By assigning covert action roles to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), it is as if the White House and Congress had legitimized the Ku Klux Klan to operate globally. That’s because the CIA today resembles nothing so much as the “Invisible Empire” of the KKK that once spread terror across the South and Midwest. Fiery crosses aside, this is what the CIA is doing globally.
The CIA today is committing many of the same sort of gruesome crimes against foreigners that the KKK once inflicted on Americans of color. The principal difference is that the KKK consisted of self-appointed vigilantes who regarded themselves as both outside and above the law when they perpetrated their crimes. By contrast, the CIA acts as the agent of the American government, often at the highest levels, and at times at the direction of the White House. Its crimes typically are committed in contravention of the highest established international law such as the Charter of the United Nations as well as the U.S. Constitution. What’s more, the “Agency,” as it is known, derives its funding largely from an imperialist-minded Congress; additionally, it has no qualms about fattening its budget from drug money and other illegal sources. It is a mirror-image of the lawless entity the U.S. has become since achieving superpower status. And it is incredible that the White House grants license to this violent Agency to commit its crimes with no accountability. The Ku Klux Klan was founded shortly after the end of the U.S. Civil War. Klansman concealed their identities behind flowing white robes and white hoods as they terrorized the newly emancipated blacks to keep them from voting or to drive them from their property.
Allowing it to operate in secret literally gives the CIA the mythical Ring of Gyges. In Plato’s Republic, the owner of the ring had the power to become invisible at will. As Wikipedia puts it, Plato “discusses whether a typical person would be moral if he did not have to fear the consequences of his actions.” The ancient Greeks made the argument, Wikipedia says, that “No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men.” The CIA, like Hitler’s Gestapo and Stalin’s NKVD before it, has provided modern man the answer to this question. Its actions illuminate why all criminal entities, from rapists and bank robbers, to Ponzi scheme swindlers and murderers, cloak themselves in secrecy.
There are innumerable examples of how American presidents have authorized criminal acts without public discussion that the preponderant majority of Americans would find reprehensible. Example: it was President Lyndon Johnson who ordered the CIA to meddle in Chile’s election to help Eduardo Frei become president. If they had known, U.S. taxpayers might have objected to such a use of their hard-earned money to influence the outcome of another country’s elections. But the public is rarely let in on such illegal foreign policy decisions.
Where the KKK after the Civil War terrorized blacks to keep them from voting, the CIA has worked to influence the outcome of elections all over the world through bribery and vote-buying, dirty tricks, and worse. According to investigative reporter William Blum in “Rogue State”(Common Courage Press), the CIA has perverted elections in Italy, Lebanon, Indonesia, The Philippines, Japan, Nepal, Laos, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Portugal, Australia, Jamaica, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, among other countries. If they had known, taxpayers might also object to the CIA’s numerous overthrows of foreign governments by force and violence—such as was done in Iran in 1953 by President Eisenhower and Chile in 1973 by President Nixon.
Both overthrows precipitated bloodbaths that cost tens of thousands of innocent civilians their lives. Blum also lists the countries the CIA has attempted to overthrow or has actually overthrown. His list includes Greece, The Philippines, East Germany, Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iraq, Viet Nam, Laos, Ecuador, The Congo, France, Cuba, Ghana, Chile, South Africa, Bolivia, Portugal, and Nicaragua, to cite a few. As I write, today, October 11th, 2010, Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina called on President Obama to revise U.S. (imperialist) policies toward Latin America. He questioned why the U.S. continues to plant its military bases across the region.
That’s an excellent question. If the U.S. is a peace-loving nation, why does it need 800 bases the world over in addition to 1,000 on its own soil? Americans might recoil in disgust if they knew of the CIA’s numerous assassinations of the elected officials of other nations. Is it any wonder Americans so often ask the question, “Why do they hate us?” As historian Arnold Toynbee wrote in 1961, “America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defence of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for. Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor in all foreign communities that fell under her sway; and, since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number.”
The CIA’s protective secrecy resembles nothing so much as the KKK, which proudly proclaimed itself “the Invisible Empire” and whose thugs killed citizens having the courage to identify hooded Klansmen to law enforcement officials. Today, it is our highest public officials that protect this criminal force, said to number about 25,000 employees. It is actually a Federal offense to reveal the identity of a CIA undercover agent—unless, of course, you happen to be I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and are employed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to punish her husband Joseph Wilson for publishing a report that undercut the White House lie that Saddam Hussein had purchased “yellowcake” from Niger to fuel WMD. Today, high public officials direct the CIA’s criminal policies and protect its agents’ identities the better to enable them to commit their crimes.
According to journalist Fred Cook in his book “Ku Klux Klan: America’s Recurring Nightmare”(Messner), “The Klan was inherently a vigilante organization. It could commit the most atrocious acts under the guise of high principle andperpetrators of those acts would be hidden behind white masks and protected by Klan secrecy… (The Klan) set itself up as judge, jury and executioner”—a policy adopted by the CIA today.
CIA spies have conducted their criminal operations masquerading as officials of U.S. aid programs, business executives, or journalists. Example: The San Diego-based Copley News Service’s staff of foreign correspondents allegedly was created to provide cover to CIA spies, compromising legitimate American journalists trying to do their jobs. While the murders committed by the KKK likely ran into the many thousands, the CIA has killed on a far grander scale and managed to keep its role largely secret.
As Tim Weiner, who covered the CIA for the New York Times noted in his book “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA” (Anchor): “In Guatemala, 200,000 civilians had died during forty years of struggle following the agency’s(CIA) 1954 coup against an elected president.” Weiner adds, “the CIA’s officers in Guatemala still went to great lengths to conceal the nature of their close relations with the military and to suppress reports that Guatemalan officers on its payroll were murderers, torturers, and thieves.” When it comes to murder, the CIA makes the KKK look like Boy Scouts.
Like the KKK, CIA terrorists operate above the law. KKK members committed thousands of lynchings yet rarely were its members punished for them. In 2009 at a speech at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, President Obama revealed he was not intent on punishing CIA agents for their crimes but would rather “look forward.” This seemingly charitable philosophy may be driven by the fact that Obama worked for Business International Corporation, a CIA front, at least in 1983 and perhaps longer, and allegedly is the son of a mother and father both of whom also worked for the CIA, as did Obama’s grandmother! I could find none of this in Obama’s biography when he ran for the presidency, when a gullible American public elected a CIA “mole” to the White House.
Consider this, too: an agency President Truman feared would become “an American Gestapo” when he signed the enabling legislation into law in 1947 has become just that, and it casts a lengthy shadow over the White House. Ominously, it has in Barack Obama one of its own former employees sitting in the Oval Office—a man who, according to news reports, has vastly expanded the frequency of the CIA’s assassinations by drone aircraft in Pakistan and who illegally claims the “right” to assassinate any American citizen abroad as well. What’s more, from 1989 to 1993 George Bush Sr., the CIA’s own former Director, sat in the White House.
Additionally, from 2001 to 2009, the CIA had that Director’s son, George W. Bush, in the Oval Office giving the CIA a blank check after the 9/11 massacre. Bush Jr., according to The New York Times, in the summer of 1974 worked for Alaska International Industries, which did contract work for the CIA. The Times noted that this job did not appear in his biography when he ran for the White House in 2000, terming it “The Missing Chapter in the Bush Bio.” Thus, two presidential candidates with CIA ties—Bush Jr. and Obama—both neglected to mention them. And in Bill Clinton, who presided from 1993 to 2001, the CIA had a go-along president who satisfied the Agency’s blood-lust when he authorized the first illegal “rendition,” a euphemism for what KKK thugs once knew as kidnapping and torture. Is there any question that the Agency has not played an influential, behind-the-scenes or even a direct role in the operations of the U.S. government at its highest level? It may indeed be a stretch to argue that the CIA is running the country but it is no stretch to say that year after year our presidents reflect the criminal philosophy of the Agency.
Other parallels with the KKK are striking. As Richmond Flowers, the Attorney General of Alabama stated in 1966, “I’ve found the Klan more than just another secret society… It resembles a shadow government, making its own laws, manipulating local politics, burrowing into some of our local law-enforcement agencies…When a pitiable misfit puts on his $15 sheet, society can no longer ignore him.” Yet the descendants of those misfits have moved up today where they feel comfortable as operatives in the shadow government run by the White House. One of the CIA’s illicit duties has been to serve as a conduit for funneling U.S. taxpayer dollars to corrupt dictators and strongmen bent on suppressing the popular will of their citizenry. As Noam Chomsky wrote in “Failed States”(Metropolitan/Owl), in Honduras, “military officers in charge of the battalion (3-16) were on the CIA payroll.” This elite unit, he says, “organized and trained by the United States and Argentine neo-Nazis,” was “the most barbaric of the Latin American killers that Washington had been supporting.”
Like the KKK, the CIA kidnaps many of its victims with no thought ever of legal procedure. It exhibits utter disdain for the rights of those individuals, the sovereignty of foreign nations, or respect for international law. At least hundreds of foreigners, mostly from the Middle East, have been the victims of “renditions” just as the KKK kidnapped and flogged and lynched blacks, labor leaders, Catholics, Jews, or wayward wives whom it felt to be morally lacking. In September, 1921, The New York World ran a series exposing the KKK. It pointed out that, among other things, the KKK was violating the Bill of Rights wholesale. This included the Fourth amendment against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” the Fifth and the Sixth amendments, guaranteeing that no one may be held without a grand jury indictment or punished without a fair trial. And these rights today are similarly trampled by the CIA against American citizens, not just foreigners.
Apparently, only foreign courts care to rein in the CIA. The 23 CIA agents that it took to render one “suspect” in Italy are wanted there by the magistrates. (The spooks, by the way, ran up some fabulous bills in luxury hotels on taxpayers’ dollars in that escapade.) Former President Jimmy Carter wrote in his book “Our Endangered Values”(Simon & Schuster), the CIA transferred some of those it kidnapped to countries that included Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Jordan, and Uzbekistan where “the techniques of torture are almost indescribably terrible, including, as a U.S. ambassador to one of the recipient countries reported, ‘partial boiling of a hand or an arm,’ with at least two prisoners boiled to death.” The KKK’s methods of punishment were often as ugly: the brutal flogging of blacks in front of vicious crowds, followed by castration and burning their victims alive, and then lynching of the corpses. As for the CIA, “Why?” asks investigative reporter William Blum, “are these men rendered in the first place if not to be tortured? Does the United States not have any speakers in foreign languages to conduct interrogations?”
That the CIA is a terrorist organization was upheld in the famous “CIA On Trial” case in Northampton, Mass., in 1987, when a jury acquitted 14 protestors who tried to stop CIA recruitment on campus, according to Francis Boyle, the University of Illinois international law authority who defended the group. The defense charged the CIA was “an organized criminal conspiracy like the SS and the Gestapo.” Boyle said, “You would not let the SS or the Gestapo recruit on campus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, so you would not permit the CIA to recruit on campus either.”
Another shared characteristic of the KKK and CIA is greed, the desire to loot the hard-earned wealth of others. Often, Klansmen terrorized African-Americans who had amassed property to frighten them off their land. Law-abiding black citizens who had pulled themselves up by the proverbial bootstraps were cheated out of their homes and acreage by the night riders.
Similarly, the CIA across Latin America has aligned itself with the well-to-do ruling class at every opportunity. It has cooperated with the elite to punish and murder labor leaders and clergy who espoused economic opportunity for the poor. The notion that allowing the poor to enrich themselves fairly will also create more wealth for an entire society generally, including the rich, has not permeated CIA thinking. I emphasize what historian Toynbee noted: “America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defence of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for.”(Italics added.)
In sum, by adopting the terrorist philosophy of the KKK and elevating it to the operations of government at the highest level, the imperial Obama administration, like its predecessors, is showing the world the worst possible face of America. Foreigners do not see the goodness inherent in the American people—most of whom only want a good day’s pay for a good day’s work and to educate their children and live at peace with the world. Every adult American has a solemn obligation to demand that its government live up to international law, punish the CIA criminals in its midst, and become a respected citizen of the world. This will not come to pass until Congress abolishes the CIA, putting an end to its KKK-style terrorism which threatens Americans as well as humankind everywhere.
Sherwood Ross is an American who has worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, a columnist for wire services and as the News Director of a national civil rights organization. He currently operates the Anti-War News Service from Miami, Florida. To contribute to his work or reach him, email [email protected]