Thursday, October 21, 2010



"I was once asked if I could slip an LSD pill in Nasser's drink."

"Who asked you?"

"Some kook in the scientific section."

"What was the purpose?"

"To make a fool out of him. Suez had just come on and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and British Prime Minister Anthony Eden hated Gamal Nasser's guts. We were asked to concoct a way to kill Nasser. Eden would have shot Nasser personally."

These are the words of former CIA official Miles Copeland. Miles is different from most critics of the CIA. While others complain of assassinations and dirty tricks, Miles maintains that the problem with the CIA is that it didn't overthrow enough governments, assassinate enough foreign leaders, commit enough dirty tricks. His criticism revolves around its "bureaucratic inefficiency."

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, in America's deep south, Miles joined the U.S. Army in 1940 and was assigned to the Army's Counterintelligence Corps in Washington. In 1942 he was transferred to General Wild Bill Donovan's newly formed Officie of Strategic Services, the first American secret intelligence service.

In this capacity he was sent to London where the British, "didn't see fit to confide in us. They thought us lovable boobs with lots of money, and tried to keep us driunk and laid every night, and out of their business. In fact, the British liaison officer became an alcoholic in the process of entertaining his American guests!"

At the war's end Miles continued counterintelligence work in the Strategic Services unit, remnants of the wartime OSS. He was transferred to Damascus, Syria, where he spent several years as station chief, "putiing Syria on the path to democracy by starting a military dictatorship. Nobody knows more about changing governments, by force or otherwise, than I do." For this he received a citation from President Harry Truman.

Miles became one of the founder members of the Central Intelligence Agency when it was formed by Truman in 1947. In 1950 he became head of the CIA's Political Action Staff, the "dirty tricks department." Miles, ever the conservative maverick among the Ivy-League liberals who made up the Agency's ranks, was a staunch defender and advocate of dirty tricks. "Criteria for a dirty trick: Will the dirty trick prevent dirtier things from happening?"

He resigned from the CIA in 1953 to become an associate with Booz-Allen & Hamilton, a firm of management consultants. On behalf of this firm, he went to Cairo to head a team of consultants reorganizing the newly formed government of President Nasser. Miles kept the CIA informed of Nasser's movements, and Nasser used Miles "to put over arguments to President Dwight Eisenhower."

In 1957 Copeland assumed an "off-and-on" consultancy status with the CIA, and formed a company of government relations consultants to advise American industrial organizations on doing business in Africa and the Middle East.

ERINGER: What do you think of Philip Agee's book, CIA DIary?

COPELAND: My objection to Agee's book is that it's dull. He didn't know anything about the Agency. He was a very minor official, and he missed the point of what he was doing in the CIA. Philip is a nice boy, but full of complexes, and he's convinced himself that he's sincere, but he kniws better. Philip's complains about Fascism and Nazism and repressive police in South America. He forgets that's the only kind of police there are in a society, the nicest chaps just don't become policemen. So that's what happens in any country in the world, with the possible exception of Britain. Look at Italy, look at France, look at our police in Alabama where I come from. Their idea of police detection method is to round up a lot of suspects and beat the shit out of them until one of them confesses. That's police methods. Well in South America this was particularly true, as Agee correctly states.

But the CIA objected to these methods. You can't get the truth out of a guy if you're going to beat him up because he'll tell you what you want to hear other than what the truth happens to be. So all sorts of attempts were made to clean up the interrogation methods of South American police. And the CIA did a hell of a lot to make them stop beating people up. There reason for doing this was to make methods more effective.

But Philip claims we're bad people for helping them. And the irony of it all is that the Cubans, who are his friends, are far worse when it comes to torture interrogation methods. The main thing Philip's living on is the matyr image he constructed for himself, and being supplied with so-called proof that the CIA was out to kill him. Former London CIA station chief Cord Meyer's main worry while in England was that the Cubans were going to kill Agee. It is well known that the primary reason to assassinate somebody is because he is in a position to start a war or do something horrible which his removal would obviate. The other reason is to blame it on someone else.

ERINGER: The Church Committee has shown CIA participation in plots to assassinate foreign leaders. One example is the plot to assassinate President Patrice Lumumba of the Congo in the summer of 1960.

COPELAND: I'll tell you a brief story to illustrate what a great farce that was. The CIA station chief in the Congo at the time, who I knew very well, was a very sober, conservative fellow who harbored the ambition to get into the State Department. Since he was really a CIA officer, his State Department job was only a cover. The State Department makes a practice of cutting a guy down a peg or two, so he had a lower grade than his CIA grade, to the disgrace of his wife and children. And his main worry was his wife, who was complaining that she wasn't invited to parties and wasn't seated high enough above salt at dinners. And he was wondering how he got this lousy job in the Congo.

One day he was contemplating the sadness of his lot, and he gets this message from Washington and it has on it a code word meaning he has to take it seriously because it comes from the White House. Ordinarily, when you get an order from headquarters you never obey it the first time, because you're not sure they mean it. It might be some guy telling you to do something to get himself off the hook--being on records as having ordered it. So you always wait till the second time.

But if there's a White House code word, you better take this one seriously. He was supposed to assassinate Lumumba--to explore means to terminate with extreme prejudice. He couldn't believe his eyes! The last thing he wants to do is assassinate anyone, except perhaps his wife. But this thing says he has to kill Lumumba. He hadn't the faintest idea how to go about it. Well then another cable comes in, saying somebody was coming out from the scientific section, and up showed this weird little Dr. Strangelove type. So not only does this guy have an order from the White House, he's actually got this creep on hand, this Dr. Strangelove, who was going to show him how to do it!

Well, he just blows his top and says, the hell with this, and tells Dr. Strangelove to get the hell out of there.

That was the end of that. It was a hell of a joke around the Agency at the time. Except now it doesn't look so funny when you have Senator Frank Church with all his virtue breathing down your neck.

ERINGER: Do you think the Church Committee has done an effective job investigating assassination?

COPELAND: Absolutely not. I think it has probably dawned on Church, since he's not a complete crook, just a 50 percent crook, that this idea of pointing out CIA's assassination attempts is nonsense. The CIA hasn't assassinated anybody. What has happened, however, is that if you're in the CIA you work with some pretty strange people. The CIA would work with the devil if they were going to accomplish something in somebody else's country.

The CIA has indeed worked with people who have in turn assassinated people. But they're absolutely beyond control. That is the only CIA involvement in assassination. They have worked with groups that believe in assassination as a way of life. And, again, assassination is not such a bad idea if it means preventing a war.

ERINGER: On the subject of assassination, when the notorious double-agent Kim Philby disappeared from Beirut and it was presumed he had defected to Moscow, the CIA began a search for him. Had they found Philby, what would have been his fate?

COPELAND: I was in Beirut at the time, and I knew Kim Philby very well. I was supposed to have dinner with Philby the night he disappeared, and did indeed have dinner with his wife. We learned the next day Philby had fled to Moscow. The CIA wanted to get him. I thought alive.

Finally, the CIA officer in charge told me, "We've got to find Philby because we suspect the British are going to let him go."

And I said, "What are you going to do if you find him?"

And he said, "We're going to kill the sonofabitch."

And I have reason to believe this was exactly what they would have done.