The New York Times, in a front-page story, said that the president “wanted to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”
Whether that quote is accurate or not we don’t know, but it makes sense that after the agency damaged the president’s reputation so badly, he would react with such anger.
If you are a student of history, you already know that the president who swore a vendetta against the Central Intelligence Agency wasn’t Donald Trump, but John F. Kennedy, and that although he did not abolish the agency before his assassination, he did fire its director, Allen Dulles, in an effort to gain control over what was considered a rogue agency that had forced Kennedy’s hand in the Bay of Pigs disaster.
The tangled tentacles of the CIA’s machinations wind their way throughout President Kennedy’s shortened term in office, from the Bay of Pigs through the Mafia assassination attempts against Fidel Castro to Kennedy’s own assassination, and then reappear in the Watergate break-in (five of the so-called Watergate “burglars” had connections to the CIA) and in the secret White House tapes where President Nixon is heard telling his chief of staff to tell CIA director Richard Helms that the arrest of the burglars is “likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs thing which we think would be very unfortunate for CIA and the country at this time, and for American foreign policy.”
Watergate, in case, you don’t remember, involved a sitting president plotting against his potential opponents by participating in illegal activities to spy on the opposition party, and particularly by using intelligence agency assets to accomplish it.
Yet when President Trump suggested that his predecessor had used spy technology against him, there was shocked outrage — not against President Obama, but against President Trump for suggesting the inconceivable. How… HOW… (the media asked innocently) could anyone ever believe that the CIA would have the audacity to engage in political espionage!
I have no idea if President Trump will be able to prove his accusations. I would not be surprised if he cannot (even if they were true) because, let’s face it, the CIA doesn’t give up its secrets easily — which brings us back to President Kennedy and “the whole Bay of Pigs thing.”
For those of you too young to remember, the Bay of Pigs is shorthand for the April 1961 invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles with the assistance of the CIA. Most people don’t realize that Kennedy’s 1960 presidential opponent, Vice President Richard Nixon, was one of the planners of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Nixon was also one of many critics of Kennedy for his last-minute decision not to provide U.S. military air cover for the invasion. That decision doomed the invasion, and turned many Cuban exiles as well as CIA operatives against Kennedy.
It was in March 1960 that President Eisenhower had signed off on “A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime,” and Nixon took at least an oversight role in planning the overthrow of Castro, and almost certainly knew of the assassination attempts that the CIA was planning against Castro in cooperation with the Mafia. Since Nixon and his allies in the Eisenhower administration were confident that he would be elected president in November 1960, they were making plans to overthrow the Castro regime which they thought Nixon himself would be carrying out.
It requires some speculation to ponder what adjustments the CIA made when Kennedy instead was elected, and just how they revealed their plans to the new administration. Remember that Allen Dulles had been appointed director of the CIA by President Eisenhower in 1953 and was intimately involved with the 1953 coup in Iran, the 1954 coup in Guatemala, the assassination plots against Castro, and the mind-control project code-named MK-Ultra. Moreover, documents released in 2004 and reported by Tim Weiner in his 2007 book “Legacy of Ashes” proved that Dulles had authorized the CIA to break into Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s office and fed disinformation to him in order to discredit him. The question to be asked is just how comfortable would Dulles and the CIA be about revealing such information to the new president. Would they share it all, or would they keep him in the dark?
Unfortunately, the labyrinthine world of the covert intelligence agencies is too complex to be analyzed in one brief newspaper column, but suffice it to say that Kennedy was leery of the CIA from day one of his administration, and by the time of the Bay of Pigs, he had come to the conclusion that he could not trust the agency. Thus, his famous proclamation that he would “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces,” as reported by the New York Times in 1966, three years after Kennedy’s assassination.
What is fascinating to anyone concerned about the power of what is now being called the “Deep State” is that there are CIA fingerprints all over the Kennedy assassination as well as Watergate. Allen Dulles, the CIA director fired by President Kennedy, was appointed by President Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission that investigated the murder of JFK. Yet neither Dulles nor his successor John McCone revealed to the Warren Commission that the CIA had engaged in assassination attempts against Castro, despite the immediate relevance of this information to the investigation. Remember that Lee Harvey Oswald, the president’s accused assassin, had public ties to Castro and Cuba. Since it was known that Castro was aware of the CIA plot against him, it gave him a motive to kill Kennedy in revenge. Moreover, both the CIA and the FBI covered up their own involvement with Oswald, a former defector to the Soviet Union.
The 1995 book, “Oswald and the CIA,” by former military intelligence officer John Newman provides invaluable insight into the close relationship between the accused assassin and the spy agency. Other books have laid out the case for how CIA assets, possibly but not necessarily including Oswald, could have turned against Kennedy for his abandonment of the invasion force at the Bay of Pigs.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention that the CIA has spent many years cultivating assets in both the foreign and U.S. media in order to promote their own agenda. Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein wrote an extensive expose, “The CIA and the Media,” in 1977 that should send chills up the spines of anyone who takes the word of the various news agencies as gospel. Bernstein exposes the complicity of, among others, The New York Times (“the Agency’s relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers”), CBS (“unquestionably the CIA’s most valuable broadcasting asset”) and Time magazine (which “agreed to provide jobs and credentials for … CIA operatives.”)
The recognition that the Central Intelligence Agency has freely used assets in the news industry should give everyone pause. If the CIA lied about its involvement in various covert operations in the past, and if it used news media operatives to misdirect public attention from its misdeeds in the past, how can anyone be so naive as to accept the narrative being offered against President Trump today?
We are told that it is ridiculous that Obama would wiretap Trump, and that the intelligence agencies would admit it publicly if it had happened. But as President Trump reminded everyone Friday, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, Obama ordered the wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone in 2010. The German government entered into an extensive investigation of these allegations but, according to the Guardian newspaper, finally gave up because they could not penetrate the secrecy of the spy agencies. As reported by The Guardian, “The federal prosecutor’s office received virtually no cooperation in its investigation from either the NSA or Germany’s equivalent, the BND.”
Yet we expect the National Security Agency or the CIA or the FBI to gladly cooperate with congressional investigators, or even more absurdly the media, and admit to carrying out a political vendetta against Trump? That is what is truly ridiculous.
Trump, like Kennedy, is intent on effecting change across a wide swath of the government. The entrenched bureaucrats known as the “Deep State” resented both Kennedy and Trump. Kennedy fought back hard against the CIA and against J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Whether that cost him his life, we may never know, but history does teach us that conspiracies exist. Unfortunately, anyone who blindly accepts the word of either the mainstream media or their “sources” (bosses?) in the intelligence community simply doesn’t understand history.
Frank Miele is the managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana.