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A paper addressing assertions from the US State Department that US Field Manual FM30-31B was a Soviet forgery.

Disclaimer (#3)Document.png paper  by Daniele Ganser dated October 2006
Subjects: human rights, Operation Gladio, CIA
Source: Intelligence and National Security

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The CIA in Western Europe and the Abuse of Human Rights

A paper by Daniele Ganser

The paper addresses assertions from the US State Department that US Field Manual FM30-31B was a Soviet forgery.

Covert action by the CIA and other intelligence services is designed to remain secret. Academics and the public at large therefore to this very day face great difficulties in answering two specific questions: What covert action has the CIA carried out in Europe during its almost 60 years of existence? Did CIA covert action violate human rights in Europe? Some operations, however, have become known and are now in the public research domain. Among them are the clandestine anticommunist stay-behind networks set up by the CIA in case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. As the details of the operation emerge only gradually some sources suggest that the stay-behind network was linked to terrorist groups, adding further interest to this largely unknown research subject at a time when the so called ‘war on terrorism’ has forced academics to examine present and historical terrorism data once again.


After its creation in 1947 the US foreign intelligence service Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was given the explicit task not only to collect and analyse information from across the world, but also to engage in covert action in foreign countries. Many of these operations carried out by the CIA ever since have violated the national sovereignty of the target country and must therefore be considered as illegal. When the National Security Act was passed, which created both the CIA and the National Security Council (NSC), US lawmakers refrained from explicitly mentioning the words ‘covert action’, but more obscurely gave the CIA the duty to ‘perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council may from time to time direct’

From its very beginning, the CIA has therefore operated at or across the borderline of legality. CIA deputy director Ray Cline many years later explained that the inconspicuous little phrase ‘such other functions and duties related to intelligence’ referred to covert action and represented an extremely powerful ‘elastic catch-all clause’ allowing the National Security Council to instruct the CIA to carry out a very broad range of operations in foreign countries. ‘We did not mention them [the covert action operations] by name’, Clark Clifford later reasoned, ‘because we felt it would be injurious to our national interest to advertise the fact that we might engage in such activities’.

Still today many US citizens are not aware of the fact that some of its clandestine services have engaged in at times illegal covert action across the world for almost 60 years. The details of these operations are only known to a small group of active and former participants, as well as academics and journalists with an interest in this field. In the wake of the Watergate scandal US public interest in covert action rose in the 1970s, with critical debates ensuing on the need and morality of covert action. And with the introduction of the internet in the 1990s a larger global audience has become interested in covert action. ‘Who decides when CIA should participate in covert actions, and why?’ is one of the frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the official CIA homepage. ‘Only the President can direct the CIA to undertake a covert action’, the CIA answers on its homepage.

Such actions usually are recommended by the National Security Council (NSC). Covert actions are considered when the NSC judges that US foreign policy objectives may not be fully realized by normal diplomatic means and when military action is deemed to be too extreme an option. Therefore, the Agency may be directed to conduct a special activity abroad in support of foreign policy where the role of the US Government is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged.

Covert action can take many forms, from the financial support of friendly publications to the mounting of significant paramilitary efforts, but it must remain secret at all times. This, obviously, is not possible, and sometimes covert action can be traced back to the CIA and the NSC, whereupon the reputation of US presidents, due to their dominant position within the NSC meetings, can suffer a heavy blow, as experienced by President John F. Kennedy after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. ‘By covert action operations’, US President Richard Nixon therefore stressed, ‘I mean those activities which, although designed to further official US programs and policies abroad, are so planned and executed that the hand of the US Government is not apparent to unauthorized persons’. US Congressman Otis Pike defined covert action as an ‘activity other than purely information-gathering, which is directed at producing a particular political, economic, or military result’.

If illegal covert action can be traced back to the desk of a US President in the White House a threat to the credibility of the presidency can result. In order to limit this threat the President will as a rule apply the ‘plausible denial’ strategy and deny that he had ordered the CIA or other governmental agents to carry out the covert action in question and as a sign of outrage fire lower ranking members of the administration. Some have observed that ‘plausible denial’ can amount to presidential lying, because, to quote the CIA homepage, ‘only the President can direct the CIA to undertake a covert action’. US Congressman Otis Pike insisted after his investigation into covert action that presidents can no longer claim to have been out of the loop: ‘The Pike Committee destroyed the old doctrine of ‘‘plausible denial’’’.7 And also William Corson, former US Marine Commander in Vietnam, criticized the ‘plausible denial’ strategy as it leads to ‘an elaborate charade of Presidential non-involvement which, if accepted at face value, suggests that successive Presidents have either been blithering idiots, or not considered important enough to possess the need to know’.

Despite their secrecy, academics have studied and described a number of clandestine operations that the CIA carried out in Latin America, Africa and Asia. They include the military coup d'etat against President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 and Operation Condor, a covert Latin American military network designed to seize and murder political opponents across state borders. The support of Jonas Savimbi’s Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA) in Angola after 1975, and the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in cooperation with the British MI6 in Iran in 1953, are among many well known examples of CIA covert action.

But what exactly has the CIA been doing in Europe? Still today, almost 60 years after the creation of the US foreign intelligence service, little research exists on this sensitive question. Some have assumed that the transatlantic friendship between the USA and the countries of Western Europe had led to a situation in which the CIA refrained from carrying out dirty tricks in Europe, a speculation which, however, cannot be supported by the evidence.

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