the mail of American citizens (he once jocularly referred to himself as “the postmaster”) to wiretapping the bedrooms of CIA officials. It was his job to be suspicious of everybody, and he was, keeping a treasure trove of sensitive files and photos in the locked vault in his office. Each morning at CIA headquarters, Angleton would report to Dulles on the results of his “fishing expeditions,” as they called his electronic eavesdropping missions, which picked up everything from gossip on the Georgetown party circuit to Washington pillow talk.

As Dulles was well aware, Angleton had even tucked away explosive secrets about the CIA director himself. That is why Dulles had rewarded him with the most sensitive job in the agency, Angleton confided to journalist Joseph Trento near the end of his life. “You know how I got to be in charge of counterintelligence? I agreed not to polygraph or require detailed background checks on Allen Dulles and 60 of his closest friends. They were afraid that their own business dealings with Hitler’s pals would come out.”

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (pp. 333-334). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Angleton told a friend in British intelligence, “I would kill Philby.” The betrayal was painfully intimate, and it bred a paranoia that bloomed darkly within Angleton. When he was named counterintelligence chief, he saw traitors and signs of Soviet treachery everywhere. His compulsive mole hunting ruined the careers of dozens of CIA agents, doing more to damage agency security than to fortify it. “I couldn’t find that we ever caught a spy under Jim,” said William Colby, the CIA director who finally terminated Angleton’s long tenure in 1975. But under Dulles, Angleton enjoyed free rein to pursue his demons. He dreamed up Cold War phantasms and bogeymen, and then invented all-too-real methods of destroying these horrible apparitions. He operated a kind of virtual CIA within the CIA, reporting only to Dulles himself— and even the top spymaster was not fully aware of his murky activities. “My father once said, ‘I’m not a genius, but in intelligence I am a genius,’” recalled Siri Hari Angleton, who changed her name from Lucy as a young woman, after following her mother and older sister into the Sikh religion.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (p. 335). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Dulles entrusted Angleton with the agency’s most vital and sensitive missions. He was the principal CIA liaison with the key foreign intelligence services, including those in frontline Cold War nations like France, West Germany, Turkey, Taiwan, and Yugoslavia, as well as with Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. Angleton developed a special bond with the Israelis, forging a realpolitik relationship, with both parties conveniently overlooking Angleton’s role in the Nazi ratlines after the war. The Israelis maintained close ties to the American espionage oracle until the end of his life. Several members of Mossad came to Angleton’s home as he lay dying in the spring of 1987, to pay their last respects— and perhaps to make certain the vapory Gray Ghost was indeed finally leaving this mortal coil.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (pp. 336-337). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Dulles and Angleton shared a disdain for Washington bureaucracy and for the governmental oversight that comes with a functioning democratic system. Later, in the post-Watergate ’70s, when the Church Committee opened its probe of CIA lawbreaking, Angleton was called to account for himself. As he completed his testimony, the Gray Ghost rose from his chair, and, thinking he was now off the record, muttered, “It is inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government.” It was a concise articulation of the Angleton philosophy; in his mind, CIA overseers were a priestly caste that, because the fate of the nation had been placed in its hands, must be allowed to operate unfettered and above the law.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (p. 336). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Dulles also put Angleton in charge of the CIA’s relationship with the FBI— a delicate task considering the rivalry between the two agencies. At the same time he was working with the federal bureau in charge of fighting organized crime, Angleton was also pursuing a CIA partnership with the Mafia. Angleton possessed one of those rare intellects— and characters— that allowed him to lead a life filled with contradiction. He easily passed back and forth between Washington’s overworld and the criminal underworld. He was the sort of man who could crossbreed a new orchid, cook a delicious pasta with slivered truffles imported from Ristorante Passetto in Rome, and then sit down with a criminal mastermind to discuss the fine points of murder. Though he dined and drank with Georgetown high society, Angleton’s work also brought him into close contact with the agency’s rougher characters, including Shef Edwards’s security cops, who helped install Angleton’s bugs, and Bill Harvey, the hard-drinking gun nut who figured prominently in a number of the agency’s assassination jobs.

It was all of a piece, in the intricately wired mind of Jim Angleton: countering dangerous ideas by publishing CIA-vetted literature, or by eliminating the intellectuals and leaders who expounded these ideas. One day, shortly after Fidel Castro took power in Havana, Angleton had a brainstorm. He summoned two Jewish CIA officers, including Sam Halpern, who had recently been assigned to the agency’s covert Cuba team. Angleton asked them to fly to Miami and meet with Meyer Lanksy, organized crime’s chief financial officer, who had been forced to flee Havana ahead of Castro’s revolutionaries, leaving behind the Mafia’s highly lucrative casino empire. Lansky was part of the Jewish mob but had close business ties to the Italian Mafia. Angleton told Halpern and the other Jewish CIA agent to see if they could convince Lansky to arrange for the assassination of Castro.

Angleton’s emissaries met with Lansky, but the crime mogul drove too hard a bargain for his services and the deal fell through. This was only the beginning of the CIA’s endless, Ahab-like quest to kill the Caribbean leviathan, however. Castro would never stop haunting the dreams of the CIA high command. The Cuban revolutionary was not only intellectually formidable and politically fearless; his dream of national liberation was backed up with guns. Castro and his equally charismatic comrade, Che Guevara, made it clear from the start that they would not share the fate of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala: they would fight fire with fire.

Che, a twenty-five-year-old doctor and adventurer in search of a grander meaning to his life, was living in Guatemala City when Arbenz was overthrown. He saw what happened when Arbenz’s moderate reforms came up against the imperial force of United Fruit and the CIA. “I am not Christ or a philanthropist, old lady,” Che wrote to his mother, Celia, in the bantering style he had developed with her, as he and Fidel prepared to board the leaky yacht Granma in Mexico with their band of guerrillas to make history in Cuba. “I fight for the things I believe in, with all the weapons at my disposal and try to leave the other man dead so that I don’t get nailed to a cross.” To avoid Arbenz’s fate, Castro and Guevara would do everything he had not: put the hard-core thugs of the old regime up against a wall, run the CIA’s agents out of the country, purge the armed forces, and mobilize the Cuban people. By militarizing their dream, Fidel and Che became an audacious threat to the American empire. They represented the most dangerous revolutionary idea of all— the one that refused to be crushed.

Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (pp. 337-338). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.