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CIA subsumes the Secret Service

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In his 1961 book, Secret Service Chief, ostensibly co-written with Leonard Wallace Robinson, recently retired Secret Service head U.E. Baughman offered a plausible picture of the background to his decision to retire:

“I well remember one particular day of the lovely spring. It was an incredibly beautiful day in May. I drove to work through a world of beginnings, for everywhere everything had broken into blossom and bloom. I suddenly didn’t feel my too familiar weariness any more. But somehow I didn’t want to go to my office. I did go, however, through years of accumulated habit, and when I got there I felt intolerably restless; cabined and confined, imprisoned.

My wife had been after me to retire again – just the night before. Her arguments were good, irrefutable. I’d done my job. I needed change, to loaf and to invite my soul. I’d earned it. She said all this but somehow I had hardly listened to her. However, now, suddenly, her words became more meaningful. There was no real problem. I was eligible to retire, eminently so. I had put in thirty-three years of service and was five years over the retirement age.

I looked out of the window of the Treasury Building at the spring blue skies, at the visitors to Washington strolling on Pennsylvania Avenue. You could tell the visitors form the workers by their leisurely gate…

I paced around my office. My wall was hung with pictures of the people I had known and the people I had protected…I stopped before one of the awards now, a citation from the American Veterans of World War II…The citation went on and on and, while it was on the rhetorical side, it moved me curiously. I gave a deep sigh…For the first time I thought: ‘Perhaps that’s true; perhaps I’ve done enough. Perhaps I ought to relax now and let others take over.’

I took up my hat on a sudden impulse and left the office without telling anybody where I was going…I stayed out till 3.30 p.m. and on my back I called my wife and told her we were going to retire. She was beside herself with joy. ‘Have you told them already?’ she asked, as if fearful that I’d back down on my decision.

‘Yes,’ I lied.

But I made good on that white lie at once. I went back and phone Secretary of the Treasury Dillon to tell him of my decision. Saying good-bye to a lifetime of work was as easy as that; a simple phone call and your whole life could be changed,” (pp.258-260).

But was it as simple – not to mention schmaltzy and hackneyed - as described? There is ground for scepticism.

One source of such doubt comprises a UPI-sourced piece which appeared in the NYT in late January 1961. It reported the retirement of the deputy chief of the SS, Russell Daniel, 54, “an agent of thirty one years” who “could have become Chief of the Secret Service had he not elected to retire…It was learned that the chief, U.E. Baughman, had considered retiring in favor of Mr. Daniel.Now Mr. Baughman plans to remain head of the service for three or four years” (UPI, “Secret Service Shifts,” NYT, 26 January 1961, p.20). Baughman was only 56.

Nor was this the only ground. As we have seen above, Baughman dated his day of decision to May 1961. Yet it was to take until late July for the news to reach the press, at minimum, then, nearly two full months: “Chief of Secret Service to Retire Next Month,” NYT, 25 July 1961, p.17. According to this report, Baughman possessed “no plans to seek another job,” but was now “thinking about writing a book about his career.” (The Washington Post report repeated the line that Baughman “had no plans for private employment at the moment,” but failed to record Baughman’s new-found literary ambitions.) Why such an apparently lengthy delay between decision and public announcement? Was there an event or development which occurred in the intervening period that it was felt better to gloss over?

The suspicion that the book version of the circumstances surrounding Baughman’s decision to retire is not entirely reliable or candid is reinforced by a report which appeared in the NYT in late August 1961. According to the NYT’s Joseph Loftus, reporting on the approval given to Baughman to keep his guns in retirement, the latter had “received several job offers. Since he was only 56, he would surprise no one if he started a new career” (“Baughman able to keep guns,” NYT, 20 August 1961, p.58). Surprise no one, that is, except the authors of a book called Secret Service Chief.

Memory plays tricks, of course, and it is not my attention to spatchcock Baughman into the ranks of the conspirators. To the contrary, it was likely because he was of pre-war Cold War vintage and honest that he was subject to a little inducement to help sway his decision. What form could such an inducement have taken? How to tip to the balance for retirement – let us concede, as the evidence suggests, the disposition existed - without arousing suspicion? We have already seen the answer.

Memoirs as CIA pay-off, buy-out, &/or syke-warfare.

In Gavan McCormack’s contribution, “Burchett’s Thirty Years’ War,” to the Ben Kiernan-edited Burchett Reporting the Other Side of the World, 1939-1983 (London: Quartet Books, 1986), there is a rare mention of a classic CIA gambit (p.180):

“A prominent American journalist, Edward Hymoff, then bureau chief for International News Service in Seoul, was authorized by the American CIA to offer Burchett the huge sum of $100,000 if he would co-operate. The CIA plan called for Burchett to shout ‘sanctuary’ and run to a waiting helicopter which would whisk him out of the area. In Burchett’s words: “The only intelligence agency which ever tried to recruit me was the CIA, during the Korean armistice talks, some twenty-four years ago, for a down payment of $100,000. I refused the offer, of course.”(88) Hymoff confirmed this: “Burchett just grinned and said nothing. He didn’t take the bait.”(89)

Unfortunately, neither Burchett nor Hymoff is very precise as to when this exchange took place. Burchett put it at ‘1952 or 1953’; Hymoff mentioned that the money offer was in the form of a bid to buy Burchett’s ‘memoirs’ in the same way that General Dean’s had been bought (for $50,000) by the Saturday Evening Post, which means it must have come after Dean’s repatriation on 4 September [1953 – PR].”

88: The Guardian (New York), 16 November 1977. (See also ibid. for 30 November.)

89: John Hamilton, reporting from Washington in the Herald (Melbourne), 27 and 28 December 1977.

The company which took Secret Service Chief was Random House, a publishing house characterised by Christopher Story, the editor of Soviet Analyst and a man with excellent connections in the Anglosphere spookocracy, as a veritable “front for the Central Intelligence Agency” (Volume 29, Numbers 1-2, (May-June 2004), p. 17). Serialisation rights were quickly arranged with none other than the Washington Post, a Mockingbird bastion par excellence, which duly offered ten instalments beginning Christmas 1961. The book had four stand-out utilities to the CIA. For the moment, I confine myself to two, both of which featured in the WAPo extracts from the book.

First, it promulgated the establishment fiction that all previous would-be, not to mention actual, presidential assassins had been “lone-nuts,” an assertion hammered home. Second, and most unsubtly of all, the threat posed by “a good marksman with a high-powered telescopic rifle” was flagged. This latter theme was to remain a staple of the genre: In a lengthy profile of Baughman’s replacement, James Rowley, by Emile C. Schurmacher published in True magazine – the edition dated 22 November 1963 – only the identity of the originator of the fear had been changed (Emile C. Schurmacher, “The Man Who Protects the President,” True, 22 November 1963, pp.12-15, 73-79). This was a deliberate and systematic red-herring. It was to work triumphantly.

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