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Richard Starnes' "Where Violence Rings," NYWT&S, 26 Nov 1963, p.23 - Printable Version

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Richard Starnes' "Where Violence Rings," NYWT&S, 26 Nov 1963, p.23 - Jim DiEugenio - 30-05-2018

On the occasion of the death of Starnes, Paul deserves a lot of credit for keeping his important work alive.

Richard Starnes' "Where Violence Rings," NYWT&S, 26 Nov 1963, p.23 - Paul Rigby - 30-05-2018

New York World-Telegram & Sun, Wednesday, 16 October 1963, p.57

The CIA Myth

By Richard Starnes

Quote:In the mythology of bureaucracy, the Central Intelligence Agency has come to occupy an awesomely special place.

In any effective sense of the word as used in a democracy, the CIA's accountability is so vague and amorphous as to be meaningless. The face it turns toward the public when it is under criticism is one of sad virtue: CIA, so goes the myth, does not deny stories (however outlandish or true they may be), is above the hurly-burly of democracy in action.

This, of course, is disingenuous nonsense. The CIA does reply to criticism, violently and vociferously. It does deny and attempt to discredit stories that seek to penetrate its cloak of piety. It moves heaven and earth to unmask the sources of news accounts that shake its cloudy complacency.

Sadly enough, the prevailing mythology of the CIA is perpetuated and, in a sense, codified in "The Craft of Intelligence" (Harper and Row), by Allen Dulles, who for eight years headed the huge spy apparatus.

In defending its unique lack of accountability to any of the traditional organs of democracy, apologists for the CIA invariably fall back on the refrain that its failures too often become public, while its triumphs must remain secret. For example, in attempting to counter some of the "myths" that he finds harmful to the CIA, Dulles writes:

"I have frequently been asked what myth' about the CIA has been the most harmful…(I) finally chose the accusation that the CIA made foreign policy, often cut across the programs laid down by the President and Secretary of State, and interfered with what ambassadors and foreign service officers abroad were trying to do.

"The charge is untrue but extremely hard to disprove without revealing classified information. It is all the harder to disprove because to some extent it is honestly believed, and at times has even been spread by people in government who themselves are not in the know.'"

It seems possible that Dulles himself was not always in the know. He was, for example, director of the CIA when the then ambassador to Cuba, Earl T. Smith, endured at the hands of CIA officers attached to his embassy the very things that Dulles now claims are untrue. Unhappily for the credibility of his book, Dulles does not allude to Ambassador Smith's charges (sworn to before a Senate committee and later included in a book), beyond the flat assertion that such charges are always false.

(In my own experience, strikingly similar charges were made to me by unassailable American sources in Saigon. When my dispatch containing the charges was printed, it forever demolished the carefully nurtured folkway that the CIA disdains to reply to criticism. The CIA's response was loud, anguished and protracted, although clandestine. It also made vigorous attempts to learn the identity of the sources of the story.)

Again, in lamenting the fact that much secret data is revealed in American technical publications and newspapers, Dulles seems to see the need for an American counterpart of Britain's Official Secrets Act. Yet Dulles knows as well as anyone that Britain's secret-keeping ability is as leaky as any on earth. Dulles labors the advantages held by a Communist closed society in the invisible war of espionage, but then he goes on to paint a relatively rosy picture of the CIA's ability to cope with its Soviet opposite number.

In sum, the former CIA chief seems to have had considerable trouble in reconciling the function of the huge spy bureaucracy with the needs and obligations of a free and open society. It is a problem that profoundly troubles anyone who gives it much thought.