In 1966, Bill Buckley went back to Yale to defend our war in Vietnam against the university chaplain, Bill Coffin. There were fights at the door of the Law School to get in. The president of the Political Union lingered, in his introduction, over comparison of the two men—Coffin ’49, Buckley ’50; both Skull and Bones, and members of the Elizabethan Club; both veterans when they entered Yale—Buckley as a second lieutenant after two years, Coffin a captain after four (the students cheered). Both had contentious later lives, and in unexpected ways—it was Coffin who served in the CIA.

The young man did not know, yet, that Buckley also joined the CIA. That well-guarded secret was one of many little things exposed around the edges of the Watergate affair. Buckley had gone in at the top—or bottom. He was recruited as a “deep cover” agent—the meaning of that is spelled out in Buckley’s semi-autobiographical novel, Saving the Queen.1 His sister Priscilla also worked for the CIA; but when she looked through every office file she could, searching for her brother’s name, she did not find it. He was the secretest kind of spook. He can speak with some authority—and, indirectly, does—in his novel.

Buckley was recruited right out of college. He intended to enroll in Yale’s graduate school, to study under the fierce but stylish anticommunist ogre, Willmoore Kendall. But Kendall was going back into government intelligence, and he persuaded Buckley that the Korean conflict would shortly become World War III, so the two of them might as well make a place for themselves, ahead of time, in the civilized branch of the service. It was, in 1950, like being tapped for Bones. Gentlemen songsters off on a spree. Kendall introduced Buckley to CIA man James Burnham (whose books the hero in Buckley’s novel must read as an assignment from the Agency). Later, when these three men launched the journal National Review, Burnham called his regular column for the magazine “The Third World War.” When Buckley calls for a war, he does not let it decline the invitation.

Kendall, brilliant, melodramatic, self-destructive, was an improbable secret-keeper. (He is the loosely fictionalized subject of Saul Bellow’s tale, “Mosby’s Memoirs.”) But it was the genius of the CIA to create a discipline for free spirits. This was its heritage from the Office of Strategic Services, that permanent floating faculty meeting where the boys were also the masters. It is fitting that Buckley’s quite skillful spy tale draws a long implicit comparison between the Agency and a British public school. In both, the rebellious are admired, within bounds—Steerforth, were he alive in America during the 1950s, would infallibly have drifted toward the CIA. Buckley’s protagonist, who becomes a boyish hero to his peers by cool insult to “the system” at his school, remains a hero amid spooks by defying Congress at the novel’s end, refusing to break his binding higher oath to the secret society. Once Bones, always Bones.

The English school tie is what makes Buckley’s story so appropriate and revealing. His hero is qualified for service in England because his school connection makes that a good “cover” for him—yet he resents the country where his 1941 “America First” attitude led to persecution and a Swinburnian scene under the master’s rod. Buckley indulges the sadistic conventions of the Howard Hunt spy tale when he makes his hero “punish” the Queen of England (no less) with nine counted-out coital strokes, evening the score for nine lashes from the headmaster. “Bang,” types Mickey Spillane, as he dribbles white “bullets.”

The CIA was born, by way of OSS, from England’s MI-6. General William Donovan put his new organization to school with British intelligence service. And that service had grown up in a matrix that left three principal marks upon it, of social ties, colonialism, and a sense of peerage with the foe. Each mark would be imprinted, in faint but definite ways, on the American pupil, deep as lashes delivered at one’s school.

1) MI-6 was always a very good club. The necessary secrecy was imposed on a previously developed exclusivity. It was the last refuge for bright Blimps. While Msgr. Ronnie Knox, closest friend-tutor of Harold Macmillan, was trying quixotically to “decipher” the Old Testament without training in Semitic cultures, his brother Alfred cracked enemy codes with the family genius for tossing off Times crossword puzzles. The rare Bertie Wooster with a brain could only serve his sovereign (if at all) in military intelligence. Waugh caught the mood exactly in Put Out More Flags, where Basil Seale uses MI gobbledygook to awe air wardens and headwaiters. Seale’s real pitch to MI-9 was intended to be silly in the novel, but it sounds like a state paper in the age of Angola. It is a plan for annexing Liberia:


The German planters there out-number the British by about fourteen to one. They’re organized as a Nazi unit; they’ve been importing arms through Japan and they are simply waiting for the signal from Berlin to take over the government of the state. With Monrovia in enemy hands, with submarines based there, our West Coast trade route is cut. Then all the Germans have to do is to shut the Suez Canal, which they can do from Massawa whenever they like, and the Mediterranean is lost. Liberia is our one weak spot in West Africa. We’ve got to get in first. Don’t you see?

The official does not understand why Seale has come to him—it is, he answers, so the man can explain it to America after Liberia is taken.

It was natural for Basil Seale’s friends to think his one chance at making something of himself was as a gentleman warrior off on a spy. They were not far wrong. Near-Basils, and even odder types, did perform important services for the Empire in its last hour: Alan Turing, who listened every day to the favorite BBC radio show of his childhood, about Larry the Lamb, and who called his mother immediately after each show to compare diagnoses of its incidents, reproduced the German “Enigma” machine to read Hitler’s most carefully guarded cipher. (The Germans were reluctant admirers of British intelligence, too—their machine was named for Elgar’s variations.)

At times, reading Anthony Cave Brown’s flawed and too admiring history of MI-6 in World War II (Body-guard of Lies),2 we seem to step back through Waugh’s world to Wodehouse’s: Sir Hughe Montgomery Knatchbull-Hugessen, Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, MI-6’s man in Ankara, was known to his friends as “Snatch,” and kept his spy-servant (known as “Cicero”) dressed in Turkish costume with turned-up toes. Cicero sang lieder while Snatch played the piano. It was Waugh out-Waughed by reality.

MI-6 likes to trace its ancestry to Walsingham’s spying on the Spanish Armada. In the twentieth century, Captain Mansfield Smith-Cumming, who had commanded His Majesty’s fleet in the China Sea, became the first head of intelligence to call himself “C” and insist on total secrecy for the organization. Smith-Cumming was a bit like Ritchie-Hook; he stabbed a knife into his peg leg for emphasis instead of pounding on the desk. He extended the despotic Official Secrets Act into the twentieth century.

When Stewart Menzies became “C” in 1939, the Admiralty resented this “upstart” from the Life Guards taking over the Navy’s post—even if Menzies had been president of “Pop” at Eton, a super-Bones position. King George overcame these objections by presenting Menzies with the Ivory, a pledge of instant access to the king, given only to a handful of men. The Menzies crew had people with genuine flare in it. The first chief of deception for European landings was Colonel the Honorable Oliver Stanley, son of the seventeenth Earl of Derby, grandson of the seventh Duke of Manchester, son-in-law of the seventh Marquess of London-derry, known as “The Fox.” He had blackballed the Age Khan at the Turf. He resigned in protest when he felt his men had not been properly used in the Dieppe landing. A friend interpreted his objection to this feint (meant to draw troops from the Russian front): “A man whose ancestors had put the Tudors on the throne saw no reason to bow low to foreign potentates.” Stanley left military intelligence to become minister of colonies.

The controller of deception, minister to what is now known as “disinformation,” was bound to be well connected in World War II. John Bevan, of Eton and Christ Church, married to a descendant of Lord Lucan, commander of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, had been preceded in this office by a son of the Earl of Derby and a brother of the Earl of Scarborough. It is not suprising that when German intelligence meant to make contact with Menzies in the 1930s it dispatched Germans like Robert Treeck, who could ride to hounds with Menzies in the blue and buff livery of the Beaufort Hunt (instead of ordinary pink and black) and move through the country-house circuit around the Menzies seat, Bridges Court. One had to join the club in order to spy on its members.

2) English military intelligence was tempered throughout by the imperial mentality. Administering the colonies demanded a world-wide information system. Beyond that, it called for an intelligence operation within each colony, not only to know what was going on among rival native factions but to play them off against each other. That is why a controller of deception was already a traditional part of English intelligence by the time of World War II. The skills involved came from the fact that England had two distinct sorts of government, one for the Home Country and another for the colonies. Things were possible for the colonial governments that could not be undertaken in the motherland—things, in fact, it were better for the ordinary Englishman not to know about. Whenever you have two such governments not entirely recognizing each other’s norms, a coordinating mechanism is needed, which tends to think of itself as the “real” government. In England, the natural home of such a force was the Establishment, the ruling families still politically active, who had all along thought of themselves as the protectors of King and Country.


Out of this complex of circumstances arose the paradox of MI-6. It was a unit whose binding force was honor; yet it dealt naturally in the violence and deception of “special operations” (dirty tricks). The very top of society could stoop below the very bottom because the Empire had to manipulate “lesser breeds without the law” for the Empire’s good, and for the good of the lesser breeds themselves—if the ingrates could only recognize that fact.

It was a point of great pride, in this atmosphere, to understand the native mind to enter into all its labyrinthine schemes and ruthless internal wars—without ever going native or losing one’s honor toward one’s own. One had to touch pitch constantly yet remain undefiled. James Bond’s elaborately choreographed meals, his connoisseur’s tastes, are the modern equivalent of dressing for High Tea in India or South Africa. Assassination is a necessity, after all, when one is dealing with assassins, or thugs, or whatever. But that is no reason to be blackballed at White’s.

Of course the MI branches had in World War II fresh blood and a higher mission than before. They included, now, a rich mix of leftist dons, brilliant scholars, and serious writers. But much of MI-6’s tone was still set at the top by a Churchillian relish for grandiose skulduggery. There was a schoolboy love of “pranks” that made Churchill spend hours with MI-6 inventing new ruses to try out on the Germans. Once the prey becomes fair game, inventing ever dirtier tricks takes on the charm and challenge of a Times puzzle. Brown, in Bodyguard of Lies, aptly compares the British attitude to that of the wizard in Lord of the Rings: “It is difficult with these evil folk to know when they are in league, and when they are cheating one another.” The shrewd MI agent had to do more than just know such things: he had to make them cheat each other, even when they were in league.

3) If the Empire situation gave MI types a license to kill “wogs” in the colonies, it demanded honorable warfare with one’s peers on the other side, men like Treeck who rode well. Wilhelm Canaris, Menzies’s opposite number in World War II, had entered the German military when it was still heavily aristocratic in its bearing. A graduate of the naval academy at Kiel, he commanded the Dresden in World War I and was taken from command of a Baltic naval post in 1933 to become head of the Abwehr, the intelligence service of the General Staff. This post had traditionally been given to the Navy, and Hitler rather liked having a bit of the old guard on his side—he mistakenly believed the freewheeling spies would be less Junker-like in their view of life than other officers. In fact, the Abwehr became the rallying point for that class of soldiers who never did like Hitler.

Plot after plot was spawned by the Abwehr. Canaris and Menzies played an odd brotherly game of bluff and overture with each other. Canaris had to mislead Hitler and let Menzies see he was doing it—a doubly risky proposition—in his effort to strike a deal, to coordinate the Reich’s overthrow with a relaxation of Roosevelt’s demand for unconditional surrender. Canaris did not succeed, but that was not for lack of sympathy on Menzies’s part—or on the part of Allen Dulles, the OSS man for contacts with the Schwarze Kapelle faction in German intelligence. After the war Dulles would, according to reports accepted by Brown, give Canaris’s widow a Spanish villa and annual pension out of CIA funds.

For a tense period in 1944, MI-6 thought it might win the battle against unconditional surrender. It had even persuaded the American command staff—initially too casual about the dangers of a Normandy landing—to take steps encouraging the Germans to rebel against their leader. The Joint Chiefs petitioned Roosevelt for a softening of surrender terms; but he replied, on April 1, that “the German Philosophy” had to be expunged entirely. Eisenhower tried again, working through the State Department’s contact man at SHAEF, Edward Stettinius. When that did not work, he wrote a speech to be delivered after the Normandy landing, trying to make surrender more palatable to the foe. Churchill blocked delivery of that speech (despite his own earlier misgivings about unconditional surrender) because of his resentment of the American general’s ability to set policy.

The Normandy invasion takes on a tragic futility in Brown’s long account of it, since Eisenhower was a convert by then to softened peace terms, and he was faced by Erwin Rommel, a late convert to Schwarze Kapelle plots against Hitler. Both generals had to fight with the knowledge that fighting might well be unnecessary. Brown’s account reflects the intelligence services’ mentality, and tells us a great deal about any elite corps serving a government it thinks fundamentally mistaken. Both Menzies and Canaris had reached the point, in 1941, of opposing their own governments in an attempt to cooperate with the declared enemy. In both cases, the motive was patriotic, not treacherous—though in either case it could easily have been mistaken for treason. (Churchill all but said Eisenhower was betraying his men by talking softly to the enemy: “I never heard anything less suitable for the troops.”)

One of the many evil side effects of Roosevelt’s total surrender policy was that it put the Allied intelligence agencies in so morally ambiguous a position: they had to work with dissidents on the other side, proffering the hope of mutually agreeable terms, yet their own government kept removing such terms from their grasp. The intelligence service, in this situation, becomes hors de combat because it sees the “real” battle engaged above the blunders of political leaders on either side. Fear and respect for the enemy become near-identification with him when the circumstances of both sides are so similar. Cassandra calls out to Cassandra—or, more properly, Coriolanus to Aufidius:

I sin in envying his nobility,
And were I anything but what I
I would wish me only he.


Just as other empires were dissolving, America was coming into its own. We tried to take up some of the old imperial tasks, in Indochina and the Congo. But mainly we thought of ourselves as a new thing, an antiempire. We meant to check, wherever it arose—indigenously, by outside inspiration, or both—every movement toward communism, which we conceived as a monolithic empire growing up all around us (and maybe in our midst). This called for intelligence operations even more extensive and ambitious than those of the conventional empire. For one thing they would have no defined sphere of interest, no specific network of colonies to protect. Every place was a potential communist colony, and therefore a target for preventive action on our part. We had to foresee communist action in order to block it. And since this was a war for the minds of men, even ideas were enemies to be countered. That is why ideological training and purity were needed, to supplant older ties of mere patriotic national interest, professional pride, or material reward.

Everything in spy work depends on judging the reliability, first, of one’s own employees and their catspaws (agents). Allen Dulles made ideological orthodoxy the main qualification for a CIA man: “The ideological volunteer, if he is sincere, is a man whose loyalty you need rarely question, as you must always question the loyalties of people who work chiefly for money or out of a desire for adventure and intrigue.” (This is from page 183 of Dulles’s 1963 book, The Craft of Intelligence—a book in whose composition E. Howard Hunt collaborated, according to Tad Szulc’s biography of Hunt, The Compulsive Spy. Dulles’s other book from the Sixties, The Secret Surrender, was apparently written with the assistance of Gero von Schulze-Gaevernitz, who had brought Dulles his German informers in Switzerland.)

There is something puzzling about Dulles’s emphasis on ideological conformity in the CIA. At a cold-war time when all of America was in the grip of rigid anticommunism, the CIA had the reputation among knowledgeable people of being a free and enlightened refuge for the least timorous. Those opposed, say, to the House Committee on Un-American Activities tended to be admirers of the CIA. They rejoiced in the skill that kept the Agency outside Joe McCarthy’s reach. How on earth do you explain a society in which the secret police are the last guardians of men’s freedom? The situation is so odd that it deserved study on a scale made impossible by the Agency’s discipline of secrecy. CIA defenders have a point when they say that recent investigations take the Agency at a time in its career when it is unfairly judged. What it was doing in the Nixon era looked typical of that degraded time; but what it was doing in the McCarthy period looked, to those who knew what was going on, very atypical. How explain that?

Well, for a start, from the genealogy of CIA—out of MI-6 by way of OSS. The secret of disciplining free spirits in a shadowy elite corps was passed on from a dying imperialism to a nascent one. The first OSS teams were trained in Canada. Terminology was taken over, along with tactics—e.g., “special operations” for covert activities. There was competition and resentment too, just as in Buckley’s tale of a Queen sadistically “banged” even as she is saved. But, for all its attempts at correction of the imperial model, the OSS ended up mimicking its tutorrival. This shows in all three areas considered above—those which tended to make the spy a Clubman, Colonizer, and Coriolanus.

1) Clubman. The OSS was a “well-born” crew, according to the Alsop-Braden book, Sub Rosa.3 It was the place where college professors got back together with their brighter (or wealthier) students during the war. Paul Mellon and his brother-in-law, David Bruce, served there along with J.P. Morgan’s sons, a duPont, and C. Douglas Dillon. Commissions came easy (one in every four OSS personnel were officers) and regular army discipline was rather ostentatiously ignored. Since the OSS wanted glib operators in both gray and black propaganda for MO (Morale Operations), it nursed the infant “Madison Avenue”—the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency gave it a European director (Kenneth Hinks) and ended up with men in charge of the OSS Planning Staff, the London MO branch, the Casablanca MO branch, and the Cairo office. The advertising men got back from the organization a future vice-president, Richard de Rochemont. No wonder the Thompson types on Nixon’s staff later expected (and got) a few courtesies from CIA, the OSS descendant.

The elite spirit of the OSS extended even more forcibly to the early CIA. OSS was a refuge for some of the privileged who had to go to war, as well as for the mobile university faculties of wartime. But CIA thought of itself as the same kind of organization purified by peace. Those who renewed their service in the later agency could have wealth and position in society; but they chose obscure, dangerous, and ill-paid service to their country. What little credit they got must come from their peers. Today we hear veterans of that regimen lament the unsung heroes, whose very decorations from the government were of a secret sort to begin with and could not be worn or displayed despite their unrecognizability. The links forged were fairly mystical. Buckley tries to convey the feeling in his novel:

There’s a funny incorporealized solidarity out there. You don’t know who they are, but you do know that you are all straining to achieve the same end, and a day comes when their invisible forms are as palpable as the members of your swimming team.

There was a prolongation and intensification of both schoolboy and war-time emotions. A wealthy ex-OSS man who knew Howard Hunt during the war offered money to his defense, even though he disapproved of his more recent activities. One does not let the swimming team down. And this was not even a CIA member—just part of the prior organization. The gesture makes us understand the loyalty that made Tom Braden call a dinner in honor of Richard Helms when Congress had “forced” him into apparent perjury. Toasts were made by Robert McNamara and Averell Harriman, and drunk by Henry Kissinger. It was the real-life equivalent of Buckley’s hero being cheered in secret for refusing to cooperate with Congress. (The fact that Buckley takes this position after his defense of Joe McCarthy and his assault on “Fifth-Amendment” non-cooperation with Congress shows just how overriding are ties with the Agency when competing moral claims come into play.)

The CIA became America’s mystery elite for twenty years, the only agency loved by both right and left. Its employees ordered ambassadors around. The organization’s very secrecy made it difficult to know how high any officer really was in the service. Any man might be a Bones brother in disguise. Field officers often had money to throw around—Howard Hunt’s account of the Bay of Pigs operation (Give Us This Day, Arlington House, 1973) shows how powerfully self-seductive that kind of cash is: Hunt was the patron, sorting out precedence among rival Cuban factions by the way he sluiced US money to each group’s spokesmen. He affects regret that plausible “cover” made it necessary for him to live in such high style; but his spy tales show how important this extravagance can be to the job’s appeal. Even danger sheds its glamour. And danger mixed with money is aphrodisiac. Hunt’s heroes, like Ian Fleming’s, get the prettiest girl in the casino. Buckley’s hero, Blackford, has to travel better-class—he “penetrates” the Queen of England, after elaborately playing on that technical term from the outset. Spying is supposed to be sexy, and some spies labor to maintain that view, as pornographers dutifully cultivate a taste for their own product.

The perks were fittingly bestowed. The CIA did form an elite of the sort Thomas Jefferson feared in the Cincinnati. They were a king’s secret army. Their leader had immediate access to the highest authority in the land, to the most secret budget and wildest research, to knowledge very embarrassing to one’s country if the employees should turn out to be not entirely trustworthy.

They were required to think big and think wild, to freewheel and brain-storm, to deal with the shadiest sorts as well as the brainiest. Other intelligence agencies are larger and better funded; they multiply the same tasks indefinitely; but the CIA is supposed to do different things. In theory, there was nothing they could not do if doing it was thought necessary at the top.

It was an exclusive club, proud of its members’ background and university degrees. According to Buckley’s novel, Soviet intelligence regularly combed the Ivy League year books, looking, in the pictures of the graduating class, for the faces of their enemy. That makes sense. American journalists also make a game of deciphering out of Harvard alumni biographies the odd gap or vague description of government service that identifies the Fifties CIA officers.

Even when Allen Dulles tried to dispel any Ivy League talk of snobbishness he betrayed it: “It is quite true that we have a considerable number of graduates from Eastern colleges. It is also true that in numbers of degrees (many of the CIA personnel have more than one degree) Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton lead the list, but they are closely followed by Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, University of California, Stanford and MIT.” Why, how can we be called exclusive? We even let MIT in! (I like to suppose, on no real evidence, that Howard Hunt wrote that paragraph for Dulles.) The CIA was an FBI for gentlemen, one led by higher types than J. Edgar Hoover. It policed unenlightened policemen, a regiment of white knights riding, invisible, through history’s back alleys, unsmudged though familiars of the slime.

In time, the Ivy League quotient was bound to shrink, yielding to the Fordham, Georgetown, Notre Dame wave of Catholics who figured so largely in cold-war security agencies, men like Victor Marchetti and Philip Agee. Besides, Buckley from Yale and Hunt from Brown were conservative Catholics. The air of an elite survived, among those still claiming the legacy.

Noblesse oblige. Obliges, even, to rather shady fellows. Buckley’s hero goes to England in the novel, because his family and school ties are there (and Buckley is able to use his one year at an English school for the “Greyburn” section). But Buckley’s own stronger ties were to Mexico, where his father wildcatted for oil, fighting Woodrow Wilson’s liberal imperialism with his own capitalist kind. So Buckley’s real deep-cover service was performed in Mexico, as a young entrepreneur—where he met CIA colleague Howard Hunt.

Hunt recognized one of the heroes from his own novels, and asked Buckley to be godfather to his children; then, when caught in the DNC breakin, he ran to Buckley for a safe public presentation of his story on “Firing Line,” Buckley’s TV show; confided in Buckley the truth about the break-in, confident this would not be blabbed to the press (though Buckley is supposed to be the press); and trusted Buckley’s magazine to hymn his patriotism and appeal for funds to defend him. Frank S. Meyer, an editor of National Review, used to opine in the midst of his battles with James Burnham that the magazine was a CIA operation. But with so many alumni around, it does not need to be in any formal terms. The swim-team members do not forget their own, and do not need to be bought.

R. Harris Smith, in his respected history OSS,4 supplies a drumbeat of social commentary to his book by footnoting, at the bottom of his pages, the later careers of the OSS officers he mentions (other footnotes go to the back of the book). The footnotes fall naturally into three groups—those who later joined CIA; those who, successful in some other field, had CIA “front” connections; and those who ran into McCarthy trouble in the Fifties. Naturally, the three categories overlap. The common denominator is successful position (at least twenty ambassadors were OSS alumni). Naturally the CIA likes to have influential friends among its own alumni, and it can find them good positions. To thin its ranks, it must at times bribe men out of the service with some cushy post where a CIA man “might be helpful” someday. It can help along its friends with cash, as when it funded Walt Rostow’s book The Dynamics of Soviet Society. Or it can get cash offers from an ex-director, as when ITT Director John McCone offered a million dollars’ worth of business money to help the CIA block Allende’s election bid. Hand washes hand in the Establishment.

2) Colonizer. Douglas MacArthur would not let the OSS come into the South Pacific in World War II. (He issued the same prohibition for the CIA during the Korean War. That alone would put some liberal types on the side of the CIA.) The OSS was thrown into even closer contact with MI-6 since it had to operate out of England’s colonial bases in Calcutta and New Delhi. General Stilwell was, at first, no more receptive to the spy teams than MacArthur was, especially since the OSS began by trying to support Chiang Kai-shek. But Chiang’s very own Himmler, Tai Li, was an Anglophobe, and he would not cooperate with people working from Calcutta and New Delhi offices. For a while the OSS tried to go through a middleman, US Navy Commodore Milton Miles, who was a kind of Occidental Tai Li; but that operation was not successful. So OSS men were forced, faute de mieux, to collaborate with Mao Tse-tung in Yenan. The group set up by Wild Bill Donovan, a fierce Wall Street Republican, quickly joined Jack Service in its estimate of Chiang’s criminality. Much the same thing happened in Indochina (where an OSS doctor, Paul Hoagland, saved Ho Chi Minh’s life).

Meanwhile, in Europe, the OSS man in Switzerland, Allen Dulles, worked patiently with the Germans trying to overthrow Hitler—though he was persistently thwarted by his own government’s unconditional surrender policy. He did not prevail during the war; but the contacts he made led to the formation of the CIA’s de facto founding chapter in a compound outside Frankfurt. General Reinhard Gehlen, the Wehrmacht intelligence man for the Eastern Front, had squirreled away insurance for himself as the war wound down—extensive files on Russia and on German agents sent into Russia. Gehlen’s men accepted new masters and better pay. Dulles felt all his labors with the German resistance had at last paid off, and he assembled a picked crew of his own to exploit this information—bright young men like Richard Helms, Frank Wisner, and Harry Rositzke. The CIA already existed, in embryo, two years before its formal creation.

By hiring part of the German intelligence force to spy on Russia, still formally our ally, this proto-CIA was looking beyond the immediate policy of our government, in a way that would become typical of the Agency. In the wreck of worlds these men stood above old and new animosities, serving a long-term vision that shifting regimes would have to catch up with. The experience with Mao and Ho in Asia, and with Italian, Yugoslav, and German insurgents in Europe, encouraged these OSS men and future CIA officers to play their politics as people above politics. In later years the CIA felt it could make and unmake governments, without consulting the people governed, because it saw the true interests of all concerned. Colonialism had returned as an ideological empire. We had to care for the “wogs” not bright enough to care for themselves. When Kissinger said Cubans should not be allowed to vote Communist, he was voicing a conviction the CIA had long felt and acted on.

We even repeated the old imperialism’s belief that we must study “voodoo” tactics to deal with exotic cultures. MI-6 had experimented with drugs as far back as World War I, when it dropped 120,000 packs of opium cigarettes on the Turkish army in Palestine. The OSS thought up schemes like that reported in R. Harris Smith’s book: “The OSS men collected the finest library of German smut ever assembled in the United States. The material was to be dropped by plane in the area surrounding Hitler’s head-quarters on the assumption that the Fuehrer would step outside, pick up some of it and immediately be thrown into paroxysms of madness.”

Edward Lansdale, the legendary CIA man of the 1950s, tried to frighten Philippine communists by draining the blood from Huk bodies and putting marks on their throats to simulate vampire killings. Later, in Vietnam, he specialized in tricks like printing the ballot for Diem’s opponents on green paper, since green was supposed to be a symbol of cuckoldry and cowardice. The dirty tricks more recently revealed—experimenting with LSD for use on enemies, or with potions to make Fidel Castro’s beard fall out—have a long tradition in the secret police of colonizing forces. It shows a Ku Klux Klan mentality: we can spook the natives by dressing up like ghosts.

Like most colonizing forces, the CIA treated native lives as cheap. Speaking before the Senate intelligence committee, Thomas Keramessines, head of special operations, said he would resign from the CIA if he knew of any assassinations it carried out. He obviously didn’t consider the large-scale terrorist assassinations in the CIA’s Phoenix program to be assassinations. The Church committee deferred to this point of view when it issued the report on assassinations, whose whole emphasis was on plans to kill foreign leaders. Other kinds of ambush, terrorism, and “liquidation” do not seem to count.

Actually, since the CIA considers itself in possession of the true picture of political reality, it feels it should manipulate even members of our own society. It has puzzled some that efforts like the use of the Congress for Cultural Freedom as a CIA front were indulged in when similar projects were undertaken without CIA aid, or with open encouragement by the government (e.g., the State Department’s use of Norman Cousins to attack the Waldorf Peace Conference of 1949). Why secretly suborn men who would willingly volunteer their efforts? Some, like Arthur Schlesinger, an OSS veteran, shrugged off complaints about such manipulation, arguing that the Agency helped along good projects. Others, like Tom Braden, who was one of the CIA men for such fronts, boasted of their contributions to our culture.

But the mini-scandals connected with Encounter, the National Student Association, and other secret findings (e.g., of Kissinger’s journal, Confluence) reveal one of the scarier aspects of the CIA. At the very least, they indicate a preference for indirect methods that can be compulsive in secret agencies, a taste for the devious carried to redundancy. General Eisenhower noticed this in his dealings with MI-6 during the war: “They resorted to every type of subterfuge…in order to confuse the Germans as to the amount of military strength and, more important, its disposition. Out of this was born a habit that was later difficult to discard” (Crusade in Europe, p. 320).

More important, the CIA’s direction of various cultural operations reflects the importance of “in place” thinking among secret agencies. Spokesmen for clandestine intelligence often complain that military or political leaders, wanting information in a specific area, think a spy can be planted there and begin to produce results immediately. That is unlikely all the time, and impossible much of it. There is a far better chance to find and recruit some sympathizer already “in place” or—best of all—to have a person previously planted for some such eventuality. That was what the Agency was up to in the 1950s. The need for an orchestrated cultural offensive might not arise; but if it did, the Agency would have its own officers, their agents, and those beholden or compromised by collaborating, in the right places to direct such an assault. Liberals did not mind the generally anti-McCarthyite tenor of CIA-funded projects in the Fifties. The story would have been different if that cultural apparatus had been revealed at the peak of the Vietnam crisis or in the current time of investigations aimed at the Agency itself.

This is the real threat implied in the Encounter episode—it reveals a belief that the open processes of democracy are not sufficient for our government, that they need some “help” afforded them from behind the scenes. The actions in Chile and elsewhere show such a tendency in its blatant form. The Encounter affair reveals it in a subtler and more dangerous guise. The Agency was expressing its instinct that even the best informed people in the freest kind of constitutional government need manipulation by their invisible guardians. For Chile, “destabilizing” operations. For America, “stabilizing” ones. The colonizing government, which has one kind of politics for its own citizens and another for colonial “natives,” ends up having to impose some colony-discipline even on its own—if for no other reason, to hide the steps it feels it must take in “backward” parts of the empire. Thus England itself had to live under the Official Secrets Act if the Empire was to be governed by methods best left in the dark. The CIA, in order to accomplish an Iranian coup abroad, must impose a discipline of silence on all citizens at home—voluntary for its own members, unwitting for most of the populace.

The CIA’s higher knowledge about the “real” struggle in the world gives it access to a higher code of morality. Richard Helms, testifying before the Church committee, expressed sympathy with the viewpoint of the CIA scientist who hid away shellfish toxin after President Nixon signed an international agreement to destroy all such weapons of biological warfare—the man, said Helms, was just acting “for the greater good.” The higher code gives special license. The lawyer for the Cuban defendants in the “plumbers” trial said that his clients felt entitled to break the law since they had broken other laws in the past and been decorated for it by the CIA.

The higher code also imposes special duties. If there is any overriding imperative for the Agency, it is “Protect your agents.” You might have to “protect” an agent by killing him; but in a world of endlessly mirrored mutual deceptions the minimal social glue is an agreement never to reveal an agent’s ties with the CIA. The CIA usually has a double pledge for the secrecy of its operations. In the Encounter case, for example, it tried to keep its actions secret to maintain their effectiveness; but even if that motive had, for some reason, disappeared, it would still be bound to silence in order to protect Melvin Lasky, who was the agent in this instance.

Buckley’s novel, of course, is a dramatization of the “higher law” ethic. The hero not only defies Congress at the novel’s conclusion. The action he is hiding was undertaken, in the first place, to protect the Queen of England from her own indiscretions. (At the climax of the novel, the hero is almost assassinated by the Agency to protect his CIA identity.) The “real” governors of the world must prop up the governments that need propping, just as they tear down those that deserve “destabilizing.” In a world view so shaped, it is laughable to expect “improved accountability” from the CIA. How can the superior organization be accountable to the inferior?

3) Coriolanus. The basic training for clandestine intelligence is in “trade-craft”—the rules to be observed for keeping one’s role and task and identity secret. These rules are based on an assumption that one is being watched, suspected, betrayed. You must always presume the worst, to be on guard against any surprise. The result is a kind of shadow-awareness, always, of some Other watching you, of the Foe, of the invisible man on the other side of the chess board. It would be foolish to think that the enemy is any less intelligent than we are. Indeed, to protect its own officers, the Agency must instill in them a healthy respect for “the other side.” This is needed, as well, to get funds and freedom of maneuver from one’s own government—the more it fears an enemy, and suspects it of extensive and effective espionage, the more it will demand intelligence work on its own side. Furthermore, when defectors are found, they must be presented as important and serious figures (as when the CIA forged the Penkovsky memoirs for a prize defector).

So the Soviet spy is portrayed as a mistaken but dedicated adversary. Here is the way Allen Dulles puts it:

He is blindly and unquestioningly dedicated to the cause, at least at the outset. He has been fully indoctrinated in the political and philosophical beliefs of Communism and in the basic motivation which proceeds from these beliefs, which is that the ends alone count and any means which achieve them are justified. Since the ingrained Soviet approach to the problems of life and politics is conspiratorial, it is no surprise that this approach finds its ultimate fulfillment in intelligence work. When such a man does finally see the light, as has happened, his disillusionment is overwhelming. The Soviet intelligence officer is throughout his career subject to a rigid discipline and, as one intelligence officer put it who had experienced this discipline himself, he “has graduated from an iron school.” On the other hand, he belongs to an elite; he has privileges and power of a very special kind. [Craft of Intelligence, pp. 95-96]

Watching yourself through such an adversary’s eyes, trying to think along with him to stay one step ahead of him, leads to a kind of intellectual marriage. He understands the stakes, just as you do. That is a bond that sets you apart from the duller and manipulated masses. Winning him over is the true victory. Arthur Koestler said, apocalyptically, that the final struggle for the world would be between communists and ex-communists. That was a view Whittaker Chambers expressed at times—and William Buckley brought Chambers onto the editorial staff of National Review, a magazine that seemed, at first, principally made up of ex-communists and ex-CIA employees. The CIA would like to amend the Koestler formula slightly, making the final struggle occur between the CIA and the KGB.

In a sense the formula, however expressed, is tautological: the final struggle can only take place among those who know there is a final struggle. The rest of us, who do not live on that high plane of awareness and conflict, may suspect that thinking there is a “final” struggle is the only thing that can produce one—which just shows that we do not know the stakes. We are blind to the scale of our own danger, and must be protected, despite ourselves, by our clandestine benefactors. A spy can easily come to respect his highly conscious foe more than he does the sheep on his own side. This may explain the equivocal, oddly generous attitude of some British intelligence sorts to Kim Philby when he fled. Miles Copeland, the retired defender of the CIA, wrote in Beyond Cloak and Dagger (Pinnacle, 1975, p. 282): “To those deep inside the intelligence establishments, both East and West, it often seemed that the term ‘the company’ should apply to all of them considered together. Considering that the interplay between them is what determines the future of the world, they may have something.”

The respect can also magnify the Enemy, turning him into an omnipresent threat, almost superhuman in his prescience and skill. Every move he makes must be presumed to be a feint. Even his setbacks may be staged ones to throw us off guard. For this reason James Burnham used to claim that the Sino-Soviet split was all a charade, played out for our deception. Even he gave up that analysis some time ago. It was no longer tenable anywhere but in the John Birch Society and in the CIA.

When James Angleton was dismissed from his post as CIA chief of counter-intelligence, the Washington Post was told by a retired top official of the Agency that Angleton still believed the clash of Russia with China and Yugoslavia was only a theatrical display to soften us up for the kill. Angleton retired from the scene muttering “police state” as the explanation for his dismissal. The government that retires a paranoid from a sensitive spot in its secret police apparatus is called the victim of police state tactics! That is a perfect glimpse of the CIA’s role-reversing world of schemers and counterschemers. Defenders of Angleton said he was needed, even at the end, to match his hard line with other intelligence agencies we depend on, like that of Israel—and, besides, isn’t it best to plan for the worst contingency, and to have someone willing to face it as a real possibility?

In this way, clandestinity breeds a higher craziness. The bright university lads of the CIA do not agree with the real kooks of the John Birch Society, who find a communist under every bed. They pooh-pooh such talk, even though they sometimes encourage it for people who cannot get a more sophisticated grasp upon the communist danger. But the bright lads are also tough, not naïve liberals. They re-engage kookish specters at a higher level. After all, if there is not a communist under every bed, whose bed might better have a communist bug placed under it than a CIA agent’s? Shouldn’t one act as if one is there, just to be on the safe side? Thus does the higher Birchism creep in upon our saviors.

The CIA man is only important if his foe is. The stature of the enemy gives him his pride, as Aufidius and Coriolanus must boast of the other man’s prowess to establish their own. They are totally oriented toward each other. Each is the other’s Destiny.

   Thou hast beat me out
Twelve several times, and I have
   nightly since
Dreamt of encounters ‘twixt thy-
   self and me;
We have been down together in
   my sleep,
Unbuckling helms, fisting each
   other’s throat;
And waked half dead with

If communism were to disappear overnight from the face of the earth, some totally devoted anticommunists would find their lives not fulfilled but disintegrating. Life would be robbed of the normative thing that gave it meaning. Coriolanus wants to beat Aufidius, yet still to have Aufidius around to fight. That must be why Angleton could not give up his vision of a united communism menacing us on all sides. Even to diminish that threat slightly would unsettle, slightly, all his absolute certainties.

William Buckley has said that Stimson’s famous 1929 remark about gentlemen not opening other people’s mail was well enough in some other kind of world, but the menace of communism makes it necessary for us first to make the world safe for gentlemen. It is easy to predict that the world will never be thus safe: if virtue had to wait until vice disappeared before venturing to exist, the world would see no virtue. But it is true that the KGB and the CIA give each other their reason for being. They live for each other. The rest of us are not supposed to interrupt this clash of higher powers over our heads. They were born for this.


What to do about the CIA? That depends on the way you pose the problem. If the trouble is merely this or that abuse revealed to investigators, then one can try to eliminate that abuse by legislation—e.g., no more assassination plots or shellfish poisons. Senator Mark Hatfield has singled out one such abuse, the funding of CIA actions through religious fronts, and introduced legislation to keep church and state separate in the CIA (S. 2784). If the problem is simply our lack of knowledge about what is going on, and if we believe that contemporary awareness by competent people would prevent the abuses, we might try to invent a better machinery of oversight.

If the Agency is a “rogue elephant,” we can try to bring it under congressional control, or try to make the president control it. If it has some sound points (e.g., sheer gathering of information) and some unsound (e.g., covert activities), we might try to separate sound from unsound. The things badly handled can be abolished, or given over to people who might manage them better. Or one can try a mix of all such tinkerings and tactics of control, such as Leslie Gelb has proposed (in the Sunday New York Times for December 21). If, however, one thinks that the whole ethos of the organization is at odds with our principles of government, then the solution is both very simple and very difficult—intellectually simple and politically hard.

I start with the admission that intelligence operations, and extensive ones, are absolutely necessary to our government. I grant that it is hard to separate intelligence gathering from covert activities—e.g., trespass of some kind must be committed to use some kinds of electronic monitors. The problem is that we have been conditioned to think that the need for intelligence is equivalent to a need for the CIA. And that is simply not true. The CIA disposes of only a fraction of the American money and manpower devoted to intelligence. The best estimates indicate that military intelligence alone, in its three branches, has seven times the personnel of the CIA and a proportionately larger budget. The DIA is about the same size as the CIA, and the NSA is larger. The FBI devotes a great deal of its efforts to counter-intelligence embassy surveillance and the tracing of foreign influence in this country. The State Department has only a small intelligence division, but all its bureau reports are intelligence sources. So are the findings of various other agencies—e.g., the important material on the Arab boycott recently collected by the Commerce Department. Government-sponsored research at universities can yield intelligence data (e.g., on Russian laser capacities). Indeed, we have so many channels of intelligence that winnowing and analysis become difficult because of the sheer quantity of material.

One of the reasons the Central Intelligence Agency was set up, as its very name implies, was to coordinate these various intelligence activities and to prevent duplication of effort. It has largely failed in that task because of its own secrecy—it often cannot prevent others from working in an area without revealing too much of what it is doing there. Besides, its budgetary secrets have to be preserved. The Agency’s insistence on “compartmentation” and “need-to-know” makes it hide much of its activity from its own employees. There is nothing more absurd than the use of a deliberately compartmentizing agency as a coordinator. The results of this effort were seen when the military felt it had to spy on Henry Kissinger, chief of the CIA through the Forty Committee, to know what was really going on. Kissinger, for his part, kept NSC activities a secret from the William Rogers State Department. And the CIA, so far from coordinating intelligence activity, indulged in action that called for deceiving other parts of our own intelligence community.

The lone-wolf spirit of the CIA makes it a bad partner for its sister agencies. It was meant to be the “Green Berets” of intelligence, to think the unthinkable, to do what no one else can do. It has a tropism toward mixing with the bad guys—even trying to bring Howard Hughes, Las Vegas, and the Mafia in on our side of the anticommunist crusade. (Geoffrey Household’s Thirties novel in praise of gentlemanly assassination, Rogue Male, which became the Walter Pidgeon movie about assassinating Hitler, is used by Buckley to inspire his novel’s hero.) That is why I do not agree with those who dismiss the Church committee’s revelations of exotic poisons and dart guns as irrelevant to the “real” threat of the CIA. Few CIA agents, if any, may use such guns. Fidel, for that matter, still has his beard. Our sand-in-the-sugar tricks on Cuban ships did not accomplish much. But it is a part of the CIA’s legend and pride that this is what the Agency can do if it must. The possibility of assassination must always be considered. It is the venture-some tasks that give the corps its spirit. It is an action group, trained to think of itself as outside the restraints of normal military or intelligence operations. Victor Marchetti argues in convincing detail that two-thirds of the Agency’s manpower and money is spent on covert activities—since one must count in that figure the efforts spent on training, logistics, and research aimed entirely at “special operations.”5 Take that away from it, and it would lose its distinctive character—and we cannot suppose that it means to lose that without a struggle. Given its secret nature, it will win that struggle.

The Agency’s mystique arises precisely from its license to kill. It is important to remember that William Colby, the man who ran the most ruthless and bloody operation in CIA history—the Phoenix program of torture and assassination (Colby himself admits that at least 20,500 men were killed)—was advanced to the director’s office afterward. In Buckley’s novel, the hero only gives his heart fully to the Agency when his mentor, a veteran of MI-6, talks calmly of life-or-death risks: “Blackford rose, tipped his hand in mock salute, which, before his fingers reached his eyebrow in the old-time fly-boy casualness, had suddenly transformed into a salute suggesting something between respect and reverence. Rufus had been his appointed superior. He had become his leader.” The MI-6 tradition is passed on. The CIA was entirely formed out of the experiences of MI-6 and OSS, the unfettered teams of gentlemen encouraged to indulge in dreams of thuggery.

The problem is not one of control. The Agency has been most dangerous when it was controlled. It is the president’s secret militia. That has meant, in recent years, that it was Henry Kissinger’s private hit squad, since he is the presidential Forty Committee that directs CIA operations. Even as the Agency complained of being “hamstrung” by recent investigations, it went obediently into the turmoil of Portugal and Angola on Henry’s orders. It is only at this point that we reach the most important aspect of the CIA. The Agency is not a problem in itself. It is just part of the larger problem of the modern presidency, of the dramatic accretion and distortion of presidential powers in the last thirty years or so.

What we are talking about is the action arm of the Imperial President. The CIA polices the colonies for our Emperor. When William Colby says we need the CIA to have something between total inaction and sending in the marines, he means that the president should be allowed to make foreign policy outside constitutional restraints, by presenting Congress and the electorate with faits accomplis. We do not have to debate our attitude toward a democratically elected Marxist leader in Chile if the president can send his squad of goons to prevent such a man from getting elected. The Senate need not exercise its treaty-making power to woo or reject Fidel Castro if the president can get Castro bumped off. Cuban refugees in America do not need to agitate for political response to their plight if the president is already arranging an invasion of their country without his own countrymen’s knowledge.

It is silly to talk about making the president control the CIA. It is his own means of escaping control. It is his first recourse in heading off problems that would embarrass him if he had to cope with them in an open fashion. It is his means of getting intelligence and making policy in total secrecy, with autonomy. The nation cannot be for or against policies it knows nothing about. In other words, in a form of government where legitimacy arises only from accountability, the CIA was formed expressly to escape accountability. This is apparent in the blatant unconstitutionality of its secret funding process. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution says: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by laws; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.”

The mere existence of the CIA tempts a president to evade the Constitution—especially if he has a taste for intrigue (like Johnson or Nixon or Kissinger) or an image of himself as the dashing James Bond type (like John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy). The person who did more to shape the CIA than any other man was Allen Dulles, who did by virtue of the close ties he had with the president through his brother, the secretary of state. In the War Powers Act, the president is now ordered not to engage in clandestine warfare. Then why, if he is not supposed to do it at all, leave him the means for doing it? Already President Ford has used the CIA to support clandestine warfare in Angola. Given the CIA for his private use, most presidents will succumb to the hope that it can solve their problems quickly if deviously.

The cold-war liberals believed that the CIA must be maintained to avoid leaving intelligence to the Pentagon, which slant its intelligence toward war and the need for massive military establishments. Yet we still have the massive establishments, and reliance on them has caused less trouble, in recent years, than Kennedy’s trust in “leaner” hit-and-run tactics. It is argued that CIA intelligence estimates, contained in the Pentagon Papers, were consistently better than the military’s own. Yet Sam Adams has revealed (in Harper’s, May 1975), that the CIA tilted its own estimates toward the army’s when the president showed he would prefer that. Besides, the mere existence of the CIA tempted Kennedy and Johnson to think in terms of counter-insurgency and Edward Lansdale techniques—which is what got us into Vietnam in the first place.

The real point is that cold-war liberals liked the CIA in the Fifties and early Sixties because they liked the Imperial Presidency then. They wanted the president to escape the constraints of a fuddy-duddy Congress, just as they wanted the CIA to slip past a muscle-bound Pentagon. They thought it was desirable for the executive branch to cut corners. These liberals believed in their own version of a higher code, of an “enlightened” internationalism that had to evade, by benign deception, popular tendencies toward isolationism on the one hand and a crude anticommunism on the other. In the process, what was evaded was often the Constitution. Even when the CIA exceeds its presidential mandate (e.g., by saving toxins the president ordered destroyed) it does so on the principles instilled in it by a presidency that thinks of itself as free of control. Miles Copeland even tries to give the CIA credit for bringing down the Nixon regime, a ridiculous claim. But if the CIA ever did bring down an American president, this would be because American presidents had taught it to bring down regimes all over the world for good liberal cause.

Some liberals indulge an unjustified fear that America’s military will supply us, someday, with a dictator. Our military is not aristocratic in tradition. The inability of the services to maintain even the minimal professional exclusiveness is witnessed by the fact that the academies have had to accept women.

The fault of the American military is not autocratic haughtiness but timorous evasion, the shifting of responsibility up or down the command chain. This means, fortunately, that the military cannot defy Congress or the public the way the CIA does. Its supporters write no novels glorifying the man who will not submit to authority. There was a My Lai cover-up, and no officers higher than a lieutenant were convicted once the scandal came out; but at least there were courts-marital and the Peers Report as a result of My Lai. When have we had anything like that accountability for the slaughters of the Phoenix program, or for any CIA wrongdoing? An American citizen is sent to his death by the CIA’s drug experiments upon his mind, yet those who perpetrated this are not called before any court because they belong to the CIA. In at least nine cases that we know of the CIA has blocked United States courts from trying its agents on criminal charges by refusing to release classified evidence. More inclusively, the Justice Department has allowed the CIA itself to investigate charges brought against its employees, abdicating prosecutorial responsibility.

It is true that we need civilian control of the military, and that intelligence should be coordinated at the political level. But the CIA has failed in its task, and on purpose. It was part of the executive operation that opposed not only the military bureaucracy but the State Department (with which it warred while getting “cover” from its diplomatic corps). The rogue presidency wanted to make all policy out of the White House—which led to Kennedy’s and Johnson’s treatment of Dean Rusk and Kissinger’s humiliation of William Rogers. The State Department was too cautious for the president’s international guerrillas—which suggests a solution to our problem. The central intelligence operation should be located in the State Department—and the CIA must be abolished to make that possible.

There is no guarantee, of course, that a department of dirty tricks will not grow at State or in some other agency. We have already discovered the illegality of NSA phone and cable taps, of military intelligence units spying on potential rioters. But some of this may have arisen precisely from making the CIA our “prestige” intelligence agency, toward whose freedoms the others aspired. And, at any rate, it would be harder for other agencies to equal the license enjoyed by the CIA, which was entirely shaped to evade the rules from the outset. The War Powers Act has outlawed clandestine presidential war. Abolishing the CIA with its secret budget and semi-guerrilla training would do more to discourage irresponsible “tricks” than any paper prohibition of specific actions by name.

After all, what are we ending if we end the CIA? Even its adherents doubt it will ever regain its full stature or immunity. The afflatus of such a group cannot be maintained at full strength when the circumstances of its exercise have changed so drastically. The CIA is bound to be wounded, not just because of isolated revelations (these did no lasting harm at the time of the Bay of Pigs), or congressional investigations (which have been rather deferential), but because the Imperial Presidency, of which the CIA is so large a part and expression, has been wounded. Buckley’s own hero laments, “There’s no feeling anymore for the kind of thing we’re doing, and there’s no way, overnight, to stimulate that kind of feeling.”

Rule out total recovery, then, and what do you have? An agency that will try to reassert its ethos in a situation no longer receptive to it. Better kill it off now, before its crippled energies are used in even more distorted ways than its full ones were. Fumbling around for “controls” merely proves that we do not have the clarity or resolve to deal with an agency that was born, on principle, out of control.

This Issue

January 22, 1976