A CIA Cock and Bull Story
by Servando Gonzalez - firstname.lastname@example.org
I ordered Joseph Trento’s new book, Prelude to Terror, and, as soon as I received my copy from Amazon, began reading it with extreme interest. Though I found a few factual inaccuracies and many misinterpretations in his previous book, The Secret History of the CIA, the overall impression was mostly positive.
In his previous book Trento explains how his interest in the CIA began in 1976 when William Corson, a retired CIA senior officer, opened for him the doors of the CIA’s arcane world. Corson introduced Trento to James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s legendary Chief of counterintelligence, who eventually put him in contact with Robert T. Crowley, another ex-CIA officer and a close friend of Corson.
Corson had contacted Trento in 1970, and he took him under his wing. "Slowly, we became friends," tells Trento, "and in some ways, I guess, he became my ‘case officer’", he jokes. What Trento does not seem to realize is that Corson actually did recruit him. If Trento would have had any intelligence training he would immediately have recognized the signs of the typical CIA tradecraft,* evidenced in the recruitment approach used by Corson. This would have set off alarm bells ringing in the mind of any person with a just a minimum of intelligence training. But it seems that Trento fell easily into Corson’s trap.
One of the axioms of agent recruiting is that the best agent is the one who doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to know) that he has been recruited. Corson, an experienced intelligence officer, continued using his intelligence training after he retired from the CIA. He recruited Trento as an unwitting agent of influence, and, with the help of Angleton and Crowley, used him as conduit for the dissemination of disinformation. Unfortunately, Corson, Crowley and Angleton are the main sources for Trento’s new book, Prelude to Terror.
The main fault of both of Trento’s books arise from a wrong methodological approach: as one should not use a plumber’s tools to do a carpentry job, one should not use a journalist’s (or a historian’s, for that matter) research and analysis tools to study an intelligence organization.
Despite its shortcomings, however, Trento’s first book was a source of useful information for the skeptic researcher, because he had managed to unearth a great deal of previously unknown information about the CIA. Accordingly, I was expecting something better, or at least at the same level, of his previous book. But it took me only a few minutes to realize that this was a totally different kind of book.
Trento begins the first paragraph of the Introduction of Prelude to Terror with a sentence that marks the tone and aim of the whole book: “The massive intelligence failures that resulted in the September 11th attacks have left people wondering how this could have happened.” That sentence confirms my theory that everybody believes in conspiracy theories, included the ones who affirm that they not believe in conspiracy theories. The only difference is that some people only believe the conspiracy theories advanced by their own government. Now, if, as the first sentence indicates, Trento really believes the cock and bull story told by our government to explain the 9/11 events, it may give us a clue as to why he accepted without mental reservations the cock and bull story this group of seasoned ex-intelligence officers told him.
Trento begins the second paragraph of the Introduction with the following sentence: “Prelude to Terror will explain the historical context underlying how things went so wrong and why our government has been unwilling to do what is necessary to reform the system that has failed so badly.” Well, I am going to give my own alternative explanation: The people who really control our government -- and I am not talking about the Bush administration, but the Government, that is, administrations of both the Republican and Democratic factions of the Repucratic Party -- have been unwilling to do anything to reform the intelligence services, particularly the CIA, because, contrary to Trento’s assumption, the Agency has served them (not the American people) extremely well.
Then, in the third paragraph of the Introduction, Trento expresses his conviction that, “Since its creation in 1947, the CIA has been a service dominated by a handful of individuals who carried out their activities as they saw fit, some honestly trying to serve the national interest, others focusing enormous energy on personal political advantage, even personal profit.” According to Trento, a group of unscrupulous, opportunistic CIA officers, leaded by Theodore C. Shackley, created a secret splinter faction inside the CIA and put it to work for their personal gain.
Well, finally Trento has said something true, but just on one count. The fact that, since its creation (actually since its conception, but that’s a long story), the CIA has been under the control of a handful of individuals, who created it for advancing their own interests, is absolutely true. But you have to be too naive to believe that a group of small potatoes, like Shackley and his gangsta boys, were powerful enough to put the CIA to work for them. Trento’s version of the story -- which most likely got from his tainted sources -- is close to the truth. But the people he mentions as main culprits were just a bunch of corrupt crooks who, once they realized what was really going on at the CIA, benefited from it. Others, with more dignity and patriotism, resigned from the Agency when they discovered the ruse.
By the way, the idea that a rogue faction controlling the CIA is the cause for the Agency’s evil doings is not new. It is the main thesis explored by David Wise and Thomas Ross in their widely read book The Invisible Government, published in 1964. Though some authors have dealt tangentially with the subject, it was explored again in detail by Fletcher Prouty in 1973, in his seminal book The Secret Team, still the best on the subject. So, Trento’s book is nothing but the third remake, with different actors, of an old spy film.
Now, you have to have a low opinion of the intelligence of your readers to try to convince them that whatever happened on September 11th, 2001, was the direct result of the reckless actions of Ted Shackley and his bunch of goons. And that is precisely what Trento tries to prove in Prelude to Terror. Unfortunately, the house of cards he builds has very unstable foundations. Contrary to Trento’s claims, the CIA began working to advance spurious interests that have nothing to do with our national interests way before Shackley appeared in the picture. Let’s see.
President Truman created the CIA in July, 1947, and, as early as April, 1948, the Agency perpetrated its first act of treason against the American and Latin American peoples, when it planned and executed a psychological warfare operation in Bogota, Colombia, where the 9th International Conference of Latin American States was taking place. The operation, now known as the Bogotazo, began with the assassination of Colombian leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, which triggered violent riots that destroyed the city. Next day, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, who was chairing the Conference, blamed the Communists for the events. The scared delegates, who, previously to the riots, have been reluctant to follow their master’s voice, quickly jumped through the ring of fire, and unanimously approved the creation of the Organization of American States and condemned Soviet communism. This event marked the beginning of the Cold War in the Western Hemisphere.
Then, in 1953, the CIA mounted a covert operation that toppled the government of Premier Mossadegh in Iran. The poor guy had committed the sin of nationalizing an oil company owned by the British, and the CIA flexed its muscle in defense of the interests of its bosses. Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA officer who was in charge of the operation, was awarded a National Security Medal and praised by President Eisenhower.
The following year the CIA mounted another covert operation that overthrew Jacobo Arbenz, Guatemala’s democratically elected president. The poor fellow had made the mistake of nationalizing 400,00 acres of banana plantations owned by the United Fruit Company. The CIA officers in charge of the successful operation were Tracy Barnes and Richard Bissell.
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect that these three operations I have mentioned above did not serve the personal political advantage or personal profit of Ted Shackley and his pirates. Actually the ones who directly benefited from these three early CIA operations were some Wall Street bankers and owners of transnational corporations. But these are not the only facts giving credence to my suspicion that Shackley was not the main illegal user of the CIA. As Trento himself points out in The Secret History of the CIA, the Company actually began in a secret room at the Council on Foreign Relations, where Allen Dulles “laid out a scheme to operate an Intelligence service outside the government.” (In this new book Trento claims that it was in an office at 44 Wall Street, so at some time I expect he should try to put his act together.)
But, even if Allen Dulles was a larger potato than Shackley, it is difficult to believe that he had the power and the resources to create the CIA from scratch. Of course not. Hiding in the shadows behind him was the true all powerful and immensely rich Demiurge, Nelson Rockefeller, the true capo di tutti capi of the Wall Street mafia clustered in the Council on Foreign Relations. And he designed the CIA to serve their interests, not the interests of the American taxpayers.
The CIA is an illegitimate child, product of a love affair between Wall Street bankers and transnational corporations. Its crookedness is genetic, not the result of environmental influences or a virus that infected the body of the creature.
Since its very creation, the CIA was structurally divided into four different directorates: Intelligence, Science and Technology, Administration, and Plans, each one headed by a Deputy Director. As everything regarding the CIA, the name Directorate of Plans was highly misleading. It actually had to do with the military arm of the CIA, the one devoted to covert military operations of sabotage, subversion, terrorism, and psychological warfare. And, like the workers’ arms in a Soviet poster, the Directorate of Plans soon became a strong, powerful arm.
According to an anecdote, when Joseph Stalin was informed that the Vatican, after knowing that the Red Army had encroached Berlin with an iron fist, had declared war against Nazi Germany, he laughed heartily and asked: “How many divisions the pope has?” The CFR conspirators faced a similar problem as the Vatican. Even though they had an enormous amount of money and power, they lacked an army to carry out the military adventures they needed to protect their growing global interests.
Then, perhaps prompted by the successful operations the OSS had conducted on their behalf (the most known is allowing Nazi war criminals to escape), the wise old boys at the CFR realized that a way to have their own personal army was to make it invisible, creating is surreptitiously, and keeping it occult under the cover of a legitimate U.S. Government organization. So, they managed to force the creation of the CIA down the throats of naïve (or controlled) American politicians. And, because of the need for compartmentation and need-to-know, common to all intelligence services, the CIA proved to be the most convenient type of organization for that nefarious purpose.
Allen Dulles himself recognized the fact when, perhaps in one of the very few candid moments of his life, he wrote: “An intelligence service is the ideal vehicle for a conspiracy.” He knew for sure. His masters were using the CIA to conspire against the American people. Contrary to what the Editor of The Secret History of the CIA wrote on the book’s jacket, the CIA was founded on the worst of intentions.
The folks at the CFR never gave a rat ass for the product of the allegedly most important CIA Directorate: Intelligence. This explains why, since its very creation, the CIA has accumulated failure after failure in the area of intelligence. But the CFR conspirators were very careful in getting sure that the Director of the CIA, as well as the Deputy Director of plans (the Directorate of Plans eventually changed its name to Directorate of Clandestine Services, and now is called Directorate of Operations) and his close collaborators were all trusted CFR members -- thus guaranteeing an absolute control over the areas that really mattered to them.
Actually, the other directorates were nothing more than a necessary cover to hide the true activities of the CIA on behalf of its CFR creators and masters. But, because the people working on the other directorates were mostly legitimate employees, working under the false impression that they were protecting the U.S. interests, they became a nuisance and a source of conflict for the CFR agents working undercover at the CIA’s Directorate of Operations to protect the bankers’ interests.
Moreover, true intelligence was not only unnecessary for them, but also dangerous. In the first place, the CFR agents infiltrated inside the U.S. government, who were planning actions against the U.S., didn’t need any intelligence, because they knew themselves everything about the treasonous activities they were doing. Secondly, because the dissemination of true intelligence may arouse suspicions about who the real culprits were. This explains the true cause for most of CIA’s constant intelligence “failures”, and the reasons why nothing has been done to fix it.
Something I suspected in his previous book, but is confirmed in Prelude to Terror, is Trento’s supine ignorance of the craft of intelligence and espionage. In a field whose main axiom is that things are never what they seem, he keeps repeating over and over old myths based on faulty data.
For example, on page xi, he states that, “the Cuban Missile Crisis . . . that brought the United States to the brink of nuclear war with Russia.” Actually, despite efforts by McNamara and other CFR agents to prove the contrary, there were never nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962, and the strategic missiles most likely were dummies. This was the reason why Kennedy's advisers (all of the CFR agents) managed to get him to specifically prohibit the Navy to physically inspect the objects the Soviets were taking out of Cuba on the decks of their ships.
Sherman Kent, the Director of CIA’s Board of Intelligence Estimates was right. But, as expected, his September, 1962, Intelligence Estimate, stating that the possibilities that the Soviets might deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba was extremely low, was ignored, because it was detrimental to the conspirator’s plans. The fear mongers at the CFR needed the crisis to fuel the Cold War.
On page 27, Trento affirms that, “the Bay of Pigs invasion ended in total disaster.” Wrong again. Actually it was a total success. Its three main goals were, first, destroying the anti-Castro opposition, second, consolidating Castro in power, and, third, strengthening his bona fides with the Soviets. All of these goals were accomplished.
Another of Trento’s unsubstantiated assertions is that, “Castro’s revolution ended Havana’s role as free-wheeling drug port and gateway to the United States”, p. 27. Apparently he ignores, or doesn’t want to know, the extensive activities of Castro and his friends in exporting South American drugs to the U.S. through Cuba. The fact has been extensively documented.
Finally, Trento parrots one of the most sacred myths of the Berkelian pseudo-left: “Allende, still in the Alameda Presidential Palace as it burned, shot himself in the head,” p. 49. Actually, the surgeons that performed the autopsy found four 9mm bullets in Allende’s body: two in the abdomen, one in the chest, and another, which destroyed one of his eyes, in the head. A real feat. Even more if we consider that the Soviet AK-47, the rifle with which Allende allegedly committed suicide, does not use 9mm ammo.
A few months ago, however, a Cuban ex-intelligence officer, now in exile in France, brought the cat out of the bag, confirming what until that moment had been only a rumor: Following Castro’s orders, Allende’s chief or personal security, Cuban General Patricio de la Guardia, shot with his UZI sub-machine gun Chile’s democratically elected President Salvador Allende and killed him. To me, the revelation was not a surprise. Assassinating democratically elected presidents has been one of Castro’s main hobbies.
The inaccuracies I have mentioned above are just a few of the ones where Trento mentions events I have studied in some detail. I would not be surprised if specialists in other areas find their own series of inaccuracies.
Had James Jesus Angleton read Prelude to Terror, the Master of convoluted thinking would have been ashamed of the poor performance of the agent he so carefully recruited and nurtured. Gullible people should refrain from writing about intelligence and espionage. This field is not for true believers, nor for people who believe that there are good guys and bad guys. Only intelligence officers who act under the notion that everybody is a bad guy, particularly their own bosses, retire peacefully.
But Trento keeps hammering on the reader how some people are bad, bad, while others are very good. For example, almost in every chapter I have read, he mentions the CIA trained anti-Castro Cubans, which, according to Trento, were mostly assassins. Granted, this is perhaps close to the truth. But he says nothing about the greatest Cuban assassin of all times, Fidel Castro, and the activities of his private hit man, Col. Antonio (Tony) de la Guardia (Patricio’s twin brother). According to his own words before Castro ordered him to be shot on the wall, de la Guardia, following Castro’s direct orders, committed more assassinations all around the world, including here in the U.S., than all of the CIA-trained anti-Castro Cubans together.
Now, an intelligence officer with a real convoluted mind, like Trento’s mentor, James Jesus Angleton, immediately would have detected some inconsistency here. How come, with so many CIA-trained anti-Castro assassins roaming all around the world, they were never able to assassinate Castro? Well, some of the Cuba-American “assassins” resentfully complain that, when they really tried, the CIA stopped them short. As I mentioned above, in the field of intelligence and espionage, things are never what they seem.
My conclusion: Prelude to Terror is an exercise in deception planted in the mind of an unwitting Joseph Trento by three highly qualified CIA officers, that is, professional liars. And I am not using the word liar as an insult, but as a compliment. Lying is one of the main requisites of the intelligence and espionage profession, and Trento’s three sources, particularly Angleton, were top in their professions (the CIA, like all intelligence services, has a whole department dedicated to falsify documents).
By the way, in the Acknowledgments, Trento mentions that Angleton has been “the subject of such folklore that sometimes the real man I remember gets lost.” Actually, the Angleton Trenton remembers has nothing to do with the real Angleton, but with the personality the old dissembling chameleon assumed to recruit him.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I just began reading Prelude to Terror.and, frankly, I am not sure if I will continue reading it. But I do read the Publisher’s claim, printed on one the jacket flaps, claiming that, “Most shocking of all is how this group’s manipulations of the CIA bureaucracy allowed Osama bin Laden’s fundraising to thrive, as al Qaeda flourished under Saudi and CIA protection. The blowback from their reckless actions has been nothing less than 9/11 and the prospect of unending threats of attack our nation now faces.”
This is so preposterous that becomes risible, and acted as a real put-down on me. Whoever wrote that asinine piece of copy, apparently ignores that there is a growing segment of the American population who does not believe anything -- and I mean anything; nada -- of the farfetched conspiracy theory developed by our Government to explain the 9/11 events. There is even a group of relatives of the victims of the World Trade Center that is pushing for the creation of a truly impartial commission (not a CFR-controlled one) to investigate the events.
On the other hand, perhaps that assertion is the best clue to understand the true motive for the timely publication of this book.
Trento’s book is a good example of what in the CIA lingo is called a “limited hangout,” which basically consists in revealing something bad as a smoke screen to hide something worse -- a well known example is the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal --. My advice: Read Prelude to Terror at your own risk, and keep a big pinch of salt at hand.
Now, a question that is perhaps is the minds of some of the readers of this review: Why these three ex-CIA officers invested so much time and effort recruiting Trento to use him as an unwitting disinformation vehicle to tell the world their CIA cock and bull story?
Some time ago Angleton himself provided the answer: “The past telescopes into the present.” Givung credibility to past lies adds credibility to the current ones.
* Tradecraft. In the espionage and intelligence lingo, the methodology or modus operandi characteristic of a particular intelligence service.
Copyright © 2007 by Servando Gonzalez. All rights reserved.