Author Topic: Richard Starnes: "Arrogant CIA"  (Read 7039 times)

Alan Dale

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Richard Starnes: "Arrogant CIA"
« on: July 12, 2013, 02:08:40 AM »
Thanks to TLR for bringing this to our attention.

Paul Rigby, The Education Forum, 27 July 2006
“The most important consequence of the Cold War remains the least discussed. How and why American democracy died lies beyond the scope of this introductory essay. It is enough to note that the CIA revolt against the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy – the single event which did more than any other to hasten its end – was, quite contrary to over forty years of censorship and deceit, both publicly anticipated and publicly opposed.

No American journalist worked more bravely to thwart the anticipated revolt than Scripps-Howard’s Richard Starnes. His ‘reward’ was effectively to become a non-person, not just in the work of mainstream fellow-journalists and historians, but also that of nominally oppositional Kennedy assassination writers. It could have been worse: John J. McCone, Director of Central Intelligence, sought his instant dismissal; while others within the agency doubtless had more drastic punishment in mind, almost certainly of the kind meted out to CBS’ George Polk fifteen years earlier.

This time, shrewder agency minds prevailed. Senator Dodd was given a speech to read by the CIA denouncing Starnes in everything but name. William F. Buckley, Jr., suddenly occupied an adjacent column. In short, Starnes was allowed to live, even as his Scripps-Howard career was put under overt and intense CIA scrutiny - and quietly, systematically, withered on the Mockingbird vine.”

From “Light on a Dry Shadow,” the preface to ‘Arrogant’ CIA: The Selected Scripps-Howard Journalism of Richard T. Starnes, 1960-1965 (provisionally scheduled for self-publication in November 2006).

As far as I am aware, the remarkable example below of what Claud Cockburn called “preventative journalism” has never appeared in its entirety anywhere on the internet. Instead, readers have had to make do with the next-day riposte of the NYT’s Arthur Krock. The latter, it should be noted, was a veteran CIA-mouthpiece and messenger boy.

Dick Starnes was 85 on July 4, 2006. He remains, in bucolic retirement, a wonderfully fluent and witty writer; and as good a friend as any Englishman could wish for.

I dedicate the despatch’s web debut to Judy Mann, in affectionate remembrance.

The Washington Daily News, Wednesday, October 2, 1963, p.3


'Arrogant' CIA Disobeys Orders in Viet Nam

SAIGON, Oct.2 - The story of the Central Intelligence Agency's role in South Viet Nam is a dismal chronicle of bureaucratic arrogance, obstinate disregard of orders, and unrestrained thirst for power.

Twice the CIA flatly refused to carry out instructions from Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, according to a high United States source here.

In one of these instances the CIA frustrated a plan of action Mr. Lodge brought with him from Washington because the agency disagreed with it.

This led to a dramatic confrontation between Mr. Lodge and John Richardson, chief of the huge CIA apparatus here. Mr. Lodge failed to move Mr. Richardson, and the dispute was bucked back to Washington. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and CIA Chief John A. McCone were unable to resolve the conflict, and the matter is now reported to be awaiting settlement by President Kennedy.

It is one of the developments expected to be covered in Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's report to Mr. Kennedy.

Others Critical, Too

Other American agencies here are incredibly bitter about the CIA.

"If the United States ever experiences a 'Seven Days in May' it will come from the CIA, and not from the Pentagon," one U.S. official commented caustically.

("Seven Days in May" is a fictional account of an attempted military coup to take over the U.S. Government.)

CIA "spooks" (a universal term for secret agents here) have penetrated every branch of the American community in Saigon, until non-spook Americans here almost seem to be suffering a CIA psychosis.

An American field officer with a distinguished combat career speaks angrily about "that man at headquarters in Saigon wearing a colonel's uniform." He means the man is a CIA agent, and he can't understand what he is doing at U.S. military headquarters here, unless it is spying on other Americans.

Another American officer, talking about the CIA, acidly commented: "You'd think they'd have learned something from Cuba but apparently they didn't."

Few Know CIA Strength

Few people other than Mr. Richardson and his close aides know the actual CIA strength here, but a widely used figure is 600. Many are clandestine agents known only to a few of their fellow spooks.

Even Mr. Richardson is a man about whom it is difficult to learn much in Saigon. He is said to be a former OSS officer, and to have served with distinction in the CIA in the Philippines.

A surprising number of the spooks are known to be involved in their ghostly trade and some make no secret of it.

"There are a number of spooks in the U.S. Information Service, in the U.S. Operations mission, in every aspect of American official and commercial life here, " one official - presumably a non-spook - said.

"They represent a tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone," he added.

Coupled with the ubiquitous secret police of Ngo Dinh Nhu, a surfeit of spooks has given Saigon an oppressive police state atmosphere.

The Nhu-Richardson relationship is a subject of lively speculation. The CIA continues to pay the special forces which conducted brutal raids on Buddhist temples last Aug. 21, altho in fairness it should be pointed out that the CIA is paying these goons for the war against communist guerillas, not Buddhist bonzes (priests).

Hand Over Millions

Nevertheless, on the first of every month, the CIA dutifully hands over a quarter million American dollars to pay these special forces.

Whatever else it buys, it doesn't buy any solid information on what the special forces are up to. The Aug. 21 raids caught top U.S. officials here and in Washington flat-footed.

Nhu ordered the special forces to crush the Buddhist priests, but the CIA wasn't let in on the secret. (Some CIA button men now say they warned their superiors what was coming up, but in any event the warning of harsh repression was never passed to top officials here or in Washington.)

Consequently, Washington reacted unsurely to the crisis. Top officials here and at home were outraged at the news the CIA was paying the temple raiders, but the CIA continued the payments.

It may not be a direct subsidy for a religious war against the country's Buddhist majority, but it comes close to that.

And for every State Department aide here who will tell you, "Dammit, the CIA is supposed to gather information, not make policy, but policy-making is what they're doing here," there are military officers who scream over the way the spooks dabble in military operations.

A Typical Example

For example, highly trained trail watchers are an important part of the effort to end Viet Cong infiltration from across the Laos and Cambodia borders. But if the trailer watchers spot incoming Viet Congs, they report it to the CIA in Saigon, and in the fullness of time, the spooks may tell the military.

One very high American official here, a man who has spent much of his life in the service of democracy, likened the CIA's growth to a malignancy, and added he was not sure even the White House could control it any longer.

Unquestionably Mr. McNamara and Gen. Maxwell Taylor both got an earful from people who are beginning to fear the CIA is becoming a Third Force co-equal with President Diem's regime and the U.S. Government - and answerable to neither.

There is naturally the highest interest here as to whether Mr. McNamara will persuade Mr. Kennedy something ought to be done about it.


The New York World-Telegram & Sun, Tuesday, December 3, 1963, p.25
Truth Won't Out By Richard Starnes

Realism instructs us to expect little from the special commission created by President Johnson to investigate the death of his predecessor.

No member of the commission has any competence as investigator, nor does any have access to a disinterested investigative staff. The commission will be almost wholly dependent upon the facts made available to it by the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Dallas Police Department.

In a sense, of course, the special commission is investigating the role played by each of these agencies, and it is manifestly naïve to expect these cops to bear witness against themselves or, indeed, each other.

Any reporter who has wasted a portion of his young life in a hick police station thinks he knows exactly how Rubenstein, the squalid impresario of skin shows, gained access to the Dallas Municipal Building where he apparently shot and killed the man who apparently shot and killed President Kennedy. (If you contend there are too many apparentlys in that sentence, my reply is that there are too many apparentlys in the murders that took place in Dallas.)

Ruby probably had a press pass issued by the Dallas cops. Every reporter has known police buffs of the stripe of Rubenstein, and the sleazy breed invariably prizes possession of a press card.

But is anyone foolish enough to expect the Dallas Police Department to step before Chief Justice Warren and say, yes, your worship, we did give Rubenstein a press pass to which he was not entitled and he did use it to gain access to the basement where he performed the gallant act of gut-shooting a manacled prisoner?

If you believe the Dallas police will ever give up the truth about how Rubenstein got a clear shot at Oswald you will believe anything, possibly including the solemn assertion that Rubenstein was not paying off any officials for the privilege of skirting the law in operating his peltorama.

In their extravagant outpourings of grief over the death of their young President, the American people have largely overlooked the disgraceful failure of the Secret Service. We are assured that these hard-nosed federal cops could not possibly check every window along the parade route, and no one is moved to ask why they couldn't. The building from which the assassination of Mr. Kennedy is said to have taken place was a prime stake-out for a sniper, since the President's automobile had to slow for a turn beneath its windows.

Will the Secret Service candidly explain to the special commission why Oswald was permitted to rest patiently on his hunkers gnawing a chicken bone, a rifle beside him, in one of perhaps a dozen choice locations for a bushwhacker?

Again, little has been made of the fact that the President was shot not once, but twice. The autopsy findings on Mr. Kennedy have not been made public, and may never be, but suppose the first wound was not mortal? Then the lax protection that permitted a second bullet to strike home becomes a great historical scandal. Will Mr. Justice Warren and his colleagues ever know the truth of this, and if they do learn it, will they publish it?

Will the presence on the panel of Allen Dulles, erstwhile headmaster of the Central Intelligence Agency, assure us that the truth of Oswald's sojourn in the Soviet Union will ever be known? The Russians suggest they suspected him of being a spy. Can any realistic person believe any tentacle of the nation's elephantine espionage apparatus will own up to ever having Oswald on its payroll?

Can we expect the FBI to explain why Oswald was not under close surveillance? How many would-be defectors to Russia did they have to watch that day in Dallas when the President's widely-heralded visit was scheduled?
Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny.


Alan Dale

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Re: Richard Starnes: "Arrogant CIA"
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2013, 02:10:21 AM »
Also from TLR

I didn't even notice this when you first posted it, Alan.

There was also Fred J. Cook, and Jack Minnis and Staughton Lynd at the New Republic, and Eric Norden in The Minority of One. But very few had the courage to speak up, and those that did were mostly at small publications that received little attention.

Eric Norden wrote in January 1964:

    If the facts of the President’s murder and its aftermath are ever fully revealed, it will not be as a result of the plethora of official government investigations now taking place. While the special Presidential commission established by President Johnson to investigate events in Dallas is headed by a great jurist and a firm supporter of human rights, Chief Justice Earl Warren, his influence alone will not be enough to dispel the smoke-screen of contradictions, lies and distortions laid over the assassination by powerful forces in the government and press.

    If the death of the President was a well-organized conspiracy to change the military and political direction of the United States, dark days are ahead for our country. People of good will everywhere will hope that some less calamitous explanation for the weird and terrible events in Dallas will present itself in the coming weeks and months. But if the President was indeed struck down to frustrate his aim of a limited détente in the Cold War and to plunge East-West relations into a new maelstrom of suspicion and fear, his death may be the prelude to far more terrifying events. Americans can best avenge the slaying of John F. Kennedy by searching out those behind the murder, whoever and wherever they may be, and by making sure that the policies and vision the President’s enemies sought to destroy do not go to the grave with him. Let us determine to lock from our lives forever the cruelty and treacherous arrogance that erupted in Dallas, so that November 22nd need not mark, as the assassins may well have intended, the portal to a nuclear hell.
Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny.