Frank Wisner

Frank Wisner



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Frank Gardner Wisner was born in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1910. He was educated at Woodberry Forest School in Orange and the University of Virginia. He was a good sprinter and hurdler and in 1936 was asked to compete in the Olympic trials.

After graduating Wisner worked as a Wall Street lawyer. However, he got bored and enlisted in the United States Navy six months before Pearl Harbor. He worked in the Navy's censor's office before managing to get a transfer to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In June. 1944, Wisner was sent to Turkey. Two months later he moved on to Romania where his main task was to spy on the activities of the Soviet Union.

While in Bucharest he became friendly with King Michael of Romania. Later he became an informal adviser to the royal family. OSS agents penetrated the Romanian Communist Party and Wisner was able to discover that the Soviets intended to take over all of Eastern Europe. Wisner was disappointed by the US government's reaction to this news and he was forced to advise the Romanian royal family to go into exile.

Wisner was transferred to the OSS station in Wiesbaden. While in Germany he served under Allen W. Dulles. Wisner also met Arthur Schlesinger, an OSS sergeant serving in Germany. He later claimed that Wisner had become obsessed with the Soviet Union: "He was already mobilizing for the cold war. I myself was no great admirer of the Soviet Union, and I certainly had no expectation of harmonious relations after the war. But Frank was a little excessive, even for me."

During the war William Donovan as head of the OSS, had built up a team of 16,000 agents working behind enemy lines. The growth of the OSS brought conflict with John Edgar Hoover who saw it as a rival to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He persuaded President Harry S. Truman that the OSS in peacetime would be an "American Gestapo". As soon as the war ended Truman ordered the OSS to be closed down leaving a small intelligence organization, the Strategic Services Unit (SSU) in the War Department.

After leaving the OSS Wisner joined the Wall Street law firm, Carter Ledyard. However, in 1947, he was recruited by Dean Acheson, to work under Charles Saltzman, at the State Department's Office of Occupied Territories.

Wisner moved to Washington where he associated with a group of journalists, politicians and government officials that became known as the Georgetown Set. This included George Kennan, Dean Acheson, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, Joseph Alsop, Stewart Alsop, Tracy Barnes, Thomas Braden, Philip Graham, David Bruce, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, Chip Bohlen, Cord Meyer, James Angleton, William Averill Harriman, John McCloy, Felix Frankfurter, John Sherman Cooper, James Reston, Allen W. Dulles and Paul Nitze. Most men brought their wives to these gatherings. Members of what was later called the Georgetown Ladies' Social Club included Katharine Graham, Mary Pinchot Meyer, Sally Reston, Polly Wisner, Joan Braden, Lorraine Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Avis Bohlen, Janet Barnes, Tish Alsop, Cynthia Helms, Marietta FitzGerald, Phyllis Nitze and Annie Bissell.

Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999) has pointed out: "In long exchanges, heated by intellectual passion and alcohol, their vision of a new world order began to take shape. Internationalist, abrasive, competitive, these men had an unshakeable belief in their value system, and in their duty to offer it to others. They were the patricians of the modern age, the paladins of democracy, and saw no contradiction in that. This was the elite which ran American foreign policy and shaped legislation at home. Through think-tanks to foundations, directorates to membership of gentlemen's clubs, these mandarins were interlocked by their institutional affiliations and by a shared belief in their own superiority."

Wisner remained concerned about the spread of communism and began lobbying for a new intelligence agency. He gained support for this from James Forrestal, the Defense Secretary. With the help of George Kennan, the Office of Special Projects was created in 1948. Wisner was appointed director of the organization. Soon afterwards it was renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). This became the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Wisner was told to create an organization that concentrated on "propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world". Thomas Braden later recalled: "Wisner brought in a whole load of fascists after the war, some really nasty people. He could do that, because he was powerful. Harrison E. Salisbury commented: "He (Wisner) was the key to a great many things, a brilliant, compulsive man, of enormous charm, imagination, and conviction that anything, anything could be achieved and that he could achieve it."

Later that year Wisner established Operation Mockingbird, a program to influence the American media. Wisner recruited Philip Graham (Washington Post) to run the project within the industry. Graham himself recruited others who had worked for military intelligence during the war. This included James Truitt, Russell Wiggins, Phil Geyelin, John Hayes and Alan Barth. Others like Stewart Alsop, Joseph Alsop and James Reston, were recruited from within the Georgetown Set. According to Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great): "By the early 1950s, Wisner 'owned' respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles."

In 1951 Allen W. Dulles persuaded Cord Meyer to join the CIA. However, there is evidence that he was recruited several years earlier and had been spying on the liberal organizations he had been a member of in the later 1940s. According to Deborah Davis, Meyer became Mockingbird's "principal operative".

Evan Thomas, the author of The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA (1995), argues that Joseph Alsop and Stewart Alsop worked very closely with Winser. Their articles appeared in over 300 different newspapers. Thomas points out that he "considered his friends Joe and Stewart Alsop to be reliable purveyors of the company line in their columns". In 1953 the brothers helped out Edward Lansdale and the CIA in the Philippines: "Wisner actively courted the Alsops, along with a few other newsmen he regarded as suitable outlets. When Lansdale was manipulating electoral politics in the Philippines in 1953, Wisner asked Joe Alsop to write some columns warning the Filipinos not to steal the election from Magsaysay. Alsop was happy to comply, though he doubted his columns would have much impact on the Huks. After the West German counterintelligence chief, Otto John, defected to the Soviet Union in 1954, Wisner fed Alsop a story that the West German spymaster had been kidnapped by the KGB. Alsop dutifully printed the story, which may or may not have been true."

Other journalists willing to promote the views of the CIA included Ben Bradlee (Newsweek), James Reston (New York Times), Charles Douglas Jackson (Time Magazine), Walter Pincus (Washington Post), William C. Baggs (Miami News), Herb Gold (Miami News) and Charles Bartlett (Chattanooga Times). According to Nina Burleigh (A Very Private Woman) these journalists sometimes wrote articles that were commissioned by Frank Wisner. The CIA also provided them with classified information to help them with their work.

After 1953 the network was overseen by Allen W. Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. By this time Operation Mockingbird had a major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. These organizations were run by people with well-known right-wing views such as William Paley (CBS), Henry Luce (Time Magazine and Life Magazine), Arthur Hays Sulzberger (New York Times), Alfred Friendly (managing editor of the Washington Post), Jerry O'Leary (Washington Star), Hal Hendrix (Miami News), Barry Bingham Sr., (Louisville Courier-Journal), James Copley (Copley News Services) and Joseph Harrison (Christian Science Monitor).

The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was funded by siphoning of funds intended for the Marshall Plan. Some of this money was used to bribe journalists and publishers. Frank Wisner was constantly looked for ways to help convince the public of the dangers of communism. In 1954 Wisner arranged for the funding the Hollywood production of Animal Farm, the animated allegory based on the book written by George Orwell. According to Alex Constantine (Mockingbird: The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA), in the 1950s, "some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts". Wisner was also able to restrict newspapers from reporting about certain events.

During this period Wisner worked closely with Kim Philby, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) liaison in Washington. Wisner grew very fond of Philby and was unaware that he was a Soviet spy betraying all his operations to his masters in Moscow. However, he began to get suspicious in 1951 and he asked William Harvey and James Jesus Angleton to investigate Philby. Harvey reported back in June 1951 that he was convinced that Philby was a KGB spy. As a result Philby was forced to leave the United States.

Another project started by Wisner was called Operation Bloodstone. This secret operation involved recruiting former German officers and diplomats who could be used in the covert war against the Soviet Union. This included former members of the Nazi Party such as Gustav Hilger and Hans von Bittenfield. Later, John Loftus, a prosecutor with the Office of Special Investigations at the U.S. Justice Department, accused Wisner of methodically recruiting Nazi war criminals. As one of the agents involved in Operation Bloodstone, Harry Rositzke, pointed out, Wisner was willing to use anyone "as long as he was anti-communist".

Wisner began having trouble with J. Edgar Hoover. He described the OPC as "Wisner's gang of weirdos" and began carrying out investigations into their past. It did not take him long to discover that some of them had been active in left-wing politics in the 1930s. This information was passed to Joseph McCarthy who started making attacks on members of the OPC. Hoover also passed to McCarthy details of an affair that Wisner had with Princess Caradja in Romania during the war. Hoover, claimed that Caradja was a Soviet agent.

In August, 1952, the Office of Policy Coordination and the Office of Special Operations (the espionage division) were merged to form the Directorate of Plans (DPP). Wisner became head of this new organization and Richard Helms became his chief of operations. The DPP now accounted for three quarters of the CIA budget and 60% of its personnel. At this time Wisner began plotting the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. He had upset the US government by nationalizing Iran's oil industry. Mossadegh also abolished Iran's feudal agriculture sector and replaced with a system of collective farming and government land ownership.

On April 4, 1953, Wisner persuaded Allen W. Dulles to approve $1 million to be used "in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadegh." Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, was put in charge of what became known as Operation Ajax. According to Donald N. Wilber, who was involved in this CIA plot to remove Mossadegh from power, in early August, 1953, Iranian CIA operatives, pretending to be socialists, threatened Muslim leaders with "savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh," thereby giving the impression that Mossadegh was cracking down on dissent. This resulted in the religious community turning against Mossadegh.

Iranians took to the streets against Mohammed Mossadegh. Funded with money from the CIA and MI6, the pro-monarchy forces quickly gained the upper hand. The military now joined the opposition and Mossadegh was arrested on August 19, 1953. President Dwight Eisenhower was delighted with this result and asked Wisner to arrange for Kermit Roosevelt to give him a personal briefing on Operation Ajax.

Wisner's other great success was the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz. He had been elected as President of Guatemala in March, 1951. Arbenz began to tackle Guatemala's unequal land distribution. He said that the country needed "an agrarian reform which puts an end to the latifundios and the semi-feudal practices, giving the land to thousands of peasants, raising their purchasing power and creating a great internal market favorable to the development of domestic industry."

In March 1953, 209,842 acres of United Fruit Company's uncultivated land was taken by the government which offered compensation of $525,000. The company wanted $16 million for the land. While the Guatemalan government valued $2.99 per acre, the American government valued it at $75 per acre. Samuel Zemurray, United Fruit Company's largest shareholder, with the help of Tommy Corcoran, organized an anti-Arbenz campaign in the American media. This included the claim that Guatemala was the beginning of "Soviet expansion in the Americas".

The Central Intelligence Agency decided that Arbenz had to be removed from power. Wisner, as head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), took overall responsibility for the operation. Also involved was Richard Bissell, head of the Directorate for Plans, an organization instructed to conduct covert anti-Communist operations around the world. The plot against Arbenz therefore became part of Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power).

Jake Esterline was placed in charge of the CIA's Washington task force in the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. Tracy Barnes was field commander of what became known as Operation Success. David Atlee Phillips was appointed to run the propaganda campaign against Arbenz's government. According to Phillips he initially questioned the right of the CIA to interfere in Guatemala: In his autobiography Phillips claims he said to Barnes: "But Arbenz became President in a free election. What right do we have to help someone topple his government and throw him out of office?" However, Barnes convinced him that it was vital important that the Soviets did not establish a "beachhead in Central America".

The CIA propaganda campaign included the distribution of 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala. They also produced three films on Guatemala for showing free in cinemas. Phillips, along with E. Howard Hunt, was responsible for running the CIA's Voice of Liberation radio station. Faked photographs were distributed that claimed to show the mutilated bodies of opponents of Arbenz. William (Rip) Robertson was also involved in the campaign against Arbenz.

The CIA began providing financial and logistic support for Colonel Carlos Castillo. With the help of resident Anastasio Somoza, Castillo had formed a rebel army in Nicaragua. It has been estimated that between January and June, 1954, the CIA spent about $20 million on Castillo's army.

The Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Guillermo Toriello, asked the United Nations for help against the covert activities of the United States. Toriello accused the United States government of categorizing "as communism every manifestation of nationalism or economic independence, any desire for social progress, any intellectual curiosity, and any interest in progressive liberal reforms."

President Dwight Eisenhower responded by claiming that Guatemala had a "communist dictatorship.. had established... an outpost on this continent to the detriment of all the American nations". Secretary of State John Foster Dulles added that the Guatemala people were living under a "communist type of terrorism".

On 18th June, 1954, aircraft dropped leaflets over Guatemala demanding that Arbenz resign immediately or else the county would be bombed. CIA's Voice of Liberation also put out similar radio broadcasts. This was followed by a week of bombing ports, ammunition dumps, military barracks and the international airport.

Guillermo Toriello appealed to the United Nations to help protect Guatemalan government. Henry Cabot Lodge tried to block the Security Council from discussing a resolution to send an investigation team to Guatemala. When this failed he put pressure on Security Council members to vote against the resolution. Britain and France were both initially in favour but eventually buckled under United States pressure and agreed to abstain. As a result the resolution was defeated by 5 votes to 4. The UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was so upset by the actions of the USA that he considered resigning from his post.

Carlos Castillo and his collection of soldiers now crossed the Honduran-Guatemalan border. His army was outnumbered by the Guatemalan Army. However, the CIA Voice of Liberation successfully convinced Arbenz's supporters that two large and heavily armed columns of invaders were moving towards Guatemala City.

The CIA was also busy bribing Arbenz's military commanders. It was later discovered that one commander accepted $60,000 to surrender his troops. Ernesto Guevara attempted to organize some civil militias but senior army officers blocked the distribution of weapons. Arbenz now believed he stood little chance of preventing Castillo gaining power. Accepting that further resistance would only bring more deaths he announced his resignation over the radio.

Castillo's new government was immediately recognised by President Dwight Eisenhower. Castillo now reversed the Arbenz reforms. In July 19, 1954, he created the National Committee of Defense Against Communism and decreed the Preventive Penal Law Against Communism to fight against those who supported Arbenz when he was in power. Over the next few weeks thousands were arrested on suspicion of communist activity. A large number of these prisoners were tortured or killed.

The removal of Jacobo Arbenz resulted in several decades of repression. Later, several of the people involved in Operation Success, including Richard Bissell and Tracy Barnes, regretted the outcome of the Guatemala Coup.

Wisner managed to get a copy of the speech that Nikita Khrushchev made at the 20th Party Congress in February, 1956, where Khrushchev launched an attack on the rule of Joseph Stalin. He condemned the Great Purge and accused Stalin of abusing his power. He announced a change in policy and gave orders for the Soviet Union's political prisoners to be released.

Wisner leaked details of the speech to the New York Times who published it on 2nd June, 1956. Khrushchev's de-Stalinzation policy encouraged people living in Eastern Europe to believe that he was willing to give them more independence from the Soviet Union. Over the next few weeks riots took place in Poland and East Germany.

In Hungary the prime minister Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev became increasingly concerned about these developments and on 4th November 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary. Wisner expected the United States would help the Hungarians. As Thomas Polgar later pointed out: "Sure, we never said rise up and revolt, but there was a lot of propaganda that led the Hungarians to believe that we would help."

Wisner, who had been involved in creating this propaganda, told friends that he felt the American government had let Hungary down. He pointed out that they had spent a great deal of money on Radio Free Europe "to get these people to revolt". Wisner added that he felt personally betrayed by this behaviour. During the Hungarian Uprising an estimated 20,000 people were killed. Wisner told Clare Boothe Luce, the American ambassador in Italy: "All these people are getting killed and we weren't doing anything, we were ignoring it."

In December, 1956, Wisner had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression. During his absence Wisner's job was covered by his chief of operations, Richard Helms. Wisner's friends believed the illness was triggered by the failure of the Hungarian Uprising. A close friend, Avis Bohlen said he "was so depressed about how the world was going... he felt we were losing the Cold War."

The CIA sent Wisner to the Sheppard-Pratt Institute, a psychiatric hospital near Baltimore. He was prescribed psychoanalysis and shock therapy (electroconvulsive treatment). It was not successful and still suffering from depression, he was released from hospital in 1958.

Wisner was too ill to return to his post as head of the DDP. Allen W. Dulles therefore sent him to London to be CIA chief of station in England. Dulles decided that Richard Bissell rather than Richard Helms should become the new head of the DPP. Wisner arrived in England in September, 1959. His work involved planning a coup in Guyana, a country that had a left-wing government.

In April 1962 Richard Helms recalled Wisner to Washington. Four months later he agreed to retire from the CIA.

Frank Wisner killed himself with one of his son's shotguns on 29th October, 1965.

A decision was reached to create an organization within the CIA to conduct secret political operations. Frank G. Wisner, an ex-OSS man, was brought in from the State Department to head it, with a cover title of his own invention. He became Assistant Director of the Office of Policy Coordination.

Under this innocuous title, the United States was now fully in the business of covert political operations. (A separate Office of Special Operations conducted secret actions aimed solely at gathering intelligence.) This machinery was in the CIA but the agency shared control of it with the State Department and the Pentagon. On January 4, 1951, the CIA merged the two offices and created a new Plans Division, which has had sole control over secret operations of all types since that date.

It is doubtful that many of the lawmakers who voted for the 1947 Act could have envisioned the scale on which the CIA would engage in operational activities all over the world.

I was very uninformed about covert activities... Even with my curious nature, I myself was unaware, except in the vaguest terms, what political action projects were going forward and how (Frank Wisner was spending Marshall Plan counterpart funds.) I don't think any of us were worried... I suspect that had we known more (it would have just made us more appreciative.) It has since become known (that) we in the Marshall Plan were dealing-with quite a number of people who were beneficiaries of the CIA's early covert political action programs, (including) many left-of-center organizations... Vibrant democratic parties, even socialist ones, were preferable to a Communist victory.

In the 1950s and early 1960s the CIA's top leaders - men like Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Tracy Barnes, and Desmond Fitzgerald - were profoundly devoted to covert action. Covert action (orchestrating coups, anti-Communist insurgencies, academic conferences, labor unions, political parties, publishing houses, and shipping companies) required considerable manpower, and it drew the intellectual crème de la crème. It compelled a higher degree of intellectual curiosity, accomplishment, and operational savior faire than did espionage ("espionage" referring specifically to the recruitment of foreign intelligence agents). With so many talented officers working in covert action, and with most of the foreigners involved being friendly collaborators and not "recruited" assets, the do could scarcely base promotions on the number of recruitments a case officer made each year.

"Tomorrow morning, gentlemen," Dulles said, "we will go to the White House to brief the President. Let's run over your presentations." It was a warm summer night. We drank iced tea as we sat around a garden table in Dulles' back yard. The lighted shaft of the Washington Monument could be seen through the trees. Finally Brad (Colonel Albert Haney) rehearsed his speech. When he finished Alien Dulles said, "Brad, I've never heard such crap." It was the nearest thing to an expletive I ever heard Dulles use. The Director turned to me "They tell me you know how to write. Work out a new speech for Brad...

We went to the White House in the morning. Gathered in the theater in the East Wing were more notables than I had ever seen: the President, his Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State - Alien Dulles's brother, Foster - the Attorney General, and perhaps two dozen other members of the President's Cabinet and household staff....

The lights were turned off while Brad used slides during his report. A door opened near me. In the darkness I could see only a silhouette of the person entering the room; when the door closed it was dark again, and I could not make out the features of the man standing next to me. He whispered a number of questions: "Who is that? Who made that decision?"

I was vaguely uncomfortable. The questions from the unknown man next to me were very insistent, furtive. Brad finished and the lights went up. The man moved away. He was Richard Nixon, the Vice President.

Eisenhower's first question was to Hector (Rip Robertson): "How many men did Castillo Armas lose?" Hector (Rip Robertson) said only one, a courier... Eisenhower shook his head, perhaps thinking of the thousands who had died in France. "Incredible..."

Nixon asked a number of questions, concise and to the point, and demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the Guatemalan political situation. He was impressive - not at all the disturbing man he was in the shadows.

Eisenhower turned to his Chief of the Joint Chiefs. "What about the Russians? Any reaction?"

General Ridgeway answered. "They don't seem to be up to anything. But the navy is watching a Soviet sub in the area; it could be there to evacuate some of Arbenz's friends, or to supply arms to any resisters."

Eisenhower shook hands all around. "Great," he said to Brad, "that was a good briefing." Hector and I smiled at each other as Brad flushed with pleasure. The President's final handshake was with Alien Dulles. "Thanks Allen, and thanks to all of you. You've averted a Soviet beachhead in our hemisphere." Eisenhower spoke to his Chief of Naval Operations "Watch that sub. Admiral. If it gets near the coast of Guatemala we'll sink the son-of-a-bitch. ' The President strode from the room.

The nature of Arbenz's government, however, meant that Operation Success launched both the CIA and the United States on a new path. Mussadegh in Iran was left-wing and had indulged in talks with Russian diplomats about possible alliances and treaties. Arbenz, on the other hand, had simply been trying to reform his country and had not sought foreign help in this. Thus by overthrowing him, America was in effect making a new decision in the cold war. No longer would the Monroe Doctrine, which was directed against foreign imperial ambitions in the Americas from across the Atlantic or the Pacific, suffice. Now internal subversion communism from within - was an additional cause for direct action. What was not said, but what was already clear after the events in East Germany the previous year, was that the exercise of American power, even clandestinely through the CIA, would not be undertaken where Soviet power was already established. In addition, regardless of the principles being professed, when direct action was taken (whether clandestine or not), the interests of American business would be a consideration: if the flag was to follow, it would quite definitely follow trade.

The whole arrangement of American power in the world from the nineteenth century was based on commercial concerns and methods of operation his had given America a material empire through the ownership of foreign transport systems, oil fields, estancias, stocks, and shares. It had also given America resources and experience (concentrated in private hands) with the world outside the Americas, used effectively by the OSS during World War II American government, however, had stayed in America, lending its influence to business but never trying to overthrow other governments for commercial purposes. After World War II, American governments were more willing to use their influence and strength all over the world for the first time and to see an ideological implication in the "persecution" of US business interests.

Wisner was obviously too sick to go to Spain. He was so depressed that his wife, Polly, worried that he would try to commit suicide. On October 28, before he drove out to his farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, she called the caretaker and asked him to remove the guns from the house. Wisner found one of his boys' shotguns and killed himself on October 29, 1965.

Wisner's death saddened but did not shock his colleagues. "I got a cable in Kuala Lumpur, where I was stationed," said Arthur Jacobs, the "Ozzard of Wiz" who had been Wisner's aide in the early 1950s. "The cable was from Des FitzGerald. It said that Frank had died and gave no reason, but I knew." Wisner's suicide was "entirely rational, if you can say such a thing," said his niece Jean Lindsey. "He realized that his life would be circumscribed by increasing cycles of depression. I saw Frank three days before he died and he seemed in good spirits. He talked about his children. Perhaps he had made up his mind to kill himself.

At his funeral the Bethlehem Chapel in the National Cathedral was overflowing with old friends who sang "Fling Out the Banner" as Wisner's family marched down the aisle at the end of the service. "Instead of a dirge, it was exuberant, powerful, exultant," recalled Tom Braden. At Arlington Cemetery, Frank Wisner was buried as a naval commander, his wartime rank. All the top officials of the agency, from director on down, were in attendance. (The CIA posted guards to keep the KGB from seeing who was there.)

Henry Breck, a junior CIA officer out of Groton and Harvard, watched his grim-faced elders as they mourned. They were defiant and proud, but besieged. The CIA was feeling particularly embattled that October. A month earlier word had spread through the agency that the New York Times was embarking on a first-ever investigation of the CIA.


The inside story on the exploding Egypt ‘envoy,’ Frank Wisner

Uber-diplomat Frank Wisner won’t be making any public remarks on the crisis in Egypt anytime soon the Obama administration has directed him to steer clear of the press following his command performance in Munich, where he went off the reservation of the Obama administration’s policy and forced the administration to distance itself from him and his remarks.

Wisner is back in New York at his day job at Patton Boggs, the lobbying law firm where he has worked since February 2009. He had a busy week, which began Jan. 31 with being dispatched by the Obama administration to deliver a direct message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He reportedly delivered Obama’s tough message that Mubarak must start the transition of power "now." The week ended with him telling the entire Munich Security Conference, which included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the audience, that Mubarak must stay in power to oversee changes in government.

"I believe that President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical — it’s his chance to write his own legacy," Wisner told the conference.

The remarks were so far off of the administration’s message, which at this moment is that it’s not the U.S. government’s place to weigh in on Mubarak’s future, that Clinton was forced to clarify on the plane ride home that Wisner was a private citizen and in no way spoke on behalf of the U.S. government.

But was the State Department even aware of what Wisner was going to say in Munich? "He did not give us a heads-up," a State Department official told The Cable.

Wisner was suggested for the "envoy" assignment to talk with Mubarak by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns, two administration officials confirmed. Burns is the highest-ranking Foreign Service officer at State and has known Wisner for decades.

Inside the administration’s policy process on Egypt, Burns is a key player, having been U.S. ambassador to Jordan and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. He wrote a book called Economic Aid and American Policy Toward Egypt, published in 1985, just before Wisner was named ambassador to Cairo.

But Wisner’s embrace of Mubarak goes even further than Burns’s position. "The implication that Bill agrees with [Wisner’s] public statements since [Wisner’s trip to Cairo] … is just plain wrong," an administration official told The Cable.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday that the administration knew about Wisner’s work for the lobbying firm Patton Boggs, which does business in Egypt, and that his long relationship with Mubarak was an asset, not a detraction.

"We’re aware of his employer.… And we felt that he was uniquely positioned to have the kind of conversation that we felt needed to be done in Egypt," Crowley said.

A spokesman for Patton Boggs told the New York Times that Patton Boggs was not doing significant work on behalf of the Egyptian government and that Wisner "has no involvement and has not had any involvement in Egyptian business while at the firm."

The White House on Monday argued that Wisner dutifully completed his assigned task in Cairo, which was "to deliver a specific, one-time message to President Mubarak," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Cable.

"He is not and was not a U.S. envoy. He was not sent to negotiate. He is an individual who has a long history with President Mubarak and thus could deliver a clear message. He spoke to President Mubarak once, reported on his conversation, and then came home," Vietor said.

Nevertheless, don’t expect the Obama administration to send any more one-off, high-level envoys anytime soon.

"We are completely confident in our ability to communicate directly with the government of Egypt at the White House, State Department, Pentagon and through our embassy," Vietor said.

CORRECTED: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Patton Boggs was part of the PLM Group, a lobbying entity comprising firms led by Tony Podesta, Bob Livingston, and Toby Moffet. Patton Boggs is not part of the PLM group, which has lobbied extensively on behalf of the Egyptian government.

Uber-diplomat Frank Wisner won’t be making any public remarks on the crisis in Egypt anytime soon the Obama administration has directed him to steer clear of the press following his command performance in Munich, where he went off the reservation of the Obama administration’s policy and forced the administration to distance itself from him and his remarks.

Wisner is back in New York at his day job at Patton Boggs, the lobbying law firm where he has worked since February 2009. He had a busy week, which began Jan. 31 with being dispatched by the Obama administration to deliver a direct message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He reportedly delivered Obama’s tough message that Mubarak must start the transition of power "now." The week ended with him telling the entire Munich Security Conference, which included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the audience, that Mubarak must stay in power to oversee changes in government.

"I believe that President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical — it’s his chance to write his own legacy," Wisner told the conference.

The remarks were so far off of the administration’s message, which at this moment is that it’s not the U.S. government’s place to weigh in on Mubarak’s future, that Clinton was forced to clarify on the plane ride home that Wisner was a private citizen and in no way spoke on behalf of the U.S. government.

But was the State Department even aware of what Wisner was going to say in Munich? "He did not give us a heads-up," a State Department official told The Cable.

Wisner was suggested for the "envoy" assignment to talk with Mubarak by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns, two administration officials confirmed. Burns is the highest-ranking Foreign Service officer at State and has known Wisner for decades.

Inside the administration’s policy process on Egypt, Burns is a key player, having been U.S. ambassador to Jordan and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. He wrote a book called Economic Aid and American Policy Toward Egypt, published in 1985, just before Wisner was named ambassador to Cairo.

But Wisner’s embrace of Mubarak goes even further than Burns’s position. "The implication that Bill agrees with [Wisner’s] public statements since [Wisner’s trip to Cairo] … is just plain wrong," an administration official told The Cable.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday that the administration knew about Wisner’s work for the lobbying firm Patton Boggs, which does business in Egypt, and that his long relationship with Mubarak was an asset, not a detraction.

"We’re aware of his employer.… And we felt that he was uniquely positioned to have the kind of conversation that we felt needed to be done in Egypt," Crowley said.

A spokesman for Patton Boggs told the New York Times that Patton Boggs was not doing significant work on behalf of the Egyptian government and that Wisner "has no involvement and has not had any involvement in Egyptian business while at the firm."

The White House on Monday argued that Wisner dutifully completed his assigned task in Cairo, which was "to deliver a specific, one-time message to President Mubarak," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Cable.

"He is not and was not a U.S. envoy. He was not sent to negotiate. He is an individual who has a long history with President Mubarak and thus could deliver a clear message. He spoke to President Mubarak once, reported on his conversation, and then came home," Vietor said.

Nevertheless, don’t expect the Obama administration to send any more one-off, high-level envoys anytime soon.

"We are completely confident in our ability to communicate directly with the government of Egypt at the White House, State Department, Pentagon and through our embassy," Vietor said.

CORRECTED: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Patton Boggs was part of the PLM Group, a lobbying entity comprising firms led by Tony Podesta, Bob Livingston, and Toby Moffet. Patton Boggs is not part of the PLM group, which has lobbied extensively on behalf of the Egyptian government.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at [email protected]

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.


The Making of the “Good CIA”

For decades, it’s been an article of faith among leftists that the CIA is fundamentally malign, and has been since its founding. Its purpose was to extend American hegemony its method dirty tricks (not excluding murder) to undermine popular movements or governments and impose brutal right-wing authoritarian regimes in client states. We can recite the agency’s outrages as a shorthand litany: Mossadegh, Arbenz, Trujillo, Bay of Pigs, Diem, MK-ULTRA, Congress for Cultural Freedom, CHAOS, Allende, Mobutu, “Family Jewels,” Shah, Contras, Afghanistan, Curveball, “Slam Dunk.”

Yet in recent years, the CIA’s image has softened. Outrage against Obama’s CIA-led drone warfare program was relatively muted, and during his administration the agency experienced no Iraq-scale debacles. In academia, the “new Cold War studies” has in the last 20 years painted a more rounded picture of the CIA’s activities during the conflict. Soviet communism really was an aggressive threat in the 1940s and 1950s, and an intelligence service was genuinely necessary, even many leftists now grant. Such studies—by scholars like Hugh Wilford, Penny von Eschen, and myself—have also dialed back some of the conspiratorial froth typical of earlier exposés, arguing that just because the CIA tried to get involved and run things doesn’t mean that it succeeded, or that it held as much sway as people think. The agency was not ultimately and fully responsible for the Vietnam War, or the dirty wars in 1970s Latin America, or the dominance of Abstract Expressionism. Cultural and geopolitical history are just too complex for that.

The effect, if not the intention, has been to cool the fury against the agency and subtly recast it in the public imagination. In the last 15 years or so, prestige pop culture has assisted in this image surgery, with sympathetic, textured depictions of the agency in films like Zero Dark Thirty and Argo and series like Homeland (often endorsed by or even concocted within the CIA itself). In these stories, CIA agents courageously put their safety and careers in jeopardy to protect the same people—ordinary citizens of Iran or Pakistan or Venezuela—whom the CIA’s actual plots have done so much to immiserate. The International Spy Museum, which could have been designed by the CIA’s public relations office, has become one of Washington, D.C.’s most popular tourist attractions. Last year, Reese Witherspoon’s book club, an influential force in American bookselling today, put Lara Prescott’s novel The Secrets We Kept—which revolves around the CIA’s championing of Dr. Zhivago and thus links the agency with artistic and personal freedom—on the bestseller list. In this year’s juiciest podcast, journalist Patrick Radden Keefe investigated the CIA’s possible involvement in writing the Scorpions’ 1990 monster ballad “Wind of Change.” Insipid as the song is, who could be against power chords reverberating freedom from the crumbled Wall all the way to the moribund Soviet Union? So what if the song lacked artistic integrity?

A new book on the prehistory of the agency, Scott Anderson’s The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War—a Tragedy in Three Acts, continues this project of showing a government agency both essential and partially cleansed of its notorious fiascos and excesses. Anderson sees the CIA’s worst actions as the products of outside decisions by arrogant and ignorant politicians and officials in the executive branch. But what situates his book in the wave of CIA revisionism is his contention that the agency’s operations branch was not full of cowboys and adventurers willing to throw any kind of spaghetti at the wall but was rather led by agents and administrators who were, for the most part, cautious and judicious, dubious about the cockamamie schemes proposed to them by people who would never have to get their own hands dirty.

In the aggregate, this wave of scholarly and popular revisionism about the agency is welcome, particularly in dispelling simplistic or conspiratorial thinking. But it may run the risk of glossing over the magnitude of the political, economic, and human tragedies the CIA caused or exacerbated. More importantly, this makeover leaves us vulnerable to future adventurism and blunders from an agency with an appalling track record, little meaningful public oversight, and a preoccupation with its own public image, and which has long been susceptible to misuse by the White House.

Unlike earlier defenders of the CIA, Anderson establishes his leftist sympathies immediately, recounting the discomfort he felt watching the “political theater” and celebrations of militarism put on by the South Korean, Indonesian, and Nationalist Chinese governments when he was growing up in East Asia as the son of a USAID administrator. Later, as a young reporter, he traveled to San Salvador during the height of the Central American conflicts and witnessed a death squad dump a woman’s body on the street and a military clean-up team retrieve the corpse for disposal. “The very phrase ‘anti-communist’ took on a squalid quality,” he remembers, “when I considered the crimes done in its name.”

How, Anderson asks, did the United States go from being “a beacon of hope and a source of deliverance” to joining the same side as dictators and death squads? The answer can be found, he argues, in the period between the end of World War II and the Hungarian uprising of 1956, which featured several chances for the Cold War to thaw or even evaporate, instead of freezing into an almost half-century-long standoff. And fundamentally, his answer lies with spies, who were the “animating force” of the Cold War, a conflict that could not be allowed to break into the open combat of a third World War.

For Anderson, four particular men embody this transformation: Michael Burke, Peter Sichel, Edward Lansdale, and, above all, Frank Wisner. All served in the OSS, the CIA’s predecessor agency, during World War II—Wisner, Sichel, and Burke in Europe and Lansdale stateside—and were clever, courageous, and comfortable with deception. They slipped into their CIA roles easily. From his cover as a freelance Hollywood producer in Dolce Vita–era Rome, Burke organized “Operation Fiend,” a shambolic attempt to use Albanian tribesmen to detach that nation from Stalin’s orbit. (After his time at the CIA, Burke became executive director of the Ringling Brothers circus—the jokes write themselves.) Lansdale, an adman before the war, was the original “quiet American” of Graham Greene’s 1955 novel, pulling strings first in the Philippines and then in a collapsing South Vietnam. Peter Sichel’s German-Jewish family escaped Nazi Germany in 1938, only to end up in Vichy France before fleeing to Manhattan. Sichel joined up the day after Pearl Harbor, worked with Burke in North Africa during the war, and then ran agents in Berlin and East Germany in the early Cold War. His role in Anderson’s narrative of the early CIA is perhaps more central than actual fact merits, as much of the book relies on Anderson’s interviews with Sichel, the only surviving one of his key players.

In Anderson’s account, Burke, Lansdale, and Sichel embody the “good CIA”—the agency that tries to keep casualties and deceptions to a minimum, that doesn’t stab its assets in the back, and that doesn’t get in bed with fascists and tyrants. If there is an original sin of the CIA, Anderson suggests, it was 1948’s Operation RUSTY, the project to help Hitler’s former spy chief, Reinhard Gehlen, maintain his espionage network along the Iron Curtain. “The proposal was soundly rejected by all the CIA officers present” at the meeting to assess it, and “none were more vehement than Peter Sichel.” But, Anderson asks, “what was the alternative?” In the end, the CIA decided to work with the unreconstructed Nazis, much to Sichel’s disgust. The agency skulked away from Eden.

The book’s unlikely hero is the CIA’s second director of intelligence, Frank Wisner. (He turns up in The Secrets We Kept as well.) A Mississippi native and bon vivant, Wisner served the OSS in liberated Romania, where he picked up an aristocratic girlfriend who would eventually cause him security problems, then was named head of the “Office of Policy Coordination” in 1948. Despite its deliberately beige name, OPC was the operations center for the postwar intelligence service, and from there, Wisner oversaw most of the CIA’s more egregious 1950s undertakings. Wisner, in fact, had pushed the CIA to assume Operation RUSTY.

Often seen as a sinister monkey wrencher, Wisner may be best known to the public for dosing unwitting human subjects with LSD as part of Project MK-ULTRA’s research into mind control (depicted in one of the few anti-CIA stories of the last few years, Errol Morris’s 2017 Netflix docudrama, Wormwood). He was also behind the CIA’s infiltration or creation of groups such as the National Student Association and the Congress for Cultural Freedom, whose exposure in 1967 fueled the anti-CIA rage-storm among leftists and intellectuals. And while the CIA was forbidden to act domestically, Wisner also oversaw the wiretapping of American reporters (Project Mockingbird) and a disinformation campaign aimed at American citizens, through which friendly journalists ran CIA-planted stories.

He was no Boy Scout. Yet Anderson stresses Wisner’s cautiousness, characterizing him as “a killjoy … when it came to pursuing adventures abroad.” He was the only administration official to oppose the 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh he preferred “soft power” efforts like Voice of America to “hard power” initiatives and, when massive East German demonstrations called for free elections after Stalin’s death in 1953, he insisted to the Berlin station chief that distributing weapons to those demonstrators would lead to a massacre.

If Wisner is the hero, the Dulles brothers are the villains of Anderson’s book. Alan Dulles, the agency’s first director and Wisner’s boss for much of the 1950s, loved cloak-and-dagger schemes, the more implausible the better, and particularly relished plots to assassinate foreign leaders. John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s secretary of state, was a dour, dogmatic anti-Communist who preferred dictators and former Nazis to any even faintly pink democratically elected leader. And President Eisenhower saw covert ops as an “inexpensive alternative to military action.” Under their leadership, and (at least in Anderson’s telling) against the advice of the spies themselves, the CIA became the agency so reviled by generations of American leftists, not to mention the foreign populations who were its collateral damage: cowboy-cocky, a friend to despots, heedless of potential blowback, feckless and smug.

Worse, Anderson argues, the agency’s bosses in the White House and Foggy Bottom ultimately lacked the courage of their convictions, wasting two opportunities to end the Cold War early and prevent millions of deaths. They fundamentally misread the meaning of the death of Stalin, Anderson claims, and when a conciliatory outreach could have significantly ratcheted down tensions between the two nations, Foster Dulles rewrote Eisenhower’s April 1953 “Chance for Peace” speech to add “a whole series of hoops the Soviets first had to jump through” before negotiations could begin. (They refused.) Worse, the U.S. played bait-and-switch with Hungarian insurgents in 1956, suggesting via Radio Free Europe that political and even military assistance would be forthcoming but then abandoning them to Soviet tanks and firing squads when the uprising actually materialized.

Anderson draws an implicit distinction between those CIA covert actions that ended in innocent blood (bad!) and those that were just dirty tricks or psy-ops (part of the game). The first, he suggests, almost never originated within the agency, and thus, to some degree, he absolves the CIA of responsibility for them. The others, he suggests, are ultimately or at least largely harmless, and inherent to great-power relations. And Wisner was a master of these, a creative thinker and irresistible charmer who didn’t instinctively reach for kinetic operations to achieve his goals. These shenanigans make for good stories, and if Wisner had had final say, the CIA’s sordid history of destruction likely would have been less stomach-turning. I’m with Anderson to this point.

But for Wisner and his agency, duplicity and disinformation weren’t just tools to be used abroad. When the CIA needed it—and they came to need it quite often—they manipulated Americans, too. And this is unacceptable in a democracy, where, if citizens aren’t entitled to know everything about how their nation’s foreign relations are conducted, they do have a right not to be deceived.

Anderson calls his book a tragedy in three acts, and it gets positively cinematic near the end, as the scenes get shorter, turning into jump cuts. It’s undeniably well-told and vivid, and the personal reflections of people like Sichel give it a granular, first-person quality lacking in other critical histories of the agency, without turning it into a pro-CIA screed like agent Tom Braden’s famous 1967 article “I’m Glad the CIA is ‘Immoral’.” Anderson’s heavy reliance on Sichel’s recollections certainly colors the story in favor of the agency. But in a larger sense, Anderson seems willing to countenance many of the CIA’s hijinks as, essentially, capers, while ignoring the secondary and tertiary effects of those operations.

He breezily depicts the 1953 Iranian coup, for instance, as an unexpectedly bloodless win, and then barely returns to it. But a more responsible book would give more attention to the enduring consequences of that little operation: a quarter-century of despotism, repression, and torture of dissidents the chaos of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis the Iran-Iraq War the standoff with Khomeini and the proxy conflicts in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and elsewhere (including the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut) the endless face-off with the mullahs and Ahmadinejad and the ill-fated Iran nuclear treaty. If Iran gets the Bomb, we can trace this directly back to 1953. Great job, everyone.

In this, Anderson’s book differs radically from Tim Weiner’s influential 2007 National Book Award–winning Legacy of Ashes, which has become the definitive pre-Trump leftist take on the CIA: that the agency was misbegotten from the start, and the evils it committed are a feature, not a bug, of its mission. Weiner comes to this conclusion by focusing on the agency as an institution, understanding figures like Wisner as functionaries in a structure that both constrained what they could do and encouraged their worst instincts.

The CIA is no less tragic, no less infuriating, no less destructive in Anderson’s more personalized telling than in the standard leftist one. In his account, the flaws were imposed on the CIA by Cold War ideology they were not present from the creation. Yet we know now that these evils were not just a by-product of the Cold War: They persisted through the disaster of the Iraq War, through Somalia and Afghanistan and an ongoing drone war. What was once a moral crusade against the Evil Empire became Manuel Noriega, the CIA asset who had to be removed when his anti-communism was no longer needed and his keys of coke moving into Miami became a problem. It became the debacle in Iraq, the failures in Afghanistan, the black sites and the waterboarding and the drones and the assassinations. To this hammer, the CIA, every problem is a nail.

Trump’s retreat from alliances, and embrace of authoritarians, make an active and competent foreign-intelligence service more necessary than ever, to help understand how Russia is meddling in our elections, or what Kim Jong Un is up to, or whatever the hell is going on with TikTok. And that Trump is so gullible, so gormless, so solicitous of foreign adversaries, may make some of us on the left more open to a new understanding of the CIA, if only as a counterweight to the dupe in charge. But one day he will be gone, and the CIA will still be there, with the same mission and character that it has always had.

Greg Barnhisel is professor of English at Duquesne University. He is the author of Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy and a forthcoming biography of Norman Holmes Pearson.


Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Wisner, Frank G., 1934

Frank Gardiner Wisner was born on June 23, 1909. He was educated at Woodberry Forest School in Orange County, Virginia, and at the University of Virginia, where he received both B.A. and LL.B. degrees. After graduating, Wisner worked as a Wall Street lawyer. In 1941, six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the United States Navy. He worked in the Navy's censor's office until he was able to get a transfer to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He was stationed first in Turkey, and then in Romania, where he became head of OSS operations in southeastern Europe. There, Wisner arranged the airlift of over one thousand American prisoners of war. Later, Wisner's main task was to spy on the activities of the Soviet Union.

In 1946, he returned to law practice, joining the New York City law firm of Carter Ledyard. Wisner was recruited in 1947 by Dean Acheson to join the State Department's Office of Occupied Territories. In 1948, the CIA created a covert action division, the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) and Frank Wisner was put in charge of the operation. In 1947 Wisner established Operation Mockingbird, a program to influence the domestic and foreign media. In 1952, he became head of the Directorate of Plans, with Richard Helms as his chief of operations. In this position, he was instrumental in supporting pro-American forces that toppled Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala following the Alfhem affair. He was also deeply involved in establishing the Lockheed U-2 spy plane program run by Richard M. Bissell, Jr. In the 1950s, Wisner suffered a breakdown and retired from the CIA in 1962. He died on October 29, 1965.

Frank Gardiner Wisner Papers in Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.


Cold Case Conspiracy Update

What are these dark and dangerous rooms of which Prof. Prashad speaks?
It has only been fairly recently that we have come to understand the true significance of the role this man's father--Frank G. Wisner, Sr.--played in shaping the world following the second world war. Attorney and author, John J. Loftus, has fought for many year to disclose the secrets contained in documents handled by Frank Gardiner Wisner, Sr. At long last he was able to publish a newly updated, declassified and uncensored version of the original work The Belarus Secret (nominated for the 1982 Pulitzer in history). The CIA's velvet glove was finally removed from the iron fist (to use Prashad's metaphor), thus revealing the true horror of what Loftus, as an attorney fresh from law school, discovered about the American justice system.
He says in the Introduction of this new edition of his expose, entitled America's Nazi Secret:

Despite all the documents Loftus found and was forbidden by his employer from revealing to the world until now, Loftus still maintains that it is not the government per se which is corrupt--only its law firm, that is, the Justice Department.

That dichotomy posed by Loftus demands further attention. He does not place the blame for the criminal activity on the Central Intelligence Agency, but instead on the State Department and Justice Department lawyers who were working within the agency, compartmentalized from the agents, with all their files hidden from the records of the CIA itself. These are the dark and dangerous rooms on which we must shed light in order to understand how attorneys hired to represent the interests of "the government," i.e. the people as a whole, divert government policy so as to work for the interests of the few.

Conflicts of Interest
Perhaps it is the nature of the legal profession which allows some attorneys to work on behalf of their private clients' interests without seeing the inherent conflict with the interest of their public client.

Take Frank Gardiner Wisner, for example. What more do we really know about this man from Mississippi who attended an elite Episcopal boarding school in Virginia, graduated from the University of Virginia in 1931 and then from its law school in 1934? He was tapped for the Seven Society, the University of Virginia's version of Skull and Bones, according to Evan Thomas in The Very Best Men. Burton Hersh tells us, however, in The Old Boys, that Wisner didn't really fit into the mold from which most Wall Street attorneys are formed. Hersh instead paints a picture of a barefoot boy from the old South, a typical stereotype that tends to rile most southerners.

Frank's father, Frank George Wisner, was on the War Industries Board of the lumber branch during World War II, while his banking partner, Philip Stimson Gardiner (Frank Senior's maternal uncle), was secretary of the War Council of the YMCA, going to France and England for service with the American Expeditionary forces in 1917. In those days, that was the closest thing there was to a civilian intelligence agency.

Frank's mother, Mary Jeannette Gardiner, had married Frank George Wisner in 1897 in Iowa, and her first cousin, Sarah Gardiner, married Lauren Eastman. The Wisner and Eastman families originally set out west from Penn Yan, New York, after the Civil War and met up in Iowa with the Gardiners (who descend from Lion Gardiner of Long Island) they moved their families south, virtually building the town of Laurel, Mississippi, such as it was, from scratch.

Wisner, Gardiner and brother-in-law A. Field Chisholm ran the local Laurel Bank. The Gardiners and Eastmans engaged in the lumber business under the name of Eastman, Gardiner & Company, and Frank headed the Laurel Cotton Mills and handled the banking for all the businesses. While the men were 32nd degree Masons, the women joined the Daughters of the American Revolution. All attended the local Episcopal Church.

Young Frank attended the Laurel high school initially, but then was sent to an Episcopal prep school called Woodberry Forest, about halfway between Washington, D.C. and Lynchburg, Va. to force some discipline into the rebellious. When his father:

Of course, Roosevelt wasn't practicing law in 1936. He was President of the United States. He had begun there as an associate in 1907 at the same time as Grenville Clark, who would become a member of Harvard Corporation in 1931. But FDR stayed only one year before dabbling in politics. Twelve years later he returned to the law, forming a new firm with Grenville Emmet and Langdon Marvin.

But Wisner was at Carter, Ledyard & Milburn for seven years, all of that time working on litigation " on behalf of the engineers at Bechtel. "

So something is missing from what we have been told up till now.

The missing link is a man named John Lower y Simpson. He was the uncle of S.D. Bechtel's wife, according to his obituary that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1981:


In addition to the Bechtel connection, it must not be overlooked there is also a United Fruit Co. link as well through John Lowery Simpson. He was chairman of the board for 15 years of International Railways of Central America!

United Fruit owned the Int. Railways of Central America

J. Henry Schroder Banking Corp. was one of the primary clients of another Wall Street law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, home to John Foster and his brother Allen Dulles. After William J. Donovan recruited Allen for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS):


The CIA's Dark History of Employing Former Nazis in Postwar Europe

On October 19, 1948, the State Department’s George Kennan sent a friendly note to Frank Wisner, the head of the CIA’s covert operations branch, or OPC. “Dear Frank,” it began, “I am glad to learn that your efforts to bring Gustav Hilger to this country for work with CIA has been successful I regard him as one of the few outstanding experts on Soviet economy and Soviet politics. He had [sic] not only a scholarly background on Soviet subjects but has had long practical experience in analyzing and estimating Soviet operations on a day-to-day basis. I hope the Department of State may be provided with copies of any studies which Mr. Hilger produces under your direction.”

The subject of the letter, sixty-two-year-old Gustav Hilger, had an unusual pedigree, a German citizen who had spent nearly his entire life in first czarist and then Soviet Russia. Despite being educated as an engineer, in 1923 he had won appointment to the German embassy in Moscow due to his fluency in Russian and extensive contacts in the Kremlin. It was in that position a decade later that he met and developed a friendship with a young rising star in the American legation to the Soviet Union, George Kennan. The friendship lasted until Kennan was transferred from Moscow in 1937.

In his absence, Gustav Hilger’s résumé became a bit more checkered. In his counselor role with the embassy, Hilger served as chief interpreter for Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, in the secret negotiations leading to the Nazi–Soviet concord, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, of 1939. After that accord collapsed with the launching of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, Hilger’s diplomatic status led to his being deported to Germany, where he served as Ribbentrop’s chief advisor on Soviet affairs for the rest of the war.

Like other high-ranking German officials, Hilger took pains to surrender to American soldiers at war’s end. Considered a “prisoner of high value,” he was taken to the United States for extensive questioning by Army intelligence, then returned to Germany in 1946. There, he found work as a Soviet analyst with the Gehlen Organization, a band of former German military intelligence officers that had been reconstituted under American army sponsorship. This was a secure enough position for American authorities to feign ignorance as to his whereabouts when the Soviets petitioned for Hilger’s arrest on charges of war crimes. Two years later, after determining that Hilger remained in danger of kidnapping or assassination by the Soviets, getting him out of Ger many and into the United States became a CIA concern. Kennan urged Wisner to employ him as an OPC advisor, and Wisner was glad to do so. But how to get Hilger into the country with an international arrest warrant hanging over his head? The CIA’s answer was to just play dumb, to avoid learning those unpleasant details of a person’s life that might undermine the concept of plausible deniability.

To Gustav Hilger’s later good fortune, he had never joined the Nazi party, so there was scant reference to him in the Nazi party records housed in the American-controlled Berlin Document Center. What’s more, already in his mid-fifties when World War II began, Hilger spent the war essentially sitting behind a desk in the Soviet department of the Foreign Ministry, a locale that enabled him to profess ignorance about any nastiness that may have occurred on the battlefield.

As much as this strained credulity—how could any senior German Foreign Ministry official tasked to Soviet affairs not know of the atrocities being committed in Operation Barbarossa?—the idea was demolished altogether by Hilger’s receipt signature on a series of activity reports from the Eastern Front in 1941 and 1942. In unambiguous language, these papers included status reports from SS murder squads operating in conquered Soviet territory, even listing how many Jews, communists and “bandits” had been executed during that reporting period. At the very least, it meant Hilger had full knowledge of the slaughter being perpetrated on the Eastern Front. It also cast George Kennan’s comment that Hilger had “long practical experience in analyzing and estimating Soviet operations on a day-to-day basis” in a rather different light.

But only if one chose to see that light. Instead, by dismissing the charges laid out in the Soviet arrest warrant as propaganda, and by not seeking out the activity reports that had crossed Hilger’s wartime desk, the American intelligence community could continue to hold the German out as a respectable scholar. Ultimately, the CIA cut ties to Hilger in 1953 when an Agency analyst observed that his reports contained very little new, and that he was trading on the “ancient history” he had gleaned during his service to the Third Reich. As for Kennan, that grand master of forgetfulness, he would later write of Hilger: “I do not recall having had anything to do with, or any responsibility for, bringing him to this country nor do I recall knowing, at the time, by what arrangements he was brought here.”

But such associations had set the Agency on something of a moral slippery slope: if it was permissible to employ those Germans who knew of the Holocaust while it was occurring, what of those who played a more direct role? And if it was possible to overlook the shady background of a man like Gustav Hilger by simply not digging too deeply, what about dealing with someone whose notoriety was impossible to ignore? Soon after taking control of the Gehlen Org, the CIA found its own uncomfortable answer to these questions in the form of a man named Otto Albrecht Alfred von Bolschwing.

From an aristocratic and staunchly conservative family in Prussia, Bolschwing had been an early recruit to the Nazi Party. Once Hitler came to power, he steadily rose through the ranks to become a deputy of Heinrich Himmler in the Reich Main Security Office, or RHSA Bolschwing’s specific area of responsibility was in the RHSA branch that focused on “the Jewish problem.” In 1937, he came up with a detailed proposal to drive the Jews out of Germany through terror tactics, and to rob them as they left.

So radical were Bolschwing’s politics that he was destined to be one of the few Nazis whose zealotry actually got him in trouble with the leadership. As chief SS intelligence officer in Romania in 1940, he encouraged leaders of the Iron Guard, a rabidly anti-Semitic paramilitary group, to attempt a coup against the existing German-allied government. The Iron Guard revolt of January 1941 was put down, but not before Iron Guard Legionnaires had rampaged through the Jewish quarter of Bucharest, burning synagogues and murdering residents with a display of sadism that managed to shock even resident SS officers. For his behind-the-scenes role in the coup attempt, done in defiance of Berlin policy, Bolschwing was hauled back to Germany and spent several months in detention.

The Prussian aristocrat was to spin this brief imprisonment into a very helpful postwar fiction, “proof” that he had opposed the Nazi regime and been persecuted as a result. Much to the contrary, after his Romanian hiccup, Bolschwing continued his rise in the Third Reich hierarchy, ultimately becoming a deputy to the chief logistician of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann. At war’s end, he escaped into American-occupied Austria where he linked up with a number of his exiled Iron Guard friends, before joining the Gehlen Org in 1947. Through that affiliation, Bolschwing became a familiar figure to those American army officers managing the Org under the code name Operation Rusty, although not necessarily in a good way finding the Prussian unreliable and devious, the Org control officers were eventually warned “not to use subject in any capacity.”

But that had been 1947. By 1949, with Rusty now being managed by the CIA—and given the new code name of Operation Odeum—Bolschwing’s areas of expertise dovetailed with several initiatives the CIA was pur suing in collaboration with the Gehlen Org. In particular, the Org had recruited a group of old Romanian Iron Guardists, led by a man named Constantin Papanace, that the CIA hoped to use for espionage operations in their communist-controlled homeland. To augment that effort, the CIA also wanted to tap into Bolschwing’s intelligence network in Austria. In a report outlining the Prussian aristocrat’s potential, James Critchfield, the CIA’s chief liaison to Odeum, was unequivocal. “We are convinced that Bolschwing’s Romanian operations, his connections with the Papanace group, his internal Austrian political and intelligence connections, and last but not least, his knowledge of and probable future on Odeum’s activities in and through Austria make him a valuable man whom we must control.”

This the Americans set out to do. In February 1950, Bolschwing was hired away from Gehlen and put under direct CIA supervision. Given the intriguing code name of Agent Unrest, Bolschwing’s handlers were soon describing him in glowing terms. “He is unquestionably an extremely intelligent person,” one of his control officers wrote, “an experienced intelligence operator, a man with an unusually wide and well-placed circle of friends, acquaintances, and sources, and a man whose grasp of the political-intelligence field throughout the Balkans, and to a lesser degree in Western Europe, is of a high order.”

As for Agent Unrest’s Nazi pedigree, this could be conveniently forgotten one after another, Bolschwing’s American supervisors were content to accept the false history that Bolschwing had concocted for himself in the war’s aftermath, a stirring tale of an anti-Nazi activist cast into prison for reasons of conscience.

O ne after another, Bolschwing’s American supervisors were content to accept the false history that Bolschwing had concocted for himself in the war’s aftermath…

Except matters hit a snag. Shortly after his move from the Org to the CIA, the Austrian government launched an investigation of Bolschwing, and asked American officials to conduct a check of his wartime background by looking through the Nazi Party files at the Berlin Document Center, or BDC. Given Bolschwing’s ties to the CIA, this request wended its way through the American bureaucracy in Berlin until it landed on the desk of Peter Sichel.

As was to be expected of such a committed Nazi, a check of BDC records on Bolschwing set off alarm bells, news that Sichel forwarded on to the CIA team overseeing Agent Unrest at Org headquarters in Pullach. Sichel soon received a curious follow-up: Pullach now wanted CIA Berlin to either withhold Bolschwing’s file from the Austrian government or, in the deliciously Orwellian jargon of bureaucratese, to produce a “negative file.”

On April 24, 1950, Sichel responded to his colleagues in Pullach by pointing out the absurdity of such a move, explaining that the Document Center files on Nazi membership and former German intelligence officers were so complete that to go back to the Austrians with a “negative file” could only arouse suspicion. “On top of this,” he wrote, “the persons you are dealing with are so well known and their background so well publicized in the past that I deem it improbable that you can protect them from their past history.”

As for the idea of giving Bolschwing a new identity, Sichel went a good deal further. “At the end of the war we tried to be very smart and change the name of several members of the SD [Security Service branch of the SS] and Abwehr in order to protect them from the German authorities and the occupation authorities. In most cases these persons were so well known that the change in name compromised them more than if they were to face a denazification court and face the judgment that would have been meted out to them.”

In closing, and despite his admonition, Sichel offered to withhold Bolschwing’s file if this was still what CIA Pullach desired. It was, and the CIA never passed on Bolschwing’s file in the Berlin Document Center to the Austrian government.

This wasn’t to be the end of the story, however. Suspecting the CIA was stonewalling, the Austrians asked at least two other American investigative agencies in Germany, the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, to intercede on their behalf for the Bolschwing file. Not only were these agencies similarly frozen out, but the Austrians’ persistence finally led the CIA to request the CID’s help in blocking them.

But for all their effort in recruiting and shielding him, Otto von Bolschwing also soon proved a disappointment to the CIA, more inter ested in producing run-of-the-mill historical analysis pieces about the Balkans than in exploring the potential for clandestine operations in the region. By the beginning of 1952, having concluded there was little chance Bolschwing “will ever develop into a first class agent,” CIA Pullach transferred him back to his adoptive hometown of Salzburg, Austria, and foisted him on the CIA unit there.

The solution CIA lawyers came up with was to expunge mention of his Nazi Party membership from his official records…

The Prussian was to get the last laugh. As some of his case officers long suspected, Agent Unrest’s greatest passion had always been less about conducting espionage against the Soviets and more about trying to gain American citizenship—and with the CIA having once hired the war criminal, the Agency was now on the hook for disposing of him. In 1953, Bolschwing’s employers went about the delicate task of preparing his immigration papers while skirting the issue of his Nazi background. The solution CIA lawyers came up with was to expunge mention of his Nazi Party membership from his official records if Bolschwing were directly asked by immigration authorities, they advised, he “should admit membership, but attempt to explain it away on the basis of extenuating circumstances.”

The ploy worked. For the next quarter-century, Bolschwing and his family lived quietly in a Sacramento suburb, before finally coming to the attention of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the Nazi-hunting unit of the U.S. Justice Department, in the late 1970s. Destined to be the highest-ranking German war criminal ever prosecuted by the OSI, Bolschwing was stripped of his American citizenship in late 1981 for having lied on his immigration application, just weeks before his death from brain cancer.

The links that the CIA forged with former Nazis in the late 1940s were to ultimately hurt the Agency in a variety of ways.

For one thing, those links played perfectly into the hands of Soviet propagandists eager to declaim their American opponent as in league with “fascists” and “Hitlerites.” For ordinary Soviet citizens, survivors of the savagery of German forces in World War II, every unmasking of an Otto von Bolschwing conveyed the message that their government’s accusations against the West held the ring of truth.

Those ties also cast a blot on the CIA’s image—and by natural extension, that of the United States—that has never been dispelled. In the more than six decades since their employment with the CIA, scores of books have detailed the “Nazi connection” to the Agency, some claiming the number of war criminals involved ranged into the hundreds, even the thousands. In fact, the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations—certainly no apologist for the CIA—tallies the list of German Nazi war criminals employed by the Agency over the years at probably less than a dozen, while also pointing out that nearly all of these were “inherited” from other branches of government, as was the case with both Gustav Hilger and Otto von Bolschwing. No matter in the public imagination, even those infamous figures with whom the CIA had no apparent connection, the Klaus Barbies and Josef Mengeles of the Nazi netherworld, are now firmly fixed in many minds as having been agency assets. It’s highly doubtful the CIA will ever get out from under this cloud rather like a thief who admits to having robbed dozens of people, but certainly not hundreds, so an institution arguing it employed “only a handful” of Nazis is already playing a losing hand. As CIA historian Kevin Ruffner has noted, “In its quest for information on the USSR, the United States became indelibly linked to the Third Reich.”

But perhaps the greatest damage the Nazi connection inflicted on the CIA rests more in the psychological realm, as the “gateway sin” that paved the way for other sins to follow.


“The Empire’s Bagman:” Obama Egypt Envoy Frank Wisner Says Mubarak Should Stay

The official U.S. response to events unfolding in Egypt remains mixed. Over the weekend, the Obama administration distanced itself from U.S. “crisis envoy” to Egypt Frank Wisner after he issued a statement in support of President Hosni Mubarak. Revealing a possible conflict of interest, British journalist Robert Fisk recently reported Wisner works for the law firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the U.S.” We are joined by Trinity College Professor Vijay Prashad, who has written about Wisner’s history with the U.S. Department of State and his close relationship with Mubarak. [includes rush transcript]

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AMY GOODMAN : I want to bring someone else into this discussion. The official U.S. response to events unfolding in Egypt has been mixed. For days, the Obama administration has refused to call for President Mubarak to resign, but said an orderly transition of power was needed. But on Saturday, the U.S. special envoy, Frank Wisner, explicitly said Mubarak should not resign.

FRANK WISNER : The President must stay in office in order to steer those changes through. I therefore believe that President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical. It’s his opportunity to write his own legacy. He has given 60 years of his life to the service of his country. This is an ideal moment for him to show the way forward, not just in maintaining stability and responsible government, but actually shaping and giving authority to the transition that has to be underway.

AMY GOODMAN : That was the Obama administration’s special envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner. The Obama administration responded to Wisner’s remarks by claiming he was speaking in his private capacity and not as U.S. envoy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, quote, “We deeply respect the many years of service that Frank Wisner has provided to our country, but he does not speak for the American government.”

Meanwhile, the British journalist Robert Fisk has revealed U.S. envoy Frank Wisner works for the law firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the U.S.”

To talk more about this, we’re joined by Vijay Prashad, who has written about Wisner’s appointment as U.S. envoy to Egypt and the close relationship he has had with President Mubarak. Vijay Prashad, professor at Trinity College, most recent book called The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World.

Your piece was called, Professor Prashad, “The Empire’s Bagman.” Talk about who Frank Wisner is, who it is President Obama sent to Egypt, and why the U.S. ambassador to Egypt wasn’t the one who was talking with the government.

VIJAY PRASHAD : Yes, the point is a very good one, why Margaret Scobey herself was not in charge of the deliberations. Instead, President Obama turned to Frank Wisner, Jr. Frank Wisner, Jr., has had a 36-year career in the State Department. He is the son of Frank Wisner, Sr., a man very well known at the CIA , who was the operational chief to conduct at least three coups d’état &mdash Arbenz in Guatemala, Mossadeq in Iran, and the attempted coup in Guyana. He was also, Frank Wisner, Sr., the man who created Wisner’s Wurlitzer, where the United States government paid journalists to go and do propaganda in Europe and in the rest of the world.

Frank Wisner, Jr., had a more steady career in the State Department, was the ambassador in Egypt between 1986 and 1991. During that period, he became very close friends with Hosni Mubarak and, at the time, convinced President Mubarak to bring Egypt on the side diplomatically of the United States during the first Gulf War. Subsequently, Frank Wisner was ambassador in the Philippines and then in India, before returning to the United States, where he became essentially one of the great eminences of the Democratic Party. One of the things he did during this recent period is author a report for the James Baker Institute, where he argued that the most important thing for American foreign policy is not democracy, which they treat as a long-term interest, but stability, which is the short-term interest. So, Frank Wisner, Jr., is seasoned State Department official, a very close friend of Mubarak, a man more committed to stability than democracy, and, yes, an employee at Patton Boggs, where one of the portfolios is for Patton Boggs to lobby on behalf of the government of Egypt.

AMY GOODMAN : We’re talking to Vijay Prashad, a professor at Trinity College. Now, what he said, Vijay Prashad, that he said Mubarak should remain in power, the man who works for the lobbying firm, well known, Patton Boggs, that is working for &mdash that boasts about working for the Egyptian government, now saying that another client of his firm should remain in power.

VIJAY PRASHAD : Yes. It’s interesting that in that same speech he mentioned that Mubarak should be able to, in a sense, author his own legacy. I mean, he is probably speaking partly on the basis of this broad policy that he has, which is that stability is more important than democracy, and secondly, partly from friendship.

It should be said that the United States government has essentially been chasing events in this period. There are two pillars of U.S. foreign policy that they’ve been trying to maintain at the same time as not lose their credibility in the world. And the two basic pillars, the first one is to maintain Egypt as a close ally in the war on terror. That includes, of course, things like extraordinary rendition, but also includes Egypt carrying America’s buckets in places like the Arab League. The second important pillar is to ensure that whoever comes to power in Egypt, whether Mubarak or a Mubarak successor, will uphold the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979. These are the two principal pillars of U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Egypt. What the Obama administration, it seems to me, has been trying to do is to ensure that if Mubarak himself cannot carry these two pillars, then some successor, a Mubarak-lite, Mubarak number two, will come in and carry the pillars forward. The United States does not have the best record in, you know, helping its dictatorial friends in the long term. We’ve seen that with Manuel Noriega. We’ve seen that with Saddam Hussein. So, the friendship that Frank Wisner, Jr., has for Mubarak might be a little liability, but broadly put, his attitude towards Mubarak and the Mubarak regime is quite consistent with the broad outlines of the Obama policy and of the State Department.

AMY GOODMAN : Professor Prashad, this issue of Wisner, not only what he has represented now, but coming &mdash I mean, his father, also named Frank Wisner, long lineage in the CIA family, his father, Frank, Sr., helping to overthrow Arbenz in Guatemala and, the example that is often brought up today, a year before, overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadeq. The parallels to what we are seeing today?

VIJAY PRASHAD : Yes. I mean, this is &mdash you know, the tragedy of American foreign policy has been, on the one side, you’ve had the sort of CIA operations, and on the other side, you have the soft diplomacy, the kind of soft politics of the State Department. And we see that a little bit. As Frank Wisner, Jr., arrives in Cairo and goes to huddle with Mubarak and Omar Suleiman and others, Margaret Scobey, who, essentially cast aside by American foreign policy, goes to meet ElBaradei. This has been a big feature in American foreign policy. On the one side, you have sections in the State Department under the illusion that they are carrying forward a policy based on freedom and human rights, and on the other side, there is this much darker foreign policy apparatus conducted by the CIA special envoys, who are actually better called “proconsuls,” and of course the United States military. There seems to be this contradiction at work, but it may not in the end of the day be a contradiction, because on one side you can say that the iron fist is being shrouded by the velvet glove. So, Margaret Scobey talking about human rights, going to see ElBaradei, talking about supporting the kind of upsurge of democracy, and on the other side, in much darker, more dangerous rooms, people like Frank Wisner, perhaps the CIA chief, discussing with Mubarak and Omar Suleiman how do we maintain your authority and change perhaps the face of that authority before the Egyptian people and the world.


Bio of the CIA’s Frank G. Wisner, Sr.

Frank Gardner Wisner was born in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1910. He was educated at Woodberry Forest School in Orange and the University of Virginia. He was a good sprinter and hurdler and in 1936 was asked to compete in the Olympic trials. After graduating Wisner worked as a Wall Street lawyer. However, he got bored and enlisted in the United States Navy six months before Pearl Harbor. He worked in the Navy’s censor’s office before managing to get a transfer to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In June. 1944, Wisner was sent to Turkey. Two months later he moved on to Romania where his main task was to spy on the activities of the Soviet Union. While in Bucharest he became friendly with King Michael of Romania. Later he became an informal adviser to the royal family. OSS agents penetrated the Romanian Communist Party and Wisner was able to discover that the Soviets intended to take over all of Eastern Europe. Wisner was disappointed by the US government’s reaction to this news and he was forced to advise the Romanian royal family to go into exile. Wisner was transferred to the OSS station in Wiesbaden. While in Germany he served under Allen W. Dulles. Wisner also met Arthur Schlesinger, an OSS sergeant serving in Germany. He later claimed that Wisner had become obsessed with the Soviet Union: “He was already mobilizing for the cold war. I myself was no great admirer of the Soviet Union, and I certainly had no expectation of harmonious relations after the war. But Frank was a little excessive, even for me.” During the war William Donovan as head of the OSS, had built up a team of 16,000 agents working behind enemy lines. The growth of the OSS brought conflict with John Edgar Hoover who saw it as a rival to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He persuaded President Harry S. Truman that the OSS in peacetime would be an “American Gestapo”. As soon as the war ended Truman ordered the OSS to be closed down leaving a small intelligence organization, the Strategic Services Unit (SSU) in the War Department. After leaving the OSS Wisner joined the Wall Street law firm, Carter Ledyard. However, in 1947, he was recruited by Dean Acheson, to work under Charles Saltzman, at the State Department’s Office of Occupied Territories. Wisner moved to Washington where he associated with a group of journalists, politicians and government officials that became known as the Georgetown Set. This included George Kennan, Dean Acheson, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, Joseph Alsop, Stewart Alsop, Tracy Barnes, Thomas Braden, Philip Graham, David Bruce, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, Chip Bohlen, Cord Meyer, James Angleton, William Averill Harriman, John McCloy, Felix Frankfurter, John Sherman Cooper, James Reston, Allen W. Dulles and Paul Nitze. Most men brought their wives to these gatherings. Members of what was later called the Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club included Katharine Graham, Mary Pinchot Meyer, Sally Reston, Polly Wisner, Joan Braden, Lorraine Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Avis Bohlen, Janet Barnes, Tish Alsop, Cynthia Helms, Marietta FitzGerald, Phyllis Nitze and Annie Bissell. Wisner remained concerned about the spread of communism and began lobbying for a new intelligence agency. He gained support for this from James Forrestal, the Defense Secretary. With the help of George Kennan, the Office of Special Projects was created in 1948. Wisner was appointed director of the organization. Soon afterwards it was renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). This became the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. Wisner was told to create an organization that concentrated on “propaganda, economic warfare preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world”. Later that year Wisner established Operation Mockingbird, a program to influence the American media. Wisner recruited Philip Graham (Washington Post) to run the project within the industry. Graham himself recruited others who had worked for military intelligence during the war. This included James Truitt, Russell Wiggins, Phil Geyelin, John Hayes and Alan Barth. Others like Stewart Alsop, Joseph Alsop and James Reston, were recruited from within the Georgetown Set. According to Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great): “By the early 1950s, Wisner ‘owned’ respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles.” In 1951 Allen W. Dulles persuaded Cord Meyer to join the CIA. However, there is evidence that he was recruited several years earlier and had been spying on the liberal organizations he had been a member of in the later 1940s. According to Deborah Davis, Meyer became Mockingbird’s “principal operative”. One of the most important journalists under the control of Operation Mockingbird was Joseph Alsop, whose articles appeared in over 300 different newspapers. Other journalists willing to promote the views of the CIA included Stewart Alsop (New York Herald Tribune), Ben Bradlee (Newsweek), James Reston (New York Times), Charles Douglas Jackson (Time Magazine), Walter Pincus (Washington Post), William C. Baggs (Miami News), Herb Gold (Miami News) and Charles Bartlett (Chattanooga Times). According to Nina Burleigh (A Very Private Woman) these journalists sometimes wrote articles that were commissioned by Frank Wisner. The CIA also provided them with classified information to help them with their work. After 1953 the network was overseen by Allen W. Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. By this time Operation Mockingbird had a major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. These organizations were run by people with well-known right-wing views such as William Paley (CBS), Henry Luce (Time Magazine and Life Magazine), Arthur Hays Sulzberger (New York Times), Alfred Friendly (managing editor of the Washington Post), Jerry O’Leary (Washington Star), Hal Hendrix (Miami News), Barry Bingham Sr., (Louisville Courier-Journal), James Copley (Copley News Services) and Joseph Harrison (Christian Science Monitor). The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was funded by siphoning of funds intended for the Marshall Plan. Some of this money was used to bribe journalists and publishers. Frank Wisner was constantly looked for ways to help convince the public of the dangers of communism. In 1954 Wisner arranged for the funding the Hollywood production of Animal Farm, the animated allegory based on the book written by George Orwell. According to Alex Constantine ( Mockingbird: The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA ), in the 1950s, “some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts”. Wisner was also able to restrict newspapers from reporting about certain events. During this period Wisner worked closely with Kim Philby, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) liaison in Washington. Wisner grew very fond of Philby and was unaware that he was a Soviet spy betraying all his operations to his masters in Moscow. However, he began to get suspicious in 1951 and he asked William Harvey and James Jesus Angleton to investigate Philby. Harvey reported back in June 1951 that he was convinced that Philby was a KGB spy. As a result Philby was forced to leave the United States. Another project started by Wisner was called Operation Bloodstone. This secret operation involved recruiting former German officers and diplomats who could be used in the covert war against the Soviet Union. This included former members of the Nazi Party such as Gustav Hilger and Hans von Bittenfield. Later, John Loftus, a prosecutor with the Office of Special Investigations at the U.S. Justice Department, accused Wisner of methodically recruiting Nazi war criminals. As one of the agents involved in Operation Bloodstone, Harry Rositzke, pointed out, Wisner was willing to use anyone “as long as he was anti-communist”. Wisner began having trouble with J. Edgar Hoover. He described the OPC as “Wisner’s gang of weirdos” and began carrying out investigations into their past. It did not take him long to discover that some of them had been active in left-wing politics in the 1930s. This information was passed to Joseph McCarthy who started making attacks on members of the OPC. Hoover also passed to McCarthy details of an affair that Wisner had with Princess Caradja in Romania during the war. Hoover, claimed that Caradja was a Soviet agent. In August, 1952, the Office of Policy Coordination and the Office of Special Operations (the espionage division) were merged to form the Directorate of Plans (DPP). Wisner became head of this new organization and Richard Helms became his chief of operations. The DPP now accounted for three quarters of the CIA budget and 60% of its personnel. At this time Wisner began plotting the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. He had upset the US government by nationalizing Iran’s oil industry. Mossadegh also abolished Iran’s feudal agriculture sector and replaced with a system of collective farming and government land ownership. On April 4, 1953, Wisner persuaded Allen W. Dulles to approve $1 million to be used “in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadegh.” Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, was put in charge of what became known as Operation Ajax. According to Donald N. Wilber, who was involved in this CIA plot to remove Mossadegh from power, in early August, 1953, Iranian CIA operatives, pretending to be socialists, threatened Muslim leaders with “savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh,” thereby giving the impression that Mossadegh was cracking down on dissent. This resulted in the religious community turning against Mossadegh. Iranians took to the streets against Mohammed Mossadegh. Funded with money from the CIA and MI6, the pro-monarchy forces quickly gained the upper hand. The military now joined the opposition and Mossadegh was arrested on August 19, 1953. President Dwight Eisenhower was delighted with this result and asked Wisner to arrange for Kermit Roosevelt to give him a personal briefing on Operation Ajax. Wisner’s other great success was the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz. He had been elected as President of Guatemala in March, 1951. Arbenz began to tackle Guatemala’s unequal land distribution. He said that the country needed “an agrarian reform which puts an end to the latifundios and the semi-feudal practices, giving the land to thousands of peasants, raising their purchasing power and creating a great internal market favorable to the development of domestic industry.” In March 1953, 209,842 acres of United Fruit Company’s uncultivated land was taken by the government which offered compensation of $525,000. The company wanted $16 million for the land. While the Guatemalan government valued $2.99 per acre, the American government valued it at $75 per acre. Samuel Zemurray, United Fruit Company’s largest shareholder, with the help of Tommy Corcoran, organized an anti-Arbenz campaign in the American media. This included the claim that Guatemala was the beginning of “Soviet expansion in the Americas”. The Central Intelligence Agency decided that Arbenz had to be removed from power. Wisner, as head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), took overall responsibility for the operation. Also involved was Richard Bissell, head of the Directorate for Plans, an organization instructed to conduct covert anti-Communist operations around the world. The plot against Arbenz therefore became part of Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power). Jake Esterline was placed in charge of the CIA’s Washington task force in the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. Tracy Barnes was field commander of what became known as Operation Success. David Atlee Phillips was appointed to run the propaganda campaign against Arbenz’s government. According to Phillips he initially questioned the right of the CIA to interfere in Guatemala: In his autobiography Phillips claims he said to Barnes: “But Arbenz became President in a free election. What right do we have to help someone topple his government and throw him out of office?” However, Barnes convinced him that it was vital important that the Soviets did not establish a “beachhead in Central America”. The CIA propaganda campaign included the distribution of 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala. They also produced three films on Guatemala for showing free in cinemas. Phillips, along with E. Howard Hunt, was responsible for running the CIA’s Voice of Liberation radio station. Faked photographs were distributed that claimed to show the mutilated bodies of opponents of Arbenz. William (Rip) Robertson was also involved in the campaign against Arbenz. The CIA began providing financial and logistic support for Colonel Carlos Castillo. With the help of resident Anastasio Somoza, Castillo had formed a rebel army in Nicaragua. It has been estimated that between January and June, 1954, the CIA spent about $20 million on Castillo’s army. The Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Guillermo Toriello, asked the United Nations for help against the covert activities of the United States. Toriello accused the United States government of categorizing “as communism every manifestation of nationalism or economic independence, any desire for social progress, any intellectual curiosity, and any interest in progressive liberal reforms.” President Dwight Eisenhower responded by claiming that Guatemala had a “communist dictatorship.. had established… an outpost on this continent to the detriment of all the American nations”. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles added that the Guatemala people were living under a “communist type of terrorism”. On 18th June, 1954, aircraft dropped leaflets over Guatemala demanding that Arbenz resign immediately or else the county would be bombed. CIA’s Voice of Liberation also put out similar radio broadcasts. This was followed by a week of bombing ports, ammunition dumps, military barracks and the international airport. Guillermo Toriello appealed to the United Nations to help protect Guatemalan government. Henry Cabot Lodge tried to block the Security Council from discussing a resolution to send an investigation team to Guatemala. When this failed he put pressure on Security Council members to vote against the resolution. Britain and France were both initially in favour but eventually buckled under United States pressure and agreed to abstain. As a result the resolution was defeated by 5 votes to 4. The UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was so upset by the actions of the USA that he considered resigning from his post. Carlos Castillo and his collection of soldiers now crossed the Honduran-Guatemalan border. His army was outnumbered by the Guatemalan Army. However, the CIA Voice of Liberation successfully convinced Arbenz’s supporters that two large and heavily armed columns of invaders were moving towards Guatemala City. The CIA was also busy bribing Arbenz’s military commanders. It was later discovered that one commander accepted $60,000 to surrender his troops. Ernesto Guevara attempted to organize some civil militias but senior army officers blocked the distribution of weapons. Arbenz now believed he stood little chance of preventing Castillo gaining power. Accepting that further resistance would only bring more deaths he announced his resignation over the radio. Castillo’s new government was immediately recognised by President Dwight Eisenhower. Castillo now reversed the Arbenz reforms. In July 19, 1954, he created the National Committee of Defense Against Communism and decreed the Preventive Penal Law Against Communism to fight against those who supported Arbenz when he was in power. Over the next few weeks thousands were arrested on suspicion of communist activity. A large number of these prisoners were tortured or killed. The removal of Jacobo Arbenz resulted in several decades of repression. Later, several of the people involved in Operation Success, including Richard Bissell and Tracy Barnes, regretted the outcome of the Guatemala Coup. Wisner managed to get a copy of the speech that Nikita Khrushchev made at the 20th Party Congress in February, 1956, where Khrushchev launched an attack on the rule of Joseph Stalin. He condemned the Great Purge and accused Stalin of abusing his power. He announced a change in policy and gave orders for the Soviet Union’s political prisoners to be released. Wisner leaked details of the speech to the New York Times who published it on 2nd June, 1956. Khrushchev’s de-Stalinzation policy encouraged people living in Eastern Europe to believe that he was willing to give them more independence from the Soviet Union. Over the next few weeks riots took place in Poland and East Germany. In Hungary the prime minister Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev became increasingly concerned about these developments and on 4th November 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary. Wisner expected the United States would help the Hungarians. As Thomas Polgar later pointed out: “Sure, we never said rise up and revolt, but there was a lot of propaganda that led the Hungarians to believe that we would help.” Wisner, who had been involved in creating this propaganda, told friends that he felt the American government had let Hungary down. He pointed out that they had spent a great deal of money on Radio Free Europe “to get these people to revolt”. Wisner added that he felt personally betrayed by this behaviour. During the Hungarian Uprising an estimated 20,000 people were killed. Wisner told Clare Boothe Luce, the American ambassador in Italy: “All these people are getting killed and we weren’t doing anything, we were ignoring it.” In December, 1956, Wisner had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression. During his absence Wisner’s job was covered by his chief of operations, Richard Helms. Wisner’s friends believed the illness was triggered by the failure of the Hungarian Uprising. A close friend, Avis Bohlen said he “was so depressed about how the world was going… he felt we were losing the Cold War.” The CIA sent Wisner to the Sheppard-Pratt Institute, a psychiatric hospital near Baltimore. He was prescribed psychoanalysis and shock therapy (electroconvulsive treatment). It was not successful and still suffering from depression, he was released from hospital in 1958. Wisner was too ill to return to his post as head of the DDP. Allen W. Dulles therefore sent him to London to be CIA chief of station in England. Dulles decided that Richard Bissell rather than Richard Helms should become the new head of the DPP. Wisner arrived in England in September, 1959. His work involved planning a coup in Guyana, a country that had a left-wing government. In April 1962 Richard Helms recalled Wisner to Washington. Four months later he agreed to retire from the CIA. Frank Wisner killed himself with one of his son’s shotguns on 29th October, 1965.

Primary Sources

(1) David Wise and Thomas Ross, Invisible Government (1964)

A decision was reached to create an organization within the CIA to conduct secret political operations. Frank G. Wisner, an ex-OSS man, was brought in from the State Department to head it, with a cover title of his own invention. He became Assistant Director of the Office of Policy Coordination. Under this innocuous title, the United States was now fully in the business of covert political operations. (A separate Office of Special Operations conducted secret actions aimed solely at gathering intelligence.) This machinery was in the CIA but the agency shared control of it with the State Department and the Pentagon. On January 4, 1951, the CIA merged the two offices and created a new Plans Division, which has had sole control over secret operations of all types since that date. It is doubtful that many of the lawmakers who voted for the 1947 Act could have envisioned the scale on which the CIA would engage in operational activities all over the world.

(2) Richard Bissell, Reflections of a Cold Warrior (1996)

I was very uninformed about covert activities… Even with my curious nature, I myself was unaware, except in the vaguest terms, what political action projects were going forward and how (Frank Wisner was spending Marshall Plan counterpart funds.) I don’t think any of us were worried… I suspect that had we known more (it would have just made us more appreciative.) It has since become known (that) we in the Marshall Plan were dealing-with quite a number of people who were beneficiaries of the CIA’s early covert political action programs, (including) many left-of-center organizations… Vibrant democratic parties, even socialist ones, were preferable to a Communist victory.

(3) Edward G. Shirley, Atlantic Monthly (February, 1998)

In the 1950s and early 1960s the CIA’s top leaders – men like Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Tracy Barnes, and Desmond Fitzgerald – were profoundly devoted to covert action. Covert action (orchestrating coups, anti-Communist insurgencies, academic conferences, labor unions, political parties, publishing houses, and shipping companies) required considerable manpower, and it drew the intellectual crème de la crème. It compelled a higher degree of intellectual curiosity, accomplishment, and operational savior faire than did espionage (“espionage” referring specifically to the recruitment of foreign intelligence agents). With so many talented officers working in covert action, and with most of the foreigners involved being friendly collaborators and not “recruited” assets, the do could scarcely base promotions on the number of recruitments a case officer made each year.

(4) David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch 25 Years of Peculiar Service (1977)

“Tomorrow morning, gentlemen,” Dulles said, “we will go to the White House to brief the President. Let’s run over your presentations.” It was a warm summer night. We drank iced tea as we sat around a garden table in Dulles’ back yard. The lighted shaft of the Washington Monument could be seen through the trees. . . . Finally Brad (Colonel Albert Haney) rehearsed his speech. When he finished Alien Dulles said, “Brad, I’ve never heard such crap.” It was the nearest thing to an expletive I ever heard Dulles use. The Director turned to me “They tell me you know how to write. Work out a new speech for Brad… We went to the White House in the morning. Gathered in the theater in the East Wing were more notables than I had ever seen: the President, his Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State – Alien Dulles’s brother, Foster – the Attorney General, and perhaps two dozen other members of the President’s Cabinet and household staff…. The lights were turned off while Brad used slides during his report. A door opened near me. In the darkness I could see only a silhouette of the person entering the room when the door closed it was dark again, and I could not make out the features of the man standing next to me. He whispered a number of questions: “Who is that? Who made that decision?” I was vaguely uncomfortable. The questions from the unknown man next to me were very insistent, furtive. Brad finished and the lights went up. The man moved away. He was Richard Nixon, the Vice President. Eisenhower’s first question was to Hector (Rip Robertson): “How many men did Castillo Armas lose?” Hector (Rip Robertson) said only one, a courier… . Eisenhower shook his head, perhaps thinking of the thousands who had died in France. “Incredible…” Nixon asked a number of questions, concise and to the point, and demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the Guatemalan political situation. He was impressive – not at all the disturbing man he was in the shadows. Eisenhower turned to his Chief of the Joint Chiefs. “What about the Russians? Any reaction?” General Ridgeway answered. “They don’t seem to be up to anything. But the navy is watching a Soviet sub in the area it could be there to evacuate some of Arbenz’s friends, or to supply arms to any resisters.” Eisenhower shook hands all around. “Great,” he said to Brad, “that was a good briefing.” Hector and I smiled at each other as Brad flushed with pleasure. The President’s final handshake was with Alien Dulles. “Thanks Allen, and thanks to all of you. You’ve averted a Soviet beachhead in our hemisphere.” Eisenhower spoke to his Chief of Naval Operations “Watch that sub. Admiral. If it gets near the coast of Guatemala we’ll sink the son-of-a-bitch. ‘ The President strode from the room.

(5) John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (1986)

The nature of Arbenz’s government, however, meant that Operation Success launched both the CIA and the United States on a new path. Mussadegh in Iran was left-wing and had indulged in talks with Russian diplomats about possible alliances and treaties. Arbenz, on the other hand, had simply been trying to reform his country and had not sought foreign help in this. Thus by overthrowing him, America was in effect making a new decision in the cold war. No longer would the Monroe Doctrine, which was directed against foreign imperial ambitions in the Americas from across the Atlantic or the Pacific, suffice. Now internal subversion communism from within – was an additional cause for direct action. What was not said, but what was already clear after the events in East Germany the previous year, was that the exercise of American power, even clandestinely through the CIA, would not be undertaken where Soviet power was already established. In addition, regardless of the principles being professed, when direct action was taken (whether clandestine or not), the interests of American business would be a consideration: if the flag was to follow, it would quite definitely follow trade. The whole arrangement of American power in the world from the nineteenth century was based on commercial concerns and methods of operation his had given America a material empire through the ownership of foreign transport systems, oil fields, estancias, stocks, and shares. It had also given America resources and experience (concentrated in private hands) with the world outside the Americas, used effectively by the OSS during World War II American government, however, had stayed in America, lending its influence to business but never trying to overthrow other governments for commercial purposes. After World War II, American governments were more willing to use their influence and strength all over the world for the first time and to see an ideological implication in the “persecution” of US business interests.


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'The Quiet Americans' Examines Tragic Miscalculations In The CIA's Formative Years

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in today for Terry Gross.

We're used to a world in which American intelligence services operate with enormous power and reach. Our guest today, writer Scott Anderson, has written a book about the early years of the CIA, when America was victorious in World War II and former soldiers were improvising a campaign of spying and covert operations to contain and undermine the nation's new adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a time, Anderson writes, when Americans wielded great moral authority in the world, and nations struggling to throw off colonial rule looked to the United States as a beacon of freedom and democracy. Anderson concludes that the CIA's rigid commitment to anti-communism and willingness to topple democratically-elected governments squandered the goodwill the U.S. held in the developing world and led to a disastrous war in Vietnam.

Anderson tells the story through the lives of four young men who played important roles in the CIA in his book, "The Quiet Americans." I interviewed him last year when the book was published. It's just come out in paperback.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DAVIES: Well, Scott Anderson, welcome back to FRESH AIR.

SCOTT ANDERSON: Thank you, Dave. Thanks for having me on.

DAVIES: You lived abroad a lot as a kid, including a long time in Taiwan, where you kind of grew up on the edges of the Cold War. You know, you write that your father, who worked for the U.S. government, eventually became disillusioned with the policy approaches of the government and took an early retirement. You went on to become a journalist. And you were a war correspondent in a lot of conflict zones. And you tell a story of a moment in Central America that kind of captured your own reckoning with the U.S. commitment to anti-communism and its effect. Do you want to share that with us?

ANDERSON: Sure. It was in 1984. I was an aspiring journalist at that point. I had gone down to El Salvador. And in 1984, the so-called dirty war in El Salvador was really starting to wind down a bit. And perhaps over the previous four years, something like 60,000 people died in this war, and the vast majority of them killed by - not in combat, but by right-wing death squads that were part of the government.

DAVIES: You know, it was a leftist insurgency against a right-wing government, right? Yeah.

ANDERSON: That's right, and a right-wing government being supported by the Reagan administration. But by 1984, the Reagan administration's whole attitude was, well, the war is winding down. You know, the death squads are, you know, are not nearly as active as they once were. And, you know, they're really not part of the government. And so it was - this fiction had been going on for quite some time.

And so this one day I was in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, and I was walking along a downtown street, and a van passed me. It pulled to a stop maybe - I don't know - a hundred feet ahead of me. And out came a body of a dead woman. Her thumbs were tied in front of her. And just - the body was just tossed out on the street. And as - I was the only person on this street. And as I kind of tentatively walked towards this woman who I, you know, clearly knew was dead, even before I got to her, a matter of maybe 10 seconds after the first van had pulled away, a military van pulls up. Three soldiers get out. One points a gun at my feet, kind of the universal, you know, stay back symbol, and the other two men - the other two soldiers pick up the body, throw it in their van. They all get back in the van and drive away.

So it was this very kind of - very seamless sleight of hand idea where the, you know, the so-called anonymous death squad has dumped this body, and literally 10 seconds later, the government has come to collect it. And there was something in that moment that just, for me, it just really brought home this idea of, you know, what has the American government come to that we are supporting governments who will murder their own citizens and just throw their bodies out in broad daylight? And so that was really kind of a turning point for me of just how squalid had our foreign policy become.

DAVIES: So this book is about the early years of the CIA kind of from the end of World War II through the mid-'50s and when the CIA had sort of become a primary instrument of policy in fighting the Cold War. You know, we're used to the American intelligence community being huge. But before World War II, the Soviets had - they had a huge intelligence operation. They'd been spying for a long time - not so much the United States. Why?

ANDERSON: You know, America was really - up until we came into World War II, we were still a deeply isolationist country, I think, at our core to the point where we had no permanent foreign intelligence agency. It wasn't until World War II with the creation of the Office of Strategic Services that there was any kind of foreign intelligence office. So the four men I profile were all in the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, during the war.

And then President Truman shut down the OSS in the immediate aftermath of the war. And it was this idea that, OK, the war is over we're all going home. The American military was demobilizing at the rate of 15,000 soldiers a day. And it was like, our job is done, and we're just - we're going back home to, you know, our American way of life - so utterly unprepared for what was coming.

There was an interim organization started that was kind of the bridge between the OSS and the CIA. And one of the men I write about in the book, Peter Sichel, he was sent to Berlin to head up the - this unit of the Strategic Services unit. And this really goes to just how kind of utterly unprepared the Americans were. Berlin, of course, being - the post-war Berlin was ground zero of the coming Cold War. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Soviet intelligence officers running through Berlin.

And the unit that Peter Sichel headed up and was the first covert intelligence unit in Berlin consisted of nine people. And he was the head of it, and he had just turned 24. So it really just shows how completely - I mean, not to take anything away from Peter. He was a brilliant man. But they really were not preparing for what they were in for.

DAVIES: So as World War II was wrapping up and the Soviet army was moving into a lot of nations in Eastern Europe, American policymakers at the top didn't quite get the extent to which the Soviet would seek to create client states in Eastern Europe. And these early spies that you write about in the book, these members, most of whom had been soldiers, in some cases operating clandestinely behind German lines - these guys encountered this and kind of had to alert American policymakers to what's going on. And one of the most striking examples was in the country of Romania. That was Frank Wisner - right? - who was there.

ANDERSON: That's right - Frank Wisner.

DAVIES: Tell us what he experienced there with the Soviet moves in Romania.

ANDERSON: Yeah. Frank Wisner is - he's a fascinating figure, and he would later go on to head the covert operations wing of the CIA, the Office of Policy Coordination. But in 1944, the Romanians, who had been allied with Nazi Germany, switched sides and joined the Allies. And it came when the Soviet Army, the Red Army, was literally on the frontier with Romania. So Romania came under Soviet army control very quickly.

Frank Wisner was the first American in, and this - you're talking August, September - I guess September of 1944. So still, there's still another, you know, year left in the war. And what he saw firsthand was how the Soviets were just dictating the interim government. They were, frankly, looting the country of Romania, dismantling factories and putting them on trains and hauling them back to the Soviet Union. And he started sending these cables saying, our allies, the Soviets, are just completely taking over this country. And again, it's this very early warning. He was the canary in the coal mine - was just ignored to the point where his - the head of the OSS, William Donovan, sent him back kind of a stern cable saying, don't keep beating up on the Soviets you have to get along with them.

DAVIES: The OSS being the precursor to the CIA, right?

ANDERSON: That's right. That's right. And, you know, and part of it - you know, and this was just in the runup to, you know, the Yalta Conference, where the right-wing - political right wing in the United States and - you know, even today sort of sees Yalta as a sellout of Eastern Europe, that FDR handed Eastern Europe over to the Soviets.

But what you also saw at the same time - and Romania's a good example of this - is what could the Americans have done? Short of going to war or threatening war with the Soviet Union, how were they going to exert their control over Eastern Europe? In Romania, by 1945, by the end of the war, there were 600,000 Soviet troops just in Romania. And the American contingent in Romania was about - it was about 150 - not 150,000, but 150. So how are 150 guys going to stand up to 600,000?

So there was - there really was this element of fait accompli that you saw throughout Eastern Europe unless the United States was really, you know, really willing to threaten war, which also meant stopping the demobilization and gearing up for what would've been World War III.

DAVIES: You know, there's a context here, and that is that, you know, the Soviets had suffered terribly at the hands of the German invasion. You know - what? - 20 million or more killed. And the Romanians were on the side of the Germans here. So when it came time for the Soviets to come back and take the country, there wasn't much goodwill. I mean, there was a sense of hatred and vengeance to be enacted on these people, their former adversaries, who had cooperated with the Nazis. So that was part of what was going on.

But they really took over the government, kind of basically banned all other political parties. And there's another moment which is so striking, where there were about 100,000 people in Romania of ethnic German descent. What did the Soviets do with them?

ANDERSON: Right. And again, this is when the war is still raging, but Romania is now behind the front lines. The Soviets sent down this edict that all ethnic Germans were to be rounded up. And some hundred thousand of them were put on trains - overcrowded trains - and sent to the Soviet Union essentially as slave labor.

And Frank Wisner was in Bucharest, the capital, when this was going on. He tried to prevent it. He couldn't prevent it. And that image haunted him forever. It is watching these tens of thousands of ethnic German families being, you know, herded onto rail cars and sent off to the Soviet Union. It's something that came up again and again with Frank Wisner throughout the rest of his life. And his wife at one point said, you know, I think everything changed for him at that moment.

DAVIES: You know, this image of these civilians being hauled into railroad cars and taken away just inevitably calls to mind the Holocaust. Was that comparison apparent to anybody at the time?

ANDERSON: I think that's exactly what was in Wisner's mind. And I got to say the interesting thing is, in fact, most of those hundred thousand ethnic Germans that were sent to the Soviet Union in 1944 - the vast majority of them actually came back. They were - worked hard labor for the Soviets, but the vast majority of them came home. But I think the reason that was such a - had such a profound effect on Wisner as a witness to that was that in his own mind, it inevitably drew comparisons to the Holocaust. So I think that's the image that he kept in his mind.

DAVIES: We're going to take a break here. Let me reintroduce you. Scott Anderson's new book is "The Quiet Americans." We'll continue our conversation after this short break. This is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson. He has a new book about the early years of the CIA from the end of World War II through the mid-'50s, when the agency was a key instrument of policy in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Anderson's book is "The Quiet Americans."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DAVIES: So eventually, a U.S. policymaker realizes that the Soviet Union intends to dominate the countries of Eastern Europe. And, you know, there was an argument that they needed a buffer zone given the suffering that they had suffered in World War II. But it was heavy-handed. It was ruthless. And so they directed this growing little spy operation, the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS, which became the CIA, to start doing something about it, to fight back.

And you write about one of the first places was Albania, you know, between Greece and Yugoslavia. What did they try and do to deal with the Soviet client regime there?

ANDERSON: Right. So the interesting thing with Albania from a kind of, you know, geopolitical standpoint is that of the Soviet bloc countries, it was the one that was - that had no border with the Soviet Union. It was the most geographically isolated. And especially Yugoslavia, which surrounds it on two sides, had kind of broken away from the Soviet bloc. So Albania was quite isolated and also had a really despotic dictator who ran things. So the CIA decided that, you know, if they were going to be able to peel off any country from the Soviet bloc, it would be Albania. And, you know, this was an idea hardly endorsed by the, you know, thousands - tens of thousands of Albanian refugees who escaped communist rule there.

So they launched this operation called Operation Valuable Fiend. It's a great name. I actually got very lucky with the operational names in my book because, you know, I could've been stuck with really quite tedious ones. But, I mean, Valuable Fiend is just perfect. And so one of the other characters of my book, Michael Burke, he was put in charge of Operation Valuable Fiend. He operated it out of Rome.

So - and there's this kind of wonderful kind of James Bond quality to this - to Michael Burke's time in Rome, where he has no job, but he has a lot of money. He's throwing around a lot of money. So he has to look like a man of means and - so he passes himself off. His cover story is that he's a film producer.

DAVIES: Right. Yeah. He has a lot of money because he got it from the CIA, right (laughter)?

ANDERSON: That's right. That's right. Yeah, yeah (laughter). And so he's hanging out with the whole film set of "Rome." And the late '40s was kind of the heyday of the Italian cinema scene. So during the day, he's hanging out with all these actors and movie directors. And at night, he's slipping off to meet with his Albanian conspirators that - planning these - they're going to be dropping paramilitaries in airdrops into Albania - and this kind of bifurcated life he went to back and forth.

And at one point, he became worried that, you know, I'm passing myself off as a film producer. But I'm not actually producing anything. And at certain point, aren't people going to start asking questions about, you know, what I'm doing? But then it - but it turned out that, you know, the Italian film people were just as self-absorbed as.

ANDERSON: . People in Hollywood. And all they wanted to do was talk about themselves. They were never going to ask questions about what (laughter) he was up to. So his cover remained intact. But the Operation Valuable Fiend turned into a disaster. It was a precursor of a number of disasters that were coming.

DAVIES: So what they would do is they would get these Albanian anti-communist patriots and convince them to be dropped in groups of, you know, four, five, 10 behind Albanian lines and do what, exactly?

ANDERSON: That was the part that was very vague. It was, you know - it ranged everything - oh, you're supposed to go in just to, you know, is there the potential for counterrevolution here? Maybe they were going to go in to set up revolutionary cells, to organize people to fight against the regime. But the reality was that, certainly, Albania was one of the most battened down countries. The secret police were everywhere. And so the moment these people parachuted in, the secret police were already looking for them. Plus, the fact that, almost certainly, the emigre organizations back in Europe - in Western Europe - had been thoroughly infiltrated by the KGB.

DAVIES: So they went badly. And a lot of these people were captured and killed - right? - if not all, right?

ANDERSON: Right. And Albania was a precursor to other infiltration operations all through Eastern Europe. And uniformly, they were a disaster.

DAVIES: Well, I wanted to talk about that. So after this Albanian operation, the CIA decided to try and create covert operations to foment revolution or resistance in a lot of Eastern European countries now dominated by the Soviet Union - Poland, of course, the eastern half of Germany, Czechoslovakia. And Michael Burke, who's one of the characters that you write about, organizes these things. Just give us a sense of sort of how many of these operations they were, how they were executed and what the results seemed to be.

ANDERSON: There were hundreds of these operations. And, yes, they ranged all the way from Bulgaria in the southeast of Europe all the way up to Poland, even in the Baltic states that were under Soviet control - or were part of the Soviet Union. They were uniformly disastrous. Virtually everybody who was parachuted in either disappeared or were captured and executed. And the most astonishing case of that was in Poland, where immediately after the end of World War II, this organization had started up called Freedom and Liberty opposing Soviet control of Poland. And by 1947-48, it had been completely wiped out.

Couple of years later, all of a sudden, it reappears. And it starts sending messages out to the West starting around 1949 saying, OK, we're not the 30,000 fighters we were two, three years ago. But we're still fighting. And, you know, we need help. So the CIA launches this operation to help this anti-communist group inside Poland, air dropping partisan commandos in. And Michael Burke is one of the people in the field who's overseeing these airdrop missions, dropping in weapons, dropping in money and dropping in commandos.

And it finally turns out that the whole thing has been a hoax all along, that, in fact, this organization had been wiped out in 1947. And the whole thing was just a Polish government and KGB sting operation that had involved, certainly, dozens, if not, hundreds of people in this massive hoax. And for two years, the CIA had been sending these commandos in, sending this money in right into the hands of the Polish secret police and the KGB.

In Michael Burke's case - I think, as with a lot of the CIA people in Europe at the time who were overseeing these operations - the Polish hoax really had this effect of, like, well, if they could pull this off, if they could pull off a hoax like this, a deception operation, that clearly involved scores and scores of people and we never had a clue, how do we ever penetrate this world?

DAVIES: Scott Anderson's new book is "The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies At The Dawn Of The Cold War - A Tragedy In Three Acts." We spoke last year, when his book was published. It's now out in paperback. He'll be back to talk more after we take this short break. And TV critic David Bianculli tells us why he loves the return of two shows, but hates how you have to watch them. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. We're speaking with Scott Anderson. He's a veteran war correspondent who's written two novels and four nonfiction books. His latest looks at the early years of the CIA from the end of World War II through the mid-1950s. He says it was a time when American goodwill in the post-colonial world was squandered by ill-advised covert operations, some of which toppled democratically-elected governments in the developing world. His book is called "The Quiet Americans."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DAVIES: You know, in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower is elected president, he appoints as secretary of state John Foster Dulles, who is the brother of Allen Dulles, who headed the CIA. Both were corporate lawyers in their civilian lives. Describe the approach that the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles brought to the challenge of dealing with the Soviet Union.

ANDERSON: Dulles is just a remarkable figure and, from my vantage point, probably did more damage to Americans' standing in the world than almost anyone I can think of in the 20th century. John Foster Dulles had this - everything was black and white. And around the world, you were either with the United States or you're with the Soviets - allowing no countries to be neutral, essentially. If you were neutral, then you were with the other side.

But he also had this very bizarre view of the Soviet Union that was simultaneously a power that was trying to take over the world by any means possible, but at the same time, about to disintegrate, about to fall apart, which to my mind seems almost kind of mutually opposing ideas. But John Foster Dulles saw everything through that prism. So any overture from the Soviets was a trick. It was either a trick to enhance their ability to take over. Or it was a sign of their internal weakness.

So if they - after Stalin died, the new leaders of the Soviet Union expressed this interest of peaceful coexistence. They came up with the phrase peaceful coexistence and extended an olive branch to the West, one that the British and the French wanted to work with. Dulles shot it down, saying, you know, this - it's a trick and it proves how weak they are. Why accept half a loaf when we're just about to get the whole thing? So there's this very schizophrenic foreign policy within the Eisenhower administration. And Eisenhower seemed to really hand over most of the heavy thinking, the heavy lifting, of Soviet policy off to Dulles.

DAVIES: And we should note that as the '50s progressed, you know, the strategic situation changes because the United States loses its monopoly on nuclear weapons. And there's the possibility, increasingly, of a nuclear war, which no one wants. So it makes these, you know, kind of brushfire encounters or covert operations kind of a central front. And, you know, so Dulles' perspective was we have to maintain maximum pressure on the Soviet Union to hasten its disintegration. And don't take any peaceful overtures seriously.

One of the things that was fascinating about these covert operations, which Michael Burke, one of the people you write about, supervised - sending hundreds of people over in small groups into these Soviet-dominated states, mostly to be captured and caught immediately - was if they were actually successful in building a cell of resistance and creating an armed revolt in one of these countries - Poland, Czechoslovakia - what would the United States do? I mean, that's - you know, would it lead to military assistance from the West?

ANDERSON: You know, it's absolutely astonishing. But that very question seems to have been one that the Eisenhower administration in general and John Foster Dulles in particular never really thought through. They stayed with this rhetoric of rollback. We're going to rollback communism. We're going to deliberate the so-called captive nations of Eastern Europe. So they continued the infiltration operations all around the world. It was this idea of, you know, keep pushing against the Soviets but without really any thought of, exactly as you said, of how much the world had changed. And it's interesting. When Eisenhower came in, he enacted this policy called the New Look policy. And it was this idea that Americans reserve the right of - to take massive retaliation against Soviet aggression, that being a euphemism for a nuclear first strike.

And what no one seemed to kind of think through with the New Look policy is that what that then did was that locked into place the dividing line in Europe, because now Western Europe was in the vital interest of the United States. If the Soviets tried to do something there, it would hasten a nuclear war. But the same thing in reverse in Eastern Europe. And it really wasn't until you finally had an anti-communist uprising in the east - in Eastern Europe in Hungary in 1956 that the built-in contradiction of the New Look policy, all of a sudden you see it's utterly unworkable.

DAVIES: You know, there was a case in Berlin, where on the Soviet-controlled side of it, there was a strike which turned into massive street demonstrations. And people were looking for the United States to act in some way, you know, provide weapons, provide strong statements of support. Nothing much happened there.

DAVIES: And then, in 1956 - this is a remarkable thing that some will remember. But demonstrations in Hungary kind of progressed into a full-on revolt in which the police in some cases turned weapons over to the demonstrators. And they took on Soviet units in Budapest and killed a lot of Russian soldiers. This created an enormous crisis. Describe what happened and how the United States reacted.

ANDERSON: Yeah. When - the great irony of the Hungarian Revolution is that, you know, after a decade of the CIA trying to foment anti-communist uprisings in Eastern Europe, here one came. And it was spontaneous. It was not CIA-sponsored. The CIA had no idea it was coming. And, in fact, it would have been very hard to predict because it really did have this quality of spontaneous combustion. At the same time, there was a precursor. There had been a big liberalization movement that happened in Poland just the month before. And this is in the early days of Khrushchev. And he is - he's clearly trying to liberalize both in the Soviet Union and in the satellite nations of Eastern Europe.

So when the Hungarian Revolution blows up - and it literally happened overnight - Frank Wisner, who was the head of the covert operations unit of the CIA, this is his dream come true. This is what he has been fighting for, you know, for the last 10 years. And he argues, you know, we've got to - we've been telling them we're going to come to their aid. Radio Free Europe has been telling people to rebel. We have to move. And, you know, the graybeards back in Washington, all of a sudden, realize or decide we can't because if we do, we might trigger the nuclear war that we're all fearing because we are - if we go into Hungary, we are going into, you know, the sphere of Soviet influence that could be inviolate and could trigger the war. So they do nothing, and they let the - they just let the revolution be crushed by the Soviets.

DAVIES: Right. Let me reintroduce you again. We're going to take a break here. We're speaking with Scott Anderson. His new book is "The Quiet Americans." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson. He has a new book about the early years of the CIA from the end of World War II through the mid-1950s, when the agency was a key instrument of policy in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Anderson's book is "The Quiet Americans."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DAVIES: Historians hate to be asked to play what if, but let's just do this for a second. You know, you look at when Stalin dies - when was that? - about 1953, right?

DAVIES: Khrushchev comes to power. He talks about peaceful coexistence. At one point, I think he says, you know, well, if you guys are forming NATO as mutual defense, maybe we should join NATO.

DAVIES: You know, he does - once the the Hungarian rebellion occurs, there's a moment where he seems to relent and say, OK, you can have the reformist prime minister. I'll pull Soviet troops out of the country. We'll have sort of a commonwealth, rather than this Soviet client state. And throughout all of these steps, the U.S. policymakers, led by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, have no interest in courting a friendship with the Soviet Union or encouraging some of these steps. Had they taken a different approach, would history be different?

ANDERSON: I think it would be radically different. I often think that - and I think you hit it on the nose - that that moment - and it's why my book kind of ends with the Hungarian Revolution because I think that was the absolute key moment when this Cold War could have started to end right there. The Soviet Politburo, at Khrushchev's insistence, on October 31, 1956, decided they were pulling out of Hungary and, as you said, that they were going to change the relationship of all the Eastern European countries with the Soviet Union to being this loose confederation. The next day - November 1, 1956 - over the course of that night, Khrushchev had a complete change of heart. And he goes back to the Politburo the next day and says, look, if the Americans were going to do anything, they would have done it by now. And if we lose Hungary, we're going to lose all the others. This is going to become a cascade.

So on that day, Khrushchev and the Politburo completely changed course, and they ordered the tanks back into Hungary. And, of course, this was after, you know, three years of there being a number of overtures by the Soviets towards the West for a rapprochement and being rebuffed every time. And what you see after Hungary is Khrushchev, who really had been very much a reformer for the previous three years - he was the one who led the de-Stalinization policy - he becomes more and more of a hardliner, you know, to the point where he precipitates the October Missile Crisis in 1962. But that was absolutely one of those great historical what-if moments - if the Americans had played things differently with Hungary.

DAVIES: The CIA was, of course, active in other parts of the world - I mean, not just Europe - particularly the developing world, where, you know, you had a lot of countries that had been European colonies for decades and were looking to strike out an independent course. And then there were cases where governments would come to power, in some cases, through democratic elections and pursue courses that were regarded as dangerous - you know, expropriating foreign investments, et cetera. You want to give a couple examples of ways in which the CIA dealt quickly and effectively with those?

ANDERSON: Yeah. And I think this is the next stage on. And then you see this when Eisenhower comes to power and has John Foster Dulles as secretary of state. Now we're not just propping up dictatorships, we're creating them (laughter). And the two places that happened early in Eisenhower's administration was in Iran in 1953 and then Guatemala the following year - both democracies, but they both had functioning, working parliaments.

And the irony is that neither of them had - really had any sort of relations with the Soviet Union. But as you said, industrial powers - in Iran's case, the oil companies, and in Guatemala, the United Fruit Company that ran Guatemala as, essentially, a plantation - they began fomenting that these leftist leaders are going to - you know, they're going to take their countries into the Soviet orbit. And we've got to get rid of them. So under orders from on high, the CIA overthrew both of those governments, the Mossadegh regime in Iran and the Arbenz regime in Guatemala.

DAVIES: You know, it's kind of remarkable that the CIA was so utterly feckless in its attempts to foment revolution in Eastern Europe. But they actually succeeded in overthrowing these two governments. Take the one in Iran, Mossadegh. This was the Shah of Iran. I mean, the traditional imperial ruler was a factor here. Tell us exactly what happened. And how did the CIA affect this change?

ANDERSON: In both cases, actually, in both in Iran and Guatemala, they actually were these monumental bluffs that somehow worked. In both countries, the CIA basically rented - you know, it was Rent-A-Mob (ph). In Iran, they - it was literally Rent-A-Mob. In Iran, they rented demonstrators to protest against the Mossadegh regime and to support the shah who was trying to get rid of Mossadegh. And it created these spontaneous demonstrations in the streets of Tehran.

DAVIES: You mean they passed out cash to people to.

ANDERSON: Handed out cash. And at a certain point, the military joined the demonstrators. And in Guatemala, it was a phantom army of some 400 mercenaries that the CIA bankrolled that was, you know, allegedly this popular movement that was coming to, quote, "liberate" Guatemala from Arbenz - and again, just a monumental bluff. The liberation army - so-called liberation army - never got across the border. They were pinned down at the border. But in both cases - it's really remarkable symmetry. In both cases, it reached a point where the CIA and the people who were watching this back in Washington had given up. They saw both of these operations as complete failures. And there's this great detail of the CIA officer who was orchestrating the event in Iran. As he waited for the collapse of the coup, he holed himself up in a CIA safehouse, listening to Broadway show tunes and drinking sloe gin rickeys (laughter).

But in both cases - in Iran and Guatemala - at the 11th hour, when the CIA was about to pull the plug, everything turned. And the other side blinked, and Mossadegh collapsed. Arbenz collapsed. And the other key factor in both of these coups was they were incredibly cheap. It was essentially lunch money overthrowing these two countries. And, of course, it was so easy in both cases that it helped set up what was to come with the Bay of Pigs in 1961 - another really slapdash operation, but hey it worked twice before. Why not a third time? And instead, of course, the Bay of Pigs - it was a fiasco.

DAVIES: You know, I guess in the case of the coups in Iran and in Guatemala, a critical factor was creating a situation in which the military felt like they had to step in. Once the people who have the weapons weigh in on the side of the United States, that can be decisive, right?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. And - but, of course, there is the long-term repercussions of that. We saw how well having a military dictatorship with the shah in power, you know, worked in Iran. And, of course, the American-led coup in Guatemala led to 25 years of military dictatorships and slaughter in Guatemala.

DAVIES: And what was the impact throughout the developing world on the image of the United States? I mean, you made the point that, coming out of World War II, a lot of people looked to the United States, you know, as a force for freedom and independence.

ANDERSON: That's right. America was always seen, up until - really, until the end of World War II, it was the reluctant empire. It was the superpower, the emergent superpower that had no interest in taking over colonial possessions like the British and the French and especially with the way Roosevelt was talking throughout the '30s and certainly into World War II as this idea that America was going to be this beacon of freedom and the bringer of democracy.

By the time of Guatemala and Iran, under the Eisenhower administration - again, just 12 years later - it wasn't just Guatemala and Iran. Those were the successful coups the CIA pulled off. But what they'd also done is foment revolutions throughout the world. And I had this comment in the book that it was almost - it almost seemed by design that, under the Eisenhower administration, the CIA had gone into almost every region and subregion of the entire world, you know, as if to enrage (laughter) - you know, to enrage all the different, you know, regional blocs of the globe.

And it really had that effect. You saw - certainly, the Arab world had, by the end of the Eisenhower administration - that's a little more complicated because of Israel. But the Arab world, which had been very pro-Western, is almost uniformly anti-American. Latin America certainly had felt, you know, the heavy boot of the Americans because of Guatemala and other things they had been trying in the region. And, of course, what you see, you know, happening in Asia - so America really, by the mid-1950s - and, again, to my mind, largely through the exertions of John Foster Dulles, were - America was reviled and seen as the new imperial power looking to take over.

DAVIES: Well, it's quite a story. Scott Anderson, thank you so much for speaking with us again.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Dave. I really appreciate being on.

DAVIES: Scott Anderson is the author of "The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies At The Dawn Of The Cold War - A Tragedy In Three Acts," which is now out in paperback. Coming up, TV critic David Bianculli is happy about the return of two drama series and annoyed at what it takes to see them. This is FRESH AIR.

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