Intelligence Agency Series CIA
Redwan bin Abdul Baten
East Berlin, 1953. A group of construction workers are digging up the streets and repairing the telephone wires. Their work takes more time than usual but they are getting the job done. 6 months into the job, the US embassy starts to buy a lot of telephone sets and a buzz of activity surrounds the place. A new era of espionage was being written along these activities.
What actually happened was that the workers hired by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were actually digging up and constructing a 450 meter long underground cable network leading towards the Soviet embassy in East Berlin. The CIA actually recorded 50,000 phone calls using this tunnel. Obviously, the tunnel was supposed to be a secret. What they did not know was that the Soviets already knew about this tunnel long before its construction and let it happen anyways. They actually fed the CIA with false information for over a year. The soviets had their own mole placed to make the matter look funnier. The project, named operation Gold, ended in humiliation when the soviets dug up the cables and called the journalists to make a fiasco out of it.
The CIA had more success in Germany just after the ending of the 2nd World War when the Nazi scientists were being hunted as ‘war rewards’ left by the enemy. Both the Soviet KGB and the CIA were searching frantically to collect these prized winnings. CIA was able to woe in some of the best German minds and immediately incorporated them into the United States space and scientific programmes. Among them were Wenher Von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, who helped the U.S. develop rockets for space exploration and, ultimately, the moon landing. The most famous of the intelligence agents recruited was Reinhard Gehlen, who was used to set up a spy ring against the Soviet Union (known as the Gehlen Organization).
The Central Intelligence Agency or more commonly known as the CIA, is the world’s largest, most competent and ruthless intelligence organizations. With a budget of almost 44 billion US dollars a year, the CIA has unprecedented superiority and control over the world’s intelligence community. Established as the descendant of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA has developed an image of solid mystery, deception, espionage, secrecy and assassinations.
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) had served as the United State’s intelligence gathering organization during the 2nd world war. Also it definitely foreshadowed the new age of espionage that was about to consume the world. Franklin D. Roosevelt believed that America’s intelligence agencies were poorly skilled and ill-mannered, and this allowed William J. Donovan to step in as the leader of the O.S.S. In 1942, Roosevelt reinforced the poor intelligence agencies of America and funded them, generally without limit. The O.S.S.’s job was to collect foreign intelligence which allowed for America’s strategic troop deployment and supply deployment all over Europe and the Pacific, but since the O.S.S. was not “permitted” to control all foreign affairs it remained as secretive as possible.
As America and its allies successfully ended the war, Roosevelt dismantled the O.S.S., dividing it among the State and War Departments. Donovan would not stand for his America to be run solely by politicians, so he proposed a new plan, stating “A powerful, centralized civilian agency would coordinate all the intelligence services and we will engage in subversive operations abroad, but no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad.” Even though a strong intelligence agency was a great idea, it was shot down by the (FBI) Federal Bureau of Investigation, who believed it breached their “civilian territory,” and the military completely opposed the two forces coming together. Eventually Harry S. Truman created the Central Intelligence Group and the National Intelligence Authority in 1946, but twenty months later the decision was made to “pull the plug” on both operations. Finally by 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council were both generated under the National Security Act of 1947, allowing the Central Intelligence Agency to be responsible for discovering intelligence, securing its validity, and deciding the level of national security.
Once the Central Intelligence Agency was established, it proved to be a great source of America’s information during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The Central Intelligence Agency was given 46 million dollars by President Eisenhower in 1955 to have the CIA Headquarters built in Langley, in McLean, unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, a few miles west of Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River. In 1977, Jimmy Carter finally made the decision to give the Director of Central Intelligence full control of the budget and operations the CIA performed, but he also stated that anything that goes wrong is the director’s fault, not the “little man.” The CIA always remained as secretive as possible and hid themselves well for almost 25 years, supported by President Reagan and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which gave criminal penalties to those who named covert operative specialists.
Protected by these set of laws, the Central Intelligence Agency has accomplished a long list of operations that it has performed all over the world. From the overthrowing of the Iranian government in 1953 (at the request of Sir Winston Churchil!) through the Bay of Pigs, the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Republic of Congo, the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the “secret war” in Laos, aid to the Greek colonels who seized power in 1967, the 1973 killing of Salvador Allende in Chile and Ronald Reagan’s Iran-contra war against Nicaragua, there is not a single coup or change of govt. in the world in which the agency was not involved.
Some of the largest CIA operations of the 60’s were aimed at Cuba after the overthrowing of the Batista dictatorship, including assassination attempts against Fidel Castro and the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Operation Pluto, Better known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, although conceived by the Eisenhower administration, came to define the early days of the J.F.K. presidency. The plans involved an invasion of southern Cuba by CIA trained Cuban rebels, with the help of American air support. The planners had imagined that the invasion would spark a popular uprising against Castro, which never happened, due to underestimated support for him. After a series of diversionary air strikes, on April 17, 1961, a group of amphibious troop transports landed on a beach in the Bay of Pigs and began unloading their cargo of 1,300 exile guerrillas. The plan was for them to rendezvous with a smaller band of paratroops to be dropped soon after their arrival, but from the beginning their plan was tragically mistimed.
For starters, Cuban intelligence was already aware of the planned invasion, and this meant that when the exile troops landed they were almost immediately under attack. To add to the force’s problems, bad weather, coral reefs, and the Cuban swamps quickly claimed most of their equipment. A promised American air strike also never occurred due to the reluctance of President John F. Kennedy. All told, an estimated 2,000 Cubans died during the invasion, while over 100 members of the exile army were killed in action. The remaining 1,200 were captured and imprisoned, and some were later executed on the orders of Castro. Over a year later, the rest were freed in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine for Cuban people. This is the CIA’s first major public setback, causing President Kennedy to fire CIA Director of the time, Allen Dulles. But the next year it was the CIA that provided the intelligence that tipped American officials off to the Soviet effort to install missiles in Cuba; missiles that were removed after President Kennedy stared down Nikita Krushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In the early 60s, communist Cuba became one of the major battlegrounds of the Cold War, and its president Fidel Castro came to be considered one of the most dangerous political figures in the world. After early attempts to overthrow Castro by force failed, the CIA instituted Operation Mongoose, which was a secret war of propaganda and sabotage designed to remove the Cuban leader from power. Operation Mongoose had a remarkably wide scope, and included plans to fake attacks on Cuban exiles, provide arms to opposition groups, and destroy Cuba’s crop of sugarcane. It also included several attempts to either assassinate or discredit Castro in the press, each of which was more elaborate and ridiculous than the next.
The Agency considered, among other things, poisoning Castro’s personal supply of cigars, planting explosives disguised as seashells in his favorite swimming spots, and injecting him with a deadly chemical from a hypodermic needle disguised as a pen. Even more bizarre were the plans to discredit Castro in the public eye, which included a proposal to spray a TV studio with hallucinogens prior to one of the leader’s televised speeches, and even planting chemicals in his clothes that would cause his famous beard to fall out. The near-disaster of the Cuban Missile Crisis put Operation Mongoose on hold, and following an agreement between Kennedy and the Soviets, it was more or less abandoned.
After the fiasco in Cuba, CIA quickly gained back its reputation in the 70’’s. It was the era of the ‘Cold War’. During the Cold War, the C.I.A. established itself as key, if clandestine, element in America’s foreign policy apparatus, promoting coups in countries like Iran, Guatemala and others seen as sliding toward the embrace of the Soviet Union.
The race for total control of the world was on between these two superpowers- the Americans and the Soviets. This was the time which is often referred to as the ‘Golden era of espionage’. The most bizarre and secretive methods were being used during this period by both parties to try and get some form of information. Tension of a possible nuclear war always loomed in the horizon. Bunches of Hollywood movies have promoted this idea, almost all of them portraying the Soviets as bad guys. But the main face to face battle began in the most unlikely of places, Afghanistan….
(to be continued)