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The CIA & the NSA

Tim Gratz

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NSA's 15 - Year Lie Was Finally Too Much

(Second of Two Articles)

Published On 2/25/1967 in "The Harvard Crimson"


More than once during the tangle that led to the disclosure to Ramparts of the CIA link, the NSA members involved must have felt like the non-heroes in LeCarre novels.

The story begins with Michael Wood, who was NSA director for development in 1965-66. Wood was "not-witty" -- spy jargon meaning the CIA had not informed him of the bond between the two organizations. He had learned about it privately from Phil Sherburne, then president of NSA and now at Harvard Law School.

Sherburne--who was "witty"--is the man most responsible for ending the relationship with the CIA. He was disturbed with the drain the CIA was causing on the emotional lives of those who had to maintain secrecy while still trying to be loyal to NSA. He realized, however, that NSA needed money.

Sherburne decided that his good friend Wood, who was in charge of NSA fund-raising, should know about the ties so he could begin searching for new sources of money. Unless money could be found, independence was tantamount to bankruptcy.

Sherburne told Wood about the CIA over lunch one day in a Washington restaurant, thus violating the security oath he had signed. He fully expected Wood to keep it a secret, but Wood did not. Ramparts says that Wood wrestled with his conscience for a few months, and decided it was his duty to tell. What Ramparts does not explain, and what few people realize, is the incredible component of frustration which the CIA introduced into Wood's year as development director.

Sherburne and Wood decided to stop taking CIA money. But when Wood, who knew about CIA, could not explain the loss of funds to NSA members who did not they fired him. Then Wood told Ramparts what he knew.

Wood had trouble finding sources of money to replace the CIA foundation grants, but Sherburne was convinced that the CIA tie had to be broken. He went to the agency, which reluctantly agreed to start phasing out its support. Wood, therefore, was faced with a whopping shortage. More important, he could not explain it to anyone who was not "witty." In particular, he could not explain it to the National Supervisory Board when it met in Illinois for the 1966 summer congress. The NSB, naturally, found Wood incapable of doing his job, and decided he had to go. They did not want to simply fire him for incompetence, however, for they feared it would ruin his draft deferment and make it impossible for him to go to graduate school the following year.

By September, however it was learned that Wood was 4-F so he was quietly released from his NSA post. Shortly afterwards he told his story to Ramparts.

Ramparts assembled a nationwide staff of researchers to trace the CIA money which was supposedly flowing to NSA. At Harvard, the magazine hired Michael Ansara '68, Michael Spiegel '68, and Michael Wright, who discovered that the Independence Foundation of Boston was feeding as much as $80,000 of CIA money into the NSA every year. This CIA front is headed by Paul Hellmuth, treasurer of the Harvard Law School Alumni Association. Hellmuth is not the only Harvard name to be uncovered in the last week's sleuthing. The president of the Law School Alumni Association is Robert Amory, a past denuty director of the CIA. Of the last four NSA presidents, two are now in the Law School and another one graduated last year.

Another of the CIA conduits, the Foundation for Youth and Student Affairs in New York, has a Harvard overseer, Amory Houghton Jr., on its board of trustees. FYSA was particularly interested in the International Student Relations Seminars (ISRS), conducted every summer in Cambridge from 1952 until 1960, when it moved first to Philadelphia and then to Washington.

ISRS, described last week by one of its former assistant directors as a "sophisticated indoctrination program," was sponsored by the Harvard Summer School and conducted in a Radcliffe dormitory. It is now known that it was founded primarily by the CIA.

After Ramparts had culled enough evidence of this sort, it began to write the article, which hit the newsstands a few days ago. The editor went to Eugene Groves, now president of of NSA, told him what they were planning to do, and offered him an opportunity to admit the relationship in print. They wanted Groves to co-sign the article, adding to it whatever information he might have. But, Grovse later told the NSB, Ramparts would not let him read what he would be signing. He rejected the offer, and attempted to dissuade Ramparts from running the expose.

When the news reached the public through a Ramparts advertisement in the New York Times, the clandestine relationship did not exactly come to an immediate halt. Groves continued to meet with Bob Kiley, a past NSA president and now a CIA agent. The Agency was not happy about the publicity, and wanted to take part in the drafting of any statements to the press. Groves claimed afterwards to the NSB that he cooperated because he felt he could convince the State Department to publicly acknowledge the ties, which it did the next day. The State Department had never before admitted a CIA role in any domestic organization.

Groves and the other officers, incidentally, were not "witty" in the sense that past officers have been: they knew of the relationship but had not signed a security oath. They had found out unofficially, which may have put them under less pressure than past officers to keep quiet.

There are conflicting stories on the nature of the pressure applied by the CIA to its "witty" students. Sam Brown, NSB chairman, announced at his press conference last Friday that students were "trapped" into the relationship. The CIA would select a man they felt they could trust, and would subject him to a security check without his knowledge. Then, if he was acceptable, he would have a private talk with someone who was "witty," either a present or past NSA officer.

During this conversation, the selected student would be told that there were certain aspects of the organization's dealings with the government which he did not know about, which it might be useful for him to know. He would be asked to sign a security oath. After he signed, he was told he was now an employee of the CIA, and if he revealed this he was subject to a 20-year jail sentence.

Brown called this the most "disgusting" aspect of the whole affair.

While the term "trapped" might apply to the most recent officers, there is some doubt whether it was true in the '50's. In an article in the Times a number of past presidents said they were not trapped at all. They were quite willing to cooperate with the CIA. Indeed, they considered it the patriotic thing to do.

The pressure, whatever it was, is off now. An unusually talkative CIA spokesman said earlier this week that there is no possibility of any action being taken against the students who revealed the relationship.

NSA officers, therefore, do not have to worry about their personal futures. But the future of the organization is more dubious.

The immediate problem which, is no less serious than it was when it baffled Wood, is finances. The break with the CIA is not as financially serious now as it would have been in years when the Agency provided 80 per cent of the budget, but even $50,000 is proving difficult to replace. In addition, NSA would like to expand its programs.

Brown hopes that "untainted" national foundations, like Ford and Rockefeller, will support NSA. A number of large foundations, including these two, met in New York Tuesday to discuss the matter, and Brown thinks the attitude was "favorable."

The second problem as, Rachael Radlo '68, a member of NSB, pointed out earlier this week, is rebuilding confidence. Before this could be accomplished nationally or internationally, it had to happen within NSA itself. Last week, permanent staff members were visibly embittered by the idea that so many secrets had been and were being kept from them. And NSB members were angry that the officers had no desire to call the board, and only did so under pressure. But after last Friday's statement, she believes, there was a new sense of unity among the NSA people in Washington.

The next step, as Brown sees it, is a convincing Congressional investigation. Once people are sure that the NSA and the CIA have nothing more to do with each other, he wants to see a "dialogue" on the role of students and a student union in America.

A week ago, Sam Brown--with perhaps a half-dozen hours of sleep in three days--had to stand before television lights and cameras and a labyrinth of microphones, and tell the nation that an organization to which he was committed had been perpetrating a grandiose, 15-year lie. Today, this congenial -- if somewhat idealistic -- young man is talking about the opportunity the whole affair may have provided for a new era in national student involvement.

In the process, he and other NSA leaders may have shifted more blame for this particular relationship to the CIA than the Agency deserves. But the students are not going to worry about that.


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