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The Mischief Makers

The recent N.Y. Times revelations that the CIA participated in the destabilization of Iran in the 1950s have again raised questions regarding the utility and accountability of the agency and the U.S. intelligence community in general. According to the New York Times report not only did the CIA design the coup that replaced Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh with the shah but it did so by fomenting discord among Iran's dissident groups. The Times report, based upon an internal CIA report, that is still declassified, even shows that prior to the coup, the CIA, posing as communists, bombed the home of a prominent Muslim in order to cause strife between communists and Muslims who were vying for control of the country. This incident and others in the report show that the CIA, for years, has been going well beyond its supposed task of information gathering and has been violently opposing many of the subjects of its investigations.

A quick look at the globe reveals that the CIA causes mischief and the shedding of blood just about wherever it goes. In China, the agency is hated and the United States with it, for the bombing of the Chinese embassy by U.S. forces during the war in Kosovo. According to the U.S., the embassy was bombed because the CIA was using out-dated maps of the area in which the Chinese embassy was located. Though the U.S. has apologized repeatedly, China still doubts that the bombing was an accident.

Last year in Germany, a U.S. ally, three CIA agents working in the country were recalled and were " accused of using false pretenses to recruit German citizens for unspecified economic espionage". The Germans see the CIA presence in their country today as unnecessary and a violation of its sovereignty.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, another U.S. ally, wants the CIA out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He sees the agency as a destabilizing force in the region and incapable of ensuring peace and security in the region. In 1998, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to the CIA presence in the region as part of the Wye peace accords between the Israelis and Palestinians. But the prevailing view in the country now is that the agency does more harm than good

In Chile, the CIA has come under fire for withholding information regarding the extent of its covert activities in that country and particularly its involvement in the 1973 coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende and its support of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The Washington Post revealed that the CIA recently succeeded in pulling back hundreds of documents on Chile that were previously discovered and declassified.

In the Congo, the CIA's covert activities in that country including its involvement in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and backing of Col. Joseph Mobutu have contributed to the destabilization of the African nation that continues today.

In Guatemala, the CIA is under fire for not informing Congress of human rights abuses committed by leaders and military officials that were receiving CIA support.

And throughout Latin America, the CIA has come under fire for its use of Christian missionaries to obtain land rich in natural resources and to manipulate and pacify indigenous people in the agency's fight against communism.

In the U.S. it is the question of the declassification of documents that has brought the CIA under some of its most intense criticism. Rep. Porter J. Gross (R-Fla) and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) have introduced legislation that would establish a 9-member public advisory board which would help expedite the multitude of requests for document declassification that currently are not being honored by the agency. Critics of the agency claim the CIA uses stall tactics to avoid submitting to declassification efforts and even has been known to destroy documents that should be in the public domain. Unfortunately for CIA-watchers, Senator Moynihan, the Congress' senior critic of the CIA and U.S. intelligence is serving in his final year in the Senate.

When one looks at the work of the CIA on a global level and then learns that its budget was just recently increased and continues to be secret (by law) one can only surmise that one of three things is occurring 1) the agency either is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing 2) those in the government who are responsible for the oversight of the CIA are not properly doing their jobs or 3) The CIA is more powerful than the government itself and immune to criticism and exempt from the rules of accountability.

The only way to be sure of the validity of any of these conclusions is to closely monitor the U.S. Congress' Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which has jurisdiction over the Central Intelligence Agency. Fortunately for the Black Electorate there are three members of the Congressional Black Caucus who sit on the committee, Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-CA), Rep. Sanford Bishop, Jr. (D-GA.) and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fl.). The importance of their role in getting the truth out about the CIA and other intelligence agencies, including the enormously powerful National Security Agency (NSA), cannot be understated.

Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

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