Thursday, January 10, 2008

Remembering Philip Agee's 2003 Critique of CIA-Funded "NGOism"

Philip Agee, the former CIA operations officer who exposed many of the CIA’s undemocratic covert activities in his Inside The Company: CIA Diary book in 1975, died a few days ago, at the age of 72. Agee also wrote a 1987 book, On The Run, which described how the CIA attempted to prevent the publication of Inside The Company. In addition, in 2003 Agee indicated how the CIA has, historically, used Non-Government Organizations [NGOs] to achieve its anti-democratic political objectives around the globe. In an essay that appeared in the Summer-Fall 2003 issue of Socialism and Democracy, titled “Terrorism and Civil Society as Instruments of U.S. Policy in Cuba” , Agee wrote:

“Going back to the Reagan administration of the early 1980s, the decision was taken that more than terrorist operations was needed to impose regime change…Now Cuba would be included in a new worldwide program to finance and develop non-governmental and voluntary organizations, what was to become known as civil society, within the context of U.S. global neoliberal policies. The CIA and the Agency for International Development (AID) would have key roles in this program as well as a new organization christened in 1983 The National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

“Actually the new program was not really new. Since its founding in 1947, the CIA had been deeply involved in secretly funding and manipulating foreign non-governmental voluntary organizations. These vast operations circled the globe and were targeted at political parties, trade unions and businessmen’s associations, youth and student organizations, women’s groups, civic organizations, religious communities, professional, intellectual and cultural societies, and the public information media. The network functioned at local, national, regional and global levels. Media operations, for example, were underway continuously in practically every country, wherein the CIA would pay journalists to publish its materials as if they were the journalists’ own. In the Directorate of Operations at CIA headquarters, these operations were coordinated with the regional operations division by the International Organizations Division (IOD), since many of the operations were regional or continental in scope, and some were even worldwide.

“Over the years the CIA exerted phenomenal influence behind the scenes in country after country, using these powerful elements of civil society to penetrate, divide, weaken and destroy corresponding enemy organizations on the left, and indeed to impose regime change by toppling unwanted governments. Such was the case, among many others, in Guyana where in 1964, culminating ten years of efforts, the Cheddi Jagan government was overthrown through strikes, terrorism, violence and arson perpetrated by CIA international trade union agents. About the same time, while I was assigned in Ecuador, our agents in civil society, through mass demonstrations and civil unrest, provoked two military coups in three years against elected, civilian governments. And in Brazil in the early 1960s, the same CIA trade union operations were brought together with other operations in civil society in opposition to the government, and these mass actions over time provoked the 1964 military coup against President Joao Goulart, ushering in 20 years of unspeakably brutal political repression.

“But on February 26, 1967, the sky crashed on IOD and its global civil society networks. At the time I was on a visit to Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, between assignments in Ecuador and Uruguay. That day the Washington Post published an extensive report revealing a grand stable of foundations, some bogus, some real, that the CIA was using to fund its global non-governmental networks. These financial arrangements were known as `funding conduits.’ Along with the foundations scores of recipient organizations were identified, including well-known intellectual journals, trade unions, and political think tanks. Soon journalists around the world completed the picture with reports on the names and operations of organizations in their countries affiliated with the network…

“President Johnson ordered an investigation and said such CIA operations would end, but in fact they never did. The proof is in the CIA’s successful operations in Chile to provoke the 1973 Pinochet coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende. Here they combined the forces of opposition political parties, trade unions, businessmen’s groups, civic organizations, housewife’s associations and the information media to create chaos and disorder, knowing that sooner or late the Chilean military, faithful to traditional fascist military doctrine in Latin America, would use such unrest to justify usurping governmental power to restore order and to stamp out the left. The operations were almost a carbon copy of the Brazilian destabilization and coup program ten years earlier…

“Fast forward to now. Anyone who has watched the civil society opposition to the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela develop can be certain that U.S. government agencies, the CIA included, along with the Agency for International Development (AID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), are coordinating the destabilization and were behind the failed coup in April 2002 as well as the failed `civic strike’ of last December-January [2003]. The International Republican Institute (IRI) of the Republican Party even opened an office in Caracas…

“In order to understand how these civil society operations are run, let’s take a look at the bureaucratic side. When I entered the CIA’s training course, the first two words I learned were discipline and control. The U.S. government was not a charitable institution, they said, and all money must be spent for its exact, designated purpose. The CIA operations officer that I would become is responsible for ensuring this discipline through tight control of the money and of the agents down the line who spend it. Orders to the agents on their duties and obligations are to be clear and unambiguous, and the officer must prevent personal embezzlement of money by an agent, beyond the agent’s agreed salary, by requiring receipts for all expenses and for all payments to others. Exceptions to this rule needed special approvals.

“In the CIA, activities to penetrate and manipulate civil society are known as Covert Action operations, and they are governed by detailed regulations for their use. They require a request for money in a document known as a Project Outline, if the activity is new, or a Request for Project Renewal, if an on-going activity is to be continued. The document originates either in a field station or in Headquarters, and it describes a current situation; the activities to be undertaken to improve or change the situation vis-à-vis U.S. interests; a time-line for achieving intermediary and final goals; risks and the flap potential (damages if revealed); and a detailed budget with information on all participating organizations and individuals and the amounts of money to go to each. The document also contains a summary of the status of all agent personnel to be involved with references to their operational security clearance procedures and the history of their service to the Agency. All people involved are included, from the ostensible funding agencies like officers of a foundation, down to every intermediate and end recipient of the money.

“In addition to these budget specifics, a certain amount of money without designated recipients is included under the rubric D&TO, standing for Developmental and Targets of Opportunity. Money from this fund is used to finance new activities that come up during the project approval period, but of course detailed information and security clearances on all individuals who would receive such funding is always required. A statement is also required on the intelligence information by-product to be collected through the proposed operation. Thus financial support for a political party is expected to produce intelligence information on the internal politics of the host country.

“Project Outlines and Renewals go through an approval process by various offices such as the International Organizations Division and depending on their sensitivity and cost, they may require approval outside the CIA…When finally approved the CIA’s Finance Division allocates the money and the operation begins, or continues if being renewed. The period of approvals and renewals is usually one year.

“Both the Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy without doubt have documentation requirements and approval processes similar to the CIA’s for project funding in the civil societies of other countries. All the people involved must receive prior approval through an investigative process, and each person has clearly defined tasks. An inter-agency commission determines which of the three agencies, the CIA, AID or NED, or a combination of them, are to carry out specific tasks in the civil societies of specific countries and how much money each should give. All three have obviously been working to develop an opposition civil society in Cuba.

“One should note that the high-sounding National Endowment for Democracy has its origins in the CIA’s covert action operations and was first conceived in the wake of the disastrous revelations noted above that began on February 26, 1967…

“…The successes of revolutionary movements in Ethiopia, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Grenada, Nicaragua and elsewhere brought `cold warrior’ Democrats and `internationalist’ Republicans together to establish in 1979 the American Political Foundation (APF). The foundation’s task was to study the feasibility of establishing through legislation a government-financed foundation to subsidize foreign operations in civil society through U.S. non-governmental organizations.

“Within APF four task forces were set up to conduct the study, one for the Democrats, one for the Republicans, one for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and one for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Together their work became known as the Democracy Program. They consulted a vast array of domestic and foreign organizations, and what they found most interesting were the government-financed foundations of the main West German political parties: the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of the Social Democrats and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of the Christian Democrats. When these foundations were first set up in the 1950s, their task was to build a…civil society based on the Western parliamentary model while lending their weight to repression of communist and other left political movements.

“From early on the CIA channeled money through these foundations for non-government organizations and groups in Germany. Then in the 1960s the foundations began supporting fraternal political parties and other organizations abroad, and they channeled CIA money for these purposes as well. By the 1980s the two foundations had programs going in some 60 countries and were spending about $150 million per year. And what was most interesting, they operated in near-total secrecy.

“One operation of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung shows effective they could be. In 1974, when the fifty-year-old fascist regime was overthrown in Portugal (a NATO member), communists and left-wing military officers took charge of the government. At that time the Portuguese social democrats, known as the Socialist Party, could hardly have numbered enough for a poker game and they all lived in Paris and had no following in Portugal. Thanks to at least $10 million from the Ebert Stiftung, plus funds from the CIA, the social democrats came back to Portugal, built a party overnight, saw it mushroom, and within a few years the Socialist party became the governing party of Portugal. The left was relegated to the sidelines in disarray.

“…Even before Congress established the NED, Reagan set up what was called Project Democracy in the U.S. Information Agency…A secret Executive Order at the time, soon leaked to the press, provided for secret CIA participation in the program. An early grant was $170,000 for training media officials in El Salvador and other right-wing authoritarian regimes on how to deal with the U.S. press…

“In November 1983…Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy and gave it an initial $18.8 million for building civil society abroad during the fiscal year ending September 30, 1984…Whereas the CIA had previously funneled money through a complex network of `conduits,’ the NED would now become a `mega-conduit’ for getting U.S. government money to the same array of non-governmental organizations that the CIA had been funding secretly.

“…The NED…gives money directly to `groups abroad who are working for human rights, independent media, the rule of law, and a wide range of civil society initiatives.’ [Quoted from NED website May 2003]

“The NED’s non-governmental status provides the fiction that recipients of NED money are getting `private’ rather than U.S. government money…

“Reagan’s new programs in civil society started out with a huge success in Poland. During the 1980s the NED and the CIA, in joint operations with the Vatican, kept the Solidarity trade union alive…The program was agreed between Reagan and Pope John Paul II when Reagan visited the Vatican in June 1982. They did it with intelligence information, cash, fax machines, computers, printing and document copying equipment, records, TVs and VCRs, supplies and equipment of all kinds, even radio and television transmitters…Years later, in May 2001, Senator Jesse Helms introduced legislation to provide $100 million to duplicate in Cuba, he said, the successes of the CIA, NED and Vatican in Poland.

“One may wonder why the CIA would be needed in these programs. There were several reasons. One reason from the beginning was the CIA’s long experience and huge stable of agents and contacts in the civil societies of countries around the world. By joining with the CIA, NED and AID would come on board an on-going complex of operations whose funding they could take over while leaving the secret day-to-day direction on the ground to CIA officers. In addition someone had to monitor and report the effectiveness of the local recipients’ activities. NED would not have people in the field to do this, nor would their core foundations in normal conditions. And since NED money was ostensibly private, only the CIA had the people and techniques to carry our discreet control in order to avoid compromising the civil society recipients, especially if they were in opposition to their governments. Finally, the CIA had ample funds of its own to pass quietly when conditions required. In Cuba participation by CIA officers under cover in the U.S. Interests Section would be particularly useful, since NED and AID funding would go to U.S. NGOs that would have to find discreet ways, if possible, to get equipment and cash to recipients inside Cuba. The CIA could help with this quite well…”

Next: Where Was The “Change” During The Clintons’ First Two Terms?—Part 1