Dec. 22, 1963: Former president Truman called for abolition of CIA

Truman's complaint

Truman’s complaint

“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” wrote former President Harry Truman on the one-month anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination

“It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.”

Truman never linked JFK’s death to the clandestine service but the timing of his piece, published in the Washington Post, was suggestive. Already Soviet bloc news outlets were speculating Kennedy’s murder–and the murder of the only suspect while in police custody–pointed to U.S. government involvement in the assassination.

“This quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue–and subject for cold war enemy propaganda,” Truman wrote.

Truman said he knew the first two directors of the CIA, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg and Allen Dulles and knew them to be “men of the highest character, patriotism and integrity.” He pointedly added he could only assume the same about “all those who continue in charge.”

He said the CIA’s “operational duties” should “be terminated.”

According to an excellent 2009 piece by former CIA officer Ray McGovern (who says he was relying on JFK researcher Ray Marcus), Truman began thinking about his Post article nine days after Kennedy was killed. In handwritten notes found at the Truman Library, the former president noted, among other things, that the CIA had worked as he intended only “when I had control.”

Four months later, Dulles paid Truman a visit trying to get him to retract what he had written in the Post.

“No dice, said Truman,” according to McGovern/Marcus. ”No problem, thought Dulles. Four days later, in a formal memo for his old buddy Lawrence Houston, CIA General Counsel from 1947 to 1973, Dulles fabricated a private retraction, claiming that Truman told him the Washington Post article was ‘all wrong,’ and that Truman ‘seemed quite astounded at it.’”

But in a June 10, 1964, letter to the managing editor of Look magazine, Truman restated his critique of covert action, emphasizing that he never intended the CIA to get involved in “strange activities.”

As the country grieved JFK’s death and suspicions of conspiracy mounted, many current and former U.S. officials publicly rallied around the official story that Oswald had killed JFK alone and unaided. But privately many people familiar with the workings of the CIA had their doubts. Truman’s article was one of the earliest expression of those doubts. Others would follow.

See also:

“Top 6 Washington insiders who suspected a JFK plot,” (JFK Facts, Oct. 2, 2013).

 

13 comments

  1. Tom says:

    Front page banner for todays’ Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2013/12/21/covert-action-in-colombia/?hpid=z1

    One has to wonder if the budget for this is not coming from the publicly allotted budget of $9 Billion, that is if the budget is a “black” budget, then where exactly is the funding coming from?

    Is this an example of what P.D.Scott is talking about?

  2. Preston Newe says:

    President Truman obviously didn’t know Allen Dulles as well as he thought: Operation MKUltra (illegal human experiments, some with administration of LSD)& Operation Mockingbird (media compromised by intelligence to deceive the public)are just a couple of Dulles’ Gestapo like assaults against US citizens that began in the early 1950′s & continued after president Kennedy fired him in 1962. It appears Truman was aware the Agency went rogue in the Eisenhower administration. Truman was quite perceptive to who brought President Kennedy down. Unfortunately for history & the present, no congress has heeded Truman’s warning and exterminated the dragon.

    • Preston Newe says:

      Correction: Allen Dulles was fired in 1961, not 1962. Allen Dulles and his staff (including Deputy Director for Plans Richard M. Bissell, Jr. and Deputy Director Charles Cabell) were forced to resign in September 1961 following the failed Bay Of Pigs operation.

      Today, with what is publicly known about Allen Dulles some may wonder why President Kennedy didn’t direct his brother to bring multiple charges against Allen Dulles & have him prosecuted in Federal Court. As with the withheld JFK records, not all Allen Dulles records are available to the public.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Truman made a big mistake signing the bill that created the CIA. He created a monster. The CIA never has been very good at intelligence gathering. Its main role has been to fund, support, and even run secret wars, including a war within a war in Viet Nam.

    This country could have done very well without the CIA. The FBI and military intelligence could have provided all the intel this country needed; and not gotten this country into messes abroad.

  4. Thomas says:

    For anyone with common sense and both eyes open the timing of Truman’s editorial speaks volumes.

  5. Nathaniel Heidenheimer says:

    Great article. This is the kind of article we need. Showing SCOPE and ever widening implications for press, implications for checks and balances etc.

  6. TLR says:

    Truman and every President since has been a puppet or a victim of the National Security State, which is much larger than just the CIA. It reminds me of the period in the Roman Empire when one emperor after another was being installed and then deposed or killed by the Legions.

  7. Mitch says:

    This Truman editorial is one of the most interesting things I’ve read in the para assassination literature in the last few years. I hope that they research about the Dulles/Truman meeting is accurate. Dulles just keeps popping up in this long story.

  8. Robert Harper says:

    The awful day in Dallas was book-ended by two editorials. Arthur Krock’s essay in the NY Times warning that if a “coup were to occur” in the United States, it would be “from the CIA” and not the military. It was written a month before. Truman’s a month after.

  9. John Kirsch says:

    This is from John le Carre’s introduction to a Pocket Books edition of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”
    As Jeff wrote when he posted this on July 25, 2013, Le Carre “… is writing about the damage done by double agents such as Kim Philby and George Blake, both KGB agents who were buried deep inside the British Secret Intelligence Service after World War II.”

    This is what le Carre wrote: “Such an abject state of affairs was certainly reached by SIS in the high days of Blake and Philby, just as it was inflicted on the CIA by the paranoid influence of (James) Angleton himself, who, in the aftermath of discovering that he had been eating out of the hand of the KGB’s most successful double agent, spent the rest of his life trying to prove that the Agency, like the SIS, was being controlled by Moscow; and that its occasional successes were consequently no more than sweeteners tossed to it by the fiendish manipulators of the KGB. Angleton was wrong, but his effect on the CIA was as disastrous as if he had been right. Both services would have done much less damage to their countries, moral and financial, if they had simply been disbanded.”

  10. John Kirsch says:

    This is from “John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace” by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published 11/20/2013 in Rolling Stone. Maybe Kennedy really was trying to stop the war machine and the war machine stopped him instead.

    “The Joint Chiefs, already in open revolt against JFK for failing to unleash the dogs of war in Cuba and Laos, were unanimous in urging a massive influx of ground troops and were incensed with talk of withdrawal. The mood in Langley was even uglier. Journalist Richard Starnes, filing from Vietnam, gave a stark assessment in The Washington Daily News of the CIA’s unrestrained thirst for power in Vietnam. Starnes quoted high-level U.S. officials horrified by the CIA’s role in escalating the conflict. They described an insubordinate, out-of-control agency, which one top official called a “malignancy.” He doubted that “even the White House could control it any longer.” Another warned, “If the United States ever experiences a [coup], it will come from the CIA and not from the Pentagon.” Added another, “[Members of the CIA] represent tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone.”

  11. [...] • Just a month after Kennedy’s death, writing in the Washington Post, former president Harry Truman expressed dismay that the CIA he’d created had become a shadow government—that, going far beyond gathering and synthesizing intelligence, it had been making policy and doing “special operations,” many involving assassinations of heads of state. Without mentioning the JFK assassination explicitly, Truman declared that the CIA was “in urgent need of correction” (http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/on-this-date/dec-22-1963-truman-calls-for-abolition-of-cia/). [...]

  12. Kennedy63 says:

    If I understand the Dulles Brother’s role in the Guatemala Coup, it was the United Fruit Company that approached the government (US State Dept: John F Dulles), which in turn contacted CIA (Allen Dulles) which in turn led to the coup. Seems the businesses most affected, or the politicians connected to those affected businesses, always sounded the communist alarm bells. These emerging liberation/nationalist movements were purposely overthrown by CIA under the guise of communist inspired or supported.
    Could it be that businesses here made complaints and floated informal solutions, concerning Kennedy, in the right quarters? After CIA staged the Guatemala coup, nothing since about staging coups has been written down (except Cuba). However, the framework was set with the first successful CIA foreign coup. Both legitimate and illegitimate businessmen learned they could “depend” on the CIA to handle such matters…and for much much more.

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