Over the years much has been written about certain components of the CIA such as the Office of Policy Coordination (the forerunner for what became the Directorate of Plans/Operations and what is now known as the National Clandestine Services) and the divisions that reside within the OPC/DP such as the Counterintelligence Staff (CI), the Special Activities Division (SAD) and possibly the Technical Services Staff (TSS, now the Office of Technical Service, which was a component of the Directorate of Science and Technology around 1963, if not from its inception). Indeed, more than a few researchers have described the OPC as a kind of "CIA-within-a-CIA" as it was originally separate from the Central Intelligence Group (the predecessor to the CIA) and housed many of the OSS (the WWII-era CIA) "Old Boys" who would dominate the Company until at least the late 1980s.
Certainly the OPC and its successors has been engaged in a host of dirty deeds over the years as it is the primary component of the CIA responsible for covert operations in foreign countries as well as assassinations. However, the OPC was not the only department of the CIA potentially harboring a hidden agenda or two. One of the most curious departments of the CIA that appears frequently in many of the biggest scandals to have rocked the Agency from the early 1950s until the mid-1970s is the Office of Security (OS) and its "action arm," the Security Research Staff (SRS).
Often dismissed as a marginal component of the CIA, the OS nonetheless played a key role in Watergate and Operation Chaos as well as Bluebird and Artichoke, the CIA's initial stabs at behavioral modification and "enhanced" interrogation techniques. OS also appears in the background of a host of other scandals and curiosities including: industrial security; Syndicate-sponsored plots to assassinate Fidel Castro as well as the Kennedy assassination itself; the death of Frank Olson; sexual blackmail operations; explorations of parapsychology, Ufology and other aspects of high weirdness.
On the whole, the OS is one of the most enigmatic aspects of the CIA. This series will attempt to chronicle some of the more incredible aspects of the OS and its wide ranging influence. So let us start by considering the official functions of the OS:
"The reputation of the Office of Security tends to be that of a guard service staffed by gumshoes and technicians whose principal tasks are to conduct background investigations, enforce security regulations and protect the agency's property. In reality, however, the Office of Security is far more complex, and even mysterious. Its broad responsibilities --to protect CIA assets, operations and personnel --require it to maintain close liaison with any number of police departments, to operate wherever the agency has 'assets,' and to maintain more than 1.7 million security files on individuals who are, for one reason or another, legitimately or not, of interest to the CIA. The OS is also responsible for housing and guarding defectors. Similarly, it is the Office of Security that debriefs retiring agency employees and administers the sometimes embarrassing polygraph tests that are a part of the CIA's routine. By no means finally, the inviolability of all classified information within the domain of the CIA is ultimately the responsibility of the OS.
"By the very nature of its work, the Office of Security has domestic responsibilities that go far beyond those of any other CIA component. If, for example, a CIA officer falls afoul of the local police, it is the OS that will handle (or manipulate) the matter to ensure that no secrets are compromised. Similarly, if a CIA officer suffers a mental breakdown, it is the OS that will take charge of him, consult its list of approved psychiatrists and, if necessary, bundle the patient off to a CIA sanatorium. And, of course, if a staff member is suspected of leaking secrets, whether to the press or to the enemy (often no distinction is made between the two), it is the Office of Security that will investigate the matter, conduct physical surveillances and, if necessary, break into his home in order to install eavesdropping devices, which the Office of Security will then proceed to monitor.
"The OS, in other words, is an action component of the CIA, with hands-on responsibility for some of the agency's most sensitive maters. Accordingly, and unlike most other sections of the CIA, it reports directly to the DCI himself --the Director of Central Intelligence. In effect, the OS is an extension of the director's office in a way that other CIA components are not; and because of this organizational peculiarity, by virtue of which the office is unaccountable to anyone but the DCI, it has served as a vehicle for some of the agency's most questionable operations..."
(Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan, pgs. 10-11)Whether or not the OS even held itself accountable to the DCI is highly questionable. There is at least one instance of a seemingly high profile operation being run by the OS that then-DCI Richard Helms was totally unaware of, and which may have contributed to his down fall. But more on that latter.
At this point it is also worth giving an overview of the Security Research Staff (SRS), the black heart of the OS:
"... a tabernacle within the inner sanctum, was the Security Research Staff (SRS), a cadre within the Office of Security. Headed by the late General Paul Gaynor, Watergate spy James McCord's immediate superior for many years, the SRS managed the literally mind-boggling Bluebird and Artichoke programs, and coordinated many of the domestic spying activities associated with Operation Chaos and Project Two. Most important, the SRS was the primary, hands-on counterintelligence unit within the CIA. Its central function was to seek out and expose security risks, as well as to identify Soviet penetration agents not only within the CIA but also in other branches of government. It was, in other words, the vehicle for 'mole hunting,' as much as James Angleton's counterintelligence staff was. This fact, as important as it is obscure, has so far gone unnoticed by writers on the subject of intelligence whose fascination with the glamorous Angleton --a poet, fly-fisherman, orchidologist and professional spinner of webs --is understandable. Still, his shop was something of an ivory tower, preoccupied with strategic analyses of broad intelligence issues, whereas the OS, and the SRS, were in the alleys and sometimes in the gutter.
"In many ways the SRS was unique. A critical component of the CIA's internal security apparatus, it was effectively immune from scrutiny. Whenever a new employee was hired or an agent induced to work for the CIA, details of that relationship would be forwarded to the Office of Security for background checks and approval. This was a well-known procedure, but what was less well known was the fact that this information was also routed to the Security Research Staff, where, as sometimes happened, earlier approvals were vetoed by General Gaynor and his staff. A lifelong counterintelligence specialist, fascinated by the idea of a 'Manchurian Candidate,' General Gaynor was separately provided with this information so that he might compare the names of new personnel and agents with dossiers in his legendary 'fag file.' The file consisted of details concerning more than three hundred thousand Americans, mostly homosexual, who had been arrested at one time or another for sexual offenses."
(Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan, pgs. 12-13)
As the reader may have gleamed from this description, the OS is a different beast than the Old Boy who define the CIA for most individuals. As well shall see in a moment, the background and the politics of the OS was quite different from that of the Old Boys. But before getting there this research should briefly outline the Old Boys themselves.
Over the years much has been made about the so-called "Old Boys" network within the CIA. The Old Boys had cut their teeth in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during the Second World War and would eventually dominate in the upper hierarchy of the Company for decades afterwards. Many of the most notable Old Boys such as Allen Dulles, James Jesus Angleton, Frank Wisner, Tracy Barnes and William Casey, in addition to their OSS background, were firmly entrenched in the Eastern Establishment. Virtually all of these men had attended Ivory League universities and in many cases held membership in exclusive "fraternities" such as Skull and Bones and Scroll and Key. Many of them had also worked extensively in law, insurance or banking both before and after WWII.
|Allen Dulles, an Old Boy's Old Boy|
But back to the OS. The composition of the Office of Security was much different than that of the OSS-dominated OPC and its successors. This researcher has been unable to find any OSS Old Boys in key roles in the OS (one of the most notorious OS heads, Sheffield Edwards, has been cited as an OSS man in some accounts, but this researcher has not been able to confirm this) nor do much of the known personnel seem to have had ties to the Ivory league or the Eastern Establishment.
|Colonel Sheffield Edwards|
The OS staff was much cruder and hardboiled than there counterparts in the OPC. This did not always make for the best relations with the OPC crowd, some of whom saw the OS as little more than knuckle-dragging detectives. The OS in turn had a rather contemptuous attitude toward the OSS-OPC network, largely viewing them as spineless intellectuals soft on Communism. Indeed, the OS harbored many suspicions over the extent of Communist infiltration of the CIA no doubt amplified by the far right wing political leanings of the OS.
As to these leanings, let us start by considering some of the statements James McCord made in the wake of the Watergate revelations:
"... Indeed, even in an area as banal as 'political leanings,' almost nothing has been published about McCord. The official record takes note of the fact that he is (or was) 'a registered Republican,' but goes no further. And yet, what a Republican! In a secret letter to General Paul Gaynor, McCord explained his concerns in apocalyptic terms: 'When the hundreds of dedicated fine men and women of the CIA no longer write intelligence summaries and reports with integrity, without fear of political recrimination --when their fine director [Richard Helms] is being summarily discharged in order to make way for a politician who will write or rewrite intelligence the way politicians want them [sic] written, instead of the way truth and best judgment dictates, out nation is in the deepest trouble and freedom itself was never so imperiled. Nazi Germany rose and fell under the exactly the same philosophy of government operation.' "
(Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan, pgs. 22-23)
McCord may well have been thinking along these lines, but his conclusions as to who was behind Nixon's politics would put him firmly in the same camp as the Birchers and, later, the Alex Jones bots. Consider:
"... In a series of queer 'newsletters,' written in the aftermath of Watergate (and virtually uncirculated), McCord put forward a right-wing conspiracy theory that the Rockefeller family was lunging for complete control over the government's critical national security functions, using the Council on Foreign Relations and Henry Kissinger as its surrogates. Supporting his case with mostly irrelevant quotations from the Bible, Shakespeare, Thomas Edison and others, McCord mixed evangelical religion and the politics of conspiracy to give the newsletters a special flavor --a flavor that is also to be found in his book."
(Secret Agenda, Jim Hougan, pgs. 23-24)
But McCord's musings in the wake of Watergate are hardly the only evidence of the far right political leanings of the OS. Let us consider a bit more about the methods and associates of the notorious General Paul Gaynor and his sergeant-at-arms, Morse Allen.
"... Gaynor was notorious among CIA officials for having his staff maintain a systematic file on every homosexual, and suspected homosexual, among the ranks of Federal employees, as well as those who worked on Washington's Capital Hill, including elected officials. Gaynor's secret listings eventually grew to include the names of employees and elected officials at State Government levels, as well, and even the siblings and relatives of those on Capital Hill. In early January 1953, State Department employee John C. Montgomery, who handled considerable classified materials, hanged himself in his Georgetown home after learning of his inclusion in Gaynor's list. In 1954, U.S. Senator Lester C. Hunt (D-WY) killed himself in his Senate office after he was threatened by Republicans, using information provided through Gaynor's staff, that they would publicly expose his son's homosexuality.
"Gaynor's veiled and more despicable activities also extended to racial matters, a bigotry he seemed to share with many of the CIA's early leaders, as well as with some of the Pentagon's early ranking officials. According to one former CIA official, Gaynor was once informally cautioned by Allen Dulles concerning his overt support of former Congressman Hamilton Fish III, a strident Nazi sympathizer, and for associating, along with fellow CIA official Morse Allen, with John B. Trevor Jr., an ardent racist, anti-Semite, pro-Nazi, who called for amnesty for Nazi war criminals. Before the CIA was formed, Gaynor was also associated with Trevor's father, John B. Trevor Sr., a Harvard-educated attorney who worked with Army intelligence and who once strongly advocated arming a group of citizens with 6,000 rifles and machine guns to put down an anticipated Jewish uprising in Manhattan that only took shape in Trevor's twisted mind."
(A Secret Order, H.P. Albarelli, Jr., pgs. 437-438)
|General Paul F. Gaynor|
Beyond Gaynor, there are other potential ties between the OS and the ASC as well. One of them is counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, who frequently collaborated with the OS (most notoriously during Operation Chaos), and who would later join the ASC after being kicked out of the Comapny. Another is Lt. Col Ermal P. Geiss. Before coming to the CIA Geiss had served in Army intelligence and established some compelling ties there:
"... During World War II, Geiss served as Chief of Counter Intelligence in the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps [CIC]. After the end of World War II, he spent at least six months at Atsugi airbase on the staff in the office of Assistant Chief of Staff G-2 Charles Willoughby. Geiss joined the CIA as a charter member in 1947 and was the Agency's first Chief of Personnel Security. He eventually became the Deputy Director of the Agency's Office of Security."
(A Secret Order, H.P. Albarelli, Jr., pg. 221)
Willoughby has long been described as a member of the American Security Council, but this researcher has not been able to reliably confirm this association. Willoughby was certainly friendly with more than a few of the military officers who became involved with the ASC over the years as quite a few of them had served under Douglas MacArthur in either the Pacific Theater of World War II or Korea (much more on the ASC's ties to Willoughby and MacArthur can be found here). It is certainly possible Geiss would have encountered many of the same officers during his time serving under MacArthur and Willoughby. That Willoughby would have one of his former officers in the Office of Security is most curious as well considering his links to the Kennedy assassination (noted before here), among other things.
|General Charles Willoughby|
"Incidentally," two other far right associates of General Paul Gaynor and Morse Allen also appear in the Kennedy assassination as well:
"... William B. Reily, an avid anti-Communist, owned the Reily Coffee Company and was closely connected to McCarthyite and rabid anti-Communist Edward Scannell Butler, who were both close to CIA assistant director Charles Cabell, CIA SRS chief Paul Gaynor and Agency ARTICHOKE official Morse Allen. Readers may recall that alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald also worked as a maintenance man for the Reily Coffee Company in the summer of 1963."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli Jr., pg. 428)
|William B. Reily|
This is usually as far as most researchers get with the INCA, largely ignoring how well connected the organization was. Its chairman, the renowned surgeon and cancer expert Dr. Alton Ochsner, had extensive contacts among international businessmen as well as in New Orleans itself. One of his friends was none other than Clay Shaw of the International Trade Mart whom Jim Garrison linked to the Kennedy assassination. In highly controversial accounts from Edward Haslam and Judith Vary Baker it is alleged that Ochsner was involved in research geared towards weaponizing cancer that also involved David Ferrie, another individual linked by Garrison to the Kennedy assassination.
Beyond this, the INCA counted among its foreign correspondents one Goerges Albertini. Albertini was a key figure in the far right wing European network commonly known as Le Cercle (examined at length on this blog before here) as well as being an alleged synarchist (this was addressed before here). Le Cercle, dominated at the upper echelon by Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Opus Dei initiates, was a phenomenally well-connected network with numerous ties to US and various European intelligence services. It would become the dominate elite force in the Cold War with the rise of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the administrations of which Le Cercle was very close to (noted before here and here).
Needless to say, the fact that the INCA seems to have had ties to both Le Cercle and the OS-SRS personnel involved in Project Artichoke is most curious, to say the least. And with that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I shall begin breaking down the OS' role in Watergate. Stay tuned.