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Understanding The Secret Team
Part III

Allen Dulles: Forging a Government of Reaction

Ratcliffe: I'd like to get into a more general subject here that is certainly central to discussing the rise and growth of Central Intelligence Agency and the Secret Team, in the person of Allen Dulles. You write at one point that Allen Dulles, "was a counterpuncher and a missionary. He was a meddler. He thought that he had the right and the duty to bring his pet schemes into the minds and homes of others, whether they were wanted or not."[1] I'd like you to discuss in general terms the mind of this man Allen Dulles. Why do you think he felt he had the right to do all these things and how do you think he justified this in his own mind?

Prouty: As a young man (just graduated from Princeton, I believe), he went to Paris with the Wilson peace conference group right after World War I. That is a pretty rich way for a young college graduate to begin his work in international affairs. And I'm sure that the experience had much to do with the rest of his life. John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles were both senior directors of the biggest law firm in New York City at the time, Sullivan & Cromwell. Their earlier work of course made them very valuable to that international law firm, and also brought them into the law firm's business throughout the world. The way in which they handled business on the international scale was very much shaped by their experience with Sullivan & Cromwell.

The Sullivan & Cromwell offices had the major U.S. legal contacts in Germany during Hitler's period. We couldn't say they were essentially pro-Nazi, but they didn't close their offices in Germany until well after the start of World War II. The fact that they were still there during the war became quite an embarrassment to the U.S. government. To think that here we were, very anti-Hitler, anti-Axis, and yet this major U.S. law firm was still operating there. This law firm was in a sense dominated by these Dulles brothers, whose idea of international affairs and international business was shaped by the law firm's clientele and by their own global activities.

At the same time, John Foster Dulles was either a founder of the World Council of Churches or one of its major guiding spirits. Whenever he was not in the government or otherwise assigned to some mission, he traveled all over the world as a principal spokesman for the World Council of Churches. Now I make no brief for the Dulles Brothers view of the churches or of their religion. I think it was Episcopalian really, but I'm not sure. But this was the platform upon which the Dulles brothers spoke many, many times around the world. And in that sense they turned their political views, their financial views, their diplomatic views into an essentially missionary spirit. They felt that wherever they went they were bringing the word of the United States -- the word of capitalism, free trade and what have you, around the world with them.

This was very true in the period right after World War II, and may have had something to do with Truman's selection of Allen Dulles to study the intelligence agency with Jackson and Correa because, if anyone was accustomed to international affairs, intelligence activities, covert activities (because of his OSS experience), Allen Dulles certainly was. Put these all together and, regardless of the individual himself or his family relationships (which were strong, of course, because both his brother and sister were strong in the State Department), you produce a person (called Allen Dulles) who is a missionary, a diplomat, a financier, a lawyer -- a really unusual individual for this period. Then you bring him into the government as the Director of Central Intelligence, and he calls upon all this background and associates.

From my experience with him (which for seven or eight years was rather considerable), you could feel this power in the man. This was the way he worked. He felt that he had a perfect right to preach capitalism as he saw it, or anticommunism as he saw it, throughout the world.

It was people like Allen Dulles who really created the North/South confrontation which was actually East/West between communism, but North/South with regard to Third World countries, where either they should shape up with us or else they were declared "communist." There's no black in the middle, no area in the middle where they could ignore them. There's no neutral. In the old days, India tried very hard to be a neutral country. And this Dulles system just wouldn't permit them to be neutral. They had to be communist or they had to be capitalist, one way or the other.

This is the nature of Dulles. When you worked with him, it was either communism or the West. You can't describe precisely these things, but it's in all the literature since World War II. It's in everything we were doing. The Agency was motivated along those lines. Especially as you saw Dulles move into these things that we were talking about, through his ability to control the morning briefings, guiding the government along this reactive channel. Because when Dulles became the Director of Central Intelligence one of the first things he did in the Agency was to abolish the DDA. We've talked about the DDS, the support and the logistics; we've talked about DDP, the clandestine operation; and of course DDI was the Deputy Director of Intelligence, which is the ordinary intelligence business. But the CIA had had a DDA. DDA was administration, planning, management. He abolished that. He saw no use for it. If he saw no use for management, planning, administration -- that role in the Agency -- then you can see that what he was going to do was let his eyes and ears (his intelligence area, his covert area) find things to do and then do that, whatever it was.

So he would react to things. And with that system that he applied, he brought it into the entire government. After several years, the government itself was becoming a government of reaction. This is the main point about having a CIA in a government like ours that makes it very dominant: It assumes the title without even trying -- because it's easy to respond with a reaction. If you get punched, you punch back. That's easy. This is Mr. Dulles in a nutshell. And his shadow having fallen over the government for so many years has created a government which does react rather than respond dynamically.

This is very true in this decade of the eighties in our government, and I think it is this straitjacket that Kennedy was trying to remove from the office of the Presidency. Kennedy was definitely making moves to rid the government of this reactive motivation. Of course he fired Dulles in late 1961, that was the first step.

Ratcliffe: But after he was elected he didn't yet see what would happen until something like the Bay of Pigs came along to make him wary of such a reactive straitjacket.

Prouty: I think Kennedy, having great confidence in his own ability, realized that he didn't have to fight the ten rounds of the championship bout all at once. He'd take them in order. He lined up the program that he saw through his first four years as a chance to begin to really take over the government in his name and in what he wanted to do. Then during his latter four years he planned to make moves that would set the course of our history for many, many years. And of course, as a lot of people have pointed out, he had Bobby in the wings and Teddy in the wings and then their children in the wings. They would have had a Kennedy Dynasty for years. At least, that's one way to look at it.

But I think Kennedy rebelled against this business of the reaction to things. He wanted to do some things. This of course put him in direct conflict with Allen Dulles and with the CIA and with that method of operation, which really dated back to Walter Bedell Smith. Walter Bedell Smith is the one who started the pre-briefings shortly after he had been appointed DCI by Truman. So we must not say that this was truly Dulles' origin.

This is important for historians. They should go back a little further and see that Walter Bedell Smith -- who was Eisenhower's closest confidant during World War II, who left that job to become Ambassador to the Soviet Union (which is quite an unusual assignment for a General), and then came directly back from being the Ambassador to the Soviet Union to being the Director of Central Intelligence -- should not be overlooked for the enormous role that he played. Then he stepped down from being the DCI to become the deputy to John Foster Dulles at the Department of State so that Allen Dulles could move into the slot in the DCI. I would not say that the Dulles brothers formed all this themselves. I would say that Walter Bedell Smith and his associates, including Eisenhower, had a lot to do with all of this evolutionary process.

Ratcliffe: Even though it was Truman, in 1950, who recalled Bedell Smith from Moscow to take over the CIA, once this was the hue and cry in the country about how we'd been caught with our pants down in Korea when the invasion happened.

Prouty: That is a part of the greater problem of how the whole country -- how the whole world rolled over from the alliances of World War II into the Cold War (World War III/Cold War) of being anticommunist and Pavlovian anticommunist, unreasonable anticommunism: everything that we didn't like was communist right away -- anything the Soviets did was against the West. And to create that direct opposition right out of the ashes of World War II, and for what most people would say were very unreasonable reasons. Nothing that had been done in Moscow changed this. They had been our partners in war and all of a sudden we were opposed to them. But I don't want to leave anyone with the idea that this began solely with Dulles. Dulles perfected it of course. Dulles was the epitome of the person that fit that role, but he was not the first man. Bedell Smith was ahead of him.

Dispersion of the OSO, Creation of the Office of SACSA

Ratcliffe: We've discussed briefly before, your office -- the Office of Special Operations -- being transferred in either late '61 or early '62 out of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and into the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'd like your ideas about the importance and significance of this change with the concurrence of your office being transferred from OSD to the Joint Staff and how, to quote you directly, "as a progression of this first move, the Joint Staff created an office called the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities, or SACSA."[2]

Prouty: There had been an Office of Special Operations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, ever since its establishment in 1947-48 under Secretary Forrestal. That office was there to take the directives from NSC that had to do with covert operations and translate them into Defense Department action.

When Kennedy was elected, General Erskine had been working on an Eisenhower-directed study to establish, in the Defense establishment, a Defense Intelligence Agency. It was quite apparent that, although the CIA existed, it did not emphasize military intelligence gathering adequately for the intelligence careerists and professionals in the military. They felt that a common Defense establishment (DIA) would improve the military intelligence area. In many ways it would counterbalance the CIA for their own benefit. General Erskine, the long-time head of the Office of Special Operations, is the one who wrote that study.

When that study was concluded after Kennedy's inauguration -- and I believe almost on the day of the Bay of Pigs exercise, if I remember the date it seemed to me it came on almost the identical day -- it was approved by Secretary McNamara, shortly after the General had given it to him. Shortly thereafter General Erskine, who had then been in the Pentagon for more years than any other Assistant to the Secretary had ever been there, retired.

The question for McNamara then was: Should he retain OSO as it had been and try to put another man in there, or should he divide it into other functions? First of all, OSO was responsible for the overview of NSA. In the technical world that had developed in those latter years, with satellites, U-2's and SR-71's and all that, much of that work had moved over into what we called DDR&E (the Deputy of Defense for Research and Engineering). So that area of responsibility was transferred from OSO to DDR&E. That took away one big role from OSO. Another function in the Office of the Secretary of Defense that had moved was ISA (International Security Agency), and much of their role was in connection and coordination with the State Department. So that responsibility, which had been in OSO, was moved to ISA.

Then you get to this area of Special Operations (the support of the clandestine activities). The active work that was required for this task, for the most part took place in the services. But the three services had always been running each office independently. During the five years I ran that office in the Air Force, there was an Army counterpart and a Navy counterpart, and although we worked together frequently, it was more or less an ad hoc arrangement. We worked together, like for the Bay of Pigs, because we had to. It was a necessity. But we didn't work together on policy matters or on budget matters, which are so important. Each service did that independently.

So I was called in by General Wheeler (who at that time was the Director of the Joint Staff; this was a couple of years before he became the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and asked what I thought about bringing the Special Operations function into the JCS. And of course I immediately approved it because I saw the rest of the OSO office going. In fact, they had gone and I had the only office left there, with a functional job but with no title. My boss General Erskine had gone. General Lansdale was doing some special work for Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gilpatric, and was making trips to not only Vietnam but to Central America at that time (which for Lansdale was quite a new thing).

I told General Wheeler that I thought it would be a fine move to set up Special Operations under the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to create an office that would unify the work of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force (including the Marine Corps). General Wheeler agreed with that and arranged a meeting with Mr. McNamara.

When we went up to see him, Mr. McNamara said, `I will take care of getting the increase in the manning allotments for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (which were limited to 400) sufficient to create this office, and you can go ahead and set up the office.' So I moved from the physical area of the Secretary of Defense downstairs to the JCS area. An Army officer was assigned to my office, along with one or two staff, and a Navy officer, along with one or two staff. We had probably eight or ten people. And we established the Special Operations branch of what became SACSA -- the Office of the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities.

The SACSA development was very interesting. Nothing had existed in the Joint Staff like that before. This was a "Special Assistant" to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities: two roles that are not traditionally prime military roles. But during the Vietnam era they became extremely important. This function brought with it another very important office that you hear little about, and that's the office that handles Cover and Deception. Deception is a very important type of Special Operation.

You create things that you want to have discovered that are wrong: so that Moscow would think we had a gun that worked the way it worked and it didn't work, or a rocket that worked the way it did and it wouldn't work, or that we sent people to some place to do a job that they'd think we were going to do and we were never going to do it. This is important because when we set up the Bay of Pigs -- on account of Deception, if the Russians found out about that or if Castro found out about it -- they wouldn't know whether that was Deception or whether we were going to do it.

Deception is an extremely important function, rarely talked about. I don't know of anybody who's ever written about it properly. And at the same time that my office was moved to the Joint Staff to unify Special Operations for the services, the men who had been working for years in Deception unified their office in the same area. In fact, they were right next door to me, and we used to work together quite a bit because it was important that we do that to have Deception effective throughout the military services.

This left the basic function, called counterinsurgency which developed from the Special Forces (from the Green Berets and from that doctrine). This was a move by the military to get into an area of CIA activity, especially in Laos and Vietnam. And the other side, the Special Activities part of SACSA, was simply to cover -- like saying "and so forth" -- to cover anything else that was coming up of an unusual nature.

These transfers started with an Army General, General Craig, who stayed only about a month or two in the job as Chief of SACSA. His problem was that, being a straight-line Army general, he had difficulty making objective decisions regarding either CIA or Special Forces, and the Air Force's Special Air Warfare units, and so on. Whereas a neutral general might have been able to make decisions more easily. In that period of time, because they were very formative decisions, they moved to another man. The interim man after that was another Army general, who had considerable experience with Special Forces but was called for another job by the Army. So he stayed about two months.

Finally they brought in a Marine major general, Victor Krulak. Krulak was ideal. He had no biases with respect to this function. He was straight Marine Corps, and, as far as he was concerned, Special Forces, Special Air Warfare, the Navy Seal teams, all of that and the CIA's work -- as he said, `That's just an offshoot of the Marine Corps, so I know all about that stuff.' He was good. What was new to him was the Deception work and the Special Operations work. We worked closely together for years and that function developed accordingly.

DOD Adoption of a Counterinsurgency Role
in the late Eisenhower Years

The counterinsurgency role has been identified with Kennedy. I think the better way to read it would be that the counterinsurgency role was coming into the Defense Department from the CIA. It was either a matter of their getting into it or the CIA was going to overwhelm them. And it bloomed during the Kennedy period. Pretty good proof of that is that although the Special Forces center at Fort Bragg is called the Kennedy Center, it actually had its inaugural first class during the Eisenhower period. In fact, it was Mr. Douglas, Deputy Secretary of Defense, who went down there to inaugurate the school and the first classes. I was down there with him, so I know the date for sure. The Kennedy Center was not really the Kennedy Center; it was operating earlier than Kennedy's election. Which shows that counterinsurgency and that kind of thing did not begin with Kennedy. It began before Kennedy.

Ratcliffe: You mention further on, "The important thing to understand is that the much-heralded office of SACSA had very few military responsibilities. It was almost entirely CIA oriented."[3] This brings up this whole question of direction -- not only the importance to the Secret Team in general of an office like the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities, but besides General Krulak -- there's this situation of Maxwell Taylor coming back into the government after leaving in a huff. He resigned in 1958?, '59? -- during the Eisenhower administration. He was the Chief of Staff of the Army -- and left in a huff because of disagreements. Taylor wrote a book called The Uncertain Trumpet, which you indicate you felt very strongly was fronting for this idea of "flexible response." But more directly the whole linchpin of counterinsurgency as being this new form of operations that apparently, as you indicate, was more to increase the scope of CIA operations than to, in effect, do what it did -- which was to change the military's posture from a traditional military fighting stance to this sort of counterinsurgency focus or intent.

Prouty: The shift from Eisenhower to Kennedy, first of all, as far as the bureaucracy was concerned, was most unexpected. The Pentagon was all ready for Nixon just like, as we see today, the Reagan-Bush era -- it was expected. The bureaucracy was ready for Bush to come in and simply keep things going. We had the same feeling in 1960. And those of us at that time in the Pentagon could see that everything was moving toward a Nixon continuation of most of the Eisenhower program -- with some differences and with a strong bent towards CIA, as Nixon had in those days.

That didn't happen. And yet the infrastructure was all in place. The "Special Forces" increase at Fort Bragg was in place. The Navy Seal teams were already in place. I had opened up a big base for the CIA at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and we had moved CIA aircraft down there in 1959, a year before the election. We had the Air Commandos established and stationed right next to Eglin, at Hurlbert Air Force Base. Everything was already in place. There wasn't anything the Kennedy administration could do to change that. As a result there had to be some top echelon to govern, or to direct, their activities. But SACSA was not a command situation. What SACSA did was provide the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the information necessary so they would understand the functional employment (or they would be able to make use of the functional employment) of these rather large organizations which were in existence around the world.

NSAM 55 -- JFK's Attempt
to Get CIA out of Clandestine Operations

With the arrival of Kennedy, the first thing that had to be gotten out of the way was this Bay of Pigs operation. We've discussed that. After the Bay of Pigs, he asked General Taylor to make a review of the Bay of Pigs and write up for him what he thought his administration should know about that kind of operation in the future. He wanted to get the CIA out of that business. The Taylor "Letter To The President" -- and I must emphasize that every word of that letter had the approval of the other members of Kennedy's Cuban Study Group (meaning Allen Dulles, Admiral Burke and Bobby Kennedy -- Bobby Kennedy most importantly) -- the Taylor "Letter" really moved the Kennedy administration closer to counterinsurgency. Because what Kennedy did -- and this was one of the most significant acts of the Kennedy era, of the Kennedy 1000 Days -- was that he took the precise words of this Taylor Report (this Taylor/Burke/Dulles/Kennedy report) and made them into a National Security Action Memorandum, which was a Directive from the White House. It was NSAM No. 55 and it was accompanied by two essential follow-on NSAMs, 56 and 57 -- all three of which contained the language of the Taylor "Letter." They were not new creations by somebody else, they were the language of the Taylor "Letter."[4]

Among other things, NSAM 55 directed that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Joint Staff, be "the Advisors to the President in peacetime as they would be in wartime." Most people who are not familiar with the full meaning of that don't realize that, in time of war, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the No. 1 Advisor to the President, the Commander in Chief. Not the Secretary of Defense, not the Secretary of State, nobody else -- the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- that's the law.

When Kennedy said, "You are my advisor in peacetime as you would be in wartime," he is saying to the Chairman, `You are my Advisor for clandestine operations, and all the other operations being carried out in peacetime.' He not only put that in words, but the very technique he used to deliver it to the Chairman was impressive.

I can't help but remember that, because NSAM 55 was delivered to me in an envelope from the White House and I was the one charged with the responsibility of briefing it to the Chairman. It arrived in my hands from the White House and no notation on it whatsoever that a copy had gone to the State Department, to the Secretary of Defense, to the Director of Central Intelligence -- nobody. I had never seen a paper like that from the White House before, i.e. with a single addressee. It's just not protocol. It isn't what we do. But Kennedy wanted to emphasize -- by writing this letter directly to General Lemnitzer and saying "You are my Advisor in peacetime as you would be in wartime" and let the other men find out the next day from copies (which we of course made immediately) -- that this was what the President had done.

I can't overemphasize the shock -- not simply the words -- that procedure caused in Washington: to the Secretary of State, to the Secretary of Defense, and particularly to the Director of Central Intelligence. Because Allen Dulles, who was still the Director, had just lived through the shambles of the Bay of Pigs, had sat through all the hearings that were presided over by Maxwell Taylor when they reviewed the Bay of Pigs and now he finds out that what Kennedy does as a result of all this is to say that, `you, General Lemnitzer, are to be my Advisor'. In other words, I'm not going to depend on Allen Dulles and the CIA. Historians have glossed over that or don't know about it.

That NSAM No. 55 was more important during the Kennedy era than anything else except the assassination. In fact it may have caused a major move toward that deadly decision. It said more about Kennedy's plans for the government of the United States than anything else he had signed his name to at least until NSAM 263 in October '63. This is where the Kennedy administration put its print on what it intended to do with clandestine operations.

Chairman of the JCS:
Exit Lyman Lemnitzer, Enter Maxwell Taylor

It didn't work exactly as he intended it, because of some of the people involved. General Lemnitzer was not a Cold Warrior. After I had briefed General Lemnitzer, he said, "Prouty, put that in the file. We'll think about it." He was not about to put that up on a pennant and march around the city with it. He was not going to be the government's Cold Warrior. But, he would be if directed. He would perform his duty as he had always done. But he did not fit the role of the Cold Warrior.

The next factor was that his replacement as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was Maxwell Taylor, the man who wrote that crucial directive. Here was Maxwell Taylor writing NSAM 55, the President approving NSAM 55, putting his name on it and making it a White House Directive, and then that Directive sitting in the office with Maxwell Taylor, in the job that he intended to create for himself. Therefore the Maxwell Taylor review of the Bay of Pigs problem became the Mein Kampf of the Maxwell Taylor era in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Just like the Dulles-Jackson-Correa report of 1949 being the Mein Kampf of the CIA.

Anyone who studies Kennedy's role leading up to Vietnam and as far into Vietnam as he went before he died, must keep in mind that he's the one who said the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was to be his Advisor in Cold War. Now of course, being an Advisor in Cold War is not exactly the equal to being a Commander in a Cold War, but it leads directly toward that function.

This was a major change, at least in the way things had been going during the Eisenhower-Dulles era, as we moved into the Kennedy and McCone era. McCone replaced Allen Dulles within a few months. Bissell was released, General Cabell was released, and they started off with a new group of people in the CIA. I cannot emphasize enough how important NSAM 55 was in the Kennedy "1000 Days," and also how important it is to realize that most historians have omitted it completely in their studies of the Kennedy legacy. It gives a completely different view of Kennedy's objectives. Several people have printed that Kennedy told Mansfield, among others, that he was going to "break the Agency into a thousand pieces." But he had already broken it. With NSAM 55 he had already told Allen Dulles, `I don't need you as my Advisor.' That's explicit. People need to think about that because that was important. That's where the SACSA organization came in, ready-made, with people who had a lot of experience.

For instance, the Navy representative in my office Captain John Bowell had been one of the founders of the Navy Seal team concept. The Army assistant was equally qualified and, among others, there was Al Haig, and people like that. They were not just people brought in casually. They were experienced. Without delay the Army work at Fort Bragg began to increase into the predominant number of Green Berets that we saw later in the Vietnam War.

So we're dealing here with a period that was most interesting. Much of this moved forward like a glacier, with the Bay of Pigs to sharpen Kennedy's attention, and then his action right away to `Get Even!' and to take over control: `I'm not going to have another Bay of Pigs.' He put the JCS in charge of Cold War activities and removed the CIA from the scene. This was his plan, to be fully implemented during his second term after the 1964 elections.

However, there was one problem. Kennedy knew or found out that, Maxwell Taylor was not exactly his hip-pocket Cold Warrior. Maxwell Taylor had prior understandings with CIA. And characteristically, he wanted to dominate that field himself. He visualized himself operating in somewhat the way Allen Dulles had. Or, another way to put it was, he was not your conventional military man at that time. In fact, here's a personal observation on that. A Lemnitzer JCS meeting was a friendly, efficient, well-managed meeting with a thorough discussion of each subject. A Maxwell Taylor JCS meeting was quiet; Taylor delivering the subject and then there was almost no discussion. He'd say, `Any more on that, gentlemen?' No. `Next subject.' It was just like a meeting in a funeral parlor.

It's hard to understand exactly what that meant. But for those of us sitting in the second row and listening to the Chiefs under Taylor after we had spent so many years listening to them under Lemnitzer, it became clear that Maxwell Taylor did not represent the typical military man at that time.

So what Kennedy may have hoped to achieve may not have been successful because of the individuals involved. Taylor was not the right man to do that. Kennedy planned to move on that later. This all gets quite complex. This era can't be studied enough if anyone wants to understand the Kennedy legacy.

The central point here is that it was not Taylor who stayed on to fight the Vietnam war. It was Wheeler. Had it worked the way Taylor wanted it to work, he would have stayed on throughout the Vietnam War and become the military leader (and he hoped victor) of the Vietnam War. Because as Chairman he would have Westmoreland and Abrams and all those people working for him. I think that's what he thought his role would be.

Ratcliffe: So your sense then of this: perhaps if Taylor had retained the Chairman's position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and been able to, in effect, reside over a victory he would have seen be implemented through the use of counterinsurgency warfare tactics.

Prouty: During World War II he was a paratroop leader. In other words, he was more like the old Army would say, a cavalryman. He was a man ready to adapt new tactics and to fight new kinds of war, and Taylor would have moved in that area. In an era of hydrogen bombs and satellites and all that sort of thing, it may be that he was the last of a dying breed, just like the old horse cavalryman . . . that's exactly where I started in the late thirties.

Bay of Pigs Post-Mortem and the Dynamics of Personality:
Allen Dulles, Maxwell Taylor, and Bobby Kennedy

Ratcliffe: This is right to the point in terms of Taylor coming in to the government: he was on this Bay of Pigs post-mortem committee. You write about Allen Dulles' role in the committee, set up by Kennedy, arranging

. . . for witnesses who would provide background briefings of the new Agency drift into counterinsurgency. The broad plan for counterinsurgency as a marriage of the CIA and of the U.S. Army had been laid down during the months of the Eisenhower administration. It remained for its proponents, mostly men of the ST, to sell it to the Kennedy team. . . .

Throughout this complex process, his [Allen Dulles'] primary target for conversion to the CIA was General Maxwell Taylor. Here was the right man at the right time for Allen Dulles' exploitation and for use of the ST.[5]

We have then described Taylor coming in and perhaps having his own ideas and hopes or ambitions for how he could move up. And you have written in the book that Bobby Kennedy had been very taken by this man Taylor, and apparently in his talks each night, going back to talk to his brother, must have conveyed this sense of his fascination and interest in Taylor to John Kennedy. Then in effect, somehow, Kennedy doing just what (in the way you seem to write) Dulles would hope he would do -- which was to bring Taylor into the White House, to bring him in first as the Special Assistant to the President for Counterinsurgency?

Prouty: No, Military Assistant.

Ratcliffe: Military Assistant. And then being promoted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Was it in effect, that by that point the inertia of "the right man at the right time" being something Kennedy then picked up on and somehow fell for it?

Prouty: Not quite in that view. Remember, Eisenhower had been in the White House for eight years, and he had followed Truman following WWII. That was a long period of time with everything going in generally the same "Post WWII-type" direction. Then Kennedy came on the scene and initiated a much different course in the ways of the Government.

A good example of this was the way he handled the post-Bay of Pigs investigation with his appointment of the Cuban Study Group. Kennedy put Allen Dulles, Adm. Arleigh Burke, Gen. Maxwell Taylor and Bobby Kennedy together in one room. He could not have created a better group for that purpose. In some respects, they were opponents on almost every score. Then when you add to this his sheer genius of calling in the former Director of Central Intelligence, Gen. Eisenhower's long-time European aide and the first post-war Ambassador to Moscow, Gen. Walter Bedell Smith as premier witness, his choices for this important Cuban Study Group review could not have been better for his purpose. This worked for Kennedy. His mind could assimilate this. Smith tipped the scales in JFK's favor.

This is a good example of where Kennedy's years of Congressional experience, which I am afraid many historians have discounted, paid off in a big way for him. People have forgotten that Jack Kennedy had been in Washington as a member of Congress since the 1946 as both a Member of the House and of the Senate; and had grown up in the Court of St. James as the son of Joe Kennedy, the powerful and wily U.S. Ambassador. That's an education!

With these Cuban Study Group choices he was getting ideas and testimony from the experts. Allen Dulles' role in this Group was that he was the only man there who could make up the witness list. I had worked with many of those people for years. At that time their hearing room was only a few doors down the hall from my office in the JCS area. That area of the Pentagon is composed of little narrow hallways with no windows outside. Many of the witnesses would come in and sit in my office and have a cup of coffee until they were called into the room.

I began to notice who the men were that they were calling. Some of them had not worked on the Bay of Pigs; they were old-time Dulles implants from years back who might have had some peripheral assignment with the Cuban Brigade, but not basically. What Allen Dulles and the Agency were doing was using this opportunity to sit there every day with Bobby Kennedy, and every day with Maxwell Taylor to do some basic orientation.

It was heavy; and it paid off in some important ways. When you read sections of their Report to the President you'll realize that this type of indoctrination went all the way back to Dulles' old Dulles-Jackson-Correa philosophy. Dulles had a very willing hand in Maxwell Taylor, who had gotten out of the Government in a "huff" during his Eisenhower years. Now, with this new Kennedy group immersed in the Bay of Pigs problem, it was Taylor's opportunity to move in, and he did just that. He got friendly with Bobby -- in fact one of Bobby's children is named Maxwell Taylor Kennedy. Bobby was very influenced by Taylor, and Dulles was influencing Taylor from his side.

Arleigh Burke, a rather stoic individual, did not join too much in the conversation but saw the sense of humor of the whole scene, and just sat there. I knew Arleigh Burke quite well -- he's the finest Chief of Naval Operations the U.S. Navy ever had and a very competent person in his own right. But he had no ax to grind in this committee. He simply tried to keep things honest.

As this interrogation progressed, it went longer than we ever expected. Allen Dulles saw that he was becoming effective in this business of indoctrinating Bobby Kennedy and Maxwell Taylor. It appears to me that Bobby Kennedy saw both sides of this. He was no neophyte. He went along with some of this listening to everything that Allen Dulles said, but at the same time I think the Kennedys had decided that Allen Dulles was through. I think they had also decided that Taylor was a strong man, that they would stay with him. He would be in their control. He would not be out of control as Dulles might have been.

Bay of Pigs Report: Taylor's Letter to the President
and the Origin of NSAM Nos. 55-57

Historians will tell you that there was no report from this group. As a matter of fact, I myself researched for it. I tried to get it in government files in those days. I couldn't get it. I had NSAM 55, but I never realized that NSAM 55 was the report. I had it as a Presidential Directive, and I had to read it to General Lemnitzer as a Presidential Directive. I didn't know that it was -- almost verbatim -- the words of Maxwell Taylor in his Letter to the President.

The secrecy surrounding that report, and other things to do with the Bay of Pigs, was remarkable. But I won't address the Bay of Pigs problems at this point. I'll stay with this NSAM 55 and the Taylor Report. Even those of us working intimately with these papers had no idea who had written NSAM 55 for the President. Of course the President didn't write all his papers. Did McGeorge Bundy write it? Did Sorensen (his special Legal Advisor and General Counsel) write it? Who wrote it? We were all trying to find out who wrote this very powerful paper. We thought it was an individual paper, NSAM 55. We didn't realize that it had been extracted, practically verbatim, out of the Taylor/Dulles report.

Years later, someone was researching files in the Kennedy Library and came across a box of letters from that era that had been assembled by the GSA. They were relatively nondescript. Some were stamped "Classified". A researcher connected with Harvard University sent me a copy of this Taylor letter and said could I help him identify the letter and its significance? As I read the first paragraphs of one of its Recommendations I realized that this Taylor letter to the President was NSAM 55. Then I realized that this entire letter to the President was actually the Report of the Board.

In the intervening time, I had had lunch with Admiral Burke one day in Washington and I asked him, "Admiral, I was just down the hall from the hearings while you were running this review of the Bay of Pigs effort with Bobby Kennedy and Allen Dulles and Maxwell Taylor. I have a hard time believing that there was no Report as a result of your meetings all through that time. You had to make a report to President Kennedy." We're good friends. He looked at me, smiled, and said, "You know, Prouty, we didn't need to write a Report to the President." He said, "That little son-of-a-bitch Bobby was there all the time." And he really made his point because, after all, if Bobby Kennedy was in the room, what do you have to tell Jack Kennedy? I believed him.

Years later when I found this Report that had been found in the bales of records that the GSA had assembled, and had not been identified otherwise, I found the same words. Arleigh Burke didn't lie to me about the report. He just didn't tell me that it wasn't a "Report," it was a "Letter." We need to dwell on it, because it was so important in the Kennedy era and to the Kennedy legacy. It explained the role of the Kennedys, and it explained the role of Maxwell Taylor. It explained how they intended to move into this area of the Cold War without an Allen Dulles and without the CIA. Remember what we said: "There was no law that said the CIA should be in covert operations!"

The NSAM 56 and the NSAM 57 that accompanied this (but were properly distributed to the Secretary of Defense and the DCI and all the rest) were very powerful documents as well. It wasn't just the one document that came down; it was a whole family of documents. They were all familiar to Taylor, they moved Taylor into being the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I believe that if Kennedy had not been killed, all of them would have been implemented while Maxwell Taylor was Chairman of the JCS. The arguments over these things, the policy developments over how this would be done, carried on well in to and through the year 1962. And by 1963, when you might have expected these things to become operative, the President was killed. Then during the Johnson administration, no one ever mentioned this subject any more.

There was so much security over these things, and so much more publicity about the negative aspects of the Bay of Pigs itself, that few people have bothered to go back and look at these very dominant papers that revealed the true intention of the Kennedy administration that certainly would have gone into effect in a second four-year term.

Ratcliffe: There are some spin-offs of this that have me wondering what you meant, and of their significance. One is, you write about this postmortem set of hearings in terms that Allen Dulles knew that JFK and RFK "had learned a lot from the Bay of Pigs; and he now knew where the Kennedys' Achilles' tendon was and he had hold of that vital spot."[6] What did you mean by "that vital spot"? What were you speaking of?

Prouty: Let me explain something that is a rather practical matter here. I wrote the draft of my book in 1970. I revised it in '71 after the release of the Pentagon Papers because I had then access to all of the Pentagon Papers material. I did not have this original Taylor Report in those days. So I cannot use my knowledge today to tell you why I wrote as I did then and keep the proper story in line.

In those days it was clear that the Kennedys were making this change, but we didn't have the evidence that showed that it was Maxwell Taylor, with valuable assistance from General Walter Bedell Smith who had done this. If I had known that when I briefed General Lemnitzer, you can imagine how explosive that would have been. If I'd have said, `Look, this is what Maxwell Taylor told Kennedy and here's what we're going to do', that would have been a hard thing to tell General Lemnitzer. Because General Lemnitzer and Maxwell Taylor were totally different personalities. General Lemnitzer had followed Taylor as the Chief of Staff of the Army. It wasn't that they weren't friends. It's just that they had great differences in their personalities and in their methods of operation within the military. You cannot go back through the years and change things that are dyed in the wool, because I wrote the book based on that earlier information and I learned some of these things later.

Ratcliffe: More to the point then here, regarding Lemnitzer when he left the JCS, you wrote:

Then President Kennedy made a most significant move, one perhaps that has had more impact upon events during the past ten years than any other that can be attributed to him or his successors. He decided to transfer General Lemnitzer to Paris.[7]

What do you think his rationale was for that?

Prouty: Lemnitzer was the preeminent commander at that time, at least based on seniority and rank, and Kennedy was always Europe-oriented himself. His father had been Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Lemnitzer was the strongest and best man on duty to take over the post that Eisenhower had held in Europe. Lemnitzer certainly was qualified. I think that was a good assignment. On the other hand Lemnitzer was not going to be the man to run the Vietnam war. I don't think Kennedy had any idea that he'd have to have a strong military commander to run the Vietnam War. He planned to have no American build-up there. He wanted the best man in Europe that he could get and Lemnitzer was the best man.

Ratcliffe: One other point. In the book you write:

From 1954 through 1963, all American activity in Vietnam was dominated by the CIA. Although Lansdale and his key men such as Charles Bohanon; Lucien Conein (the U.S. go-between at the time of the Diem coup d'état), Bill Rossen, Arthur Arundel, Rufus Phillips, and others were listed in the Pentagon Papers with military rank, they were all in the employ of the CIA and were operating as CIA agents.[8]

I'd be curious if you had knowledge in any of these cases, what did each of these key men of Lansdale's do? What were their particular areas of expertise?

Prouty: As we know, there is a book about Lansdale's life, his biography, that explains some of this. Many of these men had worked with Lansdale when he was in the Philippines and when he had been given the authority to work within the Philippines in a covert activity designed to overthrow the President of the Philippines, Quirino, and in his place put a new president, Ramon Magsaysay. Lansdale's assistants then were Bo Bohanon -- and Valeriano, a Filipino. Conein was in Vietnam at the time. I don't think Conein worked in the Philippines. I was flying in and out of the Philippines at the time and met many of these people that were involved.

When Lansdale was assigned to Vietnam as Chief of CIA's Saigon Military Mission, he pulled together many of his Philippine team, including Filipinos as well as Americans. He brought into it Arthur Arundel, Rufus Phillips and many others, who were what we call "psychological warfare technicians," as well as other specialists, for the role that Allen Dulles had assigned the undercover Saigon Military Mission in Vietnam. We must remember that, although it was known as the Saigon Military Mission, it was not a military mission and most of its work was not done in Saigon. It was simply a cover arrangement that the Agency had created in early 1954 as they prepared for the development of South Vietnam as an independent nation and for the introduction of Ngo Dinh Diem, as President of Vietnam. This job was assigned to Lansdale very much as he had been assigned the job of producing Magsaysay as President of The Philippines.

Ratcliffe: Did Kennedy think that all these men were affiliated with the DOD instead of the CIA? Or did you have any sense of that?

Prouty: We'll have to watch the dates here. During the years we are talking about, the fifties, Kennedy had nothing to do with this. However he knew about it. Later, the CIA's Saigon Military Mission was still there. But after the Geneva Agreement in 1954, the introduction of Diem that same year, and the escalation of our activities in Vietnam, the role of the Saigon Military Mission was paramount to all the other activities that were going on in Vietnam. During the Kennedy era, Lansdale had been in the Pentagon from 1957 to October 1963 when he retired. Things had changed greatly in the Kennedy years.

Ratcliffe: So it was not a continuum of events.

Prouty: That's right.

Understanding the Military Assistance Program (MAP)

Ratcliffe: There is a great deal to discuss in all of this. I'd like to get into a few more key areas. One is the Military Assistance Program. I'm going to quote briefly from something in the latter part of the book where you were describing

A special Presidential committee had been formed early in 1959 to study "Training Under the Mutual Security Program" and to "provide instruction [to recipient countries] in concepts or doctrine governing the employment of the military instrument, in peace and in war." . . . this committee was laying it right on the line that the Government should be stepping into the Mutual Security program with "military" training, including the development of paramilitary capability in the recipient nations. The only way this could be carried out would be to mount clandestine operations in every country where this was to apply. By this period, the CIA knew that it was ready, equipped, and in a position to do this in any "counterinsurgency-list" country, as it had been digging its way firmly into the MAP since the earliest days of the Greek and Turkish aid campaigns.[9]

Could you briefly discuss the creation and background of the Military Assistance Program? And how, over time, through CIA agents working within it, and the agenda of overall attempted control by the Agency of its reach and scope, recipient countries found themselves hostages to their own armies -- because of the domination of the ST agenda combining the focus of political, social and economic directives, all under the vast authority of our military, which set up these countries' own military-based governments? (Admittedly, a convoluted question.)

Prouty: In order to unravel all that, which is an enormous story, and is very important to understand, I'll point out here that I printed the document you're talking about from the White House (it was a White House document, a very long one) as an appendix to my book.[10] And anyone seriously interested in that most important subject should turn to that, because I can't go through 20 or 30 pages here, and all of the things that it meant, in detail.

After World War II there were a number of people in our government who believed that the way to stabilize any other country (especially those in the Third World) was through the strengthening of its army. They believed the army to be a modifying influence in the government. So that, no matter who was running the country, they'd more or less do what the army said. That's quite an imaginative concept -- because it doesn't work that way, of course. The army puts up a dictator and then they run the country themselves.

The Little Red Book's Influence
on General Stilwell and Lansdale

But this was the idea. You might say it was the idea that Lansdale had when he brought Magsaysay to the top in the Philippines. Because in doing that, what he and his Agency supporters planned to do was to create an element within the Philippine army that would sustain Magsaysay through several terms in office, hopefully using elections from one to the other, but using the army to make sure the elections went right. It's hard to describe it and make it all sound sensible, but this is the way they were working. They were saying, `Look, if you create an army that is very stable and has no great ambitions, they'll keep the country going, they'll take care of this responsibility as a force in the middle.'

I found out later they were all reading Mao Tse-tung's Little Red Book. They all believed that the army was a school of fish living in the water and the water was the people. It might work for Mao Tse-tung, but I'm not so sure it's going to work in Nicaragua or in Greece. But they were writing this kind of document. The two authors of that paper you're referring to (one was General Stilwell and the other was General Lansdale) had become greatly enamoured of the Little Red Book. I know when I worked with Lansdale, year in and year out in the same office, I'd hear him quote that darned thing -- he could quote it -- no matter what situation we were talking about, he'd have some quotation from the Little Red Book. So to understand this White House paper you have to get into that context.

MAP as a Sensor to React To

The other side of the idea was that this had much to do with the CIA's philosophy that you react to events. Have the U.S. military out there in all these countries as Military Assistance Program people. Then they're the eyes and ears in that country to see if things are going the way you want them to go. That's what they really meant, that the Military Assistance Program would be a kind of sensor, kind of an intelligence organization, telling you that things are all right in Greece, and things are going fine in Peru. Or alerting you, like they did in Indonesia -- that's how they found out that they thought it was time for a rebellion in Indonesia -- because the Military Assistance people told them so. Of course the CIA operation failed miserably. We can't go through this in a few minutes, but it is extremely important. And it is central to the philosophy of that era, as applied by CIA and by CIA's close associates and allies, not only within the U.S. military, but in other militaries allied with them around the world, like the British, the Australians, the Canadians, and so on. It was part of the Cold War mechanism.

Obviously, it hasn't worked. Because a reactionary government is hard to run through another agent. It's what we've tried to make work. That's why we've seen sometimes what we thought were loyal governments overthrown, even though they were anticommunist -- Trujillo, for example. If you want to have an anticommunist in power, you couldn't get a better anticommunist that Trujillo, and yet we removed him. It was part of this same thing. It was a very impersonal-type approach and probably an imperfect approach. But I simply printed it as it was written: this doctrine as presented by General Stilwell and General Lansdale and as approved by the Eisenhower era White House, at least in those days -- 1958-1959.

Ratcliffe: So this was in the late Eisenhower period during his second term.

Prouty: Yes. It was the Eisenhower period. I'm sure Kennedy people did not endorse it in later time.

MAP's Ultimate Manifestation: Iran

Ratcliffe: One other follow-up on that. You write at about the same point:

Under the cover of the Bay of Pigs operation, much bigger moves were being made. All over the world the MAP training program was picking up volume and momentum. Thousands of foreigners from all 40 countries [that the U.S. was trying to establish this in] converged upon the United States for training and indoctrination. The new curriculum was either the one at Fort Bragg or like it. The Army interest in political-social-economic programs, under the general concept of "nation building", was gaining momentum. For every class of foreigners who were trained and indoctrinated with these ideas, there were American instructors and American soldiers who were being brainwashed by the very fact that they were being trained to teach this new doctrine. To them, this nonmilitary, political, social and economic theme was the true doctrine of the U.S. Army. A whole generation of the U.S. Army has grown up with this and now believes, to one degree or another, that the natural world of an army lies in this political field. . . . They believe the army is the chosen instrument in nation building, whether the subject be political-social-economic or military. In many cases, due to the great emphasis the CIA placed on training the police forces of certain foreign countries, a large number of American servicemen who were used for such training became active in what was really police work and not the scope of regular military work.[11]

To me, it is so fundamental, this idea of what we saw so much of in the sixties and seventies where we sensed as a nation (some of us at least) that these police agencies in other countries that were being so repressive were somehow operating under our tutelage, and with our support and blessings.

Prouty: The best model of this theory is Iran. Under this philosophy, we moved into Iran after 1949 in large numbers. The Agency was involved all over in Iran -- everywhere. The Agency founded the Iranian airline and many other organizations like that. The military had all kinds of radar detection devices up near the Caucasus Mountains for scanning into the Soviet Union. This provided the backbone of a lot of activity in Iran. But, it led to programs where we actually imported thousands of Iranian young men, selected to be leaders in Iran then and for future years, and they went to technical schools in the United States, they went to Fort Bragg, they went to all kinds of schools. They were actually given very, very useful training from their point of view and then were put back into Iran.

In the later years of this program -- into the mid-seventies and on -- the CIA had enormous dossiers of people in Iran. They knew every person who would be of use in any area -- with special training in electronics or academically or medical, so on -- because we had brought them over here for some kind of training. Iran was probably the test bed for this to its extreme. The Shah was right in the middle of it.

As I wrote in another article, one of the most important assignments made by Nixon when he was President was that of Richard Helms, the former Director of Central Intelligence, as Ambassador to Iran. We completely converted Iran into this type of dream, which is an offshoot of the Little Red Book of Mao Tse-tung. As a result, we got what we planted, we sowed the seeds and we got it.

Now, the people in Iran who are in power have access to the same people that we've trained here. They know more about us than we do about them. This is something people don't realize about the problems we're having today. They wonder how the Iranians can do this and how the Iranians can do that. Behind the screen of this man Khomeni, all these thousands of Iranians that we've trained are totally familiar with our system -- just like Noriega in Panama. Just because there was a coup d'état, doesn't mean these people forgot the things we trained them to do. Now we're paying the price by having well-trained individuals in many of these countries who have turned that training against us or at least have said, `Look, we understand you better than you think we do. Now lay off us.' Like Noriega's saying.

To a degree, even what's happening in Nicaragua is an outgrowth of this. Because, if you teach the people that the army is the chosen instrument to control the country, and then they do that, and the army does take over, they think that's what we were telling them to do. It's a very interesting and predictable development. We need to think about it very much because it has shaped what we've been doing in many countries. If you look very carefully at what the men who started this movement were writing and doing -- and I mean by that the White House report written by Stilwell and Lansdale -- then you'll begin to get a perspective of what has happened since those years, and why it happened. I think most of us would not really expect the Army to be the leavening instrument in any political scramble, like in Chile, for example.

Allende was elected by the people and then he was killed by Pinochet. Which one should we, as Americans, be supporting? Pinochet is the man we trained. Allende, we said was a Communist, a Socialist, and so on. So, we reap what we sow when we create that sort of thing. That's really what I'm trying to say in the book -- that this is the way things were going within the world of the Secret Team.

This also reveals that, when the Kennedy administration began to realize some of the activities that were going on -- how they had been going on -- they began to make major changes. They began to stop some of these activities. It's that kind of pressure -- that universal pressure not any given point, but that universal pressure against the system that was heavily implanted -- that led to Kennedy's death.

The Secret Team: Far Beyond the Capability of the CIA

Ratcliffe: It would appear so. I'm trying to catch a few final items in the remaining 20 minutes we have. One is, in terms of Kennedy, you write: "Kennedy knew that he had been badly burned by the Bay of Pigs incident and, by June of 1961 [with these NSAMs 55-57,] he and Bobby knew that he had been let down by the ST, or Secret Team." And in parentheses you say, "I carefully switch to the `ST' label here because, in all fairness to the CIA, it was more than the CIA that really created the unfortunate operation."[12] Can you us a summation of how the ST is, in your eyes, larger than the CIA, and what other groups, if such can be named, it comprises.

Prouty: If you analyze the Bay of Pigs operation very carefully, you will see that its components were far beyond any capability of the Agency unless they had the very willing and active support of the rest of the government. And the rest of the government in a Secret Team mode, not in a regularly established air arm of the Air Force, nor a regularly established sea arm of the Navy, with Navy logistics. For instance, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Navy logistics behind all that was enormous. People didn't realize it, but it took place. The same thing occurred with the Bay of Pigs -- the Navy was there. They weren't called upon, they shouldn't have been called upon, but they were there. Even the State Department was somewhat involved in the political side of this: Who would follow Castro? Who would be the chosen people to follow Castro? And there are large financial expenditures in such an operation.

These activities don't take place within the CIA alone. And it's important to see the CIA that way. The CIA is always merged with the rest of the government that's taking part in these actions. Because this was true over such a long period of time, there were people who were very familiar with and well-trained for these operations. Every time a covert activity came up, they were involved again. This is the Secret Team. They can carry out these activities.

With the Iran-Contra exposure, you can see that the Secret Team even bred the Enterprise -- people who were making money off this deal. It went beyond even getting the job done. They were doing it so well that they had money to spare. It's exactly what I was talking about. It's almost as though we ran the Bay of Pigs operation as a commercial venture, hoping that when they took over Cuba some of the Brigade leaders would regain the casino rights and everything else would be back to normal in Cuba. As a matter of fact, I think I said something there that's ahead of myself.

A stock broker called me from Washington a few days before the Bay of Pigs was planned to take place and said, "Colonel Prouty -- he just happened to know me, he didn't know my job, but he said -- Colonel, can you give me any explanation why, all of a sudden, people from the Pentagon are calling me buying sugar stock?" Sugar stock had dropped to pennies, because Castro had boycotted American sugar down there and the companies had lost a lot of money. But, all of a sudden, people who knew about the prospect of the invasion were buying sugar stock $10,000, $20,000 at a time, and sugar stock demand was going up well before the Bay of Pigs landing. They were running it as a commercial venture.

There were more enterprises then. It's inevitable. If you were dealing with these things, you would do that. You can't say that the Bay of Pigs was 100% a CIA operation -- much of the government becomes involved -- any more than you can say the Vietnam war, from '45 to '65, was simply under the operational control of CIA. From '65 on the CIA was still there, more than ever, but the military moved in and the military took over. It became too big for the CIA.

An Impossible Contradiction:
Covert Operations Must Be Deniable

Ratcliffe: Please discuss this crippling and devastating contradiction: that covert operations have to be deniable. Because the Commander-in-Chief must otherwise (if they are undeniable) accept responsibility for involvement "in an illegal and traditionally unpardonable activity."[13]

Prouty: The U.S. was operating, from 1954 on, under an NSC Directive that required that any and every covert operation leave room for the U.S. government to plausibly disclaim its role, that it was not involved.

Take the U-2 that went down in the Soviet Union. If you'd had a chance to study that plane, you'd find that every single instrument in the plane -- the cloth in the fabric of the pilot's clothing, the tires, everything -- had no names whatsoever -- didn't say "Goodyear Tires" or something like that. Everything in it was scrubbed clean, in order to retain deniability. We could say, `We had nothing to do with it.' Of course the U-2 of May 1, 1960 was a faulty operation. But I cite that.

Aircraft that I operated, for instance, in aerial overflights to supply the rebels fighting for their lives and for their country in Tibet -- every marker on those airplanes had been changed -- cleaned off and scrubbed off. We called them "sanitized." It cost us millions of dollars to sanitize these aircraft. Because we had to deny that we had anything to do with it if the plane went down. This is in a sense ridiculous because you can't do it -- the type of planes we use were made in the United States, and so on.

Ratcliffe: No one else could build a plane like that.

Prouty: But a lot of people used them. We used C-130 aircraft that were employed all over the world. That made that plane effective in those operations, but if you did get caught anyone could quickly analyze it and determine who would be doing this. It comes down to the United States or one or two others at the most as the operator. That aspect of deniability was required by NSC directive. We spent millions of dollars trying to carry it out. However, once the operation gets above the bonfire stage you can't hide it. When they told us we were going to Indonesia with a covert operation and they asked me for 42,000 rifles, that was not covert. You can't deny responsibility when 42,000 American-made rifles show up in Indonesia. There's a bit of hypocrisy in that prospect.

Early in the Eisenhower era when that NSC directive was written, they never intended operations to become large enough to get out of hand. Even the Bay of Pigs, as I have stressed earlier, was intended to be no more than small aerial drops, over-the-beach activities -- never an invasion. The invasion idea was started by the CIA after the Kennedy election in November of '60. So I find nothing wrong with these statements about the fact that the government attempted to truly keep these operations covert.

But we haven't addressed NSAM 57 which speaks of covert activities up to a certain size that may be assigned to CIA. Above that size they may be assigned to the military. They recognized in that era that there are only certain small operations that should be assigned to CIA. After that it's a military job. You might just as well hoist the flag and say, "Americans are coming." You can't deny it, and you can't hide it. And if you have to put up with this kind of action, which is a denial of the national sovereignty of your target country no matter who it is. Whether it's Iran or Peru or Indonesia, what you are really doing is denying the sovereignty of another nation. That's criminal among the family of nations. So this is an important consideration here, but in covert activities you try to live with that.

Ratcliffe: But it's such a paradoxical statement of our times: given that they are illegal, that they do violate whatever nation's sovereignty that we move within without their approval, and then that there have been these incidents where the true nature of it -- to some degree at least -- has become known and they've become compromised and can't be denied.

The most blatant example recently is when Neals got North to admit that everyone except the American people knew what North knew about these things, and that the only persons North was concealing it from was from the American public. No one else. The bankrupt nature of that type of admission and how damaging it was for a "democracy" has never been addressed. There's never any analysis of the real impact or implications of what that actually means.

Another example is the way we withdrew from the World Court: `We'll solve the problem by just withdrawing from the court that rules against us -- that says that we committed an illegal act when we covertly bombed the harbors of Nicaragua.' How much longer do you feel we can go on with this kind of illegality?

Prouty: I have read this in other books (and I only say that to soften the blow), and I believe thoroughly that there is no longer anything called "sovereignty." It doesn't exist. We are kidding ourselves if we think sovereignty exists any longer. Consider the fact that Soviet satellites circle over our country every half-hour, obtaining almost any information they want. Go into the world of finance and the world of communications and the world of transportation, the whole global aspect: Walter Wriston himself, Mr. U.S. Banker, has written a book called Risk and Other Four-Letter Words in which he says categorically that we live in a one-world financial communications sphere and that there is no such thing as national sovereignty. We need to think about that, and understand it.

We reside in that global community now. That's the way things are. The idea that there are such things as covert operations is kind of an old-time deal, it's like going back to the horse-and-buggy. I think people who want to dwell on the fact that sovereignty ought to exist because it's a blessed event, ought to realize that's gone, and I feel sorry for them. I've had a lot of people argue bitterly with me over that point, but how are you going to deny it? How's Walter Wriston going to deny it?

So what we're really doing is most uncertain. It's undefined. Only recently I re-read something that I had written previously: that we are no longer going to be able to resort to warfare to settle international disputes. Nations historically, are built on warfare. Nations retain their ability to control their people on the basis of the fact that they have an enemy somewhere and they must prepare for war. That's traditional. That goes way back. But that's ended.

In place of that, covert operations are one side of it, but not a very good one. The other side is the enormous power of the economy today. Here in the United States, at least up to now, we have had the advantage in economic power, just as we used to have the advantage in nuclear power. I think that this will be where the major struggles are to be fought, and I think that's why there's a realignment now coming about, because it serves no purpose for nations to sit, each on one side of the world and the other, with hydrogen bombs, and thumb their nose at each other. We both know that, barring a mistake, an absolute stupid mistake, there's no point in launching hydrogen bombs.

So, a lot of the documents that the government wrote in the fifties, took place in the Kennedy era in the sixties, or that I wrote in the seventies, and so on, are really caught up by time. We live in the eighties and we're getting into the nineties. And the warfare from here on out is going to be economic.

It bothers me considerably to find that for the last decade we have had a President who reduced our economic position to a terrible deficit and handed over to his successor a checkbook with an overdrawn account. This means that the United States is not going to be able to write any checks or to carry out initiatives, because we're broke. In the days when you're going to run an economic war, the worst thing that could happen is to be broke. These are the things we need to think about today.

I'd just as soon give up the whole idea of The Secret Team because I don't think we're going to be calling on that kind of an operation any longer. I think the shambles of the Iran thing and the Contra thing is the end of it. I think that episode wrapped up that kind of work. It doesn't accomplish anything. And the secrecy surrounding it does just what you said: while we kept the secret from the American people, the rest of the world was laughing at us. This will be overwhelmed by our present situation in the economic world. We are broke! If we don't do something about that, we're going to have many more serious problems than we've had looking down the guns at nuclear weapons.

Ratcliffe: One final question then. Looking at the momentum or the inertia of something like The Secret Team, as far as the support of the defense industry that Eisenhower warned about, which he had learned about so painfully when his Crusade for Peace had been shattered by Powers going down right before he went to see Khrushchev -- I'd like to challenge you here to give a sense of how this might come about. It seems that the inertia is still so much there. How do you get people who have for years profited and gained so much by our kind of defense/military iron triangle system to stop that?

Let's consider the creation of the U-2 plane by Lockheed, largely through the doggedness of Vice President Kelly Johnson successfully selling the idea for this product to the Air Force. What about the fact that, "This was a classic example of how a project that should have been military, because it was too large to be clandestine, became covert simply as an expedient and that the reasoning was that in peacetime it could not be military because it was clandestine, so it was to be directed by the CIA, the typical Secret Team tautology."[14]?

Prouty: That's a good way to put it. That's one of the things that I am saying is behind us. Because, for instance: look at the problems the government is having attempting to introduce the B-1 and B-2 bombers into some reasonable strategy. There's no role for them. There's nothing to do with them. And the fact that they're so-called "stealthy" (or at least the B-2 is supposed to be stealthy), means only stealthy in an environment of radar. It makes more noise than old bombers used to and we used to hear our old bombers before the radar was developed. You see, a lot of these things are developed to sell the product. So, the idea of going back to that world is behind us. It's not going to stop.

What we're going to do for enormous profit is move into the energy and food eras. We shall spend as much time dominating the production of energy and the selling of energy products, and food production, as we used to spend on B-2 bombers and things like that. The government doesn't stand still, and we're not going to be defeated by anybody. But the weapons are going to be different. There's more talk today about Malthusianism. There's more talk today about biological warfare and ethnic cleansing. There's more talk today about mind control. These are weapons, again, but it's a different kind of war. We can say that all of these things that were written in the fifties and the sixties certainly existed, but I don't see them replicated in the nineties and after the year 2000.

The big war will be over the energy supplies, transport and food supplies. Of course, with respect to energy supplies, that war started in 1973. The Arab oil embargo was given the same treatment that covert operations were. The only people that didn't know what was really going on in the Persian Gulf were the American people. We were just paying for it at the gas tank, but we didn't know why. These are very critical things, but that's going to be the future of this business. We must all keep in mind a true quote from Rudyard Kipling: "Transport is civilization."

Ratcliffe: That's a good conclusion of The Secret Team. Thank you.

  1. The Secret Team, p.212,

  2. Ibid., p.407a,

  3. Ibid., p.407b,

  4. See "Appendix E" on Page 335 for copies of all three of these NSAMs.

  5. The Secret Team, pp.106-7,

  6. Ibid., p.118,

  7. Ibid., p.119,

  8. Ibid., p.196,

  9. Ibid., p.363,

  10. Appendix III: Training Under the Mutual Security Program,

  11. Ibid., p.394,

  12. Ibid., p.116,

  13. Ibid., pp.102-3,

  14. Ibid., pp.154-5,

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