Hardly a week goes by these days without some new revelation or speculation about the Central Intelligence Agency. The issues posed by the ongoing CIA controversy are important to those who advocate a free society. Among the most pressing of these issues are the questions: (1) What means are legitimate for a defense agency to employ? and (2) How can we prevent such agencies from becoming threats in their own right? Should we support secret organizations engaged overseas in intelligence gathering, political intervention, and assassination? Can such bodies, once created, be controlled so as to serve only legitimate purposes? And what exactly constitutes "legitimate"?
These are the kinds of questions we discussed recently with Victor Marchetti, to whom these concerns are of central importance. Marchetti has come to prominence as author of The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, a thoroughgoing description of the CIA's role and functions in today's world. The book has the dubious distinction of being the first book in U.S. history to have been censored by the U.S. Government prior to publication. (The CIA demanded the deletion of 339 passages; after legal action by the publisher and authors, the Federal court agreed to reinstatement of all but 168; the reinstated deletions are printed in the book in boldface, while the remaining deletions are left as blank spaces with the word DELETED.)
Victor Marchetti spent 14 years in the CIA as an intelligence expert, ending up in the Office of the Director where he served in various staff positions. As an expert on Soviet military capabilities, he played a key role in analyzing Soviet moves during the Cuban missile crisis. His disillusionment with the CIA resulted from his growing realization that its primary mission was covert activities, rather than intelligence gathering, and his disagreement with the theory and practice of covert operations. He resigned from the agency in 1969 and wrote a novel, The Rope Dancer, in which he portrayed the workings of the intelligence community as he had viewed them. The favorable response to the novel convinced him of the need for a thorough, factual airing of the CIA's true nature. The result was his 1974 book (co-authored with John Marks), the CIA's attempt to suppress it, and Marchetti's rise to prominence.
Editors Robert Poole, Jr. and Manuel Klausner interviewed Marchetti during his recent speaking trip to Los Angeles. Though fatigued from a hectic schedule of appearances and interviews, Marchetti spent 2½ hours discussing the CIA with us. Condensed to fit our limited space (but not previewed by the CIA), here are the results.
REASON: For the benefit of people who haven't yet read your book The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, could you describe, briefly, the principal activities of the CIA and roughly what proportion of their time and effort and manpower budgets are spent on each type?
MARCHETTI: Well, essentially the CIA is two organizations in one. And the whole thing has been a grand deception on the part of the government against the people since the very beginning. Truman wanted an analytical organization that would be able to help the policymakers and planners make their decisions, while from the very beginning the old OSS boys like Dulles wanted a clandestine cover operational organization. Their real interest was in manipulating affairs—you know, that's what OSS did: espionage, sabotage and all that, and getting in there and stirring up guerrilla warfare and all this manipulating events. So, from the very beginning, the law reads as though it's a research-analytical organization, but there's a clause in the law that says they'll do anything else the National Security Council tells them to do. As a result, over the years a huge secret charter has developed and this is largely national security directors or presidential directors telling the CIA to get into propaganda, get into paramilitary activities, penetrate labor unions and so on, and some of directives are highly specific. So the real CIA all these years has been hiding behind this little clean white tip of the iceberg, which is about one-third of the agency in terms of people and money, that does the collections and analysis. The rest of the agency, along with all its extension agents, contacts, proprietary organizations, alumni association and allies, is all largely supporting clandestine—a covert action type of operation. It's just now that the secret charter is being shown in censored form. Certain items are deleted from it.
REASON: Where is this being made available?
MARCHETTI: The Church Committee has demanded to see it. You see, the CIA, when they get the pressure on them always try to get off as cheaply as possible. When the pressure built about the secret charter, partly because of what I was saying and what other people were saying—then finally Stennis had to go through the motions of asking to see it. They showed it to him and then they told him it's so sensitive you can't read it—you can't keep it. So they took it back and they said we'll sanitize it and make it available for the public. I think that was a year and a half ago. Nothing has ever happened. So the Church Committee has asked for it now and they finally got it from the White House. But there were three directives deleted, completely and entirely, and many of the others delete paragraphs and sections with some kind of language summarizing it put in there.
We've been hoodwinked and horn-swaggled on the CIA. And this is part of their technique. They will lie. They will deceive in order to protect their secrecy. Secrecy is the name of the game. Without secrecy comes accountability and with accountability comes problems. Then you can't be a big fat overblown bureaucracy doing whatever the hell you want to without answering to anyone.
REASON: In the introduction to your book you mention a permanent injunction which CIA obtained via Federal court requiring prior CIA approval of anything that you write or say on the subject of intelligence. Is this still in effect?
MARCHETTI: Yes. And it's even broader than you described it. It's anything that I say on the subject of intelligence—or purporting to do with intelligence—factual, fictional or otherwise.
REASON: Does that therefore cover what you're telling us right now?
MARCHETTI: That's right. I'm now speaking at my own peril. They monitor anything—any interviews I give, any appearances on TV or radio, any lectures, and so forth—and will from time to time—the last time was early last year—try to get me for contempt of court on the grounds that I'm going beyond the terms of the injunction.
REASON: Do you think that the CIA might attempt to look at our manuscript prior to publication?
MARCHETTI: No. In this instance they have to wait until it is published in order to make the contempt charge—unless they could prove a case of conspiracy, that I was going to tell you all kinds of things and that you were going to publish these in direct violation of the injunction.
REASON: To your knowledge are you under CIA surveillance regularly?
MARCHETTI: I have been in the past—The Agency has admitted to it. Right now I'm not sure if I am or not. There are times when I think I am and then there are other times when I don't know. I go under the assumption though, that I am. And I don't do or say anything that I wouldn't want to read on the front page of some newspaper some morning.
REASON: Your book was the first book in U.S. history to be censored by the government prior to being published. How did the courts justify doing that?
MARCHETTI: They used a very interesting argument—I wanted to argue the case on the grounds of national security: that there was nothing in the book that endangered the national security. The CIA ducked the argument and argued on a contractual ground that I'd had—that my secrecy agreement that I signed upon entering the agency was tantamount to an employer-employee contract and it was valid in perpetuity. So they then produced evidence that I had written some articles in which I had revealed, in their opinion, classified information. And also that I was planning to write a book that would reveal classified information.
And the contract itself is directed to classified information, not national security—it just says classified information. And they control what is classified or not. The judge bought it and it was upheld and the Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. So now we're going through the whole thing again and it's before the Supreme Court now and hopefully they will agree to hear it this time.
REASON: Do you think a contract—an employment agreement that obligates you not to give classified information—should remain in force and would be a valid agreement?
MARCHETTI: There are a lot of other considerations. Does that kind of an agreement supersede or take precedence over your First Amendment rights of free speech? Secondly, how long can something like this be made valid? Thirdly, what about selective prosecution? There are, and I can cite, many, many examples of people having revealed classified information that is deleted from my book—but nothing has ever happened to them, because these were all friends or apologists of the CIA.
REASON: You're thinking of people who give information to Congress when they justify higher defense appropriations, and so forth?
MARCHETTI: No. I'm not even thinking of that at all. That is another example that since the government controls classification, and they can control what they can give the Congress. But what I was talking about is say a columnist like Tom Braden will talk about certain CIA activities that he was involved in when he was in the CIA. If I try to talk about the same activities, they delete them.
REASON: The difference is the CIA consider him a friend and not an enemy?
MARCHETTI: They did up until, I think, his last article. That's where he finally came out against them and said that he thought no matter what was done, these arrogant, elitist, powerful men would continue and that the CIA monster would live on.
REASON: Without getting yourself in trouble, could you describe what kind of things were sustained as deletions from the book. What type subject matter were those things?
MARCHETTI: First of all, I'd like to make it clear that they haven't been sustained—they lost. Of the original roughly 340 deletions that they asked for I was able to argue them out of half of those in advance.
REASON: Those are the ones that are printed in bold type now?
MARCHETTI: Right. And of the remaining 50 percent they lost all but about 20 of them in court. They couldn't even prove by their own ground rules that the information was classified.
REASON: Would you make any distinction between a private employment agreement, where the employee is restricted from disclosing confidential trade secrets, for example, and your own agreement with the CIA as far as the enforceability is concerned?
MARCHETTI: Yes, I think so. I think that in a business arrangement you can make a case for keeping certain formulas secret, for example, until the patents run out or whatever. I don't think the government enjoys the same benefits, particularly since they're not doing it for business purposes—they're doing it to cover up their own activities, which may be embarrassing or simply something they don't want the public to know about. This is one of the reasons for secrecy—to keep the American public from knowing. I mean, the Laotians know when they're being bombed—the Chileans know when they're being overthrown—the Portuguese know when we're mucking about in their affairs and so on—but the idea is to keep it from the American public and my book is an example of this. There's another book out by a former CIA officer which was published in England—and that book has been published in hundreds of thousands of copies in Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia—it's all over the world—anybody who wanted to read it has already read it. But the CIA is trying to prevent that book from being published in this country because they don't want the American public to read it.
REASON: How does that other book—it's Philip Agee's Inside the Company, I believe,—how does that book differ in terms of the kinds of information it reveals from your book?
MARCHETTI: Well, mine is written from a Washington viewpoint—it's a broad overview of the CIA and the intelligence community. It gets into a certain amount of detail in various areas and cites examples. One of these areas of course is clandestine activity in the underdeveloped countries. Now Agee happened to have spent his career in Latin America, so his book concentrates on clandestine activities in Latin America and in the countries where he was. He then takes a lot of things that I speak to in general terms and gives it in much greater detail, so the books complement each other.
REASON: I've heard that his book names the names of agents who were still underground and this might endanger their lives by blowing their cover. Do you know if that's true and do you think that's a valid reason for the government and CIA objecting to the book being published in the first place?
MARCHETTI: First of all, it is true that he does name names and he uses a form of writing that I didn't choose to use for obvious reasons. I wanted to work within the system and he had given up on the system and just said the hell with it. As for the accusations that this is going to endanger lives—nobody's been hurt. The most the CIA has been able to come up with and which they have leaked to the press in order to justify their actions is that one of these contacts was called up on the phone and threatened, one of them had a "go home Yankee" sign painted on his front door or something, and one of the local agents who is now working as a taxi cab driver in Montevideo was going along one night and a car pulled up to him and a guy in the other car emptied a six shooter at him but didn't hit him—so the guy who was shooting at him was either the world's worst shot or it was a put up job in the first place. The book is not going to affect the lives of the Americans—most of them are already known to the governments they're working for, to the opposition intelligence services and the like—any of those that the CIA feels there's any danger to they simply move to another post or bring them back to headquarters. And as for some of the local agents who might have some fear of physical harm, some of these people have blood on their hands, the blood of their own countrymen, as Agee points out in the book.
REASON: You mentioned that many or most of the CIA's activities are already known to both Soviets and to local governments abroad. There's a question that's been raised about operations like that. For example, the U-2 flights in the 1950's. They were known to the Russians but making it public that they were known would have required a response of some sort from the Russians. Is the secrecy in some cases, even though it's sort of an open secrecy, perhaps a stabilizing force, as opposed to full disclosure being unstabilizing in terms of the formal overt relations between nations?
MARCHETTI: That's a tortuous rationalization and I think this will sum it up nicely: when Richard Bissell gave that example he said this was a wonderful example of two hostile governments collaborating to keep their respective publics from knowing what was going on. Take this case of the U-2. Suppose the President found a need to say publicly, look there is no missile gap. We know there is no missile gap and the reason we know it is that we've been flying over the Soviet Union with high level observation aircraft and we're quite convinced that they do not have a large ICBM force, they just have medium ballistic missiles, and therefore we do not have to panic and go into a very costly rush program, but we can move along at a slower and more reasonable pace. What could the Soviet Union have done about that? Khrushchev get up and say, you guys are spying on me. And we say, yes we are but that's because you're so damn secretive that we have to do it. You know. You do the same thing. There'd be a little something—but these men are running big governments and they're usually smart enough to not let a minor little thing like this undercut their major policy. It's my personal belief that Khrushchev did not want the peace conference with Eisenhower in 1960 and he was going to wreck that conference one way or another. He just wasn't ready to sit down to a peace conference yet.
REASON: Can you think of any examples where secrecy might have been justified in terms of the CIA coverup of actual events?
MARCHETTI: Let me say that I do think there are legitimate secrets. There are some very obvious examples like codes and cyphers and strategic military plans—the inner working of our nuclear weapons and so forth. There are certain legitimate secrets that the government is entitled to keep and that people should honor. However, I don't think the government should be the judge—if an argument should break out on this the government, and certainly not the CIA, should not be the judge because it's in their interests to keep everything secret.
REASON: So who should be the judge in your opinion?
MARCHETTI: Well, the only thing we have now is the court system. And these judges handle very, very difficult cases like patent cases and the like, so I don't buy the argument that they don't know enough about foreign policy or defense that they can't figure it out. That I guess would be one approach. Another approach would be perhaps some kind of a regulatory commission or something. But in the end secrecy cannot be enforced. It can only be enforced if the individuals who were sworn to secrecy are willing to abide by that declaration. If one wants to break it out, one can do what Ellsberg did. He can just walk out of his government agency with a box full of papers and give them to the New York Times. Or do what many many people do and slip a document now and then to a Jack Anderson or some other reporter—or leak them anonymously in some other fashion. The other thing he can do would be just what Philip Agee has done which is simply to say that I'm not going to play by the rules of the game and I'm not going to pay the price either. And he goes to a foreign country and does it.
REASON: But from an institutional standpoint you don't have any alternatives or suggestions to have anything other than another branch of government be the guardian as to what should be or shouldn't be classified?
MARCHETTI: Well, yes I do have one other. And that is that we should get away from excessive secrecy. I don't know how you enforce this. It just has to happen. You know, people just have to be in agreement, there's to be a consensus. It's a very difficult problem and I have no quick and easy solution.
REASON: Maintenance of secrecy would require lying or deception as a standard operating procedure. Isn't this the case with the CIA?
MARCHETTI: Oh yes. Every President is on record as having lied to protect the CIA. All the Directors have lied or expressed a willingness or intent to lie.
REASON: Do you have any notable examples in mind of this?
MARCHETTI: Eisenhower, for example, lied about the fact that we were trying to overthrow the Indonesian Government in 1958 and so did the Secretary of State—and got everybody worked up. The New York Times was indignant and was writing nasty editorials about the Indonesian representative to the U.N. who said we behind the overthrow. Well, a few days later they shoot down one of the CIA's planes and capture the pilot—he was on a bombing run—and Eisenhower just said well, when you have a one percent chance of being believed you've got to lie. That was his attitude. Kennedy lied—you know, he said he'd like to break the CIA up and cast it to the wind and he left everybody with that impression and he did nothing of the sort.
REASON: What are some of the significant Kennedy lies that you can think of?
MARCHETTI: Well, there's one—operations against Cuba were continued at the same and even higher rates as before the Bay of Pigs and clearly from the information coming out now there were assassinations, assassination attempts, building new special boats for gunrunning and agent-running into Cuba. And now people like Martinez, Barker and these guys are beginning to talk and tell about all the things that were going on. Kennedy deceived the people on Vietnam—he's the guy who got us started in that; the secret war in Laos—he's the guy who did that; and he was the guy who sent us into the Congo. Kennedy's whole Alliance for Progress was a big joke, you know, that we were going to help the Latin Americans to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to help them with land redistribution, balance the economy out a little bit better so that it wasn't 2 percent of the people owning 98 percent of everything. And at the very time that he was saying things like that and going through the motions he was pumping in military aid to the dictatorships and the like and the CIA was working to overthrow governments or prop up governments.
REASON: That raises an interesting point about the contrast between overt military action versus some sort of covert undercover way of dealing with an actual threat to national security. I've heard some people advance the idea that mass destruction or mass warfare of the kind that we have in the 20th century, because it involves killing large numbers of civilians is then one of the most immoral things that's ever been invented. From that standpoint, wouldn't it be less immoral to go in and assassinate the key leadership rather than to wage massive warfare?
MARCHETTI: Well—it's an interesting question. And it all hinges on whether you consider it moral or necessary to take the first step—that is, to overthrow the government.
If you could be assured that the simple assassination of the leader would achieve your goal, it may not be any more immoral to kill one person than to kill a thousand people with a surgical strike of some sort. It certainly would be more practical. But if you could be assured that that would do it, then maybe not for moral reasons, but for pragmatic reasons, you might say well let's do it that way.
However, I don't think there are very many cases where you're faced with that kind of a situation. First of all, I go on the assumption that the way you lead is by example, and not by manipulation and substitutes. And I feel that if we put our own house in order—if we had a healthy economy, strong democracy, viable society, that we were making our own democratic system as we understand from the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and everything, really work—that's where our real strength would come from and that's what would assure us of not only prosperity but of security and peace. And people would want to imitate us as they did one time—I mean people used to go around quoting from the Declaration of Independence and from the Constitution—but not anymore. Now what they go around saying is that if there were just a cholera epidemic, it was probably the CIA that did it! We get blamed for everything now whether it was our fault or not!
As much as you may want to help somebody or help them to help themselves, sometimes a situation is such that there's nothing you can do about it. When you get into some of these countries where they've gone on for centuries in poverty and repression and oligarchies or dictatorships, where you have the sons of the generals turning against the regime, the priests turning against the bishops and everybody, where you have now the new phenomenon of military dictatorships that are leftist (like Peru, Ethiopia, Portugal)—now what happened to the good old military juntas, you know? This says something about the root causes being so complicated or so overpowering that you can't go in there and do these kinds of things, because all you're simply doing is cutting a weed down, and you know when you get out there next Saturday it's going to be up again and maybe in two places.
REASON: That's persuasive. On the other hand, there's also the argument raised by some people that if we didn't have any sort of covert operations capability, given the existence of organizations like the KGB operating in these countries, trying to turn those situations to the advantage of the Soviet bloc, that the U.S. would be in a lot worse position than it is today, and that a lot of these movements would be exploited to the advantage of the Soviets.
MARCHETTI: Well, I think that's a hollow argument, and I'll tell you why. You can read John Barron's book on the KGB and you find precious few examples of how this KGB is manipulating affairs in the Third World, because there aren't many to point to. Take Latin America, where the Soviets aren't even there—I mean, they don't even have diplomatic representation much less a KGB residency. Because that's one of the first mission directives to the CIA is to keep them the hell out if they can.
REASON: So is it accurate to say that in the Third World countries the CIA is much more highly represented than the KGB?
MARCHETTI: Yes. If there's one area where the CIA is superior to the KGB I guess this would have to be it. The KGB is better at spying against us than we are against them but that's partly because they're operating in a more open society when they're working in Western nations and also they're much more conspiratorial—they have a longer tradition of conspiracies and the like. They're also better at counterintelligence than we are—at penetrating intelligence organizations. And again for essentially the same reasons.
REASON: So, in that context, do you have any personal views on what the proper role would be for a foreign policy for the United States government? Do you have any opinion as to the virtues of neoisolationism or noninterventionism as a foreign policy model?
MARCHETTI: Yes. Some people say that I'm kind of an isolationist, because I advocate getting your own house in order first, and then working from there. I think there are times when we shouldn't interfere with things—if you want to call that isolationism, all right. I don't think we have to get involved in every goddamned brush fire war around the world.
REASON: Let's move on to something a little different. Harrison Salisbury in his article in the May Penthouse "Gentlemen Killers of The CIA" seems to imply that assassination is a fairly common technique of the CIA and remarks that Marchetti thinks that the CIA almost never uses assassination. This is not your characterization of your view, and where does Salisbury get his idea?
MARCHETTI: Well, there are several things about the article. One, I think that Salisbury may know something that we don't know, and he's now turned off by it. Secondly, as for what he's quoting—what happened here is that I was on a show with Salisbury and one of the guests was this fellow Tom McCoy who is an ex-CIA guy and an apologist. And Tom and I were talking, you know, about how the agency sure gets involved in paramilitary activities and sure they set up things that might end up in somebody's death, like Allende's, but it's touch and go as to whether you can prove it or not. And then McCoy said well hell, we don't even carry guns. And then I said something like, well except for a certain person, and we both knew, and we started laughing. So Salisbury has used the story just a little bit to make his case. But I think the thrust of his article—what I found so interesting in it wasn't the killing—I mean, I think he's right. You have to accept responsibility for the deaths of Diem and Allende if you've done everything else but pull the trigger, and maybe you did pull the trigger through a contract man or something. But what I found fascinating about that article is that the CIA conned the White House, the CIA conned the Congress, the CIA conned the public and it even conned itself. And that I think was the most important thing. I know I was conned.
REASON: On the subject of assassinations and Presidents, do you have any viewpoint as to any CIA links in the John F. Kennedy assassination?
MARCHETTI: Well, I'm going to tell you what I feel and after that preface of being conned and everything, and reminding you again that the agency is compartmented, clandestine and secretive and everything, I do not think that the CIA as an institution was involved in the Kennedy assassination. John McCone was then director and very close to the Kennedys, and Kennedy not only didn't break up the CIA but used it extensively throughout the world—as a secret weapon. So for all these reasons he was popular and well liked within the CIA. There was, however, a small group of bitter, ex-Bay of Pigs types, and E. Howard Hunt is just one example, but I can't imagine that that small a group would have enough influence or for that matter the ingenuity or the courage to attempt something that big. Now this is not to say that something analogous to Watergate didn't happen, maybe some ex-CIA officers working with some ex-agents—maybe one of whom was still on the payroll just like Martinez was in Watergate—for their own reasons, or in support of some other group, were not involved in some kind of a conspiracy.
REASON: You're suggesting that you're not entirely satisfied with the Warren Commission's findings that Oswald was the lone assassin?
MARCHETTI: Yes. That's what I'm saying. I think there's been enough evidence brought forth in the recent years to cast an awful lot of doubt on the Warren Report's completeness and accuracy and I think this thing should be reopened.
REASON: Do you have any feel for whether or not the CIA was actively involved in assisting Nixon in the Watergate cover up?
MARCHETTI: I think that the CIA was more deeply involved with the plumbers, and perhaps in Watergate, than we know. I know that this fellow Angleton, who is head of the counterintelligence and was retired recently, had connections with the Watergate people. A friend of mine saw him coming and going with the plumbers. There were a lot of strange things going on. There's a taped August 1971 discussion between Ehrlichman and Nixon about Victor Marchetti, which would make me think there was some connection. I'd never been able to get my hands on this—and apparently neither has Ehrlichman—he tried to recover it for his trial and couldn't get it. Senator Mansfield asked Richard Helms, the Director of the CIA, to retain any tapes that they had relating to Watergate (as a result of conversations within the agency or between the agency and the White House), and a week or so later when Mansfield called for those tapes, Helms said, oh they're gone. And Mansfield said what do you mean they're gone? And Helms said well, they were destroyed. We were house-cleaning. Which was directly in violation of the request and Helms just dared Mansfield to do anything about it. You know Senator Sam Ervin said certain things like—well he's been very careful of what he says, but the impression you get is h'mph. And Senator Baker and his people were absolutely convinced that they were being played with and toyed with. And the kicker of them all is that John Ehrlichman has written a book—a new book—which is, of all things, a novel, and it's about how a President is destroyed by his secret intelligence agency, and the villain is the head of that intelligence agency. I don't think Ehrlichman is the kind of a guy that would write a book like that, just to try and make a few bucks or something. He has to make a living and everything, so I would think that he's reflecting his own deep suspicions just as Colson and some other people have in the past—some of the people who were involved in all of this are very much annoyed at the CIA.
REASON: You refer in your book to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as the real constituency of the CIA. Many people on both the right and the left have charged that the CFR functions as America's secret government or invisible government. How accurate a charge do you think that is?
MARCHETTI: The CIA is more than just an organization—it's an attitude and it's an attitude that's prevalent among a lot of powerful and influential people throughout our government and society and these people on the CFR are in and out of government. There's just no doubt that this is an institution of what some people call the Eastern Foreign Policy Establishment. It's just one of their bridges between our official government and the power centers behind it and in our society, and I think they even go beyond that.
REASON: Do you put much stock in conspiracy theories, of either the right or the left, as they relate to the CFR?
MARCHETTI: Well, I try not to for a couple of pretty simple reasons. One is I don't want to get paranoia, and I've got a lot of reasons to be paranoid, but I don't want to get there. And the other reason is that I'm just not that brilliant to be able to cope with intricate convoluted conspiracy theories. I'm a fairly open and straight-forward kind of person and kind of idealistic and optimistic and usually will try to explain it as coincidence or nature or something, until somebody comes forth with some evidence. Sometimes late at night you'll sit around with people and you'll get into these conspiracy theories and then you're afraid to go to bed, you know.
REASON: If it's really as all encompassing as the people say, you might as well give up, I suppose.
MARCHETTI: That's right. Because you've already had it—it's already over.
REASON: What's your opinion of the Howard Hughes Glomar Explorer operation? Do you think, for example, that they really only got one-third of the submarines, or that they were just using that as a cover story?
MARCHETTI: I don't know. I think that the CIA has done such a good job of muddying the waters at this point that nobody knows whether they got it all, or none of it, or one-third of it or what the hell they got. We don't know and the Soviets don't know. Or maybe the Soviets do know and they're just not saying. One thing I would say for it, is that this is what I would consider a legitimate activity in principle: when there is something lying at the bottom of the ocean and it's available to anybody who can get it. The Soviets don't even know where it is. We find out and as Melvin Laird says, the Soviets knew what we were up to when they saw us out there. They could figure it out. But they kind of shrugged their shoulders and drove off. What they probably did was a damage report and said, what are we going to lose if they get the warheads and what are we going to lose if they get the deciphers from eight years ago. We've already changed everything already, and if we haven't, do it. So—it isn't worth a hair, this business of secrecy. It just isn't worth making a fuss over. There are bigger considerations.
REASON: That's what I was going to ask, whether you think the whole thing would be worth the massive cost…?
MARCHETTI: My feeling as to what happened, having worked with technical programs in the past, a lot of them, is that it took 1) a lot longer, 2) a lot more money than they ever thought when they started out. I bet they thought they could do it in two or three years or something like that. Maybe four at the most. And that they could do it for 100 or 150 million—but they ran into problems, problems, problems—technical problems. And it's also probably turned out not to be as successful as they had hoped. They didn't get everything that they wanted. The damn thing broke on them or something, or they got the wrong part. The thing that bothers me about it is this dealing with Hughes—with Howard Hughes. You can see why they would want to deal with Hughes because of all the obvious reasons, but this is where you get into this business that the goal, the political goal, whatever it is, transcends everything else, and you make strange bedfellows. Like maybe with the Mafia, that helped overthrow Castro, maybe with dope peddlers in Southeast Asia, and so on. And then you're stuck with these things. You're stuck with them afterwards. I mean you're indebted with them to some extent. Even if it's for your own protection to keep the relationship secret. Now nobody's ever going to convince me that Howard Hughes has done this out of the goodness of his heart.
REASON: Well, conceivably he got an elaborate mining ship that he could then use in profitable mining operations at government expense—that would be a nice jump on his competitors.
MARCHETTI: And maybe something else. Maybe he got the IRS to lay off him, or who knows?
REASON: Could you say a few words about the CIA's Domestic Operations Division and the extent to which you think that represents an actual or potential threat to civil liberties?
MARCHETTI: I think that obviously we can see the relation between certain foreign activities and domestic affairs—the economy and all that. But what is the most frightening of everything is when they begin to operate within domestic affairs and apply their same methods and techniques. Now I don't know all that much about the deal, see, because it was clearly one of those very sensitive activities. When I was working on plans or programs and budgets, I'd just be told, forget it, you don't have any need to know. And you could never find out very much about it. They used to have a branch years ago—a domestic branch—which was smaller and I think probably clearly involved the support in overseas operations. Why it had to be enlarged to a division and put on a level with all the other areas—the Africa division and the Near East division, you know—it makes you begin to ask yourself some very difficult questions. Why they couldn't have their headquarters right in the limelight like all the other divisions, but had to be secreted away elsewhere in Washington, makes you wonder. Also when you start putting this together with training of local police and some of the other domestic activities that we've been learning about, that have been trickling out, and you start seeing the CIA people showing up in odd places—as in drug enforcement and law enforcement—and as public safety advisers to the mayors of large cities. Knowing what computers can do today, it's not hard to make just a simple direct analogy between CIA operations in a foreign country or foreign division and here. Most of the reasons they used to give for its existence were phony, because the activities were actually carried out by other parts of the agency—you could only come to one conclusion—that they're operating against something within the nation. Obviously they're going to have to have a good excuse—it's going to have to be civil rights movements, peace movements, extremists and all that kind of stuff.
REASON: Could you outline very briefly what your conception is of a proper role for an organization like the CIA. That is, if you could just at the stroke of a pen restructure completely at least the CIA and perhaps the whole intelligence community. What functions do you think are proper and how limited do you think the role of an organization like that should be?
MARCHETTI: Well, in the first place you'd have to do it in terms of the intelligence community. You can't do it just in terms of one agency. I think there should be one agency which consists largely of the CIA's collection and analytical capabilities and that this agency probably should have different parts of the technical intelligence that are related, and that this should be a separate organization not under the control of the Pentagon—an independent agency, but it should be both directed and controlled by Congress as well as the White House and that its product should be available to both Congress as well as the White House, because they have to make decisions too.
I think that both on moral grounds as well as pragmatic grounds that the CIA's clandestine activities, in particular their covert action in operating, could be abolished. That's an extreme position and I don't think it's terribly realistic, but I take that position, because I'm hoping for a compromise somewhere in between. I think that what's more realistic is that certain activities should be abolished, certain ones being reduced, and, hopefully, the whole thing made much smaller and much more tightly controlled by Congress on a firmer basis. I think much of the Pentagon's intelligence structure should be taken away from the Pentagon and put into either the economic agencies, because the Pentagon is responsible for more kinds of intelligence than everybody else put together. If you could just clean up Defense Department intelligence you could save a million or two million dollars a year alone—there's so much override and redundancy and bureaucracy it's incredible. Also I think that the FBI should be taken out of the intelligence business and made a pure crime fighting organization and in addition to going after street crime I'd like them to go after white collar criminal acts, particularly organized crime.
REASON: When you say organized crime, would you include gambling and prostitution, or do you think that those are the types of nonvictim conduct that shouldn't be crimes at all?
MARCHETTI: I think of them in the traditional sense as being criminal because they're run by criminals—people who are making money off it. If we want to have prostitution, make it legal and you can have free enterprise or something, but why should the Mafia and these kinds of guys rake in all this money from prostitution and gambling and use it to buy legitimate businesses and everything—I mean, the Mafia is part of the establishment now.
REASON: Let me ask you a question on another subject if I could. You referred earlier to the CIA alumni association. Do you have any estimate of what proportion of members of the CIA who are not presently active as CIA employees are nevertheless still active in some CIA activities?
MARCHETTI: I think it's pretty damn large, although it's hard to come up with a figure. Overall I would say it's at least 50 percent or maybe more—and maybe a lot more, because I'm always finding out funny little things since I've left the agency—you know, a guy who's been out of the agency for 10 years or something like that, will confide in me privately one night while we're having dinner that he still rents and sells safe houses and buys and sells safe houses for the CIA. Similar little things like this will happen.
REASON: William Buckley disclosed that he had worked for the CIA after he graduated from Yale. Do you have any information about the type of work that he did or any continuing activity that he might have with the CIA?
MARCHETTI: Well, all I know is what E. Howard Hunt has said about him—that he worked for him in Mexico and that as an agent I would think he was involved in some kind of covert action—activities having to do with students or something of that sort. I'm sure Buckley still is close to other people. You have to remember that people don't just do these things for money and maybe in more cases than not they're doing it out of the old loyalty because they believe in the goals and the methods of technique. I think you would have to consider Buckley a friend of the CIA, particularly when he writes a column advising the director of the CIA, Bill Colby, to lie to Congress during an investigation. Nobody paid him to do that, I'm sure, but they might just as well have.
REASON: As a final question—were you aware of the libertarian philosophy, the libertarian movement—?
MARCHETTI: I had read an article about it in a magazine somewhere and I got intrigued—and thought gee, that's pretty interesting as an approach. So when I was out in Idaho I ran into Ralph Smeed—we were chatting and I asked him what do you know about these libertarians—and one of the things I remembered him saying was that the trouble with the conservatives is they're so goddamned grouchy and sour and everything, and they just don't have any fun in politics. And he said now these libertarians, they're not going to sit there and let everybody else have all the fun—they're going to come up with unique and novel ideas and he was telling me some of the things that they did. Like that Lady Godiva thing in New York, and stuff like that. But again, like I say, it's new to me.
REASON: Well, we hope you'll stay interested in libertarianism. Thank you for a fascinating conversation.