Tuesday, October 26, 2010




Double agents selling secrets to foreign governments; defectors running amok in the streets of Washington; allies betraying allies--these days spies are out of the shadows and on the spot.

Yet espionage isn't what it once was, and at least one Cold War vet fondly remembers overthrowing unfriendly governments, planning assassinations and performing dirty tricks.

Most of all, retired CIA officer Miles Copeland (whose brood of rock & roll overachievers includes oldest son Miles Copeland III, manager of the Police and solo Sting; Ian, founder of the music booking agency FBI; and youngest son Stewart, drummer first for Curved Air and later for the Police) yearns for the good old days when secret agents kept their secrets secret--from the government and especially from the press.

ERINGER: The white House has given the CIA part of the job handling terrorism. What do you think they will do that is different from what has already been done?

COPELAND: You're opening a real can of worms here. The difference between the CIA's counter-terrorism experts and this new kind that's been proliferating all over the place is that the CIA has operators who know the terrorists, who've actually talked to a few, who've even lived with them, or who, like myself, have actually been terrorists.

ERINGER: Who's winning?

COPELAND: It's not a matter of winning. Just different viewpoints. The president of the United States has got to say what is necessary to keep himself in office. We have a domestic foreign policy and a foreign foreign policy. The domestic foreign policy, which is the more nimportasnt one,, he what he has to do to make the American public think he's doing the right thing. Whether it's the right thing or not doesn't matter. The American people have to think he's doing the right thing because we have a democratic society. We Americans get highly indignant and want to do something. We want to punish people without regard to the consequences. But professionals inside the government worry about the consequences of this. Because what it takes to please the American people is not what it takes to please a lot of people who did not grow up in the American culture but grew up in cultures quite different from our own. We've got most of the word against us at the moment.
When we bomb villages and kill a lot of women and children we turn the world against us. And the American people don't care. But those people whose job it is to look after the interests of the U.S. government abroad, they've got to care. They have to think of the consequences of everything we do. And they know the consequences of dragging out the gunboats are absolutely the wrong ones. In fact, these are the consequences the terrorists created acts of terrorism in order to provoke. That's the purpose of terrorism, not to kill maim or destroy but to terrorize, to frighten, to anger, to provoke irrational responses Terrorism gains more from the responses than it gains from the actions themselves.

ERINGER: So how do you deal with it?

COPELAND: You've got to know who they are. You've got to know their reasons for doing it. And you've got to manipulate them in one way or another.

They're terrorists because their orange groves have been destroyed and they've got nothing to do. The main job of the CIA is to go to the White House and explain to the president that the only reason these terrorists are terrorists is because of the way they've been treated. If people came into Alabama, my home state, and destroyed my farms and kicked me around, I'm going to become a terrorist. just as the French became terrorists under the Germans in World War II. The CIA understood this very well. But we had pressures from Congress. Members of Congress don't give a damn about foreign affairs. They give a damn about their next election. They have to do what makes them popular with their constituents to get reelected. And their constituents care about one place in this world, and that's the United States.

ERINGER: So what's the answer to terrorism?

COPELAND: We have to find the reason these people are terrorists. There are two categories. People who have ben deprived and ruined. And the second category: A lot of these guys have found a way of life, like gunslingers in the Old West. They drive Mercedes. There are professional terrorists now. It's a profitable business. Maybe they were criminals originally, criminally inclined, but now they have political motivations to justify themselves. Many of them are in Paris, and the French pollice don't give a damn.

ERINGER: What are Miles Copeland's principles of democracy?

COPELAND: Let me tell you about democracy. We decided we were goijng to bring democracy to Syria. So we got a translator in Arabic, and wegot signs. We were going to have an election. This was 1946, '47. The signs say, GET OUT AND VOTE FOR THE CANDIDATE OF YOUR CHOICE. We had people coming in the embassy and saying. "Look, these signs are no good--they don't tell us who the candidate of our choice is."

In the United States, if we had true democracy, it would be a good thing. But true democracy is impossible because of the fact that the general population cannot possibly keep themselves well informed enough to decide on issues except on a very parochial basis. The average person, the best he can do is something he's not allowed to do--that's to vote for a man because he's known to be honest and competent. These days a candidate has to tell you what his issues are and get elected on that basis. We have to sell the idea to the American public that there are many things about foreign policy the American public simply cannot understand, because foreign policy requires, above all else, juding people according to their own standards. The emphasis should be on choosing people we trust.

ERINGER: Who gets your highest marks as CIA director?

COPELAND: I'd name two people. I think George Bush was the best. He came in knowing he didn't know a damn thing about the CIA, but he did n know how to judge people whose opinions he could trust, and he listened to them.

ERINGER: Who is second.

COPELAND: Dick Helms.

ERINGER: Helms lied to a congressional committee.

COPELAND: That's one of his better traits, that he's willing to lie to a congressional committee. William Colby didn't have the guts to do this. Lacking patriotism, he did not lie to a committee.

ERINGER: Wait a minute--lacking patriotism?

COPELAND: Absolutely. Why should he tell a group things he knew would leak to the newspapers? He should lied to them. If he were really a patriotic American, he wouldn't have thought of telling them the truth.

ERINGER: And Helms gets high marks for perjury?

COPELAND: With me and with everyone who has ever been a career officer in the government. Absolutely. You can call it perjury if you like, and maybe it was, but he should have been willing to go to jail for it.

ERINGER: It's okay to lie under oath if you're in the CIA?

COPELAND: I said nothing of the sort. If what nyou know means that telling the truth is going to damage the national interest, it is your obligation...

ERINGER: Who decides the national interest?

COPELAND: Do you want me to give you a hard time or do you want an answer?


COPELAND: The CIA is set up so it's impossible for a person as an individual to aggrogate to himself the right to lie to a congressional committee or to anyone else. But what he can or cannot say is clearly specified from the day he is sworn in. He can lie to people who are not his bosses, who do not have security clearances. I like Colby very much, but he's just the wrong kind of guy to be head of the CIA. He's a good guy.

ERINGER: You've got to be a bad guy to head the CIA?

COPELAND: You have to be prepared, as a good soldier does. A good soldier could be religious and have read the Bible, but he's got to go out and kill people. The CIA has to have a separate set of morals. In that sense, you have to be amoral.

ERINGER: What else did you get up to in the CIA?

COPELAND: I got my foot in the door of the psychopharmacological department by virtue of my interest in assassination. There are two categories: those which are made to look like nastural deaths and those which serve their purpose only if they are known to be assassinations.

For the first kind, there is a variety of methods, most of them involving poison. Somehow you introduce into the body of your victim two separate substances, at different times, each of which is harmless by itself but which becomes poisonous when mixed with the other.

You wouldn't beliueve what those weirdos came up with! The congressional committee got only the barest glimpse.

ERINGER: What did they miss?

COPELAND: You can kill a man by putting certain substance on a letter you send him which gets into his system simply through holding the letter in his fingers. You can make him allergic to almost anything--alcohol, Aspirin, even coffee or tea--that if he takes even a small quanity he will drop[ over dead. You can program a pair of dogs--even his own dogs--to savage him to death upon a given signal. But you don't have to kill him. You can make a fool out of him.

ERINGER: For example?

COPELAND: You can slip an LSD pill into his lemonade as he is about to make a speech or have an electric fan blow 'distress gas' onto him, oryou can doctor his notes so that simply by holding them in his hands he will absorb enough hallucinatory materials to make him think he is God.

ERINGER: You seem to take an active interest in American politics. Do your sons share your interest?

COPELAND: My older son, Miles, has contributed to Republican congressional campaigns. But he wants everything everybody says about him these days to be cleared in advance.

ERINGER: Does you son have anyone in mind for the presidency?

COPELAND: Miles is pretty serious about his affairs. He should have been in the CIA instead of me. Yeah, I'm 'blah, blah. blah.' and he's 'hush hush.' I'm not sure he's thought through all the implications of the power he's got.

ERINGER: What do you mean?

COPELAND: The necxt time youi go to a Police concert, say, one like that in Shea Stadium with 70,000 young minds open to whatever the police decide to put into them, you can answer that question for yourself.

Sting almost fired Miles Copeland III as his manager when this interview was published because of his father's final words about manipulating the minds of young concert-goers.