In late 1975, as a result in particular of his role in Watergate, Bush’s confirmation as CIA Director was not automatic. And though the debate at his confirmation was superificial, some senators, including in particular the late Frank Church of Idaho, made some observations about the dangers inherent in the Bush nomination that have turned out in retrospect to be useful.
The political scene on the homefront from which Bush had been so anxious to be absent during 1975 was the so-called “Year of Intelligence,” in that it had been a year of intense scrutiny of the illegal activities and abuses of the intelligence community, including CIA domestic and covert operations. On December 22, 1974 the New York Times published the first of a series of articles by Seymour M. Hersh which relied on leaked reports of CIA activities assembled by Director James Rodney Schlesinger to expose alleged misdeeds by the agency.
It was widely recognized at the time that the Hersh articles were a self-exposure by the CIA that was designed to set the agenda for the Ford-appointed Rockefeller Commission, which was set up a few days later, on January 4, 1975. The Rockefeller Commission members included John T. Connor, C. Douglas Dillon, Erwin N. Griswold, Lane Kirkland, Lyman Lemnitzer, Ronald Reagan, and Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. The Rockefeller Commission was supposed to examine the malfeasance of the intelligence agencies and make recommendations about how they could be reorganized and reformed. In reality, the Rockefeller Commission proposals would reflect the transition from the structures of the cold war towards the growing totalitarian tendencies of the 1980’s.
While the Rockefeller Commission was a tightly controlled vehicle of the Eastern Anglophile liberal establishment, Congressional investigating committees were empaneled during 1975 whose proceedings were somewhat less rigidly controlled. These included the Senate Intelligence Committee, known as the Church Committee, and the corresponding House committee, first chaired by Rep. Lucien Nedzi (who had previously chaired one of the principal Watergate-era probes) and then (after July) by Rep. Otis Pike. One example was the Pike Committee’s issuance of a contempt of Congress citation against Henry Kissinger for his refusal to provide documentation of covert operations in November, 1975. Another was Church’s role in leading the opposition to the Bush nomination.
The Church Committee launched an investigation of the use of covert operations for the purpose of assassinating foreign leaders. By the nature of things, this probe was lead to grapple with the problem of whether covert operations sanctioned to eliminate foreign leaders had been re-targetted against domestic political figures. The obvious case was the Kennedy assassination.
Church was especially diligent in attacking CIA covert operations, which Bush would be anxious to defend. The CIA’s covert branch, Church thought, was a “self-serving apparatus.” “It’s a bureaucracy which feeds on itself, and those involved are constantly sitting around thinking up schemes for [foreign] intervention which will win them promotions and justify further additions to the staff…It self-generates interventions that otherwise never would be thought of, let alone authorized.” [fn 1]
It will be seen that at the beginning of Bush’s tenure at the CIA, the Congressional committees were on the offensive against the intelligence agencies. By the time that Bush departed Langley, the tables were turned, and it was the Congress which was the focus of scandals, including Koreagate. Soon thereafter, the Congress would undergo the assault of Abscam.
Preparation for what was to become the Halloween massacre began in the Ford White House during the summer of 1975. The Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan preserves a memo from Donald Rumsfeld to Ford dated July 10, 1975, which deals with an array of possible choices for CIA Director. Rumsfeld had polled a number of White House and administration officials and asked them to express preferences among “outsiders to the CIA.” [fn 2]
Among the officials polled by Cheney was Henry Kissinger, who suggested C. Douglas Dillon, Howard Baker, Galvin, and Robert Roosa. Dick Cheney of the White House staff proposed Robert Bork, followed by Bush and Lee Iacocca. Nelson Rockefeller was also for C. Douglas Dillon, followed by Howard Baker, Conner, and James R. Schlesinger. Rumsfeld himself listed Bork, Dillon, Iacoca, Stanley Resor, and Walter Wriston, but not Bush. The only officials putting Bush on their “possible” lists other than Cheney were Jack O. Marsh, a White House counselor to Ford, and David Packard. When it came time for Rumsfeld to sum up the aggregate number of times each person was mentioned, minus one point for each time a person had been recommended against, the list was as follows:
Robert Bork [rejected in 1987 for the Supreme Court] White McGee Foster [John S. Foster of PFIAB, formerly of the Department of Defense] Dillon Resor Roosa Hauge
It will be seen that Bush was not among the leading candidates, perhaps because his networks were convinced that he was going to make another attempt for the vice-presidency and that therefore the Commerce Department or some similar post would be more suitable. The summary profile of Bush sent to Ford by Rumsfeld found that Bush had “experience in government and diplomacy” and was “generally familiar with components of the intelligence community and their missions” while having management experience.” Under “Cons” Rumsfeld noted: “RNC post lends undesirable political cast.”
As we have seen, the CIA post was finally offered by Ford to Edward Bennett Williams, perhaps with an eye on building a bipartisan bridge towards a powerful faction of the intelligence community. But Williams did not want the job. Bush, originally slated for the Department of Commerce, was given the CIA appointment.
The announcement of Bush’s nomination occasioned a storm of criticism, whose themes included the inadvisability of choosing a Watergate figure for such a sensitive post so soon after that scandal had finally begun to subside. References were made to Bush’s receipt of financial largesse from Nixon’s Townhouse fund and related operations. There was also the question of whether the domestic CIA appparatus would get mixed up in Bush’s expected campaign for the vice presidency. These themes were developed in editorials during the month of November, 1976, while Bush was kept in Beijing by the requirements of preparing the Ford-Mao meetings of early December. To some degree, Bush was just hanging there and slowly, slowly twisting in the wind. The slow-witted Ford soon realized that he had been inept in summarily firing Colby, since Bush would have to remain in China for some weeks and then return to face confirmation hearings. Ford had to ask Colby to stay on in a caretaker capacity until Bush took office. The delay allowed opposition against Bush to crystallize to some degree, but his own network was also quick to spring to his defense.
Former CIA officer Tom Braden, writing in the Fort Lauderdale News, noted that the Bush appointment to the CIA looked bad, and looked bad at a time when public confidence in the CIA was so low that everything about the agency desperately needed to look good. Braden’s column was entitled “George Bush, Bad Choice for CIA Job.”
Roland Evans and Robert Novak, writing in the Washington Post, commented that “the Bush nomination is regarded by some intelligence experts as another grave morale deflator. They reason that any identified politician, no matter how resolved to be politically pure, would aggravate the CIA’s credibility gap. Instead of an identifed politician like Bush…what is needed, they feel, is a respected non-politician, perhaps from business or the academic world.” Evans and Novak conceded that “not all experts agree. One former CIA official wants the CIA placed under political leadership capable of working closely with Congress. But even that distinctly minority position rebels against any Presidential scenario that looks to the CIA as possible stepping-stone to the Vice-Presidential nomination.”
The Washington Post came out against Bush in an editorial entitled “The Bush Appointment.” Here the reasoning was that this position “should not be regarded as a political parking spot,” and that public confidence in the CIA had to be restored after the recent revelations of wrongdoing.
After a long-winded argument, George Will came to the conclusion that Ambassador Bush at the CIA would be “the wrong kind of guy at the wrong place at the worst possible time.”
Senator Church viewed the Bush appointment in the context of a letter sent to him by Ford on October 31, 1975, demanding that the committee’s report on US assassination plots against foreign leaders be kept secret. In Church’s opinion, these two developments were part of a pattern, and amounted to a new stonewalling defense by what Church had called “the rogue elephant.” Church issued a press statement in response to Ford’s letter attempting to impose a blackout on the assassination report. “I am astonished that President Ford wants to suppress the committee’s report on assassination and keep it concealed from the American people,” said Church. Then, on November 3, Church was approached by reporters outside of his Senate hearing room and asked by Daniel Schorr about the firing of Colby and his likely replacement by Bush. Church responded with a voice that was trembling with anger. “There is no question in my mind but that concealment is the new order of the day,” he said. “Hiding evil is the trademark of a totalitarian government.” [fn 3]. Schorr said that he had never seen Church so upset.
The following day, November 4, Church read Leslie Gelb’s column in the New York Times suggesting that Colby had been fired, among other things, “for not doing a good job containing the Congressional investigations.” George Bush, Gelb thought, “would be able to go to Congress and ask for a grace period before pressing their investigations further. A Washington Star headline of this period summed up this argument: “CIA NEEDS BUSH’S PR TALENT.” Church talked with his staff that day about what he saw as an ominous pattern of events. He told reporters: “First came the very determined administration effort to prevent any revelations concerning NSA, their stonewalling of public hearings. Then came the president’s letter. Now comes the firing of Colby, Mr. Schlesinger, and the general belief that Secretary Kissinger is behind these latest developments.” For Church, “clearly a pattern has emerged now to try and disrupt this [Senate Intelligence Committee] investigation. As far as I’m concerned, it won’t be disrupted,” said Church grimly.
One of Church’s former aides, speech-writer Loch K. Johnson, describes how he worked with Church to prepare a speech scheduled for delivery on November 11, 1975 in which Church would stake out a position opposing the Bush nomination:
- The nomination of George Bush to succeed Colby disturbed him and he wanted to wind up the speech by opposing the nomination. […] He hoped to influence Senate opinion on the nomination on the eve of Armed Services Committee hearings to confirm Bush.
I rapidly jotted down notes as Church discussed the lines he would like to take against the nomination. “Once they used to give former national party chairmen [as Bush had been under President Nixon] postmaster generalships–the most political and least sensitive job in government,” he said. “Now they have given this former party chairman the most sensitive and least political agency.” Church wanted me to stress how Bush “might compromise the independence of the CIA–the agency could be politicized.”
Some days later Church appeared on the CBS program Face the Nation, he was asked by George Herman if his opposition to Bush would mean that anyone with political experience would be a priori unacceptable for such a post? Church replied: “I think that whoever is chosen should be one who has demonstrated a capacity for indpendence, who has shown that he can stand up to the many pressures.” Church hinted that Bush had never stood up for principle at the cost of political office. Moreover, “a man whose background is as partisan as a past chairman of the Republican party does serious damage to the agency and its intended purposes.” [fn 4]
The Brown Brothers, Harriman/Skull and Bones crowd counterattacked in favor of Bush, mobilizing some significant resources. One was none other than Leon Jaworski, the former Watergate special prosecutor. Jaworski’s mission for the Bush network appears to have been to get the Townhouse and related Nixon slushfund issues off the table of the public debate and confirmation hearings. Jaworski, speaking at a convention of former FBI Special Agents meeting in Houston, defended Bush against charges that he had accepted illegal or improper payments from Nixon and CREEP operatives. “This was investigated by me when I served as Watergate special prosecutor. I found no involvement of George Bush and gave him full clearance. I hope that in the interest of fairness, the matter will not be bandied about unless something new has appeared on the horizon.” Jaworski, who by then was back in Houston working for his law firm of Fulbright and Jaworski, sent a copy of the Houston Post article reporting this statement to Ford’s White House counselor Philip Buchen. [fn 5]
Saul Kohler of the Newhouse News Service offered the Ford White House an all-purpose refutation of the arguments advanced by the opponents of Bush during November and into December. “And now,” wrote Kohler, “President Ford is catching all sorts of heat from a lot of people for appointing Bush to the non-political sensitive CIA because he once served as Chairman of the Republican national Committee.” How unfair, thought Kohler, “for of all the appointments Ford made last weekend, the nomination of Bush was the best.” For one thing, “you’d have to go a long way to find a man with less guile than George Bush.” Bush had been great at the RNC- “he managed to keep the RNC away from the expletive deleted of that dark chapter in American political history.” “Not only did he keep the party apparatus clean, he kept his own image clean…” And then: “Was Cordell Hull less distinguished a Secretary of State because he had headed the Democratic National Committee?,” and so forth. Kohler quoted a White House official commenting on the Bush nomination: “The gag line around here ever since The Boss announced George for the CIA is that spying is going to be a bore from now on because George is such a clean guy.” [fn 6]
In the meantime, Bush got ready for his second meeting with Mao and prepared the documentation for his conflict of interest and background checks. In a letter to John C. Stennis, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which would hold the hearings on his nomination, Bush stated that his only organizational affiliations were as a trustee of Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and as a member of the Board of the Episcopal Church Foundation in New York City. In this letter, Bush refers to the “Bush Children Trust” he had created for his five children, and “funded by a diversified portfolio” which might put him into conflicts of interest. He told Stennis that if confirmed, he would resign as trustee of the Bush Children Fund and direct the other trustees to stop disclosing to him any details of the operations of the Bush Children Trust. Otherwise Bush said that he was not serving as officer, director, or partner of any corporation, although he had a lump-sum retirement benefit from Zapata Corporation in the amount of $40,000. According to his own account, he owned a home in Washington DC, his summer house at Kennebunkport, a small residential lot in Houston, plus some bank accounts and life insurance policies. He had a securities portfolio managed by T. Rowe Price in Baltimore, and he assured Stennis he would be willing to divest any shares that might pose conflict of interest problems. [fn 7]
Congressional reaction reaching the White House before Bush’s hearings was not enthusiastic. Dick Cheney of the White House staff advised Ford to call Senator John Stennis on November 3, noting that Stennis “controls confirmation process for CIA and DOD.” Ford replied shortly after, “I did.” [fn 8] A few days later Ford had a telephone conversation with Senator Mike Mansfield, the Democratic majority leader, and one of his notations was “Geo Bush–for him but he must say no politics.” [fn 9]
Negative mail from both houses of Congress was also coming in to the White House. On November 12, Ford received a singular note from GOP Congressman James M. Collins of Dallas, Texas. Collins wrote to Ford: “I hope you will reconsider the appointment of George Bush to the CIA. At this time it seems to me that it would be a greater service for the country for George to continue his service in China. He is not the right man for the CIA,” wrote Collins, who had been willing to support Bush for the vice presidency back in 1974. “Yesterday,” wrote Collins, “I sat next to my friend Dale Milford who is the only friendly Democrat on Pike’s Committee. He strenuously questioned why Bush was being put in charge of the CIA. He likes George but he is convinced that the Liberals will contend from now to Doomsday that George is a partisan Republican voice. They are going to sing this song about Republican Chairmen and let the liberal press beat it out in headlines every day. I have heard this same story from many on the Hill who stand with you. Please use George in some other way. They are going to crucify him on this job and Senator Church will lead the procession. I hope you find an urgent need to keep Bush in China,” wrote Collins, a Republican and a Texan, to Ford. [fn 10]
There was also a letter to Ford from Democratic Congressman Lucien Nedzi of Michigan, who had been the chairman of one of the principal House Watergate investigating committees. Nedzi wrote as follows:
- The purpose of my letter is to express deep concern over the announced appointment of George Bush as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
As Chairman of the Special Subcommittee on Intelligence of the House Armed Services Committee since 1971, I have had the obligation and opportunity to closely observe the CIA, the other intelligence agencies, the executive and legislative relationships of these agencies, and vice-versa. We are at a critical juncture.
After reassuring Ford that he had no personal animus against Bush, Nedzi went on:
- However, his proposed appointment would bring with it inevitable complications for the intelligence community. Mr. Bush is a man with a recent partisan political past and a probable near-term partisan political future. This is a burden neither the Agency, nor the legislative oversight committee, nor the Executive should have to bear as the CIA enters perhaps the most difficult period of its history.
The Director of the CIA must be unfettered by any doubts as to his politics. He must be free of the appearance, as well as the substance, that he is acting, or not acting, with partisan political considerations in mind.
In my judgment, as one buffeted by the winds of the CIA controversy of the last few years, I agree that a man of stature is needed, but a non-political man.
Accordingly, I respectfully urge that you reconsider your appointment of Mr. Bush to this most sensitive of positions. [fn 11]
Senator William V. Roth of Delaware sent Bush a letter on November 20 which made a related point:
- Dear George:
It is my deep conviction that the security of this nation depends upon an effective viable Central Intelligence Agency. This depends in part upon the intelligence agency being involved in no way in domestic politics, especially in the aftermath of Watergate. For that reason, I believe you have no choice but to withdraw your name unequivocally from consideration for the Vice Presidency, if you desire to become Director of the CIA. […]
If Bush still wanted to pursue national office, wrote Roth, “then I believe the wise decision is for you to ask the President to withdraw your nomination for the CIA Directorship.” [fn 12] Roth sent a copy of the same letter to Ford.
Through Jack Marsh at the White House, Bush also received a letter of advice from Tex McCrary, the New York television and radio personality who was also an eminence grise of Skull&Bones. “Old Tex” urged Bush to “hold a press conference in Peking while the President is there, or from Pearl Harbor on December 7, and take yourself out of the Vice Presidential sweepstakes for ’76.” McCrary’s communication shows that he was a warm supporter of Bush’s confirmation. [fn 13]
Within just a couple of days of making Bush’s nomination public, the Ford White House was aware that it had a significant public relations problem. To get re-elected, Ford had to appear as a reformer, breaking decisively with the bad old days of Nixon and the Plumbers. But with the Bush nomination, Ford was putting a former party chairman and future candidate for national office at the head of the entire intelligence community. Ford’s staff began to marshal attempted rebuttals for the attacks on Bush. On November 5, Jim Connor of Ford’s staff had some trite boiler-plate inserted into Ford’s Briefing Book in case he were asked if the advent of Bush represented a move to obstruct the Church and Pike committees. Ford was told to answer that he “has asked Director Colby to cooperate fully with the Committee” and “expects Ambassador Bush to do likewise once he becomes Director. As you are aware, the work of both the Church and Pike Committees is slated to wind up shortly.” [fn 14] In case he were asked about Bush politicizing the CIA, Ford was to answer:” “I believe that Republicans and Democrats who know George Bush and have worked with him know that he does not let politics and partisanship interfere with the performance of public duty.” That was a mouthful. “Nearly all of the men and women in this and preceeding Administrations have had partisan identities and have held partisan party posts.” “George Bush is a part of that American tradition and he will demonstrate this when he assumes his new duties.”
But when Ford, in an appearance on a Sunday talk show, was asked if he were ready to exclude Bush as a possible vice-presidential candidate, he refused to do so, answering “I don’t think people of talent ought to be excluded from any field of public service.” At a press conference, Ford said, “I don’t think he’s eliminated from consideration by anybody, the delegates or the convention or myself.
In the meantime, Bush was in touch with the Ford White House about his impending return to Washington. On November 27 he wrote to Max L. Friedersdorf, an assistant to Ford: “We’ll be back there in mid-December. It looks like I am walking into the midst of a real whirlwind, but all I know to do is to give it my all and be direct with the Committee.” Then, pencilled in by hand: “Max- I will be there in EOB on the 10th–Jennifer Fitzgerald with me now in China will be setting up a schedule for me a day or so in advance,” and would Fridersdorf please cooperate with Bush’s girl Friday. [fn 15]
Ford’s lobbying operation went into high gear. Inside the White House, Max Friedersdorf wrote a memo to William Kendall on November 6, sending along the useful fact that “I understand that Senator Howard Baker is most anxious to assist in the confirmation of George Bush at the CIA.” Mike Duval wrote to Jack Marsh on November 18 that “[Rep.] Sonny Montgomery (a close friend of Bush) should contact Senator Stennis.” Duval also related his findings that “Senators McGee and Bellmon will be most supportive,” while “Senator Stieger can advise you what House members would be most useful in talking to their own Senators, if that is needed.” [fn 16] It was.
Bush’s confirmation hearings got under way on December 15, 1975. Even judged by Bush’s standards of today, they constitute a landmark exercise in sanctimonious hypocrisy so astounding as to defy comprehension. If Bush were ever to try an acting career, he might be best cast in the role of Moliere’s Tartuffe.
Bush’s sponsor was GOP Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the ranking Republican on Senator John Stennis’s Senate Armed Services Committee. Later, in 1988, it was to be Thurmond’s political protege, Lee Atwater, cunning in the ways of the GOP “southern strategy,” who ran Bush’s presidential campaign. Thurmond unloaded a mawkish panegyric in favor of Bush: “I think all of this shows an interest on your part in humanity, in civic development, love of your country, and willingness to serve your fellow man.” Could the aide writing that, even if it was Lee Atwater, have kept a straight face?
Bush’s opening statement was also in the main a tissue of banality and cliches. He indicated his support for the Rockefeller Commission report without having mastered its contents in detail. He pointed out that he had attended Cabinet meetings from 1971 to 1974, without mentioning who the president was in those days. Everybody was waiting for this consummate pontificator to get to the issue of whether he was going to attempt the vice-presidency in 1976. Readers of Bush’s propaganda biographies know that he never decides on his own to run for office, but always responds to the urging of his friends. Within those limits, his answer was that he was available for the second spot on the ticket. More remarkably, he indicated that he had a hereditary right to it–it was, as he said, his “birthright.”
Would Bush accept a draft? “I cannot in all honesty tell you that I would not accept, and I do not think, gentlemen, that any American should be asked to say he would not accept, and to my knowledge, no one in the history of this Republic has been asked to renounce his political birthright as the price of confirmation for any office. And I can tell you that I will not seek any office while I hold the job of CIA Director. I will put politics wholly out of my sphere of activities.” Even more, Bush argued, his willingness to serve at the CIA reflected his sense of noblesse oblige. Friends had asked him why he wanted to go to Langley at all, “with all the controversy swirling around the CIA, with its obvious barriers to political future?”
Magnanimously Bush replied to his own rhetorical question: “My answer is simple. First, the work is desperately important to the survival of this country, and to the survival of freedom around the world. And second, old fashioned as it may seem to some, it is my duty to serve my country. And I did not seek this job but I want to do it and I will do my very best.” [fn 17]
Stennis responded with a joke that sounds eerie in retrospect: “If I though that you were seeking the Vice Presidential nomination or Presidential nomination by way of the route of being Director of the CIA, I would question you judgment most severely.” There was laughter in the committee room.
Senators Goldwater and Stuart Symington made clear that they would give Bush a free ride not only out of deference to Ford, but also out of regard for the late Prescott Bush, with whom they had both started out in the Senate in 1952. Senator McIntyre was more demanding, and raised the issue of enemies’ list operations, a notorious abuse of the Nixon (and subsequent) administratio ns:
“What if you get a call from the President, next July or August, saying ‘George, I would like to see you.’ You go in the White House. He takes you over in the corner and says, ‘look, things are not going too well in my campaign. This Reagan is gaining on me all the time. Now, he is a movie star of some renown and has traveled with the fast set. He was a Holywood star. I want you to get any dirt you can on this guy because I need it.”
What would Bush do ? “I do not think that is difficult, sir,” intoned Bush. “I would simply say that it gets back to character and it gets back to integrity; and furthermore, I cannot conceive of the incumbent doing that sort of thing. But if I were put into that kind of position where you had a clear moral issue, I would simply say “no,” because you see I think, and maybe– I have the advantages as everyone on this committee of 20-20 hindsight, that this agency must stay in the foreign intelligence business and must not harass American citizens, like in Operation Chaos, and that these kinds of things have no business in the foreign intelligence business.” This was the same Bush whose 1980 campaign was heavily staffed by CIA veterans, some retired, some on active service and in flagrant violation of the Hatch Act. This is the vice-president who ran Iran-contra out of his own private office, and so forth.
Gary Hart also had a few questions. How did Bush feel about assassinations? Bush “found them morally offensive and I am pleased the President has made that position very, very clear to the Intelligence Committee…” How about “coups d’etat in various countries around the world,” Hart wanted to know?
“You mean in the covert field,” replied Bush. “Yes.” “I would want to have full benefit of all the intelligence. I would want to have full benefit of how these matters were taking place but I cannot tell you, and I do not think I should, that there would never be any support for a coup d’etat; in other words, I cannot tell you I cannot conceive of a situation where I would not support such action.” In retrospect, this was a moment of refreshing candor.
Gary Hart knew where at least one of Bush’s bodies was buried:
- Senator Hart: You raised the question of getting the CIA out of domestic areas totally. Let us hypthesize a situation where a President has stepped over the bounds. Let us say the FBI is investigating some people who are involved, and they go right to the White House. There is some possible CIA interest. The President calls you and says, I want you as Director of the CIA to call the Director of the FBI to tell him to call off this operation because it may jeopardize some CIA activities.
Mr. Bush. Well, generally speaking, and I think you are hypothecating a case without spelling it out in enough detail to know if there is any real legitimate foreign intelligence aspect… […]
There it was: the smoking gun tape again, the notorious Bush-Lietdtke-Mosbacher-Pennzoil contribution to the CREEP again, the money that had been found in the pockets of Bernard Barker and the Plumbers after the Watergate break-in. But Hart did not mention it overtly, only in this oblique, Byzantine manner. Hart went on: “I am hypothesizing a case that actually happened in June, 1972. There might have been some tangential CIA interest in something in Mexico. Funds were laundered and so forth.”
- Mr. Bush. Using a 50-50 hindsight on that case, I hope I would have said the CIA is not going to get involved in that if we are talking about the same one.
Senator Hart. We are.
Senator Leahy. Are there others?
Bush was on the edge of having his entire Watergate past come out in the wash, but the liberal Democrats were already far too devoted to the one-party state to grill Bush seriously. In a few seconds, responding to another question from Hart, Bush was off the hook, droning on about plausible deniability, of all things:”…and though I understand the need for plausible deniability, I think it is extremely difficult.”
In his next go-round, Hart asked Bush about the impact of the cuthroat atmosphere of the Cold War and its impact on American values. Bush responded: “I am not going to sit here and say we need to match ruthlessness with ruthlessness. I do feel we need a covert capability and I hope that it can minimize these problems that offend our Americans. We are living in a very complicated, difficult world.” This note of support for covert operations would come up again and again. Indicative of Bush’s thinking was his response to a query from Hart about whether he would support a US version of the British Official Secrets Act, which defines as a state secret any official information which has not been formally released to the public, with stiff criminal penalties for those who divulge or print it. In the era of FOIA, Bush did not hesitate: “Well, I understand that was one of the recommendations of the Rockefeller Commission. Certainly I would give it some serious attention.” Which reeks of totalitarianism.
The next day, December 16, 1975, Church, appearing as a witness, delivered his phillipic against Bush. After citing evidence of widespread public concern about the renewed intrusion of the CIA in domestic politics under Bush, Church reviewed the situation:
- So here we stand. Need we find or look to higher places than the Presidency and the nominee himself to confirm the fact that this door [of the Vice Presidency in 1976] is left open and that he remains under active consideration for the ticket in 1976? We stand in this position in the close wake of Watergate, and this committee has before it a candidate for Director of the CIA, a man of strong partisan political background and a beckoning political future. Under these cirumstances I find the appointment astonishing. Now, as never before, the Director of the CIA must be completely above political suspicion. At the very least this committee, I believe, should insist that the nominee disavow any place on the 1976 Presidential ticket. […] I believe that this committee should insist that the nominee disavow any place on the 1976 Presidential ticket. Otherwise his position as CIA Director would be hoplessly compromised. […] Mr. Chairman, let us not make a travesty out of our efforts to reform the CIA. The Senate and the people we represent have the right to insist upon a Central Intelligence Agency which is politically neutral and totally professional. It is strange that I should have to come before this of all committees to make that argument.[…]
If Ambassador Bush wants to be Director of the CIA, he should seek that position. If he wants to be Vice President, then that ought to be his goal. It is wrong for him to want both positions, even in a Bicentennial year.
It was an argument that conceded far too much to Bush in the effort to be fair. Bush was incompetent for the post, and the argument should have ended there. Church’s unwillingness to demand the unqualified rejection of such a nominee no matter what future goodies he was willing temporarily to renounce has cast long shadows over subsequent American history. But even so, Bush was in trouble. The other senators questioned Church. Thurmond was a bullying partisan for Bush, demanding that Church certify George for the GOP ticket in 1976, which Church was unwisely willing to do. Senator Tower wanted to know about Church’s own presidential ambitions, and brought up that the press corps called the Senate Intelligence Committee the “Church for President” committee. Why didn’t Church renounce his presidential ambitions so as to give his criticism more credibility? Goldwater spun out a mitigating defense of Bush. Church fought back with what we may consider the predecessor of the “wimp” argument, that Bush was always the yes-man of his patrons: if you were going to put a pol into Langley, he argued, “then I think that it ought to be a man who has demonstrated in his political career that he can and is willing to stand up and take the heat even where it courts the displeasure of his own President.” “But I do not think that Mr. Bush’s political record has been of that character.”
Church was at his ironic best when he compared Bush to a recent chairman of the Democratic national Committee: “…if a Democrat were President, Mr. Larry O’Brien ought not to be nominated to be Director of the CIA. Of all times to do it, this is the worst, right at a time when it is obvious that public confidence needs to be restored in the professional, impartial, and nonpolitical character of the agency. So, we have the worst of all possible worlds.” Church tellingly underlined that “Bush’s birthright does not include being Director of the CIA. It includes the right to run for public office, to be sure, but that is quite a different matter than confirming him now for this particular position.”
Church said he would under no circumstance vote for Bush, but that if the latter renounced the 76 ticket, he would refrain from attempting to canvass other votes against Bush. It was an ambiguous position.
While still reeling from Church’s philippic, Bush also had to absorb a statement from Senator Culver, who announced that he also would vote against Bush.
Bush came back to the witness chair in an unmistakeable whining mood. He was offended above all by the comparison of his august self to the upstart Larry O’Brien: “I think there is some difference in the qualifications,” said Bush in a hyperthyroid rage. “Larry O’Brien did not serve in the Congress of the United States for 4 years. Larry O’Brien did not serve, with no partisanship, at the United Nations for 2 years. Larry O’Brien did not serve as the Chief of the US Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China.” Not only Bush but his whole cursus honorum were insulted! “I will never apologize,” said Bush a few second later, referring to his own record. Then Bush pulled out his “you must resign” letter to Nixon: “Now, I submit that for the record that that is demonstrable independence. I did not do it by calling the newspapers and saying, ‘Look, I am having a press conference. Here is a sensational statement to make me, to separate me from a President in great agony.'”
Bush recovered somewhat under questioning by Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, a reliable ally. Senator Symington urged Bush to committ to serve at the CIA for at least two years; Bush was non-committal, but the pressure was becoming unbearable. After some sparring between Bush and Gary Hart, Henry Jackson of Washington came in for the first time. Jackson’s constant refrain was that the maladroit and bumbling Ford had put Bush in a very awkward and unfair position by nominating him:
- To be very candid about it, it seems to me that the President has put you in a very awkward position. The need here is really to save the CIA. I do not need to recite what the Agency has gone through. It has been a very rough period. And it seems to me that the judgment of the President in this matter is at best imposing a terrible burden on the CIA and on you. It raises a problem here of nominating someone, who is a potential candidate, for service of less than a year. This is what really troubles me because I have the highest regard and personal respect for your ability and above all, your integrity. Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that the President should assure this committee that he will not ask Ambassador Bush to be on the ticket.
Jackson, a former chairman of the Democratic national Committee, had turned down an offer from Nixon to be Secretary of Defense, and had cited his party post as a reason for declining. While George squirmed, Jackson kept repeating his litany that “Ambassador Bush is in an awkward position.” Bush asked for the opportunity to reply, saying that he would make it “brief and strong.” He began citing James Schlesinger serving a few months at the CIA before going on to the Pentagon, a lamentable comparison all around. With Bush red-faced and whining, knowing that the day was going very badly indeed, Stennis tried to put him out of his misery by ending the session. But even this was not vouchsafed to poor, tormented George. He still had to endure Senator Leahy explaining why he, too, would vote against the Bush nomination.
Bush whined in reply “Senator, I know you have arrived at your conclusion honestly and I would only say I think it is unfortunate that you can say I have the character and I have the integrity, the perception, but that the way it is looked at by somebody else overrides that.” A candidate for the CIA was in mortal peril, but a public wimp was born.
Bush had been savaged in the hearings, and his nomination was now in grave danger of being rejected by the committee, and then by the full Senate. Later in the afternoon of November 16, a damage control party met at the White House to assess the situation for Ford. [fn 18] According to Patrick O’Donnell of Ford’s Congressional Relations Office, the most Bush could hope for was a bare majority of 9 out of 16 votes on the Stennis committee. This represented the committee Republicans, plus Stennis, Harry Byrd of Virginia, and Stuart Symington. But that was paper thin, thought O’Donnell: “This gives is a bare majority and will, of course, lead to an active floor fight which will bring the rank and file Democrats together in a vote which will embarrass the President and badly tarnish, if not destroy, one of his brightest stars.” O’Donnell was much concerned that Jackson had “called for the President to pulicly remove George Bush from the vice presidential race.” Senator Cannon had not attended the hearings, and was hard to judge. Senator McIntyre obviously had serious reservations, and Culver, Leahy, and Gary Hart were all sure to vote no. A possible additional Democratic vote for Bush was that of Sam Nunn of Georgia, whom O’Donnell described as “also very hesitant but strongly respects George and has stated that a favorable vote would only be because of the personal relationship.” O’Donnell urge Ford to call both Cannon and Nunn.
LBJ had observed that Ford was so dull that he was incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. But now even Ford knew he was facing the shipwreck of one of his most politically sensitive nominations, important in his efforts to dissociate himself from the intelligence community mayhem of the recent past.
Ford was inclined to give the senators what they wanted, and exclude Bush a priori from the vice presidential contest. When Ford called George over to the Oval Office on December 18, he already had the text of a letter to Stennis announcing that Bush was summarily ruled off the ticket if Ford were the candidate (which was anything but certain). Ford showed Bush the letter. We do not know what whining may have been heard in the White House that day from a senatorial patrician deprived (for the moment) of his birthright. Ford could not yield; it would have thrown his entire election campaign into acute embarrassment just as he was trying to get it off the ground under the likes of Bo Callaway. When George saw that Ford was obdurate, he proposed that the letter be amended to make it look as if the initiative to rule him out as a running mate had originated with Bush. The fateful letter:
- Dear Mr. Chairman:
As we both know, the nation must have a strong and effective foreign intelligence capability. Just over two weeks ago, on December 7 while in Pearl Habor, I said that we must never drop our guard nor unilaterally dismantle our defenses. The Central Intelligence Agency is essential to maintaining our national security.
I nominated Ambassador George Bush to be CIA Director so we can now get on with appropriate decisions concerning the intelligence community. I need– and the nation needs– his leadership at CIA as we rebuild and strengthen the foreign intelligence community in a manner which earns the confidence of the American people.
Ambassador Bush and I agree that the Nation’s immediate foreign intelligence needs must take precedence over other considerations and there should be continuity in his CIA leadership. Therefore, if Ambassador Bush is confirmed by the Senate as Director of Central Intelligence, I will not consider him as my Vice Presidential running mate in 1976.
He and I have discussed this in detail. In fact, he urged that I make this decision. This says something about the man and about his desire to do this job for the nation. […]
On December 19, this letter was received by Stennis, who announced its contents to his committee. This committe promptly approved the Bush appointment by a vote of 12 to 4, with Gary Hart, Leahy, Culver, and McIntyre voting against him. Bush’s name could now be sent to the floor, where a recrudescence of anti-Bush sentiment was not likely, but could not be ruled out.
Bush, true to form, sent a hand-written note to Kendall and O’Donnell on December 18. “You guys were great to me in all this whirlwind,” wrote Bush. “Thank you for your help–and for your understanding. I have never been in one quite like this before and it helped to have a couple of guys who seemed to care and want to help. Thanks, men–Thank Max, [Friedersdorf] too -George” [fn 19]
But underneath his usual network-tending habits, Bush was now engulfed by a profound rage. He had fought to get elected to the Senate twice, in 1964 and 1970, and failed both times. He had tried for the vice presidency in 1968, in 1972, had been passed over by Nixon in late 1973 when Ford was chosen, in 1974, and was now out of the running in 1976. This was simply intolerable for a senatorial patrician, and that was indeed Bush’s concept of his own “birthright.”
Bush gave the lie to Aristotle’s theory of the humors: neither blood nor phlegm nor black nor even the yellow bile of rage moved him, but hyperthyroid transports of a manic rage that went beyond the merely bilious. George Bush had already had enough of the Stennis Committee, enough of the Church Committee, enough of the Pike Committee. Years later, on the campaign trail in 1988, he vomited out his rage against his tormentors of 1975. Bush said that he had gone to the CIA “at a very difficult time. I went in there when it had been demoralized by the attacks of a bunch of little untutored squirts from Capitol Hill, going out there, looking at these confidential documents without one simple iota of concern for the legitimate national security interests of this country. And I stood up for the CIA then, and I stand up for it now. And defend it. So let the liberals wring their hands and consider it a liability. I consider it a strength.”
But in 1975 there was no doubt that George Bush was in a towering rage. As Christmas approached, no visions of sugarplums danced in Bush’s head. He dreamed of a single triumphant stroke that would send Church and all the rest of his tormentors reeling in dismay, and give the new CIA Director a dignified and perhaps triumphant inauguration.
Then, two days before Christmas, the CIA chief in Athens, Richard Welch was gunned down in front of his home by masked assassins as he returned home with his wife from a Christmas party. A group calling itself the “November 19 Organization” later claimed credit for the killing.
Certain networks immediately began to use the Welch assassination as a bludgeon against the Church and Pike committees. An example came from columnist Charles Bartlett writing in the old Washington Star: “The assassination of the CIA Station Chief, Richard Welch, in Athens is a direct consequence of the stagey hearings of the Church Committee. Spies traditionally function in a gray world of immunity from such crudities. But the Committee’s prolonged focus on CIA activities in Greece left agents there exposed to random vengeance.” [fn 20] Staffers of the Church committee pointed out that the Church committee had never said a word about Greece or mentioned the name of Welch.
CIA Director Colby first blamed the death of Welch on Counterspy magazine, which had published the name of Welch some months before. The next day Colby backed off, blaming a more general climate of hysteria regarding the CIA which had led to the assassination of Welch. In his book, Honorable Men, published some years later, Colby continued to attribute the killing to the “sensational and hysterical way the CIA investigations had been handled and trumpeted around the world.”
The Ford White House resolved to exploit this tragic incident to the limit. Liberals raised a hue and cry in response. Les Aspin later recalled that “the air transport plane carrying [Welch’s] body circled Andrews Air Force Base for three-quarters of an hour in order to land live on the ‘Today’ Show.” Ford waived restrictions in order to allow interrment at Arlington Cemetery. The funeral on January 7 was described by the Washington Post as “a show of pomp usually reserved for the nation’s most renowned military heroes.” Anthony Lewis of the New York Times described the funeral as “a political device” with ceremonies “being manipulated in order to arouse a political backlash against legitimate criticism.” Norman Kempster in the Washington Star found that “only a few hours after the CIA’s Athens station chief was gunned down in front of his home, the agency began a subtle campaign intended to persuade Americans that his death was the indirect result of congressional investigations and the direct result of an article in an obscure magazine.” Here, in the words of a Washington Star headline, was “one CIA effort that worked.”
Between Christmas and New Year’s in Kennbunkport, looking forward to the decisive floor vote on his confrimation, Bush was at work tending and mobilizing key parts of his network. One of these was a certain Leo Cherne.
Leo Cherne is not a household word, but he has been a powerful figure in the US intelligence community over the period since World War II. Leo Cherne was to be one of Bush’s most important allies when he was CIA Director and throughout Bush’s subsequent career, so it is worth taking a moment to get to know Cherne better.
Cherne’s parents were both printers who came to the US from Romania. In his youth he was a champion orator of the American Zionist Association, and he has remained a part of B’nai B’rith all his life. He was trained as an attorney, and he joined the Research Institute of America, a publisher of business books, in 1936. He claims to have helped to draft the army and navy industrial mobilization plans for World War II, and at the end of the war he was an economic advisor to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan. During that time he worked for “the dismantling of the pervasive control over Japanese society which had been maintained by the Zaibnatsu families,” [fn 21] and devised a new Japanese tax structure. Cherne built up a long association with the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Cherne was typical of the so-called”neoconservatives” who have been prominent in government and policy circles under Reagan-Bush, and Bush. Cherne was the founder of the International Rescue Committee, which according to Cherne’s own blurb “came into existence one week after Hitler came to power to assist those who would have to flee from Nazi Germany…In the years since, we have helped thousands of Jews who have fled from the Iron Curtain countries, all of them, and have worked to assist in the re-settlement of Jews in Europe and the United States who have left the Soviet Union.”
Cherne’s IRC was clearly a conduit for neo-Bukharinite operations between east and west in the Cold War, and it was also reputedly a CIA front organization. CIA funding for the IRC came through the J.M. Kaplan Fund, a known CIA conduit, and also through the Norman Foundation, according to Frank A. Cappell’s Review of the News (March 17, 1976). IRC operations in Bangladesh included the conduiting of CIA money to groups of intellectuals. Capell noted that Cherne had “close ties to the leftist element in the CIA.” Cherne was also on good terms with Sir Percy Craddock, the British intelligence coordinator, and Sir Leonard Hooper.
Cherne was a raving hawk during the Vietnam war, when he was associated with the as yet unreconstructed Kissinger clone Morton Halperin in the American Friends of Vietnam. Along with John Connally, Cherne was a co-chair of Democrats for Nixon in 1972. He had been a founding member of Herman Kahn’s Hudson Institute, a school for Kissingerian Strangeloves, and has always been a leader of New York’s Freedom House. Cherne was also big on Robert O. Anderson’s National Commission on Coping with Interdependence and on Nelson Rockefeller’s Third Century Corporation.
Cherne was a close friend of William Casey, who was working in the Nixon Administration as Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs in mid-1973. That was when Cherne was named to the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) by Nixon. On March 15, 1976, Cherne became the chairman of this body, which specializes in conduiting the demands of financier and related interests into the intelligence community. Cherne, as we will see, would be along with Bush a leading beneficiary of Ford’s spring, 1976 intelligence re-organization.
To top it all off, Cherne has always been something of a megalomaniac. His self-serving RIA biographical sketch culminates: “Political scientist, economist, sculptor, lawyer, foreign affairs specialist– any one and all of these descriptions fit Leo Cherne. A Renaissance man born in the 20th century, he is equally at home in fields of fine arts, public affairs, industry, economics, or foreign policy.”
Bush’s correspondence with Cherne leaves no doubt that theirs was a very special relationship. Cherne represented for Bush a strengthening of his links to the Zionist-neoconservative milieu, with options for backchanneling into the Soviet block. So on New Year’s Eve Bush’s thoughts, perhaps stimulated by his awareness of what help the Zionist lobby could give to his still embattled nomination, went out to Leo Cherne in one of his celebrated handwritten notes: “I read your testimony with keen interest and appreciation. I am really looking forward to meeting you and working with you in connection with your PFIAB chores. Have a wonderful 1976,” Bush wrote.
January 1976 was not auspicious for Bush. He had to wait until almost the end of the month for his confirmation vote, hanging there, slowly twisting in the wind. In the meantime, the Pike Committee report was approaching completion, after months of probing and haggling, and was sent to the Government Printing Office on January 23, despite continuing arguments from the White House and from the GOP that the committee could not reveal confidential and secret material provided by the executive branch. On Sunday January 25, a copy of the report was leaked to Daniel Schorr of CBS News, and was exhibited on television that evening. The following morning, the New York Times published an extensive summary of the entire Pike Committee report, which this newspaper had also received.
Despite all this exposure, the House voted on January 29 that the Pike Committee report could not be released. A few days later it was published in full in the Village Voice, and CBS corrspondent Daniel Schorr was held responsible for its appearance. The Pike Committee report attacked Henry Kissinger “whose comments,” it said “are at variance with the facts.” In the midst of his imperial regency over the United States, an unamused Kissinger responded that “we are facing a new version of McCarthyism.” A few days later Kissinger said of the Pike Committee: “I think they have used classified information in a reckless way, and the version of covert operations they have leaked to the press has the cumulative effect of being totally untrue and damaging to the nation.” [fn 22]
Thus, as Bush’s confirmation vote approached, the Ford White House on the one hand and the Pike and Church committees on the other were close to “open political warfare,” as the Washington Post put it at the time. One explanation of the leaking of the Pike report was offered by Otis Pike himself on February 11: “A copy was sent to the CIA. It would be to their advantage to leak it for publication.” By now Ford was raving about mobilizing the FBI to find out how the report had been leaked.
On January 19, George Bush was present in the Executive Gallery of the House of Representatives, seated close to the unfortunate Betty Ford, for the President’s State of the Union Address. This was a photo opportunity so that Ford’s CIA candidate could get on television for a cameo appearance that might boost his standing on the eve of confirmation. The invitation was handled by Jim Connor of the White House staff, who duly received a hand-written note of thanks from the aspiring DCI.
Senate floor debate was underway on January 26, and Senator McIntyre lashed out at the Bush nomination as “an insensitive affront to the American people.” The New Hampshire Democrat argued: “It is clearly evident that this collapse of confidence in the CIA was brought on not only by the exposure of CIA misdeeds, but by the painful realization that some of those misdeeds were encouraged by political leaders who sought not an intelligence advantage over a foreign adversary, but a political advantage over their domestic critics and the opposition party.”
McIntyre went on: “And who can look at the history of political subordination of the CIA and expect the people to give an agency director so clearly identified with politics their full faith and confidence? To me it is a transparent absurdity that given the sensitivity of the issue, President Ford could not find another nominee of equal ability–and less suspect credentials–than the former national chairman of the president’s political party.”
In further debate on the day of the vote, January 27, Senator Biden joined other Democrats in assailing Bush as “the wrong appointment for the wrong job at the wrong time.” Church also continued his attack, branding Bush “an individual whose past record of political activism and partisan ties to the president contradict the very purpose of impartiality and objectivity for which the agency was created.” Church appealed to the Senate to reject Bush, a man “too deeply embroiled in partisan politics and too intertwined with the political destiny of the president himself” to be able to lead the CIA. Goldwater, Tower, Percy, Howard Baker, and Clifford Case all spoke up for Bush. Bush’s floor leader was Strom Thurmond, who supported Bush by attacking the Church and Pike Committees. “That is where the public concern lies, on disclosures which are tearing down the CIA,” orated Thurmond, “not upon the selection of this highly competent man to repair the damage of this over-exposure.”
Finally it came to a roll call and Bush passed by a vote of 64-27, with Lowell Weicker of Connecticut voting present. Those voting against Bush were: Abourezk, Biden, Bumpers, Church, Clark, Cranston, Culver, Durkin, Ford, Gary Hart, Philip Hart, Haskell, Helms [the lone GOP opponent], Huddleston, Inouye, Johnston, Kennedy, Leahy, Magnuson, McIntyre, Metcalf, Mondale, Morgan, Nelson, Proxmire, Stone, and Williams. Church’s staff felt they had failed lamentably, having gotten only liberal Democrats and the single Republican vote of Jesse Helms. [fn 23.
It was the day after Bush’s confirmation that the House Rules committee voted 9 to 7 to block the publication of the Pike Committee report. The issue then went to the full House on January 29, which voted, 146 to 124, that the Pike Committee must submit its report to censorship by the White House and thus by the CIA. At almost the same time, Senator Howard Baker joined Tower and Goldwater in opposing the principal final recommendation of the Church Committee, such as it was, the establishment of a permanent intelligence oversight committee.
Pike found that the attempt to censor his report had made “a complete travesty of the whole doctrine of separation of powers.” In the view of a staffer of the Church committee, “all within two days, the House Intelligence Committee had ground to a halt, and the Senate Intelligence Committee had split asunder over the centerpiece of its recommendations. The White House must have rejoiced; the Welch death and leaks from the Pike committee report had produced, at last, a backlash against the congressional investigations.” [fn 24]
Riding the crest of that wave of backlash was George Bush. The constellation of events around his confirmation prefigures the wretched state of Congress today: a rubber stamp parliament in a totalitarian state, incapable of overriding even one of Bush’s 22 vetoes.
On Friday, January 30, Ford and Bush were joined at the CIA auditorium for Bush’s swearing in ceremony before a large gathering of agency employees. Colby was also there: some said he had been fired primarily because Kissinger thought that he was divulging too much to the Congressional committees, but Kissinger later told Colby that the latter’s stratagems had been correct. Colby opened the ceremony with a few brief words: “Mr. President, and Mr. Bush, I have the great honor to present you to an organization of dedicated professionals. Despite the turmoil and tumult of the last year, they continue to produce the best intelligence in the world.” This was met by a burst of applause. [fn 25] Ford’s line was: “We cannot improve this agency by destroying it.” Bush promised to make “CIA an instrument of peace and an object of pride for all our people.” Bush went on to say: “I will not turn my back from the past. We’ve learned a lot about what an intelligence agency must do to maintain the confidence of the people in an open society. But the emphasis will now be on the future. I’m determined to protect those things that must be kept secret. And I am more determined to protect those unselfish and patriotic people who with total dedication serve their country, often putting thjeir lives on the line, only to have some people bent on destroying this agency expose their names.” A number of senators were invited, with Stennis, Thurmond, Tower, Goldwater, Baker and Brooke leading the pack; others had been added by the White House after checking by telephone with Jennifer Fitzgerald.
Before proceding, let us take a loom at Bush’s team of associates at the CIA, since we will find them in many of his later political campaigns and office staffs.
When Bush became DCI, his principal deputy was General Vernon Walters, a former army lieutenant general. This is the same Gen. Vernon Walters who was mentioned by Haldeman and Nixon in the notorious “smoking gun” tape already discussed, but who of course denied that he ever did any of the things that Haldeman and Ehrlichman said that he had promised to do. Walters had been at the CIA as DDCI since May, 1972–a Nixon appointee who had been with Nixon when the then vice president’s car was stoned in Caracas, Venezuela way back when. Ever since then Nixon had seen him as part of the old guard. Walters left to become a private consultant in July, 1976.
To replace Walters, Bush picked Enno Henry Knoche, who had joined CIA in 1953 as an intelligence analyst specializing in Far Eastern political and military affairs. Knoche came from the navy and knew Chinese. From 1962 to 1967 he had been the chief of the National Photographic Interpretation Center. In 1969, he had become deputy director of planning and budegting, and chaired the internal CIA committee in charge of computerization. (This emphasis was reflected during the Bush tenure by heavy emphasis on satellites and SIGINT communications monitoring.) Knoche was then deputy director of the Office of Current Intelligence, which produces ongoing assessments of international events for the President and the NSC. After 1972, Knoche headed the Intelligence Directorate’s Office of Strategic Research, charged with evaluating strategic threats to the US. In 1975, Knoche had been a special liaison between Colby and the Rockefeller Commission, as well as with the Church and Pike Committees. This was a very sensitive post, and Bush clearly looked to Knoche to help him deal with continuing challenges coming from the Congress. In the fall of 1975, Knoche had become the number two on Colby’s staff for the coordination and management of the intelligence community. According to some, Knoche was to function as Bush’s “Indian guide” through the secrets of Langley; he knew “where the bodies were buiried.” Otherwise, Knoche was known for his love of tennis.
Knoche was highly critical of Colby’s policy of handing over limited amounts of classified material to the Pike and Church committees, while fighting to save the core of covert operations. Knoche told a group of friends during this period: “There is no counterintelligence any more.” This implies a condemnation of the Congressional committees with whom Knoche had served as liaison, and can also be read as a lament for the ousting of James Jesus Angleton, chief of the CIA’s Counterintelligence operations until 1975 and director of the mail-opening operation that had been exposed by various probers. [fn 26]
Here was a deputy who could protect Bush’s flank with his Congressional tormentors, who would call Bush to the Hill more than fifty times during his approximately one year of CIA tenure. He would also appear to have had enough administrative experience to run things, shielding Bush from the defect that Governor Scranton had pointed out years before- the lack of administrative ability. Nevertheless, Woodward and Pincus [fn 27] portray the Knoche appointment as getting mixed reviews within the CIA, and quote Admiral Daniel J. Murphy’s view that the Knoche nomination was “not popular.” For Woodward and Pincus Knoche was “a personable, tennis-playing giant of a man.”
The Admiral Daniel J. Murphy just mentioned was Bush’s deputy director for the intelligence community, and later became Bush’s chief of staff during his first term as vice president. Much later, in November, 1987, Murphy visited Panama in the company of South Korean businessman and intelligence operative Tongsun Park, and met with Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega. Murphy was later obliged to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about his meeting with Noriega. Murphy claimed that he was only in Panama to “make a buck,” but there are indications that he was carrying messages to Noriega from Bush. Tongsun Park, Murphy’s ostensible business associate, will soon turn out to have been the central figure of the Koreagate scandal of 1976, a very important development on Bush’s CIA watch. [fn 28]
Other names on the Bush flow chart included holdover Edward Proctor and then Bush appointee Sayre Stevens in the slot of Deputy Director for Intelligence; holdover Carl Duckett and then Bush appointee Leslie Dirks as Deputy Director for Science and Technology; John Blake, holdover as Deputy Director for Administration; and holdover William Nelson, followed by Bush appointee William Wells, Deputy Director for Operations .
William Wells as Deputy Director for Operations was a very significant choice. He was a career covert operations specialist who had graduated from Yale a few years before Bush. Wells soon acquired his own deputy, recommended by him and approved by Bush: this was the infamous Theodore Shackley, whose title thus became Associate Deputy Director for Covert Operations. Shackley later emerged as one of the central figures of the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980’s. He is reputedly one of the dominant personalities of a CIA old boys’ network known as The Enterprise, which was at the heart of Iran-contra and the other illegal covert operations of the Reagan-Bush years.
During the early 1960’s, after the Bay of Pigs, Theodore Shackley had been the head of the CIA Miami Station during the years in which Operation Mongoose was at its peak. This was the Howard Hunt and Watergate Cubans crowd, circles familiar to Felix Rodriguez (Max Gomez), who in the 1980’s supervised gun-running and drug-running out of Bush’s vice presidential office.
Later, Shackley was reportedly the chief of the CIA station in Vientiane, Laos, between July 1966 and December 1968. Some time after that he moved on to become the CIA station chief in Saigon, where he had directed the implementation of the Civilian Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) progra, better known as Operation Phoenix, a genocidal crime against humanity which killed tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians because they were suspected of working for the Vietcong, or sometimes simply because they were able to read and write. As for Shackley, there are also reports that he worked for a time in the late 1960’s in Rome, during the period when the CIA’s GLADIO capabilities were being used to launch a wave of terrorism in that country. Such was the man that Bush chose to appoint to a position of reponsibility in the CIA. Later, Shackley will turn up as a “speech writer” for Bush during the 1979-80 campaign.
Along with Shackley came his associate and former Miami station second in command, Thomas Clines, a partner of General Richard Secord and Albert Hakkim during the Iran-contra operation, convicted in September 1990 on four felony tax counts for not reporting his ill-gotten gains, and sentenced to 16 months in prison and a fine of $40,000.
During Bush’s tenure Shackley’s circles were mightliy remoralized. In particular Ed Wilson, a veteran of Shackley’s Miami station, now a retired CIA officer who worked closely with serving CIA personnel to organize gun running, sex operatives, and other activities, plied his trade undisturbed. The Wilson scandal, which had grown up on Bush’s watch, would begin to explode only during the tenure of Stansfield Turner, under Carter.
Another career covert operations man, John Waller, became the Inspector General, the officer who was supposed to keep track of illegal operations. For legal advice, Bush turned first to holdover General Counsel Mitchell Rogovin, who had in December 1975 theorized that intelligence activities belonged to the “inherent powers” of the Presidency, and that no special Congressional egislation was required to permit such things as covert operations to go on. Later Bush appointed Anthony Lapham, Yale ’58, as CIA General Counsel. Lapham was the scion of an old San Francisco banking family, and his brother was Lewis Lapham, the editor of Harper’s Magazine. Lapham would take a leading role in the CIA coverup of the Letelier assassination case. [fn 29]
Typical of the broad section of CIA officers who were delighted with their new boss from Brown Brothers, Harriman/Skull and Bones was Cord Meyer, who had most recently been the station chief in London from 1973 on, a wild and wooly time in the tight little island, as we will see. Meyer, a covert action veteran and Watergate operative, writes at length in his autobiography about his enthusiasm for the Bush regime at CIA, which induced him to prolong his own career there:
- I again seriously thought of retiring from the Agency but the new atmosphere in CIA’s Langley headquarters changed my mind. George Bush had been appointed by President Ford to succeed Colby as DCI in January, and by the time of my return he had completely dispelled the fears that had been aroused by his former political connections. Having served in the Congress as a Republican representative from Texas and having recently been chairman of the Republican National Committee, he was initially viewed with suspicion as an ambitious politician who might try to use the Agency for partisan purposes. However, he quickly proved by his performance that he was prepared to put politics aside and to devote all his considerable ability and enthusiasm to restoring the morale of an institution that had been battered enough by sucessive investigations. Instead of reaching outside for defeated Republican candidates to fill key jobs, he chose from within the organization among men who had demonstrated their competence through long careers in intelligence work. He leaned over backward to protect the objectivity and independence of the Agency’s estimates and to avoid slanting the results to fit some preconceived notion of what the President wanted to hear.
On the other hand, his close relationship to Ford [Bush was a regular tennis doubles partner with Ford] and the trust that the President obviously had in him gave Bush an access to the White House and an influence in the wider Washington bureaucracy that Colby had never enjoyed. Not only did morale improve as a result, but through Bush the Agency’s views carried new weight and influence in the top reaches of the Ford Administration. In effect, I found on my return that the working environment at the Agency was far better than I had imagined it to be from my exposed position abroad and I determined to stay on for a period before retiring. Bush and “Hank” Knoche, the newly appointed deputy director, asked me to serve as a special assistant, and gave me as first assignment the task of reviewing the entire structure of the intelligence community to determine the adequacy of the arrangements for providing strategic warning against an attack on the United States and for handling major international crises. [fn 30]
This all sounds like a Bush campaign brochure, but it is typical of the intelligence community forces loyal to Bush; as for Cord Meyer, it may be that he developed the design for the Special Situation Group which Bush chaired from March, 1981 to January, 1989, through which Bush ran Iran-Contra and all of the other significant covert operations and coups of the entire Reagan era.
And what did other CIA officers, such as intelligence analysts, think of Bush? A common impression is that he was a superficial lightweight with no serious interest in intelligence. Deputy Director for Science and technology Carl Duckett, who was ousted by Bush after three months, commented that he “never saw George Bush feel he had to understand the depth of something….[he] is not a man tremendously dedicated to a cause or ideas. He’s not fervent. He goes with the flow, looking for how it will play politically.” According to Maurice Ernst, the head of the CIA’s office of economic research from 1970 to 1980, “George Bush doesn’t like to get into the middle of an intellectual debate…he liked to delegate it. I never really had a serious discussion with him on economics.” Another former CIA aide to Bush who wanted to remain anonymous observed that “it was an approach remarkably similar to what a younger, more active Ronald Reagan might have done.” Hans Heymann was Bush’s National Intelligence Officer for Economics, and he remembers having been impressed by Bush’s Phi Beta Kappa Yale degree in economics. As Heymann later recalled Bush’s response, “He looked at me in horror and said, ‘I don’t remember a thing. It was so long ago, so I’m going to have to rely on you.'” [fn 31]
Other CIA employees remember Bush as a manager who would not grapple with concepts, but who rather saw himself as a problem solver and consensus builder who would try to resolve difficulties by getting people into a room to find a compromise basis of agreement. In reality, much of this was also a calculated pose. No one has ever accused Bush of profundity on any subject, except perhaps race hatred, but his disengaged stance appears as an elaborate deception to conceal his real views from the official chain of command.
In the meantime, the scuttlebut around Langley and the Pentagon was, according to a high CIA official, that “the CIA and DOD will love George Bush and Don Rumsfeld more than they hated or feared Bill Colby and Jim Schlesinger because neither will make any real waves.” One writer summed up Bush’s superficial public profile during this period as “not altogether incompetent.” [fn 32]
During the first few weeks of Bush’s tenure, the Ford administration was gripped by a “first strike” pyschosis. This had nothing to do with the Soviet Union, but was rather Ford’s desire to pre-empt any proposals for reform of the intelligence agencies coming out of the Pike or Church committees with a pseudo-reform of his own, premissed on his own in-house study, the Rockefeller report, which recommended an increase of secrecy for covert operations and classified information. Since about the time of the Bush nomination, an interagency task force armed with the Rockefeller commission recommendations had been meeting under the chairmanship of Ford’s counselor Jack O. Marsh. This was the Intelligence Coordinating Group, which included delegates of the intelligence agencies, plus NSC, OMB, and others. This group worked up a series of final recommendations that were given to Ford to study on his Christmas vacation in Vail, Colorado. At this point Ford was inclined to “go slow and work with Congress.”
But on January 10 Marsh and the intelligence agency bosses met again with Ford, and the strategy began to shift towards pre-empting Congress. On January 30, Ford and Bush came back from their appearance at the CIA auditorium swearing in session and met with other officials in the Cabinet Room. Attending besides Ford and Bush were Secretary of State Kissinger, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Attorney General Levi, Jack Marsh, Phil Buchen, Brent Scowcroft, Mike Duval, and Peter Wallison representing Vice President Rockefeller, who was out of town that day. [fn 33] Here Ford presented his tentative conclusions for further discussion. The general line was to pre-empt the Congress, not to cooperate with it, to increase secrecy, and to increase authoritarian tendencies.
Ford scheduled a White House press conference for the evening of February 17. In an atmosphere of intense last-minute haggling over bureaucratic prerogative, Bush was careful to meet with Leo Cherne to consolidate his relations with both Cherne and PFIAB. Cherne’s memo of February 6 shows that he asked Bush to “make sure that we on the board are not surprised.” Cherne stressed the need to know as much as possible about changes in the Sino-Soviet relationship and the need to upgrade economic intelligence, which, he lamented, was becoming flabbier as the oil crisis and the accompanying shocks to the international monetary system receded. Cherne was for declassifying whatever could be declassified, a bureaucratic posture that could not go wrong. Cherne thought that the “Pike Commission has a poor staff, issued a dreadful final report, but it did in the course of its inquiry ask the right questions.” These, Cherne told Bush, should be answered. Cherne also wanted to set up “non-punitive regular monitoring” to evaluate the successes and failures of the intelligence community. This proposal should be noted, for here we have the germinal idea for Team B, which Bush set up a few months later to evaluate the agency’s record in judging the strategic intentions and capabilities of the USSR. [fn 34]
In his press conference of February 17, Ford scooped the Congress and touted his bureaucratic reshuffle of the intelligence agencies as the most sweeping reform and reorganization of the United States intelligence agencies since the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. “I will not be a party to the dismantling of the CIA or other intelligence agencies,” he intoned. He repeated that the intelligence community had to function under the direction of the National Security Council as if that were something earth-shaking and new; from the perspective of Oliver North and Admiral Poindexter we can see in retrospect that it guaranteed nothing. A new NSC committee chaired by Bush was entrusted with the task of giving greater central coordination to the intelligence community as a whole. This committee was to consist of Bush, Kissinger clone William Hyland of the National Security Council Staff, and Robert Ellsworth, the assistant secretary of Defense for Intelligence. This committee was jointly to formulate the budget of the intelligence community and allocate its resources to the various tasks.
The 40 Committee, which had overseen covert operations, was now to be called the Operations Advisory Group, with its membership reshuffled to include Scowcroft of NSC, Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff George Brown, plus observers from the Attorney General and the Office of Mangement and Budget.
An innovation was the creation of the Intelligence Oversight Board (in addition to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board), which was chaired by Ambassador Robert D. Murphy, the old adversary of Charles deGaulle during World War II. The IOB was supposed to be a watchdog to prevent new abuses from coming out of the intelligence community. Also on this board were Stephen Ailes, who had been Undersecretary of Defense for Kennedy and Secretary of the Army for LBJ. The third figure on this IOB was Leo Cherne, who was soon to be promoted chairman of PFIAB as well. The increasingly complicit relationship of Cherne to Bush meant that all alleged oversight by the IOB was a mockery. The average age of the IOB was about 70, leading Carl Rowan to joke that it was a case of Rip Van Winkle guarding the CIA. None of the IOB members, Rowan pointed out, was young, poor, or black.
Believe it or not, Ford also wanted a version of the Official Secrets Act which we have seen Bush supporting: he called for “special legislation to guard critical intelligence secrets. This legislation would make it a crime for a government employee who has access to certain highly classified information to reveal that information improperly.” Which would have made the Washington leak game rather more dicey than it is at present.
The Official Secrets Act would have to be passed by Congress, but most of the rest of what Ford announced was embodied in Executive Order 11905. Church thought that this was overreaching, since it amounted to changing some provisions of the National Security Act by presidential fiat. But this was now the new temper of the times.
As for the CIA, Executive Order 11905 authorized it “to conduct foreign counterintelligence activities…in the United States,” which opened the door to many things. Apart from restrictions on physical searches and electronic bugging, it was still open season on Americans abroad. The FBI was promised the Levi guidelines, and other agencies would get charters written for them. In the interim, the power of the FBI to combat various “subversive” activities was reaffirmed. Political assassination was banned, but there were no limitations or regulations placed on covert operations, and there was nothing about measures to improve the intelligence and analytical product of the agencies.
In the view of the New York Times, the big winner was Bush: “From a management point of view, Mr. Ford tonight centralized more power in the hands of the Director of Central Intelligence than any had had since the creation of the CIA. The director has always been the nominal head of the intelligence community, but in fact has had little power over the other agencies, particularly the Department of Defense.” Bush was now de facto intelligence czar. [fn 35]
Poor Ford was unable to realize that his interest was to be seen as a reformer, not as someone who wanted to re-impose secrecy. When he was asked if his Official Secrets Act could not be used to deter whistle-blowers on future bureaucratic abuses, Ford responded that all federal employees would be made to sign a statement pledging that they would not divulge classified information, and that they could expect draconian punishment if they ever did so.
Congressman Pike said that Ford’s reorganization was bent “largely on preserving all of the secrets in the executive branch and very little on guaranteeing a lack of any further abuses.” Church commented that what Ford was really after was “to give the CIA a bigger shield and a longer sword with which to stab about.”
An incident of those days reveals something of what was going on. Daniel Schorr of CBS, whose name had popped up on the Nixon enemies’ list during the Watergate hearings, had obtained a copy of the Pike Committe report and passed it on to the Village Voice. Schorr had attended Ford’s press conference, and listened as Ford denounced the leaking of the Pike report. The next day, covering Capitol Hill, Schorr encountered Bush while the new CIA boss was on his way to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A wirephoto of an angry Bush gesticulating at Schorr wound up on the front page of the Washington Star under the headline: “Another Confrontation.” With that, Schorr’s twenty-year career with CBS was over, and he was soon to face a witchhunt by the House Ethics Committee. Other reporters soon caught on that under the new Bush regime, political opponents would be slammed. (Schorr later speculated about CIA links to CBS owner William Paley; there was no need to look any further than the fact that Harriman had helped to create CBS and that Prescott Bush had been a CBS director during the 1950’s, giving the Bushman network a firm presence there.
During these days, the Department of Justice announced that it would not prosecute former CIA Director Richard Helms for his role in an illegal break-in at a photographic studio in Fairfax, Virginia during 1971. The rationale was from the National Security Act of 1947: “the director of central intelligence shall be responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure,” even if it meant breaking the law to do it. Bush would become a past master of this “sources and methods” clause, which could be used to cover up almost anyuthing.
The Church Committee was still functioning, and was looking into journalists controlled by the CIA, which some senators wanted to expose by name. On the same day as Ford’s press conference, Senators Huddleston and Mathias drove out to Langley to confront Bush and demand that he divulge the names of these CIA media assets. The CIA was “not at liberty to reveal the names,” Bush told the two senators. Instead, Bush offered documents that generally described the CIA’s use of reporters and scholars over the years, but with no names. Senators Baker, Hart, and Mondale then called Bush and urged that the names be made public. Bush refused.
Bush pointed to his statement, made on February 12 as the first public act of his CIA career, removing all “full-time or part-time news correspondents accredited by any US news service, newspaper, periodicals, radio or TV network or station” from the CIA payroll. He also claimed that there were no clergymen or missionaries on the CIA payroll at all. As far as the journalists were concerned, in April the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acitivities announced that they had already caught Bush lying, and that at least 25 journalists and reporters were still on the CIA payroll, and the CIA was determined to keep them there. Bush had quibbled on the word “accredited.” This limited the purge to accredited correspondents issued news credentials. But this excluded free lance reporters, editors, news executives, and foreign news organizations at all levels. When dealing with Bush, it pays to read the fine print.
The Bush-Kissinger-Ford counteroffensive against the Congressional committtes went forward. On March 5 the CIA leaked the story that the Pike Committee had lost more than 232 secret documents which had been turned over from the files of the executive branch. Pike said that this was another classic CIA provocation designed to discredit his committee, which had ceased its activity. Bush denied that he had engineered the leak: “The CIA did not do any such thing. Nothing of that nature at all,” Bush told a reporter to whom he had placed a call to whine out his denial. “My whole purpose was to avoid an argument with him,” said Bush, although he said that “Pike was the cause of this whole problem under great pressure.”
In March Bush had to take action in the wake of the leaking of a CIA report showing that Israel had between 10 and 20 nuclear bombs; the report was published by Arthur Kranish, the editor of Science Trends Magazine. Church, who had Zionist lobby ties of his own and who was in the midst of a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, demanded an investigation: “Can you imagine how a leak of that kind would have been treated if it had come out of the Congress of the United States!” In retrospect, the report may have been some timely window-dressing for Israeli prowess in a Ford regime in which Israel’s military value as an ally was hotly contested; a little later Gen. George Brown, the chairman of the joint chiefs, was quoted to be the effect that Israeli and its armed forces had “got to be considered a burden” for the United States.
In April, Bush told the American Society of Newspaper Editors that he was just back from a secret visit to three countries in Europe, which he refused to name, during which he conceded that he “might or might not” have met with Frank Sinatra. (Brother Jonathan Bush had said in February that Sinatra had offered his services to the new CIA boss.) Bush praised the CIA in his speech: “It is a fantastic reservoir of discipline in the CIA. Our personnel people say the quality of appplications is up. This is an expression of confidence in the agency. Morale is A-one.” There was speculation that Bush might have gone to Italy, where terrorist activity was increasing and the Italian Communist Party, profiting from the vogue of “Euro-communism,” was rapidly increasing its vote share during 1975-76.
In May, FBI Director Clarence Kelley apologized to the American people for the abuses committed by his secret police. Kelley said that he was “truly sorry” for past abuses of power, all of which were neatly laid at the door of the deceased former director, J. Edgar Hoover. Bush, for his part, aggressively refused to apologize. Bush conceded that he felt “outrage” at the illegal CIA domestic operations of the Watergate era, but that “that’s all I’m going to say about it…you can interpret it any way you want.” Bush’s line was that all abuses had already been halted under Colby by the latter’s “administrative dictum,” and that the issue now was the implementation of the Rockefeller Commission report, to which Bush once again pledged fealty. Bush had no comment on the Lockheed scandal, which had begun to destabilize the Japanese, German, Italian, and Netherlands governments. The advance of the Italian communists and the Panama canal treaties were all “policy questions for the White House” in his view. Although China was being rocked by the “democracy wall” movement and the first Tien An Men massacre of 1976, Bush, ever loyal to his Chinese communist cronies, found that all that did not add up to anything “dramatically different.”
A visit to the Texas Breakfast Club on May 27 found Bush trying to burnish his image as a good guy by talking about the existential dilemmas of a good man in any imperfect world, while pleading for more covert opoerations all the time. “I know in a limited way there are conflicts of conscience,” Bush told the breakfasters. “But we’re not living in a particularly moral world. We’re living in a world that’s not pure black or pure white. We’re living in a world where [the US] has to have a covert capability.” On the other hand, Bush was “not unconcerned about the constitutional questions that the excesses of the past have raised.” “I’m not going to defend the things that were done but I’m not going to dwell on them either.” “I’m happy to say I think things are moving away from the more sensational revelations of the past,” leaving the CIA as an institution “intact.” Necessity, pontificated Bush, sometimes demands “compromise with the purity of moral decisions.”
On June 3, the Houston Post touted Bush as a good vice presidential candidate after all, moderate and southern, no matter what Ford had promised to the senate to get Bush confirmed. Bush was mum.
A few days later Bush paid tribute to the Israeli Defense Forces, who had just rescued a group of hostages at Entebbe. Bush denigrated US capabilities in comparison with those of Israel, saying that the US could not match what Israel was able to do: “We do have a very important role in furnishing intelligence to policy makers and our friends on the movement of international terrorists, but to indicate that we have that kind of action capability–the answer is very frankly no.” Bush said that his policy on this matter was to fight terrorism with better intelligence, for “the more the American people understand this, the more support the CIA will have.” Yet, Bush was unable to stop a terrorist murder in Washington DC, despite the fact that he had personally received a telergam informing him that the assassins were coming to visit him– scarcely a good example of using intelligence to fight terrorism.
By September, Bush could boast in public that he had won the immediate engagement: his adversaries in the Congressional investigating committees were defeated. “The CIA,” Bush announced, “has weathered the storm.” “The mood in Congress has changed,” he crowed. “No one is campaigning against strong intelligence. The adversary thing, how we can ferret out corruption, has given way to the more serious question how we can have better intelligence.”
As Bush never tired of repeating, that meant more covert operations. In the middle of October, Bush spoke once again on this matter to the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association: “We would be stupid to give up covert operations and we are not going to do it as long as I have anything to say about it.” Bush claimed that covert operations consumed only 2% of the entire CIA budget but that such operations were necessary because “not everybody is going to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules.”
Such was the public profile of Bush’s CIA tenure up until about the time of the November, 1976 elections. If this had been the whole story, then we might accept the usual talk about Bush’s period of uneventful rebuilding and morale boosting while he was at Langley. We might share the conclusions of one author that “Bush was picked because he could be trusted to provide no surprises. Amiable and well-liked by old CIA hands, he sincerely believed in the agency and its mission. Bush soothed Congress, tried to restore confidence and morale and Langley, and avoided delving too deeply into the agency’s darker recesses.” [fn 36] Or, we might acceptthe following edifying summary: ‘[Bush] had a fundamental loyalty to the agency and its people even though he was an outsider. He was a man with a strong sense of obligation downward. Under him the people of the CIA soon realized that they were not going to be served up piecemeal. He probably did more for agency morale and standing in Congress than any DCI since Allen Dulles. Unlike Colby, who was loyal to the ideal of the CIA rather than to the people, Bush was committed to both. He was a genuine conservative in his politics and his approach, conveying no touch of originality, and was not a man to take initiatives. People knew exactly where they stood with him. He was a classic custodian, and it was this quality that Ford had recognized in him. For Bush being DCI was ‘the best job in Washington.'” [fn 37] The spirit of the red Studebaker school of idolatry, we see, had followed Bush to Langley and thence into many standard histories of the CIA.
Reality looked different. The administration Bush served had Ford as its titular head, but most of the real power, especially in foreign affairs, was in the hands of Kissinger. Bush was more than willing to play along with the Kissinger agenda.
The first priority was to put an end to such episodes as contempt citations for Henry Kissinger. Thanks to the presence of Don Gregg as CIA station chief in Seoul, South Korea, that was easy to arrange. This was the same Don Gregg of the CIA who would later serve as Bush’s national security advisor during the second vice presidential term, and who would manage decisive parts of the Iran-contra operations from Bush’s own office. Gregg knew of an agent of the Korean CIA, Tongsun Park, who had for a number of years been making large payments to members of Congress, above all to Democratic members of the House of Representatives, in order to secure their suppport for legislation that was of interest to Park Chung Hee, the South Korean leader. It was therefore a simple matter to blow the lid off this story, causing a wave of hysteria among the literally hundreds of members of Congress who had attended parties organized by Tongsun Park, who had become the Perle Mesta of the 1970’s when it came to entertaining Congressional bigwigs. Tongsun Park also had a stable of call girls available, and could provide other services. The US Ambassador to the Republic of Korea during this period was Richard Sneider.
The Koreagate headlines began to appear a few days after Bush had taken over at Langley. In February there was a story by Maxine Cheshire of the Washington Post reporting that the Department of Justice was investigating Congressmen Bob Leggett and Joseph Addabbo for allegedly accepting bribes from the Korean government. Both men were linked to Suzi Park Thomson, who had been hosting parties of the Korean Embassy. Later it turned out that Speaker of the House Carl Albert had kept Suzi Park Thomson on his payroll for all of the six years that he had been Speaker. Congressmen Hanna, Gallagher, Broomfield, Hugh Carey, and Lester Wolf were all implicated. The names of Tip O’Neill, Brademas, and McFall also came up. The New York Times estimated that as many as 115 Congressmen were involved.
In reality the number was much lower, but former Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski was brought back from Houston to become special prosecutor for this case as well. This underlined the press line that “the Democrats’ Watergate” had finally arrived. It was embarrassing to the Bush CIA when Tongsun Park’s official agency file disappeared for several months, and finally tuned up shorn of key information on the CIA officers who had been working most closely with Park. Eventually Congressman Hanna was convicted and sent to jail, while Congressman Otto Passman of Louisiana was acquitted, largely because he had had the presence of mind to secure a venue in his own state. A number of other congressmen quit, and it is thought that the principal reason for the decision by Democratic Speaker of the House Carl Albert to retire at the end of 1976 was the fact that he had been touched by the breath of this scandal, which would go into the chronicles as “Koreagate.” With this, most of the Congress was brought to heel. We note in passing that when George Bush takes a step up the ladder in Washington, the Speaker of the House is likely to be ousted. Ask Jim Wright.
An interesting sidelight of Koreagate involves then Congressman Edward Derwinksi, today Bush’s Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs. An article in the Wall Street Journal during this period alleged that federal investigators suspected Derwinksi of informing the Korean CIA that one of their officers was about to defect to the US for the purpose of cooperating with the Koregate investigations. Derwinski denied the accusations, and he was never prosecuted. [fn 38]
With that, the Congress was terrorized and brought to heel. In this atmosphere, Bush moved to reach a secret foreign policy consensus with key Congressional leaders of both parties of the one-party state. According to two senior government officials involved, limited covert operations in such places as Angola were continued under the pretext that they were necessary for phasing out the earlier, larger, and more expensive operations. Bush’s secret deal was especially successful with the post-Church Senate Intelligence Committee. Because of the climate of restoration that prevailed, a number of Democrats on this committee concluded that they must break off their aggressive inquiries (“the adversary thing”) and make peace with Bush, according to reports of remarks by two senior members of the committee staff. The result was an interregnum during which the Senate committee would neither set specific reporting requirements, nor attempt to pass any binding legislation to restrict CIA covert and related activity. In return, Bush would pretend to make a few disclosures to create a veneer of cooperation. [fn 39] These 1976 deals set the stage for many of the foreign intelligence monstrosities of the Jimmy Carter era. Ever since, the pretense of Congressional oversight over the intelligence community has been a mockery.
One theatre of covert operations in which Bush became involved was Angola. Here a civil war had erupted in 1974 with the end of Portuguese colonial rule, pitting the US-backed UNITA of Jonas Savimbi and the FNLA of Holden Roberto against the Marxist MPLA. In December, 1975 the Senate passed the Clark Amendment, designed to cut off US funding for the military factions. The Clark Amendment passed the House, and a ban on CIA operations in Angola became law on February 9, 1976. The chief of the CIA Angola task force, John Stockwell, later wrote that after February 9, the CIA kept sending planeloads of weapons from Zaire to UNITA forces in Angola, despite the fact that this was now illegal. There were at least 22 of such flights. Also in February, the Bush CIA began making large cash payoffs “to anyone who had been associated with our side of the Angolan war.” This meant that President Mobutu of Zaire got $2 million which he was supposed to give to pro-western guerilla factions; Mobutu simply kept the money, and the CIA’s guerillas “were left starving,” said Stockwell. The Congress found out about Bush’s illegal largesse, and subjected him to a series of hostile committe hearings in which full disclosure was demanded. The House Appropriations Committee placed a team of auditors in CIA headquarters to review accounting on the Angola program, which was code named IAFEATURE. On March 12 Bush sent a cable to all CIA stations ordering that no funds be spent on IAFEATURE. One day later, an uninsured cargo plane was shot down inside Angola. Despite this ignominious conclusion, Bush ordered awards and commendations for the 100 CIA personnel who had worked on the program. [ fn 40]
During Bush’s first months in Langley, the CIA under orders from Henry Kissinger launched a campaign of destabilization of Jamaica for the purpose of preventing the re-election of Prime Minister Michael Manley. This included a large-scale campaign to foment violence during the election, and large amounts of illegal arms were shipped into the island. $10 million was spent on the attempt to overthrow Manley, and at least three assassination attempts took place with the connivance of the CIA. [fn 41]
The Bush CIA also continued a program in Iran which went under the name of IBEX. This aimed at building and operating a $500 miilion electronic and photographic capability to cover the entire region, including parts of the USSR. On August 28, 1976, three Americans working on the project were assassinated in Teheran. According to a Washington Post account by Bob Woodward, a month before these killings the former CIA Director and then current US Ambassador to Iran, Richard Helms, sent Bush a note complaining about abuses connected with the project, and in particular demanding that Bush investigation corrupt practices which Helms suspected were involved with the project. Helms apparently wanted to be spared more embarrassment in case IBEX were to become the object of a new scandal. [fn 42]
During Bush’s CIA tenure, the CIA was found to have conducted electronic suveillance against the representatives of Micronesia, a UN Trusteeship territory in the Pacific that had been administered by the United States, and which was then about to become independent. In a story by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post alleged that the CIA had been bugging the Micronesian government over a four year period with a view to acquiring details of their negotiating strategy in talks with the State Department concerning relations with the United States after independence. The CIA’s rebuttal seems to have been that while it would indeed have been illegal to bug the Micronesians if they were US citizens, they were now foreigners, and such bugging had never been restricted.
During Bush’s time at the CIA, a series of governments around the world were destabilized by the Lockheed bribery scandal, the greatest multinational scandal of the 1970’s. This scandal grew out of hearings before a Senate subcommittee chaired by Frank Church, although separate from the Intelligence Committee mentioned above. A number of Lockheed executives testified that they had systematically bribed officials of allied governments to secure contracts the sale of their military aircraft. This system of unreported payments eventually implicated such figures as former Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, the leader of the most important faction in the Liberal Democratric Party, and Franz Josef Strauss, a former Federal German Defense Minister, Prime Minister of Bavaria, and the leader of the Christian Social Union, then a part of the opposition in the Bundestag in Bonn. Also implicated were a series of Italian Christian Democratic and Social Democratic political leaders, including the then Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, the President of the Italian Republic Giovanni Leone, and former Defense Ministers Mario Tanassi of the PSDI and Luigi Gui of the DC. In the Netherlands, Prince Bernhard, the consort of Queen Juliana, was implicated, and virtually no NATO country was spared. The Lockheed scandal, coming as it did out of a mileu full of military intelligence connections, was coherent with a long-term Anglo-American design of destabilizing and weakening allied governments and the political forces that constituted those governments.
Those who have witnessed the ghoulish public love affair between George Bush and the fascist “Iron Lady” of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, may be interested in indications that CIA Director Bush helped to bring Mrs. Thatcher to power. At the beginning of Bush’s tenure, the British Prime Minister was Harold Wilson of the Labor Party, who had won two general elections during 1974 and whose term would normally have ended in 1978. But Wilson was destabilized and forced out of office. Although his immediate successor was James Callaghan, also of the Labor Party, Callaghan’s cabinet was merely the prelude to the advent of Thatcher, who would remain in power for more than 11 years, until late in 1990. [fn 43]
Bush’s implication in the matter is beyond any doubt. Shortly after Bush had arrived at Langley, Prime Minister Wilson despatched his close friend Lord Weidenfeld to the United States with a confidential letter to be given to Senator Hubert Humphrey. Wilson and Weidenfeld met on February 10, 1976. The letter enumerated the names of a number of MI-5 and MI-6 officers of whom Wilson was suspicious. Wilson’s letter requested that Humphrey go to Bush and aks him whether the CIA knew anything about these British counter-intelligence and intelligence officers. Was it possible, Wilson wanted to know, that those named in the letter were actually working with or for the CIA? Were the British officials in league with a CIA faction that was carrying out eletronic or other surveillance of Wilson, including in his office in 10 Downing Street? Implied was the further question: was the CIA part of an operation to destabilize Wilson and bring him down?
It is known that Bush took Wilson’s letter quite seriously, so seriously that he flew to London to talk to Wilson and assured him that the CIA had not been responsible for any surveillance of the PM. But by the time Bush reached London, Wilson had already resigned in a surprise announcement made on March 16, 1976. What role had the CIA actually played?
The transition from Harold Wilson to Margaret Thatcher amounts to the replacement of Lord Victor Rothschild’s favorite puppet politician of the 1960’s with Lord Victor Rothschild’s preferred choice for the 1980’s. The pretext used to harrass Wilson out of office was Wilson’s well-known close ties to communists and to the Soviet block, but all of that had been well known back in 1964 when he had come to power for the first time. The pretext appears in all of its irony when we recall that Lord Victor Rothschild was himself the leading candidate to be named as the legendary “Fifth Man” of the KGB-SIS spy team of Philby, Maclean, Burgess, and Blunt.
A leading purveyor of the argument that Wilson was a Soviet asset was James Jesus Angleton, like Bush a Yale graduate. Angleton had been the counterintelligence director of the CIA until 1975, but he had not been very successful. Angleton had always been obsessed by the presence of high-level CIA moles in the US government and his own agency. Angleton was in touch with Peter Wright of MI-5. Wright was also bitterly opposed to Wilson, whom he characterized as a “Soviet-Zionist agent,” which was perfectly accurate as far as it went. But again, all that had been clear back in 1964 and even much earlier. Wright had provided Chapman Pincher, a right-wing British journalist and also an asset of Lord Victor, with the material for the book Their Trade is Treachery, a “limited hangout” which provided many interesting facts about the Soviet pentration of British intelligence, but which was mainly designed to keep Lord Victor out of the spotlight. Later Wright’s own book, Spycatcher, succeeded even better in protecting Lord Victor by becoming an international succes de scandale that allowed Lord Victor to die a natural death without ever having been apprehended by British authorities. The crowning irony is that Philby’s old pal Lord Victor, Wright, and the obsessive Angleton were all in a strange united front to villify Wilson for his links to Soviet intelligence, which were of course massive but which had been well known all along.
The CIA’s specific contributions to the destabilization of Wilson included the agency’s sponsorship of a book written by a Czech defector named Josef Frolik. This tome accused John Stonehouse, the Postmaster General in Wilson’s cabinet, of being an east bloc agent. Stonehouse later attempted to go underground in Australia after feigning suicide. Stonehouse was later found and brought back, although he still asserts his innocence of espionage charges. This affair, complete with a fugitive cabinet minister, was a colossal embarrassment to Wilson.
Wilson, as indicated, was convinced that he was being bugged, possibly with CIA participation. According to Chapman Pincher, “whether this surveillance extended to independent bugging by the CIA and NSA is unknown, although the CIA has denied it. Under the Anglo-American agreeement dating back to 1947, there had long been an exchange of suveillance information, including cable and letter intercepts, but it is not impossible that the Americans agencies occasionally undertook activities denied, by writ or circumstances, to the British.” [fn 44] In other words, it was easier for the Anglo-American establishment to have the CIA handle the bugging in London, since this was not illegal under the CIA’s regulations. Was there reciprocity in this respect? Part of the destabilization of Wilson was run through Private Eye magazine. Another likely participant was Tory activist Airey Neave, who had wanted to replace former Prime Minister Edward Heath with Thatcher when Heath fell in 1974. Ultimately, Thatcher would be the leading beneficiary of the fall of Wilson.
Another government destabilized through the CIA during the same period was the Gough Whitlam Labor Party government of Australia. Whitlam threatened to deprive the CIA of its key Pine Gap electronic listening post after he discovered that the Austrialian intelligence services had been working with the CIA to bring down Allende. On November 8, 1975, with Bush’s likely advent at the CIA already public knowledge, Theodore Shackley despatched a telegram to the Australian intelligence services threatening to cut off all exchanges, hanging the Australians out to dry. On November 11, in a highly unusual action, the Royal Governor General dismissed Whitlam as Prime Minister, bringing Malcolm Frase and the conservatives back to power. When Whitlam’s Labor Party majority in the lower housr responded by voting no confidence in Fraser, the Royal Governor General dissolved the lower house and called a election. It was a coup ordered directly by Queen Elizabeth II, and carried out with Bush’s help. In the background of this affair is the Nugan Hand bank, an Anglo-American intelligence proprietary involved with drug money laundering.
One of the most spectacular scandals of Bush’s tenure at the CIA was the assassination in Washington DC of the Chilean exile leader Orlando Letelier, who had been a minister in the government of Salvador Allende Gossens, who had been overthrown by Kissinger in 1973. Letelier along with Ronnie Moffitt of the Washington Institute for Policy Studies died on September 21, 1976 in the explosion of a car bomb on Sheridan Circle, in the heart of Washington’s Embassy Row district along Massachusetts Avenue.
Relatively few cases of international terrorism have taken place on the territory of the United States, but this was certainly an exception. Bush’s activities before and after this assassination amount to one of the most bizarre episodes in the annals of secret intelligence operations.
One of the assassins of Letelier was unquestionably one Michael Vernon Townley, a CIA agent who had worked for David Atlee Philips in Chile. After the overthrow of Allende and the advent of the Pinochet ditatorship, David Atlee Philips had become the director of the CIA’s western hemipshere operations. In 1975 Phillips founded AFIO, the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, which has supported George Bush in every campaign he has ever waged since that time. Townley, as a “former” CIA agent, had gone to work for the DINA, the Chilean secret police, and had been assigned by the DINA as its liaison man with a group called CORU. CORU was the acronym for Command of United Revolutionary Organizations, a united front of four anti-Castro Cuban organizations based primarily in the neighborhood of Miami called Little Havana. With CORU, we are back in the milieu of Miami anti-Castro Cubans whose political godfather George Bush had been since very early in the 1960’s. CORU was at that time working together with the intelligence services of Chile’s Pinochet, Paraguay’s Alfredo Stroessner, and Nicaragua’s Somoza for operations against common enemies, including Chilean left-wing emigres and Castro assets. Soon after the foundation of CORU, bombs began to go off at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York.
During this period a Miami doctor named Orlando Bosch was arrested, allegedly because he had been planning to assassinate Henry Kissinger, and that ostensibly because of Kissinger’s concessions to Castro. During the same period, the Chilean DINA was mounting its so-called Operation Condor, a plan to assassinate emigre opponents of the Pinochet dictatorship and its Milton Friedman, Chicago school economic policies. [fn 45]
It was under these circumstances that the US Ambassador to Chile, George Landau, sent a cable to the State Department with the singular request that two agents of the DINA be allowed to enter the United States with Paraguayan passports. One of these agents is likely to have been Townley. The cable also indicated that the two DINA agents also wanted to meet with Gen. Vernon Walters, the outgoing Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and so the cable also went to Langley. Here the cable was read by Walters, and also passed into the hands of Director George Bush. Bush not only had this cable in his hands; Bush and Walters discussed the contents of the cable and what to do about it, including whether Walters ought to meet with the DINA agents. The cable also reached the desk of Henry Kissinger. One of Landau’s questions appears to have been whether the mission of the DINA men had been approved in advance by Langley; his cable was accompanied by photocopies of the Paraguayan passports. (Later on, in 1980, Bush denied that he had ever seen this cable; he had not just been out of the loop, he claims; he had been in China. (The red Studebaker hacks, including Bush himself in his campaign autobiography, do not bother denying anything about the Letelier case; they simply omit it. [fn 46]
On August 4, on the basis of the conversations between Bush and Walters, the CIA sent a reply from Walters to Landau stating that the former “was unaware of the visit and that his Agency did not desire to have any contact with the Chileans.” Landau responded by revoking the visas that he had already granted and telling the Immigration and Naturalization Service to put the two DINA men on their watch list to be picked up if they tried to enter the US. The two DINA men entered the US anyway on August 22, with no apparent difficulty. The DINA men reached Washington, and it is clear that they were hardly traveling incognito: they appear to have asked a Chilean embassy official call the CIA to repeat their request for a meeting. According to other reports, the DINA men met with New York Senator James Buckley, the brother of conservative columnist William Buckley of Skull and Bones. It is also said that the DINA men met with Frank Terpil, a close associate of Ed Wilson, and no stranger to the operations of the Shackley-Clines Enterprise. According to one such version, “Townley met with Frank Terpil one week before the Letelier murder, on the same day that he met with Senator James Buckley and aides in New York City. The explosives sent to the United States on Chilean airlines were to replace explosives supplied by Edwin Wilson, according to a source close to the office of Assistant US Attorney Lawrence Barcella.” [fn 47] The bomb that killed Letelier and Moffitt was of the same type that the FBI believed that Ed Wilson was selling, with the same timer mechanism.
Bush therefore had plenty of warning that a DINA operation was about to take place in Washington, and it was no secret that it would be wetwork. As Dinges and Landau point out, when the DINA hitmen airrived in Washington they “alerted the CIA by having a Chilean embassy employee call General Walters’ office at the CIA’s Langley headquarters. It is quite beyond belief that the CIA is so lax in its counterespionage functions that it would simply have ignored a clandestine operation by a foreign intelligence service in Washington DC, or anywhere in the United States. It is equally implausible that Bush, Walters, Landau and other officials were unaware of the chain of international assassinations that had been attributed to DINA.” [fn 48] One might say that Bush had been an accessory before the fact.
Bush’s complicity deepens when we turn to the post-assassination coverup. The prosecutor in the Letelier-Moffitt murders was Assistant US Attorney Eugene M. Propper. Nine days after the assassinations, Propper was trying without success to get some cooperation from the CIA, since it was obvious enough to anyone that the Chilean regime was the prime suspect in the killing of one of its most prominent political opponents. The CIA had been crudely stonewalling Propper. He had even been unable to secure the requisite security clearance to see documents in the case. Then Propper received a telephone call from Stanley Pottinger, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Pottinger said that he had been in contact with members of the Institute for Policy Studies who had argued that the Civil Rights Division ought to take over the Letelier case because of its clear political implications. Propper argued that he should keep control of the case since the Protection of Foreign Officials Act gave him jurisdiction. Pottinger agreed that Propper was right, and that he ought to keep the case. When Pottinger offered to be of help in any possible way, Propper asked if Pottinger could expedite cooperation with the CIA.
As Propper later recounted this conversation:
- Instant, warm confidence shot through the telphone line. The assistant attorney general replied that he happened to be a personal friend of the CIA director himself, George Bush. Pottinger called him “George.” For him, the CIA Director was only a phone call away. Would Propper like an appointment? By that afternoon he, [an FBI agent working on the case], and Pottinger were scheduled for lunch with Director Bush at CIA headquarters on Monday. A Justice Department limousine would pick them up at noon. Propper whistled to himself. This was known in Washintgton as access. [fn 49]
At CIA headquarters, “Pottinger introduced Propper to Director Bush, and Bush introduced the two lawyers to Tony Lapham, his general counsel. Then, graciously, the Director said, ‘Would you gentlmen care for some sherry?” An old butler in a white coat served sherry and cheese hors d’oeuvres. Then the group moved into the Director’s private dining room, where an elegant table was laid on white linen.”
There was some polite conversation. Then,
- when finally called on to state his business, Propper said that the Letelier-Moffitt murders were more than likely political assassinations, and that the investigation would probably move outside the United States into the Agency’s realm of foreign intelligence. Therefore, Propper wanted CIA cooperation in the form of reports from within Chile, reports on assassins, reports on foreign operatives entering the United States, and the like. He wanted anything he could get that might bear upon the murders.
If Bush had wanted to be candid, he could have informed Propper that he had been informed of the coming of the DINA team twice, once before they left South America and once when they had arrived in Washington. But Bush never volunteered this highly pertinent information. Instead, he went into a sophisticated stonewall routine:
- “Look,” said Bush, “I’m appalled by the bombing. Obviously we can’t allow people to come right here into the capital and kill foreign diplomats and American citizens like this. It would be a hideous precedent. So, as Director, I want to help you. As an American citizen, I want to help. But, as director, I also know that the Agency can’t help in a lot of situations like this. We’ve got some problems. Tony, tell him what they are.”
Lapham’s argument went like this, with Bush looking on:
- The first problem is that every time we’ve tried to help Justice in the past, they’ve screwed us. They always promise us that if we give them this assistance of that assistance, they’ll just use it for background, but the next thing we know, they’re trying to make a witness out of our source. They’re trying to put him in court. We can’t attract and hold sources if they’re afraid they’ll get slapped into court.
“Well, that sounds legitimate to me,” said Propper, “but I’m sure we can figure out a way to work around it.”
“That’s not all,” said Lapham. “We got torn to pieces last year for domestic intelligence, so now everybody over here is gun-shy about rep]orting on Americans or any activities in this country. We can’t do it. That’s strictly out. The liberals don’t like some things we do and the conservatives don’t like others, and the way the rule book is now, we stay clean by keeping out of criminal stuff and domestic stuff. You’ve got a murder here in the states. That’s both. That makes it tough.”
“I see,” said Propper. “But I can’t believe there’s not some way for you to get into this case. There has to be a way. If somebody comes into the country from overseas and assassinates people here in Washington, that’s got to be your kind of work. They might do it again. Who else will stop it?”
“Sure,” said Lapham. “That’s a security matter. That’s ours. But we don’t know this is a security matter yet, and we’d have to investigate a crime to find out.” [fn 50]
Notice the consummate Aristotelian obfuscation by Lapham, who is propounding a chicken and egg paradox of law and administration. Apart from such sophists, everyone knew that Pinochet was a prime suspect. Lapham and Propper finally agreed that they could handle the matter best through an exchange of letters between the CIA Director and Attorney General Levi. George Bush summed up: “If you two come up with something that Tony thinks will protect us, we’ll be all right.” The date was October 4, 1976.
Contrary to that pledge, Bush and the CIA began actively to sabotage Propper’s investigation in public as well as behind the scenes. By Saturday the Washington Post was reporting many details of Propper’s arrangement with the CIA. Even more interesting was the following item in the “Periscope” column of Newsweek magazine of October 11:
- After studying FBI and other field investigations, the CIA has concluded that the Chilean secret police were not involved in the death of Orlando Letelier….The agency reached its decision because the bomb was too crude to be the work of experts and because the murder, coming while Chile’s rulers were wooing US support, could only damage the Santiago regime.”
According to the New York Times of October 12: *
- [Ford Administration] intelligence officials said it appeared that the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency had virtually ruled out the idea that Mr. Letelier was killed by agents of the Chilean military junta….[They] said they understood DINA was firmly under the control of the government of Gen. Augusto Pincohet and that killing Mr. Letelier could not have served the junta’s purposes….The intelligence officials said a parallel investigation was pursuing the possibility that Mr. Letelier had been assassinated by Chilean left-wing extremists as a means of disrupting United States relations with the military junta.
On November 1. the Washington Post reported a leak from Bush personally:
- CIA officials say…they believe that operatives of the present Chilean military junta did not take part in Letelier’s killing. According to informed sources, CIA Director Bush expressed this view in a conversation last week with Secretary of State Kissinger, the sources said. What evidence the CIA has obtained to support this initial conclusion was not disclosed. *
Most remarkably, Bush is reported to have flown to Miami on November 8 with the purpose or pretext of taking “a walking tour of little Havana.” As author Donald Freed tells it, “Actually [Bush] met with the Miami FBI Special Agent in Charge Julius Matson and the chief of the anti-Castro terrorism squad. According to a source close to the meeting Bush warned the FBI against allowing the investigation to go any further than the lowest level Cubans.” [fn 51]
In a meeting presided over by Pottinger, Propper was only able to get Lapham to agree that the Justice Department could ask the CIA to report any information on the Letelier murder that might relate to the security of the United States against foreign intervention. It was two years before any word of the July-August cables was divulged.
Ultimately some low-level Cubans were convicted in a trial that saw Townley cop a plea bargain and get off with a lighter sentence than the rest. Material about Townley under his various aliases strangley disappeared from the INS files, and records of the July-August cable traffic with Walters (and Bush) was expunged. No doubt that there had been obstruction of justice, no doubt there had been a cover-up.
On October 6, bombs destroyed a Cubana Airlines DC-8 flying from Kingston, Jamaica to Havana, killing 73 passangers and crew, including the Cuban national fencing team which was returning from Venezuela. Anonymous callers to newspapers and radio stations claimed responsibility for CORU and Operation Condor, while Fidel Castro immediately blamed the CIA. Venezuelan police arrested CORU leaders Orlando Bosch (freed from jail in the US) and Luis Posada Carriles, whom we will later see as an associate of Bush operative Felix Rodriguez in Iran-contra.
During 1976, Ed Wilson, officially retired, had been working with CIA officials on a project to deliver explosives, timers, weapons, and ultimately Redeye missles to Qaddafi of Libya. Wilson was receiving assistance from active duty CIA agents, including William Weisenburger and from Scientific Communications, a CIA front company. Wilson was working with Clines, who was still on the CIA payroll. CIA man Kevin Mulcahy had reported to Theodore Shackley about Wilson’s activities, and Shackley had informed deputy director William Wells, who in turned had passed the hot potato on to Inspector General John Waller. The result of this round was a probe of Mulcahy’s report under Thomas Cox of Wallers’ staff, assisted by Thomas Clines, of all people. On the basis of this in-house investigation, Bush on September 17 decided to pass the entire case on to the FBI.
Another aspect of Wilson’s skullduggery was reported to Clines by Rafael “Chi Chi” Quintero, another fixture of the Enterprise, who complained that Wilson was trying to recruit him for an assassination attempt against “Carlos,” the fabled international terrorist. Years later Wilson was given a long jail sentence, while his sidekick Frank Terpil went underground. What is essential here is that under Bush’s administration, the CIA and its associated Enterprise and other old boys networks began to run amok along paths that lead us towards the Iran-contra affair and the other great covert action secret wars of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
During the last days of the Ford Administration, Attorney General Edward Levi had occasion to assert that the CIA’s policy of refusing to turn documents and other evidence over to the Justice Department “smacked of a Watergate cover-up.” This was in connection with the prosecution of one Edwin Gibbons Moore, who was allegedly trying to sell secret papers to the Soviet Embassy. The Bush CIA had refused to turn over various documents germane to this strange case.
During the Reagan years, Bush was given a much-publicized assignment as head of the South Florida Task Force and related efforts that were billed as part of a “war on drugs.” In 1975, President Ford had ordered the CIA to collect intelligence on narcotics trafficking overseas, and also to “covertly influence” foreign offocials to help US anti-drug activities. How well did Bush carry out this critical part of his responsibilities?
Poorly, according to a Justice Department “Report on Inquiry into CIA-Related Electronic Surveillance Activities,” which was compiled in 1976, but which has only partly come into the public domain. What emerges is a systematic pattern of coverup that recalls Lapham’s spurious arguments in the Leletier case. Using the notorious stonewall that the first responsibility of the CIA was to shield its own “methods and sources” from being exposed, the agency expressed fear “that the confidentiality of CIA’s overseas collection methods and sources would be in jeopardy should discovery proceedings require disclosure of the CIA’s electronic surveillance activities.” [fn 52] This caused “several narcotics invesitgations and’or prosecutions…to be terminated.”
It was during 1976 that Bush met the Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega. According to Don Gregg, this meeting took place on the edges of a luncheon conference with several other visiting Panamanian officials.
This all makes an impressive catalogue of debacles in the area of covert operations. But what about the intelligence product of the CIA, in particular the National Intelligence Estimates that are the centerpiece of the CIA’s work. Here Bush was to oversee a maneuver markedly to enhance the influence of the pro-Zionist wing of the intelligence community.
As we have already seen, the idea of new procedures allegedly designed to evaluate the CIA’s track record in intelligence analysis had been kicking around in Leo Cherne’s PFIAB for some time. In June, 1976, Bush accepted a proposal from Leo Cherne to carry out an experiment in “competitive analysis” in the area of National Intelligence Estimates of Soviet air defenses, Soviet missle accuracy, and overall Soviet strategic objectives. Bush and Cherne decided to conduct the competitive analysis by commissioning two separate groups, each of which would present and argue for its own conclusions. On the one, Team A would be the CIA’s own National Intelligence Officers and their staffs. But there would also be a separate Team B, a group of ostensibly independent outside experts.
The group leader of Team B was Harvard history professor Richard Pipes, who was working in the British Museum in London when he was appointed by Bush and Cherne. Pipes had enjoyed support for his work from the office of Senator Henry Jackson, which had been one of the principal incubators of a generation of whiz kids and think tankers whose entire strategic outlook revolved around the stated or unstated premiss of the absolute primacy of supporting Israel in every imaginable excess or adventure, while frequently sacrificing vital US interests in the process.
The liason between Pipes’ Team B and Team A, the official CIA, was provided by John Paisley, who had earlier served as the liaison between Langley and the McCord-Hunt-Liddy Plumbers. In this sense Paisley served as the staff director of the Team A-Team B experiment. Pipes then began choosing the members of Team B. First he selected from a list provided by the CIA two military men, Lieutenant General John Vogt and Brigadier General Jasper Welch, Jr., both of the Air Force. Pipes the added seven additional members: Paul Nitze, Gen. Daniel Graham, the retiring head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Professor William van Cleave of the University of Southern California, former US Ambassador to Moscow Foy Kohler, Paul Wolfowitz of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Thomas Wolfe of the RAND Corporation, and Seymour Weiss, a former top State Department official. Two other choices by Pipes were rejected by Bush.
Team B began meeting during late August of 1976. Paisley and Don Suda provided Team B with the same raw intelligence being used by National Intelligence Officer Howard Stoertz’s Team A. Team B’s basic conclusion was that the Soviet military preparations were not exclusively defensive, but rather represented the attempt to acquire a first-strike capability that would allow the USSR to unleash and prevail in thermonculear war. The US would face a window of vulnerability during the 1980’s. But it is clear from Pipes’ own discussion of the debate that Team B [fn 53] was less interested in the Soviet Union and its capabilities than in seizing hegemony in the intelligence and think tank community in preparation for seizing the key posts in the Republican administration that might follow Carter in 1980. Pipes was livid when, at the final Team A-Team B meeting, he was not allowed to sit at Bush’s table for lunch. The argument in Team B quarters was that since the Soviets were turning aggressive once again, the US must do everything possible to strengthen the only staunch and reliable American ally in the Middle East or possibly anywhere in the world, Israel. This meant not just that Israel had to be financed without stint, but that Israel had to be brought into central America, the Far East, and Africa. There was even a design for a new NATO constructed around Israel, while junking the old NATO because it was absorbing vital US resources needed by Israel.
By contrast, Team B supporters like Richard Perle, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan, were later bitterly hostile to the Strategic Defense Initiative, which was plainly the only rational response to the Soviet buildup, which was very real indeed. The “window of vulnerability” argument had merit, but the policy conclusions favored by Team B had none, since their idea of responding to the Soviet threat was, once again, to subordinate everything to Israeli requirements.
Team A and Team B were supposed to be secret, but leaks appeared in the Boston Globe in October. Pipes was surprised to find an even more detailed account of Team B and its grim estimate of Soviet intent in the New York Times shortly after Christmas, but Paisley told him that Bush and CIA official Richard Lehman had already been leaking to the press, and urged Pipes to begin to offer some interviews of his own. [fn 54]
Typically enough, Bush appeared on Face the Nation early in the new year to say that he was “appalled” by the leaks of Team B’s conclusions. Bush confessed that “outside expertise has enormous appeal to me.” He refused to discuss the Team B conclusions themselves, but did say that he wanted to “gun down” speculation that the CIA had leaked a tough estimate of the USSR’s military buildup in order to stop Carter from cutting the defense budget. That speculation “just couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Bush, who was thus caught lying neither for the first nor last time in his existence. As if by compulsive association, Bush went on: “That gets to the integrity of the process. And I am here to defend the integrity of the intelligence process. The CIA has great integrity. It would never take directions from a policymaker– me or anybody else–in order to come up with conclusions to force a President-elect’s hand or a President’s hand,” pontificated Bush with Olympian hypocrisy.
For his part, Henry Kissinger, within a year or two, in an interview with the London Economist, embraced key aspects of the Team B position.
Congress soon got into the act, and George Bush testified at a closed hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 18, 1977. It turned out that Team B and its “worst-case” scenario enjoyed strong support from Hubert Humphrey, Clifford Case, and Jacob Javits. Later it also became clear that Adlai Stevenson, the chiarman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Subcommittee on Collection, Production, and Quality of Intelligence was also supportive of Team B, along with many other senators such as Moynihan and Wallop. Gary Hart was hostile, but Percy was open to dialogue with Team B.
After the Team B conclusions had been bruited around the world, Pipes became a leading member of the Committee on the Present Danger, where his fellow Team B veteran Paul Nitze was already ensconced, along with Eugene V. Rostow, Dean Rusk, Lane Kirkland, Max Kampelman, Richard Allen, David Packard, and Henry Fowler. About 30 members of the Committee on the Present danger went on to become high officials of the Reagan Administration.
Ronald Reagan himself embracedthe “window of vulerability” thesis, which worked as well for him as the bomber gap and missle gap arguments had worked in previous elections. When the Reagan Administration was being assembled, Bush and James Baker had a lot to say about who got what appointments. Bush was the founder of Team B, and that is the fundamental reason which such pro-Zionist neoconservatives as Max Kampelman, Richard Perle, Steven Bryen, Noel Koch, Paul Wolfowitz and Dov Zakem showed up in the Reagan Administration. For in one of his many ideological reincarnations, George Bush is also a neoconservative himself. What counted for Team B was to occupy the offices, and to dominate the debate. Team B greatly influenced the strategic assumptions and rhetoric of the first Reagan Administration; their one outstanding defeat was the launching of the SDI.
In a grim postlude to the Team B exercise, Bush’s hand-picked staff director for the operation, John Paisley, the Soviet analyst (Paisley was the former deputy director of the CIA’s Office of Strategic Research) and CIA liaison to the Plumbers, disappeared on September 24, 1978 while sailing on Chesapeake Bay in his sloop, the Brillig. Several days later a body was found floating in the bay in an advanced state of decomposition, and with a gun shot wound behind the left ear. The corpse was weighed down by two sets of ponderous diving belts. The body was four inches shorter than Paisley’s own height, and Paisley’s wife later asserted that the body found was not that of her husband. Despite all this, the body was positively identified as Paisley’s, the death summarily ruled a suicide, and the body quickly cremated at a funeral home approved by the Office of Security. Paisley had been involved along with Angleton in the debriefing and managing of Soviet defectors like Nosenko and Nikolai Artamonov/”Shadrin,” and various aspects of this case show that the Bush-Cherne Team B had not really ceased its operations after 1976-77, but had continued to function. Some have attempted to identify Paisley as Deep Throat. Others have suggested that he was a KGB mole. Either story, if true, might lead to highly embarrassing consequences for George Bush. [fn 55]
The Shadrin case just mentioned allows us to follow Bush a few steps further into the world of Soviet defectors, exchanges, kidnappings, murders, and other grisly rites of the cold war. Nicolai Artamonov alias Nick Shadrin was a Soviet naval officer who had defected to the west in the 1950’s, and who worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency. There are indications that Shadrin was encouraged by his US handlers to let himself be contacted by the Soviets so that he could become a double agent. In December, 1975 Shadrin was sent to Vienna by the CIA, where he disappeared. According to some versions, he had been a Soviet agent all along, and went back to Moscow under the orders of the KGB. According to other versions, Shadrin was cynically delivered up by his CIA handlers to certain death at the hands of the KGB within the framework of a dirty operation to enhance the career of another KGB agent who had secretly gone to work for the CIA while remaining with the KGB. [fn 56]
The handling of defectors such as Shadrin represented that part of CIA operations where James Jesus Angleton spun his web, so were are moving through an obfuscated wilderness of mirrors in broaching this subject. But it seems well established that Bush acquired a personal role in the Shadrin affair through his deception of Shadrin’s wife, Eva Shadrin, who was desperately seeking to find out what had happened to her husband. With the help of friends, Eva Shadrin appealed for assistance to Senators John Sparkman, and James Eastland, to Speaker of the House Carl Albert, to Pentagon officials and to PFIAB. On February 5, Mrs. Shadrin received a call from Brent Scowcroft saying that the case had been brought to his attention. The same day Gen. Vernon Walters called to say that Scowcroft was meeting with him at that very hour to see what could be done. Bush then appointed CIA Counterintelligence Chief George Kalaris to oversee cooperation with Mrs. Sadrin and her lawyer, Richard Copaken. Kalaris is accused in one published account of this story of having helped to delivered Shadrin into the hands of the KGB. Later, on October 8, 1976 Mrs. Shadrin and Copaken were received by Bush at Langley in a meeting also attended by Kalaris and former CIA employee Chester Cooper. Various possibilities for forcing an exchange of Shadrin were brought up by Mrs. Shadrin, but were ruled out by Bush. Bush also refused to say whether or not Shadrin was on a secret mission for the CIA. Bush did agree to set up a meeting for Mrs. Shadrin with President Ford.
On November 5, Ford received Mrs. Shadrin at the White House. Mrs. Shadrin recalled Ford as “cold and austere,” a man whose “eyes seemed glazed over like a bullfrog’s while I talked.” Ford was unwilling to make any committment on behalf of Shadrin. In the meantime, Bush had allowed Copaken to interview several CIA clandestine officers, including the last CIA contact to see Shadrin, one Cynthia Hausmann. This was considered a highly unusual favor by the DCI, even though Hausmann’s cover had already been blown by Philip Agee. But in the end, Mrs. Shadrin concluded that her husband had been set up by the CIA, and that “she had been a fool to believe anything told her by George Bush….” [fn 57]
Related dimensions of Bush’s intrigues at the CIA can only be hinted at. There is for example the case of Ralph Joseph Sigler, an army segreant who worked as a double agent with the east bloc until he was found brutally murdered by electrocution in a motel in April, 1976. Among Sigler’s belongings was a photograph of himself together with CIA Director Bush. [fn 58]
The question raised by these cases was almost universally dodged during the 1988 election campaign: “Do the American people really want to elect a former director of the CIA as their President,” as Tom Wicker posed it in the New York Times of April 29, 1988. “That’s hardly been discussed so far; but it seems obvious that a CIA chief might well be privy to the kind of ‘black’ secrets that could later make him– as a public figure–subject to blackmail.” Here is one area where we can be sure that we have only scratched the surface.
As he managed the formidable world-wide capabilities of the CIA during 1976, Bush was laying the groundwork for his personal advancement to higher office and greater power in the 1980’s. As we have seen, there was some intermittent speculation during the year that, in spite of what Ford had promised the Senate, Bush might show up as Ford’s running mate after all. But, at the Republican convention, Ford chose Kansas Senator Bob Dole for vice-president. If Ford had won the election, Bush would certainly have attempted to secure a further promotion, perhaps to Secretary of State, Defense, or Treasury as a springboard for a new presidential bid of his own in 1980. But if Carter won the election, Bush would attempt to raise the banner of the non-political status of the CIA in order to convince Carter to let him stay at Langley during the period 1977-81 as a “non-partisan” administrator.
Carter and Bush were not destined to get along. Carter wore the mask of the cult of Dionysios, demanding that the secrets of the inner temple be thrown open to the plebs for which he pretended to act as tribune. Bush wore the mask of the temple of Apollo, and argued in public for the sanctity of state secrets and the priority of covert operations while he secretly deployed his own irregular armies. Carter had implicitly attacked Bush during the early phases of the presidential campaign in an August 12 speech in which the Georgian had denigrated the Ford Administration as a “dumping ground for unsuccessful candidates, faithful political partisans, out-of-favor White House aides and representatives of the special interests.” That day, Bush had travelled to Plains, Geergia to provide Carter with a five-hour intelligence briefing. Reporters asked Bush about Carter’s comments, which elicited a fit of apoplexy from our hero: “That’s very interesting,” said Bush. We came down here to do a professional job. The President directed me to brief him on intelligence matters. Everything went very well.” Carter backed off a day later, saying “I happen to think a lot of George Bush.”
In the close 1976 election, Carter prevailed by vote fraud in New York, Ohio, and other states, but Ford was convinced by Nelson and Happy Rockefeller, as well as by his own distraught wife Betty, that he must concede in order to preserve the work of “healing” that he had accomplished since Watergate. Carter would therefore enter the White House.
Bush prepared to make his bid for continuity at the CIA. Shortly after the election, he was scheduled to journey to Plains to brief Carter once again with the help of his deputy Henry Knoche. Early in the morning Bush and Knoche stopped off at the Old Executive Office Building to talk to Budget Director Robert Lynn in order to secure a cash infusion for the CIA, which was facing a budgetary crunch. Bush then dropped in on Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and also went into the Oval Office to talk to Ford.
The critical meeting with Carter went very badly indeed. Bush took Carter aside and argued that in 1960 and 1968, CIA Directors were retained during presidential transitions, and that it would make Carter look good if he did the same. Carter signalled that he wasn’t interested. Then Bush lamely stammered that if Carter wanted his own man in Langley, Bush would be willing to resign. which is of course standard procedure for all agency heads when a new president takes office. Carter said that that was indeed exactly what he wanted, and that he would have his own new DCI ready by January 21, 1977. Bush and Knoche then briefed Carter and his people for some six hours. Carter insiders told the press that Bush’s briefing had been a “disaster.” “Jimmy just wasn’t impressed with Bush,” said a key Carter staffer. [fn 59]
Bush and Knoche then flew back to Washington, and on the plane Bush wrote a memo for Henry Kissinger describing his exchanges with Carter. At midnight, Bush drove to Kissinger’s home and briefed him for an hour.
Knoche said later that he was mightily impressed by Bush’s long day of meeting the budget director, the president, the vice president, the president-elect and the secretary of state, all on the same day, even if the result had been that Bush was fired. At Bush’s 9:30 AM staff meeting in Langley the next day, Knoche and a group of other officialsawarded Bush the Intelligence Medal of Merit. “It was a very touching day,” said Knoche.
Carter first attempted to make Theodore Sorenson, the former Kennedy intimate, his new CIA Director. It soon became clear that certain circles were determined to block this nomination. The Sorenson nomination was soon torpedoed by a series of leaks, including revelations that Sorenson had been a conscientious objector during World War II, plus accusations that he had taken classified documents with him when he had left the government in 1964. Carter tried to get NATO General Bernard Rogers for the post, but finally had to settle for Navy Admiral Stansfield Turner from his own class at Annapolis.
An important internal CIA issue that arose during Turner’s time in Langley was the question of personnel cuts, especially in the operations directorate. To understand Bush’s infl;uence on this topic, we must go back to the Watergate era.
During the Schlesinger-Colby period, about 2,000 CIA personnel, representing about 15% of the CIA manpower complement, were dismissed. The method of these firings appears to have been heavily influenced by Shackley and his faction, who argued that CIA personnel who were in danger of being exposed by Philip Agee should be pre-emptively terminated. There is therefore much reason to think that Shackley and Agee were in cahoots. This purge touched many important posts, which could then be filled by Shackley loyalists. A description of the process is offered by retired CIA agent Joseph Burkholder Smith, who served in the Western Hemisphere division:
- A defensive operation was started immediately and every activity, agent, and officer was scrutinized to determine if Agee had already blown them or if he would write about them in his book. A Shackley henchman was installed as chief of operations [was this William Nelson?] and a cryptonym, the Agency’s badge of security significance, was assigned to the task of getting rid of the division’s operations and much of its office staff– the pre-Shackley staff, some were quick to point out. They doubted whether so much destruction was necessary, especially since Shackley had a reputation for ruthlessness and for filling key jobs with his favorites.
Whether or not such a vast amount of house cleaning was really necessary, I could not decide. All I knew was that it was dismal work. […]
Nevertheless, I was disturbed to have to dismiss so many loyal men and upset to have the defenses I kept putting up to try to salvage something of their old lives summarily dismissed by the Star Chamber conducting the purge in Washington. When Agee’s book finally appeared, not one of the people I was ordered to fire was mentioned. [fn 60]
All of the CIA’s divisions were purged, with justifications offered that ranged from the threat of denunciation by Agee to budget constraints to poor performance to the need to make room for new blood. Schlesinger, who fired 630 officers in five months, was said to be accompanied by bodyguards during this period for fear that some disgruntled covert warrior might exact a horrible revenge.
During Bush’s tenure, the same William Nelson apparently mentioned by Smith seems to have suggested that the administrative purge had not gone far enough. In the spring of 1976, when he was about to be replaced by William Wells, Nelson again raised the issue of operations directorate personnel. “There were a lot of people in the DO [Directorate of Operations] who were marginal performers,” said Nelson in a 1988 interview. “The low middle. We needed quality, not quantity. I told [Bush] that the lower 25 per cent should be identified and should be encouraged to seek other employment….I said we owed these people a lot but not a lifetime job. He [Bush] put it in his pocket and said he would think about it.” [fn 61]
This new round of firings was relegated to Turner, who reportedly was told by Knoche on arriving at the CIA that the agency was “top-heavy.” There was the case of Cord Meyer, Knoche said, who had too much rank for the work he was doing. As Turner later recalled, “It was at this point that I learned about a study the espionage [operations] branch itself had done on its personnel situation in mid 1976, while George Bush was DCI. It called for a reduction in the size of the branch by 1350 positions over a five-year period. No action had been taken. Bush had not rejected it, but neither had he faced up to it.” [fn 62] Turner then proceeded to abolish 820 jobs, which he claims was accomplished through attrition. Other estimates of the Turner firings range between 820 and 2,800.
The plan Turner implemented was thus according to some the Nelson-Shackley-Bush plan. Certain activities of the intelligence community were being privatized and farmed out to such organisms as the National Endowment for Democracy and other such quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations of Project Democracy. Under Reagan, this privatization of intelligence operations and their increasing assignment to non-governmental organizations was made offocial through Executive Order 12333.
Otherwise, George Bush used his last days at the CIA for his lifelong passtime, servicing his network. On December 16, he appeared at an awards ceremony in the Bubble at Langley to present a medal to Juanita Moody of the National Security Agency Product Organization staff. [fn 63]
During his year at Langley, Bush was especially forthcoming towards Wall Street, above all towards the family firm. On at least one occasion, Bush gave an exclusive private briefing, including forecasts on the future development of the world energy market, for partners and executives of Brown Brothers, Harriman. Such an incident, it is superfluous to point out, entails the gravest questions of conflict of interest. On another occasion, Bush gave a similar briefing to the board of directors of the Chase Manhattan Bank. [fn 64]
As always, Bush had special attention for Leo Cherne, the source of so much of the policy he implemented at the CIA. On November 8, Bush had called Cherne’s attention to a small item in US News and World Report which suggested that “US assessments have so underrated Russia’s strategic buildup that a top-secret study is under way to decide whether to strip the CIA of responsibility for the estimates and give it to an independent office answerable directly to the President.” Another leak on Team B! Bush told Cherne that “the attached is the kind of publicity that I am sure you would agree is very damaging. I really don’t think there is much we can do about it at this point, but I worry about it.”
Bush left Langley with Carter’s inauguration, leaving Knoche to serve a couple of months as acting DCI. In early February Bush wrote again to Leo Cherne, with whom he was now on a first-name basis:
- Thanks for that lovely letter you sent me on Feb. 2nd. I already miss our contacts a lot. I will be leaving for Houston a week from today. […]
Should you get down that way it would be great to see you. I am joining a couple of Boards that will bring me East from time to time. I hope to keep up my interest in foreign affairs and in national politics. It is quite unclear at the moment how to do these things.
The past has been fantastic; but now I am determined to look to the future. I know it will be full of challenge. I hope it holds frequent contacts with Leo Cherne.
I will follow with interest the President’s decisions on PFIAB. Holler if I can ever be of help to you. I value our friendship.
Sincerely, George [fn 65]
Carter abolished PFIAB and fired Cherne from the IOB. George Bush now turned to his family business of international banking.
Return to the Table of Contents
1. Nathan Miller, Spying for America, (New York, 1989), p. 399.
2. Gerald R. Ford Library, Richard B. Cheney Files, Box 5.
3. See Loch K. Johnson, A Season of Inquiry:The Senate Intelligence Investigation (University Press of Kentucky, 1985), pp. 108-109.
4. Johnson, A Season of Inquiry, pp. 115-116.
5. Gerald R. Ford Library, Philip Buchen Files, Box 24. Article is from Houston Post, November 8, 1975.
6. Newhouse News Service article by Saul Kohler, November, 1975, with letter from Ford’s press secretary Ron Nessen, at Gerald R. Ford Library, William T. kendall Files, Box 7.
7. Letter from Bush to Stennis, December 12, 1975 in Ford Library, Philip W. Buchen Files, Box 37.
8. Ford Library, Presidential Handwriting File, Box 9.
9. Ford Library, Presidential Handwriting File, Box 9.
10. Collins to Ford, November 12, 1975, Ford Library, John O. Marsh Files, Box 1.
11. Nedzi to Ford, December 12, 1975, Ford Library, John O. Marsh Files, Box 1.
12. Roth to Bush, November 20, 1975, Ford Library, John O. Marsh Files, Box 1.
13. Ford Library, William T. Kendall Files, Box 7
14. Ford Library, William T. Kendall Files, Box 7.
15. Ford Library, William T. Kendall Files, Box 7.
16. Ford Library, William T. Kendall Files, Box 7.
17. US Senate, Committee on Armed Services, Nomination of George Bush to be Director of Central Intelligence, December 15-16, 1975, p. 10.
18. Memo of December 16, 1975 from O’Donnell to Marsh through Friedersdorf on the likely vote in the Stennis Senate Armed Services Committee. Ford Library, William T. Kendall Files, Box 7.
19. Ford Library, William T. Kendall Files, Box 7.
20. For an account of the explitation of the Welch incident by the Ford Administration, see Loch K. Johnson, A Season of Inquiry (University Press of Kentucky, 1985), pp. 161-162.
21. Ford Library, Leo Cherne Papers, Box 8.
22. For an account of the leaking of the Pike Committee report and the situation in late January and February, 1976, see Daniel Schorr, Clearing the Air (Boston, 1977) especially pp. 179-207, and Loch K. Johnson, A Season of Inquiry, pp. 172-191.
23. A Season of Inquiry, p. 180.
24. A Season of Inquiry, p. 182.
25. Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets (New York, 1987), p. 12.
26. William Colby, Honorable Men (New York, 1978), p. 452.
27. Bob Woodward and Walter Pincus, “At CIA, a Rebuilder ‘Goes With the Flow,'” Washington Post, August 10, 1988. The biographical information on Knoche is also drawn from a 1-page summary in the Ford Library, William T. Kendall Files, Box 9.
28. On Murphy and Noriega, see Frank McNeil, War and Peace in Central America, (New York, Scribner), p. 278.
29. Cord Meyer, Facing Reality: From World Federalism to the CIA (University Press of America, 1982), pp. 225-226.
30. See John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars (New York, ), Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (New York, 1987), and John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (New York, 1987).
31. Washington Post, August 10, 1988.
32. William R. Corson, The Armies of Ignorance (New York, Dial Press), p. 446.
33. Ford Library, Philip W. Buchen Files, Box 2.
34. Memo by Leo Cherne, February 6, 1976, in Ford Library Leo Cherne Papers, Box 1.
35. For Ford’s reorganization, see Loch K. Johnson, A Season of Inquiry, pp. 194-197, and New York Times, February 18, 1976.
36. For Koregate, see Robert B. Boettcher, Gifts of Deceit (New York, Holt Rinheart and Winston, 1980).
37. Nathan Miller, Spying For America: The Hidden History of US Intelligence (New York, Paragon House, 1989), pp. 402-403.
38. Ranelagh, The Agency, p. 632.
39. Scott Armstrong and Jeff Nason, “Company Man,” Mother Jones, October, 1988.
40. John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, (New York, 1978).
41. David Corn, “The Same Old Dirty Tricks,” The Nation, August 23, 1988.
42. David Corn, “The Same Old Dirty Tricks,” The Nation, August 23, 1988.
43. Chapman Pincher, The Spycatcher Affair(New York, 1988), p. 147.
44. For the CIA-Harold Wilson affair, see: David Leigh, The Wilson Plot (New York, 1988); Philip Knightley, The Second Oldest Profession (New York, Norton); Richard Deacon, The British Connection (London, Hamish Hamilton); and Chapman Pincher, The Spycatcher Affair (New York, 1988). Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior (New York, 1991) joins the red Studebaker school of historiography on Bush in the Angleton-Wilson affair.
45. Accounts of the Letelier Affairs include John Dinges and Saul Landau, Assassination on Embassy Row (New York, 1980); Donald Freed, Death in Washington (Westport, Connecticut, 1980), and Scott Armstrong and Jeff Nason, “Company Man,” Mother Jones, October 1988.
46. See Armstrong and Nason, p. 43.
47. Freed, p. 174.
48. Dinges and Landau, p. 384.
49. Taylor Branch and Eugene M. Propper, Labyrinth (New York, 1982), p. 72.
50. Labyrinth, pp. 74-75.
51. Freed, Death in Washington, p. 174.
52. Jefferson Morley, “Bush’s Drug Problem- and Ours,” The Nation, August 27, 1988.
53. Richard Pipes, “Team B: The Reality Behind the Myth,” Commentary, October 1986.
55. Pipes, “Team B,” Commentary, October, 1986, p. 34. Pipes makes clear that it was Bush and Richard Lehman who both leaked to David Binder of the New York Times. Lehman also encouraged Pipes to leak. The verson offered by William R. Corson et al. in Widows (New York, 1989), namely that Paisley did the leaking, may also be true, but will not exonerate Bush. The authors of Widows are in grave danger of being banished to the red Studebaker school of coverup in that they ignore Pipes’ account and its included fingering of Bush as the lead leaker.
55. See William R. Corson, Susan B. Trento, Joseph J. Trento, Widows.
56. See Willaim R. Corson et al., Widows, and Henry Hurt, Shadrin: The Spy Who Never Came Back.
57. Henry Hurt, Shadrin, p. 260.
58. Corson, Widows, p. 301.
59. Evans and Novak column, Houston Post, December 1, 1976. For the pro-Bush account of these events, see Nicholas King, George Bush, pp. 109-110.
60. Joseph Burkholder Smith, Portrait of a Cold Warrior (New York, Putnam), p. 12.
61. Washington Post, August 10, 1988.
62. Admiral Stansfield Turner, Secrecy and Democracy (Boston, 1985), p. 196.
63. James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace, p. 250.
64. Washington Post, August 10, 1988.
65. Ford Library, Leo Cherne Papers, Box 1.