Some CIA Mistakes...


In the mid-1980s, I attended a Nuclear Freeze conference in Harrisburg. As part of a plenary session, advocates debated the use of William Colby's endorsement of a Nuclear Freeze.
Many former warriors, rejecting their past, do get involved in peace movements. But Colby, as far as I know, was never apologetic for his dastardly career.
So I joined the ranks of the conferees who were bitterly opposed, recognizing Colby, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as a war criminal. His support for a Freeze, in my opinion, could never exonerate him
Since Colby's drowning, there have been the requisite tributes. Peter Jay [The Sun, May 2] recognized his courage and long service to his country: "He made some mistakes, but his memory deserves some respect, and at least one rainbow." Nathan Miller [The Sun, May 9, under the headline, "Colby was fearless CIA leader who lifted the veil"] saw the CIA as a "convenient scapegoat" for those opposed to an interventionist foreign policy: "His revelation of the CIA's unsavory past in the face of criticism by his colleagues probably saved the CIA from destruction."
During the Vietnam War, Colby served as CIA station chief in Saigon. Eventually, though, he attained the rank of ambassador with responsibility for running the pacification program, a particularly perverse euphemism.
Jeff Stein [The Sun, May 12] waded into the waters of Colby's murky past with a remembrance of Kenneth Osborn, the whistle-blower who revealed the dark side of the pacification program, better known today as "Phoenix." In testimony presented to a congressional committee, Osborn described Phoenix as a "computerized genocide program" designed to root out opposition to the U.S. client government in South Vietnam.
Colby testified, "The Phoenix program was responsible for 20, 587 deaths." Presumably the spymaster was able to refer to computer records to document that precise number?
According to a January 18, 1973 Pacific New Service article, Chi Hoa prison in Saigon, with an estimated political prisoner population of 4,000, housed many of those not immediately killed during the Phoenix program. Of this group were 450 to 500 members of various religious organizations who refused conscription. Most, though, were special category prisoners detained for no criminal offense under the authority of the "Security Committee."
In the January 3, 1973 Le Monde, two French citizens, who spent two and a half years in Chi Hoa, detailed many examples of torture, violence and execution committed against political prisoners.
Jean-Pierre Debris and Andre Menras were in Saigon with the French advisory mission. They were arrested on July 25, 1970 for displaying a National Liberation Front flag, while making a statement for peace in front of the National Assembly building.
In prison, they were badly beaten by common criminals. The Le Monde article refers to the torture of prisoners who spent months, in some cases years, in two-feet-tall "tiger cages." Debris and Menras, freed December 29, 1972, felt U.S. advisors exercised control at Chi Hoa.
On February 1, 1973, President Nixon spoke at the 2lst Annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton: "...for the first time in ten years at one of these Prayer Breakfasts, the President of the United States is able to say the United States is at peace in Vietnam..."
But six days later, The Evening Star and The Washington Daily News revealed the war in Indochina would now escalate into a "secret war," involving thousands of U.S. advisors under the leadership of the CIA. Colby became director of the CIA in May 1973
When Colby disappeared April 27, 1996, Sister Dianna Ortiz, a member of the Mount St. Joseph Ursulines in western Kentucky, was fasting across from the White House to protest the government's lack of a response to her request for documents relating to her case. While living with the poor in Guatemala, she was abducted by the military, raped and tortured. She believes a North American advisor supervised her torture.
On May 2, a contingent of Baltimore-area activists went to the White House to support Sr. Dianna. Some 28 of them, demanding a response to her request, were arrested.
Her fast is over, and, at first glance, the documents released exonerated the CIA from involvement in her torture. Some classified documents, though, did link up the murders of Efrain Bamaca, Jennifer Harbury's husband, and Michael DeVine, the North American innkeeper, to a colonel on the CIA' s payroll.
Appearing on "Nightline," Ortiz was cross-examined by Cokie Roberts, who demanded proof of her allegation of CIA involvement. Roberts, a member of the elite media and the Washington political establishment, is too wise not to know about the stealth of the CIA.
John Stockwell, conscience-stricken like Osborn, revealed his involvement in agency operations in the dirty war in Angola in the 1970s in a book, In Search of Enemies. The former CIA operative explained the sophistication of the agency in keeping its worst secrets.
It is the height of hypocrisy for Cokie Roberts, who knows how the game is played, to attack on national television a torture victim for an absence of evidence. This is akin to blaming Oliver Stone for the refusal of the FBI and the CIA to release "classified" information relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. When the pundits profess admiration for the likes of the morally-deficient William Colby, I prefer to remember the victims and those courageous few who spoke out.
Thanks so very much Kenneth Osborn, Jean-Pierre Debris, Andre Menras, John Stockwell, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, and those who are nameless.

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This story was published on June 07, 1996.