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Worst CIA abuses, 'family jewels,' to be declassified

June 22, 2007|Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The CIA will declassify hundreds of pages of long-secret records detailing some of the intelligence agency's worst illegal abuses -- the so-called "family jewels" documenting overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying, kidnapping and infiltration of leftist groups from the 1950s to the 1970s, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said Thursday.

The documents, to be released next week, also include accounts of break-ins and theft, the agency's opening of mail to and from China and the Soviet Union, wiretaps and surveillance of journalists, and a series of "unwitting" tests -- including the use of drugs -- on U.S. civilians.

"Most of it is unflattering, but it is CIA's history," Hayden said in a speech to a conference of foreign policy historians. The documents have been sought for decades by historians, journalists and conspiracy theorists and have been the subject of many fruitless Freedom of Information Act requests.

In anticipation of the CIA's release, the National Security Archive at George Washington University on Thursday published a separate set of documents from January 1975 detailing internal government deliberations of the abuses. Those documents portray a rising sense of panic within the Ford administration that what then-CIA Director William Colby called "skeletons" in the CIA's closet had begun to be revealed in news accounts.

An article about the CIA's infiltration of antiwar groups, published by New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh in December, was "just the tip of the iceberg," then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned Ford, according to a memorandum of their conversation.

Kissinger warned that if other operations were divulged, "blood will flow. For example Robert Kennedy personally managed the operation on the assassination of [Cuban President Fidel] Castro." Kennedy was the attorney general from 1961 to 1964.

Most of the major incidents and operations in the reports to be released next week were revealed in varying detail during congressional investigations that led to widespread intelligence reforms and increased oversight. But the trove of CIA documents, generated as the Vietnam War wound down and agency involvement in Nixon's "dirty tricks" political campaign began to be revealed, is expected to provide far more comprehensive accounts, written by the agency itself.

The reports, known collectively by historians and CIA officials as "the family jewels," were initially produced in response to a 1973 request by then-CIA Director James Schlesinger.

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The summary documents can be found at: http://www.nsarchive.org

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