By Melvin A. Goodman
[Melvin A. Goodman spent 42 years with the CIA, the National War College, and the U.S. Army. His latest book is Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.]
“Let me be clear about this,” CIA director Leon Panetta told his troops last week, “it was not CIA policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values.”
Of course, Panetta is entitled to his opinions, but he cannot create his own facts. And, as a long-time member of the House of Representatives, he surely must know that there is a long and substantiated record of CIA deceit and dissembling to the congressional intelligence committees. Here are some highlights of that record.
In 1973, CIA director Richard Helms deceived the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, refusing to acknowledge the role of the CIA in overthrowing the elected government in Chile. Helms falsely testified that the CIA had not passed money to the opposition movement in Chile, and a grand jury was called to see if Helms should be indicted for perjury.
In 1977, the Justice Department brought a lesser charge against Helms, who pleaded nolo contendere; he was fined $2,000 and given a suspended two-year prison sentence. Helms went from the courthouse to the CIA where he was given a hero’s welcome and a gift of $2,000 to cover the fine. It was one of the saddest experiences in my 24 years at CIA.
In the new Ford administration, Secretary of State Kissinger, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and White House chief of staff Cheney orchestrated phony intelligence for the Congress in order to get an endorsement for covert arms shipments to anti-government forces in Angola.
The CIA lied to Senator Dick Clark, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was a critic of the Agency’s illegal collaborations with the government of South Africa against Angola and Mozambique. Agency briefers exaggerated the classification of their materials so that Senate and House members could not publicize this information. Agency shields of secrecy and falsehood were extremely effective.