The CIA and the Media: How America's Most Powerful News Medi

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Re: The CIA and the Media: How America's Most Powerful News

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Purity in the Peace Corps
Excerpt from The Invisible Government
by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross

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Purity in the Peace Corps

THE CONFLICT in the field between the ambassador and the intelligence operator is reflected on a larger scale in the frequent clashes in Washington between the State Department and the CIA. The uneasiness felt in other government agencies over the role of the CIA runs deeper than that, however.

This uneasiness is little known outside of the government, and it is almost never talked about. But the Peace Corps provides the best example.

During the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy had promised, if elected, to establish a Peace Corps. He kept his word, created the new agency by an executive order in March, 1961, and asked his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, Jr., to head it.

Shriver accepted, but he very quickly concluded that the Peace Corps, with its thousands of young volunteers dispersed over the globe, could well look like an all but irresistible "cover" to an intelligence agency always on the alert for new ways to disguise its people. At the same time, Shriver knew that the Peace Corps, because it would offer genuine help to the emerging nations of the world, would be an equally tempting target for Communist propaganda, which would seek at all costs to discredit it.

Therefore, Shriver privately proclaimed his determination to take every possible step to divorce the Peace Corps from even the faintest smell of intelligence work. He was well aware that even one "spy" incident involving a volunteer might destroy the Corps.

An anecdote that went the rounds of the executive suite of the Peace Corps at the time of its birth is revealing. It had the then Vice-President, Lyndon Johnson, advising Shriver to "beware the three C's -- Communism, Cuties, and the CIA."

In the spring of 1961 Shriver made a trip seeking to persuade neutral nations to accept Peace Corpsmen. He discovered that the leaders of those countries were blunt in asking whether he would let the Corps be used as a cover for intelligence agents. Shriver replied just as bluntly that he was doing everything he could within the government to make sure that the CIA stayed out of his agency. He also promised to assist individual countries in any security checks they might care to make.

As early as March 16, 1961, Radio Moscow was attacking the Peace Corps as a plan for "the collection of espionage information for Allen Dulles' agency." On May 11 Tass, the Soviet news agency, sent out a dispatch in English to Europe, headlined "Peace Corps Head Shriver CIA Agent."

As a first step in his campaign to prevent the Peace Corps from becoming tarred as an instrument of Cold War intelligence-gathering, Shriver went directly to President Kennedy. "Jack Kennedy gave me his promise," Shriver later told a friend, "that there would be no CIA agents in the Peace Corps."

Upon graduating in 1949, Coffin entered the Union Theological Seminary, where he remained for a year, until the outbreak of the Korean War reignited his interest in fighting against communism. He joined the CIA as a case officer in 1950 (his brother-in-law Franklin Lindsay had been head of the Office of Policy Coordination at the OSS, one of the predecessors of the CIA) spending three years in West Germany recruiting anti-Soviet Russian refugees and training them how to undermine Stalin's regime....

Approached by Sargent Shriver in 1961 to run the first training programs for the Peace Corps, Coffin took up the task and took a temporary leave from Yale, working to develop a rigorous training program modeled on Outward Bound and supervising the building of a training camp in Puerto Rico. He used his pulpit as a platform for like-minded crusaders, hosting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela, among others.

-- William Sloane Coffin, by Wikipedia


He began working for the Russian-language station Radio Liberty, which was based in Munich, at the height of the Cold War. He worked for the U.S. Information Service, which sent American citizen diplomats around the world to talk to people about American values and democracy....

Between 1964 and 1972, he served as deputy Peace Corps director in India, country director in Tunisia and Nigeria and finally as director of all Peace Corps programs in Africa.

-- Francis Underhill Macy - improved Russia relations, by Peter Fimrite


The most encouraging development is that the Ambassador has decided he wants two Olympic attaches -- the other one will be Dave Carrasco, former basketball coach at the American University and now head of the Peace Corps sports programme in Ecuador (who of course, has no connection whatsoever with the Agency).

-- Inside the Company: CIA Diary, by Philip Agee


President Kennedy followed up this verbal assurance to Shriver by issuing orders to Allen Dulles and later to his successor, John McCone, which continued in effect after President Johnson took office. In addition, Shriver met with Dulles and later with McCone and obtained their guarantee that the CIA would stay away from the Peace Corps.

But the problem was more subtle than that. Shriver's dilemma was a peculiar one, bred of the Cold War and inconceivable in the America of even twenty years before. Could he be certain that the White House attitude would be reflected all along the line? Could he be sure, for example, that a lower-echelon CIA official might not quietly attempt, despite everything, to plant agents in the Peace Corps, in the honest belief that he was acting in some higher national interest?

Shriver must have decided he could not be sure of the answers to these delicate questions, for he did not rely on presidential assurances alone. A careful screening process was set up. It was designed, of course, to catch any Communist or security risk who might try to get into the Peace Corps. But it was also designed -- hopefully -- to spot any CIA "volunteer" before he could unpack his cloak and dagger.

It might come as a jolt to most Americans to know that one agency of the United States Government feels it must protect itself against infiltration in its ranks by another agency of the United States Government. But the Peace Corps has taken elaborate steps to prevent just that.

Shriver designated William Delano, the Peace Corps' young general counsel, to ride herd on the problem and make sure no intelligence men slipped through the net. As insurance, Shriver laid down a firm rule. No one with any intelligence background, even years ago, would be accepted.

As Peace Corps officials soon discovered, there was a hitch. Openly acknowledged "overt" employees of the CIA are allowed to say so when they seek a new job. But covert employees of the CIA are not permitted to reveal it, even years later on a government job application form. They might put down the name of a commercial cover company or perhaps some other branch of the government for which they had ostensibly worked.

And a routine Civil Service check, Peace Corps officials realized, would not reveal whether applicants had been or were still covert CIA agents. Some applicants, unaware of Shriver's policy, innocently listed such past jobs as "CIA secretary, summer of 1951." They were immediately eliminated.

Others, more sophisticated, sought to fuzz their past employment by listing "U.S. Government" to cover a period of a year or two. But the would-be volunteers, in these cases, were questioned by Civil Service investigators, who naturally demanded to know more details.

One high Peace Corps official estimated that ten to twenty ex-CIA employees who had listed "U.S. Government" on their applications have been turned down since the Peace Corps began.

Screening out persons with a background in intelligence was only part of the problem. The Peace Corps also decided that it had to guard against the possibility of the CIA approaching a volunteer after he had been accepted into the Corps.

During orientation courses for volunteers, it became standard practice for a Peace Corps instructor to get up and pose the following question:

"Suppose a man asks you to have a cup of coffee with him and he identifies himself as a CIA agent. He says he doesn't want you to spy, but that he'd like you to get together with him and just chat every couple of weeks, and perhaps tell him a couple of things you've learned. What would be your reaction?"

Most of the volunteers replied they would have no part of any free-lance spying of this sort.

"Just so that no one will have any doubts about it," the instructor would then add, "if such a solicitation is made, you are to report it to the Peace Corps country representative within ten minutes, if you can get to him that quickly, because the CIA man would be defying the President's order to Dulles and McCone. Furthermore, the CIA man will be kicked out of the country faster than you can see, if you report it."

Because of this orientation, Peace Corps officials felt it was unlikely that their volunteers would be solicited to do any intelligence work. Still, one official admitted, the real problem would be "covert people trying to infiltrate. I don't see any way we can spot them. It would be a fluke. The more deliberate the attempt, the harder it would be to find."

Shriver's concern over keeping his agency "clean" was reinforced in September, 1961, when Secretary of the Army Elvis J. Stahr made a speech suggesting that an Army Peace Corps be established.

"We must plan so that we can use our tools in cold war as well as hot war and employ them anywhere in the world, " said Stahr. General Barksdale Hamlett, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, gave added details of the plan, which seemed to envision use of the Army in worthy social projects in underdeveloped countries -- but linked to paramilitary activities.

To Shriver, it smacked of precisely the sort of military and intelligence overtones he was trying so hard to avoid. Shriver objected strenuously. A high-level meeting was held at the Pentagon, attended by Stahr, Shriver, General Hamlett and a platoon of beribboned Army brass.

The generals at the meeting insisted that the Army Peace Corps would have no relation to any intelligence work. At that, Lee St. Lawrence, a Peace Corps official, spoke up. St. Lawrence had served with the Agency for International Development in Southeast Asia and was familiar with CIA operations in that part of the world.

He asked the generals to name the officers who would be in charge of the proposed "Army Peace Corps" in Southeast Asia. When they did, St. Lawrence singled out some as CIA men. He offered to reel off the names of others, but there was no need. The project was dropped.


But Communist attacks on Shriver and the Peace Corps continued. United States intelligence obtained, from Eastern Europe, what appeared to be a guide for satellite nations on how to phrase propaganda against the Peace Corps. The document stressed the general line that the Corps was a CIA operation and that volunteers were selected by the CIA. Peace Corps officials believed that it served as a primer for subsequent propaganda emanating from various points in the Communist world.

Certainly the Russian and Communist Chinese attacks followed a familiar pattern. In March, 1962, for example, Radio Moscow broadcast in Hindi to India: "U.S. agents are sent to Afro-Asian countries under the U.S. Peace Corps label. The plan to organize the corps was jointly prepared by the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and CIA. Director of the Corps, Shriver, is an old employee of the CIA."

Radio Peking joined in, and so did Fidel Castro. Radio Havana broadcast attacks on the Peace Corps that paralleled the Moscow barrage.

Also in Havana, the newspaper Roy warned Venezuela to "watch out" for the Peace Corps. "These Corps are land U-2s. Their mission consists in poking their noses into all places where meek rulers open the door for them."

On March 27, 1963, a Polish paper published an article attacking the Peace Corps by charging that girl volunteers were Mata Haris. It ran photographs of girls training, with the caption: "The Americans consider all means acceptable. Where other methods do not succeed, sex [i] may be very useful. Girl members of the Corps on the exercise field."

About the same time, Tass picked up the sex theme and charged that a wicked Peace Corps woman teacher in Somalia tried to teach pupils the "indecent movements" of the twist.

By the spring of 1963, United States analysts concluded that the Soviet Union, having had little success with this loud, public campaign against the Peace Corps, had embarked on a simultaneous behind-the-scenes campaign against the Corps. In Ghana, for example, the Soviet ambassador succeeded in persuading the government of President Kwame Nkrumah to impose some restrictions on the Peace Corps. And in May, 1963, the Ghanaian Times, regarded as the unofficial spokesman for Nkrumah, openly attacked the Corps as an alleged CIA tool.

There seemed no likelihood that the public attacks would stop, but their very intensity logically dictated that Shriver, more than ever, would want to keep the Peace Corps pristine. A spy incident involving a volunteer would give the Russians a propaganda field day and could possibly wreck the Peace Corps, and Shriver's political career as well.

The Peace Corps, it should be noted in fairness to the CIA, maintains it does not know of a single case in which it could be sure of an attempted infiltration by an intelligence agent seeking to use the Corps as cover.

But the fact that Shriver felt he had to take the astonishing precautions he did, speaks volumes. It reflects the atmosphere of mistrust that is felt, rightly or wrongly, by many overt officials of the United States Government toward their less visible colleagues. The distrust is not universal, however. Some unlikely departments of the government have become vehicles for secret operations of various shadings. The story of one of these begins in a house in Cuba.

_______________

Notes:

i. Actually, the Peace Corps has rather strict rules about sex. "In-service marriages of single volunteers must have the prior approval of the Peace Corps representative in charge of the project," a Peace Corps booklet warns sternly. "Approval will not be granted when the future spouse has come from the U.S. or from some other country for the purpose of marrying a volunteer ... married couples who find they are to become parents must notify their Peace Corps representative as quickly as possible."
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