WASHINGTON – The CIA finally showed the public its so-called “family jewels” Tuesday, but even after 30 years it won’t tell all.
It still won’t tell even as much about the domestic spying scandal of the 1970s as Congress did a generation ago.
The documents – a list of horrors and abuses drawn up in 1973 by CIA officers themselves – set off that scandal. It sullied the reputation of the intelligence community and led to new rules for the CIA, FBI and other spy agencies and new permanent committees in Congress to oversee them.
The CIA released 693 pages of documents about spying on Americans, opening their mail and plotting to kill foreign leaders but vast sections were blocked out by agency censors.
As a result, they were far less revealing than the reports issued in the mid-1970s by the three investigations which were given unedited versions of these documents at that time – President Ford’s Rockefeller Commission, the Senate’s Church committee and the House’s Pike committee.
The panels spent years investigating and amplifying on these documents. And their public reports in the mid-1970s filled tens of thousands of pages.
In early 1975, CIA Director William Colby told the Justice Department that these documents detailed assassination plots against foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro, the testing of behavior-altering drugs on unwitting citizens, wiretapping of U.S. journalists, spying on civil rights and war protesters, opening of mail between the United States and the Soviet Union and China and break-ins at the homes of ex-CIA employees and others.
One of the most detailed descriptions in the newly released documents concerned one of the plots to kill the Cuban dictator Castro.
A memo by CIA security chief Howard Osborn said in August 1960 the CIA recruited ex-FBI agent Robert Maheu, who was a top aide to Howard Hughes in Las Vegas, to approach mobster Johnny Roselli and pass himself off as the representative of international corporations who wanted Castro killed.
Roselli introduced Maheu to “Sam Gold” and “Joe,” who were actually 10-most wanted mobsters Sam “Momo” Giancana, Al Capone’s successor in Chicago, and Santos Trafficante. The mobsters worked for free, turning down a $150,000 offer. The CIA gave them six poison pills, and they tried unsuccessfully for several months to have several people put them in the Cuban leader’s food.
This particular plot was dropped after the failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Other plots continued against Castro though they are not detailed in the newly released documents. Details of this plot first appeared in Jack Anderson’s newspaper column in 1971.
A Senate committee headed by Frank Church, D-Idaho, produced a 364-page report on assassination plots that described at least eight plots involving the CIA to assassinate Castro between 1960 and 1965.
In a message to CIA employees Tuesday, Director Michael Hayden said: “It’s important to remember that the CIA itself launched this process of recollection and self-examination. And it was the Agency itself that shared the resulting documents in full with Congress.
“The collection as a whole was exhaustively reviewed in the 1970s by three outside investigative panels,” Hayden said. The documents provide “reminders of some things the CIA should not have done” and “a glimpse of a very different era and a very different agency,” he said.