Get PJ Media on your Apple

Faster, Please!

The CIA Keeps (Our Enemies’) Secrets Secret

July 8th, 2014 - 1:34 pm

My heart goes out to Jeffrey Scudder, who was thrown out of CIA after trying to get some documents declassified.  His story, captivatingly told in the WaPo by Greg Miller, will be incomprehensible to those who have been spared the Kafkaesque experience of trying to get the agency to cough up important old stories.  I’ve been there, and Mr. Scudder’s story, albeit very unusual, rings true.

He’d had a promising career in various overseas postings, and he had the sort of personality that you’d think CIA would cherish:  intense, tenacious, highly patriotic.  Sounds like a great dinner guest.  In one of those personnel moves driven by the intelligence and foreign policy establishment’s managerial gurus, he was moved to a sleepy corner of the CIA forest:  the unit charged with reviewing material for possible declassification and public release.  There he found more than a thousand files, mostly from long ago, that he felt should be released.  Some were.  Many weren’t.  So when he moved on, to a position in counterintelligence, he filed an FOIA request for some of those still-classified stories.

At that point, the agency fired him, after an “investigation” that normal people would call harassment, that involved a 6 a.m. search of his house and interrogation of his family, seizure of his child’s and wife’s computers, etcetera etcetera and so forth.

The WaPo story dutifully reproduces the agency’s explanation, involving Mr. Scudder’s alleged mishandling of classified documents, but you can pretty much ignore that stuff.  The CIA often invents things about documents it want to retain.  Or maybe even destroy, as I found out over many years.

In the late 1970s I learned of the existence of an operation conducted by the U.S. government in Italy shortly after the end of the Second World War.  The operation was called “gyre” (from “Jabberwocky,” which led me to believe that James Jesus Angleton, the head of U.S. military intelligence in Italy during the war, had been involved).  The “gyre” file had a lot of material on the Italian Communist Party, going back to its founding (1921).  According to what I was told, that material documented the true nature of the party, which was very closely linked to Soviet intelligence.  As it had both a public and a clandestine component (known to adepts as the “armed party”), the structure was designed to deceive outsiders.  They could only see the public party, but not the clandestine part, and certainly not the close cooperation with the Soviet spooks.

I requested the file, but was told that the documents were properly classified, and thus not available.  I asked why documents from the early 1920s, dealing with our enemies, were properly classified.  I was told that the source was still alive.  So that was that…until 1981, when I became special adviser to the secretary of state, and had plenty of security clearances. One day I told this story to Bill Casey, who arranged for me to read the file, albeit with a caveat:  I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.  It seemed redundant to me (I was  bound by an agreement to keep ALL secrets secret, right?) but I signed.  And I read it.

It’s a very important file for anyone who wants to fully understand Soviet espionage, and of course for anyone curious about the Italian Communist Party.  I can’t say much more about the contents except that the description given to me was very accurate.  I waited about ten years, when I learned that the source had died, and again requested the file.  Rejected again!  This time on the grounds that “there were no such documents.”

I pointed out that I knew they existed.  Indeed I had read them, so I was in a plight similar to Mr Scudder’s:  trying to make public documents I had actually seen, convinced they were important, knowing they did not involve any secrets that could damage American interests.  But CIA just said there were no such documents, so what could they do?

Then came the Mitrokin files…

Top Rated Comments   
QUOTE
But CIA just said there were no such documents, so what could they do?
END QUOTE

Wait ! If the documents are no longer there, your non-disclosure agreement refers to nothing
SO
you can talk !

Please tell us !

7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (14)
All Comments   (14)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I'm sure its more than simple incompetence and a$$ covering. Think moles, continuing. What else would explain the CIA's anti-America slant the last two decades?
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think the US Intelligence Agency first and foremost must focus on the protection of American interests, and on counterterrorism above all, and use "ALL possible means" to eliminate the Islamic terror masters and their allies anywhere in the world.
The Intelligence Agency should declines to provide any information to the public about where they operates, and how it selects targets...etc. And it must grant absolute immunity to government employees for actions taken within the scope of their employment. and must protect and safeguard against the corrupt law all those who planned and waged the wars in the interests of the United States, which is in the end to protect U.S. National Security and America's vital interests around the world!
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
QUOTE
But CIA just said there were no such documents, so what could they do?
END QUOTE

Wait ! If the documents are no longer there, your non-disclosure agreement refers to nothing
SO
you can talk !

Please tell us !

7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was going to ask facetiously who the CIA works for -- but the answer is a given: The CIA works for the CIA.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Michael, are these new Mitrokhin documents material in addition to what appears in the book(s?) that was published several years ago?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
yes. they are country-specific rather than general stuff about how the KGB works, etc.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
We knew some cia agents during the late 80s in Bulgaria. Trust me. They were NOT America's best & brightest. One guy spent most of his time in his office throwing darts at the wall. When he got a big promotion, everyone was joking that it was because he actually hit the dart target once. We do need agencies like the cia, but their glaring failures are multitude. How do you miss the end of the cold war, the soviet invasion of afghanistan, the 9/11 hijackers, several spies in their midst & the arab spring? Any idiot that looked at the news or had a brain could figure out what was gonna happen. One good cia story. In 1988, some big Bulgarian dissident was supposed to be met by the cia here. The fools had NO idea that the communist gov't had declared him persona non grata & had kicked him outta the country 3 months before the cia team arrived to visit him! I had a copy of the article explaining this on my desk at the Anglo-American school where I taught & was laughing about it when one cia agent arrived to pick up his kid. He had NO clue that this had happened! In fact, he asked me if he could borrow the newspaper article from CA. Such is the cia....
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
seems so, doesn't it? things in Germany nowadays, for example, reinforce your point.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wow. Whatever could be the logic of not wanting to make something public that weakens our enemies?

Unless maybe someone could connect some dots to the person refusing to release the documents which makes said person not look so good.

Just sayin'
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The sad origin of this situation seems to be, IMVVHO, that the C.I.A. has become much, much too bureaucratic. It's simply too big, too many employees, too much of just about everything, all over the place.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
This question is off topic, but Professor Ledeen, can you recommend a good book or two on the Italian CP's structure and activities during the 1930s and 1940s? I am working on a novel and need that history for a secondary character's back story.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
the good books i know of are in Italian, is that ok?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, unfortunately I only speak English.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment

The Intelligence community circles the wagons anytime it feels threatened, imagined or not. Unfortunately there are serious questions to their actions and law breaking these last few years, in addition to what they have been doing since the 50's. There are dozens of open secrets; assassinating foreign leaders and overthrowing governments.
Labeling documents as secret is a national past time, a growth industry involving dozens of government and private entities. It is bureaucracy on steroids.
Attempting to change status Quo of anything labeled secret calls down the thunder in an agency still believing they are permitted to operate outside the law.

7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All

One Trackback to “The CIA Keeps (Our Enemies’) Secrets Secret”