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John Simkin

Angus Mackenzie: "Secrets: The CIA's War at Home"

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Has anyone read Secrets: The CIA's War at Home. The author, Angus Mackenzie worked as an investigative journalist and had articles published in Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Washington Post, San Francisco Examiner and the Columbia Journalism Review. During his short career he won or shared over two dozen journalism awards, including the National Magazine Award.

Mackenzie also taught at the School of Journalism at the University of California. Along with David Weir he was a co-founder of the Center for Investigative Reporting, where he managed contracts with 60 Minutes, 20/20, CNN, CBS News, ABC News, and many other outlets.

Mackenzie was particularly interested in the covert activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. Over many years he accumulated evidence of the CIA's systematic efforts to suppress and censor information. Mackenzie discovered that this covert operations originated during the Cold War as the CIA instituted programs of domestic surveillance and agent provocateur activities. This included infiltrating organizations to setting up CIA-front student groups.

Angus Mackenzie died on 13th May, 1994, of brain cancer. The manuscript he had been working on for fifteen years was completed and edited by his friends. Secrets: The CIA's War at Home, was published in 1998.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKmackenzie.htm

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Mackenzie was particularly interested in the covert activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. Over many years he accumulated evidence of the CIA's systematic efforts to suppress and censor information. Mackenzie discovered that this covert operations originated during the Cold War as the CIA instituted programs of domestic surveillance and agent provocateur activities. This included infiltrating organizations to setting up CIA-front student groups.

Angus Mackenzie's book Secrets is a disturbing read. It highlights the growth of antiwar sentiment and documents the CIA's version of the FBI's COINTELPRO program, called MHCHAOS. This program was emblematic of the CIA's arrogant disregard for freedoms that Americans had long enjoyed before passage of the National Security Act of 1947.

Mackenzie cites the Californian congressman John Emerson Moss, whom he refers to as the father of the Freedom of Information Act. First introduced in 1954, Moss lived to see his bill finally enacted by Congress in 1966. Mackenzie writes:

The essential conflict, however, was far from resolved. In fact, the conflict was merely formalized. The Freedom of Information Act's requirements of openess placed it on a collision course with the National Security Act and its provisions for secrecy. For the next three decades there would be a series of confrontations between those devoted to reducing governmental secrecy and those bent on adding more layers to it.

Mackenzie describes the CIA's concern about Ramparts and Warren Hinckle. President Johnson's "rising anxiety" about the Vietnam war and the dissident press resulted in CIA Director Richard Helms appointing an admirer, Thomas Karamessines to deputy director of operations in July of 1967. Less than a month after his appointment, Karamessines started an operation to handle the antiwar press. According to Richard Ober this new operation, called Special Operations Group (SOG), was to be part of counterintelligence, and fell under the domain of James J Angleton, who was working under Karamessines. Thus MHCHAOS was born. The Ramparts task force was high priority.

The book goes on to discuss Victor Marchetti, Alfred McCoy and their efforts to get books published. Unlike Marchetti, McCoy had never been a government employee and therefore he was not subject to the same restraints. The CIA had no recourse in the courts.

As Mackenzie writes, the CIA ran into new fiscal restraints, and in 1972 Cord Meyer was assigned to look into cutting costs by reducing the scope of MHCHAOS. He met with Ober, but little was done.

There is an interesting chapter in Secrets entitled "Bush Perfects the Cover-up." In the fall of 1974, in response to a Supreme Court decision a year earlier, (an FOIA case EPA vs. Mink) Congress amended the FOIA to reverse the Mink decision. In the future, the government would have to prove why secrecy was necessary for each specific case.

A month later someone at the CIA leaked the news of MHCHAOS to Sy Hersh at the New York Times. The story, while sparse, made public the fact that the agency was spying on its citizens. Gerald Ford, in office for less than five months, directed William Colby to issue a report on MHCHAOS to Henry Kissinger. As Mackenzie writes, evidently Ford was not informed that Kissinger was well aware of the operation. He adds:

Because of MHCHAOS and Watergate, Congress began to investigate the CIA. On September 16, 1975 Senators Frank Church and John Tower called Colby to testify at a hearing about CIA assassinations. Colby showed up carrying a CIA poison dart gun, and Church waved the gun before the televison cameras. It looked like an automatic pistol with a telescopic sight mounted on the barrel. Producers of the evening news recognized this as sensational footage, and just as surely Colby recognized his days as director were numbered. He had not guarded the CIA secrets well enough.

Colby was fired on November 2, 1975. His successor was George Herbert Walker Bush.....

Mackenzie's account of Bush's rise and and his fall when Carter assumed office is brief, but intriguing. There is much, much more in Secrets about CIA efforts throughout the years in guarding their work from the public in this under-recognized work. The epilogue is entitled "The Cold War Ends and Secrecy Spreads." Mackenzie closes by writing:

Only recently in the history of the world's oldest republic has secrecy functioned principally to keep the American people in the dark about the nefarious activities of their government. The United States is no longer the nation its citizens once thought: a place, unlike most others in the world, free from censorship and thought police, where people can say what they want, when they want to, about their government. Almost a decade after the end of the cold war, espionage is not the issue, if it ever really was. The issue is freedom... Until the citizens of this land aggressively defend their First Amendment rights of free speech, there is little hope that this march to censorship will be reversed. The survival of the cornerstone of the Bill of Rights is at stake.

Succumbing to brain cancer before he turned fifty, Mackenzie sadly did not live to see the meteoric rise of the internet, nor did he live to see 9/11 and the current Bush Administration and their obsessive devotion to secrecy.

This work has relevance to the current situation regarding the agency's efforts to keep George Joannides' records secret.

Edited by Michael Hogan

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...

Because of MHCHAOS and Watergate, Congress began to investigate the CIA. On September 16, 1975 Senators Frank Church and John Tower called Colby to testify at a hearing about CIA assassinations. Colby showed up carrying a CIA poison dart gun, and Church waved the gun before the televison cameras. It looked like an automatic pistol with a telescopic sight mounted on the barrel. Producers of the evening news recognized this as sensational footage, and just as surely Colby recognized his days as director were numbered. He had not guarded the CIA secrets well enough.

Colby was fired on November 2, 1975. His successor was George Herbert Walker Bush.....

...

Mike, do you recall if the book gives any insight into Colby's bizarre death in a "boating accident" near his home? His body was found underwater

20 yards from the canoe after the area was thoroughly searched multiple times, without the life jacket his friends say he usually wore.

This was in 1996 though, long after his testimony to the Church commission.

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Mike, do you recall if the book gives any insight into Colby's bizarre death in a "boating accident" near his home? His body was found underwater 20 yards from the canoe after the area was thoroughly searched multiple times, without the life jacket his friends say he usually wore.

This was in 1996 though, long after his testimony to the Church commission.

Myra, he did not mention Colby's death. Mackenzie seemed to choose (wisely, I think) to write rather narrowly about the CIA's efforts to guard their secrets regarding domestic spying from the Congress, the press, and by default the American public.

I sometimes wished he had engaged in a little more speculation, but in the end perhaps his book was more effective doing it the way he did.

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Mike, do you recall if the book gives any insight into Colby's bizarre death in a "boating accident" near his home? His body was found underwater 20 yards from the canoe after the area was thoroughly searched multiple times, without the life jacket his friends say he usually wore.

This was in 1996 though, long after his testimony to the Church commission.

Myra, he did not mention Colby's death. Mackenzie seemed to choose (wisely, I think) to write rather narrowly about the CIA's efforts to guard their secrets regarding domestic spying from the Congress, the press, and by default the American public.

I sometimes wished he had engaged in a little more speculation, but in the end perhaps his book was more effective doing it the way he did.

Thanks Mike.

It sounds like a good book for the infinite reading queue.

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On the subject of Operation Chaos, Roger Morris, in Partners in Power, writes that LBJ had issued the following precise instructions regarding the student anti- war movement: "Get me some commie money and organizers behind this student xxxx".

Morris' sources seem to be divided on whether or not BILL CLINTON was recruited as an informant in the CIA's Operation Chaos:

One more CIA retiree would recall going through archives of Operation Chaos at the Langley Headquarters--part of an agency purge

amid the looming congressional investigations of the mid-1970s-- and seeing Bill Clintonlisted, alnogn with others, as a former imformant

who had gone on to run for or be elected toa political office of some import, in Clinton's case attorney eneral of Arkansas. "He was there

in the records,' the former agent said, " with a special designation," Still another CIA source contended that part of Clinton' arrangement a

informer had been further insurance against the draft. "He knew he was safe, you see, evein if he got a lattery number not high enough

and even if the ROTC thing fell through for some reason,' the source said," because the Company could get him a deferment if it had to, and

it was done all the time

Several CIA sources would agree nearly a quarter century after the events that there had indeed been several informants among the events

Americans gathered at British Universities at the end of the 1960s, young men who wnet onto prominance if not the Oval Office. "Lets just say

that some high today in the USG began thier official careers as snitches against the anti-war movement. "Close to Bill Clinton were informants

with a more formal relationsip than occasional sources,' said another ex-case-officer. "I can't and won't ever tell you names, but you'd sure

recognize them if I did' (p. 104).

Roger Morris was on the NSC under both Johnson and Nixon, although he resigned in protest over the the Vietnam War. He wrote a great book with his wife, Sally Denton about Las Vegas and the CIA called The Money and the Power. He's currently writing a book about the CIA in the Middle East. I think he would be a great addition to the forum.

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