Eichmann in Langley

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According to historian Timothy Naftali, who has read recently declassified C.I.A. documents, the Agency knew from West German intelligence that Adolph Eichmann was living in Argentina, but did not share that information with Israel. According to a story in the New York Times:

The Eichmann papers are among 27,000 newly declassified pages released by the C.I.A. to the National Archives under Congressional pressure to make public files about former officials of Hitler's regime later used as American agents. The material reinforces the view that most former Nazis gave American intelligence little of value and in some cases proved to be damaging double agents for the Soviet K.G.B., according to historians and members of the government panel that has worked to open the long-secret files.

This prompted one panel member, Elizabeth Holtzman, a former New York congresswoman, to observe that the C.I.A "failed to lift a finger" to hunt Eichmann, which forced the United States "to confront not only the moral harm but the practical harm" of relying on intelligence from ex-Nazis.

The idea of using war criminals to get intelligence is hardly something a spy agency from a democratic country wants to highlight, and in Eichmann's case the C.I.A. apparently wanted to avoid his drawing attention to Hans Globke, a former Nazi government official then serving as a top national security adviser to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

However, placing the debate on the moral or practical level also poses problems: espionage sources are often the scum of the earth when it comes to personal ethics; does this mean intelligence agencies should not use them? And the fact, as Holtzman complained, that the Nazis were vulnerable to Soviet blackmail, hence were unreliable to the U.S., can be turned around: what prevented the Americans from blackmailing them back? The Nazis did good work for the U.S.S.R., so in principle a war criminal does not a bad spy make, if he can be properly squeezed by the other side.

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  1. does this mean intelligence agencies should not sue them?

    Heh. Yes it does.

  2. Was changing the word as you posted. “Use,” not “sue.”

  3. Sorry for being a dick; I just found that typo hilarious.

  4. Spies sometimes engage in sneaky, dishonest, and unethical behavior. News at 11!

  5. One shouldn’t forget that there was considerable sympathy for aspects of the Nazi program in the U.S. The Nazis had modeled the Nurembug laws on American Jim Crow laws. Anti-Semitism was rife among America’s elite, from which leaders in government, including intelligence, are drawn.

  6. Patrick,

    Do you have some kind of source for that assertion?

  7. According to historian Timothy Naftali, who has read recently declassified C.I.A. documents, the Agency knew from West German intelligence that Adolph Eichmann was living in Argentina, but did not share that information with Israel.

    How does this squate with the notion that the Israelis are unduly influential in Washington?

  8. Then they wonder why people wonder whether OBL is in gov’t custody.

    Seems like we should have been apprised of these Eichmann facts much earlier — 1991 at the latest.

    Journalists are each assigned 5 “punishment” FOIAs for allowing me not to know important things in a timely manner.

  9. How does this squate with the notion that the Israelis are unduly influential in Washington?

    You don’t know what the Israelis knew. When you want secret nuclear technology from the US sometimes you have to give up a few ghosts.

    ohhh, those documents are still classified, ain’t they? amazing how the selective declassification process puts Israel in such a good light.

    Oh, Journalist Michael Young: me and RCD need yer FOIA help . . . we decided we want more info b4 drawing any big conclusions here.

  10. Mitch:

    Check this out.

    http://foreigndispatches.typepad.com/dispatches/2003/08/index.html

    No one who reads the Jim Crow laws and the Nuremberg laws can help but be struck by the similarities.

  11. You deal with threats as they come up using the best current judgement you have. If they thought Eichman could help against the threat that was then looming, that overshadowed anything in his past.

    What’s anybody afraid of, recidivism on Eichman’s part? People make too big a deal of finding and making a show of powerless figureheads, like Saddam Hussein in a hole in the ground. I’d’ve kept Saddam’s capture secret, given him a cushy job and new identity, and tried to use his cx to gain intelligence regarding the current situation in Iraq. Who knows how many lives could’ve been saved thereby? And if his info turned out to be unreliable or if he slanted things to help settle personal scores, those are the breaks with all intel.

  12. How does this squate with the notion that the Israelis are unduly influential in Washington?

    Back in the 1950s, Israel was decidedly *not* unduly influential in Washington. Those were the days when our government put the squeeze on Israel, Britain, and France to withdraw from Suez and the Sinai.

  13. Back in the 1950s, Israel was decidedly *not* unduly influential in Washington. Those were the days when our government put the squeeze on Israel, Britain, and France to withdraw from Suez and the Sinai.

    All part of the cunning Jews’ master plan to provoke their peaceful Arab neighbors into attacking so the Jews could kick their asses and take their land, no doubt.

  14. I’d’ve kept Saddam’s capture secret, given him a cushy job and new identity, and tried to use his cx to gain intelligence regarding the current situation in Iraq. Who knows how many lives could’ve been saved thereby? And if his info turned out to be unreliable or if he slanted things to help settle personal scores, those are the breaks with all intel.

    I’d’ve shot him in the gut and closed the fucking hole back up…

    Robert, I think you perhaps don’t understand that Saddam was and is a truly evil man, in the same ballpark as a Stalin, a Mao, a Pol Pot.

  15. “I think you perhaps don’t understand that Saddam was and is a truly evil man, in the same ballpark as a Stalin, a Mao, a Pol Pot.”

    Except for not killing anywhere near as many people, even counting the Iran-Iraq War (which was prolonged, and made bloodier than it would have been otherwise, in large part by outside powers, including the US and UK, supplying intelligence on Iranian troop movements to Hussein).

  16. I don’t think Robert misunderstands that, “Clean Hands.” I suspect he would have done the same for Pol Pot and Mao, too, if he found them useful.

  17. This desire to have everything done in the most “moral” and “above-board” fashion inevitably leads to the situation where intelligence services do nothing, because spying, by its very nature, is immoral. There was a famous Brit diplomat, I think who condemned the Brit crypto effort in the 30s, I think , because he insisted that “gentlemen don’t read one-another’s mail”. This sort of crap causes people to die and countries to lose wars, but it is the inevitably end of the search for moral certitude in everything we do.

  18. All part of the cunning Jews’ master plan to provoke their peaceful Arab neighbors into attacking so the Jews could kick their asses and take their land, no doubt.

    In this case, the Arabs didn’t attack. Britain wanted to grab the Suez Canal back, so they made a deal with the French and Israelis under which Israel would attack Egypt, and the Brits and Frogs would pretend to be “shocked, shocked” at the violence and tell the warring sides to pull back from the Canal. Then, when neither Egyptians nor Israeli paid any attention, an Anglo-French force would intervene to “enforce the UN-ordered cease-fire”–and just coincidentally grab the Canal. Letting Israel keep the Sinai was just gravy from the Anglo-French point of view.

    The problem was, nobody thought to tell the U.S. of these plans, even though we’d set the whole chain of events in motion, by denying Egypt loans needed to build the Aswan High Dam, leading Nasser to nationalize the Canal so that he could use the tolls to finance the dam. In those days we had niggling objections to initiating aggressive war (a prejudice that we retained all the way through the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but had managed to shake free of by the time we invaded Iraq in 2002). So we got on our high horse and told the Brits, Frogs, and Israelis to cut it out. (About the same time, we were able to show how even-handed by giving the same message to the Soviets over the invasion of Hungary. For some reason Khrushchev paid us a lot less attention than Eden and Mollet.)

  19. Correction: “by the time we invaded Iraq in 2003”.

  20. There was a famous Brit diplomat, I think who condemned the Brit crypto effort in the 30s, I think , because he insisted that “gentlemen don’t read one-another’s mail”.

    That was Henry Stimson, when he was Secretary of State in the Hoover Administration. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Stimson), “In 1929 he shut down MI-8, the State Department’s cryptanalytic office, saying, ‘Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail.’ (He later reversed this attitude.)”

    (FDR later appointed the Republican Stimson as Secretary of War, a post he held through World War II, and which he had held in the Taft Administration.)

  21. I don’t think Robert misunderstands that, “Clean Hands.” I suspect he would have done the same for Pol Pot and Mao, too, if he found them useful.

    Exactly. I don’t see the point to revenge. What’s the big deal about someone’s being (i.e. doing) evil, if the evil is in the past? Do you think that making an example of a Pol Pot or a Mao is going to deter people from acting like that in the future? As if we had an enormous tide of persons who wanted to act like that, and all we can do is reduce the odds by reducing the percentage of the population that dares to act like that? Ridiculous. The number of such people is not a limiting factor; there will always be a small number of such people in the world, but enough to supply every single job opening for “evil dictator”, and they will easily find those positions as they open up. The point is to reduce the number of such job openings, i.e. the demand, not the supply.

    However, once you’ve become an evil dictator, you develop certain connections and learn certain info that can be useful to persons seeking to reduce or mitigate evils. And the best way for such info to be exploited is if as few people as possible know it’s being so exploited. A public arrest of an evil dictator is therefore the last thing you should want. Better to keep it quiet.

  22. Robert:

    The problem with that is that it ruins movies’ endings. I mean, how would you feel at the end of “Schindler’s List” if there was a tag which said

    “Eichmann became a valuable informant for the CIA and the cause of freedom”?

    Or at the end of “The Killing Fields”

    “Pol Pot became a valuabe inteligence source who provided invaluable assistance to the US”

    Somehow they movies would not be the same.

  23. Actually the movie wouldn’t say anything about that, because it’d be secret. “Eichman/Pol Pot disappeared and was never seen again, except for the report that someone saw him with Elvis at a laundromat.”

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