“The Cult of Intelligence” has become a common way of referring to the CIA due in part to Victor Marchetti and his book by the same name. The phrase has also been used by William Colby (former director of the CIA) indicating it may have become popular long before Marchetti write his book. In many ways they are close to the truth but the use of the words cult or intelligence may not be quite right although it is close. First of all as I have indicated before espionage isn’t intelligent. No matter how often you repeat the phrase it won’t change the fact that keeping the most important information many people, including the public and the leaders, need to make rational decisions about the most important subjects secret isn’t an intelligent way to advance democracy or the quality of life for many if any people. The very concept of espionage involves manipulating people and depriving many people including the public of the information they need to make rational decisions which contrary to the claim some make does not protect democracy but is one of the greatest threats to it.
The use of the term cult usually refers to religious cults who control the thought process of the followers although it could refer to secular cults too in my opinion. If the CIA doesn’t quite fit the definition of a cult it is because they don’t have total control and the followers know it is largely based on deception; however it does have many of the same characteristics of a cult and they take advantage of several other ideologies and religions that attempt to dictate the truth to the public without fully explaining them so that the public truly understands them. Instead many members of the public adopt certain beliefs because it is what they are told to believe and it is repeated over and over again without much if any rational scrutiny. Two of the most common secular ideologies these espionage agencies have used include Capitalism and Communism.
These ideologies have been drilled into the minds of many members of the public without explaining them in a rational way and they have been used to justify the clod war. Instead of fighting against totalitarianism the USA fought against Communism which they equated with totalitarianism. Part of the reason for this may be because Communism is supposed to stand up for the rights of the workers and fighting against that wouldn’t sound like a good cause. This doesn’t mean the USSR or China actually stood up for the rights of workers but they claimed to and it served the best interest of the Capitalist to let this go unchallenged since it would help them equate Communism with totalitarianism. Information about these two ideologies isn’t kept completely secret from the public. Those that take the time to learn about them can sort through the details of both beliefs and try to find the best aspects of each but unfortunately the majority of the public doesn’t do this. Instead most people rely on what they are told by their leaders. The information that has been drilled into the heads of many people through the Mass Media for the last sixty years at least has been extremely biased peaking with McCarthyism.
The very excuse that the CIA has used for most of their activities is flawed which indicates that a large segment of the public has stood up for the cold war based more on indoctrination rather than education. This first began long before the cold war. The roots of this indoctrination go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Since the United States was formed the capitalist belief system was created largely by the most powerful people that controlled the press and the corporations. This created a ideology that was accepted by a large number of people without fully understanding it. It was often backed up by charismatic speakers who advocated for it like the individual who repeated the “Acres of Diamonds” sermon in the nineteenth century and at the Height of the cold war Joe McCarthy. According to William Colby the CIA was moderate and reasonable compared to McCarthy but that doesn’t mean they attempted to educate the public about communism or capitalism by sorting through the details and figuring out what the best aspects of each belief system was. Instead two ideologies were presented to the public one was hyped in a positive way the other was demonized. Then when the CIA was established after WWII it was created by a combination of former OSS members and lawyers. These people primarily came from the upper classes which were the few who benefited from the narrow perception of capitalism.
According to Marchtti and many others the CIA justified their activities including torture by claiming the other side did it first and in order to be effective they had to use the same method. William Colby denies that the CIA ever used torture due to the fact that it is ineffective but he still uses the same excuse to justify the use of newspaper reporters and businessmen as agents. There have been several reports that the CIA has done extensive business with many corporations; one of the most notorious cases is the incident with ITT. This was uncovered during the Watergate era. ITT offered a million dollars to help overthrow Allende. This was clearly an example where a corporation was trying to overthrow a partially democratic government for financial reasons and the USA with the CIA was available to help. Allende may not have been perfect but he was almost certainly better than both the corporations that opposed him and Pinochet who eventually replaced him. This isn’t the only case where corporations had some influence on the CIA, The re installment of the Shah in Iran and many other political relationships in the middle east and other oil producing companies are almost certainly at least partially influenced by the oil companies and diamond and coltan companies have almost certainly influenced policies in Africa.
The Watergate incident itself was done by former members of the CIA and according to Colby the CIA had no say in it; however it is common practice for the CIA to arrange for its operatives to act on their own when they are abroad and maintain plausible deniability. At the least the CIA trained these people and helped them develop the connections that enabled them to be in a position to help Nixon’s reelection campaign. This could be and almost certainly is a common occurrence. The CIA trains people and puts them in contact with other organizations including corporations, political parties, criminal organizations, other countries etc. the result is that powerful organizations have the opportunity to learn about espionage and manipulation techniques and the only people left in the dark are the majority of the public. This creates a situation where the rich can spy on the poor but the poor can’t find out what the rich is doing unless another powerful institution leaks it and then it isn’t presented in an organized way for the poor so they can’t take advantage of it the same way as the rich.
Peter W. Singer has reported in “Corporate Warriors” that many corporations are now using private military firms including some that specialize in espionage. This creates a situation where some of the biggest multi-national corporations are more powerful than many third world countries and they often have private armies to defend themselves and even take over governments if needed although they would almost certainly not do this in an open and honest manner.
Many of the activities that the CIA has conducted in the past would never have happened if they were held up to scrutiny from the beginning. There are numerous incidents where the CIA has actually suppressed the popular governments supported by the people and some cases where this has backfired when the moderates were kept out of power but the extremists wound up taking over anyway. Two of the biggest examples of this were Cuba and Iran. In both cases the USA and American corporations supported a tyrant, the Shah and Batista, and moderate democratic forces were kept out of power so the people turned to the extremists who helped overturn one tyrant and replace him with another. Other cases like Chile and Nicaragua were examples where the government the USA suppressed or at least tried to suppress was much more democratic than the one they supported. In many cases it may not be easy to tell which government was more democratic because there is so much disinformation and propaganda being put out by the most powerful institutions that it is difficult to know what is going on which is the inevitable result of excessive espionage.
William Colby has argued that the worst atrocities done by the CIA were done in the past before the Watergate era. He claims that this led to reforms some of which he oversaw while he was director of the CIA. He believed (in 1978 when he wrote “Honorable Men: My life at the CIA”) that after the reforms that the CIA was much more credible and there was a vital need for the CIA. Many other authors and former CIA members have disagreed since then. Colby has acknowledged the fact that many people within the Ford administration weren’t to happy that he revealed so much to the congress but he believed that it was his constitutional duty to do so and implement reforms. Others have claimed that when George H.W. Bush took over in early 1976 the openness of the CIA was shut down. This claim seems to be at least partially justified by the behavior of both Bush and Reagan during the Iran Contra hearings when they both claimed to be out of the loop. Even if they both were out of the loop then that would indicate at best negligence to keeping track of their own people. There have also been many more claims of wrong doing buy the CIA that includes fraud, money laundering and at best complicity to drug smuggling at worst active smuggling of drugs.
The most credible claims of drug complicity may come from Alfred McCoy author of “The politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade”. He argues that the CIA was complicit with drug dealing, by dealing with drug dealers and looking the other way, but not actually involved. I suspect that if many of the activities that he attributes to the CIA were attributed to another nongovernmental organization they would be prosecuted for drug smuggling not just complicity. There are many other former CIA operatives or alleged CIA operatives who have come forward to make more severe claims, in most cases doubts have been raised about their credibility as well as the credibility of the people raising the doubts, which creates a he said she said situation where little is certain without confirmation. The volume of these claims and some of the confirmation seems to indicate that at least some of it is true but it is hard to sort out fact from fiction with so many contradictory stories. The strongest circumstantial evidence that the CIA may be raising money either by complicity to drug dealing or some other means is their high costs. According to Robert Baer it may cost about a quarter of a million dollars just to put a covert agent into place in a foreign country before he can begin to establish connections to gather covert information about foreign governments. From there the cost go up especially when it comes to some of the most important information they need to gather. This is especially tough when dealing with unfamiliar cultures. Espionage is extremely inefficient and expensive.
For the most part the mainstream media is paying little or no attention to this subject. The quality of the investigation of the CIA seems to have deteriorated at about the same time that the consolidation of the media was taking place. It is hard to tell whether or not this is true but there are claims that the CIA is influencing the Mass Media and at times the heads of the CIA and other operatives have admitted to a small amount of cooperation with the media. Although there is little or no solid evidence that the mainstream media has been corrupted by the CIA there is a lot of conclusive evidence that the mainstream media is not doing as good job and there is circumstantial evidence indicating the possibility that they are cooperating with other institutions including the CIA, various political parties and many corporations which openly buy air time in a large volume. The strongest circumstantial evidence isn’t secret at all it is the way the Mass Media is presenting the war on terror.
Anyone who understands manipulation tactics and indoctrination tactics should know there is something wrong with the way the Mass media is behaving. They are repeating a lot of information to hype the war on terror over and over again but when it comes to legitimate complaints from third world countries they present them on much rarer occasions and these are often followed up by emotional rebuttals. This is a very effective way to appeal to a large percentage of the American public which is predisposed to make decisions on emotional grounds. If the Mass Media was doing a good job they would spend much more time looking at the long term causes of the war on terror and what the long term solutions could be. This would involve acknowledging the many conflicts that the USA instigated in opposition to the people of third world countries and the support by multi-national corporations of many tyrants as well as the massive damage done by child abuse globally which creates an enormous supply of angry adults.
In order to put an end to various cults of espionage it will be necessary to educate the public better about many subjects including manipulation tactics and it will be necessary to make the information they need to make decisions available to them. This could be helped by a truth commission which would expose the activities that have been kept secret in the past. This would have to be organized with the help of the people and the criteria for this truth commission should be approved by the majority of the public. Ideally this would be accompanied by an education program that allowed the points of view from many people and it would help to present a lot of information that has already been exposed to the public in the most organized way possible. By looking at this information it could help to decide what the conditions of any truth commissions should be.
First posted on Tripod on 2/5/10
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