Anyone who reads the works of the late Chalmers Johnson will have an excellent understanding of the role that the U.S. national-security state, especially the vast military empire and military-industrial complex, plays in America’s foreign-policy woes. I particularly recommend his four books: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, Nemesis, and Dismantling the Empire. For those who would prefer to begin with online articles, here is a link to an article I wrote in 2011 that contains a list of some of the online articles written by Johnson.
Among the most insightful articles written by Johnson are two that are pertinent today, given the controversy that has erupted over the CIA’s spying on Congress. The titles of those two articles are: “Abolish the CIA” and “Improve the CIA? Better to Abolish It.”
As you read the various commentaries on the CIA congressional spy scheme, you’ll notice something important about them: Most all the commentators automatically assume that the CIA must remain a permanent part of America’s governmental structure. The commentators will carp about this or about that. But the most they will ever do is call for reform. They want more oversight. They want more accountability. They want more supervision. But the last thing they want is to eradicate this agency from America’s governmental structure.
But as Chalmers Johnson recognized, abolishing the CIA is the only way to go. There is no way to reconcile the CIA with the principles of a free society. Its very existence, not to mention its manner of operation, is antithetical to a free society.
The CIA was brought into existence in 1947 as part of the national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto our governmental system to oppose the Soviet Union, America’s World War II partner and ally. Unless America adopted the methods of totalitarian regimes, including communist ones, Americans were told, the United States would ultimately end up falling to the communists.
The national-security state became a separate form of government within our federal structure. On the surface, people could see the structure that they learned about in their high school civics classes and college political science courses. Three branches of government. Separation of powers. Judicial review. Limited government. Bill of Rights. Transparency.
But under the surface was a separate government structure that was completely different from the one that operated on the surface. This national-security structure operates in secret and has engaged in dark-side, totalitarian-like activities that include assassinations, coups, partnerships with the Mafia, partnerships with former Nazis, invasions, occupations, torture, kidnappings, disappearances, detentions, surveillance schemes, and even medical experimentation on unsuspecting people.
This national-security governmental structure has had the unlimited power to do whatever it has deemed necessary to protect “national security.” Total immunity for CIA agents. No judicial review. No Bill of Rights. Nothing but raw, unrestrained power.
In bringing the CIA into existence, the American people made a pact with the devil, one in which the CIA effectively said, “Give us the power to do whatever we want to protect ‘national security.’ You need never be bothered by what we do because we will keep it secret from you. We will keep you safe.”
About a month and a half before the Kennedy assassination, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Arthur Krock published an op-ed in the New York Times quoting a piece by Richard Starnes of the Scripps-Howard news service, which stated as follows:
The C.I.A.’s growth was “likened to a malignancy” which the “very high official was not sure even the White House could control … any longer.” “If the United States ever experiences [an attempt at a coup to overthrow the Government] it will come from the C.I.A. and not the Pentagon.” The agency “represents a tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone.”
Thirty days after the Kennedy assassination, former President Harry Truman, who had brought the CIA into existence when he was president, published an op-ed in the Washington Post, which stated in part as follows:
I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency—CIA…. For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.
I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue — and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda….
We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.
In the book Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, author Merle Miller wrote:
Here is what President Truman said of the CIA and its creation, “I think that it was a mistake. And if I’d known what was going to happen, I never would have done it…. But it got out of hand…. Now as nearly as I can make out, those fellows in the CIA don’t just report on wars and the like, they go out and make their own and there is nobody to keep track of what they are up to. They spend billions of dollars on stirring up trouble so they will have something to report on. They’ve become … it’s become a government of all its own and all secret. They just don’t have to report to anybody….”
In 2003 G. Robert Blakey, former chief counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated the John Kennedy assassination, stated:
I now no longer believe anything the Agency [CIA] told the committee any further than I can obtain substantial corroboration for it from outside the Agency for its veracity…. We also now know that the Agency set up a process that could only have been designed to frustrate the ability of the committee in 1976-79 to obtain any information that might adversely affect the Agency. Many have told me that the culture of the Agency is one of prevarication and dissimulation and that you cannot trust it or its people. Period. End of story. I am now in that camp.
In 2009 U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, who chaired the Assassination Records Review Board, which was charged with securing the release of Kennedy assassination records from governmental agencies in the 1990s, told the New York Times:
I think we were probably misled by the agency. This material should be released.
According to the Boston Globe, Tunheim also stated:
It really was an example of treachery. If [the CIA] fooled us on that, they may have fooled us on other things.
Tunheim was referring to the CIA’s records on George Joannides, a CIA agent who played at least two interesting roles relating to the Kennedy assassination, one before the assassination and one after the assassination. The CIA kept those two roles secret from the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee, and the ARRB. Indeed, to this day the CIA steadfastly continues to refuse to disclose its Joannides records. “National security,” CIA officials say, notwithstanding the fact that the Kennedy assassination was 50 years ago and Joannides died in 1990. (For the details of the Joannides story, see “Who Was George Joannides and Why His Story Is Important?” by Jefferson Morley.)
The big issue though isn’t the CIA surveillance scheme on Congress, its assassination programs, its regime-change operations, its torture programs, its coups, its partnerships with dictatorial regimes, its medical experiments, its partnerships with the Mafia and former Nazis, or even its still-secret, nefarious activities relating to the Kennedy assassination.
The big issue is: Why should the CIA be permitted to continue existing? For one thing, the Cold War is over. That was the original justification for bringing this totalitarian-type agency into existence. Since the Cold War is over, the term of the CIA should be over too.
More important, what business does America have having a separate, sub-surface governmental structure, one that operates in secret and one engaged in dark-side, evil, and immoral activities? Not only is such a structure not necessary to the security of the United States, it actually constitutes a grave threat to the freedom and security of the American people. It is a sinister institution that has no place in a free society, a society whose founding principles are based on limited, constitutional government, not totalitarian principles.
It’s time to rid our nation of the CIA. It’s time to restore freedom, morality, transparency, and constitutional government to our land. It’s time to abolish, not reform, the CIA.