The CIA’s catalog of covert conundrums

Today’s post comes from National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications staff writer Rob Crotty.

The Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, (412-DA-4215)
The Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, (412-DA-4215)

In 1992, George Washington University’s “National Security Archive” submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), soliciting information from the Central Intelligence Agency. Their request was inspired by a 1973 memorandum issued from then-CIA Director James R. Schlesinger, who requested that all CIA employees, past or present, “report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or that have gone on in the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this Agency.”

The reason for Schlesinger’s request? The 1972 break-in at the Watergate by veteran CIA officers who had alleged cooperation from within the Agency.

What resulted from the request was something else altogether: over 700 pages of illegal CIA activities ranging from the 1950s to the 1970s. Former CIA Director William Colby called the report the “skeletons” in the CIA’s closet.

In 2007, the CIA delivered the report, dubbed the “Family Jewels” to the National Security Archive. It detailed assassination plots, illegal surveillance of journalists, drug testing, warrantless wiretapping, break-ins, and a litany of other illegal operations (sadly there was nothing on the CIA’s “Tunnel of Love”).

The full report is available on the CIA’s CREST database at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and on the CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room. Below are just a few of the highlights of the lengthy report:

  1. Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt requested a referral for a lock picker from the CIA’s database of retired employees. He was provided a referral.
  2. Plans to assassinate by poisoning the Congo leader Patrice Lumumba
  3. Conducting surveillance on journalists for the Washington Post
  4. The opening of mail correspondence between the U.S. and China, and the U.S. and Soviet Union
  5. Information on the financial activities of John Lennon
  6. Various plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, including one utilizing “gangster-type” action
  7. Warrantless wiretapping condoned by then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy
  8. The imprisonment of a KGB defector for two years
  9. Involvement in the assassination of the Dominican Republic’s President Raphael Trujillo
  10. The testing of mind-altering drugs on unwitting patients

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