Category Archives: Gehlen Org
Clandestine America: Three Sources
What is actually possible on the stage of American politics? Can presidents be assassinated by conspirators who go free and win out in the end? Are events which the media soberly report on often little more than play shows contrived by Machiavellian power elites for the manipulation of mass consciousness?
Even after Watergate, the idea that there may be a clandestine American state vastly predating Nixon’s arrival in the White House, transcending Nixon and lingering beyond him, will seem too wild, will seem “to go too far,” unless we come upon it as the wind and the rain fashioned the thing itself, bit by bit. The following three stories about how that happened could be followed by thirty more rather like them; I am not trying to be definitive or exhaustive, only to exemplify the steps taken, now well behind us, that pointed us down the path toward Dallas and Watergate, toward COINTELPRO, Chaos, Garden Plot, and the secret state:
1. The long-term penetration of the American foreign ¬policy bureaucracy by a secret group of Anglophiles operating worldwide as the “Round Table.”
2. The so-called “Operation: Underworld” of the World War II years, a secret but evidently formal and binding compact linking the federal police apparatus and the crime syndicate of Meyer Lansky.
3. The secret submission of the U.S. World War II command to the astonishing demands of Nazi Germany’s top spymaster, General Reinhard Gehlen, who leapt from Hitler’s sinking general staff to become unrivalled chief of American, West German and NATO intelligence systems in the Cold War years.
But as these narratives will be appreciated better in view of their distance from standard ideas, we will first take up two other responses to this question, one by a conservative CIA sophisticate, Miles Copeland, a retired CIA official, and the other by his liberal counterpart, Andrew St. George, a journalist specializing in CIA themes. The Copeland piece appeared in the October 1973 issue of William Buckley’s I National Review. St. George’s piece came out a month later in Harper’s. Both articles were cited in the report of Senator Howard Baker’s special Watergate subcommittee looking into the CIA’s role at Watergate.’ Both writers were questioned in secret by Congressional investigators. And as we shall see, despite their conservative-liberal opposition, the men are ideological bookends. Both assure us-I almost said reassure-that in terms of Big Brotherism and the police state, things will be getting worse.
Copeland opens his explanation of clandestinism in U.S. politics by setting out a picture of concatenating world-scale disasters mounting over the coming years and battering with cumulative force against the foundations of human society everywhere. He sees this process of breakdown as leading inevitably to the world-wide escalation of left-wing terrorism. In response to this forthcoming contagion, the governments of the world one after the other will be forced to the use of totalitarian methods of social control. Watergate gives us, he says, a slice-of-life look at the way these forces were developing (i.e., shows us that Nixon was provoked to the police state by those who opposed him). The inevitability of terror in a collapsing situation culminates in the inevitability of a Gestapo response. “The only answer to the problem [of terror],” Copeland writes, “seems to be to keep whole communities under surveillance. ‘This means we are subscribing to police-state methods,’ says Mother, `but what else can we do?”‘
Copeland does not stop to consider that for some of us this might not be a self-answering question, or whether, person for person, it might not be braver and better for a people and a society to endure terror, if that is indeed the only alternative, than to countenance tyranny. The point he is in a rush to make is that, for the ruling classes with whom he identifies, it is better to impose a police state than to suffer a revolution. He is also saying that even in the United States, the people will tolerate or welcome this police state as the only, _alternative to revolution. “With intelligence on the `people’s war’ pouring in as it presently is,” he writes, “even the most liberal-minded CIA officers feel that they have no choice but to do whatever is necessary to deal with it.”
They believe that, sooner rather than later, the public will swing over to sharing the alarm, and will become suddenly unsqueamish about police-state methods or whatever it takes to give them a good night’s sleep: The CIA, the FBI, and other security agencies had better be prepared. They had better have in readiness methods of “community surveillance” which have in them only such invasions of privacy as are absolutely necessary, and which ensure that the invasions are handled with such discretion and delicacy that even the most ardent liberal can’t object to them.
These still-to-be-demonstrated “methods,” as Copeland airily calls them, are at the same time, so he assures, essentially benign, in some respects benevolent, and efficient in implementation. “The FBI has a comparatively simple problem,” he writes. “Provided it can be assured of freedom from political influences, it can easily administer a system of community surveillance which will be pervasive enough to check terrorist influences in the United States yet not constitute more than a minor departure from our traditional ways of doing things.”
Thanks to the Seymour Hersh/New York Times disclosures of Christmas 1974, showing a vast CIA-run domestic-intelligence activity, we now understand of course that the presumptively futuristic scenes promoted by Copeland, wherein the CIA enters massively into domestic intelligence operations to stop some future crescendo of terrorism, were already old hat when he was writing. “Intelligence leans toward keeping discreet track of terrorist groups and neutralizing them quietly while policemen think in terms of evidence that will stand up in court,” he writes. “In the future, these distinctions will become less and less important-and extra-legal (i.e., intelligence) actions against terrorism will be closely coordinated with legal (police) actions against them.”
Nothing futuristic about all this at all, as it turned out. All ancient history. Witness the Hoover memos of May 1968 inaugurating a massive program of FBI aggression against the antiwar and civil-rights movement – not against “terrorism,” by the way, but against “dissent,” against a rival political standpoint. Witness the Huston Plan and Operation Gemstone and Octopus and all the rest that came with the succession of Nixon to the Johnson throne. We have a concrete sequence of repression, of the use of police-state methods, exactly along Copeland’s lines, undertaken exactly with his kind of self-flattering and historically ignorant posturings about keeping order and giving people “a good night’s sleep,” as though that were a fit image of a self-governing people, a nation asleep.
A current failure of Buckleyite conservatism as a serious political philosophy is that it refuses to dissociate itself from this anticonstitutional mania for the state-financed subversion of political dissent and radical-popular movements of reform. It has no values to propose other than the one single flattened-out value of the total security of the state. The more traditional and substantial conservative values of republicanism, limits, and constitutionality are all reduced in the National Review to the one imperious demand for
order, silence, sleep.
Tyranny was never a remedy for terror. Tyranny is terror. Tyranny and terror promote and multiply each other so well because each is the other’s only possible “legitimation.” But if they are actually the same, as any Socrates could show, then they cannot “legitimate” each other. The choice between terror and totalitarianism is a choice that can only be made-can-only be identified as a choice-by terrorists ‘ and tyrants. The democrat, the republican, and the independent among us will not be so quick to see terror and tyranny as opposite alternatives, but only as two sides of one coin, a single composite choice against liberty and humanity. The authentic rejection of terror mandates the rejection of tyranny. The authentic rejection of tyranny mandates the rejection of terror. There is no way to defend the democracy by the use of anti-democratic means. There is no anti-republican method corresponding to a republican purpose. There is no furtherance of national and personal, political and social independence through submission to national police controls. The state cannot at the same time uphold the law and trample it underfoot.
The liberal survey of the same forces, however, is disquietingly similar. As Copeland finds totalitarianism necessary, Andrew St. George finds it irresistible. Too enlightened to fall back on Copeland’s all-vindicating menace of Red terror as the legitimating raison d’etre of the clandestine American police state, St. George rather sees a monster he calls technofascism as emerging from the material conditions of ultramodern production, from the computerization of everyday fife. His position is sociologically sophisticated. He borrows knowledgeably from the Weberian literature and incorporates the pessimism of current observers like Jacques Ellul and Hannah Arendt without a trace of unconfidence.
St. George calls Watergate “the poisonous afterbirth of Vietnam…. An end to external conflict, the inward-turning of the nation’s aggressions, the unmistakable first step toward genuine convergence with our erstwhile totalitarian opponents.” He quotes Patrick McGarvey’s 1972 work, The CIA: The Myth and the Madness, “United States intelligence is now turning inward on the citizens of this country…. The next logical step would be for an administration to do exactly what its people suspect it of doing start mounting intelligence operations against citizen groups and assemblies.”
“Richard Nixon and John Mitchell,” continues St. George, “may have been instinctively, if not consciously, motivated toward Watergate by an intuitive sense that the era of foreign intervention was drawing to a close. [He is writing before the CIA-Chile exposures.] From now on America would have to generate the climate of defactualization and policeness [St. George finds the Hannah Arendt coinage useful] right at home if it wanted continued progress toward fully achieved, seamlessly engineered, cybernetically controlled techno-totalitarianism.”
Taking as his given the rapid growth in funds and prestige technology available to the national security complex, St. George asks how this complex arose, where it came from, and “what history is trying to tell us” about it. He writes, “Technological society is a matter of internal controls. The very concept of national security has changed; its focus is no longer on spies and seditionists, but on the bureaucracy’s internal power arrangements and hierarchical structures.” How has this transformation come about?
“Within a year of the Bay of Pigs,” he writes, “the CIA curiously and inexplicably began to grow, to branch out, to gather more and more responsibility for ‘the Cuban problem’ etc…. By the time of the 1965 U.S. military intervention in the Dominican Republic both the good guys and the bad guys – i.e., the ‘radical’ civilian politicos and the ‘conservative’ generals-turned out to have been financed by La Compania…. Owing largely to the Bay of Pigs, the CIA ceased-being an invisible government: it became an empire.”
Now he approaches a mysterious question. “The Agency had become a tireless data digger and interviewer and fact collector about the smallest details of life in Cuba under Castro-until the landing preparations began in earnest in early 1961. Then intelligence collection began to drop off: the `operators’ took over. It seemed that when the operational side of the Agency cut in, the intelligence side cut out. It was baffling…. The real question was: Why?”
Why did CIA-Intelligence “cut out” of the Bay of Pigs invasion at roughly the moment Kennedy was inaugurated, and why did CIA-Operations then “cut in”? To go to the heart of it, what seems strange on the assumption that the CIA is an integrated bureaucratic entity ceases to seem strange on the assumption-our assumption-that it is a house divided against itself. St. George might have been about to lay this important distinction bare. But he goes wrong. He chooses the path of “psychohistorical analysis” over the path of political criticism.
Arming himself pretentiously with Arendt’s “magisterial” concept of “defactualization” (information deteriorates upwards through bureaucracies), he sets out to treat the problem of clandestinism as a syndrome belonging to the domain of psychological aberration. St. George knows or surmises that a conflict shoots through the CIA, through the presidency, through the entire executive system, and that effective presidential command and control are the more deeply in doubt the deeper one goes into the heart of the national defense and security establishments. Then why try to explain breakdowns, when they occur, as though they were the result of “turning away from reality, from empirical data, provable facts, rational truth, toward image-making and self-deception.”? Why ignore the overwhelming differ¬entials of policy and faction at play in these breakdowns?
It is not Nixon himself, the Joint Chiefs, or the CIA whom Nixon, the Chiefs, and the CIA are deceiving, it is only ordinary people. Nixon knew he was secretly bombing Cambodia. The Joint Chiefs knew they were secretly bombing exempted targets in North Vietnam. The defense and security establishment knew that “peace with honor” was a slogan with a hatch in the bottom, and that the “peace” mandate Nixon would secure with it was prestructured for easy transmutation into a war mandate. Watergate cannot be reduced to a question of Nixon’s personal psychology. He was not deceiving himself, only others. He was not deceiving his class.
St. George lets the fashion for psychohistory guide him to the belief that the hero of the story will turn out to have been J. Edgar Hoover. St. George says Hoover distrusted and hated the CIA.
He thought of it as a viperine lair of liars and high-domed intellectuals, of insolent Yalies who sneered at Fordham’s finest, of rich young ne’er-do-wells who dabbled in spy work because they could not be trusted to run the family business, of wily “Princeton Ought-Ought” himself, “Dickie” Helms, who spun his tweedy web from an ultramodern, electronically secured enclave up the river in Virginia…. Hoover realized that inevitably, disastrously, the CIA’s tainted ways were seeping back home to America; there is a vengeful law of historic osmosis about these things.
“Hoover was proven fatally right,” St. George continues, blithely putting his own ideas into the dead director’s mind and altogether overlooking the fact that it was the director himself who already launched in May 1968 a concerted, all out FBI “counterintelligence” campaign “to expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents” Certainly Hoover struggled with the CIA about domestic intelligence, just as he opposed the Huston Plan, but that was because he saw the CIA and the White House as rivals to the FBI, as rival power bases, not because he had suddenly grown sentimental about the Constitution and democracy.
Yet St. George’s larger point about the growth of the national-security complex stands up. Estimating the CIA staff at 150,000 and the total national security budget at $10 billion a year, he confronts the meanings of this with honest emotions: “One should pause to absorb this in its full… innovative enormity,” he writes, “a United States Senator tapped and trailed on his legislative rounds by American Army agents but there are facts and figures to back up the claim: Senator Ervin’s other investigating committee, the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, ‘revealed last year, in a report that went largely unnoticed, that by 1969 the Army-not the Defense Department [and not the CIA], just the Army-had built up a massive system’ for keeping watch on U.S. politics…. The simple fact is that as the Sixties turned into the Seventies, America became a nation under surveillance.” Say it with trumpets. Blow the alarm. This did not stop with Watergate.
No doubt, as Copeland’s example teaches, the persistence of left-wing terror in the world scene will make an easy excuse for totalitarian-minded persons. No doubt, as St. George’s example teaches, the computerization of everyday life will seem to embody an irresistibly transcendent force. But let us remember that we are actually looking back on the certain knowledge of a clandestine America which these writers can still pretend to see as a future threat. We are trying to understand the onset of an achieved, not merely a prognosticated, predicament. So we may not be so abstract. We must find the concrete mechanisms. The way into the blind snarls of clandestinism was not led by pious elders seeking to quiet the public sleep or by robots programmed with a contempt for democracy. The way was taken step by step by ordinary human beings acting under the burden of ordinary human motives. The following three examples will bear out the importance of this innocuous reminder.
The Round Table
The John Birch Society maintains that linked up with, if not actually behind, the International Communist Conspiracy is a higher-level super cabal of internationalists of the United States and Western Europe, led here by the Rockefeller-Morgan group and there by the Rothschilds, whose purpose is to create a unified world political order. “This myth,” writes its most temperate and only first-hand historian, Carroll Quigley (Tragedy and Hope, Macmillan, 1966), “like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, the way the radical right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups [e.g., as we see below, the Nazis] and frequently does so.”
Quigley studied the operations of the Round Table first hand for twenty years and for two years during the early 1960s was permitted access to its papers and secret records. He objects to a few of its policies (e.g., its conception of England as an Atlantic rather than a European power), but says his chief complaint about the Round Table is its secrecy a secrecy which he comes forward to break. “The American branch of this organization, sometimes called `The Eastern Establishment,’ has played a very significant role in the history of the United States in the last generation,” he writes “and I believe its role in history is significant enough to bi known.”
The Round Table Groups, by Quigley’s detailed report, are semi-covert policy and action groups formed at the turn of the first decade of this century on the initiatives of the Rhodes Trust and its dominant Trustee of the 1905-1925 period, Lord Milner. Their original political aim was federation of the English-speaking world along lines laid down by Cecil Rhodes.
By 1915, Round Table Groups were functioning in England and in six outposts of the Empire-South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and the United States. The U.S. group included George Louis Beer, Walter Lippmann, Frank Aydelotte, Whitney Shepardson, Thomas W. Lamont, Jerome D. Greene, and Erwin D. Canham of the Christian Science Monitor, a Yankee bouquet.
The organization was originally financed by the associates and followers of Cecil Rhodes, chiefly from the Rhodes Trust itself, but since 1925, according to Quigley, substantial contributions have come from wealthy individuals, foundations, and firms associated with the international banking fraternity, especially the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, and other organizations associated with J. P. Morgan, the Rockefeller and Whitney families, and the associates of Lazard Brothers and of Morgan, Grenfell, and Company. The chief link-up in this organization was once that of the Morgan Bank in New York to a group of international financiers in London led by Lazard Brothers, but at the end of the war of 1914, the organization was greatly extended. In England and in each dominion a group was set up to function as a cover for the existing local Round Table Group.
In London, this front was the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which had as its secret nucleus the existing Round Table Group. The New York group was the Council on Foreign Relations. The Morgan men who dominated the CFR went to the Paris Peace Conference and there became close to a similar group of English experts recruited by Milner. There thus grew up “a power structure” linking London and New York banks and deeply penetrating “university life, the press, and the practice of foreign policy.”
The founding aims of this elaborate, semisecret organization were “to coordinate the international activities and outlooks of all the English-speaking world into one … to work to maintain peace; to help backward, colonial, and underdeveloped areas to advance toward stability, law, and order and prosperity, along lines somehow similar to those taught at Oxford and the University of London….” These aims were pursued by “gracious and cultured gentlemen of somewhat limited social experience…. If their failures now loom larger than their successes, this should not be allowed to conceal the high motives in which they attempted both.”
Quigley calls this relationship between London and New York financial circles “one of the most powerful influences in twentieth-century American and world history. The two ends of this English-speaking axis have sometimes been called, perhaps facetiously, the English and American Establishments. There is, however, a considerable degree of truth behind the joke, a truth which reflects a very real power structure. It is this power structure which the Radical Right in the United States has been attacking for years in the belief that they are attacking the Communists.”
Am I borrowing on Quigley then to say with the far right that this one conspiracy rules the world? The arguments for a conspiracy theory are indeed often dismissed on the grounds that no one conspiracy could possibly control everything. But that is not what this theory sets out to show. Quigley is not saying that modern history is the invention of an esoteric cabal designing events omnipotently to suit its ends. The implicit claim, on the contrary, is that a multitude of conspiracies contend in the night. Clandestinism is not the usage of a handful of rogues, it is a formalized practice of an entire class in which a thousand hands spontaneously join. Conspiracy is the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means.
What we behold in the Round Table, functioning in the United States through its cover organization, the Council on’ Foreign Relations, is one focal point among many of one among many conspiracies. The whole thrust of the Yankee/ Cowboy interpretation in fact is set dead against the omnipotent-cabal interpretation favored by Gary Allen and others of the John Birch Society, basically in the respect that it posits and divided social-historical American order,’ conflict-wracked and dialectical rather than serene and hierarchical, in which results constantly elude every faction’s intentions because all conspire against each and each against all.
This point arose in a seminar I was once in with a handful of businessmen and a former ambassador or two in 1970 at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. The question of – conspiracy in government came up. I advanced the theory that government is intrinsically conspiratorial. Blank incredulous stares around the table. “Surely you don’t propose there is conspiracy at the top levels?” But only turn the tables and ask how much conspiring these men of the world do in the conduct of their own affairs, and the atmosphere changes altogether. Now they are all unbuttoned and full of stories, this one telling how he got his competitor’s price list, that one how he found out whom to bribe, the other one how he gathered secret intelligence on his own top staff. Routinely, these businessmen all operated in some respects covertly, they all made sure to acquire and hold the power to do so, they saw nothing irregular in it, they saw it as part of the duty, a submerged part of the job description. Only with respect to the higher levels of power, around the national presidency, even though they saw their own corporate brothers skulking about there, were they unwilling to concede the prevalence of clandestine practice. Conspiratorial play is a universal of power politics, and where there is no limit to power, there is no limit to conspiracy.
The Round Table is not the only source of American clandestinism. As we are to see, there are other main roads to the self-same city. I call attention to it because it is precisely the kind of semi-hidden organization that standard consciousness does not recognize as a force in the flow of events, and yet whose influence is vast. When I read in Quigley’s account of the Round Table that it was “concerned only to bring the English-speaking world into a single power unit, chiefly by getting the United States and Great Britain to support common policies,” I suffer a painful shock of recognition: How much of what we most take for granted about the political world, how much of standard thought, is the artifact of Yankee bankers?
The Derivation of Kennedy
John Kennedy was not by personal heritage a Round Tabler any more than his family was by type or beginnings an Establishment Yankee family. On the contrary. He was the great-grandson of an emigrant Irish cooper and the grandson of a ward-heeling East Boston saloonkeeper. His father Joseph, the founder of the dynasty (if indeed the family is to prove dynastic), was an operator, speculator, wheeler-dealer and Prohibition-era smuggler whose drive for wealth, power and social status was easily worthy of any new-rich Cowboy, and who was in fact often snubbed by the Boston brahminate.
According to Quigley, JFK’s “introduction to the Establishment arose from his support of Britain in opposition to his father [FDR’s ambassador to the Court of St. James and an ardent anti-interventionist] in the critical days at the American Embassy in London in 1938-40. His acceptance into the English Establishment opened its American branch as well” (p. 1245). But maybe this rounds off .the corners too much. At that time, JFK was a mere Harvard stripling, and according to his father’s biographer, Richard J. Whalen (The Founding Father, New American Library-World, 1964), he was wholly influenced by his father’s political views. According to Whalen (p. 294), JFK’s senior thesis, published in 1940 as Why England Slept, “was almost a carbon copy of his father’s position.” JFK followed his father in excusing Munich, defending Chamberlain, and blaming Britain’s military unpreparedness for World War II on “the slowness of the British democracy to change from a` disarmament policy.”
How could the Founder have so misread the situation of ‘ European spirit? Whalen says (p. 348) that Joseph “might have muddled through-except for one failing. He identified himself with the `top people’ in England and moved to embrace their views. But these men and women of lofty rank and distinguished lineage belonged to a dying England. Dazzled, charmed, delighting in his acceptance, Kennedy spent little time at other levels of society, in the company of men holding radically different (though not necessarily `radical’) opinion, who would lead England’s struggle and revive her spirit in the days of supreme trial. The intimate of those who first lost their function, then their faith in ‘ themselves and in their country, Kennedy rode high and handsome at their side, and shared their fall.”
Thus, a rather more likely explanation of the British Establishment’s initial interest in seeing the Kennedys elevated socially and thus politically in the United States is that the aristocrats in whom the arriviste ambassador took such delight were themselves mesmerized by Hitler’s military power and spiritually incapable of challenging it.
German U-boats had already been sinking defenseless U.S. merchants within sight of East Coast beaches when a string of sabotage incidents on the East Coast docks climaxed in 1942 in the burning of the French liner Normandie, just on the eve of its rechristening as an Allied freighter. The event showed Roosevelt how easily Mussolini’s saboteurs could strike at the base of U.S. shipping.
Meyer Lansky, meanwhile, chief minister of organized crime, was troubled because certain Mafia families were proving reluctant to join the larger Syndicate which he had been building since Prohibition under the yellow and black colors of Lucky Luciano. Luciano had been jailed in 1937 by New York D.A. Thomas Dewey, and Lansky had been operating since as his top man in the world of the other capos, where his main problem was how to persuade the Sicilian holdouts to accept the executive leadership of a Jew.
Different students of organized crime in America interpret Lansky’s role in different ways. The perceptive and original Alfred McCoy, for example; in The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972), treats Luciano himself, not Lansky, as the first wholly modern executive of crime and attributes to him, not Lansky, the insights that led to the current federation of previously autonomous criminal groups around particular rackets and particular cities.
But Hank Messick, who develops the point in a string of unique books of crime reportage, notably Lansky (1971) and John Edgar Hoover (1972), thinks Luciano’s greatest genius lay in his grasp of Lansky’s greater genius, and that Lansky was always the main strategist in bringing big crime to accept the standpoint of the Harvard Business School and the necessity of monopoly-style business rationalization. McCoy would agree that Lansky at least became the top boss after Luciano’s sudden death by heart attack in a Naples airport in 1962. I follow Messick on the point if only because Lansky was Luciano’s front man in the real world during the nearly ten years Luciano was imprisoned and carried out the concrete tasks that actually brought the new super-corporate organization, “the Syndicate,” into existence.
But this difference matters little for the current point. Whether it was Lansky’s or Luciano’s doing or the doing of “social forces” pushing towards “multicorporatism” in every sphere of exchange, in business and politics as well as in crime, in Hughes’s and Rockefeller’s and Nixon’s worlds as well as Lansky’s, the fact of expansion and integration, of the centralizing of business authority in an unimpeachable bureaucracy, is the main fact of organized crime’s inner life from Prohibition on, and it seems appropriate to associate this general movement with the long period of Lansky’s preeminence.
Roosevelt’s problem then was how to guarantee the security of the docks against Fascist sabotage. Lansky’s problem was how to complete the organization of the Syndicate. What artist of the possible saw the convergence of these two problems in a common solution?
The precise origins of “Operation Underworld” are not public knowledge. Both McCoy and Messick fasten upon a Brooklyn shipyards office of U.S. Naval Intelligence. That would not mean the initiative was necessarily federal or the Navy’s. The idea could have been dropped there by any messenger. In any case, it came down to a straightforward proposition. Lansky first turns to the reluctant capo and says: What if I can free thy leader, Luciano? Then he turns to the anxious Roosevelt and says: What if I can secure thy docks against sabotage?
The offer Lansky made in particular was simply for Roosevelt to intervene in the Luciano matter, although from the prosperity enjoyed by organized crime during World War II, it may appear to imply that the deal went much further and actually entailed federal protection for certain areas of Syndicate wartime acfivity, e.g., smuggling.
Luciano was moved right away from the remote Dannemora Prison to the more comfortable and spacious Great Meadow Prison north of Albany. His accessibilities thus improved, he lived out the war years in a style befitting the prisoner who is also the jailer’s benefactor and a party to a larger arrangement with the throne. Promptly on V-E Day, his lawyer filed the papers that opened the doors for his release and deportation to Sicily. He would shortly return to his Godfatherly duties in the exile capital Lansky had been preparing all the while in Havana. Lansky delivered Luciano and won federal protection. The Syndicate was made. But that only began it. Syndicate collaboration with the American war effort went much further.
The Sicilian Mafia, for example, had been all but wiped out by Mussolini in fascism’s long violent rise to power. The Mafia was a power rival and Mussolini crushed it bloodily. But when General George Patton landed on Sicily with the Seventh Army’s Third Division in 1943, he came with instructions to fly Luciano’s black and yellow scarf along with the Stars and Stripes and to seek out the tactical support of local Mafiosi, who would offer themselves as guides and informants. This support may or may not have been of measurable military value. The Kefauver Committee theorized later that it was too slight to have justified the release of Luciano on patriotic grounds. But what Patton’s tanks meant to the Mafia was purely and simply its restoration to power in Sicily.
Then in 1944 Roosevelt wanted Batista to step aside in Cuba. The most persuasive confidential ambassador he could think of, the best man for delivering such a message to Batista, Messick reports, was Lansky himself. Whom else would Batista listen to?
Lansky and Batista had first met ten years before in the year of Repeal, 1934. Lansky had seen that the coming legalization of liquor might give an enormous business opportunity to those who had run it when it was illegal. So as Repeal drew nearer, he started shopping for raw material sources, for all the world like a run-of-the-mill corporate-imperial businessman.
He got to Havana in 1934 shortly after Batista first won power. The two men found themselves in deep harmony. Lansky stayed three weeks and worked out with Batista the arrangements that would bring molasses from Cuban cane to Syndicate-controlled distilleries and set up Havana as a major gaming capital of the Western hemisphere.
From these beginnings, the Lansky-Batista association prospered greatly over the next decade. No one better than Lansky could have carried Roosevelt’s message, nor could Batista have wiled away his exile period in a more appropriate or comfortable setting than the Palm Springs mansion which Lansky made available. When the wind changed yet another time in the early 1950s and it was time for Batista to go back to Cuba and resume command, it was again Lansky who gave Batista the word to move.
In France, too, the forces of crime were integrated into U.S. efforts to establish anti-Communist postwar governments, notably at Marseilles, where the World War II CIA (OSS) employed Corsican Syndicate goon-squads to break the French Communist Party’s control of the docks. It was another twisted situation. The main serious wartime resistance to European fascism was that of European Communists. Their resistance was militarily and therefore politically significant. Beyond Communist Party activity, resistance to Nazi Germany had been fragmentary or weak willed and ineffectual. The non-Communist left (e.g., the groups around Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus) had prestige but little combat or political-organizational capability. The rest of the country collaborated.
With no interference from outside, the natural result of this disposition of factors in postwar Europe might easily have been the immediate rise of the Communist Party to great power if not dominance in French affairs.
The same thing was threatening to happen all across Europe. Given that American policy was committed to the achievement of a non-Communist postwar Western Europe, there was possibly no way for the pacification effort to have avoided collusion with crime. Besides the Corsican Syndicate, there was no other group sufficiently organized and ‘disciplined to challenge the French CP for control of the Marseilles docks. A result is that Marseilles became within a few years the heroin-manufacturing capital of the Western world and the production base of the Lansky-Luciano-Trafficanto heroin traffic into the American ghetto.
The integration of the forces of law with the forces of organized crime extends from the municipal to the federal level. It takes in vast reaches of the law-enforcement and security establishment: police, military, paramilitary, and private alike. It constitutes a burden of corruption possibly already too heavy to be thrown off.
When we look back from Watergate to find the causes of it all, the Yankee wartime leadership’s amazing opportunism looms large. With Operation Underworld, Roosevelt made the Mafiosi all but official masters of the U.S. East Coast docks and gave implicit protection to their activities everywhere. With his instructions to Patton in 1943, he restored the Mafia to power in Sicily. When he sent Lansky to Batista in 1944, he paved the way for the spread of Syndicate influence throughout the Caribbean and Central America. When he directed the CIA to use Syndicate thugs at Marseilles in 1945, he licensed the heroin factories that would be feeding the American habit into a contagion virtually unchecked over the years of the Cold War.
One can easily enough sympathize with Roosevelt’s desire to strike at the Axis powers with whatever weapons came to hand, and especially to do something to protect the docks. But we must also judge his acts by their longer-term consequences. Certainly we cannot say it is all Nixon’s fault if during his novice and formative years in political administration, when he and Rebozo may have found themselves in a relationship around black market tires in wartime Miami (see below), he should have come upon the idea, FDR-sponsored, that some crooks were patriotic, and the patriotic ones were okay to do business with, just as though a few purchased gestures of patriotism could make crime itself legitimate. Fine word, legitimate. Operation Underworld is one of the roots of Operation Gemstone. Roosevelt is one of the authors of Watergate.
The Derivation of Nixon
Tricky is perhaps the most despicable President this nation has ever had. He was a cheat, a liar and a crook, and he brought my country, which I love, into disrepute. Even worse than abusing his office, he abused the American people. -Earl Warren
Nixon is commonly supposed to have been introduced to Bebe Rebozo by Richard Danner, the courier and connecter who left the FBI to become city manager of Miami Beach at. a time when it was under the all-but-open control of the Mob. Danner first met Nixon at a party thrown in Washington in 1947 by another newly elected congressman, George Smathers. Smathers was by that time already an intimate friend and business partner of Rebozo and a friend of Batista. When Nixon vacationed in Havana after his 1952 election to the vice-presidency, Syndicate-wise Danner used his clout with Lansky’s man Norman “Roughhouse” Rothman to get gambling credit at the Sans Souci for Nixon’s traveling companion, Dana Smith. We recall Dana , Smith as the manager of the secret slush fund set up to finance Pat Nixon’s cloth coats, the exposure of which led to the famous Checkers TV speech during the 1952 campaign. Smith dropped a bundle at the Sans Souci and left Cuba: without paying it back. Safe in the States, he repudiated the debt. That infuriated Rothman. Nixon was forced to ask the State Department to intervene in Smith’s behalf.
It is poetically satisfying to imagine Nixon and Rebozo meeting through Danner. When Danner reenters in the next to last act of Watergate with the $100,000 from Hughes which only he seems to have been able to deliver, we may sense a wheel coming full circle. But there is the possibility also that Rebozo and Nixon actually connected in Miami in 1942, and it is almost certain that they knew of each other then, as will emerge.
Here are the fragments with which we reconstruct Rebozo: (1) he is associated with the anti-Castro Cuban exile community in Florida; (2) an all-Cuban shopping center in Miami is constructed for him by Polizzi Construction Co., headed by Cleveland Mafioso Al “The Owl” Polizzi, listed by the McClellan crime committee as one of “the most influential members of the underworld in. the United States”; (3) his Key Biscayne Bank was involved in the E. F. Hutton stock theft, in which the Mafia fenced stolen securities through his bank.
Rebozo’s will to power appears to have developed during the war, when he made it big in the “used-tire” and “retread” business. Used-tire distributors all over the country; of course, were willingly and unwillingly turned into fences of Mafia black market tires during the war. Rebozo could have been used and still not know it.
He was born in 1912 in Florida to a family of poor Cuban immigrants, was ambitious, and by 1935 had his first gas station. By the time the war was over, his lucrative retread business had turned him into a capitalist and he was buying up Florida land. Before long he was buying vast amounts of it in partnership with Smathers and spreading thence into the small-loans business, sometimes called loan-sharking. From lending he went to insuring. He and Smathers insured each other’s business operations. His successes soon carried him to the sphere of principalities and powers the likes of W. Clement Stone of Chicago and the aerosol king Robert Abplanalp, both of whom met Nixon through him. Also during the war, Rebozo was navigator in a part-time Military Air Transport Command crew that flew military transports to Europe full and back empty, which some find a Minderbinderesque detail.
During the first year of the war, before going into the Navy, Nixon worked in the interpretations unit of the legal section of the tire-rationing branch of the Office of Price Administration. Investigator Jeff Gerth has discovered that three weeks after Nixon began this job, his close friend-to-be, George Smathers, came to federal court for the defendant in this case, United States vs. Standard Oil of Kansas. U.S. Customs had confiscated a load of American-made tires reentering the country through Cuba in an “attempt to circumvent national tire rationing,” i.e., bootleg tires. Smathers wanted to speed up the case for his client, and so wrote to the OPA for a ruling. His letter must have come to Nixon, who, OPA records show, was responsible for all correspondence on tire rationing questions. It was therefore Nixon’s business to answer Smathers. Especially since this was the first knock on the door, it would be nice to know what Nixon said and how the matter was disposed of. “Unfortunately,” reports Gerth, “most OPA records were destroyed after the war. The court file for this case is supposed to be in the Atlanta Records Center, but a written request submitted to the clerk of the civil court on July 6, 1972, has not been honored, despite the usual one week response time. Written questions submitted to President Nixon and Bebe Robozo have also gone unanswered. Among the relevant questions is whether Miami was one of the regional offices Nixon set up.
Was this the bending of the twig? And if Rebozo and Nixon actually did meet then, even if only through bureaucratic transactions around the flow of tires, then they met within the sphere of intense Syndicate activity at a time when Roosevelt’s Operation Underworld had conferred immense prestige and freedom of movement on Syndicate activities. Could the Nixon-Rebozo relationship escape being affected by FDR’s truce between law arid crime?
Let us spell out this theory of Nixon’s beginnings in A-B-C simplicity.
Prohibition: Organized crime takes over the distilleries industry.
Repeal: Bootlegging goes legit, the Syndicate thereby expanding into the sphere of “legal” operations. This is the first big foothold of organized crime in the operations of the state.
Cuba/Batista: Lansky goes to Cuba in 1934 in search of a molasses source, meets and courts the newly ascendant strongman Batista, stays three weeks and lays plans for developing Havana into the major off-shore freezone of State-side organized crime, Cuba playing the role in the Caribbean of Sicily and Corsica in the Mediterranean.
World War II: In despair of otherwise securing the physical security of the docks against sabotage which may or may not have been Fascist-inspired, Roosevelt accepts a secret arrangement with organized crime. He comforts Luciano in prison and agrees to release him to exile at the end of the war. He generates an atmosphere of coalition with crime for the duration. In that atmosphere, Syndicate projects prosper. But one of the smugglers, Kansas Standard, gets too brazen and is caught, perhaps, by naive customs officials. Smathers takes the case for the defendant and thus comes into contact with Nixon.
Noting Gerth’s discovery that the records of this case have inexplicably disappeared from the files, noting Rebozo’s involvement in the tire business and his rapid enrichment during World War II, and noting Smathers’s well-known affection for Cuban associations, we generalize to the straight-forward hypothesis that Nixon may have been fused to the Syndicate already in 1942. Was his 1944 stint in the Navy a sheep-dipping? Look at this rise: 1946: Nixon for Congress; 1948: Nixon for Congress (II); 1950: Nixon for Senate; 1952: a heartbeat away.
So it is another Dr. Frankenstein story. The Yankees beget in sheer expediency and offhandedness the forces that will later grow strong enough to challenge them for leadership. Operation Underworld was the supreme pioneering joint effort of crime and the state, the first major direct step taken toward their ultimate covert integration in the Dallas-Watergate decade.
The Gehlen Organization
Recall two generals of World War II. First, General Andrei Vlassov, a Red Army officer secretly working with an extensive anti-Bolshevist spy ring. He joined up his forces with the advancing Germans during the invasion of the Ukraine, where the Bolsheviks had collected. Vlassov commanded the co-called Army of Liberation, a full division of more or less well equipped troops fighting under the flag of Great White Russian reaction for the restoration of the Czar.
And second, General Reinhard Gehlen, the famous “superspy” of the same war, master of Hitler’s powerful Soviet intelligence apparatus. The practical basis of the great success of Gehlen’s Soviet intelligence system was his relationship to Vlassov. Through Vlassov, Gehlen had access to the Russian anti-Bolshevist underground network that had long since penetrated if not captured key departments of the Soviet regime. At a moment in their invasion when the Nazis still though themselves on the brink of triumph, Gehlen proposed to Hitler that Vlassov be made the head of the forthcoming provisional government. Hitler declined, presumably out of respect for Vlassov’s power, but the relationship between Gehlen and Vlassov and their spy systems remained intact, even after the defeat of the Wehrmacht in the Battle of Stalingrad, winter of 1942-43.
By Christmas 1944 Gehlen had reached the belief that Germany’s cause was hopeless. Against the certainty of national defeat, he decided that his only personal choice lay between surrender to the Russians and surrender to the Americans.
In April 1945, with the Russian army closing on Berlin, Gehlen gathered together with his top aides in a hotel room in Bad Elster, Sazony, to begin the decisive and most dangerous step of their decision. They stripped their archives of the intelligence information that would be most useful to them in subsequent negotiations. Burning tons of other documents, they stored their basic intelligence cache in fifty-two crates and with elaborate security measures moved these crates south into the Bavarian Redoubt and buried them in a high mountain field called Misery Meador, overlooked by the chalet which Gehlen’s foresight had long before provisioned. Safe there with his forty top aides and his buried spy treasures, Gehlen settled down to await the Americans.
By May Day 1945 the Red Army was in Berlin and Hitler was dead. Three weeks later, columns of the 101st Airborne moved up the valley below Gehlen’s mountain fortress. Gehlen’s aides descended from the upper slopes to present themselves for capture and arrange an appointment for the capture of their commander, the highest-ranking German officer and Hitler’s only staff general yet to make his way to safety in American hands.
No ceremonies were slighted. One interview followed another. Captured in May, Gehlen arrived in Washington three months later, August 22, 1945, in the uniform of a general of the United States Army, flown there in the command transport of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. In a series of secret meetings with Allen Dulles and Wild Bill Donovan of the OSS, he laid out in detail the proposal – the surrender conditions, essentially – which he was offering the Americans.
Postwar Europe, he pointed out, as everyone knew, was certain to become the arena of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union ultimately even greater than the confrontation just ending between the victorious Allies and the vanquished Axis powers. The Soviets, he said, were well prepared for this new confrontation from an intelligence standpoint, as who better than he could say, and the Americans were not. The Russians had a crack spy network in West Europe and America, but the Americans did not have a spy network of any kind or quality in East Europe and Russia. Did that not put the Americans at an important disadvantage in the forthcoming stuggles?
Then where and how could the Americans procure the needed capability? Recruiting and training a corps of Russian and Central European intelligence agents and building a network of reliable sources and experts nearly from scratch could take years, generations. The Americans agreed with Gehlen that they did not have that much time.
Very well, Gehlen had a practical solution to this very problem. His own intelligence apparatus was still intact within the collapsing Hitler government. It was as capable as ever of delivering large masses of high-quality intelligence data on all aspects of Soviet life. Hitler had never taken advantage of this capability, Gehlen explained. Hitler had ignored Gehlen’s organization and had gone on to ruin. Still it was there. It might have been put to better use. It still could be, should the Americans accept his offer.
Gehlen’s offer was for the Americans to pick up his organization bodily and bolt it into the empty space of their own intelligence system, as though it were one of the spoils of the war. Gehlen could plausibly guarantee his network’s unmatched and unbending loyalty to the cause of anti-Bolshevism and the fifty-two crates he had buried in Misery Meadow were tangible proofs of his power and a foretaste of secret knowledge to come.
All the Americans had to do was to meet Gehlen’s four conditions. First, Gehlen was to have complete autonomy within his organization and total control over its activities. The Americans would tell him what they wanted and they would get it, satisfaction guaranteed, but they would have to know nothing about the process by which Gehlen got it to give them; that knowledge was Gehlen’s own. He even reserved the right to approve U.S. liason officers assigned to him. Second, the Americans would agree to use Gehlen only against the USSR and the East European satellites. Third, when a new German government was set up, the Americans would constitutionally install the Gehlen organization in it as its official central intelligence agency and cancel automatically all outstanding Gehlen commitments to the United States. Fourth, the Americans would never require Gehlen to do anything he considered against German national interests.
In the long and the short, our guys fell for it. Even as the United States was publicly proclaiming a policy of unconditional German surrender, Gehlen’s incredible conditions were met and his organization was being established at the very core and seat of the American system of foreign intelligence under the responsibility of Allen Dulles’s Secret Intelligence Branch of the OSS. By the time of the transformation of the OSS into the CIA in 1948, Gehlen had grown tight with Dulles and his organization had become in effect the CIA’s department of Russian and East European affairs. Soon after the formation of NATO, it became the official NATO intelligence organization. And as per Gehlen’s third condition, his organization was installed as the core and he as the director of the West German CIA, the Bundesnachtendienst (BND).
We need to go no further into the exploits of this last long improbable phase of Gehlen’s career, save to note that it spans the Cold War, that it was current as of Watergate, and that Gehlen had to be pried out of a spy’s “retirement” in 1974 to testify in the sensational West German spy scandal that brought down Willy Brandt. Look what power the victors conceded the vanquished. Exclusive purveyor of intelligence on the Soviet Union and East Europe to the United States, West Germany, and NATO, Gehlen and the spirit kept alive in him and his staff had more power over the official American perceptions in the postwar than even a German victory could have given them. The Gehlen-Vlassov intelligence system had become a main source and fountain of official American consciousness.
Behold the span of this concatenation. First in the time of Trotsky there is General Vlassov and his anti-Bolshevist army and spy ring. The Vlassove apparatus is then at a certain later point assimilated to the Gehlen apparatus. Then just as the White Russian spies jumped to the Nazis when their own army went down, so now the German Nazi and Russian Czarist spies together jumped to the American army as the Wehrmacht was falling. Vlassov first became a department of Gehlen, then Gehlen became a department of Allen Dulles.
This is how it came to pass that a Czarist spy ring inside a Nazi spy ring took up the inner seats in the American foreign intelligence apparatus at the precise moment that this apparatus was starting to come forward as a major player in the great policy wars of Washington and the world. This is how it came to pass that everything official Washington would know about the Soviet Union and East Europe on the most believable report, everything about the enemy our policymakers would most confidently believe, would come by way of Czarists and Nazis installed at the center of our national intelligence system. That was a buzzard that would come home to roost again and again.
Clandestinism is a disease of republican twilight. Its coming bespeaks the degeneration of the constitutional republic into the military empire. It worsens when the empire shakes, as in the Vietnam war America was shaken. In the American case, it does not arise from the mere accident of the Round Table’s domination of the foreign service or of FDR’s ready capitulation to Syndicate extortion or the ideological gullibility of America’s wartime espionage elite before the rational blandishments of a Nazi superspy. Rather, such accidents themselves were given significance by the larger transformation taking place around them: the dissolution of the wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union and the crystallizing in its place of the Cold War conflict between them. But one must always return to the specific events in which these larger forces unveiled themselves. Otherwise we repeat the conservative’s error of assuming that the state clandestinism results from the struggle against subversive terror instead of the struggle to maintain illegitimate state power, and the liberal’s error of thinking that fascism is a result of the high-technology era instead of the domination of this era by the activities of self-serving power elites.