Central Intelligence Agency

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The establishment of an institution charged with breaking the law within a nation of laws has mortally wounded its founding precept. ~ Edward Snowden

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the U.S. Government, tasked with gathering, processing and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As one of the principal members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the DNI and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and his Cabinet. The CIA is currently led by Director William J. Burns, who reports to DNI Avril Haines and President Joe Biden.

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  • Bob Archer: When you think about the CIA, you probably imagine two of our most popular and enduring myths. The first is that our mission is to search the globe for any conceivable threat to the United States, and the second is that we have the power to perform the first. This myth is the byproduct of an organization, which, by its very nature, must exist and operate in secrecy. Secrecy is a vacuum and nothing fills a vacuum like paranoid speculation... Hey, did you hear who killed so and so? I hear it was the CIA. Hey what about that coup in El Banana Republico? Must have been the CIA! Hey, be careful looking at that website, you know who keeps a record of every website anyone's ever looked at ever? The CIA... Hey, how did that crazy country get those nukes? Where was the CIA? How come all those people were murdered by that fanatic? Where was the CIA? How come, when the dead began coming back to life, we didn't know about it until they were breaking through out living room windows? Where the hell was the goddamn CIA?


  • If you look into the history of what is called the CIA, which means the US White House, its secret wars, clandestine warfare, the trail of drug production just follows. It started in France after the Second World War when the United States was essentially trying to reinstitute the traditional social order, to rehabilitate Fascist collaborators, wipe out the Resistance and destroy the unions and so on. The first thing they did was reconstitute the Mafia, as strikebreakers or for other such useful services. And the Mafia doesn't do it for fun, so there was a tradeoff: Essentially, they allowed them to reinstitute the heroin production system, which had been destroyed by the Fascists. The Fascists tended to run a pretty tight ship; they didn't want any competition, so they wiped out the Mafia. But the US reconstituted it, first in southern Italy, and then in southern France with the Corsican Mafia. That's where the famous French Connection comes from. That was the main heroin center for many years. Then US terrorist activities shifted over to Southeast Asia. If you want to carry out terrorist activities, you need local people to do it for you, and you also need secret money to pay for it, clandestine hidden money. Well, if you need to hire thugs and murderers with secret money, there aren't many options. One of them is the drug connection. The so-called Golden Triangle around Burma, Laos and Thailand became a big drug producing area with the help of the United States, as part of the secret wars against those populations.
    • Noam Chomsky, Interview by John Veit in High Times, April 1998



The Coming Wars - What the Pentagon can now do in secret, by Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, (January 16, 2005)


(Full text)

  • George W. Bush... his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state... The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney...
  • The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books — free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.)
  • The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the former high-level intelligence official said. "...They’re not even going to tell... the regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)
  • Two former C.I.A. clandestine officers, Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, who publish Intelligence Brief, a newsletter for their business clients, reported last month on the existence of a broad counter-terrorism Presidential finding that permitted the Pentagon “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat.... A number of the countries are friendly to the U.S. and are major trading partners...” The two former officers listed some of the countries—Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Malaysia. (I was subsequently told by the former high-level intelligence official that Tunisia is also on the list.)
  • Giraldi, who served three years in military intelligence before joining the C.I.A., said that he was troubled by the military’s expanded covert assignment. “I don’t think they can handle the cover,” he told me. “They’ve got to have a different mind-set. They’ve got to handle new roles and get into foreign cultures and learn how other people think. If you’re going into a village and shooting people, it doesn’t matter,” Giraldi added. “But if you’re running operations that involve finesse and sensitivity, the military can’t do it. Which is why these kind of operations were always run out of the agency.”
  • Rumsfeld will no longer have to refer anything through the government’s intelligence wringer,” the former official went on. “The intelligence system was designed to put competing agencies in competition. What’s missing will be the dynamic tension that insures everyone’s priorities—in the C.I.A., the D.O.D., the F.B.I., and even the Department of Homeland Security—are discussed. The most insidious implication of the new system is that Rumsfeld no longer has to tell people what he’s doing

How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline, by Seymour Hersh, (February 8 2023)


seymourhersh.substack.com (Full text February 8, 2023)

  • The New York Times called it a "mystery," but the United States executed a covert sea operation that was kept secret—until now... the participants debated options for an attack... CIA argued that whatever was done, it would have to be covert... Over the next few weeks, members of the CIA’s working group began to craft a plan for a covert operation that would use deep-sea divers to trigger an explosion along the pipeline....
  • Still, the interagency group was initially skeptical of the CIA’s enthusiasm for a covert deep. Throughout “all of this scheming,” the source said, “some working guys in the CIA and the State Department were saying, ‘Don’t do this. It’s stupid and will be a political nightmare if it comes out.’”... Nevertheless, in early 2022, the CIA working group reported back to Sullivan’s interagency group: “We have a way to blow up the pipelines.”
  • ... some of the senior officials of the CIA determined that blowing up the pipeline “no longer could be considered a covert option because the President just announced that we knew how to do it.”...
  • The plan to blow up Nord Stream 1 and 2 was suddenly downgraded from a covert operation requiring that Congress be informed to one that was deemed as a highly classified intelligence operation with U.S. military support. Under the law, the source explained, “There was no longer a legal requirement to report the operation to Congress... The source recalled, “Bill Burns [CIA Director]comes back and says, ‘Do it.’”...
  • Being tasked with an arbitrary, last-minute change was something the CIA was accustomed to managing. But it also renewed the concerns some shared over the necessity, and legality, of the entire operation.
  • The President’s secret orders also evoked the CIA’s dilemma in the Vietnam War days, when President Johnson, confronted by growing anti-Vietnam War sentiment, ordered the Agency to violate its charter—which specifically barred it from operating inside America—by spying on antiwar leaders to determine whether they were being controlled by Communist Russia.
  • The agency ultimately acquiesced, and throughout the 1970s it became clear just how far it had been willing to go. There were subsequent newspaper revelations in the aftermath of the Watergate scandals about the Agency’s spying on American citizens, its involvement in the assassination of foreign leaders and its undermining of the socialist government of Salvador Allende.
  • Those revelations led to a dramatic series of hearings in the mid-1970s in the Senate, led by Frank Church of Idaho, that made it clear that Richard Helms, the Agency director at the time, accepted that he had an obligation to do what the President wanted, even if it meant violating the law.
    In unpublished, closed-door testimony, Helms ruefully explained that “you almost have an Immaculate Conception when you do something” under secret orders from a President.
    “Whether it’s right that you should have it, or wrong that you shall have it, [the CIA] works under different rules and ground rules than any other part of the government.” He was essentially telling the Senators that he, as head of the CIA, understood that he had been working for the Crown, and not the Constitution.






  • Yes, there is a conspiracy, in fact there are a great number of conspiracies that are all tripping each other up. And all of those conspiracies are run by paranoid fantasists and ham-fisted clowns. If you are on a list targeted by the CIA, you really have nothing to worry about. If however, you have a name similar to somebody on a list targeted by the CIA, then you are dead.
  • For decades, the CIA, founded in 1947, had been a boys’ club. The agency made a practice of hiring women as clerks, record-keepers, and secretaries, but not placing them in top jobs, particularly those that involved spying. According to a series of reports conducted during the Cold War decades, the view among many officers at Langley was that women were more emotional than men, less likely to be taken seriously abroad, and unable to succeed at the vital spycraft of running agents—that is, recruiting foreign nationals to share state secrets. When the agency’s equal-opportunity office investigated a discrimination complaint brought by a female officer in the late 1970s, the resulting report found “unwitting, subliminal, unconscious discriminatory procedures which have become institutionalized by practice.” The agency settled with the complainant, but then, in the mid-1990s, found itself settling two major sex-discrimination lawsuits brought by women in the clandestine service.
    Sexism also existed in the analytic directorate, the large cadre of officers who take what the spies collect and make conclusions and predictions. A 1992 “glass ceiling” study commissioned by the CIA found that women made up nearly 40 percent of the professional workforce but only 10 percent of the elite Senior Intelligence Service. Women often found the headquarters environment “uncomfortable and alienating,” the study said, while white men tended to be given “career-making assignments.”
  • Whatever else it is, the CIA is a workplace, one with institutional biases, turf wars, bureaucracy, and, yes, sexism. When the stakes are so high, those dynamics can have history-making consequences.




  • What we’ve been hearing from the panelists is how the global food system works right now... It’s based on large multinational companies, private profits, and very low international transfers to help poor people (sometimes no transfers at all). It’s based on the extreme irresponsibility of powerful countries with regard to the environment. And it’s based on a radical denial of the economic rights of poor people... We’ve just heard from the Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many point a finger of blame at the DRC and other poor countries for their poverty. Yet we don’t seem to remember, or want to remember, that starting around 1870, King Leopold of Belgium created a slave colony in the Congo that lasted for around 40 years; and then the government of Belgium ran the colony for another 50 years. In 1961, after independence of the DRC, the CIA then assassinated the DRC’s first popular leader, Patrice Lumumba, and installed a US-backed dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, for roughly the next 30 years. And in recent years, Glencore and other multinational companies suck out the DRC’s cobalt without paying a level of royalties and taxes. We simply don’t reflect on the real history of the DRC and other poor countries struggling to escape from poverty. Instead, we point fingers at these countries and say, “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you govern yourselves properly?”
  • The CIA was founded in the wake of the 1947 National Security Act. The Act foresaw no need for the Courts and Congress to oversee a simple information-aggregation facility, and therefore subordinated it exclusively to the President, through the National Security Council he controls.
  • Within a year, the young agency had already slipped the leash of its intended role of intelligence collection and analysis to establish a covert operations division.
  • Within a decade, the CIA was directing the coverage of American news organizations, overthrowing democratically elected governments (at times merely to benefit a favored corporation), establishing propaganda outfits to manipulate public sentiment, launching a long-running series of mind-control experiments on unwitting human subjects (purportedly contributing to the creation of the Unabomber), and—gasp—interfering with foreign elections. From there, it was a short hop to wiretapping journalists and compiling files on Americans who opposed its wars.
  • The establishment of an institution charged with breaking the law within a nation of laws has mortally wounded its founding precept.
From the year it was established, Presidents and their cadres have regularly directed the CIA to go beyond the law for reasons that cannot be justified, and therefore must be concealed — classified. The primary result of the classification system is not an increase in national security, but a decrease in transparency. Without meaningful transparency, there is no accountability, and without accountability, there is no learning.


  • An awful symbiosis emerged between the main actors of the Cold War, a rhythm of escalation between the Pentagon and the Soviet strategic rocket forces, and along secret war between the KGB and the CIA which helped make the spy thriller into the distinctive cultural genre of the period. The two sides became locked into the roles of hero and villain in one another's morality play, as two distinct theories of social and political organisation believed they were grappling for nothing less than the inheritance of the planet.
  • As the Cold War intensified, the NSC became the main coordinating body for how to conduct it within the US government. On intelligence, likewise, Truman aimed for centralization and effectivization. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), established by the same act that set up the NSC, aimed at bringing together the various intelligence-gathering bureaus and agencies that existed within the US government. In this it failed, since different branches of military intelligence as well as the signals intelligence bureau (later renamed the National Security Agency, or NSA) remained outside CIA purview. But the new agency still became a key instrument of US Cold War capabilities, both through spying and through covert operations.
    • Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History (2017)

See also

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