A glimpse into the CIA’s ‘family jewels’
The Associated Press
Published: June 26, 2007
WASHINGTON: The Central Intelligence Agency released hundreds of pages of internal reports Tuesday detailing assassination plots against foreign leaders like Fidel Castro and the secret testing of mind-and-behavior altering drugs like LSD on unwitting U.S. citizens.
The documents also provided information on tapping journalists’ phones, spying on demonstrators who supported civil rights or opposed the Vietnam War, opening private mail between the United States and the Soviet Union or China, and breaking into the homes of former CIA employees and others.
Inside the Central Intelligence Agency, the documents were referred to as the “skeletons.” But another name quickly caught on and stuck: “Family jewels.”
The 693 pages, mostly drawn from the memories of active CIA officers in 1973, were turned over at that time to three different investigative panels: President Gerald Ford’s Rockefeller Commission, the Senate’s Church Committee and the House’s Pike Committee.
The panels spent years investigating and amplifying on these documents. And their public reports in the mid-1970s filled tens of thousands of pages. The scandal sullied the reputation of the intelligence community and led to new rules for the CIA, the FBI and other spy agencies and new permanent committees in Congress to oversee them.
Among the more famous misdeeds was the Castro plot in 1960. In August that year, the CIA recruited a former FBI agent, Robert Maheu, to approach a Chicago mobster, John Roselli, and pass himself off as the representative of international corporations who wanted Castro killed. Roselli introduced Maheu to “Sam Gold” and “Joe,” who were actually Sam Giancana, Al Capone’s successor in Chicago, and Santo Trafficante Jr., the mob boss in Florida.
The CIA gave them six poison pills, and they tried unsuccessfully for several months to have several people put them in the Cuban leader’s food.
This particular plot was dropped after the failed CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, but other plots continued against Castro. Details of this plot first appeared in Jack Anderson’s newspaper column in 1971.
Last week, the director of Central Intelligence, Michael Hayden, told a conference of historians that “the documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency.”
A CIA spokesman, George Little, said Hayden has been declassifying historic documents as a way of demonstrating the CIA’s accountability. “The collection was reviewed exhaustively by the Rockefeller Commission and congressional committees in the 1970s,” he said. “Moreover, many of the documents have been released to the public on prior occasions.”
These documents were also one of the products of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
The CIA director under Nixon, James Schlesinger, was angered to read in the newspapers that the CIA had provided support to the former CIA agents E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, who were convicted in the Watergate break-in.
Hunt had worked for a secret “plumbers’ unit” in Nixon’s White House. The unit, originally set up to investigate and end leaks of classified information, ultimately engaged in a wide range of misconduct.
In May 1973, Schlesinger ordered “all senior operating officials of this agency to report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or that have gone on the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this agency.” The law establishing the CIA barred it from conducting spying inside the United States.
The result was the 693 pages of memos that arrived after Schlesinger had moved to the Pentagon and been replaced as CIA chief by William Colby. Colby ultimately reported the contents to the Justice Department.
“These are the top CIA officers all going into the confessional and saying, ‘Forgive me, father, for I have sinned,’ ” said Thomas Blanton, director of the private National Security Archive, which had requested release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.